Aubrey moves out and refuses to talk to Luke or Nadia. During this time, Nadia stays in California, continuing take care of her father and driving the Mothers to Upper Room. She thinks about leaving, but can’t bring herself to abandon her father again, at least “not yet.” In church one day, Mrs. Sheppard pulls her aside and asks if she’s heard from Aubrey, since Aubrey won’t tell her mother-in-law what happened. “She’s pregnant, you know,” she says, and Nadia’s breath snags in her chest. Going back to the service, Nadia sits next to her father as the choir sings, and he asks if she wants him to pray with her. “He lived in prayers and sermons,” Bennett says, “in scriptures she didn’t understand, and even though it had always made her feel so far from him, she nodded. She closed her eyes and bowed her head.”
Nadia has a visceral reaction to the news that Aubrey is pregnant. After Nadia has spent so much time hiding the fact that Luke got her pregnant, it is now Aubrey, her best friend, carrying his child, and Aubrey’s pregnancy will certainly become public knowledge. Reeling from this, Nadia turns to her father, but her father is characteristically immersed in religion. When Bennett says that religion normally makes Nadia “feel” “far from” her father, Bennett acknowledges that spirituality essentially isolates Nadia from people who might otherwise care for her. This time, however, Nadia simply decides to go along with Robert’s piety, suggesting that she so badly needs support that she’s willing to seek refuge in the very thing that has estranged her from her father and community.
Aubrey has been living at her sister’s house and refusing visitors. However, she’s spoken to Luke on the phone, giving him updates on her pregnancy. One day, Aubrey goes back to their house to pick up her mail and wanders into the room they’d planned to use as a nursery. Luke opens the door, and when he sees Aubrey, he stops and says, “Wow,” letting his eyes move over her pregnant body for the first time. She then tells him that her sister’s house is too small to raise a baby in, insinuating that she wants to move back, though she adds that she needs to think about the decision. He accepts this, and as she leaves, she grabs a stack of letters from Nadia. At the top of the pile, the words Please forgive me are written in “smudged blue ink.”
On the verge of motherhood, Aubrey is careful about the decisions she makes. This is why she doesn’t immediately let Luke back into her life: she needs time to think about moving back in with him and decide if she can trust him. This careful thinking seems to be the mark of a good caretaker. It’s not that Aubrey necessarily wants to punish her husband, but that she wants to make sure she’s making the right choice by coming back to him.
Luke visits Nadia’s house one day while her father is out walking. Luke tells her that Aubrey has taken her letters, and “For the first time in months,” Nadia’s “chest [feels] lighter.” Her mood lifting, she congratulates Luke, saying she heard he’ll soon be a father. “It don’t feel real yet,” he says. Changing the subject, he says: “Can you talk to Aubrey?” He suggests that Aubrey might listen to Nadia now, after having taken her letters. “You can tell her what happened,” he says, “how you were sad about your dad and how shit got complicated because of everything that happened before—” At this point, Nadia interrupts, saying, “You want me to take the blame.” Luke denies this interpretation, but Nadia is adamant that this is exactly what he’s asking her to do. “I want to see my daughter,” he responds. “I want to know her.”
When Luke asks Nadia to talk to Aubrey, he implores her to take the full brunt of his own shame. He reveals his expectation that Nadia take the fall for their mutual misbehavior by casting herself as a promiscuous woman who needed to steal her best friend’s husband because she was “sad.” The fact that he tries to place his own feelings of remorse and shame onto Nadia recalls Bennett’s previous notion that Luke “bur[ies] his guilt” in Nadia—something she’s recently decided to put an end to.
After Luke says he wants to “know” his daughter, Nadia realizes that “she could do this for him, take the fall.” She could tell Aubrey that she seduced Luke, that she “ensnared a good man who was only trying to help her care for her sick father.” However, she doubts Aubrey would actually believe this lie, asking herself whether “any woman” would believe such a thing. “I hope she forgives you,” she says to Luke. “I hope you’re there for her. You were never there for me. You left me in that clinic. I had to handle everything on my own.” Luke tries to interrupt, but Nadia pushes on, saying, “I’m sorry. But I’m not lying for you. I’m not lying to her anymore.”
In the process of telling Luke that she won’t lie for him, Nadia emphasizes the ways in which he has failed to care for her when she’s needed him most, referencing how he abandoned her after she got an abortion. “I had to handle everything on my own,” she says, destroying any delusions that he has helped her in any way whatsoever. She also makes it clear that she won’t allow him to “bury his guilt” in her anymore, refusing to internalize the turmoil he brings to their relationship and tries to impose upon her.
Once Nadia tells Luke that she won’t lie for him, he quickly leaves. On his way out, he passes Nadia’s father, who has returned from his walk and heard the tail-end of this conversation. Having heard them arguing about a clinic, he goes into Nadia’s room later that night and searches through her drawers, looking for any kind of sign that this “clinic” isn’t the abortion clinic downtown. By the time Nadia finds her father sitting in her room, he’s already holding the golden pair of baby feet in his hands.
At this point in The Mothers, almost all of the secrets Bennett’s characters have been amassing are exposed in full. Indeed, the novel’s momentum picks up as Robert discovers the golden baby feet medallion, and as the novel builds toward a conclusion, there remains only one secret: why Elise Turner killed herself.