Back in Chicago, Amá picks Julia up from the airport and takes her to a restaurant in Chinatown. Julia can barely remember the last time she and her mother ate together at a restaurant. Chicago is beginning to thaw, and the city is “more alive” than it was when Julia left. When Amá asks about Julia’s trip, Julia admits that she had a nice time, and didn’t realize how much she’d missed Los Ojos and her relatives there.
Julia and Amá’s trip to a restaurant—their first in years—symbolizes that both of them want to meet on even ground and enter a new, more open stage of their relationship. Still, there’s a new barrier between them—albeit an invisible one.
Amá tells Julia that Mr. Ingman called the house last week and said he was worried about Julia and her whereabouts. Amá tells Julia that Mr. Ingman said Julia is the best student he’s ever had, and asks why Julia wouldn’t have talked more about her success in school. Amá apologizes for not paying more attention to Julia, and tells her she loves her “with all [her] heart.” She explains that she’s so overprotective because she doesn’t want Julia making stupid mistakes—she wants Julia to have a good life.
Amá and Julia are able to have their first real conversation in a long time—and Amá is clearly trying hard to communicate to Julia that though she hasn’t always been there for her, she does truly love her daughter and want the best for her. It seems as if a new chapter in their relationship is beginning.
Julia can barely look at Amá without thinking about what she was forced to endure during the border crossing. She doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to tell her mother that she knows her secret—but at the same time, wonders how she, and everyone else, is able to go through life with so many secrets “locked inside.” Unable to say anything about what she’s learned, Julia simply apologizes to her mother for hurting her.
Even though Amá is making a huge effort and trying to usher in a new stage of their relationship, Julia remains anxious and upset about the secret she’s learned regarding the border crossing. Julia wonders what her relationship with her mother will look like now that there are so many secrets between them, even as so much has been revealed and renewed.
When Julia and Amá get back to the apartment, Amá lets Julia have her phone back. When Julia turns it on she sees that she has multiple calls and texts, all from Connor. She quickly calls him and tells him that she was in Mexico—when he asks why, she tells him it’s a “long story,” not wanting to share the truth about her suicide attempt. Connor says he’s relieved to hear Julia’s voice—he thought she’d hated him. Connor says he’s missed Julia, and she says she’s missed him, too. He invites her to meet him at the bookstore the following afternoon, and she says she will, determined to find a way there.
Julia has thought for months that Connor was over her—uncomprehending of her problems, scared off by her emotions, and unable to connect with her. To learn that he has been thinking about her and worrying about her fills her with hope that there’s still a chance for them—and that she’s still lovable and worthy in spite of all she’s been through.
Julia goes out to the living room to ask Amá if she can go hang out downtown with Lorena tomorrow afternoon. She feels bad that she has no choice to lie—even in spite of their moment of connection earlier, she’d never tell her mother about Connor. Amá agrees to let Julia go, since she hasn’t seen Lorena in such a long time—as long as she’s back before dark.
Even though Amá and Julia are being more open with one another than they’ve been in the past, this passage shows that Julia still doesn’t fully trust Amá to trust her. There are still going to be secrets and lies between them—and perhaps always will be.
Because she sees that Amá is making an effort, Julia decides to make one too—and agrees to go along with her mother to her church group that night. As the two of them arrive, Julia gorges herself on coffee and cookies, and then sits down in a circle with her mother and the rest of the attendees. The members of the prayer group talk and share stories of the difficulties they’re facing in their lives. When one man confesses that he’s having trouble “forgiving” his son for being gay, Julia angrily speaks up, thinking of Juanga, but manages to calm herself down before she says anything too hurtful. When it’s Amá’s turn to speak, she admits that she’s been neglecting Julia in the wake of Olga’s loss—and that she has a lot to learn about who Julia is and what she wants out of life.
As Julia accompanies Amá to her prayer circle, her opinionated, loudmouth ways are tested. Julia sees many parents discussing their struggles to be good to their children in spite of failing to understand them—Julia believes it’s cruel for a parent to reject their child, but at the same time, sees her own mother struggling with how to accept a daughter she doesn’t fully know how to approach. In seeing her mother talk about her uncertainty about what to do, though, she also sees that her mother is trying even if she isn’t always succeeding.
That night, once her parents are asleep, Julia uses her key to get back into Olga’s room and finish reading her emails. She hops onto a neighbor’s internet and reads through the emails. The emails reveal that Olga’s lover had children in high school and has been married to his wife for over twenty years. Julia wonders why her sister put up with the man’s excuses for so long—and how she was able to hide the truth of what she was going through from everyone. As Julia gets to the last email, she learns a stunning truth—Olga was pregnant with her lover’s baby when she died.
As Julia discovers one final, earth-shattering secret—Olga was pregnant at the time of her death—she is tested more acutely than she has been by any other secret she’s learned. She must now confront directly what it means to take a secret to the grave—to want to shelter loved ones from a painful truth even if it means creating a vast distance or rift.