Addressing the reader, Lily says that women are expected to love their children immediately, but everyone feels disappointed holding a daughter, or a son who won't stop crying. She says that women are also expected to love their husbands as soon as the contract is made, even though they won't meet for years. Most love that women experience, Lily says, comes from duty or respect, but a laotong relationship is made by choice. Lily says she felt something special when she first met Snow Flower, and knows she must tend to their love like a farmer tends to a crop to make it grow.
Lily continues to mention the cultural concept that women and daughters are useless, citing that it's expected for a mother to love a daughter but still feel disappointment. This idea is then extended to the other people that a woman must "love" throughout her life. Lily sees that she's required to love Snow Flower, but seems to believe that Snow Flower isn't required to love her back. Rather, Lily feels that she has to work to receive her love.
Lily writes and embroiders notes to Snow Flower, passed through Madame Wang. While Lily writes "little-girl things," Snow Flower responds with messages of birds, flight, and escape. This is both frightening and exhilarating to Lily, and she wants to soar with Snow Flower. One day Madame Wang brings the fan, and Lily opens it to read a request from Snow Flower to come visit Lily's family again.
Snow Flower's fixation on birds and escape tests Lily's understanding of what a woman's life is supposed to be. Lily finds the idea of escape and movement exciting, even while she knows that neither of those things is truly possible for her because she's a woman.
When Snow Flower arrives, Lily is waiting by the lattice window in the women's chamber. Mama carries Snow Flower upstairs and puts her down, and immediately she and Lily begin talking. Snow Flower doesn't speak of flying away; rather, she acts like a normal little girl interested in normal things. Snow Flower begins to teach Lily things from The Women's Classic (a guide for women's behavior), and asks Lily to teach her about chores like hauling water and making sticky rice cakes. Lily can't believe that Snow Flower doesn't know to perform these normal chores, but everyone in the women's chamber laughs as Lily acts out hauling water and making pig feed.
The reader is reminded that the girls are still hobbled for the most part—Mama has to carry Snow Flower up the stairs. Lily attributes Snow Flower's lack of knowledge about these chores to Snow Flower's upper-class situation, but it also begins to raise questions about what's actually going on with Snow Flower and her family.
Snow Flower charms Lily's entire family and can even make Baba and Uncle laugh during dinner. Lily says her family treats Snow Flower like an escaped bird among chickens, but everyone is amused at the situation. That night, Snow Flower suggests that she and Lily wash their faces in the washbowl at the same time, and Lily knows that Snow Flower loves her.
Lily even compares Snow Flower to a bird here, as the symbol of birds turns into a symbol for Snow Flower herself. In this situation, Snow Flower is essentially escaping her own family when she comes to stay with Lily, which foreshadows future instances of similar "escape."