It is the night of Julia’s quinceañera. She is dressed in a “tight and tacky dress covered in frills, ruffles, and sequins.” Beneath the dress she wears a girdle, which makes her feel constrained and short of breath. Julia is fully aware that the party is more for her “dead sister” than for her—there is no part of the night that she’s enjoyed, and knows her parents have poured thousands of dollars “down the toilet.” Julia moves through the ritual dances and ceremonies of the party almost on autopilot. When there’s a break in the program, she asks Lorena to go with her to the bathroom and help her lift her cumbersome dress so that she can use the toilet.
Julia has been dreading her quiceañera for months—and seems almost determined to make it as difficult and dreadful as possible for herself rather than just putting on a happy face for her family. Julia knows that her parents aren’t really throwing the party for her—they’re throwing it for Olga—and the constant inability to escape her sister’s shadow is weighing on her more heavily than ever.
In the bathroom, Lorena and Julia run into Julia’s gossipy Tía Milagros. She greets Julia by remarking that Olga must be “so happy” for her right now—Julia flatly replies that Olga is dead. Milagros asks Julia why she’s so angry all the time, and Julia begins flying off the handle. She asks Milagros who she is to judge Julia or treat her like a “disappointment.” She accuses Milagros of being bitter because her husband “left [her] ass years ago.” Milagros begins crying and storms out of the bathroom, while Lorena quietly chides Julia for being so mean.
Julia is in a sensitive place—forced to be the center of a party that she doesn’t want by parents who aren’t hearing, or listening to, her— and even though Tía Milagros’s comment isn’t particularly mean-spirited, Julia takes any mention of Olga as a personal slight. She lashes out in anger, shocking even the wild-child Lorena.
The rest of the night, as Julia dances with boys and greets guests, she can’t stop worrying that Milagros will tell her parents about what happened in the bathroom. When Angie shows up late with a gift in tow, Julia corners her and demands to know if Olga had a boyfriend when she died—Angie deflects the question, claiming that Olga wouldn’t have had time for a “secret relationship,” but Julia’s suspicions only grow. Julia demands that Angie tell her what she knows, but when Angie continues deflecting, Julia tells her to leave the party, and walks away. As she does, she sees Milagros talking to a concerned-looking Amá and Apá. Julia sits down at her table and gorges herself on a piece of cake.
Even at her quincé, Julia can’t give up her quest to discover more and more information about Olga. The blindsided Angie clams up, and Julia lashes out at her, too. As the party begins spiraling out of control, the restless and anxious Julia once again turns to food for comfort—she wants more, wants something, she can’t find or get, and food replaces it.
When Amá, Apá, and Julia arrive home at their apartment that night, they flick on the lights to find roaches scurrying in every direction. Julia and Amá begin their practiced routine of stomping every roach they can get, and Julia ruins her fancy white shoes. After cleaning themselves up, Amá and Apá confront Julia about what she said to Milagros, and accuse her of “embarrass[ing]” them in front of their guests. Amá asks what she has done to deserve such a disrespectful daughter, and wonders aloud if she should send Julia back to Mexico. Julia protests that life would “suck even harder” in Mexico. Amá shakes her head and tells Julia that perhaps if she could only “keep her mouth shut” and behave, Olga would still be alive.
In spite of Amá and Apá’s attempt to give their family a nice night, they themselves must return home to a filthy, roach-infested apartment. Julia’s anger at her parents spending thousands of dollars on this party doesn’t seem out of place. Meanwhile, Julia is exhausted, disgusted, and humiliated as she helps kill the roaches, and so is Amá. The exchange to end the chapter shows both Julia and Amá so stuck in their pattern of anger that they lash out at each other, saying things that are as hurtful as possible. Julia denies her Mexican heritage; Amá explicitly blames Julia for the death of her “perfect Mexican daughter” while also making clear that Julia is no such thing.