“𝐆𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐛𝐨𝐭𝐭𝐨𝐦𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐩𝐢𝐭 𝐰𝐡𝐢𝐜𝐡 𝐞𝐱𝐡𝐚𝐮𝐬𝐭𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐨𝐧 𝐢𝐧 𝐚𝐧 𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐞𝐟𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐬𝐟𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐧𝐞𝐞𝐝 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐬𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐬𝐟𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧.”
“You should have seen her squirrel run to the bathroom.”
Damon was animatedly narrating my embarrassment for Princesa and Cecile. I was attempting to laugh alongside them as I usually did. Yet, right now I just wasn’t feeling it. Against my better judgement I found myself thinking back to what McKlane had said about them. I felt more aware of everything they did that I had previously brushed off.
Were they really not the people I thought they were?
“Mickey!” I looked up to Princesa calling me.
“What?” A bit too much attitude flew out in my response.
Damon and Cecile looked at each other calculating what they should do or say. Now that I think about it, they always acted as if they had a love hate relationship but really if you looked from outside of our little group, they were always together. How do I know I can really trust them?
“What’s wrong Mikita?”
“I’m getting pissed off at you constantly calling me that like I haven’t asked you not to.”
“It’s just your name.”
We were huddled together in Princesa’s basement, the place we usually go to hang out. Miraculously, I had made it through the rest of the day without getting caught by McKlane again. I knew tomorrow would be another problem. Princesa was lounging on the grey couch molded with stains. I remember asking her why she didn’t throw it out, her family had brought her a new one that sat on the porch still dressed in its plastic. She refused it amending it held all her memories of growing up and the friendships she formed with us. I for one would never put a single part of my body near that thing.
She didn’t even look like the type for memorabilia, with her long blonde curls thrown effortlessly in a messy bun. That’s what Princesa always described it, easy and simple. But I had seen her cry in distress brushing through it once, her struggling to get her tumble weed perfectly straight.
She was the type to deny her shortcomings opting to seem a perfect person. It was a wonder she still called herself a Latina the way she strives to make every part of her whitewashed. Even Cecile has expressed distaste for Princesa’s lack of love for herself but it always ends in Damon making a joke downplaying it. While the two would make a ruckus throwing jokes after each other, Princesa would somber off to the bathroom to vomit out her sadness. The first time I witnessed it set in motion I knew this was a thing they always did; ignore each other’s destruction in hopes it will go away.
Did they do that with me?
“María, you should be the last one talking.” Princesa’s real name even further proved the lengths she went to dissociate with her roots. She had once ranted on about how it was a cliche name to give to a Spanish girl. I’m waiting on the day she goes from Princesa to Princess, it will really seal the deal.
“Why are you being such a bitch Mickey?” Cecile and Damon had been lounging on the bean bags opposite the couch. The round table in the center was in a disarray of snacks Damon threw down. They had started to play a quick game of Uno but ended up getting bored of it.
Damon sat up straight when Cecile spoke looking around the room.
“I’m not, I asked for you guys to do one thing for me that you already do for another, it’s not much I’m asking.”
“Was it something I said?” Damon ever the pacifist was attempting to find the root of the problem to keep it from spilling out even further.
I was getting increasingly tired of his savor complex. He acts macho and tough but in reality he was the softest one in the room. Damon’s number one flaw is his persistence at creating a reality around him where everyone likes him. This perfect world where things are all safe and he’s a hero. He doesn’t realize that you can either be the person that everyone loves or you can be the hero that saves the world. You can’t be both; most heroes face the backlash for taking up the job that no one asked them to fill.
My attraction for him always dwindled when I remember I don’t want a people pleaser.
I sighed running my hands down the little bit of hair I had left. He watched my movements cautiously. “It was something McKlane said, and now I’m stupidly overthinking it.”
They waited for me to continue but there was nothing more I wanted to tell. “I just need to calm down, I’ll be okay soon.”
Damon opened his mouth to speak hesitating as he said, “I know why it’s so hard for you.”
I decided to humor him. “Why?”
“You hair is gone and it held all your spunk to think correctly.” Spunk, it was such a silly word, totally like him to throw it in- he tries too hard sometimes.
“You don’t like my hair?” It had previously rested snugly at my shoulders. I couldn’t tolerate long hair it was just annoying to deal with. I ended up cutting it a few centimetres past my ears. I liked how it look, it made me feel like a bad ass.
“It’s different.” Princesa commented.
Different for her wasn’t an affirmation of approval. She would have rather me looking just like everyone else.
I was clearly having a hard time going back to the optimistic me from the start of today.
“I think it suits you just fine. None of us could have pulled it off. I mean look at Damon, his chubby cheeks are ignored completely once you see his long Rapunzel strands. Imagine the horror when he cuts it off.” Cecile didn’t miss an opportunity to drag Damon in her words.
Damon flicked Cecile’s forehead in retaliation.
“You sure you guys haven’t dated before?” We all looked up to see Princesa’s brother Antonio walking downstairs.
“Qué hace aquí abajo?”
I was astounded to know that Princesa had the ability to speak Spanish.
Antonio let out a half snort. “I was wondering how much longer until you stop being a gringa.”
I didn’t know what the word meant but the look on Princesa’s face told me it was far from a compliment. I looked over at Damon signaling my phone to him.
He took his out waiting as I asked him to translate.
You should have paid more attention in class. He sent back in response.
Just tell me what gringa means buffoon.
Nu, you’re being mean. You’re smart enough to figure it out. (HINT:TRY G O O G L E)
He was obviously going to make this difficult for me. I left out of messages taking his advice in seeking Google.
“I would like you to leave Antonio.” Princesa had finally come down from her shock of being essentially called out for her actions- at least that’s what google said happened.
“What little sis, you can’t handle the truth?” He threw his head back in an over exaggerated laugh. I wanted to defend her, say anything but I didn’t know him enough to do anything.
Anytime we saw each other it was filled with curt nods in place of comfortable acknowledgement.
Cecile’s eyes caught mine and I nodded over towards Princesa and her brother. Why weren’t either of them doing anything?
“Everyday you walk around the house making our parents sick from your constant ‘I’m flawed because I was born Hispanic’. Like you could at least own your name, you were named after the doctor who saved you and mamá’s life when she was giving birth for god sake.”
“What’s the deal today? Why are you going so hard for my head?”
“Where’s my stuff María?”
“What?” Princesa’s voice went down a good decibel after the question.
“Don’t play dumb with me, you knew those mushrooms weren’t for recreational use, it’s a science project.” He addressed the rest of us in the room. “If she gave you guys any, I suggest you go to the hospital immediately. Perra doesn’t care about anyone but herself.”
The same mushrooms I had hidden in my bag thrown to the ground right next to Antonio. This was a lot to take in. She probably just didn’t know, I couldn’t allow something else to make me start doubting the friends I have.
It was just so weird to me that the mushrooms even existed, like it was so random but yet it made sense somehow that there would be this kind of crazy in her life. What was Antonio even going to do with them?
“For both our sake I will leave, but if I catch you alone tonight it won’t be good.” Antonio left us in a sea filled with tension.
We spent the rest of the time that way, no one quite knowing what to say to Princesa because it would be admitting that they too recognized her desperation to become someone that wasn’t herself. They had spent too long ignore it to end up force feeding her the truth of what she was becoming.
“Ma-Princesa, we have to go. It’s getting late and my mother has already called me twice.” Cecile’s voice was eerily calm. You would think it was to not set Princesa off and to make her feel comfortable and wanted but the way the words fell from her lips, I knew Cecile didn’t truly care. That was the thing I learned about her, I loved the girl but she never truly cared about anyone.
The line towing between authentic ‘I miss you’ and ‘I love you’ had long been screwed. She wanted out of here as quickly as possible.
“Mickey don’t you have to go too?” Cecile threw the hook of her escape towards me willing me to take the bait. I hesitated on what to do, wouldn’t I be just as bad as her to leave when Princesa needed us?
Cecile stood to her feet collecting her things not bothering to wait for me to speak. After slinging her book bag over her shoulders she bent to pick up my own. I watched confused as her hands grabbed at the things blocking her search for whatever that was inside. She finally brought out the zip lock bag of death and threw it on the table causing several bags of chips to fall down.
“We’re gonna leave. Give your brother the bag, tell him I said to choke.” She went up the stairs with my things in tow forcing my feet to move after her.
“Princesa, call me if you need me okay? I’m here for you.”
Damon made no move as he sat still in the beanbag watching as we left them alone. I made a phone sign to my ears at him letting him know I wanted to know everything she says.
When I made my way outside, I found Cecile leaning against the wall scrolling through her phone.
“Why didn’t you stay? She needs us right now.”
Cecile raised an eyebrow at my comment. “Don’t tell me you actually care about the sibling’s repetitive quarrel.”
“And you don’t?”
“Oh Mickey, you’ll soon realize that the less you care, the better off you will be.”
“That’s a weird way to think.”
“Too many people feed off the care of others. The more you indulge and give them attention is the more you give them the power to manipulate you. I for one will not be falling victim to that mess any time soon.”
“But that’s your best friend isn’t it? You should give her a bit of care, you’re just being insensitive.”
She walked over towards me hooking my bag around my wrist. The sudden weight caused me to stumble ever so slightly.
I watched Cecile walk the opposite way from where she lived. My emotions were conflicted in where I should go. If I went back to Princesa it would make it even more awkward that I left in the first place and leaving would feel like doing the exact thing Cecile did.
I took a deep breath and decided that I needed to stop thinking. It was the first day back and my brain had worked more than it ever did when I was actually in school.
I let my feet do the talking.
The hurried steps it spoke in was telling me to go home.