When Nuria returns to Barcelona and sees Miquel, he knows immediately that she’s hopelessly in love with Carax. Meanwhile, he’s in the process of being disinherited by his worldlier brothers, who want to get their hands on the family mansion. Nuria often visits him, partly to convince him to spend time outside of the gloomy house, and partly because she can talk to him about Carax and Penélope. She has become obsessed with the idea of Penélope, whom she imagines as a supernaturally perfect and immortal enemy.
Even though she fears and hates her as a rival, Nuria’s obsession with Penélope establishes her as similar to Carax. Nuria is the novel’s only woman who forms her own obsessions rather than being the subject of other people’s. Accordingly, she also remains fairly independent throughout the novel, and is very resistant to male campaigns to possess her.
Eventually, out of mutual loneliness and desperation, Miquel and Nuria become lovers. Miquel drinks more and more, and sometimes they fight over Nuria’s passion for Carax.
This twisted love affair is a result of both Nuria and Miquel’s fascination with Carax’s history; it shows how history, if unresolved, can resurface to warp the events of the present.
One day after a fight, Miquel tells Nuria that in 1919, when Carax and Penélope’s affair was discovered, Mr. Aldaya locked Penélope in her room and forbade anyone to see her, especially after a doctor confirmed that she was pregnant. When he met Carax at the train station, Miquel already knew this, but didn’t tell him because he knew his friend would stay and fight for Penélope, whereas he needed to flee for his own safety.
Penélope’s imprisonment shows how much her father considers her a possession, wrongfully appropriated by Carax, rather than a person in her own right. While he’s much more sympathetic to her, Miquel unwittingly treats her the same way, worrying about Carax’s conflict with Mr. Aldaya rather than Penélope’s safety.
One night, Jorge tracks Miquel down and hands him an obviously fake letter from Penélope to Carax, announcing her marriage and claiming she has never loved him. Knowing that it would devastate Carax, Miquel doesn’t send it. Instead, he tracks down Jacinta, who by this time is in the insane asylum but who left a note in her apartment explaining that one of the other servants had covertly mailed a letter from Penélope to Carax. Assuming that she sent it to the Fortuny apartment, Miquel goes there to retrieve the letter from Sophie, only to find that Sophie has left her husband and that Fortuny has completely disowned his son. This is the letter that Daniel reads many years later.
In this episode, letters prove both deceitful and very informative. Penélope’s first letter, written under duress, is much like the newspapers and radio programs through which the government disseminates lies among the public. In contrast, the real letter smuggled to the Carax’s apartment is like Carax’s novels, a powerful text that draws Daniel into the mystery and gives him clues to solve it.
Viçeneta, Sophie’s only friend, informs Miquel that she’s staying in an obscure boardinghouse and waiting for a ship to America. Miquel visits her there and shows her the fake letter from Penélope. Sophie begins to cry and whispers to him that Carax and Penélope are brother and sister.
Sophie’s dramatic revelation means that, regardless of Mr. Aldaya’s attitude, Carax and Penélope’s romance could never have worked out. This severely undermines the lovers’ conviction that they were meant to be together, and means that their faith in a positive force of destiny guiding of their lives was completely misplaced.