A couple weeks after returning from Mexico, Mago tells Reyna that she’s planning on looking for an apartment with her friend. Reyna gets worried that Mago is leaving her, but Mago invites Reyna to come live in the new place, too—they can finally be in a place where they’ll be safe and happy, she says. Reyna secretly longs to leave her father’s house—he is never proud of her, and he notices none of the accomplishments he has demanded of her.
With the exception of their fight in Mexico, Mago has, in the last few years, really stepped up to take care of Reyna not just emotionally but financially, too. Now, she offers Reyna the chance at some independence—and freedom from the abuse which has made them both so miserable.
Reyna has joined track and field and gotten a boyfriend named Steve. Steve is desperate to sleep with Reyna, but she insists she’s waiting for marriage. As another excuse, she tells Steve that she might be transferring schools soon anyway—even if moving in with Mago means transferring midway through her senior year, she knows she would follow her sister to the ends of the earth.
Reyna makes some strides in her personal life, but even in her new relationship, her commitment to her family comes first.
A week later, Mago tells Reyna that she and her friend have found an apartment—but won’t be able to take Reyna to live with them. Reyna is devastated, and begs to share a room with Mago, but Mago says the apartment is at capacity, and the landlord will be angry if he discovers an extra person living there. Mago points out that Reyna only has two months of school left, and it wouldn’t be right to pull her out of school with so little time left. Reyna begs Mago to stay, but Mago insists she can’t stand it in Papi’s house any longer.
Reyna is terrified of being abandoned by Mago. She has already had to deal with so many betrayals and disappointments in her life, and always saw Mago as her protector and “little mother.” Mago, though, has to save herself—plus, Reyna is still a child, and has to complete her obligations at school lest she stoke even more of Papi’s rage.
When Mago tells Papi that she’s planning on moving out, he threatens her with the proclamation that he will never speak to her again if she does so; she will be “dead” to him. Mago doesn’t say anything, and Reyna begs her once more to stay.
Papi tries to assert his control over Mago by lashing out threateningly when she attempts to exert her independence.
Every day, Reyna comes home from school, praying that Mago hasn’t already left. Mago comes home every evening, though, and though she and Papi don’t speak for a couple weeks, soon even things between them have gone back to normal. There are even things to celebrate—Reyna is accepted to UC Irvine, and the whole family goes out to dinner.
Reyna knows deep down that things at Papi’s house are unsustainable, but she still harbors the secret hope that her sister will stay and they will be able to have some joy and normalcy in their lives.
Two days after the celebration dinner, however, Reyna comes home to an empty bedroom—Mago has left without telling anybody, even Reyna. Reyna starts her chores, crying, and when Papi comes home and she tells him that Mago has gone, he flies into a rage. He forbids Reyna from ever seeing Mago again, and looks at Reyna as if she, too, has disappointed him. He then tells Reyna that she can forget about going to college—he predicts that she is going to be a failure, just like Mago and Carlos, and doesn’t want to “even bother” sending her to school. Reyna begs her father to reconsider, but he shuts himself in his bedroom and will not speak to her anymore.
Reyna is miserable to have been abandoned yet again, and by the one person she thought would never leave her. Whereas Reyna’s reaction to Mago’s departure is sadness, Papi’s is pure rage, and the consequences for Mago’s perceived misbehavior unfortunately fall to Reyna—in Mago’s absence, he punishes her, frustrated because he feels like his children are amounting to nothing.
Reyna graduates from school, but Papi will not allow her to send in her paperwork to UC Irvine. Because she’s underage, there is nothing she can do. Over the summer, both Carlos and Mago announce that they are soon going to have children. Mago calls Reyna and tells her that she wants to see her—she says she’ll pick her up from the house on Sunday. All week, Reyna tries to muster the courage to tell Papi that she’s going out with Mago on the weekend, but can’t bring herself to do it.
As everyone else’s lives are moving forward—beyond the bounds of Papi’s control—Reyna remains firmly under her father’s thumb and stuck in limbo.
Papi’s drinking worsens and worsens over the summer, and Reyna begins selling his beer cans at the recycling center. He argues with Mila nonstop, but never hits her—he takes out his rage physically on Reyna instead, beating her frequently.
Papi only beats his children, perhaps because he knows that due to Mila’s power over him—as relates to his green card and citizenship status—he cannot afford to anger or alienate her.
That Sunday, Mago comes to pick Reyna up. Reyna calls through her father’s bedroom door that she’s going out with Mago, but Papi forbids her from going. Reyna says that she’s going anyway, and starts heading out of the apartment. When she is almost at Mago’s car, though, Papi comes downstairs and, just as he did in front of Luis years ago, drags her back upstairs by the hair while Mago looks on in horror. Once upstairs, Papi begins beating Reyna, hitting her in the face and drawing blood. She calls for Mago, but her sister does not come for her. Suddenly, the beating stops—Mila has intervened.
Papi’s second instance of dragging Reyna back into the house demonstrates his need to control his children’s actions, words, and behaviors no matter the cost. He feels free to do with their bodies what he pleases and sees beating them senseless as the only hope he has of bending them to his will.
Reyna asks Mila why Mago didn’t come to help her. Papi insists that Mago doesn’t care about Reyna and stomps off to his room. Mila helps Reyna up and tries to explain to her that Mago, now pregnant, has to look out for her baby, and can’t put herself in harm’s way—Reyna, devastated, goes to her room and locks herself inside.
Reyna is devastated that Mago—who has always been her protector, her ally, and her little mother—did not come for her in her moment of need. Mago is about to become an actual mother, though, and her priorities have shifted—she has her child to think of.