Penny often tries to run away from Mrs. V’s house, not because she dislikes Mrs. V, but because she loves to run. This afternoon, she tries to run because it’s a nice fall day outside. Later, inside, Penny scribbles in a coloring book. Melody wishes she could hold a crayon in her hand. She can visualize pictures in her mind, but she can only make a squiggle. She wants to draw something for Rose. Melody thinks Rose is beautiful like a real flower, but she hasn’t noticed any thorns.
Once again, Melody is frustrated by a body that doesn’t respond to her wishes. She also thinks about Rose, a friend who she believes accepts her. However, the line about thorns keeps the reader cautious of Rose’s potential hidden dark side.
Mrs. V checks the mail and sees she’s won a contest for which the prize is taking six people on a trip to the downtown aquarium. Altogether Mrs. V and Melody’s family are only five people, so Melody asks if Rose can come too. In the weeks leading up to the trip, Rose and Melody whisper about the aquarium at school, which makes Melody feel “like a real girl.”
Melody’s friendship with Rose, and the opportunity for them to hang out outside of school like “real girls” is exciting for Melody. At this point in the book, nothing has made Melody feel more “normal” or accepted than this friendship with Rose.
On the day of the trip Melody wears a cute outfit, but Rose doesn’t notice it. Rose gets along with Melody’s whole family, and she thinks Penny is especially cute, even remarking “she’s a genius” when Penny says Rose’s name. Melody thinks this is the happiest day of her life, and even her parents are calm and relaxed.
A close friendship with someone her age is something Melody has never had before, and so it makes her feel like she imagines girls her age are supposed to feel. Ironically, Rose comments on Penny’s intelligence, while overlooking the fact that Melody might actually be a genius.
As they’re moving through the aquarium Melody and Rose run into Molly and Claire, who are on a trip with their Girl Scout troop. Rose goes over to talk to them and is reluctant to tell them that she’s hanging out with Melody. She describes the day as “not so bad,” which Melody hears. Melody’s mother wants to go over and intervene but her father holds her back. Mrs. V, however, will not be held back. She calls out Claire for her braces, explaining “some people got braces on their teeth. Some get braces on their legs,” and other people need wheelchairs. Mrs. V tells Claire she should feel lucky that only her teeth are damaged. Rose and Melody spend the rest of the day together, and when Melody’s family drops Rose off she says she’s had a good time. Melody was happy to spend the day with her, but wonders if she’s telling the truth.
Molly and Claire can’t understand why Rose would want to hang out with Melody. They see Melody not as a smart girl with a disability, but as a disabled girl who has nothing interesting to offer the world. Even though Rose’s response to Molly and Claire is not forceful and doesn’t defend Melody, she understands something Molly and Claire don’t—that Melody has an internal life, and feelings that can be hurt. Mrs. V wants to protect Melody because she cares about her, in the same way Melody’s parents care about her. At the end of the day Melody, who felt good about the outing at the beginning, wonders if Rose really enjoyed spending time with her, and if Rose really likes her and accepts her as a friend.