Fiction: Dolores’s Decompression


 Disclaimer: The character of Dolores Madrigal and Abuela Alma Madrigal do not belong to me but to Disney and Disney Animation Studios. This is entirely a work of fan-fiction, inspired by Disney’s Encanto.

As Dolores Madrigal approached the shimmering golden door of her room, it swung open in welcome to greet her. Her scarlet skirts whispering about her ankles, Dolores wrinkled her brow at the cacophony cascading around her from all corners of La Casita de Madrigal and quickly stepped through the door. It swung shut soundlessly. In fact, nothing in the room made a sound. The plush, soft room, warmed in reds and golds, seemed to swallow all sound down into its fullness, from the tap of Dolores’s sandals to the tinkling of her earrings. Not a single sound at all.

    A great gust of a sigh groaned out of Pepa and Félix’s eldest child as she visibly deflated.

    Silence. Blessed silence, thank the Miracle!

    The sound of her sigh did not go far, seeming to drop off a soundless cliff just in front of Dolores as she made her way to and collapsed onto her bed. In the corner, a great tub tacitly filled itself with steaming water fragrant with cattleya orchid as the young woman let herself sink into the stillness. Here in her room, nothing could get to her. No chaos, no cacophony. She could not hear anyone’s cries, complaints, soliloquies, or secrets. Nothing made it into this room, not even through the window overlooking the tub being warmed by the afternoon sunlight.

    A literal cone of quiet.

    The only thing welcome here was Dolores’s own thoughts. She could finally hear them here, but she found them to be exhausted and sad. Keeping everything sorted was a monumental task, as was pretending to enjoy it, to glory in “serving the community” in this way. 

No, not the community. She served Abuela. Abuela expected her to listen in on everyone’s goings-on and doings. Abuela liked to be informed, but she really had no idea of just how much Dolores did indeed know. And some secrets were just not meant to be shared, not even with La Familia Madrigal. 

Abuela did not need to know about Catalina’s third miscarriage, as the woman had not even told her husband she was pregnant for fear of it happening again. She kept her sorrow hugged close and had every right to grieve in private. Dolores would leave a bouquet of Lady’s Mantle for her on her kitchen windowsill tomorrow.

Abuela did not need to know how Rosita’s parents–in cruel contrast to her lovely name–called her plain and undesirable, worrying that no one would want to marry her. Dolores would buy some bronze-gold ribbons for Rosita’s beautiful auburn hair, saying that she had too many to use them all and thought they would bring out the pretty sunlit undertones of her curls.

“So I am both spy and secret-keeper,” Dolores sighed, reaching up to take out her earrings and massage her earlobes. They itched a little. She’d heard chattering in the walls again. Rats, maybe? But what did they possibly have to talk about?

And then there was Mariano. It took a Herculean effort not to sigh at him. So handsome, so sweet. The way he played and sang for his madre after dinner, the way his papa used to do before he died. The way Mariano made up poetry while he worked…

Poetry for someone else.

Just her luck to be the girl who knew everything but that no one knew. 

Abuela never saw it: the way people in the community would go quiet around her or only talk in pleasantries and trifles. Everyone knew she could be listening, could be telling. Even her brothers and cousins called her a blabber-mouth and so rarely-to-never trusted her with anything of themselves because they expected her to run and tell Abuela. Maybe she had a lot when she was little, true, but she was grown now. Different now. Not that that made a difference to anyone else, though.

Undressing and slipping into the hot, sweet water with a soft hiss, Dolores sank in up to her neck, letting her body warm before slowly slipping beneath the surface into the watery, weightless tranquility of the tub. Here, she heard nothing, saw nothing, weighed nothing. The heaviness of her humanity did not count here under the water. If only she could breathe, then she could stay. Stay right here, where it was soundless and soft and safe.

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