After Mago’s party, Reyna and her siblings’ relationship with Mami improves. Their weekly visits with her become less awkward, and Mami often treats them to trips to the town center and crushed ice and churros. On these trips, though, Reyna notices her mother looking longingly at all the couples around, and fears that her mother will once again leave them for a man.
Reyna has been so destabilized by her mother’s frequent abandonments that she no longer has any faith in Mami, and is constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop.
A few months later, during celebrations in the days leading up to Christmas, Reyna, Mago, and Carlos travel to the wealthy part of town and receive gifts from their far-away neighbors there. On Christmas day, Crece brings in a tree branch to use as a makeshift Christmas tree, and the children decorate the branch with eggshells. They sweep the floors and dust the furniture, anticipating Mami’s arrival and hoping that this Christmas will be special. They all secretly want to convince her to return to Abuelita Chinta’s house and live with them again.
Things have been so good with Mami that Mago, Reyna, Carlos, and their Abuelita and Tío believe that together, they can bring Mami home again for good. They don’t share Reyna’s fear and skepticism—and this leap of faith will come back to bite them very soon.
That evening, though, Mami shows up to Abuelita Chinta’s house with a guest: a man named Rey. He is fourteen years younger than her, and Reyna hates him at first sight. Suddenly, she feels that all their Christmas decorations look pathetic. As they all sit down to dinner, Mago throws a fit, screaming and throwing herself around the house. She kicks and screams as if possessed, and eventually faints. Abuelita Chinta chastises Mami for inspiring such madness in her daughter by bringing Rey over when the children just wanted to celebrate Christmas with their mother. Mami apologizes to her mother, then walks out the door and leaves. Mago wakes up, goes to the door, and slams it shut.
When Mami once again disappoints her children—and the rest of her family—by prioritizing a man over the rest of them, Mago experiences a complete breakdown. She is unable to cope with the traumatic threat of being abandoned yet again, and this time she makes sure that she is the one to get Mami out of the house before she can open herself up to being left once more.
The next day, Mago writes a sorrowful letter to Papi, using lyrics from a popular song to express how badly she longs for his return. That evening, Reyna sits at Abuelita Chinta’s altar and prays that her father will come back soon.
Mago feels she and her siblings are out of options—they are miserable in Mexico, and she hopes that their Papi will be the one to rescue them.