Madrigals Read Mama Bear - Chapter 26 - ArcticVulpix (2022)

Chapter Text

Camilo got ahold of the book again and started reading.

Bruno couldn’t help but get a bad feeling about this chapter and his gut feelings had rarely been wrong in the past…

He tossed some salt over his shoulder when no one was looking and got a sideways glance from Dolores at the sound.

“Julieta checked on Mirabel again. She'd caught a nasty cold from being dumped in the river and her poor hija was miserable.”

“Of course,” Mirabel grimaced. She already had one chapter focused on her almost dying. She didn’t want one focused on her being sick.

When a Madrigal got sick, they'd better be unable to walk straight or able to stay upright if they wanted to stay home. If they were that sick, they usually got set up with soup, water and left to recover in their room. Otherwise, they went about business as usual in the village.

Sometimes they got to go home early or the younger members were told to stick with someone from the family just in case.

Abuela didn’t like the family showing weakness and staying home with a little cold was weakness in her opinion.

Mirabel had a nasty suspicion that it wasn’t the same in this world though.

“Julieta had never wanted to strangle someone as much as when Isabela and Dolores came running back home, a hysterical Camilo in her sobrina's arms and a sobbing Mirabel in her eldest's hold.

Pepa and her mamá had stormed off to deal with the problem though so that Julieta could take care of the distraught kids.”

“Bet there was a storm,” Felix murmured.

Considering Pepa was already thundering, that was a safe bet.

“Mamá strangling someone though?” Luisa asked with a dubious expression.

“She did it to Bruno once,” Pepa shrugged.

“What?!” several voices shouted at the same time.

“I still maintain that you overreacted,” Bruno immediately said.

“You hid a broken arm you infuriating idiot!” Julieta shouted back at him while Bruno studied the suddenly very interesting ceiling.

Mirabel looked at Bruno in exasperation.

“Isabela still refused to leave her hermana's side and the village had been shocked when the house of the boy who pushed Mirabel ended up covered in thorny vines.”

Isabela was still fiddling with her hair, not looking at Mirabel. So she missed the hesitant glance from her hermana.

“When Isabela was nowhere near it.

Her hija was growing stronger with her Gift and she wasn't afraid to use it to defend her hermanas.”

There was a beat of silence before Camilo spoke.

“Wait, you can do that without even being there?”

Isabela frowned. “No. I’ve got to be in the area to grow anything.”

Camilo waved the book around in argument and Isabela pursed her lips. She’d never been able to do that. Then again, she’d never grown cacti or trees or anything else her counterpart had done.

Maybe… she should try experimenting beyond pretty flowers.

Dolores poked Camilo to get him reading again.

“Camilo switched between fury at the bullies and fear for his prima so Dolores was keeping a close eye on him.

"How is she?"

Julieta looked up from where she'd been staring at Mirabel's door to see Pepa and Bruno nearby, both looking worried.”

It was already strange to read about how many people were around. They’d been discouraged over checking on sick family members.

To prevent the cold from spreading.

“"Coughing and miserable. But it's just a cold. Her fever's very mild," Julieta reassured them.

They looked relieved and all three of them started walking toward the stairs.

"Those bullies that did this?" She asked in a deceptively calm tone.

"Scared witless of Isabela," Bruno answered easily.”

Another strange thing to hear. No one in town was really scared of Isabela. Actually, no one was really scared of a Madrigal except for Pepa and Bruno. Bruno because of his reputation and Pepa because of her temper and lightning bolts.

“"Their parents were horrified by what they did and those brats are going to be grounded for months. They'll be forced to apologise to Mira when she's feeling better," Pepa added.

Julieta nodded sharply.

"Good."

"Like mamá always says," Bruno said. "Family first."

They shared a grin and headed to the kitchen to get some tea and calm down.

And plot ways to make sure this never happened again.”

Isabela and Mirabel both scoffed together. Family first? Right.

They glanced at each other in surprise at their reactions being in sync. Mirabel gave her a tentative smile and Isabela hesitantly returned it.

So far Mirabel thought that this chapter wasn’t so bad. Maybe it would be a calm one again?

“Mirabel felt awful. But Isabela still managed to make her smile.”

Or not.

Mirabel flinched at the idea of anyone taking time to cheer her up when she was feeling sick. Certainly not Isabela.

“She was making pretty flowers bloom and grow for Mirabel.

"And this is a new one I found in a book from the library," she said, creating a beautiful gold flower.”

The library? Isabela was surprised at that. She’d never considered learning about plants outside the Encanto.

“"Wow," Mirabel stared at it with wide eyes. "It's so pretty Isa."

Her hermana smiled smugly. She waved her hand and vines wove themselves into a basket that she started arranging all the flowers into.

"Hey Isa?" Mirabel said quietly.

"Hmmm?"

"Why do you stomp when you use your magic? When you can use it by just waving your hands too?"”

Everyone wanted to hear the answer admittedly.

Mirabel was half-listening. Her relationship over there with Isabela was just so… easy. No hostility. She trusted Isabela and her hermana clearly cared about her, taking time to make her flowers and just talk to her.

Just be a hermana to her.

There was no snapping at her about being too busy. There were no thinly veiled insults about her not being good enough or getting in the way. There were no smug looks when she gained all the attention and left Mirabel in the dust.

And it hurt.

She’d seen Isabela break down a few times tonight and she understood her hermana a lot more than before they started this. She understood how Isabela had slowly been breaking under the pressure and expectations.

But that didn’t make it right that she took it out on Mirabel. And she didn’t know what to do now. She couldn’t just ignore years of bad treatment. But she also couldn’t just leave their relationship to rot.

Why were things so complicated? Why couldn’t she just take the apology she got and move on?

Why did she still feel like she needed more?

“Actually, she'd seen Isabela use her magic without even moving before.”

Isabela blinked in surprise at that. She always needed some kind of movement to use her Gift, usually hand movements.

“"Well, it's easier," Isabela started explaining. "When I stomp I connect to my magic easier. I think it's because I can connect to the earth easier that way. Sure I can just wave my hand, but I'm more focused when I stomp. Plus," she smirked. "It irritates the jerks in the village who think I'm not 'girly' enough." She rolled her eyes.”

Isabela sat back, looking both confused and thoughtful. She was suddenly feeling like she didn’t really know as much about her Gift as she thought she did.

“That is so petty and I love it,” Camilo smirked, imagining how irritated some villagers would be if Isabela didn’t match up to their ideals of the firstborn girl of the next generation.

Personally, he hated the expectations he’d ended up facing as the firstborn boy. He got comments about his build and appearance often. He’d inherited his mamá’s slender build instead of his papá’s and he tended to slouch and in general have awful posture.

He didn’t care though. He could have used his Gift to look more like their ideal boy but he liked who he was. And his parents had never agreed with the villagers so why should he care?

The only person who had ever made him question that was Abuela who started pointing problems out as he grew older. If he heard that he needed to be ‘the man of the house’ one more time, he was going to snap.

“Mirabel pulled a face. "Luisa's the girly one between us," she huffed.”

Luisa flushed a little, but they all knew this already. Luisa liked frilly things and the usual girly stuff. Even Mirabel had a limit to how much she could handle. Luisa was the most girly person in the house. Which was fine. It was who she was.

They just wished she didn’t feel the need to somewhat hide it from the villagers.

“Isabela nodded in agreement. "Luisa likes all that stuff. So when I stomp like that, all those dumb villagers get all annoyed. But they can't say anything since mamá and Abuela would get mad if they did.”

“Petty,” Camilo whispered again, getting exasperated looks.

Isabela was still looking thoughtful while Mirabel just kept staring at her lap. They were having such a- a nice conversation. Easy, comfortable. Isabela didn’t mind answering her questions. No snapping. No irritation. No frustration.

No feeling like she was just getting in the way again.

Mirabel clenched her hands. No, she had her breakdown. She was fine. She was perfectly fine. She didn’t need another breakdown. She’d got it all out of her system.

She was fine.

She wasn’t so jealous that it almost hurt, the ugly feeling clawing at her heart.

“"They're scary when they get mad," Mirabel nodded solemnly.

"Sí," Isabela agreed, putting the completed flower arrangement on Mirabel's bedside table. "Now, why don't you try and sleep a little?" She suggested. "Mamá always says rest is the best medicine."

"I hate being sick," Mirabel pouted.”

Mirabel couldn’t even remember a time when Isabela gave her a flower just to make her feel better, never mind an entire bouquet.

“"I know," Isabela pet her sweaty curls. "That's why we'll keep you company the whole time."

Mirabel smiled at her. "Gracias Isa. You're the best."

Her hermana leaned down to press a kiss to her forehead.

"Only the best for mi hermanita," she murmured.

She stayed with Mirabel until the girl fell asleep before leaving to let their mamá know that she was resting.”

Isabela felt like she was drowning in guilt, glancing at Mirabel to find her keeping her gaze fixed in her lap.

She was a sorry excuse for a hermana. She didn’t think she’d ever even considered visiting Mirabel when she was sick.

“When Mirabel woke up again, it was to find Luisa sitting beside her bed, reading.

"Mira!" She said when she realised the six-year-old was awake.

Mirabel yawned before coughing. Luisa hurriedly offered a glass of water.

"How are you feeling?" The older girl asked in concern.

One look at Mirabel's miserable expression was all the answer she needed. She fussed over her for a moment and fluffed her pillows, tucking her in under the blanket a little more.

“How about a story?” she asked.”

A story? Mirabel thought she heard that wrong. Luisa had certainly never had time to hang out with her, never mind read her a story.

Her mamá and Camilo were glancing at her in concern while Dolores was no doubt listening to her heartbeat. You could never fool her, the heart gave it away every time.

“Mirabel perked up. While Tio Bruno was the best at telling stories, she loved listening to Luisa read to her. She nodded and her hermana got up to fetch one of the books from Mirabel’s small collection.”

Mirabel let out a laugh that was a little more broken than she liked. There was hardly space in the nursery for her to have a collection of much more than her sewing things.

“The older girl settled back into her chair and opened the book. Mirabel smiled to see that it was about José the Donkey Explorer.

She snuggled down into her blankets as Luisa started reading, relaxing under the covers. She felt awful, but her hermanas always made her feel better.

She drifted off before the story was over and vaguely felt Luisa tuck her in again before she fell asleep.”

Mirabel vaguely realised that she was digging her nails into her palms too hard. Camilo was reading steadily but he kept glancing up at her in concern.

He knew her. He could tell when she was reaching her breaking point.

How messed up was it that her primo knew her so much better than her parents or her hermanas? Dolores was a bit more subtle in her glances but the way she tapped her finger on her knee gave her worry away.

Hell, even Tio Bruno was looking more and more concerned.

“When Mirabel woke up again, she heard soft humming. Turning her head she found Dolores sitting there with Camilo in her lap.

“Mira!” he cried when he saw her awake. He scrambled off Dolores’ lap to stand right at the bedside. “Are you okay?””

That was almost enough to make her smile. When he could get away with it, Camilo had tried to visit her when she was sick. Being a shapeshifter meant that he could manage it more often than the others.

Abuela got angry the few times she did catch him. She’d even get mad at Dolores for not telling anyone what he was doing. Her prima had never responded, staring at Abuela until the woman sighed and sent her off to work again.

“Mirabel yawned and reached out automatically to take her primo’s hand. “Just sick Cami,” she mumbled sleepily.

“Lo siento,” he said miserably. “I couldn’t stop them…”

Mirabel shook her head and squeezed his hand. “It’s not your fault they’re bullies,” she said firmly.”

“They’re just assholes,” Dolores said smoothly, back to examining her nails. She was prepared for Abuela’s shocked scolding at that comment and just looked at her cooly.

No one had ever realised that the calm, nearly blank way Dolores stared at Abuela was probably her only way of hiding how furious she usually was with the woman. Bottled up and shoved down so she didn’t lose it on the matriarch of their family and the leader of the village.

““It’s really not Cami,” Dolores agreed, reaching out to brush a hand through Mirabel’s hair and press it against her forehead. “It’s those kids’ fault for being jerks.”

Camilo didn’t look like he completely believed them but he didn’t argue.

“No feeling bad when I’m sick,” Mirabel declared, squeezing his hand again. “It’s not allowed.”

“Since when?” Camilo asked, scrunching up his nose.

“Since now. I said so.””

“You can’t make up new rules like that,” Camilo complained, worried when that didn’t draw a smile like it usually would.

“Yes she can,” Dolores said. “You’ve got one brain cell of common sense between you two and Mirabel holds it most of the time.

Camilo pouted at her but he couldn’t really argue since she knew about all of his dumbest ideas.

“Dolores smiled a little and helped Mirabel sit up to drink some water. “I’m going to get some soup from your mamá,” she said. “Cami, you keep an eye on her okay?”

Camilo nodded seriously and they both watched her leave the room.

“Isabela covered their houses in vines,” Camilo told her.

“Isa is cool.”

“Isa is scary.”

“That too. Good thing she loves us.””

Isabela felt like whimpering at the complicated twist that happened to both Mirabel’s and Camilo’s expressions. She’d never really acted like she loved them after all. She’d never shown it, only shouting at them or just outright dismissing them.

“Camilo nodded in agreement and climbed back into the chair that Dolores had been using. He caught her up on everything that had happened and Mirabel listened with a smile.

She had the best family ever.”

Of course. Her family was awesome. It was filled with kind and amazing people. Everyone loved them. Everyone wanted to talk to them or just be seen with them.

With them.

Not her. Never her. She was really only a Madrigal in name, wasn’t she? Even her family had treated her like an inconvenience most of the time. Even if they didn’t mean to. Even if it was born from pressure or frustration or stress.

Why did she become the punching bag? The collateral damage?

Why was it her that didn’t get a Gift? A room?

Why was it her?

Why was it her in the prophecy? Why was she connected to the cracks?

Why her? Why was it always her?

“She beamed when the door opened again and her Abuela came in with Dolores.

“How are you feeling Mira?” she asked gently, feeling her temperature as well.

Mirabel smiled. “I’m fine Abuela.”

She felt loved.”

Mirabel let out a sob. Why was she crying again? She’d had her breakdown. She’d cried earlier. This wasn’t as bad as her failed Gift Ceremony. This was minor compared to that but-

The easy care they showed there. How they didn’t hesitate to comfort her and spend time with her.

Taking time out of their day to come to her when she was sick. They didn’t have to but they did.

They… they could.

She sobbed again, feeling her mamá hugging her and trying to comfort her. It wasn’t that they chose not to be there for her. It wasn’t that they’d chosen to push her aside because she got in the way.

She felt cold at the realisation creeping into her mind.

It had never been a choice.

Her parents hadn’t left her on her own or spent limited time with her on purpose. They didn’t spend any more time with Luisa or Isabela. They were constantly busy. All the time. And if her mamá wasn’t cooking then she was exhausted. Mirabel couldn’t remember a time that she didn’t have bags under her eyes.

Isabela hadn’t chosen to be a bitch. She’d been shaped into a perfect princess and bottled too much up inside. Mirabel was the one Abuela ignored so of course she was the only target for those pent-up emotions. The only way Isabela got to vent without disappointing Abuela which she’d grown up dreading more than anything else. It wasn’t right but for the first time, Mirabel understood it. Because Isabela wasn’t perfect. And Abuela had done as much damage to her as she had to Mirabel herself.

Luisa had been turned into the village’s workhorse, always at the beck and call of the villagers from dawn until dusk. She didn’t have time for anyone. She didn’t have time for the few family events they had. She barely had time for family meals. She didn’t have friends because she was too busy.

Luisa was the most isolated person in the family most likely.

Her Tia’s side of the family faced their own problems too. Tia Pepa was more likely to disagree with Abuela, so she went behind her Tia’s back instead. She’d convinced Camilo that some things were perfectly alright when they really weren’t. She had such control over the family, over when their free time was or their days off, that she could make things happen while the rest of the family was completely unaware.

But Mirabel’s closer relationship with that side of the family came down to one core reason.

Abuela didn’t care enough about them to keep them as busy. Because Mirabel’s side was filled with the ‘perfect’, well-behaved and useful members of the family.

Tio Felix had never been shy about snapping at Abuela when she complained about the weather too much. His words were sharp with her in a way Mirabel heard from no one else.

Abuela really only paid attention to Tia Pepa when she needed certain weather or when she wanted to complain about the weather. Other than that, she was focused on Mirabel’s mamá.

And it extended to her primos. Camilo and Dolores were helpful, but in Abuela’s eyes, not as much as Luisa and Isabela were. She paid enough attention to them to make sure they were doing their jobs and behaving.

But there was a reason Camilo was still able to spend time with her. There was a reason Dolores could slip away to help her out.

Abuela didn’t give them the attention that Isabela and Luisa got constantly.

And she’d hardly given Antonio any attention until his Gift Ceremony.

One side of the family drowned in attention and high expectations while the other side was nearly neglected.

And then Tio Bruno who became the scapegoat and black sheep of the family.

Every single problem in their family could be traced back to Abuela. In this other world, they didn’t have these problems. Everyone in the family was happy and confident because there wasn’t an imbalance of affection in the family. There weren’t high expectations.

They were encouraged to just live their lives. That Abuela didn’t micro-manage their lives. She let them make their own decisions and live out those consequences.

She let them be people instead of tools.

After all, tools didn’t have feelings, only a purpose. They didn’t need relationships, only a need to work.

And her family had never been treated as anything more than tools.

Mirabel looked up, ears ringing so she couldn’t make out what anyone was saying, as she looked at her Abuela for the first time since this all began. Properlylooked.

She looked confused, thoughtful, but still so damn composed. Her family was falling to pieces around her and she was watching it like she was detached from it all. Like she wasn’t a part of it.

The words came without Mirabel really thinking about it.

“It’s your fault.”

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