Melinda has a difficult day after being lectured by Hairwoman over her missing homework (the teacher even threatens to meet with her parents), and then failing to find study hall in the library. After Melinda almost cries, a kind librarian writes her a late pass. As a thank you for the librarian’s kindness, she checks out a stack of books, and adds that she “might even read one.” Melinda then evades Mr. Neck (also after missing homework), and stumbles upon an old janitor’s closet in the Senior’s Wing (where freshmen never go).
Melinda thinks of figures of authority as obstacles to be avoided rather than people who can help her. This is part of the reason that she has remained silent: she believes that no one, least of all an adult, can understand her pain. Her discovery of the closet, meanwhile, is an important moment in the book. While she has been emotionally isolated in the past, she now finds a way to physically isolate herself.
Noting the closet’s bad smell, stained armchair, desk, and “cracked mirror,” Melinda realizes that it is abandoned, and decides to turn it into her “burrow.” She briefly describes the new lounge where the janitors spend their time, and how they stare and whistle at passing high school girls. She steals a pad of late passes from Hairwoman so that she can use them to cut class while hiding in the closet.
Like a wounded animal, Melinda intends to “burrow”—to create a safe space for herself in order to hide from those who wish to hurt her. This safe space is a double-edged sword; while it protects Melinda from peers and authority figures, it also allows her to completely disengage from those around her.