Throughout March, it rains for the entire month. Jess and Leslie continue to visit Terabithia even in the bad weather, but Jess becomes increasingly nervous about navigating the rope swing—especially when Prince Terrien comes along, as he is getting bigger and harder to take across on the swing.
This passage foreshadows trouble. Though Leslie seems to have no qualms about risking falling into the creek, the more practical Jess’s apprehension shows that there is indeed something to be afraid of. He doesn’t want to alienate himself from Leslie, though, by admitting to his fears.
As Easter approaches, Jess’s older sisters begin to worry about what they’ll wear to church. The family only goes once a year on Easter, and the visit is a big one. Mrs. Aarons tells Brenda and Ellie that she’ll take them shopping soon—but one afternoon, Mr. Aarons brings home the news that he’s been laid off from work. Brenda and Ellie react with tears, refusing to go to church if there’s no money for new clothes. Mrs. Aarons tries to get them to see that there’s more going on than their own problems, but the girls continue pressing the issue until Jess can’t take it anymore and goes outside to milk Miss Bessie.
Jess is frustrated and angered by his sisters’ self-centered, short-sighted natures. Jess knows the gravity of their family’s situation and respects it, and yet he’s always the one in trouble while his sisters get away with terrible behavior.
Leslie comes into the barn while Jess is milking the cow and sits with him. He tells her about the sad news—and Brenda and Ellie’s self-centered reactions to not being able to afford new Easter clothes. Leslie says she’d like to go to church on Easter. Jess is baffled as to why Leslie would want to go sit through a church service when she doesn’t have to, he agrees to ask his mother if she can come along. As Jess and Leslie play around the barn, squirting milk at each other and having a laugh, they don’t notice Mr. Aaron entering. As soon as Jess sees his solemn father, he bids Leslie goodbye and follows the man inside.
When Mr. Aaron walks into the barn to find Leslie and Jess joking around and enjoying themselves—especially at such a serious time—Jess realizes that he’s disappointed the man. Even though Brenda and Ellie’s behavior is worse than his own, Jess knows that his father holds him to different standards because he’s the only boy in the family.
In the end, Mrs. Aaron is able to scrounge up enough money to buy all the girls in the family something new to wear to church. Jess says that since he’s not getting anything new, he should be allowed to bring a friend to church—he suggests Leslie. Mrs. Aarons is nervous about whether Leslie will dress well and behave herself, but Jess assures her Leslie will be on her best behavior. Indeed, on Easter Sunday, Leslie is dressed primly in a blouse and skirt. She is polite to the Aaronses and pays close attention to the service throughout its entirety—even when Jess and the other kids cut up or doze off.
Leslie is careful to abide by stereotypical gender roles and strict, careful behavior when she’s out with Jess’s family. This shows that she respects their family’s rules and codes of behavior—she’s willing to change herself for Jess, her best friend.
At the end of the service, Leslie tells Jess that she’s glad she came—she liked it “better than a movie” and found the story of Jesus beautiful and interesting. May Belle pipes up and says that the story of Jesus scares her. Jess agrees with his sister, telling Leslie that God killed His son because humans are “all vile sinners.” Leslie says she’s not sure if she believes that’s true. May Belle tells Leslie that she has to believe the things in the Bible—if not, God will damn her to hell when she dies. Leslie laughs May Belle off, but May Belle is insistent—she’s worried what will happen to Leslie, a nonbeliever, when she dies.
This dark passage offers a bit of foreshadowing. Until now, the narrative has been all about fun, friendship, and life—but May Belle’s terror of death and Leslie’s existentialism after her first visit to church offer hint that there are darker times on the horizon for these characters.