Song 28 ♪ Freaks Without A Leash

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It occurred to me that if I was going to do this thing I better be prepared. In a way, I've always been behind schedule. Born without a regular family, in a country with customs that were foreign to my mother who has basically trialled and erred throughout my life to learn how to play by the local rules. With no health insurance, no benefits, no solid education. We've never spoken about it, it was too risky, but I was sure that ma had married the gringo, not because he was a prince who arrived to sweep her off her feet, but because he was the first American man who liked her enough to marry her and secure her permanent stay in this country.

This wasn't normal. I was not normal.

I was the daughter of a failed singer who got knocked up at 19 by her business manager. A man who disappeared from her life soon after.

And I inherited one thing from both of them. My desire to be on stage.

After the auditions, my head was dancing with the understanding that I lost the battle. That this band was happening. And that I was going to give it a try. Not just because I gave Ashton my word, but because I'd never been, until that night, closer to living out my fantasy. Sure, Leti, DeAndre and the others from my barrio liked it when I sang salsa and merengue songs at parties, but that wasn't anywhere close to the euphoria I felt in the crowd at that rock concert my friends took me to.

I wanted that. I craved to see if I had it in me to cause that kind of reaction. I needed to know if I could be anything more than the short, fat Latina girl with the untamable curls and a penchant for squirming under attention.

I went back into my dorm room, put on my headphones and looked up that band on Youtube, the one that had the only rock song I even knew how to sing. At first the music was too strident for my taste, it didn't make me want to shake my hips. But then I started to weed out the details. The dark lyrics. The overlapping melodies and the emotion coming from each instrument. Drama. Pain.

I fucking loved it.

I didn't sleep a wink that night. Listening to different songs on repeat, then going down the rabbit hole of Youtube's next recommendations. Some were from the same band, but somewhere around 2am I begun listening to other bands.

If anyone asked me, I'd never have described this music as soothing, yet I eventually found myself drifting off to sleep, and as Youtube kept suggesting one song after the next, I had the most amazing dream.

Pitch black. A single spotlight in the middle, the light broken by wisps of curling smoke. My feet were moving, compelled by something I couldn't explain. As I walked closer to the light, I could see that there was something under it, just within my reach.

A microphone.

I saw my hand reaching for it, as though I was outside of my own body. But I still felt my lips part, I felt the breath going into my lungs. And then...

"Are you ready?" I asked. In my more conscious mind I wondered who I was asking that to. The nothingness in front of me? Myself?

And then a million voices replied all at once. What I thought was pitch black lit up like the sky at night, full of stars. But they weren't stars. They were the flashes of cameras, of flashlights.

I was the star.

I jolted awake so hard that my torso sprang forward. And then I saw a different set of stars as my forehead collided with something.


The voice was a strange one in my room. I tried to rub off the throbbing ache from my forehead and saw Madison standing next to my bed, clutching her head like she was trying to keep it from splitting open.

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