One night, Reyna wakes up screaming and in pain—she recognizes the feeling as a scorpion bite. Mago runs to get help, but their grandfather continues dozing. Tía Emperatriz comes into the room and brushes the scorpion off of Reyna, then sends Mago to go slice an onion and get some rubbing alcohol. Evila comes to the door and asks what all the fuss is about as Emperatriz tends to Reyna’s bites with homeopathic remedies. Mago insists that Reyna needs to go to the doctor, but Evila replies that there’s no money for a doctor.
As a terrible malady befalls Reyna in the form of a dangerous scorpion bite, her grandparents are completely unfazed, and uninterested in helping her recover. Only Emperatriz seems to care about Reyna’s bites—Evila is unmotivated to help Reyna even though she knows that Reyna could die.
In the morning, Reyna is worse. She is dizzy and nauseous, and Emperatriz begs Evila to take Reyna to the doctor. Evila insists that Reyna isn’t her responsibility—she never asked to be caretaker to her son’s children. Emperatriz takes Reyna to the hospital, and after receiving a shot, Reyna feels better. That evening, Emperatriz insists Reyna sleep with her, just in case she falls ill again. As she falls asleep beside her aunt, Reyna thinks of Mami. Over the next few weeks, Reyna notices that Mago treats Emperatriz much like a mother, and looks at her with love and admiration. When Emperatriz gets a boyfriend, Mago worries that she will leave them.
The denial of medical care in times of need will become a circular motif throughout the book. Medical care is denied to Reyna and her siblings throughout the years both out of desperation and out of spite, or a desire for control. This instance is certainly the latter, as Abuela Evila attempts to exert control over Reyna by denying her medical attention. Only Emperatriz breaks the cycle, her genuine empathy winning out over her mother’s cruelty.
On mother’s day, Reyna’s class makes arts and crafts to give as gifts to their mothers. On the walk home from school, Carlos, Reyna, and Mago compare the crafts they made in each of their classes, and Mago suggests they give them all to Emperatriz. That evening, Mago, Carlos, and Reyna present Emperatriz with their projects. Reyna is the reluctant to give over her present, but nonetheless, Emperatriz is touched.
Because Emperatriz is the only kind person in Reyna and her siblings’ lives, their feelings for her are enormously outsized. Mago is ready to make Emperatriz their de facto mother, so grateful is she for Emperatriz’s kindness. Reyna, on the other hand, is not so sure—she is wary of trying to replace Mami.