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***Based on True Events***

Seventeen-year-old America Gil has one goal in mind before starting college: to lose her virginity. At the heels of high school graduation and summer about to start, she decides to date Luis. Blinded by her caprice, America is unable to see the signs. When she and Luis are faced with an unforeseen revelation, America soon finds out that not everything is as it seems.

Growing up without a father has been difficult for Athena Gil. When she was young, she was forced to leave everything she had known behind to meet her dad. Athena loathed him ever since. Even though they have lived together for many years since then, the hatred has not banished. She wants to know why it took eight years for them to become a family again. But when her father begins to confide in her his deepest secrets, she uncovers the story of a man she had no idea she has been living with.

After her boyfriend of three years breaks up with her, Blythe Wright finds herself lost. Willing to do anything to forget him, she goes out on a date with a stranger. After the one-night stand, Blythe swears never to do such thing again and goes on with her life, not realizing that the stranger has left her with something she never wanted.

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7. 06. Athena

Athena

My hand flows organically across the canvas. It has a mind of its own. One final stroke of the brush finishes the painting. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, drinking in my surroundings. Art activates the senses. It feeds my soul. I paint to glorify something that will otherwise not be seen. I create something beautiful out of a blank canvas. Opening my eyes, I step back and stare at the now impasto oil painting.

Dark gray clouds adorn the clear sky. Below three flowers appear to be blown by the wind. A sunflower, a pale pink peony and a red rose, but underneath, these flowers are shown to have resilient roots that will uphold each one of them through the storm.

I walk to our outdoor kitchen and wash my hands just as the sliding door opens. When I finish, I turn around to find my father standing in front of the easel contemplating my talent. My dad has never been a fan of what I do; when I told him I wanted to be an artist he said it was fine, but I could see the disappointment in his almond eyes. Being the neurosurgeon he is, he wants his daughters to be in the medical field. That didn't turn out as he had planned, though; I'm majoring in Art while America wants to be a teacher. He's still trying to convince her, but she drives with a heavy foot.

I walk toward him when he says, "Is this what you are planning on doing all summer?" he points to the painting and crosses his arms over his chest.

"I have nothing else to do," I say, a little irritated. "I mean I could take summer classes, but I think I need a break. For someone who brought his entire family to live with him, you barely spend time with us. And unlike you, I like my summers off."

"Watch your tone Athena. I am your father," he raises his voice.

Are you serious? He is angry at me? "A father who's rarely home. You care more about saving people's lives than saving your relationship with your daughters."

"I can never have a normal conversation with you, can I?" he loudly says.

"Now you want to talk? Why couldn't you have called when I was eight-years-old, and I just wanted to hear my father's voice? Or when America was crying because she didn't have a dad?" I take a deep breath. "Or how about, when my mom was busting her butt trying to put food on the table for her daughters to eat?"

"You know nothing Athena." He points a finger at me. "You have no idea how hard I've worked to provide you, America, and your mother with the things you have today," he spits. "You can't even imagine everything I went through. All alone."

Everything he's provided for us? A roof over my head, computers, cars and cellphones don't equal love. What I want is a father who comes home from work and kisses me hello. A father who asks about my day and loves me unconditionally. A safeguard. Much is said about a mother's love, but to me, a father's love deserves the same praise. A father is the first example of a gentleman. It is through his actions that he shows his daughters how they are to be treated by a man. To be a father holds an overwhelming power, a power so strong, full of steel. And to know that he took that pride, threw it on the floor, stumped on it and watch it crumble without a second thought, hurts more than anything I have ever experienced before. I long for the day when I would be able to say that I love my father with all my heart and strength.

Deep down, I know this is a farfetched thought.

"Please dad, don't pretend to be the victim, you aren't." I scoff.

"One day you will understand, Athena. But I forgive you, because you do not know any better."

The sound of the patio door opening draws our attention from the argument. My grandma walks down the step with Lexi following behind, waging her tail enthusiastically. The look on my grandmas face makes my stomach twist.

"You two need to cut it out, understand?" Spanish rolls of her tongue as she demands, "Don't you think it's time that you tell your daughters what happened during those eight years, Angel?

What truth grandma?

"No, Isabel. She has to grow up and accept that we aren't all as perfect as her, and we make mistakes," he looks at me with sadness in his eyes. "Athena's a smart girl, she knows she's not ready to hear the truth yet, or else she wouldn't be acting like this." With one last look my way, he leaves the patio.

"I hate him so much," I clung to my grandmother's arm as the tears puddle in my eyes.

"Don't say things you're going to regret later," she hugs me hard, as to rid me of the pain. "I know your relationship with your father has always been difficult, but everything he's done, has been for you all," she swipes the tears off my cheek. "Have faith."

"I miss him so much Abuela."

"I know sweetheart; I miss your grandfather like never before."

When I was two-years-old and my mother was pregnant with America my father abandoned us and came to Florida. He left his pregnant wife bereft and never once saw America. Never even asked for a picture. Eight years passed and he never called to check up on us. Never visited us either. Then one day out of nowhere, my mother told us to say goodbye to our grandparents, that we were going to the United States to be with our dad. To become a family once again.

Hatred was a seed planted in me ever since my father escaped from our lives. That seed grew roots when I had to say goodbye to my grandfather—the only father I had ever known. The one who raised me and taught me how to ride a bike and roller-skate. After a year of living in Florida I told my dad I wanted to visit my grandfather, but 'conveniently' there was never enough money.

Six years later, when the call came in that my grandfather—my father—had died, the roots became strong enough to hold a bud. I spent every day crying in my room, drenching my soul. All Angel had to say was to "get over it, everyone has to die at some point" all I kept thinking was, when will your time come.

That day the bud blossomed into a livid flower.

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