Reveling in her freedom, Melinda walks down main street, despite the icy weather. She feels as if her insides are freezing. Just as she’s about to head off to school, she decides instead to board a bus and go to the mall.
Melinda reacts to freedom in a childish fashion, choosing to cut school. This decision reflects the constant push-pull within her between growing up and remaining immature.
Melinda decides to shop for spring clothes because none of her clothes from last year fit. She wonders how she could shop with her mother without talking to her. She sits in a shaft of sunlight, taking off her winter clothes and imagining that she is a bird. Real birds sing above her, trapped by the mall ceiling (although no one quite knows how they got in). Melinda enjoys the warmth of the sun as she watches the birds fly.
Melinda’s visit to the mall is highly symbolic, as she transitions from the cold town to the warm mall, filled with sunlight and birds (both of which Melinda associates with happiness and freedom). She feels safe and content in this environment.
Contemplating whether she should tell someone about what happened to her on the night of the party, Melinda wishes to be in fifth grade again, when life was easy and simple. A mall guard watches her, and Melinda realizes that she is too old to be loitering. She finds the bus stop, and waits for the end of the school day to go home.
Even within the mall, however, Melinda cannot escape thoughts of her trauma. Rather than engage with them, she chooses instead to wish for fifth grade, a time of lost innocence.
For the next four days, Melinda sets her alarm early and makes it to school, all the time wishing that she could “scream.” She decides that she should cut school every once in a while.
Melinda views her trip to the mall as a time of healing and safety—she believes that cutting school occasionally will help her to keep attending it the rest of the time.