Maybe Dolores should have worded her sentence better, but she was in a rush and panicking, okay? Mirabel was going to try and go into Bruno’s tower, and look for some vision that he’d had from before he’d disappeared. However, inside the soundproofed gift room, she could hear how Camilo’s blood raced in his veins, how his heart thumped harder than it had earlier when he’d been upset with Julieta.
“What do you mean she's gonna get herself killed?!” Taking a moment to really soak in her brother, she realized he’d been trying to relax. Hair tied up in a barely long enough ponytail, ruana under him, sandals tossed to the side as he perched himself up on his elbows. He’d been so stressed he’d actually tried relaxing, which only really happened when he felt too stressed to work with the kids in the town.
“I, were you trying to relax?” She asked, tone hushed as her hands tangled together at her waist.
“Not important, Dolores! Mirabel? Her life? Danger? What is she doing?” He put on his sandals, moving to sit up and put his ruana back on. She stopped him, rushing to the stage to sit beside him. He paused, ruana in hand as she took his shoulders into her grasp.
“Casita,” she started, “really has cracks.” Well Camilo knew that already, after all he knew everything.
“Mirabel really did see cracks in the walls, and the magic - well I don’t know about that, but I do know that Luisa is having problems with her powers. It’s just, Luisa, Mirabel, and,” Dolores froze. Camilo knew it, she knew about Bruno in the walls, and she was contemplating telling him.
“There’s a rat in the walls, they’re all worried about the magic, and Camilo she’s gonna dig herself a hole that even we can’t get her out of! She’s going around talking to people about Bruno! You know that abuela doesn’t like bringing him up, he’s taboo!” Thinking for a moment, Camilo again pressed his palms into his eyes. The pressure soothed him, and it made him a little more clear minded.
“Do you know what she’s doing Dolores? Do you know where she’s going? If she’s digging herself a hole, we need to stop her, and quickly.” Dolores had always known that her brother was more level headed than most people gave him credit for, but even she hadn’t thought of that. She’d heard the conversation between Luisa and Mirabel mention Bruno and she’d run off to try and find Camilo.
“No, I don’t. I was in such a rush to get here, y’know? I hadn’t paid attention to the rest of the conversation.” That caused him to groan, the pressure on his eyes getting a little heavier before he took them off his face entirely.
“Dolores, you are the dumbest so-called heterosexual ever! You literally have super hearing, get me all the facts before you run to conclusions!” She’d wanted to feel offended at his comment, but he was right, she’d rushed to a conclusion she couldn’t even back up.
How could they stop Mirabel if she hadn’t even paid attention to where the girl was going?
“Alright, let’s get this all laid out. Mirabel knows about the cracks in Casita - which apparently has cracks that can magically disappear - and was worried about the magic with Luisa and a weird rat in the walls.” Dolores nodded along, showing that he had gotten the timeline correct.
“You heard a conversation between Luisa and Mirabel where one of them mentioned Bruno, and before you could get more information, you got so overwhelmed with the anxiety of Mirabel doing something stupid that you ran to find me. You know nothing else about what she could be doing, what they were talking about, or how she was putting herself at risk.” Once again, Dolores nodded along.
“Stupid straight people, if you want something done right you have to do it yourself.” Camilo smiled when he saw her give him an offended look, chuckling at her as he stood up.
“We just need to figure out what she wants with tío Bruno, which should be easy. You have super hearing Dolores, go outside and listen for something while I attempt to take all the tense pain out of my neck again.” He left behind the curtain, approaching his bed and flopping onto it. Once he knew Dolores was out of his room with the quiet click from the handle, he screamed.
Not because Mirabel was in trouble, but because he knew how it could end. The struggle to decide when to intervene and when to let her fall and raise herself back up was one he battled with constantly.
Camilo was protective of his familia, especially when it came to Mirabel. She was destined to break Casita, or strengthen its walls, and he couldn’t tell which way the fates would go. He knew that Dolores had a good life, that Antonio would have someone at his side to support him no matter what happened, but Mirabel had no one. No one but Camilo and Antonio, and that wasn’t really much of a support system.
So, in the safety of his own room, he let him scream his lungs out just once, and then got off his bed to compose himself. His hair came out of it’s ponytail, fingers threading through to help untangle anything that got mixed up when he remembered he hadn’t combed his hair, he’d shifted it. Sighing, Camilo shifted his hair again as he walked back through the curtain, ruana slipping over his head once he got to it, and taking another deep breath.
“Camilo! Camilo!” Dolores whisper shouted from the door as she cracked it open.
“Yes, hermana?” He asked as he jumped off the stage.
“She’s asking Mamá about Bruno, about a vision of some kind. Wait, wait, Papá is there. He’s telling her about Bruno!” Well if he hadn’t felt tense before he would now. He took Dolores hand and dragged her from his room, sneaking up to the door of the nursery door to listen inside even if Dolores could hear them perfectly well.
“He would say something terrible,” there was a slight pause from their Papá as he made ticking noises, as if a bomb was gonna go off.
“BOOM! It would happen!” His mother berated his father, reciting the familiar phrase from his childhood to her husband.
“We don’t talk about Bruno!” She had said, Pepa was worried, and so Camilo was even more worried.
“What if you didn’t understand what he saw?” The tone in Mirabel's voice was tense, worrisome. She knew something, she went into Bruno’s tower, Camilo was almost positive about it. She wouldn’t bring up the vision so urgently if she hadn’t. Mirabel had seen the vision that he’d smashed.
“Then you better figure it out, because it was coming for you!” Félix told her with a more relaxed but stern tone. He seemed to believe everything about Bruno that had circulated through town, even though he’d met the guy in his flesh and blood.
Ay, dios mío, Camilo thought to himself, his Pá was going to scare the hell out of her.
“Look, Mirabel, we don’t talk about Bruno.” He could hear shuffling around the room, but stayed silent.
“But, I guess I can share with you just one experience as to why we don’t talk about him.” His eyebrows piqued up, Pepa had always been so adamant about never speaking his name, let alone her memories or experiences with him. This would be new information.
“It was my wedding day-”
“Our wedding day!”
“Our wedding day, and I’d been so excited that the sun had just shone bright in the sky. We were setting up and getting ready, I hadn’t had a chance to feel nervous at all! There wasn’t a cloud in sight,” Pepa explained, and Félix seemed to make it his duty to give a side commentary.
“There were no clouds allowed in the sky!”
“And then Bruno walked in, a mischievous look on his face.” The tone that his Mamá used was one he’d never really heard before, it was new to hear this side of her as she explained everything.
Turning to Dolores, he raised an eyebrow, nodding his head at the door in a silent question. Did she know this information?
With a shake of her head, it was confirmed. Dolores didn’t know about this, it would be the first time anyone in their side of the family heard their mother open up like this. It was sad they didn’t know it in the first place, but Camilo ignored the pooling emotion of depression that swelled in his gut. With an antic from Félix out of the way, the story continued.
“Bruno, he said it looked like rain.” Pepa and Mirabel both seemed to ignore the side comments that came from Félix as the story unfolded.
“By saying that, it’s like he’d flooded my brain. All my anxiety had come crashing down in one wave and suddenly there were storm clouds everywhere!” Camilo and Dolores gave each other a look. Their Mamá almost always had a cloud above her head, especially when it came to special occasions, the two doubted it was Bruno who’d caused her clouds.
“We got married in a hurricane!” Ah, so that was why they never spoke about their wedding day. It was in a hurricane due to Pepa’s own anxiety, how eventful.
“It was still a joyous day though!” Still, Félix had loved it, which made sense. Camilo’s father had always been passionate about Pepa, rain, hail, snow, sunny skies, or even lightning strikes. THe man had fallen hard and fast for Pepa, and Camilo kind of wished he could feel a romantic attraction like that, even if he had no urge or desire to be with another person.
“That’s why we don’t talk about Bruno, Mirabel. He’s a curse,” Pepa said, moving to the door to open it. Camilo and Dolores quickly hid behind a plant nearby, and once both of their parents were gone, Mirabel left the nursery as well.
“Follow my lead,” he could hear Dolores whisper as she followed their prima downstairs. Quickly he followed behind her, watching to see what she would do.
“Hey!” Dolores shouted as she grabbed hold of Mirabel’s wrist.
“You wanna know about tío?” She asked, still holding the girl's wrist. With a hesitant nod, Mirabel clutched her bag tighter around her.
“I grew up living in fear of Bruno stuttering and stumbling over his words; he’s always mumbling all the time.” Camilo watched as Dolores would jerk his prima around, swaying around her to face her to the ground and away from the second floor. With a single glance up, he saw it: Bruno, on the second floor, hiding behind a plant as he listened with a smile.
“I kind of relate him with the sound of sand, it’s something I hear, but it’s so inconsequential that I don’t notice it often.” The explanation seemed a little harsh, their tío Bruno wasn’t inconsequential, in fact Mirabels life - all of their lives - might have gone a lot differently if he was just simply ‘inconsequential’.
“His gift is a brutal one, honest and true. He can’t control his visions, or when some of them come, but it’s a weight, a heavy lift to have a gift as humbling as his is. In fact, every vision, every prophecy, it left the family fumbling. He grasps and handles prophecies that we could never perceive, nor contemplate or even begin to understand.” The words were in the present tense, Camilo noticed. That just proved it, Dolores knew about Bruno being in the walls; the rat in the walls from earlier was Bruno.
“He’d given me a vision one time, my true love, married off to another just out of my reach. No one had been happy about that, especially my Mamá. We don’t talk about Bruno, Mirabel.” The words were soft, slightly pained that the confession of a ruined dream for a little girl, but her words hardened as she spoke.
“Do you understand?” Now, that wasn’t pointed towards Mirabel. That was to him, scare the living fuck out of Mirabel. Make her stop asking questions, and everything will end fine, right?
“See you later, Mirabel,” the older girl called, walking away briskly past Camilo who started towards Mirabel. He took a deep breath, and thought to himself, play the innocent card.
“What was that about?” He asked, making Mirabel stutter for a moment before bringing back her determined eyes.
“Do you remember tío Bruno at all?” She asked, worried that he’d say no. Camilo shrugged, waving his hand around as a maybe.
“A bit, why?” He asked, looping his arm around hers so they were locked at the elbow. He took the option of the long way to his door, Bruno having the chance to escape back into the walls as he ruined the man's image for the girl he left his family for.
"Why don't we talk about tío Bruno?" Mirabel asked, fiddling with her bag as he walked her from the door to the stage. He paused in his steps, he’d known that she was going to ask anyway, how it had still managed to surprise them was a shock.
"Because we don't," he responded calmly. Camilo knew that Bruno had no access into the gifted rooms due to their soundproofing. Whatever Camilo said about their uncle would go unheard of by his ears, and it relaxed him.
"But, Camilo, we don't talk about him. We don't even say his name, don't you wanna know why? Do you even really remember what he looked like, cause outside of murals in town or the family portrait in the dining room, I don't. Don't you?" She asked, her worried gaze looked bigger from behind her green frames. Green, how he was starting to hate that color. Green for visions, for jade glass tablets, for everything bad that happens. Camilo hated the color green, and almost wanted to get her new glasses just so the frames would be a different color.
"I-" he had to take a second and think. The cracks, she knew about them along with the vision. Mirabel wouldn't ask about Bruno if she didn't know about the vision, after all she’d never really been interested in their uncle before. He was a person that Mirabel had been attached to as a kid - almost as much as she was to him, but Camilo still trumped everyone - and forgot about him nearly completely after he’d left. The boy assumed it was from the trauma from her gift ceremony, from their family.
"He was eh, I’d say seven feet tall," they started off quietly. Camilo shifted their height up to meet the parameters before continuing, "he always had rats with him, I'm pretty sure they lived on him to be honest." The comment had Mirabel giggling. Camilo took the chance to walk her past the back curtain of the stage, gently lifting her up onto his raised bed.
Even if they were near the same height now, he’s always lifted her onto things. Counters, tables, beds, window sills, you name it he’d probably lifted her onto it. As much as he hated the thought of scaring Mirabel - especially with the use of his gift - it would definitely do something to dissuade her from looking into their uncle further. She couldn’t learn about Bruno; couldn’t let anyone see that vision or learn about it’s end.
Camilo hated hiding things, hated scaring people, but if it was protecting Mirabel from learning about her own fate - from meeting Bruno - then he would do it.
"I remember that when he called out people's names, everything would go dark. Black, as if the sun fell from the sky, as if mami had fallen into a depressive spell." There had been a few of those depressive spells in the young Madrigal's lifetimes, and every time Camilo put off his mother to comfort Mirabel. After all, Félix had married Pepa even with her flickering emotions. Hell, he’d learned that he’d married his mother in a hurricane! Félix could tolerate and cool down Pepa, Mirabel had always needed him more.
She'd always been so afraid of the dark, of being alone. It was the one thing Camilo regretted not being able to cure from his cousin, her fear of the darkness, of the abandonment becoming permanent.
He slowly lengthened and waved out his hair to match his uncles, slowly turning into the man as he talked to his cousin.
"I never once saw him eat, and he would often be left with a trail of scared townspeople. He saw dreams, prophecies, the future, and it left a resonating sensation of screams and fear behind him. It was like he feasted on it." Camilo could tell Mirabel was confused, but intrigued at how Camilo now stood seven feet, clothes burgundy colored under his normal orange and yellow poncho, hazel eyes that still matched hers. She wasn’t liking where the story was going.
"On what?" The curiosity was too much.
"He feasted on screams, Mirabel." There was a blink of an eye, and suddenly there was Bruno Madrigal staring back at her, glowing green eyes shooting a shudder down her spine out of fear.
Good, the scaring was working. Camilo needed it to work, or else they’d spill out all their secrets and they couldn’t afford that.
"Camilo, change back." They took a second, really let the shift set in. Mirabel could not find that prophecy, his seven year old self had smashed it after all. He would not let Mirabel's life be ruined; if she found it, Alma would know. Their abuela would shun her like she had Bruno, his vida would be gone in the flash of an eye.
His vida, his life. Mirabel was the female version of him. A trickster, causing trouble and never truly sitting. Sure they wore different colored clothes, had different parents, but Camilo knew they were twins, born only two months apart. He knew that Mirabel and him were special.
After all, Casita hadn't even responded to Alma anymore, only to Mirabel and Camilo. They were each other's lives, no matter what they always had each other. The new generation was taking control of the town, and the spiral that Alma was experiencing about the loss of control was more and more obvious by the day.
"We don't talk about Bruno," they told her before turning back into themself. She was shaking, and Camilo felt bad. Truly he did, he hated scaring Mirabel because the girl didn’t get scared, but it was for her own good. Sitting down next to her, they took her into an embrace.
"Mira, mi vida, please. We don't talk about Bruno, okay? Te quiero, Mira but please- for your own sake, don't talk about him. If not for yourself, then for me." He tucked her face into his neck and held her there. It'd been a while since he'd been able to hug her like this, and after a moment, all his panic, all his stress, all the tension faded away. He relaxed with her and eventually they were laying down. A nap would do them both good, and he'd missed his favorite cuddle buddy.
"Sorry, embaucador, I just wanted to know."
"Don't apologize, artesana, it's okay. You didn't know," they squeezed a little tighter before relaxing again.
"Hora de la siesta," he told her, no room for arguments like he knew she would attempt to make. She needed to relax, hopefully forget about everything that had happened, and he needed to sleep off his stress.
Hell, maybe he’d be able to check her bag and room - if the vision was there - and slip the shards away from her while she was asleep, grind the jade glass into a fine powder so that she’d never be able to truly see how undecided her fate was. If it wasn’t though, he’d go back into Bruno’s tower with a mortar and pestle to grind them up and scatter them across the sandy room.
In the end, the nap had lasted all of an hour, and he’d never gotten the vision from her. Alma had wanted the dinner table perfect for the proposal night with the Guzmáns, and so he was rudely awoken to Dolores telling him he needed to help with the preparations. He was forced to leave Mirabel early and he never got the chance to even check and see if she had the shards, let alone get them away from her.
He’d been demanded to clean the entire house - something that Alma usually left to Mirabel and Agustín, but she’d had him do it for fear of her ‘messing up the day any more than she already had’. It’d made his blood boil, but he’d done it. He’d scrubbed floors, wiped down tables and other surfaces, and washed windows.
He hadn’t been able to stop her from putting the pieces together and learning about how she could break Casita, and it would end with her almost losing her life.