The book again flashes back to Rachel and Beth’s childhoods. At Halloween, their mother has carefully made costumes for all four of her children, but five-year-old Beth refuses to wear her witch costume because it’s a dress. She puts up a fight, and her mother just barely manages to get the dress on her. For the most part, Rachel and Beth are best friends as children—they’re only 11 months apart, and they always play together.
Beth’s refusal to wear the witch costume shows how, despite her disability, she has always been fiercely independent and insisted on making her own decisions. Similarly, Beth’s close relationship with Rachel shows that when she was little, her disability didn’t define her or prevent her from having an ordinary childhood.
But there are also scary times with Beth. Once, Beth accidentally poisons herself by drinking oil paint, and she has to go to the hospital. One day, as a baby, Beth suddenly stops breathing. Her mother, who is chronically depressed, panics—she’s unsure what to do. She ultimately calls the doctor and saves Beth’s life by sticking a spoon down her throat.
On the other hand, these crises show that Beth’s disability did create significant challenges for her parents, who have always been particularly worried about her safety. This foreshadows their concerns about her bus-riding lifestyle when she grows up—and particularly how difficult it was for them when she decided to go out and live on her own.