Pepa’s voice was flat, lacking any inflection that could clue them in on how she was feeling. Even her cloud had frozen above her head.
“What did you say?”
She’d spent the last week trapped in her grief over her hermano’s disappearance, in her fears over what his door going dark meant.
And now this?
“We’ll send her to Agustin’s family,” her mamá continued. “She didn’t get a Gift Pepa. And whatever Bruno saw in the future drove him away from the family. We cannot allow a threat to the magic to remain.”
“A threat? A five-year-old is a threat?” she couldn’t keep the sneer out of her voice and her mamá’s lips pursed in disapproval.
For once, the expression didn’t affect Pepa. Because this wasn’t about her or her siblings who should, in theory, be able to defend themselves. This was about the five-year-old who still refused to come out of her room. Whose oldest hermana had outright disowned her as family yesterday because she didn't get a Gift. Whose other hermana was ignoring her after being pressured to by her Abuela.
Whose parents were in the room and saying nothing as it was planned to send her away from the only life she’d ever known.
“Sofia hates you,” Pepa stated bluntly. “If you send Mirabel to her, then she’d never interact with the family again. We'd barely see her around the village since Sofia lives on the opposite side.”
Agustin flinched and Julieta looked down. But they still didn’t say anything. Pepa dug her nails into her palms to keep her emotions under control. Julieta had always had a problem with saying no to their mamá. Bruno too admittedly. But the difference between them was that Bruno had trouble saying no when it came to himself. When it came to someone else, especially someone he cared about, her hermano could get downright defiant at times. It hadn’t happened often, but the times it did were memorable. Bruno didn’t rebel against their mamá in the typical ways. But he still did when it was necessary.
It made her wonder about his absence… Whether it was over what he saw, or how he expected their mamá to react to it.
She pushed that aside for the moment. Thinking of him only made the ache in her heart worse.
“We do what we must. For the good of the Miracle and the Encanto,” her mamá told her firmly.
Pepa looked to her hermana, seeing the tears in her eyes that betrayed her true feelings over the situation. And yet she still didn’t speak up. Fine then.
“No,” Pepa stated simply, an ominous rumble of thunder coming from her cloud.
“What?” her mamá demanded sharply. A warning.
“No,” Pepa repeated. “No, you will not tear a five-year-old who is already scared away from the only life she’s ever known because of your paranoia. No, you will not take away the girl my niños love because she’s different. No, you are not abandoning that little girl, my sobrina, because you’re scared.”
Pepa turned away from her spluttering mamá to meet Julieta’s wide eyes. “If you are incapable of standing up for your hija Julieta, you shouldn’t have become a mother at all.”
Julieta reeled back in shock and it gave Pepa no pleasure to hurt her hermana like this. But she refused to stand by and let this happen.
“If you don’t want Mirabel, she’s mine then,” she stated simply, turning to leave.
“Pepa!” her mamá snapped and a bolt of lightning snapped to the ground.
“Don’t,” Pepa whispered. “Don’t push me any further right now. I’ve already lost most of my respect for everyone in this room after this conversation. Don’t make me lose my temper too. You know how badly that goes when someone hurts my family. And in case you’ve somehow forgotten, Mirabel is my family.”
She shot an icy glare at them over her shoulder, a cold wind whipping up in the room.
“From now on, Mirabel is my hija. I don’t care what you tell anyone. I don’t care what story you concoct to make yourself feel better about the situation. But she’s mine now. You lost all rights to that girl the moment you thought this was an acceptable idea.”
She slammed the door shut behind her before they could argue further, Casita not stopping her and giving away just how upset the house was about this whole thing.
Pepa stood there for a moment, trying to stop the anger raging inside her from escaping into a hurricane.
Part of her was tempted to say ‘fuck it’ and let loose for once. Her mamá and hermana wanted to send her five-year-old sobrina away because of paranoia and Agustin said nothing because fuck that man needed to grow a spine when it came to his mother-in-law.
If her mamáhad tried that shit with Felix, he would lost his absolute mind on her.
On top of that all, she had no idea where her hermano was or if he was still alive. The kids in the house were either getting dragged into this insanity through her mamá pressuring them or were just stressed out over the adults being stressed out.
Camilo was still crying over the fact that Bruno was missing. She didn’t know where Dolores was and really maybe a hurricane wasn’t so bad-
Pepa was yanked out of that spiral of thoughts as Dolores ran up to her, looking distressed.
“Mija? What’s wrong?” she asked gently, figuratively throwing her thundercloud out of the window for the moment.
“I-I heard your conversation,” Dolores admitted, fidgeting with her dress. “Are we really- is Mira going to stay?”
Pepa nodded firmly. “Sí.” She hated that Dolores had to hear that at all. She shouldn't know how easy her Abuela found it to throw one of them away when they became 'inconvenient'.
Some of the tension drained from her hija’s shoulders at that but she still seemed upset.
“It’s just… Abuela already told Mirabel earlier that they were sending her away. She’s been crying in her room all day. Even Camilo can’t make her stop.”
And the thundercloud was back, front and centre.
“Mija? Do me a favour and fetch your papá for me? Meet me at the nursery okay?” she was careful to keep her tone calm and the eleven-year-old nodded before racing off to fetch Felix.
Pepa, meanwhile, turned and walked straight to the nursery.
That would be the first thing they’d change. Mirabel needed to stay somewhere else, not in the nursery. She shouldn't be stuck in there for the rest of her childhood.
Her heart broke when she opened the door to Mirabel’s sobs. Her Camilo was crouched down and peering under the bed, looking completely distressed. He looked up at his mamá as Pepa closed the door and scrambled up, running straight to her.
“Mami!” he grabbed fistfuls of her dress. “You won’t let them take Mira away right?” Her hijo looked on the brink of tears himself.
Pepa cupped his cheek and gave him a reassuring smile. “Never mijo.”
He relaxed a bit, rubbing at his eyes and sniffling. This entire situation had upset her niños and that only made her angrier.
“Mamá’s going to talk to Mira now, okay? Papá and Dolores are on their way so wait by the door for them?”
He nodded and glanced back at the bed before slipping out the door. Pepa took a few deep breaths before moving over to the bed and kneeling down next to it.
Under the bed she found a huddled five-year-old, sobbing to herself.
“Oh, Mira,” Pepa whispered, her heart aching for her sobrina. “Will you come out for Tia?”
“I d-don’t wanna leave,” Mirabel sobbed out. “Please d-don’t make me l-leave!”
“I would never make you leave Mira,” Pepa told her firmly. “Never. And you’re not going to leave.”
Tear-filled eyes looked at her from behind round glasses
“I promise Mira,” Pepa assured her, stretching a hand under the bed towards the little girl. “No one is going to make you leave.”
Mirabel bit her lip, the tears escaping again. “Mami and papi don’t want me anymore,” Her voice wavered. “Isa and Luisa don’t either. Abuela said they’re sending me away cause I’m dangerous. She said Tio Bruno left cause of me. No one wants me.”
This time a roll of thunder came from outside but Pepa didn’t care. She was so unbelievably angry. She kept calm for the moment though.
“Well, Mira. That’s not true. Because I want you very much. And so does Camilo and Dolores and your Tio Felix.” She took a deep breath. “And I know that your Tio Bruno loved you so, so much. It wasn’t your fault that he left.”
Mirabel wiped at her eyes miserably. “Really?”
“Really,” Pepa nodded her head firmly. “And I will zap anyone that tries to take you away with the biggest bolt of lightning you’ve ever seen.”
Mirabel uncurled little. “I don’t have to go?”
Pepa shook her head. “No, you’re not going anywhere.”
Hesitantly, Mirabel reached out to take Pepa’s hand and she pulled the little girl out from under the bed and into a tight hug. Her sobrina buried her face in her dress and started crying again.
“But what do I do?” she wailed. “They don’t want me!”
Pepa stroked her hair and rocked her gently, hearing the door open behind her again.
“You’re just going to be ours then Mira,” she told her simply.
Miserable eyes stared up at her in confusion while Felix came to crouch down next to Pepa.
“Everyone else is being very silly lately,” he told Mira in a hushed voice. “So your Tia and I are gonna steal you away so you’re all ours,” he booped her on the nose when she turned to stare at him.
Pepa loved him all the more for how easily he was going along with this.
“What do you mean?” she asked while Dolores came to kneel on Pepa’s other side with Camilo in her lap.
“What I mean, is that you’re going to be my hija now Mira,” Pepa explained gently. “You’re going to be our hija. You’re ours now. Dolores is going to be your hermana and Camilo is your mellizo.”
Camilo let out an excited gasp and threw himself out of Dolores’ arms and onto Mirabel.
“Mira is my hermana?!” he asked excitedly.
Pepa smiled at his obvious joy at that.
“Sí, Mira is a part of our family now.”
She knew it wasn’t that easy. That Mirabel was going to carry insecurities over this for a long time to come. But she refused to watch her sobrina get thrown away for something that wasn’t her fault. She refused to lose her.
Mirabel stared up at her with wide eyes.
“It’s okay now Mira,” she murmured, cupping the girl’s cheek. “It’s going to be okay.”
Mirabel burst into tears again and clung tightly to her dress while Camilo hugged her from the side. Dolores leaned against Pepa’s right and ran a hand through Mirabel’s hair while Felix wrapped his arms around them all in a hug that never failed to make Pepa feel safe and loved.
And between the sobbing girl in Pepa’s arms who was now her responsibility and her sharp, painful grief over her hermano’s absence, Pepa finally let out her frustration and anger.
The Encanto would survive a hurricane. And maybe they deserved it for the shit human beings they’d been recently.
Karma was a bitch and honestly, she’d never claimed to be anything but a bitch.
Pepa owned that title. Everyone else needed to remember it.