One afternoon, Bela takes her daughter Meghna to the beachy cove where Subhash first taught her to swim; on the way back, she notices a stand selling corn, and stops her car. No one is manning the stand, and there is an honor system in place—a price list, and a coffee can with a slit in the lid. Bela wonders who would be so trusting and begins visiting the stand once a week.
The vegetable stand Bela encounters makes her consider her duty to others and is also a symbol of presence in absence—though no one is manning the stand, someone has set it up.
One Saturday, a man is there, running the stand. He has some lambs with him in a crate. Bela begins talking with him, and they find that they were both born in Rhode Island and had attended high schools near one another. The man introduces himself to Bela—and Meghna—as Drew. Throughout the week, Meghna asks about Drew and his animals, and each time Meghna and Bela visit the stand she plays with the lambs, chicks, puppies, and kittens Drew brings while Bela and Drew talk. Drew gives Bela free produce and explains that he lives on and works his family’s farm with the help of some people from the community. One afternoon, Drew offers to give Bela and Meghna a tour of the farm and drives them over.
Drew is much like Bela—socially-conscious, tender, and interested in cultivating things from the earth. Though Bela is aloof and holds herself at a distance from others, she finds herself drawn to Drew—and the fact that Meghna likes him, and asks about him frequently, gives her a kind of permission to pursue a connection with him.
Bela and Drew begin seeing each other. Bela helps him with his farm stand, and Drew begins making small toys for Bela. The two grow closer, and soon Bela introduces Drew to Subhash and Elise, but Bela is still not fully honest with Drew—she tells him that her mother is dead. This is what she always tells people when they ask. Bela has repeated the lie so many times that she has begun to believe it herself.
Bela grows closer to Drew, but also keeps him at arm’s length by lying to him about her mother and keeping secrets about the truth of her life.
Drew wants to escalate his relationship with Bela—he wants her to begin spending nights at his house, so that they can wake up together in the mornings. Bela insists she has Meghna to think of and does not want to take such a step casually. At the end of the summer, Drew tells Bela that he is in love with her, and that he wants to be a father to Meghna. Bela at last tells Drew the truth about her mother and explains that Gauri’s abandonment is the reason she has never stayed with just one person or in just one place. She tells Drew, too, about Udayan, and the truth of her parentage. Drew listens intently and promises Bela that he isn’t going anywhere.
Bela is caught between her desire for Drew and her sense of duty to Meghna, and fears that she will not be able to reconcile the two. A poor example of how to handle the impulses of duty and desire has been set, after all, by Gauri, and (unbeknownst to Bela) Subhash, too. As Bela finally confesses the truth about her mother to Drew, though, she begins to heal, and becomes the first person in her family to consciously, responsibly negotiate duty and desire.