Lizet has been living at home in the “cold war” of her mother’s apartment for three weeks when Ariel Hernandez is deported on a Wednesday in June. She and Leidy have been civil to one another in the time she’s been home—Leidy is dating someone new, a cop named David, and seems happy. Lourdes, meanwhile, has been fired from her job, and spends her days fluctuating between rage and distress. Lourdes has been watching Dante more often, lessening the need for daycare, but Leidy has come home more than once to find that Lourdes has left Dante playing alone in his crib and stepped out to join yet another protest.
As Lizet readjusts to life in Miami for a longer period of time, she finds that she has become the primary adult in her family. Her sister is catching up on lost experiences—experiences that Lizet has already had, such as dating—and Lourdes is running around wild like a rebellious teen, shirking her own duties to the family and expecting Lizet to pick up the slack.
Lizet dutifully shoulders the joint responsibilities of looking after Dante and Lourdes. She helps Lourdes look for jobs, and takes them both on outings to the local library, where she checks her university email for correspondence from her Rawlings friends. Jillian writes her to talk about her summer in New York, but she has had no more messages from Ethan. Professor Kaufmann has accidentally copied her on an email meant for the participants of the Santa Barbara program, and reading the message makes Lizet feel sad.
As Lizet tries hard to be the beacon of strength and responsibility her family needs her to be, she is tempted by missives from the world of Rawlings. In these emails, Lizet’s friends describe their exploits and the opportunities she has given up in order to do the “right thing.”
Lourdes is still attending protests and political meetings, and Lizet has agreed to drive her to them—as long as they are not too radical or dangerous. One day, a rowdy group of white people waving confederate flags comes down the street—they are holding a banner which reads, “1 DOWN, 800,000 TO GO.” Lizet is angry and frightened, but part of her realizes that though she can’t admit it to anyone, she wants to be the one to go, and prays silently that she’ll be able to get out of Miami soon.
Lizet has been feeling stifled and lonely, but the racist group of marchers Lizet sees are her breaking point. She realizes that though the deck will always be stacked against her, it is useless to sink into obscurity, and she must finally rise above her circumstances.
The next morning, Lizet sneaks out while everyone else in the apartment is still asleep and goes to the library. She calls a number she saw in the email she mistakenly received from Professor Kaufmann and gets a hold of the program coordinator; she asks if her spot is still available, and begs to be added back to the program list. The coordinator tells Lizet to call Kaufmann herself; she does, and Kaufmann is thrilled to hear that Lizet still wants her spot. She promises to fill out all the paperwork and book her flight right away, and, on the library computer, she does just that. It is such a last-minute arrangement that the airfare is over 600 dollars, but Lizet books herself a ticket anyway.
Lizet books her fourth—and final—plane ticket of the story. As with each plane ticket before it (save for Christmas, which was pre-arranged), booking the plane ticket is an act both of desperation and longing. Lizet knows that no matter the financial burden, the opportunity is worth it. She has seen, from her few weeks in Miami, what her life will turn into if she does not pursue her own best interests, and wants to avoid the fate she has glimpsed while home.
When Lizet gets back to the apartment, Leidy is coming out of the shower; Lizet spooks her, and she laughs. Seeing Lizet’s grim face, though, she asks what’s wrong. When Lizet tells her, Leidy begins screaming that Lizet is a “fucking traitor,” waking their mother up from sleep. Lourdes stumbles into the living room and finds the girls physically fighting one another; she pulls Leidy off of Lizet. Leidy tells Lizet that she’s no better than their father, and Lizet recognizes this as the “ultimate insult.” Leidy deepens the affront when she tells Lizet that Lizet is actually worse than Ricky, who at least had the audacity to “go away and stay away.”
As Leidy’s frustrations at Lizet explode more violently than ever before, Lizet realizes that her family will see any action she ever takes on her own behalf as a betrayal. Lizet knows how tough things are for Leidy—but she doesn’t want her whole life to become about helping Leidy navigate the poor choices she’s made in her own life. If this is selfish, so be it—Lizet has changed course, and is not planning on putting anyone else’s needs before her own again.
Lourdes demands to know what’s going on, and Lizet tries desperately to explain to her mother that she’s not leaving for any old job—she’s taking an opportunity that is a part of her education. Lourdes asks Lizet a ton of questions, not seeming to understand what the purpose of an internship in a lab is. The conversation is even more confused by Leidy’s constant screams that Lizet is just lying to get out of watching Dante all summer, as she feels she’s “too good” for the job. Lizet, enraged, says that at least one of them is.
Lizet wants so badly for her family to understand her—not even to declare that they’re proud of her at this point, but simply to see the value and merit in what she’s trying to do. The fact that her mother can’t—and that her sister wants to undermine her attempts to get her to—sends Lizet over the edge.
Lourdes tells Leidy that she needs to let Lizet go. She passive-aggressively states that if Lizet wants to go “spend her summer with some woman professor she doesn’t even know,” they shouldn’t try and get in her way. Leidy tells Lourdes it’s her job to get in Lizet’s way, but Lourdes says it isn’t anymore. Lizet pleads with her mother and sister, asking them to understand that her choice has nothing to do with them, but Lourdes continues berating Lizet for choosing to make her life “all about her from now on.”
Lourdes takes a different approach than Leidy in reacting to Lizet’s news. She is calm, but clearly enraged. She seems to want to guilt Lizet into staying by judging harshly Lizet’s choice to pursue her academic career—a choice that Lourdes doesn’t understand and sees as a purposeful betrayal of their family.
Lourdes asks Lizet when she’s planning on leaving, and Lizet says that her flight is in two days. Lourdes firmly suggests Lizet leave now, and then turns and walks down the hallway; she goes into her room and locks the door. Leidy shakes Lizet by the shoulders and begs Lizet not to leave her alone with Lourdes again, but Lizet wrenches herself away from her sister, goes to their shared bedroom, and begins packing her things. Leidy and Lizet are both equally shocked when they hear, from Lourdes’s room, the sound of her on the phone—she is talking to Ricky, and she tells him that he needs to come and get Lizet now, because Lourdes wants her gone.
Lourdes kicking Lizet out of the house seems unnecessarily cruel, and a last-ditch effort at trying to shame Lizet into staying. Lourdes is erasing Lizet’s chance at being part of a stable home environment, perhaps because she thinks the idea of home doesn’t matter to Lizet anymore. She doesn’t see how difficult a time Lizet has had negotiating the tension between home and school this year, and all she has had to sacrifice to make everyone around her happy.
Lizet waits downstairs for Ricky to come get her. When he arrives, she explains that she’s taking an internship in California for the summer; without asking any more questions, Ricky helps her into the car and takes her back to his apartment. Over dinner with Ricky and Rafael, Lizet tells them some more about the internship, and they seem interested in hearing about her life at Rawlings.
Things at Ricky and Rafael’s are more pleasant for Lizet. Ironically, after all she’s been through and all the times she’s been desperate for her mother to care about her achievements, she finds her father and his roommate lending her an ear and asking about her life at last.
Two days later, Ricky takes Lizet to the airport, where the lines are chaotic due to upped security in the wake of the Ariel fiasco. Ricky and Lizet sit in the terminal, waiting for her flight to board and talking about the logistics of air travel. Ricky has a lot of questions; he has only been on one plane in his life, on the flight from Cuba to Miami, and the flight was so brief he has very little memory of it.
Ricky doesn’t appear to see Lizet’s departure as a betrayal—he is actually excited for her, as evidenced by his questions about everything she’s undertaking.
When the plane starts boarding, Lizet and Ricky say their goodbyes. He urges her to call Lourdes when she lands and gets settled in Santa Barbara—Lizet protests, but Ricky insists she trust him, and do what he’s telling her. He tells Lizet it’s good that she’s going. As more and more people board, Ricky hurriedly slips a 50-dollar bill into Lizet’s hands. When she starts to cry, he urges her not to; she has chosen, he reminds her, to do the harder thing, and that choice is taking her places.
When Ricky verbalizes that he understands that Lizet has chosen to take a harder path in life and reach for more, Lizet feels someone in her family finally understands her. Ricky has been the more supportive parent the whole time, though throughout the narrative Lizet has often assigned him a cruelty and aloofness that ultimately wound up being Lourdes’s domain.
Ricky points out a leak in the ceiling, but when Lizet looks where his finger is pointing, she can’t see anything. She thinks he must be getting emotional, and trying to deflect. She hugs him goodbye one last time, and then he shoos her towards the gate. As she lines up to board, Lizet turns around to look at her father one last time. After she takes her seat on the plane, she can still see him through the large glass window on the side of the airport terminal—she waves and waves, noticing that he is craning his own neck towards the plane’s little windows; though she can see him, he can’t see her, and there is a great distance between them.
This scene is a metaphor for how Ricky and Lizet are a little bit like ships in the night. They don’t quite understand one another, but they love one another deeply. Both Ricky and Lizet long to see the other person—and in turn be seen—even if this doesn’t always work out the way they’d planned.