Lizet flies home once again—this time, her mother greets her at the airport terminal, commenting immediately on how skinny Lizet has gotten. Lizet notices that Lourdes, too, looks worryingly thin. On the drive home from the airport, Lourdes asks Lizet about everything in her life other than school. Lizet answers the questions brusquely—she is surprised to find that it does not feel like a relief to be home for the holidays. Most of all, Lizet is disturbed by how, upon glimpsing her mother in the airport terminal, she saw her through new eyes as a “tacky-looking woman” the girls on her floor at Rawlings might make fun of. Lizet feels that she now sees her mother in a way that is “isolated from [their] shared history,” and is unsure of whether it is her mother who has changed, or her.
When Lizet returns home for the second time since starting school, she is amazed—and worried—by how much she has changed in such a short amount of time. The things that once seemed familiar to her now seem garish and strange; she sees her mother through new eyes, but is not grateful at all for the double vision her time at Rawlings has given her.
Lizet recalls having written the committee a letter after her hearing, stating that she was grateful for their mercy and looked forward to working to “rise above” the place she’d come from. At the time, she felt like a traitor writing the email—now, Lizet realizes that her words were true.
When Lourdes turns onto her street, Lizet is shocked to see how the block has changed. Signs and flags welcoming and supporting Ariel hang everywhere. One of the posters features a picture of a girl not much older than Lizet—when Lizet asks who she is, Lourdes answers that her name is Caridaylis; she is a cousin of Ariel’s, but has lately become more like a mother to him, and the two are inseparable. Lourdes calls Caridaylis—or Cari—a “saint.”
Lizet is surprised by how the Ariel case has gripped her mother’s neighborhood; it is clear that things have continued to escalate since Thanksgiving, and Lizet worries what this will mean for her own family dynamic.
Lourdes helps Lizet retrieve her bag from the trunk and bring it to the front of the apartment building, where Lizet greets Dante and Leidy with kisses. On the way up to the apartment, Lourdes talks nonstop, gossiping about her neighbors. Lizet feels something is “off” about her mother. Inside the apartment, Lizet finds that there are flyers and posters featuring images of Ariel everywhere. Lizet is nervous, but then becomes happy when she sees that her mother has gotten her a welcome-home balloon and teddy bear. Lizet hugs Leidy and thanks her for the bear, but when she goes to hug Lourdes, she has already left the room.
Lizet is unsure whether the strange energy she senses coming from her mother is due to how her mother has changed, or how Lizet herself has. She grows concerned, but is momentarily distracted by the warm welcome home and the gifts her mother has gotten for her.
The girls hear the sound of their mother’s bedroom door shutting. Leidy sits down on the couch with Lizet, and remarks on how “white” Lizet looks; she urges her to spend some time over the three-week break tanning at the beach.
Leidy’s comment on how Lizet has changed implies that Lizet has assimilated and grown distant from her heritage during the time she’s been away at school—and Lizet knows sadly that Leidy is right.