May ends her story and asks Avery if she’s happy or if it’s too much of a burden. Avery admits that it’s a little of both while she thinks of how hard it’s been to reconcile this story with her knowledge of her family history. She told Elliot about what she learned from Hootsie and he told her to think of how this knowledge might change how people see the Staffords—Avery knows Elliot meant Bitsy, but she also knows that Bitsy wouldn’t be the only one to be appalled. Still, Avery wants to do whatever is best for Judy. May asks Avery if she’ll tell the rest of her family and Avery says she’ll tell Wells and let him decide what to do from there.
Although Avery wants to embrace the truth about her family history, she knows she can’t because it will affect every other member of her family, particularly Wells. This is why she wants to let Wells, as the head of the family and Judy’s son, decide what they should all do with the truth.
Avery says she agrees with Hootsie that the truth is valuable. May snorts and says Hootsie just likes to stir the pot. May tells Avery that Hootsie is the reason she stayed with the Seviers—May initially meant to hide in the bushes and return to Silas once the Seviers found Fern in their yard, but Hootsie saw them first and started yelling until everyone came out of the house. Despite May’s fears that she’d be sent back to the orphanage, the Seviers welcomed her back and the four lived very happily together, although it was never quite the same as with Queenie and Briny.
May reveals that she did in fact have a happy life after losing her parents and most of her siblings. This also means that she really did embrace her new identity instead of allowing the past to haunt her by hanging onto it so tightly, like Briny did.
Avery asks May if she ever saw Silas again; in her mind, Avery knows she’s asking about May’s first love story because she’s been thinking about Trent—who is waiting in the hallway nearby—more and more lately. May looks intently at Avery and then says she never saw Silas or Zede again, although many years later she heard that Arney was married and traveling the world. May explains that she is still thankful to Arney for bringing her and Fern back to the Arcadia because otherwise May would never have been able to let go of the past and move forward.
When May says that when Arney brought her back she also helped her move forward, she means that by getting May off the river and into a safe environment, Arney helped May get a second chance at life. If May had returned to living on the river, she would have been haunted by her past, even though much of it was happy. As painful as it was, May had to leave the place she once equated with happiness in order to find the safety and security she so badly needed after her experience in the TCHS.
May turns to Avery and tells her that a woman’s past doesn’t have to determine her future—that women can change their lives for themselves to find real happiness if they stop trying to talk themselves into doing something else. Avery wonders if May senses that she’s been rethinking everything about her life since learning about Judy’s history. Avery asks May if she wants to go out for the day. May starts getting ready before Avery can tell her where they’re going. Trent meets them in the hall, and they head out to his car and take off. May tells Trent the rest of her story until they pull up to the cottage in Augusta. May tears up when she sees where they are.
May is very intuitive, so she can sense an internal conflict in Avery that resembles the same internal conflict she felt when she shed her identity as Rill Foss and embraced a new one as May Weathers. What she’s really telling Avery is that it’s okay for Avery to let go of being a perfect Stafford and embrace her individual identity so that she can have a happy and fulfilling life.
May asks what they are doing at the cottage since she’s already told them the rest of her story. Avery hears her parents’ car pulling in and tells May that they’re coming to visit, too. May is horrified that she’s about to meet Wells because she’s not dressed up, but Trent persuades her to go into the cottage before Honeybee sees her. As soon as Honeybee gets out of the car, she demands to know why Avery asked them to drive out so far. Wells reminds Honeybee that Avery rarely asks them for favors and winks at Avery. Avery wonders how Wells will react when she reveals the family secret. She also worries about how he’ll take the news that she’s taken a position as a lawyer for a senior rights PAC and won’t be going into politics right away. However, she’s sure their relationship will survive the inevitable arguments.
Avery begins experiencing the same fears Rill did when she returned to the Arcadia with only one of her siblings with her. Like Rill, Avery fears disappointment and rejection from the people she loves the most. However, she still feels compelled to follow her heart rather than her family’s desires and feels secure in the knowledge that her relationship with Wells is strong enough to make it through his initial anger and even embarrassment.
Honeybee again asks Avery to explain why she wanted them to bring Judy out to the middle of nowhere. Avery says she wants to see if Judy will remember something or someone. Honeybee is incredulous, but as Avery walks Judy down the path Judy states that she’s missed the place. Honeybee and Wells are shocked but follow Avery and Judy into the cottage. As soon as Judy sees May, she lets out an exclamation and hurries over to hug her. May has to remind Judy that Fern and Lark passed away, but then they chatter happily about the day they got the dragonfly bracelets. Honeybee demands an answer from Avery again, so Avery walks them out to the porch to talk.
Avery wanted her parents to see May and Judy’s first meeting so that they could also see how genuine the love between Judy and May is. After all, even though Judy struggles to remember her own child due to her worsening dementia, she immediately recognizes May. This speaks to how deep the love is between the two women and, as Avery knows, it’s not something that can be faked. This will help Avery convince her parents that the story she has to tell them is true.
Avery tells Honeybee and Wells about Judy and May’s history. Although Honeybee tries to question the story’s plausibility, Wells seems to accept it rather quickly and is just shocked that Judy kept it a secret from all of them for so long. Avery recognizes that Wells is struggling with the same question she did: should they bury the secret, or bring it to light so Judy and May can be together again? Honeybee tells Wells not to worry about it because it’s all in the past, but Avery tells him that she wants Judy to have time with May and that they deserve it; Wells nods. Honeybee talks to Wells, not Avery, about how political opponents could use this secret against them; Avery sees this as an indication that things are going back to how they were and hopes it will make it easier to tell them there won’t be a wedding.
Honeybee’s main concern is still with the family’s image, not Judy’s feelings or desires. In this way, she is a lot like Elliot, who said similar things to Avery early on in her investigations. Wells, however, is more like Avery: he can accept the truth and then his only question is how much can be done to help Judy and May without hurting the other people he loves.
Wells says he wants to talk to May, and Avery says May would like that. The three of them head back into the house. Wells looks at Judy like she’s a stranger and Avery realizes that she kind of is, because she spent so much time living two different lives. Trent asks Avery to walk outside with him and she agrees, knowing that he’s anxious to ask how the conversation with her parents went. Once they’re out of earshot of the cottage, Trent notes that Avery isn’t wearing her engagement ring. Avery explains that she and Elliot decided they are better off as just friends. Avery wonders if Trent feels about her the way she feels about him and how he fits into her future, until he asks to hold Avery’s hand and they walk “into a life that can be.”
Avery knows she took a big risk by breaking her engagement off with Elliot—it will reflect badly on her and devastate her family, but it’s something she needs to do in the process of taking control of her life and identity. When she and Trent walk “into a life that can be,” it means that they are walking into a life that they control and which is not controlled by their fear of ruining the family reputation or their wish to meet anyone else’s expectations.