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Burn, Nuestra Estrella

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In the end, Mirabel had managed to ask most of the town about the Madrigal prophet, and even had the chance to ask Isabela about the man. Camilo had ended up failing at the one important job he’d had since he was seven, Mirabel knew about Bruno, she knew and it was obvious from how she had walked back into Casita tensely.

Camilo hadn’t had a spare chance to talk or even drag Mirabel away since he’d woken up and he was sure that she’d run off to do something dangerous again. So, he’d wiped tables, cleaned his room, swept out the halls, and done his best to rush and find Mirabel before dinner, but in the end he still couldn’t.

It took Dolores tearing him away from setting the table to realize that something must have gone wrong. Her eyes were crinkled in the corners and her hands held his forearm tight.

“Hh,” she squeaked anxiously as she tried to speak. He shushed her gently, running a hand over her own and guiding her to sit at her seat at the table. He shifted the plates around, putting his next to hers instead of in front of Mirabels like he'd originally had them.

“What is it, Dolores?” She still couldn't talk; a high-pitched noise escaped her mouth instead of words. She simply took his hand tight into her own and then pointed at a plate on the table, Mirabels plate. Seriously? Couldn't his prima take five minutes off from causing trouble? He knew she would if he asked, but he loved his little makeshift familia with his heart and soul. He loved their mischief and their trouble, and he'd never say it out loud, but it was what made him feel most at home in their little family.

“Mirabel? What happened, Dolores?” He asked quietly, holding her hand with both of his as she tried to speak.

“She- the magic-” she tried to put together a proper sentence, but how in the world would she explain what she’d heard to Camilo? Would he even believe her if she told him that Mirabel was a part of some horrible prophecy that their tío Bruno had before leaving ‘forever’? Would Camilo believe her if she said that he’d lose his gift because of her?

“Shh, shh, Dolores I know. It’s okay, just take a deep breath, okay?” He took a deep breath in, raising their tangled hands to signal her to follow his lead, and then exhaled, hands slowly going down. They did that for a while, hands tight in each other as Camilo calmed his older sister down enough to get her verbal again.

“Dolores? Are you okay?” The voice was familiar, and the two turned to see Antonio approaching them, homemade stuffed jaguar in his hands as he noticed how tense Dolores was.

“Dolores is having a bit of an anxiety attack, know any ideas on how to help her calm down?” Camilo asked, smiling at his little brother as he held up the stuffed animal quietly. Removing one hand, Dolores took it gently, a small smile on her face as she held it.

“Ma-Mirabel gave it to me before my gift ceremony, to help me with my nerves, and to give me something to cuddle with at night. It helps, but nothing compares to one of her hugs where she squeezes you tight and spins you around until you can’t see straight!” Camilo caught how Antonio had corrected himself in calling Mirabel his mother, but simply patted his lap. The boy happily clambered up onto his lap, and he smiled as Casita moved his chair to be flush with his sisters.

Camilo put his arm around her shoulders, the other around his little brother, and smiled gently.

“You can always call us your family, toñito. Your Mamá wouldn’t have made you that jaguar if she hadn’t loved you for it, your tía wouldn’t endure your animals and their noise if she didn’t love you, and I wouldn’t even really be here if I didn’t love you. We’re your family, okay? The four of us are our own little family and that’s okay, you can call us Tía, and Mamá and Papá in private, okay?” He asked the young boy, feeling Dolores ease against him more. She was feeling better, which was good.

Now, Dolores would never admit that she’d felt her place in Camilo’s life had been rocky in her eyes but hearing him include her in his tiny homemade family relaxed her. It helped ease her to know that no matter what she would have a place in his life, Antonio’s life, and Mirabel’s as well. She should talk to Mirabel more, Dolores thought to herself quietly.

“Time for dinner!” Abuela Alma shouted, and so Camilo put his brother down so that he could sit in his own seat on the other side of Dolores.

When Mirabel and Agustín walked into the dining room and sat down, eyeing Dolores warily, he finally understood why his sister had been so anxious earlier. They knew something, and when they knew something, Dolores definitely knew something. So, what was it that he’d missed? What crucial piece of evidence had he missed? What event had made them so wary of his highly anxious sister?

Mariano and his mother sat down by the front of the table with Alma as she attempted to sway the other woman with her charm. The start of dinner had been weird to say the least, señora Guzmán had made an off-handed comment about how she hoped the night wouldn’t end in a horrible disaster, and then the family had toasted.

Faintly, as he ate, he could hear Dolores hesitating, letting out little squeaks of noise as she tried to get his attention. Under the table, she tugged at his ruana, so he looked at her with a confused glance. The minute that Mirabel had been distracted, her eyes off of his sister, Dolores was dragging his ear over.

“Mirabel found Bruno’s vision,” was all she could tell him before the girl was looking back at them. His coughing fit hadn’t been one of surprise, but rather one of terror, and in doing so he ended up shifting from Mirabel to Bruno, and then back into himself with a screwed up facial structure. So, she had found the vision?! Who else knew?! He saw how his uncle was tense in his chair next to his daughter, and then it all tied together. Agustín knew about the vision and was just as worried as Mirabel was.

“Camilo, fix your face.” The comment from his father had him shaking his head back to normal, hair dangling just a tad bit longer as he looked at his cousin worriedly. She knew that it could end two different ways, right? Camilo hoped she looked at it thoroughly and knew that she could make or break Casita.

Fuck, his luck just couldn’t get any worse, could it? Well, he shouldn’t have thought that to himself, because before he knew it, he was telling his father about it.

Félix ended up spitting water all over Mariano, which Camilo secretly smiled at. He was allowed to enjoy knowing that one of the guys' shirts was ruined when he had ruined Dolores’ life. Camilo knew that she was in love with him, and it was sad to see her so depressed about the proposal to come after dinner.

Eventually though, the news that Mirabel had seen Bruno’s vision had spread all the way to Julieta, and Camilo hated how he could see the cracks spreading beneath the table at Mirabel’s anxiety. Agustín and Mirabel had attempted to rush the proposal, both eerily aware of the cracks in the house just like he had been since he was seven years old, and it’d ended with a thunderstorm, a broken nose, cracks in the entire dining hall, and Mirabel running off.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” He cursed, completely forgetting how Antonio was still in his seat as he went to the family tree painted at the head of the table and peaked into the crack.

“I’m so sorry, Bruno. She knows.” Faintly, he heard a familiar voice give out a ‘fuck’ before shuffling around behind the wall, but he left it at that.

“Who are you talking to?” Antonio asked, a rat in his hand as he held up a glowing green piece of glass in his hand. A series of squeaks later, and the boy was eyeing Camilo questioningly.

“The rats told me everything, how long have you known?” Camilo knew that tone of voice, he knew it too well. Everyone knew, everyone. The one thing he wanted to protect Mirabel from had come crashing down on him, and everyone knew.

“Since I was seven, Antonio, you need to give me that shard.” He held out his hand, a stressed yet sad expression covering his face without realizing it.

The five-year-old noticed how tired his older brother looked now, it was strange, seeing him so serious. He handed Camilo the shard, and after taking a deep breath, staring at the glass with resentment, he pocketed it. He kneeled in front of the boy, caressing his cheek quietly before smiling.

“Is Mamá in danger?” Antonio couldn’t help but ask sadly, and it broke Camilo’s heart.

“Your Mamá is not going to destroy the magic. Her fate is not decided, but your tío Bruno and I thought it would be best if no one ever saw this.” He took the piece out of his pocket again, and ironically it was a shard that held her, his cousin, in front of a breaking home.

“Why? Couldn’t we have helped if we knew?” Camilo shook his head.

“It wouldn’t have helped, you see, abuela didn’t like Bruno, or his visions. Your Má didn’t get a door, and so abuela didn’t like her either. If she knew that our tío had a vision about Mirabel, and it was possibly bad, she would have turned Mirabel away. Abuela doesn’t care, she never has; the candle is all she cares about, the magic.” He pocketed pulled Antonio in for a hug.

“Mirabel needs us now, so you have the rats find her, have them find Bruno. We need to help her now; we’re all she has left.” He could see the concern turn to resolve in his brother's mind, and the little boy gave him a curt nod before patting at Camilo’s cheek.

“We’re all Má has left, so let’s help her. I’ll find Bruno, you stop the lightning. I can’t hear the rats over all the noise.” The two linked pinkies, Camilo hesitantly handing Antonio the remaining shard of the prophecy before running off to find his mother. Pepa was distressed, they were lucky it wasn’t pitch black outside or even storming like a hurricane out.

So, he found his mother in the entrance hall, still distressed over what happened at dinner before she caught his eye.

“Camilo! Have you seen Mirabel?! We can’t find her!” She was running her hands through her now lackluster braid that was more tangled mats.

“No, I haven’t, but Mami, they won’t find her if the lightning continues. Let’s calm you down,” he took her gently by the arm and guided her up to the sitting room where he could sit her down while he made her a cup of tea.

Camilo had managed to get the rain to stop, coaxing his mother into being more relaxed as he handed her the cup.

“It’s okay mami, deep breath in, deep breath out.” He smiled at her gently, but that was soon disturbed as something hit the wall behind Pepa’s chair, scaring her. Lightning struck him right in the nose, he shifted from his father to abuela Alma, to Agustín, and then a man from town before he could finally regain his bearings. He knew that either Antonio or Mirabel had to be in the walls, but couldn’t they be a little gentler?

His nose was going to bruise later for sure.

“Dios mio, Camilo! I’m so sorry!” Pepa fretted, rain clouds soaking them both as she held him close to examine his nose. He hissed in pain as she dabbed at his injury, but still smiled as he noticed the thunder stopped.

“Are you okay? I didn’t mean it, I swear! I can’t believe Casita would scare me like that!” The fact that she automatically assumed that Casita had made the noise was upsetting, but he could work with it. Camilo could easily lie his way out of everything; he could make it work.

“It’s okay, mami, the magic has been all funky since last night anyway. Casita may also be acting weird: you saw the cracks.” Pepa couldn’t help but sadden at his words, hands shifting from holding his face to holding onto his shoulders. His ruana shifted as she toyed with the fabric, looking over it as she smiled, her sad emotions flowing through it.

“Mirabel made you this ruana, right?” She asked, to which he nodded at her.

“She made most of the clothes I’m wearing actually,” he told her. Pepa hadn’t realized that, so her shocked look made him smile even more, even if he’d told her before that his prima had made him most of his clothes.

“Really? The shirt too?” He smiled, and took off the ruana, showing her the collar of his button up and his shirt cuffs. Delicate yellow and orange chameleons decorated the fabric all around, his name embroidered into his collar in yellow. The top button on his button up was yellow, while the bottom one was a delicate teal color, one to match each of their family's color schemes.

“I had her do it to all of my shirts and ruanas, there’s even a pair of pants wildly embroidered to match her skirt in my room. She’s done the whole family's clothes, you didn’t notice?” He asked, as he motioned to her own dress and earrings.

Slowly, the rain stopped, the cloud still above her head as she looked down at her dress. Sun themes around the collar, raindrops making their way down the expanse of fabric, the bottom hem larger than most dresses as it held lightning bolt symbols on either side of three raindrops repeating over the entire lower hem. Quickly, she removed an earring, now noticing the way they looked like suns hanging from the ear wire.

“She,” the woman couldn’t help but hesitate, “she did this? I, I never noticed. I knew my dresses would go missing sometimes, but I hadn’t even thought about how they’d changed.”

How could she, though? Camilo thought to himself; his mother and father had always been in their own world, leaving their kids to their own devices, learning without the guidance of their parents. He didn’t mention it, he didn’t bring up her neglect for her kids, he didn’t bring up how clueless she was about her family. Antonio needed clear skies, so that’s what he would give him.

“It’s okay, a lot of people didn’t notice.” He hurriedly wiped her eyes as tears began pooling, thunder clashing above her.

“But I should have, shouldn’t I? I know nothing about her! She’s my sobrina and I know nothing about her!” He hushed her again, holding her shoulders as he calmed her down.

“Mami, please, calm down. It’s okay, I promise. You have a lot on your plate, a lot on your shoulders. No one can blame you for not knowing what she’s like,” he told her as he coaxed her back into her chair again.

“She just looks so much like mi hermano,” Pepa told her son as a look of shame overtook her features.

“She looks exactly like Bruno sometimes, and I just can’t stand to look at her. We drove him out, and we paid for it, and every day I’m reminded of that when I look at her, at your sister, at you.” Pepa wasn’t completely unaware of how she’d neglected her kids, but rather, she did it on purpose sometimes.

Sometimes, she couldn’t help but turn away from her kids, their soft eyes or smiles looking exactly like her brothers. Sometimes, they would make a gesture that he would, or talk with his mannerisms, and it would terrify her. Pepa ignored her kids and nieces because - more often than not - they looked too much like Bruno.

Bruno, who looked exactly like Pedro - her father - who hung on a wall at the stairs in memoriam.

Bruno, who was socially awkward and could never start a conversation.

Bruno, who always danced like no one was watching in the kitchen as he helped Julieta with dinner prep, or horribly sang songs in Spanish to entertain and cheer her up when Alma or the townspeople wanted the clouds gone.

Bruno, who used to tell people his real gift was acting, just like Camilo had when he was younger.

Bruno, who used to sew up her dresses and townspeople's clothes when they got torn or worn down, just like Mirabel would do during the day.

Bruno, who entertained the town's kids and babysat to avoid using his gift, just like Mirabel and Camilo did together most days.

Bruno, who liked tea over coffee with a dash of sugar and a teaspoon of honey, just like Dolores did.

Bruno, who would stop to pet cats or sneak small animals into Casita to take care of them, just like Antonio did.

Pepa knew it was wrong, to convince herself that Bruno had left because of Mirabel and her failed ceremony, but she knew the truth. She always had. Bruno had been the black sheep of the family - the outcast - since they were kids and Alma had been far too harsh on him since he looked the most like their father out of the triplets. Yet, she ignored it, because in the end she had a husband who loved her, three children who brought pride to the family name, and a gift that she could control.

She had everything she’d wanted from life, but now, sitting here and watching her son remake her a cup of tea with his ruana tossed to the side and a red mark forming on his nose, she realized she didn’t.

Pepa knew nothing about her son, she didn’t know his favorite color, or his favorite food and drinks. She didn’t know that he spent most nights on the roof of Casita staring at the moon, wishing to run from Encanto to explore the world. Pepa didn’t know if he’d ever had crushes on girls or boys, didn’t know if he’d ever dated anyone, or wanted to get married or have kids.

She knew nothing about her son, and that’s when she realized he'd grown up in front of her eyes and she’d never cared to watch.

He was fifteen, and yet in front of her stood a man. He took care of her expertly, calmed her down within minutes, and knew how she liked her tea by heart. God, forbid she ask about Mirabel; the boy would go on for ages about her as well as his sister and brother.

He had his button up done up to the bare minimum, his ruana always on, his pants were loose, and he never wore real shoes. His hair was a mess of curls - a mix of hers and Félix’s hair no doubt - and freckles that hadn’t come from either side of the family and most likely came from how much he was outside.

“When did you get so big?” She asked as he handed her tea again. He chuckled, tugging his ruana back over his head.

“I’ve been big, mami.” He couldn’t help but be short with her. Why did it take the entire family turning on Mirabel for Pepa to realize she’d left him to grow up far too early, her kids forced into adulthood without proper guidance?

“I’m gonna go find Mirabel, drink your tea and then start searching the town with the rest of the family.” With that, he left Pepa to her tea and her thoughts as he began his search for his cousin.

She knew everything, it was time he told her that he had been in on it from the start.