In the aftermath of Mago’s departure, Reyna’s bedroom becomes both her prison and her haven. In order to avoid her father and Mila, Reyna retreats entirely in her bedroom, ignoring her hunger pangs and urinating into a bucket she keeps in the corner of the room. Her father has “pecked away” at her for so long that she is afraid if she comes out of her room, he will swoop down on her like a vulture.
Reyna has often felt, over the years, like she is walking on eggshells in Papi’s home. Now, though, she is outright terrified of him, and tries to put a distance between herself and her father order to avoid a confrontation with him—and preserve her own physical and mental health.
One afternoon, Reyna calls her boyfriend Steve and asks him to come over. They lay down on her bed and have sex—Reyna loses her virginity to him more as an act of defiance against her father than out of any real desire or love for Steve.
Reyna retaliates against her father in secret ways—ways that seem connected to her desire to prove her worth, even if Papi doesn’t know about them.
Reyna begins engaging in other reckless behaviors. She tries to get a job as a movie extra, but is unprepared for the audition and isn’t picked. On her way down Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, two men call out to her from a car, asking if she wants a modeling job. Though Reyna knows in her gut she shouldn’t go with them, she gets into the car. They take her to an office building and order her to strip for photographs, at which point Reyna flees, running down the street until her lungs hurt.
Reyna continues trying to find ways to prove her worth to herself. Papi has given her less than nothing, and she puts herself in potentially dangerous situations in order to hopefully find ways to feel good about herself.
Several weeks later, Reyna breaks up with Steve. She knows that in having unprotected premarital sex with him, she is running the risk of enraging Papi—and she wants a favor from him. One night, when Papi gets home, Reyna doesn’t hide in her room. She goes out to the kitchen and tells him that the next day she is going to Pasadena City College to enroll. Rather than starting a fight, Papi looks at her and begins speaking to her.
Reyna is smart enough to know that the tactics she’s using to try to make herself feel better are actually damaging her, and she decides to stop wasting time and face down her biggest fear: her father.
Papi explains that when his father took him out of school and put him in the fields to work, his job was to guide the oxen in a straight line. His father gave him a rod and instructed him to beat them as hard as he could if the cows didn’t listen. Papi was only nine years old. After telling Reyna this story, he asks if she “understand[s.]” Reyna doesn’t say anything—she is still too angry to forgive all he has done to her, though she longs to find a way to understand. As Reyna thinks of something to say, her father opens the fridge to get a beer, and Reyna knows that soon, her real father will disappear.
Papi attempts to give Reyna an explanation for his controlling, abusive ways. As a child, he was taught that control was more important than anything, and that if control only came through physical violence, it didn’t matter. Reyna doesn’t know what to do with this information—but before she can decide, her father retreats into his old ways, and Reyna knows that his opening up to her was merely a fluke.