Cara was the gift; the baby girl that Marie Davies was finally able to buy little pink dresses for. Joseph was a military man; he drank like a fish and was rough on his boys, both strapping Stevie and mild Joey Jr., in his efforts to make them into proper men, but Cara.. Tiny Cara was dressed up and paraded around like some kind of cupcake, nearly toppling over on itself with all the frosting piled on top. Her mother would later chalk it up to Southern formality, but Stevie and Joey weren’t nearly as impressed with their new sister as the old lady next door, nor their friends’ mothers. Cara-Leigh Davies was a charming, loud-mouthed, pink-clad toddler, but she was their sister. Wholly and entirely. It was a given that instantly, they became her protectors, whether they'd liked it -- or even were remotely prepared for it -- or not.
Stevie and Joey did more than their share; they shielded her from their father’s gruff, aggressive manner; instead of Joe Sr.'s full gusto, Cara was blessed with his sheer indifference and emotional disconnection from his daughter. (Stevie spoke about this strain on the family even less than Joey, and it's a kind of allyship that Cara holds dear to this day.. But back to the story, shall we?)
The boys rolled their eyes at their mother’s ridiculous doting upon their sister -- a strange supplement for the lack of attention or acknowledgement she was receiving from their father -- and instead, Cara was chided for not being ladylike enough. Straighten up. Don't wear that shirt. Where are your nicer earrings? Don't crack your knuckles! There wasn't such a thing as a debutante ball -- there was a modest cotillion -- but if such a formal opportunity had presented itself to the Davies family? Marie would've been the first one in line to forge Cara's name, 'forge' being the key word. That said, Cara would rather climb a tree, or ride her bike.. And that was part of the perceived problem.
Cara had dropped the -Leigh (had you noticed?) as soon as she’d reached the fifth grade, and a detour wedged itself into her life during her junior year of high-school. Stevie was away at boot camp and Joe (he’d dropped the -y at a similar point) was working at a small architecture firm nearby when their father’d said it.. Plain as day. Cara was smart. Her two-year-long streak of honor-roll performance was decent.. For a girl. Wasn't she applying to a state school? Aiming low to prevent disappointment? She'd never survive, far away at some university. Marie stared nervously down into her casserole, and Joe Sr. hadn’t even blinked. Daughters and sons were different, he’d always said. It's different. It's so different. Daughters were delicate, quiet, pretty, and fragile while his sons were rough and tumble. Boys were the better, his were smarter and more capable -- he'd choose them every time if he’d have his pick. Cara, forever with her eyes on the win (thanks to her brothers), was -- predictably -- devastated.
While she’d eventually come to terms with the bitter feelings of inadequacy and bury herself into gender studies electives, that moment would become a driving force behind Cara’s ambition. She played varsity sports (track and field, gymnastics, and softball -- only after a heated debate about why she couldn’t play on the boys’ baseball team), excelled in her advanced placement courses, and found that she’d enjoyed all of it. She didn't know what it was like to slack off. Cara thrived under pressure, and found herself applying to some of the most rigorous academic programs and colleges in the country not out of spite, but because it was the only option. Her family -- Joe Sr.'s sexism aside -- couldn’t afford to send her away to school.. It was purely on Cara to earn her way through. She had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Life was throwing her hit after hit, and it was almost as if she'd used the momentum to launch herself forward.
Cara fought her way through Stanford's undergraduate physics program on a scholarship, taking full advantage of living far away from home -- sharing an apartment with three other girls. There were parties and the like, but Cara found herself spending more nights at the library than not. She was a bookworm, and a favorite of all her professors. When one degree wasn’t enough, and three roommates were too many, she moved into an apartment of her own near campus, and accepted as position with her university as a teachers’ aid. Joe Sr. had little to say at this point, insisting that Cara was a good kid who got good things in life because of hard work and timing. It was true, but the wound was scarred over. Cara had determined her own course, had built a life independent of her family on her sheer force of will.
It was in those years that Cara went from bookish work-horse into something more. Like most college students, she had her flings (the kind that will and won’t be mentioned at ‘for old times’ sake’ dinners), set off her share of smoke alarms in the name of casseroles-like-mom-made gone wrong.. And experienced her own version of rock bottom. She’s reticent to talk about the amount of alcohol that she consumed in the later, quieter, lonelier portion of her graduate studies/while pursuing her MS -- dealing with the untimely death of Marie had something to do with it; Cara still has a hard time labeling a period like that as alcoholism -- she was functional, after all -- but she still keeps her sobriety chip(s) in her side table drawer.
More recently, Cara purchased a home in San Francisco -- still across the country from her family (something her brothers disapprove of, but often skirt in conversation) -- and is teaching part-time while she continues to pursue her doctorate in applied and engineering physics. Just as rough-and-tumble as the boys that’d been more of an influence on her than her own father, Cara consults and researches specifically with the top aeronautics professionals in the area. She’s the happiest she’s ever been when she’s solving g-force calculations, teaching classes at the university (and at her local Crossfit gym) and listening to No Doubt after hours in her office. Correction, she’s the happiest she’s ever been when curled on the couch watching The Empire Strikes Back.. But work is a close second.