Jeanette comes downstairs one day to find Mrs. White cleaning the parlor until it sparkles. Fine slipcovers have been placed on the sofas, and all of the brass has been shined to gleaming. Jeanette checks the calendar to see if a house meeting is scheduled, but there is none, and no visiting preacher is due in. Jeanette asks Mrs. White what’s going on, but Mrs. White doesn’t answer her, and only says that her mother has gone out.
Jeanette wakes up to suspicious circumstances at her home, but doesn’t seem to feel threatened or even all that worried. She feels so safe in her community that it doesn’t occur to her that something that spells trouble for her and Melanie could be just around the bend.
Jeanette takes the dog for a walk. As she climbs the hill, she thinks about going to see Melanie later, and thinks about how she recently revealed to her mother “as much as [she] could” about their friendship, though Jeanette herself is not entirely certain what is happening between herself and Melanie. Uncertainty to her is foreign and uncomfortable, and something she has not felt since an incident she refers to as the Awful Occasion.
Even though Jeanette has told her mother a condensed and possibly garbled version of what is going on between her and Melanie, she does not suspect that her mother will see her actions as wrong or unholy or attempt to change, challenge, or harm her.
The Awful Occasion, Jeanette says, was the time her birth mother appeared and attempted to claim her back. Jeanette had found her adoption papers years ago, but when she asked her mother about them, her mother waved her away, insisting that Jeanette had always been hers. One Saturday, though, there was a knock at the door, and Jeanette’s mother answered it. Jeanette asked who was there, but Jeanette’s mother told her to go away. From the kitchen, she could hear angry shouting, and pressed a glass against the wall in order to hear what her mother and the stranger were saying. After five minutes, Jeanette put the glass away and began to cry.
The worst memory Jeanette has is of her birth mother’s return, which isolated Jeanette and frightened her. Jeanette had found her adoption papers and so knew the truth of how she came to live with her mother and father, but was still jarred and disturbed by the sudden reappearance of her birth mother—and by the fact that Jeanette was not even allowed to get a glimpse of the woman who brought her into the world.
When her mother came into the kitchen, Jeanette asked why her mother had sent the woman away when she had been Jeanette’s true mother, and Jeanette received a slap. Jeanette’s mother told her that the woman was only a “carrying case,” and that she had gone and would never come back. Jeanette ran out of the house and up the hill, and when she returned home, her mother was watching television. Neither of them ever spoke of the Awful Occasion again.
Jeanette calling the stranger who showed up her “mother” hurts and offends her actual mother, who hits Jeanette out of her own pain and anger. Jeanette’s mother then refers, awfully, to Jeanette’s birth mother as a “carrying case,” implying that Jeanette was always willed to her and her alone. The fact that after this confrontation neither of them ever spoke of it again shows the controlling and overbearing but noncommunicative relationship between the two.
Though Jeanette is happy with Melanie, she feels uncomfortable all the time lately, and is sick of lying to her mother about where she’s staying at nights. Though it is common for members of their church to spend nights in each other’s home, Jeanette feels there is something different about spending the night with Melanie. Often, she and Melanie stay at Elsie’s house to evade suspicion, though Elsie seems to know what the two of them are up to. Once, when Melanie stayed at Jeanette’s house, Jeanette’s mother made up a spare bed in Jeanette’s room for Melanie to sleep in. The two slept in Jeanette’s bed together, though, and were narrowly caught by Jeanette’s mother when she checked on them in the middle of the night.
Jeanette’s happiness has given way to a kind of fear and uncertainty, and since Jeanette has not experienced either emotion since the reappearance of her birth mother, she is unsure of what to do about it. Jeanette and Melanie are more or less flaunting their relationship at this point, and the creeping sense of dread Jeanette manipulates her readers into feeling is palpable as she recalls all the times she and Melanie have nearly been found out.
Soon after that, Jeanette attempted to explain to her mother how she felt, but she was unable to really communicate to her mother all that Melanie meant to her. After the conversation, Jeanette gave her mother a kiss, and Jeanette’s mother told her to go up to bed. The two of them have hardly spoken since that night, and Jeanette feels that her mother is “caught up in something,” though she is uncertain of what.
Jeanette should see the warning signs—especially after she tried to reveal to her harsh, judgmental mother the truth about her lesbian relationship—but for some reason, out of naivete, the distraction of being infatuated, or willful ignorance, she is unable to.
Jeanette returns home after walking the dog to find the house still and empty. There is a note on the fridge from Jeanette’s mother, which informs Jeanette that her mother has gone to stay at Mrs. White’s. Jeanette thinks it is odd that her mother is staying out—she never stays out—but decides that she can use the opportunity to stay the night with Melanie. After a quick bath, Jeanette goes over to Melanie’s house, and the two of them spend the night talking about the future, and whether or not they will be missionaries when they’re grown up. At breakfast the next morning, Melanie tells Jeanette that she wants to go to university to study theology. After breakfast, Jeanette tells Melanie she loves her, but Melanie does not say the words back.
Jeanette sees her mother’s odd disappearance merely as yet another chance to run off with Melanie. That evening, the differences between Melanie and Jeanette’s goals, desires, and feelings are revealed. Jeanette wants to devote her life to missionary work, while Melanie wants to study. Jeanette is clearly more in love with Melanie than Melanie is with her, as evidenced by Melanie’s inability to return Jeanette’s declaration.
When the two arrive at church, the first hymn has already started. The girls slide into a pew next to Miss Jewsbury, who turns to Jeanette and warns her to stay calm. Jeanette is confused, and asks Miss Jewsbury what she’s talking about, but Miss Jewsbury just tells Jeanette to come find her after services. As Jeanette looks around the room, she exchanges smiles with many of the congregants, and she feels happy and content among them, thinking that there is nowhere she’d rather be.
As Jeanette arrives at church, Miss Jewsbury warns her that something is about to happen, and Jeanette feels a tinge of confusion. But as she looks around during the hymn, she sees only smiles and happiness on the faces of those around her. The tension is mounting steadily in this scene, and Jeanette the writer is perhaps engaging in some of the rewriting and revision she alluded to during the brief interlude “Deuteronomy.”
After the hymn is over, the church goes very quiet, and Jeanette realizes that something is wrong. The pastor is standing at the front of the church, and Jeanette’s mother has gone up to join him. She is weeping. Melanie squeezes Jeanette’s hand, and Miss Jewsbury urges the girls to stand up and head to the front. They go together, hand in hand. When they reach the pulpit, the pastor announces to the congregation that Melanie and Jeanette have “fallen foul of their lusts” and have been brought under Satan’s spell. He proclaims them “full of demons,” and a pained cry echoes through the church.
At last, Jeanette and Melanie have been found out—and not only that, but they are now being publicly shamed in front of the members of their congregation, whom they had come to see as their family, their protectors, and their allies. Now Jeanette and Melanie are denigrated as the worst of the worst and called out as dangerous sinners in front of everyone the two of them hold dear. This seems exceptionally cruel on the part of the pastor, particularly considering how young the girls are. Note also that in this and the following sections, the pastor is not named as Spratt, Finch, or someone else, but left nameless and almost more terrifying in his anonymity.
Jeanette attempts to deny the pastor’s allegations, but the pastor singles Jeanette out as “the best become the worst.” He asks Jeanette on the spot if she loves Melanie “with a love reserved for man and wife,” and Jeanette admits that she loves Melanie. The pastor speaks about Unnatural Passion and the work of demons, and Jeanette screams that “to the pure all things are pure.”
Pastor Finch’s earlier words of warning have come true, at least in the eyes of the church. The “special” Jeanette has become the gravest sinner among all her church’s congregants, and worse than that, she insists that she is still pure—a tension that her pastor and her fellow congregants cannot get their heads around. Notably, Jeanette quotes the Bible here, showing that her religious knowledge is equal to anyone else in the church, and she can use scripture to defend herself just like her antagonists can.
The pastor then turns to Melanie and asks if she promises to give up her sin and beg for forgiveness. Melanie agrees to do so. The pastor instructs Melanie to follow Mrs. White to the vestry, and soon the elders will come pray over her and help her to truly repent. The pastor then turns back to Jeanette, but Jeanette can only say how much she loves both Melanie and the Lord both. The pastor tells Jeanette that the church will not see her suffer. He instructs her to go home and wait for the congregation to come help her.
Melanie, who perhaps does not even really love Jeanette, folds almost immediately and agrees to repent, while Jeanette insists that her love for Melanie is pure and rooted in their shared spirituality. The pastor, however, cannot understand where Jeanette is coming from, and announces his intent to bring the force of the community down upon her and make her see things his way.
Jeanette runs out into the street, where Miss Jewsbury is waiting for her. Miss Jewsbury brings Jeanette back to her house and makes coffee for the two of them. She asks Jeanette why Jeanette wasn’t more careful, and that no one would have found out if Jeanette hadn’t tried to explain things to her “mad” mother. Jeanette asks Miss Jewsbury who told her what was going on, and Miss Jewsbury answers that Elsie Norris did. Jeanette is deeply hurt, but Miss Jewsbury insists that Elsie was only trying to protect Jeanette. Miss Jewsbury gives Jeanette some brandy to drink, and Jeanette falls asleep in the living room. When she wakes up, Miss Jewsbury is sitting beside her, and begins to stroke her head and shoulders. Jeanette kisses Miss Jewsbury and soon the two are making love, though Jeanette “hates” it.
Miss Jewsbury is shown in this passage to be both a source of comfort and a predatory force. Miss Jewsbury reveals herself to be a lesbian as well, and so is able to relate to Jeanette and comfort her emotionally in a way that no one else can. However, Miss Jewsbury, as an adult, should know to be more responsible with the fragile and distraught young Jeanette. Jeanette’s hatred of the sex she and Miss Jewsbury share is contrasted against the animal desire she felt for Melanie, but Jeanette goes through with the act anyway, as she is hurt and confused almost to the point of numbness.
The next morning, Jeanette creeps home, planning to change quickly and sneak off to school before anyone notices. When she arrives at the house, however, there are voices coming from the parlor, and the church elders drag her into the room. They ask her whether she stayed the night with the “unholy” Miss Jewsbury, but Jeanette denies it, and insists she must go to school. The pastor urges her to sit down. It is 8:30 in the morning.
Jeanette is accosted by the members of her congregation, who have been waiting patiently to “save” her. It becomes clear in this passage that Miss Jewsbury’s “unholiness” is common knowledge in their community, but has never been spoken of or acted upon, as opposed to Jeanette’s fresh and much-made-of unholiness.
At ten at night, the elders finally go home after having prayed over Jeanette all day and urging Jeanette to renounce Melanie and the demon that lives inside Jeanette herself. When all the elders leave, the pastor offers Jeanette one last chance to repent, but Jeanette refuses. The pastor tells Jeanette’s mother that he will return with the elders the day after tomorrow, and instructs Jeanette’s mother not to let Jeanette out of the parlor and not to feed her until she repents. Jeanette’s mother nods and locks her in, taking the lightbulb out of the room so that Jeanette must sit in darkness.
Jeanette puts up a fight, and refuses to capitulate to her congregation’s elders as they attempt to exorcise the “demon” that has taken up residence in her. Jeanette’s punishment is solitary confinement—corporal and psychological punishment meant to cow her into submitting to the will of her congregation. Jeanette’s mother consents to the pastor’s order, prioritizing her church’s needs over her daughter’s, as she always has.
During her thirty-six hours in isolation, Jeanette thinks a lot about the “demon” within her. She wonders if the pure love she had for Melanie could really have belonged to a demon, and decides that if the church wants to get at her demon, they’ll have to get at her. She realizes that if she does let the church take away her demon, she’ll have to give up what she has found.
Jeanette still cannot understand how something so beautiful—the love and desire she and Melanie shared—could be considered evil. Jeanette becomes protective of rather than fearful of or angry at her demon, and is actually reluctant to give it up.
Just then, a voice nearby tells Jeanette that she can’t give up. An orange demon is leaning on the coffee table. The demon tells Jeanette that it wants to help her decide what it is that she wants. The demon tells Jeanette that everyone has a demon, but not everyone knows how to make use of their demons; demons are not evil, just difficult. The demon warns Jeanette that if she ignores him, she’s “quite likely to end up in two pieces or lots of pieces.” Jeanette asks her demon what will happen to her if she keeps him. The demon warns her she’ll have a difficult time. Jeanette asks the demon if it’s worth it, and the demon tells Jeanette that the decision is up to her. Then he vanishes.
The demon’s appearance is a hallucinatory product of Jeanette’s starvation and isolation, but it also represents the internal struggle she faces as she languishes alone in the parlor. Jeanette is unsure whether she should repent and forget all she has come to learn about herself over the course of her relationship with Melanie, or whether she should hang onto her demon and lose her connection to her faith but retain the knowledge of who she has become.
When the pastor and the elders return, Jeanette tells them that she is ready to repent. In truth, she really just wants to get the repentance over as quickly as possible, as she is starving. As the elders begin to pray over her, she feels the demon prickling the back of her neck. Jeanette assures the demon she’s not getting rid of him, just trying to get herself out of isolation.
Jeanette decides to keep her demon, not knowing what it will mean but too fearful to give up the love she has experienced and what she has learned about herself. She “repents” for the sake of saving face and being welcomed back into the fold, but the demon stays with her even as the church elders pray over her.
The pastor tells Jeanette that he hopes she’ll testify to her repentance the following Sunday, and Jeanette, feeling exhausted and “squashed,” agrees. She asks what has become of Melanie. Mrs. White tells Jeanette that Melanie has gone away for a while to “recover.” As soon as the elders leave, Jeanette runs to Miss Jewsbury, and asks if she knows where Melanie has gone. Miss Jewsbury invites Jeanette in, and tells Jeanette that Melanie is staying with relatives in a nearby town. Miss Jewsbury agrees to drive Jeanette to see her, and Jeanette calls her mother to tell her that she feels compelled to spend the night in church.
Jeanette has repented, but still doesn’t feel she has any closure as far as Melanie is concerned. Despite their one-sided sexual encounter, Jeanette now considers Miss Jewsbury an ally, and turns to her in a moment of need. Rather than the church women and elders who simply want to erase Jeanette’s “sin,” Miss Jewsbury wants to help Jeanette understand herself and her desires, and takes steps to ensure that Jeanette is able to see her and Melanie’s relationship through to the end.
At Melanie’s, Jeanette is turned away from the door when Melanie sees her, but Jeanette begs her to talk to her. Jeanette sneaks into Melanie’s family’s house, and promptly falls asleep upstairs. She has a dream in which she is in a great stone arena, where mutilated men and women are being emptied onto the grass. Jeanette attempts to climb a stone turret with the rest of the prisoners, and eventually finds a bookshop at the top. Inside, a woman tells Jeanette that she is in the Room of Final Disappointment in the city of Lost Chances—she has made a Fundamental Mistake in her real life, and no matter how high she climbs, she will just end up in this room.
When Jeanette reunites with Melanie, she is both emotionally and physically exhausted and falls asleep. The dream she has at Melanie’s family’s house shows her fears of being ostracized not only here and now by her community, but in the next life as well. Jeanette’s religious beliefs are still very much alive, and she fears that by keeping her demon she has condemned herself to damnation, or at least endless uncertainty, in the realm beyond.
Melanie wakes Jeanette up and tells her that she is running a temperature. Jeanette touches Melanie’s cheek, but Melanie pulls away from her. Jeanette asks Melanie what the elders did to her, but Melanie tells her that nothing happened—she repented, and the elders told her to go away for a week. Melanie tells Jeanette that the two of them can’t see each other anymore. They fall asleep crying, and make love in the middle of the night. In the morning, Miss Jewsbury sounds her car horn, and Jeanette leaves Melanie alone.
Melanie and Jeanette’s tearful goodbye demonstrates the gulf between the two girls—Melanie has taken the easy way out and wants nothing more to do with Jeanette, so frightened is she of what will happen if she does not repent, whereas Jeanette would still do anything for Melanie. Nevertheless, Jeanette accepts what must happen, and leaves Melanie to her “recovery” and her family.
When Jeanette returns home, she has come down with glandular fevers. Her mother believes the illness is evil leaving Jeanette’s body, and tells Jeanette that as soon as she has recovered she will be accepted back into the fold of the church. While Jeanette lies sick in the parlor, her mother goes through her bedroom, collecting all of her notes and letters to and from Melanie and burning them in the backyard. Jeanette, deeply hurt by this betrayal, writes that her mother “burnt a lot more than letters that night,” though she still believed that her and Jeanette’s relationship would remain unchanged. A wall has fallen, Jeanette says, and “that walls should fall is the consequence of blowing your own trumpet”—in other words, her mother has brought their impending estrangement upon herself.
Jeanette’s illness renders her weak and helpless. Rather than aiding her daughter, her mother sees the illness as punishment or as a necessary blight upon Jeanette’s health as retribution for her transgression with Melanie. Jeanette’s mother further betrays her daughter by burning her letters and mementos, effectively severing the bonds of trust that had existed between her and Jeanette. Burning Jeanette’s things shows that Jeanette’s mother does not truly forgive her daughter, and now Jeanette is unable to ever truly forgive her mother.
Jeanette descends into a lyrical meditation on her “ransacked” life, perhaps returning to the scene of the raided Harvest Banquet she alluded to earlier in the chapter. “The Forbidden City lies ransacked now,” and even a small pebble at this point could fell a once-mighty warrior. The story becomes associative and filled with children’s nursery rhymes as, presumably, Jeanette’s fever worsens and breaks. She invokes the tale of Humpty Dumpty, and the myth of the chalk circle. She wonders how a great wall and a chalk circle can be told apart. A wall protects the body, she surmises, but a circle protects the soul.
As Janette’s fever worsens, she considers the falling of walls—the wall which held her and mother’s relationship up, the wall which separated Jeanette from “sin” and knowledge—as well as the idea of the chalk circle, a mythical (or pagan) emblem of bodily protection used to encircle those in need of safety. This image will come up again later in the novel—for now, Jeanette is unable to do much of anything to protect herself, bodily or spiritually, from those around her who have shown themselves to be bigots, hypocrites, and zealots.
Jeanette’s mother wakes her up with a bowl of oranges and tells her she has been rambling in her sleep. Jeanette takes an orange and tries to peel it, but she is weak, and has trouble. She wonders why her mother never gives her grapes or bananas. She finally peels the orange and tears the fruit open, and sitting in the middle of the flesh is the orange demon, who asks Jeanette if she’s feeling any better. Jeanette tells the demon she feels like she’s going to die. The demon assures her that she’s recovering, and that now that she’s made her choice she can never go back. Jeanette protests that she hasn’t made any choice. The demon disappears.
Jeanette’s mother offers her daughter little help or medicine, but of course comes to her side with a bowl of oranges. Oranges once represented comfort, but now that the demon has shown up, he has infiltrated every part of Jeanette’s life. She cannot go back to seeing oranges as a symbol of comfort, because the demon has revealed to Jeanette the falsities and inadequacies of her “old” life. Jeanette can never go back to seeing things the way she once did, and the demon pops up to make sure Jeanette remembers not to fall back into ignorance.
By the time summer rolls around, Jeanette is her old self again. Melanie has gone away before starting university, and Jeanette is back in the fold, preparing sermons for an upcoming tent revival in the seaside town of Blackpool. No one from church has mentioned the incident, and no one seems to have noticed that Miss Jewsbury has packed up and left town. Meanwhile, Jeanette’s mother is collecting canned foods to add to her War Cupboard beneath the church, which she is stocking with nonperishables to prepare for another Holocaust, or for the End of Days. Jeanette finds herself disagreeing with her mother more and more, no longer living under the illusion that the two of them see the world the same way—Jeanette realizes now that she and her mother are “on different planets.”
Though life has outwardly returned to normal and Jeanette has been accepted back into her congregation, she now sees everything in a new light. She notices how everyone around her is ignoring what happened, and she is slightly troubled by Miss Jewsbury’s sudden disappearance. As Jeanette’s mother gathers supplies, hoarding for some future disaster, Jeanette sees what everyone was talking about all those years when they called her mother “mad.” A divide has cropped up between the two of them, and it can no longer be crossed.
The meeting the first night in Blackpool is a great success. Jeanette preaches, and after the sermon May remarks how lucky it is that Jeanette has lost none of her gifts in her ordeal. Jeanette’s mother simply replies that she “got to [Jeanette] in time,” and then goes off to bed.
Jeanette is not only back in the fold, but she is back in a position of relative power and influence in her church. Jeanette’s mother and May make snide reference to the “incident,” but everything is bubbling under the surface.
The next day, after a successful morning of passing out pamphlets on the street, the pastor gives everyone the afternoon off. May wants to go to the zoo, and Jeanette’s mother wants to go to see an exhibition nearby, but Jeanette declines both their offers and heads off on the promenade by herself. Down on the boardwalk, she finds a girl from church named Katy, who is sitting in a deck chair eating ice cream and “look[ing] like fun.” Jeanette sits down next to Katy and strikes up a conversation. She learns that Katy lives in a town just a short bus ride from Jeanette’s home. Jeanette tells Katy excitedly that they can see each other often after the beach trip, and the two exchange a meaningful glance. Jeanette “thinks it best” that she leave Katy and go inspect the gospel tent.
Jeanette is apparently back in everyone’s good graces, and is several months removed from the incident with Melanie, when another girl catches her eye—Katy. As Jeanette talks and flirts a little with Katy, she realizes what is happening, and is able to restrain herself just a bit from getting in too deep too quickly. Jeanette knows the trouble that a flirtation and a relationship with another girl got her into last time, and is hesitant to go there again, though she cannot suppress the desires she now knows are a part of her.
Months later, Christmas approaches. Jeanette’s mother is chosen to write the script for the Nativity play, and she takes to the task with great seriousness and devotion. Meanwhile, Jeanette is teaching a Bible study class of which Katy is a “lively” member. Jeanette is nervous around Katy, but notes that she hasn’t seen the orange demon in a long time, so she must be “back to normal.”
As the year goes on, Jeanette tries to deny her attraction to Katy, still longing on some level to return to “normal.” Perhaps life will not be as difficult for her as the orange demon predicted, she hopes. Meanwhile, Jeanette and her mother separately explore and thrive in the intersection of storytelling, religion, and control.
On the day of the Nativity play, Jeanette sits next to Katy in the audience, holding the cue cards for the actors. In the middle of the performance, the side door of the church opens, and a figure slips in. Jeanette squints to see who the familiar figure is, and soon realizes that Melanie has come back.
Jeanette is shocked and alarmed by Melanie’s reappearance, especially on such a special night for her and her mother. Jeanette thought things were “normal” again, but Melanie’s reappearance reminds her of the past, which, as the older Jeanette has warned, cannot be so easily erased without consequence.
After the play is over, Jeanette heads home and leaves her mother to bask in bravos at the church. Jeanette is shaken, rattled by Melanie’s sudden reappearance after having put Melanie out of her mind for so long. At nine o’ clock there is a knock on the door—it is Melanie. Jeanette lets her in, and the two of them chat for half an hour or so about Melanie’s life at university. Melanie asks Jeanette if she’d like to go for a walk someday, and Jeanette declines. Melanie then tells Jeanette that her mother will be moving away soon, and asks Jeanette if she’ll come and say goodbye. Again, Jeanette declines. Melanie puts on her gloves and kisses Jeanette goodbye; Jeanette feels nothing. After Melanie has gone, though, Jeanette falls apart, and sits with her knees tucked under her chin, begging the Lord to set her free.
As Melanie tries to reinsert herself into Jeanette’s life, Jeanette visibly balks at being reminded of the pain and actual physical torture that her relationship with Melanie brought into her world. Melanie seems to have forgotten everything and smoothed over the past, but to Jeanette, whose world was brought crashing down in the wake of the discovery of their affair, the past is full of only pain and regret. Jeanette still hopes that she can be “set free” by the Lord, in spite of the contract she has made with her orange demon.
It is a busy time, however, and so Jeanette cannot linger on her feelings for too long. The day after the Nativity play it is time to sing carols at the town hall, and a big crowd comes to watch. Jeanette spots Melanie in the crowd, but pretends not to notice when Melanie waves to her. The Salvation Army carolers arrive and set up shop nearby, and their competing carols drown out the congregation, so the church carolers disperse.
Melanie follows Jeanette everywhere—the past is inescapable. Jeanette cannot exert control over this aspect of her life, and neither can she escape the memory of her “transgression” and Melanie’s role in her suffering.
On the way to the bus stop, Jeanette feels a hand on her shoulder—it is Melanie. The two ride the bus together, and Melanie offers Jeanette an orange from her purse. As Melanie starts to peel the fruit, Jeanette tells her that she doesn’t want the orange. Melanie talks breezily while Jeanette sits frozen and panicked until it is time for her stop. That night at Bible study Jeanette is visibly upset; Katy notices and wants to help, and invites Jeanette to come stay the weekend at her house, camping out in her parents’ RV. Jeanette, who has not stayed anywhere but her own home for a long time, thinks staying out might do her some good.
In this passage, Melanie offers Jeanette an orange—a symbol of comfort and pacification. Jeanette refuses the orange, however, not wanting to accept anything from Melanie at all, especially attempts at soothing or care. As Jeanette’s pain over Melanie’s reappearance in town worsens, Katy offers a shoulder to cry on, and Jeanette, desperate for connection and comfort, accepts.
Jeanette, launching again into a fanciful story, describes a secret walled garden on the banks of the Euphrates River. The entrance is hidden, and “there is no way in for you.” Inside the garden grows every plant imaginable, and at the center of the garden is a sundial and an orange tree. “All true quests end in this garden,” but to eat the oranges that grow on the tree at the center of it is to leave the garden, “because the fruit speaks of other longings.” Jeanette writes of reluctantly leaving the garden, and saying goodbye to the place she loves, unsure if she will ever return, and knowing for certain only that she will never return the same way as she got in.
This story possibly symbolizes Jeanette’s longing. The walled garden is like a relationship, or desire; the orange at the center is fulfillment. No two relationships can be entered the same way, and once left, they can never be returned to quite the same either. Note also that Jeanette uses more Biblical imagery for this fantasy, as the garden somewhat resembles Eden, a paradise that one cannot return to once exited, with the “forbidden fruit” at its center. As Jeanette approaches a new relationship, she considers the ways she has been hurt and the reward of fulfillment that awaits her through a thick tangle of conflict, both internal and external.
At Katy’s parents’ residence, the two girls spend the night in the caravan parked outside. Katy is worried the two of them will be cold, but Jeanette writes that the two of them were never cold—not that night nor any of the nights they spent together in the years that would follow as their love affair unfolded.
Katy and Jeanette embark on a relationship together, and Jeanette chooses definitively to lean into her identity and chase the “orange” at the center of the “garden”—and to fully embrace her “demon” as well.
In church, Jeanette took care to never look at Katy while she herself was preaching, though Katy always sat in the front row and listened closely. Jeanette concedes that the two of them had a spiritual relationship, and found happiness and fulfillment in both throwing themselves into church life.
Jeanette and Katy’s relationship is different than Jeanette and Melanie’s. Both are rooted in desire and spirituality alike, but Jeanette feels that she and Katy are equals, and she knows that her love for Katy is reciprocated.
On Palm Sunday, Melanie returns to town once more, excited to announce that she is going to be married in the fall—to an army man. Jeanette doesn’t object to Melanie getting married to a man—she does not feel threatened by men, as within her church she feels powerful and safe—but objects to Melanie marrying this man in particular, whom Jeanette feels has caused Melanie to turn “serene to the point of being bovine.” When Melanie asks Jeanette what she’s been up to lately, Jeanette remains close-mouthed, not wanting to tell her anything about her new love affair with Katy. That afternoon, as Melanie’s fiancé prepares to drive her away to his parents’ house, he approaches Jeanette to tell her discreetly that he “forg[ives] them both.” Jeanette musters her strength and spits in the man’s face.
Though Jeanette has moved on, it still pains her to see Melanie reject her true identity and marry a “beast.” Jeanette’s contract with her demon prevents her from repressing herself as Melanie has, and Jeanette is disappointed to see how “easy” Melanie’s life has become at such a great cost. Jeanette feels vitriol towards Melanie’s new beau as he condescendingly informs Jeanette that she has his forgiveness. In Jeanette’s heart, she knows she and Melanie did nothing wrong, and as Melanie’s fiancé steps out of line and insults Jeanette all she can think to do is insult him right back.