After school one day, Julia calls Amá and lies to her, telling her she needs to stay late to work on a project—when really she’s planning on going to Lorena’s to do some “internet snooping” about Olga, since there’s no internet at the Reyes home. Julia knows that even though she and Lorena have been friends for years, Amá doesn’t see the importance of having friends—to Amá, family is the only thing that matters.
Julia is angry that her mother doesn’t respect the things she values—exploration, freedom, and friendship—but is determined to get around her mother no matter how much trouble she might get in if caught. The pattern of Amá’s overprotectiveness and Julia’s resulting rebellion against it is again evident here.
At Lorena’s, Julia and Lorena devour a bag of nacho chips drenched in hot sauce. Even after finishing the whole thing, Julia remains starving. Even though Apá works in a candy factory, junk food is forbidden in the Reyes house—Julia can only eat junk in secret on the way home from school or at a friend’s house.
Julia is ravenous for both food and information as she arrives at Lorena’s free to explore the internet and eat however she wants outside the confines of her parents’ home.
Julia tells Lorena about the things she found in Olga’s room—the lingerie and the hotel key card. Lorena doesn’t think the items are such a big deal, but Julia insists that something is “not right.” On Lorena’s old, hand-me-down laptop, the girls search the internet for clues about Olga. They can’t find any social media profiles for her, though, and soon give up.
Lorena is skeptical of Julia’s mission, but because she’s Julia’s friend, she volunteers to help her anyway. Lorena’s skepticism serves to highlight both Julia’s determination in finding the truth, but also Julia’s desperate desire that there be a secret truth to find.
Julia eyes the altar set up in the corner of Lorena’s living room—her mother worships Santa Muerte, a skeleton saint (another reason Amá is so skeptical of Julia hanging out with her best friend.) Lorena’s mom is glamorous and always dressed in skintight clothing—her boyfriend, José Luis, is several years her junior. Lorena’s father died many years ago in an attempt to cross the US-Mexico border, but Lorena never talks about the incident or her dad.
Julia’s home life is sad and often difficult—but Lorena has her own set of struggles, some of them worse or just as bad as Julia’s. This forces Julia to see that she’s not alone—and also that things in her life could be even worse.
Lorena offers Julia some weed, and Julia accepts. As the weed kicks in, Lorena feels herself growing “light and heavy at the same time,” and she realizes she’s higher than she’s ever been. As the girls laugh and joke together, José Luis walks in the front door from one of his restaurant jobs. Julia is made uncomfortable by his presence—he’s only ten years older than them, and is always asking them personal questions and trying to hang out with them. The girls try to ignore José Luis by watching a reality show set in New York—where Julia hopes she’ll someday live—and eventually fall asleep. When Julia wakes up, she sees that José Luis is crouched in front of her, taking a picture on his phone. She realizes her skirt is up over her hips, and she quickly pulls it down.
José Luis’s creepiness is, like the predatory nature of so many other men in the book, something that’s just a given for the women they prey upon. Julia is learning that, for many men, her body is a commodity to be scrutinized and appraised—something that further contributes to her feelings of entrapment and helplessness even outside of her parents’ home. The behavior of José Luis and other men toward Julia foreshadows the biggest secret to be revealed later in the book, and also suggests to the reader (if not to Julia) that Amá’s overprotectiveness is not entirely without justification.
The next night, when Amá goes out to her prayer group at church, Julia asks Apá if she can go out with Lorena. The indifferent Apá shrugs, and Julia hurries out the door to wait for Lorena and her new boyfriend Carlos to pick her up. Carlos’s cousin Leo is a cop, and they are going to his house, hopeful he’ll be able to help them track down some information about Olga. When the car pulls up though, Julia sees there is a young guy in the backseat. Lorena introduces him as another of Carlos’s cousins, Ramiro, and states that they’re not going to Leo’s as planned—they’re all going to hang out in the city by the lake instead.
Julia is so desperate to find any new information about Olga that she’s grasping at straws—here she runs into yet another dead end. Lorena would rather set Julia up on a date and encourage her to have some fun than fan the flames of her Olga obsession. Julia’s focus is on her dead sister; Lorena’s focus is on her living friend.
At the lake, Lorena and Carlos run off to have sex, leaving Julia alone with Ramiro, who only speaks Spanish. She laments that though she can passably speak the language, she can’t express herself as well as she can in English. Nevertheless, as she talks and flirts with Ramiro she finds herself having a good time. He asks about her sister and expresses sympathy for Julia’s loss, and then leans in to kiss her. Julia was not expecting to receive her first kiss from a relative stranger, but allows Ramiro to kiss her anyway. Soon, Julia hears hooting and cheering—she turns around to see Carlos and Lorena coming towards her, smiling and congratulating the two of them.
Wild-child Lorena celebrates Julia’s first kiss, grateful that her friend is stepping out of her box, connecting with someone, and focusing on something other than her obsessive grief over Olga’s death.