She was born in Puerto Rico. Growing up, she and her family didn't have much. Her parents, Consuelo and Jose, wanted more for Lareina and her brother. They wanted to see their children succeed in life. So, the family packed what few items they had, and they came to the States.
At twelve, Lareina had to adjust to an entirely new culture and language. It was a difficult adjustment at times. Very few of her classmates had any interest in befriending her. She was the new girl, the foreign girl, the poor girl. Her parents worked tirelessly for her to have a better life. Lareina quickly learned to appreciate all that she had, and all that her parents worked for. At a young age, she carefully tended to all of her belongings. Her clothes - any of her property - was kept very clean, very well organized, and remained in perfect condition. That is a trait that stayed with her throughout her life.
Seeing her parents' sacrifices, Lareina also focused on school work. She knew she needed to make the best of her education, and she did. She was a smart girl, so school work was not difficult for her. Math, though, came especially easy.
Her studies paid off. She graduated at the top of her class. Lareina decided that she wanted to give back. She thought that if she became a teacher, she could do some good in the world, and that would be a way to honor her parents' sacrifice.
College - both undergrad and graduate - was a breeze for the young Latina. She studied diligently, but she also had a social life. She had quite a few friends, and she dated occasionally. One of her friends was a gal named Sandy. Sandy was from San Diego, and she was also an education major. The two hit it off, and they eventually became roommates. She and Sandy both landed jobs at the same school, before they even graduated. They were definitely two peas in a pod - two peas wanting to make a difference in the lives of children. Lareina was so excited to share her love of math, and to help her students learn and grow.
Like all teachers, she had her good students, and her not-so-good students. Lareina did everything imaginable to help reach her less-than-stellar students. Sometimes her hard work paid off. Other times, not so much. The longer she taught, the harder it became to reach her students. Lareina eventually felt defeated. It seemed that nothing worked. Her students didn't care, and she was unable to ignite a passion within them. She gave up. She waived her white flag, and decided to return to school to get her doctorate. She was going to be a professor, where she could work with students who had the drive and enthusiasm that she had.
In her first class, she encounters a man named Tony Covelli. He is awkward, and Lareina felt very uncomfortable around him. Time after time, he tries to strike up conversation with her. It's strained at best. He asks her out on dates countless times. The more she rejects him, the more assertive he becomes. Lareina becomes increasingly concerned as his behavior worsens.
At the end of the semester, after countless rejections, Tony cannot hold out any longer. He had to have her. So, he kidnapped her.
Her kidnapping was a long and torturous event. Tony brought her up to an old cabin hidden deep within the woods near the Merced River. At times, he was abusive and controlling. He raped her, he cut her with knives, he smashed her hands under the leg of a rocking chair he sat in. He was a brute. There were, however, other times where he was tender and gentle. He would talk to her, feed her, and try to take care of her. His words and actions were unpredictable. Despite his monstrous behavior, he also showed Lareina that he was just a very sad, sick, and hurt human being. There were times where Lareina couldn't help but feel sorry for him, or connect with him in some way. The Stockholm Syndrome was prominent in her experience.
For all of the abuse she endures, Lareina remains strong and stoic. She knows that only her wits and determination are what will save her. She is resourceful, using anything and everything to help herself, and help lead her friends, family, and police to her. Though she sometimes feels hopeless, her determination and will to live keep her going. She has an inner strength that not even she is aware of. She is an incredibly strong and resilient woman.
Tony was able to elude the police for days. For about two weeks, they hide in the cabin, living in fear and squalor. A case against Tony's brother brings the police right to them. Lareina watches as Marc, a missing persons detective fights with Tony in order to save Lareina. Weak, and severely injured, Lareina also fights for her freedom.
Once she is free, she rides home in Marc's car. For the first time, she looks at herself in the mirror on the car visor. She sees all of her bruises, wounds, and scars. The woman who loved to keep herself pristine was anything but. It was more painful to see what she truly looked like than to endure all that Tony had done to her.
In a perfect, fairy tale ending, Lareina and Marc find hope, freedom, and love with each other. As Marc said to himself. "I might have rescued her, but she rescued my heart." Theirs is the ending we all hope and wish for.
Lareina is a very strong woman. She has inner strength, physical strength, a mental strength like no other. She is quick witted, clever, smart, resourceful - she's unlike anyone you have ever met before. A perfect combination of brains and beauty, Lareina Oliveira is the kind of heroine we all need today.
Favorite quote from Lareina: "I wanted to show them how much I appreciated what they had done for us. So, I studied hard and I always worked. It was all for them – for their sacrifice. My first obligation is to my family, not to just any man. The right man would understand; they always told me that and I fully believe it.
“Besides, I was raised to be a good Catholic. My parents instilled morals into my brother and I. Between my family and my beliefs, I was simply living my life the best way I knew how.”