April watches Frank leave, waving and smiling goodbye to him. She goes back in the kitchen and is still smiling when she sees the diagram he drew on the table. She begins to cry, but steadies herself as she washes the dishes. She calls Milly and asks her to keep the kids, saying she still doesn’t feel well. April tells Milly that Frank may come pick them up later, but that they should keep it open-ended, and says to kiss the kids for her and tell them she loves them. After she gets off the phone, April tries to smoke a cigarette to steady herself, then vomits. She remembers her Aunt Claire telling her never to do anything until she had “thought it through” and then to do her best.
This is the first time in the novel that April’s perspective is given, even though she is one of its central characters. The novel may only include April’s perspective near its end to emphasize that April is no longer letting Frank’s thoughts about her define her. April is not as calm and collected as she seemed to Frank, but she is trying to regain her composure so that she can do something. She thinks back on the advice of the woman who raised her, but whom she had told Frank she never loved.
April goes to the wastebasket and takes out crumpled letters she tried to write Frank the night before. They are full of blame and hate. She had tried to write until five in the morning, then had given up and taken a long hot bath. Coming into their bedroom to get dressed, she had seen Frank lying on the bed, looking ill. She felt shocked to realize that not only did she not love him, she also didn’t hate him. She soothed him and told him to sleep, then she “thought it through. “
At first April felt full of blame and hatred towards Frank, but then she regained a senseof her own separateness from him. Instead of hating him, she sees him as pitiable in his dependence on her to make him feel better, so she tries to soothe him. This does not, however, reawaken feelings of love for him in her.
April feels that it was not dishonest or wrong to treat Frank kindly this morning—the thing she had done wrong was long before, when she had taken Frank seriously. She had let herself go down a path that led her to where she is now, saying the opposite of what she means. She feels she has been living her life the way the Laurel Players act, or Steve Kovick drums: “earnest and sloppy and full of pretension and all wrong.” April straightens the desk, makes Frank’s bed, then brings the wastebasket of letters outside to burn them. She can hear children’s voices mixed in with the birdsong, but cannot discern Jennifer and Michael’s voices.
April feels she has not been true to herself throughout her marriage. She thinks she never should have taken Frank seriously and tried to change herself and what she thought to suit his needs. She sees her life as being lived like a poorly executed performance that no one with good taste would want to see. Although she tries to hear her children’s voices, Jennifer and Michael hardly enter her thoughts about the course her life has taken.
April plunges into a memory from her childhood. She is trying to tell the neighborhood children about the beautiful gifts April’s mother brought her during a visit. Her friend Margie Rothenberg will not listen and asks why April’s mother only stayed for two days instead of a week, as April had said she would. April invites Margie over, but Margie says she must go home to listen to Don Winslow. April hears her Aunt Claire call to her. Aunt Claire says that April’s father is on his way up to Boston and will stop to visit her in fifteen minutes. April dresses in a frenzy, peppering her aunt with questions about how long her father will stay.
Don Winslow of the Navy (a radio show mentioned by John Givings earlier in the novel) was a radio show that aired between 1937 and 1939, so this memory occurs when April is around 13. By mentioning this detail, the novel hints that this visit may have been the last time April saw her father, who killed himself in Boston in 1938. April gets little attention from her friend, feeling left out and odd because her parents do not live with her.
April watches for her father’s car. As he gets out of the car, she admires his tall figure, then runs to hug him, taking in his smell and voice. He tells her how much she has grown. She tries to take in every detail about him and laughs at the jokes he tells Aunt Claire, even though she doesn’t understand them. After a short visit, her father gets up to leave. April gets upset, saying he has only stayed for an hour and didn’t even bring her a present. Her father brings her out to his car and looks through his belongings to find a present for her. He finds a bottle of White Horse whisky and cuts a tiny charm in the shape of a white horse from the neck of the bottle. He gives it to her, saying she can keep it forever.
Earlier in the novel, Frank mentioned this white horse charm as one of April’s worthless souvenirs of her parents. April feels desperate to take in and hold onto as much of her father as she can. She feels completely captivated by his physical presence and personality. This moment in her early adolescence defines for her what a man should be like—and, if this is truly the last time April ever sees her father, it makes sense she remembers everything vividly about this day.
Back in the present, April has finished burning the letters. She goes back inside, where she can no longer hear the children’s voices. She writes Frank a simple letter. It reads, “Dear Frank, Whatever happens please don’t blame yourself.” She almost signs it “Love, April” but stops herself and just writes “April.” In the kitchen, she fills a large stewing pot with water and sets it to boil. She puts tongs and the two parts of the rubber syringe into the boiling water. She then puts a pile of towels in the bathroom, writes the phone number for the hospital down, and props it up next to the telephone. April watches the syringe move in the boiling water, waiting to turn off the heat and let it cool. In her head, she again hears her Aunt Claire warning her to think it through, but she feels sure that she needs no further advice. She thinks that all truly honest actions must be taken alone.
April prepares to give herself an abortion, knowing that, this late in her pregnancy, the procedure could be fatal. Perhaps she thinks back on the last time she saw her father before his death because she knows she too may die. Her last act is to tell Frank not to blame himself. April believes that it is not Frank’s fault her life has turned out this way, but her own fault for ever allowing him to convince her to live in a way she didn’t want to. She feels confident that she is being true to herself at last by attempting to give herself an abortion. She thinks she has been dishonest to herself in making decisions with Frank, and she is determined to regain her independence.