My name is Noel Bryan.

I am a snake.

A conniving, loathsome human-being who has done awful things in her life.

Funny thing is, that's not even the problem. I can live with the guilt of the hurt I've caused.

The problem is so much worse than that, believe it or not. I know, the soft blonde hair and bright hazel eyes can be quite deceiving. Look past that.

No, the problem is that I would do them all over again. Without hesitation.

I should probably start at the very beginning.

I was born on Christmas Eve, in a small North Carolina town. The kind of small town that has one grocery store, one gas station, and every person there knows everyone else's business even before it finishes happening.

Yeah, one of those fun filled places.

My mother was young, and I mean young enough for stupidity to be a legitimate excuse for her choices. At least I'd like to think it contributed to the slew of bad decisions she chose to make, the first of which was how she up and abandoned me at the hospital.

Twelve hours old, brand new, eyes barely opened for the first time, and no mommy in sight.

Don't get teary eyed on me yet, the story hasn't even started.

I'll start off by calling her Megan. I could never call her or anyone mom because I think you have to have someone to love you back to actually count as a mother, and I definitely never had any of that. Truth be told, I've never known her name and probably never will. Megan is just a name like any other name, but it's better than calling her nothing at all. And I suppose when I was little, it helped to pretend there was a name to go along with the face, even a face that I had to dream up and imagine. See, fairytales aren't all princesses and knights in shining armor.

Seriously, no crying. Back to reality.

Maybe she left because she needed some fresh air or a cigarette; after all, I won't discount the hard work of childbirth; pushing a football shaped little person out of your hoo-haa can't be the easiest thing to do. But regardless of Megan's reasoning, when the pretty young nurse carried my six-pound, eleven-ounce body into the room for a feeding, she was nowhere to be found. I'd like to think that she held me and rocked me to sleep like a newborn should be, but honestly, who really knows. I doubt I'd be the person I am today if someone-anyone- had swaddled me back then, but again, I digress.

All I do know for sure is that someone at that hospital sure had the holiday spirit in them, because they swiped Noel across my birth certificate before Social Services snatched me up. After a while, I ended up with the only next of kin they could find. Enter part two.

Hold on, it only gets better.

I am fairly certain the only reason that my 'Aunt' Billie took me in was because she could finally catch a break and snag herself a check and some monetary benefits from the state. It definitely wasn't because she was a warm, fuzzy, loving, and caring woman. Make sure you know that I use 'aunt' loosely. I still don't know how she was related to my birth mother, it was never, and I mean NEVER talked about. This was something common throughout my life- not talking about important things. More on that later, of course. She had dirty-strawberry blonde hair, was skinny as a rail, and a cigarette permanently attached to her mouth at all times. Her vocabulary was limited, and by limited, I mean I thought my name was fucker at one time in my life.

"Hey, fucker, you smell. Get on outta here."

"Go on, now!"

"Jesus, what now, fucker?"

"Fucker, go get muh smokes!"

"Hey, stop eating all the hamburger helper, you little fucker!"

I was also super lucky in the uncle lottery because I seemed to have a new one of those every other month. If I was really lucky, they stayed long enough to learn my name too. And no, I don't mean my real one.

No, the real truth is I was lucky if anyone noticed me at all. They say you spoil babies by hugging them too much. If that makes a person soft, I wonder what they say about people that get no affection at all. I mean, what does that make me?

Honestly, none of that matters. They don't matter. Hell, truthfully, I don't even matter. The only thing that ever mattered was the one person that walked into my life and actually looked at me.

Saw me. He made me feel real. Hell, he just made me feel.

The first person that showed me kindness, light, laughter, smiles, happiness… He is the only thing that matters. He is the reason we're here. He's the reason for everything.

Luca Barrios.

I will never forget the moment he walked into my existence and brought me to life.

I wiggled the gravel between my chubby, dirty little toes. Must have been almost five years old. Sitting on the hot, tan gravel curb of the cull de sac of the nice houses, I stared hard at the pretty colored rocks sticking to my tiny, sweaty, dirty, bare feet. The trailer I stayed in was through the woods to the left, but somehow, I had managed to wandered over here. I was lost in thought. Wonder had taken me over as I examined my feet. Some of their rocks even sparkled. It was almost magical compared to the gray dust and cigarette butts that surrounded our square house. I looked up and was blinded as the setting sun shone right into my eyes. I squinted to look at the giant brick castles around the giant paved circle., and as my eyes wandered downward, that's when I saw him. His skin color was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I looked down at my pale, freckled arms and back at his rich, honey toned skin and stood right up. He stood up from playing with some shiny toy trucks in his bright, evenly cut grass and stared right back at me.

"Hi," he said, cocking his head to the side and staring right into my eyes. Nobody ever did that.

Even from across the road, I could see the green and gold flecks in his eyes as I locked onto them. The sunlight danced across the apples of his cheeks as he started to grin. I knew I was dreaming. The tips of my own cheeks lifted instinctively back at him.

"You're 'apposed to say hi back," he says, taking a few steps towards me. My cheeks tug even harder and I walk closer to him.

"Hi," I say, not sure of what else to do, afraid he might go away if I do anything else.

He smiles bigger and looks side to side in the road and walks all the way out to me.

"I'm Luca."


"Whas your name?"

I stare at the intricate black curls on his head can't stop staring at how beautiful he is.

"Are you ok?" he asks, his eyebrow makes a funny move upward. I just nod, staring and hoping he keeps talking.

He shakes his head and smiles, "Freckles."

When I open my mouth to say something, the shrill sound of a ladies voice fills the air. Luca's mother comes running out into the road in a full-blown panic attack. This part always gets a little fuzzy in the details, but after a long period of phone calls, police, and lots of adult pacing, the only part I remember is sitting inside of Luca's brick castle, next to him on a chair by the door.

"Where's your mama?" he asked, kicking his feet back and forth. I copied him.

"I ain't got one," I said. His feet stopped.

"How you don't have a mama?" he said, his eyebrows almost touching in the middle. I loved the way his eyebrows moved.

I shrugged.

"Just don't."

We went back to kicking our feet together. After a while I heard Aunt Billie's voice and I must have looked as scared as I felt. You could hear how angry she was before she even came inside. I felt something touch my hand. I looked down to see Luca's hand clutching mine. He squeezed it. I squeezed it back.

I looked at him and he said "It'll be ok, Freckles."

That was the moment I fell head over heels for Luca. No earthshattering moment of world wind romance, no lust filled-firework bursting kiss exchange needed. I didn't need to be an adult to know the feelings that rushed through me. For the first time in my life, I didn't feel so alone. I'd say a piece of me became his that day, but I'd be lying. No, my entire being belonged to Luca and his sweet soul.

No hearts and flowers. Just a boy with a pure heart. Simplicity. And I was his ever since.

His Freckles.

My Luca.