"I promise, mom, I'll be fine," Valentina said, holding her mother's hands tightly in her own; tightly, surely, as if she didn't want to let go, "I'll be back to visit you during Christmas."

"I'm not so sure, Valli, New York City is dangerous..." Her mother spoke, cupping her face with one wrinkled, frail hand. The older woman stared into her daughter's eyes; they looked just like her father's. Her own eyes filled with tears at the sight of her grown daughter.

Valentina smiled at her mom and wiped her eyes, opening her mouth to speak once again, "I'll be fine, nothing bad will happen to me, I promise. I promise that no harm will come my way. I know how to take care of myself..." She said,

"You know I know how to take care of myself, mama." Valentina leaned down slightly, letting go of her mother's hands and looking away, "If anything comes up, I'll come back. I promise I'll come back."

Valentina's mother sighed and looked up at her daughter. She had grown so much.

Valentina was a smart, smart girl. A courageous girl, too. She knew where to collect bugs, and which streets the ice cream man stopped the most. Hell, she even memorized the first three acts of William Shakespeare's Hamlet when she was twelve years old. She got her black belt in karate at sixteen years old and knew how to make a damn good omelet. She was kind, albeit very shy, but an all around kickass kid. And even despite growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, she loved herself and was confident, even as she aged.

"Okay, Valentina, the road's gonna be a bit congested, so you should head off now." Valentina's mother said, holding her daughter's face, "I love you with all of my heart, Val, be safe on the road, don't talk to strangers."

Valentina laughed and kissed her mom's cheeks. After a big hug, and a goofy goodbye to the dog, she was off in her adorable black Jeep. She let the sight of Stowe, Vermont roll past, leaving behind the familiar scenery and driving into something brand new.

Cover Bit 2

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