In the middle of eighth grade, Reyna falls in love. The boy she develops a crush on is named Luis. Though Reyna’s friend Phuong has a crush on Luis, too, and asks Reyna to act as a “messenger” between her and Luis, it is Reyna whom Luis starts flirting with. One afternoon, after school, Luis runs into Reyna on the street and asks her to go for a walk. Though Reyna knows she should go straight home, she accepts his invitation, and during their walk Luis kisses her.
Reyna begins testing the boundaries of her father’s influence as she experiments with her first romantic attraction. Even though she saw how bad things were for Carlos and Mago when they developed crushes, she pushes ahead with Luis, even betraying an important friendship to do so.
When Reyna gets home, Papi is angry at her for being out late. Reyna lies and says she needed to go to two different stores to do an errand Papi sent her out on, but he sees through her lie. Reyna does not want to tell Papi the truth, knowing he’ll beat her. Reyna says that she doesn’t have to live with Papi, and is going to live with her mother. She walks out the door and starts down the street, where Luis and his friends are sitting on a low wall on the corner. Luis says something to Reyna that she can’t hear, and the next thing she knows, someone—Papi—is grabbing her by her hair and dragging her back down the road. She hears Luis and her friends laughing as Papi pulls her back to the house and starts beating her.
As Reyna continues pushing boundaries, she soon comes up against their limit—and pushes even further. Papi’s abuse escalates as he attempts to exert control over Reyna. Papi’s embarrassing Reyna in front of her schoolmates doesn’t inspire their pity—rather, the boys laugh, demonstrating that they, too, are immune to the seriousness of the abuse she’s suffering and incapable of helping or even feeling pity.
On Monday, Reyna tries to find Luis at lunch to talk to him, but when she spots him, he looks right through her, as if she doesn’t exist. Phuong, feeling betrayed, won’t let Reyna sit with her, either. Reyna sits on the steps of the band room, takes out a V.C. Andrews book, and retreats into a world where words are her friends.
Unable to connect with others at her school, Reyna retreats into the world of books, finding solace in stories that allow her to explore her feelings deeply and inhabit other identities.