Avery’s mother calls to her to come downstairs, which makes Elliot chuckle on the phone. This comforts Avery because it’s so familiar. She notes that between her mom and Elliot’s mom, neither of them had a chance to rebel and so they “were more or less doomed to be good. Together.” Avery tells Elliot she is supposed to be taking a Christmas picture with her family while she tries to fix her unruly curls. Elliot asks why they are taking Christmas pictures in July so Avery explains that her mom is worried that Wells’s hair might start to thin when he starts chemo. Avery chokes up as she thinks about the possibility of losing her dad, while Elliot goes silent. Avery hears him typing quickly on his computer. Avery worries that she’s doing no good by being home, but Elliot reminds her that she must reestablish residency.
Avery notes that she and Elliot have always been “doomed to be good. Together.” This is not only the first indication that they have essentially been together all their lives, but it also highlights how they are each living up to the expectations of their parents—including their decision to get married. Although Avery is clearly upset by her father’s illness, all Elliot seems to be focusing on is his own work and Avery’s political future; the note about reestablishing residency suggests that Avery is planning to run for office in the place where her family lives. This reveals how little Elliot seems to understand Avery, which means they might not be on the same page about other things as well.
Avery thinks about how often she’s wanted to go back to her old job in Maryland until Elliot briefly puts her on hold. Her thoughts turn to May and how certain May seemed that Avery was actually Fern. Avery wanted to be Fern just to make May happy, but of course she couldn’t be. When the attendants took May away, they told Avery that May was a new resident and had been found alone in her home with her sister’s dead body. Avery wishes she could help May somehow. Suddenly Elliot gets back on the phone and tells Avery to stay strong and not to be hard on herself, before saying goodbye so he can get back to work. Avery tries to fix her hair and worries that the stylist will get mad at her for wearing a store brand dress instead of a designer label.
Although Elliot is clearly preoccupied with work matters, Avery thinks instead of how she can help people (in this case, May). Avery, it seems, is drawn to positions in which she can help and do good in the world. Her concern is not prestige or fame, but whether what she’s doing is worthwhile and meaningful, which will come to be important later in the book.
Avery’s niece, Courtney, bounds in to tell her Honeybee (Avery’s mom) is tired of waiting for Avery to come down. Avery jokingly messes with Courtney’s hair and then calls to Allison that Courtney is holding up the picture. Avery and Courtney race down the stairs to take the picture. After the shoot, Avery grabs one of her sister’s triplets and starts wrestling. Honeybee gets mad at her because it messes up her hair and Leslie tells Avery to change into something less formal for the town hall meeting they have scheduled that afternoon. Avery would rather spend time with her niece and nephews but goes to get changed anyway. In the car, Wells scrolls through his phone while Avery thinks about the nursing home scandal and how it might be used against Wells in a political race.
Avery clearly loves her family, especially her niece and nephews. This reveals her love for children and hints at her own desire to be a mother. However, she is called away from having fun with the kids so she can put on a different face for the world. Both Leslie and Honeybee are concerned about Avery’s appearance, highlighting the importance they place on how other people perceive them. Avery must wear clothes that reflect the position her family hopes she will walk into by taking over Wells’s seat in the Senate.
Avery’s thoughts turn to her childhood and how she used to attend public appearances with Wells, who was always beaming with pride at how well-behaved Avery was. Now, as an adult, Avery is even more involved, as she and Wells listen to a voice memo about the topics they’ll discuss, questions they will have to answer, and what those well-scripted answers should be. Leslie tells Avery to prepare to go on stage with Wells to talk about her wedding plans and her return to Aiken to be with her family after Wells’s diagnosis. Avery is confident in her ability to face the crowd because of her success as a state attorney in Maryland. Still, Avery wishes she had more of her father’s charisma. Avery and Wells make it through the forum without a hitch, although Avery notes that her father is a bit slower to respond to tough questions.
Avery’s memories show that many of the bonding moments she’s had with her dad involved political experiences, which explains her anxiety to fulfill his expectations of her—she associates political success with earning her father’s pride and love. Avery is proud to do this because she knows that by making appearances with Wells, she is doing her part to help maintain the family’s reputation and popularity.
When Avery steps off the stage, Leslie tells her that a nurse from the nursing home they visited earlier called to say that a resident there was found holding Avery’s dragonfly bracelet. Avery realizes May must have taken the bracelet when she grabbed Avery’s arm earlier. Avery tells Leslie she will go get the bracelet herself despite Leslie’s protests. Avery argues that she wants to get the bracelet herself because she wants to visit her grandma later, and Judy would enjoy seeing the bracelet again. As Avery gets ready to go, she worries that May is in some kind of trouble and thinks about May being found alone with her sister’s body. Avery wonders if May’s sister’s name was Fern.
It is telling that Avery has to hide her real motive for wanting to go get the bracelet back herself. She tells Leslie it’s so Judy can see the bracelet later, but her thoughts reveal that she just wants to know more about May. This shows just how difficult it is for Avery to break rules, even subtle ones like Leslie’s wish for her not to go—she’d rather tell a lie than risk being told she can’t do something.