You wouldn’t think that two girls who were so different could become friends, but somehow, Litzy and I did.
I rubbed my eyes with sleepy fingers as I stared into the mirror. An eleven-year-old girl with dark eyes and wild, unkempt dark hair stared dauntlessly back. I took a deep breath and braced myself for the hurricane of T-shirts, arms, cereal boxes, and chaos below, which came with my six rowdy brothers. I let another yawn slip out and stealthily tiptoed onto the stairwell. The floorboards beneath the carpet announced my arrival with an insolent groan, as six boyish faces glanced up nonchalantly and then went plunging back into their cereal bowls. My nose tingled from the spicy aroma of burnt toast and coffee wafting in the air. As I galloped down the stairs, a bright red soccer jersey greeted me unpleasantly in the face. Ignacio grabbed it off and tugged it over his wild wig of hair inside out and backwards. He grunted and shrugged while he shouldered his soccer bag. As little Tomasito clung to my leg, I staggered and clumped over to the hectic breakfast table. My brothers haphazardly stuffed themselves with their breakfast, and I challenged Juanico to the last piece of toast and grabbed a bowl and beat Antonio to the last of the Cheerios. I plopped down into my disarrayed breakfast corner and hurriedly devoured my meal. Then I raced upstairs, threw my blue softball clothes on, raked a comb through my hair, tugged it back into a ponytail, and then raced back down again to snatch up my bag and hug my mom and dad.
“Que tenga mucha prisa! .no?” * Antonio muttered, his head turned.
“Well, I have to hurry if I don’t want to be late, don’t I?” I replied.
“I guess,” the seven-year-old sighed back.
Smiling and waving, I exited the house right after my mom called, “Have a great first practice, Ileana, sweetheart!”
I jumped out the burgundy door, my cleats clattering noisily on the brick, and closed it behind me before Tomasito could catch me. I excitedly ran down the brick steps, my cleats singing clack, clack, clack. Then I paused and inhaled. The warm summer breeze greeted me like an old friend and buried me in its embrace. I shut my eyes and was enveloped in the hushing softness of the leaves rustling in the wind and the melodic symphony of the birds above. Another gust of wind brought the beautiful scent of Mother Nature blossoming into my nose. I reluctantly opened my eyes and slowly mounted my red bike (of course, another hand-me-down). Contented, I rode happily on, savoring the rare bit of placidness, listening to the soft whirr of the gears and the sweet, shrill calls of the robins. I meandered off the road onto a gravelly bike path leading up to Rushmoore Park and beamed at the feeling of intimacy and friendliness I felt as I parked my bike and locked it in. I lay my red helmet on the handlebar and crunched my way down the long, sloping hill to Field Three. I took a deep breath and strapped on my soft leather batting gloves. Somewhere inside I knew I was a born hitter—when I was little, I used to get angry and upset with my brothers, and I would step out in my backyard and beat on the dead trees with a baseball bat, letting the dam of anger break. It felt natural to me. I shook my shaggy ponytail, washing away the memory, and glanced down at some giggly blond girls wearing short shorts and tank tops, who were posing dramatically in a mirror while layering on lip gloss. A feeling of shame washed over me as I sighed and frowned. Growing up around six boys, I was a pure tomboy. I wore sleek gym shorts and hand-me-down T-shirts mostly every day at school, and I didn’t like silly, frivolous items such as lip gloss and tank tops.
I quickly emptied my head as I heaved my bright red helmet and purple (I know, I know, not so boyish) bat out of my bag and crawled through the net into the batting cage. I smiled knowingly and plopped the twelve-inch balls into the bucket one by one. I stepped into my batting position and felt right at ease as I gracefully slung my bat through the air. The first ball rocketed by. The coach barked out an instruction. No, I said in my mind, this isn’t how I do it, and he’s wrong, but I grudgingly obeyed. The second one whizzed past me. This isn’t right! my mind screamed at me as I missed the next five balls. I could feel my cheeks burning and my eyes filling, and I blinked hard and felt the heat on my shoulders
* “You sure are in a hurry, aren’t you?”