Mercedes holds Ofelia tight, knowing this is as close as she will ever come to being a mother. But she accepts her place in life. She is good at what she does.
When Ofelia says, Tú ayudas a los del monte, ¿verdad?, Mercedes lets go of her, stricken.
¿Se lo has dicho a alguien? By some hidden strength, her voice does not shake.
No se lo diré a nadie. Nunca, Ofelia says. No quiero que te pase nada malo.
She leans against Mercedes – Mercedes hesitates, then strokes Ofelia's arm. Ni yo a ti. She means it, by her own beating heart, and she pulls Ofelia against her. For a moment, a moment that seems larger than life, she doesn't want to let the child go.