Being the youngest of four amongst a family of three boys had its ups and downs. My father gave me everything I wanted and more. I was my mother’s life-size baby doll. She made sure I was dressed to impress even when we were not going anywhere. My paternal grandfather, whom all the grandchildren call Grandpa J, doted over me all the time. He spent more time teaching me life lessons than my parents did, although I will never admit that to them.
My brothers have always been my self-appointed protectors, but only when we were in public. I received the blame for all mishaps at home. They knew our parents would not punish their baby girl for anything whatsoever. My brothers were always against any type of conflict. They would find a way to diffuse tension through negotiation or humor, except when anyone treated me poorly. They transformed from Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jekyll in an instant, and then all bets were off.
My parents called me their “little genius” whenever they introduced me to their friends. As a baby, I hit all my development milestones early. My doctor was impressed with my strength and overall development. This was due, in part to how my family cared for me. As loving as my family is, they’re not the coddling type.
Once I learned to stand, they would rarely let me sit down in the stroller when we went anywhere. This was so I would learn how to walk quickly and on my own. I was speaking clearly and using full sentences by the time I was fifteen months old. By the age of two, I had learned to read books and other materials that were at my fingertips to nurture my gifts.
Being the only girl in the family, my parents and Grandpa J were on a mission to ensure I grew up to be a strong woman physically and mentally. My mother taught me several life skills. She taught me how to cook, tend to a garden, and carpentry. She was an innovative jack- of -all trades. She made sure I would follow in her footsteps.
My father and Grandpa J were shrewd businessmen who taught me how to negotiate. More importantly, I was taught how to defend myself. My training extended from the boardroom to the streets. In addition to my ballet lessons, I joined my brothers for martial art lessons. With age and strength came more lessons, particularly with various firearms. Mom was not a fan of those lessons. She placed those feeling aside to ensure I would be able to defend myself from any attacks. Especially after the second kidnapping.
Grandpa J owns several successful family businesses, which my father, uncles, and brothers help to manage. There are the hotel and casinos he owns here in the United States and other countries, and two gentleman’s clubs: Onyx and Jade in the city. The import/export business generates the majority of the family income.
With all businesses, you will have some sharks are circling the bottom of the boat. Yet, most Grandpas clients and investors are decent. His competitors, however, are ruthless and will crouch to any level to gain an advantage in the market or outright steal from him. His most determined competitors want to push him out and take over his position as head of the Reyes syndicate. Hence, my two kidnappings.
The first time I was kidnapped I was about four years old. I don’t recall much about the kidnapping except growing a strong dislike for basement-like areas. The second time, I was twelve years old and shopping at the mall with my mother for a new birthday dress. I had just walked into the dressing room when someone grabbed me from behind and knocked me out.
It was about a week before my grandfather rescued me from my abductors. I don’t know how he did it, and I never asked how he was able to find me. I never want to think about or talk about that week in captivity. I never told my family everything that happened. They never caught the people behind either kidnapping.
I spent my thirteenth birthday in captivity tied up and beaten. I was in the hospital for weeks recovering yet never felt whole again. I awoke in the hospital with severe retrograde amnesia. I couldn’t remember my family nor who I was. My doctor said that my memories should come back over time. However, it takes longer for the trauma from being kidnapped to subside.
My family kept me isolated while I recovered hoping that just being around family only would trigger my memories. Eventually, I started to remember them, my grandfather, my parents, and my brothers but nothing more. I saw the hurt in my uncle’s eyes when I could not recognize their faces. My uncles stayed vigilantly by my side in hopes that the memories would start flowing back to me. I’m still missing a lot of memories and I’m uncertain if they will return.
Since that day, I never celebrated another birthday. My family never questioned or pushed me to do so. Since that day, I vowed never to be a victim again. One day I would find the person responsible for putting me in this darkness.