Lizet is surprised when, only a few days into the new semester, Jillian asks her what she’s planning on doing for the summer. When Lizet answers that she’ll probably hang out around Miami and go to the beach with Omar, Jillian insists that Lizet needs to start applying for a job or an internship: “What you do the summer between your freshman and sophomore years pretty much goes on to determine your entire career,” she says. Lizet is panicked as she realizes she doesn’t know enough about college—or careers—to decide if this is true or not.
As a first-generation college student from an “underserved” high school, Lizet has not had any guidance so far about what is expected of her in college—and the realization that there is more to succeeding than just attending classes and doing well academically frightens her deeply. She has no idea how serious Jillian’s claims are, and begins panicking that she will be left behind.
Jillian changes the subject—she asks Lizet why Lizet switched her fancy new ring from her left hand to her right hand. Jillian has noticed that the switch happened after Lizet went to lunch with Ethan. Jillian explains that she was just out at an a cappella event on campus where Ethan also was, and noticed how cute he was. Lizet insists she’s not interested in Ethan, and even offers to hook Jillian up with him, but Jillian says she’s interested in someone else. Lizet is surprised when she feels a surge of relief.
In this passage, Jillian forces Lizet to confront an uncomfortable truth: there is a possibility she has feelings for Ethan, or at least a lack of feelings for Omar. Lizet hasn’t been wearing her ring like an engagement ring, and feels jealous when Jillian asks about Ethan—it’s unclear whether Jillian does so in order to help Lizet realize her feelings.
During the second week of classes, Lizet decides to go to Ethan’s Happy Hours study session. When she arrives, though, she is the only one who has showed up other than Ethan. Ethan greets Lizet excitedly, though he’s embarrassed by the turnout. Ethan insists he wasn’t trying to get Lizet alone by inviting her to the group; he doesn’t want her to get the wrong idea about him. Lizet seizes the moment to confess to Ethan that it’s maybe him who has the wrong idea about her; she tells him that her fancy mittens belong to her roommate, and admits to being Jillian’s “charity case.” Ethan asks if that means that Lizet’s ring isn’t really from her mom, and she admits that it is, in fact, from Omar. There is an awkward moment, but it passes, and Lizet feels she have “saved” their friendship by being honest.
Lizet is nervous to tell Ethan the truth about herself, but once she does she’s grateful to have it off her chest. She sees that honesty is the key to goodwill, openness, and trust; as the narrative goes on, though, Lizet will be tempted by how much easier it is to lie and remain isolated than to tell the truth and risk rejection in order to grow closer to someone.
As the semester goes on, Lizet keeps wearing Omar’s ring on her right hand instead of her left. She thrives in Dr. Kaufmann’s class, and develops a friendly relationship with the professor. She continues attending Ethan’s Happy Hours, and meets some new people as more students start to attend. Meanwhile, Lizet has trouble getting a hold of Leidy—they keep playing phone tag, and Leidy accuses Lizet of “scheduling shit like a white girl” when Lizet suggests a standing phone appointment each week so they have time to catch up.
Lizet is blossoming at school, but the more adjusted she becomes at Rawlings, the further she grows from her friends and family in Miami. She is still incurring taunts from Leidy about assimilating and becoming “white,” while she privately harbors feelings of ambivalence about her relationship with Omar in the face of all the new people she’s meeting and new experiences she’s enjoying.
Meanwhile, Lizet calls Omar late almost every night. She’s been asking him to check in on Lourdes and Leidy and make sure Lourdes isn’t getting out of hand with the Ariel Hernandez business anymore—Omar has assured her that Lourdes has calmed down. As Lizet’s first set of exams approach, she is grateful for Omar—and for the chance to “scratch [Lourdes] off the list” of concerns and focus on her own studies.
Though Lizet cares deeply about what’s going on at home, she has a lot on her plate at Rawlings—the idea that she no longer has to worry so much about her family allows her to focus on her own studies. Though her family may see this as a betrayal, Lizet sees it as freedom.