The next morning, after studying in the library for a few hours, Lizet heads to Ethan’s dorm for the ice-skating event he told her about. He greets her warmly and introduces her to the other students who have showed up to ice skate; most of them look tired and worn out from studying so hard for their upcoming exams. Ethan enthusiastically congratulates his residents on earning a much-deserved study break.
Lizet is attempting to find a community and make some friends at Rawlings, even if it means participating in an event that’s foreign to her and out of her comfort zone.
On the way over to the ice-skating rink, Lizet talks with Ethan and a few other students about the party the night before. It is very cold out, and Lizet considers putting on a pair of mittens she has borrowed from Jillian—they are expensive and fancy, and Lizet feels conflicted about wearing them. Ethan enthusiastically points out Rawlings landmarks to the freshmen as they head across campus, offering them weird little facts and tidbits about the school’s history. Lizet watches Ethan happily, hoping that when he graduates, he will be able to find a job “as some sort of RA for the world.”
Just as Lizet borrowed Jillian’s blazer to feel more like everyone else for her hearing, Lizet has borrowed Jillian’s mittens so that she can feel a little bit more like an average Rawlings student as she prepares for a big social event.
Lizet puts on ice skates for the first time and clumsily enters the rink. She hugs the railing but still keeps falling—Ethan comes over to help her off the ice after she falls for a third time, hurting her tailbone. He makes conversation with Lizet as she takes off her skates, and when she implies that he’s flirting with her, he insists he would never be “lame” enough to hit on a freshman. Both Lizet and Ethan blush, embarrassed, but continue to talk. Ethan asks Lizet if she would consider applying to be an RA—he tells her that the job comes with free room and board, and admits that being an RA is the only way he’s able to afford Rawlings.
There is a flirtatious energy between Lizet and Ethan, but Ethan is quick to deny that there is any chemistry there. He doesn’t seem to want to take advantage of Lizet or make her feel uncomfortable—he genuinely wants to help her have a good time at college. As money comes up, though, Lizet feels the situation becoming dicey.
Lizet bristles a little bit, worried that Ethan has sized her up and assumed she, too, can’t “afford” to be at Rawlings. She coldly says that being an RA doesn’t sound like it’s for her. As she finishes unlacing her skates, she sees Ethan looking at one of Jillian’s mittens, which she wore out on the rink. He tells her he understands—Lizet obviously doesn’t “need” to take an RA position to get by. Ethan stands up to go back out on the rink, teasing Lizet in a friendly way about her abominable ice-skating skills once more before he goes. Lizet watches him skate away, thinking about how and when she’ll be able to “make it clear” to Ethan that the mittens don’t belong to her, and she is not exactly who he thinks she is.
Lizet isn’t sure what she wants Ethan to think of her—she doesn’t want him to assume that she’s poor and in need of financial aid, but she also doesn’t want him to think she’s haughty, snobby, and rich. She is so used to being judged by everyone else on campus that she is attempting to fit herself into neat, tidy boxes—but as she wavers between who she actually is and who she wants to be, she realizes she should have been true to herself all along.
Study week begins the following day, and a somber, studious mood overtakes the campus. Everyone is working overtime, and being able to brag about how little one has slept becomes a sort of status symbol. Strung out, tired, and homesick, Lizet decides to use her calling card to reach out to her father, to whom she hasn’t spoken since she left Miami for school. He is excited and surprised to hear her voice—he is on his way out to work at a jobsite. He sounds slightly hurt that Lizet didn’t reach out to him when she was home for Thanksgiving, but Lizet insists the trip was uneventful and a waste of money.
As study week overtakes Rawlings, Lizet feels more isolated than ever. She is so desperate for some familiarity in the strange, insular world she’s joined that she even reaches out to her father, with whom her relationship is on shaky ground at best.
Lizet and her father catch up for a few minutes, and he asks repeatedly if she’s doing all right in school. She insists over and over that she’s fine. After the phone call, Lizet goes back to studying. That night, at exactly midnight, a campus-wide tradition takes place: every student, no matter their location, leans out of the nearest window and lets out a primal scream. This campus-wide shriek at midnight the night before the first scheduled exams start is an old tradition, but one Lizet is unfamiliar with; when she hears the screams, she worries she has lost her mind.
The campus traditions that are so familiar to everyone else isolate Lizet and even cause her to question her sanity—she has no guidebook for what it’s like to be in college as a first-generation student, and little knowledge of Rawlings’ peculiar customs.
In her disoriented state, Lizet vows to confront her father at Christmastime about his own betrayals: selling the family home, and never calling her once all semester.
Lizet’s phone call with her father has not made her feel better about him—in fact, she feels angrier and more betrayed than ever.