The Garfields have been accepted by KSF and are moving to Olivar next month. Lauren goes to Joanne’s house while she packs, and questions her about the move. At first Joanne is defensive, but she eventually admits that she is nervous and sad about leaving Harry Balter, her cousin and boyfriend. Lauren suggests that they could get married and Harry could come with them, but Joanne says Harry thinks Olivar is “a trap.” Joanne asks Lauren if she will just stay in the neighborhood, marry Curtis, and have babies, and Lauren lies, saying that she’s not sure. Lauren then begins saying that she believes that there will be many more “economic colonies” like Olivar, and Joanne accuses her of always having “a disaster up your sleeve.” However, the girls eventually apologize, hug, and admit that they will miss each other.
The conflict between Lauren and Joanne has left them each feeling both accusatory and defensive. Lauren no longer feels that she can trust Joanne enough to be honest with her, and thus lies about her plans for the future. However, despite the conflict between them, both girls remain affectionate toward one another. Just as Lauren was able to look past Keith’s immoral behavior in order to love him as her brother, so can she see that despite Joanne’s betrayal, she still loves her as an old friend.
A few days later Lauren’s father fails to come home from work. Lauren joins a search party that rides out to the college on bicycles; she brings a gun, and Marcus brings a knife. They don’t find anything, and resolve to go into the hills the next day. At first they also don’t find anything there. Then they discover a black man’s arm that has been cut off with a knife. Marcus throws up, but Lauren inspects it carefully; however, it is too difficult to determine whether it could belong to her father. Suddenly they hear a man’s voice screaming and begging. The noise eventually stops, and Lauren hopes that the man is dead and out of his misery. They go home, having found nothing.
Lauren and Marcus’s differing reactions to the discovery of the man’s arm highlight the extent of Lauren’s stoic disposition. While some characters, such as Keith, have argued that Lauren would not be able to survive in the outside world due to her hyperempathy, in actuality Lauren is far tougher than almost anyone she knows. Even when investigating a body part that may belong to her beloved father, she maintains an unfazed, clinical attitude.
Five days later there is still no sign of Lauren’s father. The adults have stopped looking, and the police could not find anything, although they did determine that the dead arm’s fingerprints did not belong to him. The search party encountered hundreds of dead bodies and even a child being eaten alive by dogs. They killed the dogs, but the child died anyway. Lauren speaks at the Sunday church service, feeling like it is her responsibility to do so. She reads Luke 18:1-8, a story about a persistent widow who is determined to bring about justice. Lauren reflects that the community survived under her father’s leadership, and they will have to keep surviving even if he is dead. Curtis’s sister begins to sing “We Shall Not Be Moved,” a civil rights anthem that began as an African-American spiritual. After, she congratulates Lauren on her sermon, telling her that her father would be proud.
Even though she is still only a child, Lauren is not permitted any time to recover from the shock or grief of losing her father. This is in part due to the harsh reality of the world in which she lives, where violence and death are an ordinary part of life. However, it is also because Lauren appears to be the natural successor to her father’s role as a leader in the community. Instead of seeking comfort from others in the wake of her father’s disappearance, she sees it as her role to provide comfort to the neighborhood. Yet rather than being a denial of her own grief, perhaps this is the best way for Lauren to process her feelings—by filling a role that would make her father proud.