Early that morning, the sleeping Salmon family is awakened by police sirens down the street. Abigail instructs Lindsey to go wake Jack, who she assumes has fallen asleep in his study, but Lindsey finds that her father is missing. Abigail knows suddenly that Jack has gone off after Harvey and gotten himself into trouble, and speaks derisively of his foolishness. Lindsey insists they go out and find him, but Abigail refuses to let her. Soon, a call comes in, alerting Abigail that Jack has been beaten with his own baseball bat and is in the hospital, having surgery on his knee. Abigail leaves Lindsey and Buckley alone in the house to go to her husband’s side.
Abigail sees that her husband is struggling, and knows as soon as she realizes he is not in the house that he is in trouble—perhaps even danger. Rather than helping him, however, or allowing anyone else who cares about him to help him, she chooses to isolate herself in the house. It is a very dark and obsessive spiral her husband has fallen into, and by allowing him to fall deeper into it, Abigail is, in her own way, punishing him.
Lindsey calls Buckley’s friend’s Nate’s mother, who comes to take Buckley. She then calls Samuel, who sends his brother Hal to pick Lindsey up on his motorcycle and bring her to the hospital. When Lindsey walks into Jack’s room at the hospital, Abigail is not there. Lindsey, crying, comforts her sleeping father, and sings him a song that he used to sing to her and Susie at bedtime.
Lindsey is becoming more and more understanding of what her father is going through, and in the wake of this incident it is revealed that her allegiance lies with him rather than with the distant, aloof, and angry Abigail.
Susie backtracks in time to the moment Abigail got to the hospital. Upon arrival, Abigail finds her husband still in surgery, and immediately puts a call through to the police, requesting Len Fenerman join her at the hospital. Abigail paces near the nurse’s station, wearing only a thin nightgown beneath her raincoat. As Len comes down the hallway, Abigail feels a rush of relief. He approaches her, and they touch hands, then retreat to the visitors’ area to talk. Abigail explains what has happened—Jack followed Clarissa, thinking she was George Harvey. As Abigail and Len enter the visitors’ area, she spots Hal Heckler sitting there, and recognizes him as Samuel’s brother. Though Len wants to sit down, Abigail insists they go outside for a cigarette.
Since her daughter’s murder, Abigail has been unable to find answers or comfort in the words, actions, or arms of her husband. They are both too consumed by grief to be any good to one another, but rather than attempting to bridge the gap widening between them, they remain isolated in their pain. At the same time, Len has been a source of answers and reassurance—even if all he has to relay is bad news and falsely comforting platitudes. It makes sense that in a time of need, Len is now the first person Abigail seeks out.
Out on a small concrete balcony, Len and Abigail smoke together. Abigail asks Len how his wife died, and he tells her that she committed suicide. As Susie watches her mother and Len converse, she sees her as the version of her mother from the photograph—the version of her mother who had never had Susie, Lindsey, and Buckley. Abigail asks Len why his wife killed herself, and he tells her that though he does not know, it is the question that most often runs through his brain when he is not thinking of her daughter’s murder. Abigail asks him to say the words again—no one, she says, ever says the word murder, and she is grateful for Len’s honest words. Abigail then takes Len’s face in her hands and asks him to say the words again. He does, and then Abigail leans over and kisses him on the mouth.
Len and Abigail are both aloof figures, torn apart by grief. Abigail knows that because her child has died, she will never escape the pitying gaze of anyone who learns what has happened to her, but with Len, they share the bond of being on equal footing in this way. This is perhaps a large part of Abigail’s attraction to him, and the reason why she throws caution to the wind and begins an affair with him. She wants to be seen as something other than just a bereaved mother—her grief and Len’s cancel each other’s out, in a way, leaving room for the people they once were, and the people they long to be.
Susie remembers, when she was alive, seeing the effect Abigail had on men. She recalls that on Thursdays, her father would come home early, and he and Abigail would have “Mommy and Daddy time:” on Thursday afternoons, Lindsey and Susie were told to stay quiet on the opposite side of the house. Susie recalls how one afternoon, when tucking her in for a nap before Mommy and Daddy time, her mother told her the story of Persephone and Demeter. Later, Susie was woken from her nap by the muffled sounds of her parents’ lovemaking, but the gentle sounds of their laughter and moaning “usher[ed] her back under into sleep.”
Most parents go to great lengths to hide the sexual aspect of their relationship from their children. Abigail did this to a certain extent, but nevertheless Susie and Lindsey were on some level aware of their parents’ passion and desire for one another—and the fact that this desire was prioritized and given space rather than shoved away.
Susie remembers how, when her mother realized that she was pregnant with Buckley, she sealed the more mysterious parts of herself off. Susie realizes, watching her mother and Len embrace one another, that her mother has been “bottled up for years behind that wall,” and the needy part of her has grown, rather than shrunk. Len pulls away from Abigail, and asks her to think of her husband and consider what she’s doing, but Abigail only takes Len’s hand and places it on her breast. Susie realizes that Abigail needs Len “to drive the dead daughter out.” As Abigail and Len resume kissing, Susie watches her mother “h[o]ld o to him as if on the other side of his kiss there could be a new life.”
Susie’s mother, who had struggled so hard to cling to the parts of herself that were not solely based in motherhood, was surprised by a third pregnancy and became somewhat resigned to the idea that she would never be able to truly escape her role as a mother. This resentful part of Abigail has festered and grown, and now, in a moment of grief, need, anger, and confusion, it spills over in a dangerous way.
Hal Heckler, still in the visitor’s area, watches Abigail and Len—hair and clothes mussed—walk back down the hall toward Jack’s room. Farther down the hall, Hal stops Abigail just before she goes into Jack’s room, letting her know that Lindsey is in there. He lets her know that he brought Lindsey over, and that Buckley is safe with a neighbor. Hal asks Abigail if she’s okay, and she says that she is, though she still feels as if she is “climbing back to the surface” after her encounter with Len. Abigail enters the room, and sees Lindsey asleep in a chair next to Jack’s bed. Susie watches from heaven, resolving not to “divide [her] family in [her] heart,” though they are clearly divided on earth.
Hal Heckler seems to recognize what is going on between Abigail and Len. Rather than cast judgment or call Abigail out, he attempts to help her, actually, by letting her know what’s waiting for her in the hospital room and giving her another extra moment to return to herself after the heat and distraction of her encounter with Len. Susie, like Hal, decides not to cast judgment on any of the people she loves—she knows that they are all just human, and are all doing their best in a terrible situation.
Susie watches the air above the hospital, which is “thick” with souls departing earth. Holly and Susie think that these deaths seem “choreographed from far away,” and wonder if there is a heaven even larger and more all-encompassing than theirs. Franny joins them, and confesses that watching souls clamor to depart the Earth is her “secret pleasure.” The souls of the dead are like snowflakes, she says: “none of them the same and yet each one, from where we stand, exactly like the one before.”
The world of the dead and the world of the living are again revealed to be closer and more frequently overlapped than one might ordinarily believe. Susie, Franny, and Holly marvel at the unique yet similar natures of all human souls.