It is Christmas in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Susanna has not yet been hospitalized. A friend’s brother takes Susanna to the movies, where she meets her husband-to-be. Her friend’s brother and her future husband went to high school together, and when the friend’s brother introduces the two of them, sparks fly. That night, he and Susanna spend the night together. They part ways after the holidays, and the future “closes in on” Susanna: while she is at McLean, she forgets about him. Her future husband, though, does not forget about her. When he graduates college and returns to Cambridge, he tracks Susanna down, and finds her in the hospital. He promises to write to her while he is away in Paris over the summer, but Susanna pays him no attention, reasoning that “he live[s] in a world with a future and [she does] not.”
Susanna returns to the narrative of her past in order to explain the events that led to her engagement—the main reason she was able to get out of McLean. An old flame of Susanna’s fades from her concerns as the reality of her mental illness and her hospitalization overtake her life, but she looms large in his mind long after their first encounter. When he tracks her down in the hospital, the isolated Susanna rejects a chance at connection, as she fears—not without justification—that she and this man are on very different playing fields when it comes to a future.
When her future husband returns from Paris, Susanna is in a bad state. She has just endured her “bone” episode and her tooth extraction, and she does not want to see him when she is in such a state. The two of them talk on the phone instead, and he informs Susanna that he is moving to Ann Arbor. Eight months later, though, on another visit home, he asks Susanna again if the two of them can see one another. Susanna now has many privileges and is allowed to leave the hospital, so she visits her future husband at his apartment on several dates. Together they make dinners, watch TV, and go to movies.
As Susanna’s mental state fluctuates, she considers what it means to let someone in for the first time in a long time. Everyone she knows on the psych ward understands what she is going through, but connecting with a man who has no idea about the world in which she lives is daunting. Nevertheless, once she is feeling better, Susanna agrees to go out with her future husband, and finds that she enjoys his company.
One night, Susanna returns to the hospital from one of these dates and tells Lisa and Georgina that she has received a marriage proposal, and has said yes. Lisa asks Susanna if she wants to marry this man, and Susanna says “Sure,” though secretly she is not completely sure. When Georgina asks Susanna what will happen after she gets married, she says she doesn’t know—she hasn’t thought about it. Lisa tells her that she had better think about it long and hard.
Susanna, who so recently believed that she had no future at all outside of McLean, is suddenly faced with the possibility that she could have a “normal” life, and leave the hospital. The proposal represents a chance for Susanna to escape, but her friends urge her to think in more complicated terms, and to decide what kind of life it is she wants to lead.
Susanna tries to picture her future as a married woman, shutting her eyes tight and thinking hard. She can’t come up with anything, though, and opens her eyes and announces, half-joking, that maybe her life will “just stop” once she’s married. In the end, she reveals, she lost her husband—on purpose. She needed to be alone, she found, as she headed into her future.
Susanna can’t visualize what she wants, however, and can’t see what it means to be married beyond the fact that it will get her out of McLean. Following this path led Susanna to more isolation and heartbreak, in the end, though eventually she discovered that she needs to remain allegiant to herself above all else.