★ like countless de la reys before you, you are born with the sea in your blood and bones. you take your first gasps of air on your family's fishing boat, a hundred miles off the californian shore, and you learn to swim before you learn to walk.
★ you're born marlin de la rey, the sixth and the youngest brother of the de la reys, an extended seafaring family whose spanish immigrants settled in america and started their own fishing company over a hundred years ago. your parents are overjoyed to have healthy, strong boys, and you spend much of your childhood wrestling with your brothers in the sand, or on the open ocean, reeling in fishing nets and singing old sea songs with countless aunts and uncles and cousins.
★ but when you're nine years old and you come out to your mother, she only smiles and pulls you into a crushing hug. i've always wanted a girl, she says. the salt of her tears mingles with the salt of the sea in your hair, and the sound of the new name you’ve chosen for yourself sounds like a hymn coming from her tongue: marina, marina, marina.
★ you're a bit more nervous when you tell your brothers, but the only thing they do is laugh, ruffle your hair, punch you good-naturedly in the arm. you are still the same person you were before, and they are the same too. afterwards, you never feel out of place with yourself. your entire family makes sure of it.
★ when high school comes around, you don't like it so much. every day, class is simply something to fill the hours between nine and three before your real purpose begins: swim practice.
★ the de la reys of peachtree city have left their mark on ridgeview high in the form of countless state trophies for anything swim and dive, and you are no different. (maybe this year you'll even be faster than mateo, who now has ambitions of the us national swim team, when he was in high school.)
★ after your first swim meet when you're a freshman, when you catapult the junior varsity relay team to first place, an older teammate claps you on the back and nicknames you stingray, for your sharp tongue and smooth butterfly stroke.
★ but it turns out other kids aren't always as accepting as your brothers: despite a reputation that precedes you as a de la rey swimmer, the jocks never fully accept you and your gender identity. that's fine. you find your niche with some more open-minded kids, and don't let high school politics bother you.
★ but unlike much of rest of your family, you've got dreams. you don't want to stay in this small city for your whole life, like so many of your relatives that more or less are content to put down roots and work for the family company. you've got places to see.
★ you'd like to join the navy and see the world. you want to run triathlons and swim the english channel. you'd like to learn a few languages. but first, you need to graduate high school.