MATTAWA — Maribel Torres was born with one hand.
But she doesn't want your pity.
She doesn't want to be treated differently.
And she sure as heck doesn't want anyone to help her unless she asks for it.
What others might call a disability hasn't been a barrier for the 18-year-old from Mattawa who used to leave her prosthetic hand in the middle of the road because she refused to wear it when riding a bike.
Maribel plays varsity basketball and soccer at Wahluke High School in Mattawa, about 60 miles northwest of the Tri-Cities.
She drives a stick shift. She is the senior class president. She ties her own shoes and ponytails. She earns good grades. She texts her friends.
"I was born like this. I know I am different. I'm not embarrassed by it," she said. "A lot of people that are born different isolate themselves and make themselves apart from things. I always wanted to be around everybody, and do everything everyone else would do."
That mentality started from the day she was born.
"Since she was small, we were always trying to be overprotective of her," said Elizabeth Torres, her mom. "Her older sisters would try to tie her shoes, and she would be like, 'No. No, I can do it. I can do it.'
"She was just hard headed. She learned how to tie her shoes and everything else. She didn't need nobody's help."
On Thursday, she will walk onto the basketball court at Connell High, ready to play the last game of her high school career.
The youngest of four children, Maribel loved her pink Barbie bike as a girl.
She and older sisters, Patricia and Rosalinda, would tear around the streets in Mattawa, just south of the schools.
Neighbors used to tell their mom they'd see the girls go by, ponytails flying in the wind.
For Maribel, riding a bike was just another challenge she embraced.
She would put on her prosthetic arm, sliding it onto her left arm that stops just below the elbow.
Then she'd climb on the bike and take off on Cooper Street, a four-block patch of pavement lined with colorful doublewides tucked into the orchards near the Columbia River.
When she was far enough away from the eyesight of any adults, she'd quickly husk off her fake hand and let it fall where it may -- in the middle of the street, in the weeds next to the road, wherever. She didn't care, she just wanted it off.
"I just don't like wearing it," she said. "I felt I couldn't do anything with it. Everyone knows me like this. I just feel like that is not me. I've just always done everything with my one arm."
That stubborn streak has served her well, leading her to accomplish more than anyone could have imagined, even though her dad Felipe was initially wary about her playing sports.
When Maribel turned out for basketball her freshman year, girls coach Jeff Ahmann didn't bat an eye.
She'd been playing basketball her entire life.
Four years later, he is still impressed with her ability to play and the impact she has on the court.
"Any place we go, parents come down and (tell me they) just can't believe how hard she plays," he said. "How tenacious she is. She is on the floor diving ... she plays rougher than anyone."
Last season, she averaged almost four steals per game while splitting time between junior varsity and varsity. She also scored 20 points in a game at Kiona-Benton City, hitting five 3-pointers.
In soccer, Maribel asked to be the goalkeeper one year. She also insists on doing throw-ins, like any other player would do.
"Maribel is a ball of fire," said Arthur deVictoria, Wahluke High's boys and girls soccer coach. "If we had every kid work as hard as Maribel, we would win a lot of trophies."
Marleny Garcia, 17, has known Maribel since the pair were in second grade at Mattawa Elementary School. They started playing basketball together in seventh grade and have been close friends ever since.
"She is not afraid, you know?" Marleny said. "... She only has one hand, but she can do anything that anyone else can. She can catch, shoot and dribble. She can probably do everything better than I can, especially playing basketball."
Connell High's MarciAnne Hawkins, who will face Maribel on Thursday, has been playing basketball against her since seventh grade and has a lot of respect for her.
"On the court, she plays just as hard as everyone else and is extremely competitive. She doesn't want you to take it easy on her and she won't take it easy on you," said the 18-year-old.
Maribel's elite elementary school-age basketball team played in tournaments throughout the West, including a national tournament in Reno.
In the semifinals of that tournament, with Mattawa leading by two points, then-head coach Joel Woods put Maribel in the game and told her to get the ball. She went out and tied up an opponent, who half-drug her down the court, before the referees blew the whistle for a jump ball.
"After the game we were in the handshake line and my daughter (Talynn) was in front of me," said Woods, a former Mattawa firefighter who now lives in Ephrata. "The coach walked up and said, 'That handicap girl is really good.' My daughter turned around and said, 'We don't have any handicap girls on our team.'
"When she did that I laughed and thought, 'This sums up the whole thing with Maribel.' I was proud of her saying it and she was right. We all feel that way."
The feeling is shared by present day coaches as well.
Her coaches don't focus on her having one hand "because to do that with Maribel is to lessen Maribel," deVictoria said. "She doesn't view her life as a disability."
Rosalinda, who now is 21 and works as a paralegal in Yakima, always has been impressed by her little sister's ability to overcome anything in her way.
When the two were young, Rosalinda remembers overhearing her older sister, Patricia, and mom compiling a list of things Maribel would never be able to do because of her one hand.
"The doctors would have my mom fill out a list so they could consider her disabled," Rosalinda said. "Slowly by slowly she was checking off the list.
"She learned how to jump rope, tie her shoe, hula hoop, ride a bike. She's unbreakable. You can put a million obstacles in her way, and she'll take her time to get through them, but she will. It is just a matter of time."
The pair were inseparable growing up, often sharing a bed, except for the times they were mad at each other. It's a closeness that developed because Rosalinda felt she had to care for her younger sister, though in the end it is Maribel who taught the lessons.
"I always thought, 'I'm the older sister, I have to set a good example for her,'" Rosalinda said. "I grew up being inspired by Maribel. If Maribel doesn't let anything stop her, then nobody should.
"She could've given up any time and let people baby her, but she chose not to. She chose to figure out her own way to do things."
Maribel is not eager to talk about or to draw attention to herself, as there is plenty of that wherever she goes.
At the same time, walking onto basketball courts in Benton City, Burbank, Connell, Finley, Royal City and Warden is not easy.
Asked to come up with one word to describe herself gave her pause: "I don't see it, but maybe in a way, maybe 'brave.' It takes a lot to get up there in front of so many people and wondering what they are going to think or what they are saying."
She'd rather they notice what she's overcome.
"So they know I'm trying to do stuff and not just taking the easy way out. It makes me happy that people do see everything I'm capable of.
"Sometimes people stare. I don't take it in an offensive way because there aren't a lot of people like (me)."
And not just because she only has one hand.