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A Glow in the Doorway

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“Find her.”

With those words Mamá walked out to speak with the people in town, shutting the door firmly behind her. Anger and frustration rose within Pepa, and she felt too resentful to try and focus on that calm place inside her that she was supposed to find to make the weather go away. Who the hell could be calm when the house was literally cracking around them?

Her hair whipping viciously around her face, freed from its ponytail, Pepa looked over and met her sister’s eyes. Julieta looked angrier than she could remember seeing her in a long time. Maybe since Br-

A downpour joined the wind, and Pepa forced her thoughts away from that path. No, no, she mustn’t think about – couldn’t think about that. Not right now.

“Pepa, mi amor-” Félix began, raising his voice above the wind and the downpour. His hand found hers and squeezed it. “It’s going to be okay.”

If she couldn’t be calm for Mamá, she could at least do it for Félix. For Julieta and Agustín. Pepa forced herself to draw a long breath in, and then exhaled shakily. Another breath in. Another breath out. The downpour became a drizzle, and the wind died down.

“That’s great. You’re doing so well, amor,” Félix encouraged her, and Julieta nodded, giving her a tired smile. She turned to say something to her husband, probably about where they should look for Mirabel.

“I’m okay,” Pepa told Félix wearily. “We should try to look for Mirabel. Maybe Toñito will have seen her. You know how close they are.”

Félix looked unconvinced. “We don’t need to do anything just yet. You should take some time to yourself, Pepi. Take a breather. I know what your mother said-” he added, forestalling Pepa’s protest. “But stressing yourself out unnecessarily won’t make it better. I’ll help Agustín look for Mirabel-” He looked over at his brother-in-law, who nodded. “You stay here and relax.” He pressed a kiss into her hair and smiled at her, then left.

Pepa sighed, but dutifully continued breathing in and out. A break sounded nice, at least while Mamá was out and couldn’t become angry at her for having bad weather. Pepa understood that her mother was stressed and trying to look out for the family, but the way she did it—

The wind picked up again, and Pepa tried to shove the frustration down. “Clear skies, clear…” She looked up at the doors lining the second floor of the house, and trailed off.

There was a golden light coming from the corner that led to Bruno’s tower.

“Juli!”

Pepa called for her sister as she jumped to her feet. The wind blew harder, and now there was some kind of precipitation coming down again – sleet or hail – but Pepa barely noticed. She ran up the stairs just as Julieta, summoned back into the hallway by her call, arrived at the foot of the staircase.

“Pepi? What is it?”

In reply, Pepa gestured wordlessly at the corner, just as the light in the alcove surged, shining brighter than ever. Julieta’s hand slowly came up to cover her mouth. Slowly, as if in a dream, she began to climb the stairs.

Pepa ran to the foot of the stairs that led to Bruno’s tower, and there it was. His image on the door, shining as brightly as if he’d never left. Suddenly it was ten years ago and she was standing anxiously outside his door, watching the figure light up as Bruno tried to see into the future, searching for answers about what could be happening to the magic. Why it had failed to bless their niece with a Gift.

She’d waited outside the door for a long time after the light had dimmed and gone dark, the vision presumably over. Snow collected in her hair. Still, her brother stayed shut inside his tower. Finally, growing impatient, Pepa knocked on the door, calling her brother’s name. She had just begun to turn the handle of the door when it opened. Bruno stood there in front of the hourglass-shaped portal, looking grim.

“What was it? What did you see?” she asked urgently. Bruno looked away, his expression closed.

“Nothing helpful.” He closed the door behind him and started down the stairs.

“Nothing helpful?” Pepa repeated in disbelief, following him. “How is that possible? Did it not work? Was the vision unclear?” The cloud above her head, which had dissipated when Bruno appeared, began to reform, and Pepa flapped her hands at it angrily.

“The vision was no good. I’m going out for a walk,” her brother said shortly. Pepa stopped, staring at him as he walked down the main stairs.

“You’re going out? Mamá’s been waiting to talk to you – she needs to know what you saw!” She gestured up to the high window where the Miracle burned. Their mother wasn’t visible, but Pepa knew she wouldn’t be asleep yet. How could she be?

“No, she doesn’t. Go to bed, Pepi.”

Pepa chased after her brother again as he crossed the hallway to the front door, catching up with him and grabbing his arm. A sudden gust of wind made the shutters around them rattle. “Bruno, wait just a damn minute. What about the magic? Is something going to happen to it? You can’t tell me you saw nothing useful-”

Bruno looked back at her, and Pepa abruptly let go of his arm. The three of them – Pepa, Bruno, and Julieta – had always had ways of communicating with each other without words, and in that moment, Pepa could read everything she needed to in Bruno’s face. “It’s bad,” she murmured. “Isn’t it? That’s why you don’t want to tell her.”

Bruno let out a breath, and all of the energy in his body seemed to go with it, his shoulders sagging, almost collapsing. “I don’t know,” he said quietly. “It’s unclear. But you know how it goes. Everyone always assumes the worst.”

Pepa couldn’t find anything to say to that, because she knew it was true. After a moment, Bruno gave a tiny nod and turned to walk out into the town.

“Brunito-” Pepa called after him, but Bruno didn’t give any sign that he’d heard her. She watched him walk away and wondered why she felt so heavy. He was just going for a walk to clear his head – when he came back Juli would be able to talk some sense into him, or she’d manage to pry out the details of what he’d seen in his vision, and they’d figure out what to do. As a family.

That had been the last time that she’d seen her brother.

“What is happening?” Pepa, in the present day, demanded of her sister. They were both stood at the foot of the stairs now, looking up at the still-glowing door. “First Mirabel finds Bruno’s last vision, showing that she’s somehow going to destroy the magic-”

“Pepa,” Julieta said warningly. “We don’t know that.”

“Okay, that the magic is in danger and it involves her somehow. And now – what is this? What does it mean? Is Bruno nearby? Is he having another vision? What if this means that something worse is coming??”

Panting, Pepa braced herself for a downpour of rain, or worse, the clap of a thunderstorm and the flash of lightning. But nothing happened. She looked up at where a cloud would normally be hovering above her head – but there was nothing there.

It was affecting her too. She looked back at her sister, and saw her own fright and uncertainty reflected in Julieta’s face. She could tell Julieta was wondering what might happen if, the next time she tried to make a healing meal, it had no effect. What if she couldn’t help someone who was seriously ill or injured?

For her part, Pepa had often wished that the weather that followed her everywhere, responding to every nuance in her mood, would just stop – but now that it had, she felt unmoored. Love it or hate it, her Gift represented something bigger – the magic that had created their whole community, their home. What would it mean if that disappeared?

Julieta reached out and grabbed Pepa’s hands. “We’ll be okay, Pepa,” she said, echoing Félix’s words from earlier. “We’ll get through this. As a family. We’re stronger than… Whatever’s tearing us apart right now.”

“Are we?” Pepa asked her. As if to punctuate her words, the golden light on Bruno’s door dimmed and went out. The two sisters stared at it; both, perhaps, hoping for it to swing open and – but nothing happened. Whatever weird phenomenon had caused the door to glow had passed.

“Juli, our family’s been broken since-” Pepa gestured at the closed door. “For ten years. What if this is the last straw? What if we can’t survive this?” Her voice broke on the last two words.

“Julieta? Cariño?” Agustín’s voice echoed up from the downstairs hallway, calling for his wife. Julieta bit her lip, and gave Pepa’s hands another squeeze.

“We’ll find him. Okay? Once we – know what’s going on, once we’re sure that everyone is safe and all right. We’ll do whatever it takes to bring him back.”

She turned and descended down the stairs, calling an affirmative to her husband. Pepa watched her go, and looked back at the door that now stood as lifeless as it had done for ten years, guarding the entrance to an empty room.

She couldn’t shake the fear that it was already too late to mend these cracks.

A moment later, a downpour began, soaking Pepa to the skin. She tipped back her head, for once welcoming the rain.