Trent and Avery stare at the ruins of what was once a large plantation and wonder who used to own it. Trent calls Jonah down off of the decaying veranda as Avery wonders why Judy would come to such a dangerous, dirty place. Trent notes that it is a good place to hide from the outside world because it’s impossible to see it from the road, and Avery notes that the fact that Judy took a cab instead of her driver means she didn’t want anyone to know where she was. In her thoughts Avery says that it’s no coincidence that May mentioned her home is in Augusta and that Judy was sneaking off to Augusta every Thursday for years—Avery thinks it indicates a relationship more meaningful than what May described. Trent points out that the path leads somewhere else, so they start walking down it.
It is fitting that May and Judy carried on the hidden part of their lives in this hidden place. As Trent points out, one can’t see it from the road. In a similar way, none of Judy’s family was able to see the secret life she was leading right under their noses.
Avery, Trent, and Jonah follow the path until it comes out into a well-maintained yard surrounding a quaint riverside cottage. Looking around, Avery realizes that this is the exact kind of place where Judy could relax and find freedom from her obligations and the public eye. Trent admiringly observes that one wouldn’t even know the cottage is there and Avery agrees. Privately, she wonders if this is where May was found with her sister’s body. They climb up the steps and knock on the door, but nobody answers. The door is unlocked so Trent tells Jonah to stay on the porch and walks into the house with Avery. Trent notices an envelope with May’s name, but Avery zeroes in on a painting of May, Lark, Fern, and Judy over the fireplace. Trent points out that there are more photos of the four women all over the room.
Once Avery sees the beauty of the cottage, she is able to sympathize more with her grandmother and understands why she would choose this spot to escape to. It’s so far away from the hustle and bustle of society life in Aiken or politics anywhere. The pictures in the cottage indicate that all four women belong to the building—this is all of their spot, not just Judy’s or May’s spot.
A dog starts barking right outside of the screened-in porch so Trent hurries to take care of Jonah. A man on an ancient tractor pulls up by the cottage and calls the dog away before asking Trent and Avery what they need. Trent says that they know May and Avery and asks the man if the cottage is May’s house. The man confirms that it is and asks how she’s doing—his mother, who lives nearby, told him that May is in a nursing home. Avery asks if she can talk to his mother about the pictures inside the house and the man says she’d be excited to have guests. Jonah excitedly hops on the tractor and they go up to the a nearby house. An old woman on the porch asks Avery who she is, so Avery introduces herself. The woman asks if she’s “Miss Judy’s daughter,” which surprises Avery.
Avery is relatively unsurprised that Judy would spend so much time at the secluded cottage, but it is surprising for Avery to find out people nearby know Judy enough to recognize Avery as one of her relatives. This emphasizes the fact that Judy didn’t just come here to be alone; rather, she did have a secret life here, which included other acquaintances outside of May, Lark, and Fern.
When Avery tells the woman that she’s Judy’s granddaughter, the woman knowingly says that Avery wants to know about the cottage and why Judy goes there. Avery says she does and then the woman says Avery wants to know about “the sisters,” but that it’s not her secret to tell. Instead, she goes inside and grabs an old crucifix and some papers. Avery stops inside the doorway as the woman explains that she kept everything for safekeeping because she knew one day someone would come to ask. She says the crucifix belonged to Queenie and the papers contain the beginning of Judy’s memoir. The woman explains that secrets aren’t healthy and tells Avery to bring Judy to see May.
The woman groups Judy with the other three as “the sisters,” which is the first indication that Judy is in fact related to May, Lark, and Fern. The woman seems to understand that keeping such a big secret for so long must have hurt Judy and May, which is why she’s encouraging Avery to reunite the two women and give them the chance to connect with each other openly instead of secretly.
The woman gives Avery the papers and a chair to sit in. The paper says “Prelude” at the top and begins on August 3, 1939 in Baltimore, Maryland—Judy’s birthday and birthplace. Avery reads about Christine’s stillborn daughter and the distraught father’s decision to buy a replacement from a woman in Memphis. The replacement, as it turns out, is Queenie’s newborn daughter—the one Queenie believed was stillborn—who grows up to be Judy Stafford. Avery cries while the old woman rubs her back and tells her that it’s better for her to know the truth. Avery thinks about how May described their decision not to tell their families and realizes that the powers that kept them apart are almost as cruel as the ones that separated them. The old woman tells Avery to tell May and Judy that Hootsie says it’s time for them “to be who they is.”
Here, the old woman is revealed to be Hootsie, the young servant from the Serviers’ house. The papers that Hootsie gives Avery are the same Prelude from the beginning of the book. This means that they have officially come full circle and Avery now has the whole truth about her grandma’s past and connection to the people in the photos. Hootsie wants May and Judy to “be who they is” because they deserve to have the peace of loving one another openly after finding each other against all odds. Hootsie sees being honest as the one thing Judy and May need to do in order to finally be truly happy with their lives.