Daunis tells Mom she’s attending a geology seminar at Michigan Tech, and she tells Auntie she and Jamie are going for a romantic getaway. Auntie isn’t happy about this and tells Daunis to be careful.
Neither of Daunis’s explanations, of course, is the truth. But as Daunis makes the choice to lie and begins to function wholly independently from her family, she begins to come of age.
On Tuesday, Daunis spends an hour sitting in the campus bookstore parking lot, but she can’t bring herself to go in. She then goes to say goodbye to her summer program kids and keeps herself busy so she doesn’t dwell on the trip to the drug lab. The next day, Ron calls and asks if Daunis will be okay sharing a hotel room with Jamie. There will be two beds, but this way Levi will think Daunis and Jamie are dating. This is an uncomfortable thought for Daunis.
Daunis is still struggling with her grief for Lily. Now that the funeral is over, there aren’t many formal traditions Daunis can follow to help get some closure—she’s on her own. Learning she’ll share a room with Jamie highlights for Daunis how fake their relationship really is. It’s all for show, and that, more than anything, is what seems to bug Daunis about the arrangement.
On Saturday, Daunis is halfway to Marquette with Jamie before she asks how Levi took the news of the trip. Jamie says Levi was pleased, which shocks Daunis—Levi always gets overprotective when Daunis starts seeing someone. Levi just said that they should be back by Monday for Coach Bobby’s Labor Day bonfire cookout. At the hotel, Daunis catches a glimpse of Jamie’s ID, which has his fake name. He refuses to tell her his real age as they drop their things in the hotel room and then head for the lab.
It raises red flags for Daunis (and should raise flags for readers, too) that Levi doesn’t react in an expected way to learning about the trip. This begins to suggest that Levi may have an ulterior motive for pushing Daunis and Jamie together, though what that motive is remains a mystery for now. Similarly, Jamie keeps everything about himself and his true motives a secret. This keeps him and Daunis from genuinely connecting, since they’re connecting over a lie (that he’s actually a high school student and that they’re genuinely interested in each other).
First, Daunis and Jamie watch a documentary about meth’s history. Daunis finds it sorely lacking. It describes the government giving it to World War II soldiers so they could stay awake longer, but it doesn’t say anything about how meth destroys people and communities. Now, it’s the most abused hard drug in the world. As the video ends, the lab tech excitedly asks if Daunis and Jamie are ready to make meth. When Daunis snaps that this isn’t fun, he tones it down. They don protective equipment and then start with the most complicated and time-consuming process. Daunis finds the science equipment and processes soothing.
Daunis has seen firsthand how devastating meth is. So, it seems like a terrible mistake for the documentary to leave out the kind of impact meth has had on communities like hers. Essentially, she wants a more holistic view of meth and what it is, not just the sanitized view the documentary presents. The lab tech’s enthusiasm also doesn’t help, as he seems so far removed from the realities of meth use and abuse that he behaves offensively. The video and the tech highlight the fact that Daunis and Ron and Jamie are coming at the meth investigation from two very different viewpoints: Daunis wants to help everyone, while Ron and Jamie just want to find the “bad guys.”
On the way back to the hotel, Jamie asks Daunis where she’d like to eat. Daunis can’t get the smell of cat pee and nail polish remover out of her nose. She asks what Jamie can tell her about the kids from Minnesota and their hallucinations. He says they came to the ER wanting more meth, but they were also scared and had hallucinated that men were chasing them in the woods. They all refused to speak once their parents arrived, and their behavior was odd enough to attract the FBI’s attention. Daunis asks how the kids are doing now, but Jamie doesn’t know. Back in the hotel room, Daunis showers and gets out to discover Jamie ordered pizza. She contacts Mom and Auntie to let them know she’s okay and refuses to talk to Jamie about their day.
Daunis sees the fact that Jamie knows nothing about how the kids in Minnesota are doing now as offensive. For Daunis, Jamie’s ignorance drives home the fact that Jamie is focused on one thing—finding the distributers and makers in the Sault—and not on actually helping people and communities who need help. This is a lot of weight for Daunis to carry, which is partially why she refuses to speak to him about their day. It’s difficult for her to reconcile her desire to help with his desire to accomplish his goal and leave again, with no thought for the long-term consequences.
Daunis falls asleep and dreams about the night Travis shot Lily. She watches Lily walk away from Travis and can smell the acetone and urine on him. Lily reaches out for the gun, and Travis shoots her. Travis says something, but Daunis can’t hear—and then he shoots himself. Daunis wakes up panting and able to smell and taste the chemicals on Travis.
As Daunis continues to dream about Travis shooting Lily, she’s regularly retraumatized—watching her best friend die doesn’t get easier. Now that she knows more about meth production, though, she gets more information as part of the dream. In this case, that’s the smell of meth production.
Daunis wakes up with her period and cramps the next morning. She washes the stain out of her sheet and tells Jamie she needs to run by herself today. Since Daunis is on her Moon, she doesn’t offer semaa during her prayer—women are powerful when they’re menstruating. Auntie says they carry power and medicine within them during this time. Daunis feels better after her run. At the lab, the tech shows her four simple methods for making meth and then teaches her some meth slang. Jamie asks about gangs in the Sault, but Daunis says there aren’t any. They look at some paraphernalia and then inspect what they made yesterday. Daunis’s meth is better than Jamie’s.
Though her period is physically uncomfortable for Daunis, knowing that she’s more powerful right now and has medicine within her helps her feel better about her work with the investigation and at the drug lab. In this way, the novel highlights the power of Daunis’s cultural beliefs to make her feel secure and competent. It doesn’t hurt either that Daunis is already well-versed in lab practices, which is likely why her meth is so much better than Jamie’s. Daunis has Uncle David to thank for this, reminding her again that she’s connected intimately to both her Fontaine and Firekeeper family members.
After Daunis showers, Jamie says they should go to the Italian restaurant Levi suggested so their story checks out. Sighing with exasperation, Daunis changes and accompanies Jamie to the restaurant. Once they’re seated, Jamie says he’s actually 22. Daunis wonders to herself why she can’t play along now; she did so well in the meth lab. She says she’d rather not know anything real about him from now on. They eat dinner in silence. To an outsider, it looks like they’re on a bad first date.
Daunis is getting comfortable with the version of Jamie she knows, the one who’s not actually 17 or 18 but is just mysterious. Learning his real age might be the only truthful thing she knows about him, but it means she has to keep track of his two different identities—which complicates the fake relationship they’re trying to build. For now, it doesn’t seem like their relationship, fake or otherwise, is going anywhere, given their struggle to connect over dinner.