After the game, Melinda can’t sleep, so she climbs out of her window onto the porch roof, comparing the stars to “fat white seed.” She notes that the slush has turned to ice, but believes that spring is coming soon; underneath the soil, she says, seeds are getting “restless” and are “[s]tarting to dream green.”
Looking up at the moon, Melinda recalls that it “looked closer back in August.” She flashes back to Kyle Rodgers’ end-of-the-summer party, a cool party for upperclassmen and cheerleaders into which Rachel had snuck Melinda and the rest of their friends by blackmailing her upperclassman older brother. She recalls the farm where the party took place, and how babyish she felt around the upperclassmen (unlike Rachel, who immediately fit in). Feeling insecure, Melinda drank three beers and wandered away from the crowd into the pine trees.
But looking at the moon makes Melinda remember the sky at the fateful party in August. Just as the earth is thawing, so too is the giant wall that Melinda has put up between herself and her traumatic memories. She recalls how young and innocent she was at the party, but for once does not judge herself. The language she uses is vivid and immediate, making obvious how deeply the memory is imprinted in her brain.
Suddenly a senior (Andy Evans) walked out of the trees, called Melinda beautiful and asked her to dance. Drunk, dizzy, and excited, she danced with him, and was unable to tell him to stop when he began groping her; when he kissed her, she found it hard to breathe, and began to fantasize about dating him, imagining how wonderful it would be to start high school with an older boyfriend to guide and protect her. She remembers him asking, “Do you want to?” but recalls that she did not say anything in reply. Melinda’s memories become more fragmented; she remembers abruptly being on the ground with Andy on top of her. Clouds covered the moon. She tried to say no and made excuses to leave, and opened her mouth “to breathe, to scream,” but he ignored her and covered her mouth with his hand and his lips. Although her head was screaming no, Melinda couldn’t make a sound as Andy undressed and raped her. Instead, she tried to imagine being back and safe at Rachel’s house as Andy hurt her, zipped up his jeans, and smiled.
From her description, it is clear that the pre-party Melinda is very different from the character we know; she is optimistic, innocent, trusting, and excited by the world around her. The description also makes obvious, however, the traumatic event that left her depressed and traumatized. In contrast to the clear narrative she told before, here her recollections become fractured and broken, as is often the case with trauma victims. In this passage, we also learn the cause of Melinda’s muteness: her inability to say no or to call out for help as Andy Evans raped her. Although she was internally protesting, Melinda was unable to speak as she was violated, a fact that is emblematic of the silence and shame characteristic of many rape victims.
Her memories still blurry, Melinda recalls dialing the phone and calling 911. Seeing her reflection in the window, she was struck dumb—her face is streaked with tears, and her lips are bruised. As she tried to talk to the operator, someone grabbed the phone from her, and screamed that the police were coming. Melinda’s memories become even hazier—she sees Rachel’s angry face, feels a slap on her face, and remembers crawling through a forest of legs.
This memory also helps to explain Melinda’s hatred of mirrors: after her rape, she saw her reflection and couldn’t even recognize herself, an experience that signifies the negative personality changes she undergoes because of her trauma. Even when speaking to the 911 operator, she is unable to say what exactly has happened to her, a pattern that continues until the present day.
Melinda recalls silently walking home to her empty house. She reminds herself that it is winter and she is on her roof. Noticing that there is blood on the snow, she realizes that she’s bitten through her lip and will need stitches, causing her mother to be late for work. She reflects that she hates winter, and wonders why anyone chooses to live in Syracuse.
Melinda’s distrust of her parents is understandable; from her point of view, they weren’t there during her time of need. Her memory is so powerful that she unintentionally hurts herself, her physical pain mirroring the pain of recollecting her trauma.