Lauren’s father’s funeral takes place even though his family still doesn’t know what happened to him. However, they are sure he must be dead, because otherwise he would find a way to come home. Lauren writes that this uncertainty makes it worse than Keith’s death. She tells herself that her father must be dead—“that’s that.” Two days later, an armed truck comes to collect the Garfields and take them to Olivar. Some of the children in the neighborhood have never seen a working truck. One of the KSF workers is black, and Cory talks to him about Olivar. Without Reverend Olamina’s salary it is clear that the family must do something, but Lauren feels there is no way they will be accepted to go and live in Olivar.
In multiple ways, this is a moment of irrecoverable loss for the community. Not only has Lauren’s father presumably died, but the Garfields are also leaving, likely never to be seen again. The fact that Cory remains invested in the idea of moving to Olivar emphasizes how different her vision of the future is to that of Lauren. Without Lauren’s father to bind them together, will the family continue to function as a unit in the future?
After the Garfields leave, Lauren and Curtis have sex and discuss their future. Curtis suggests that they get married and leave the neighborhood together. They realize that they have both privately been thinking about going north without telling each other. Lauren feels excited about this, but guilty about the prospect of leaving Cory and her brothers. She admits that she hadn’t mentioned her plan to leave because she knew it would be too dangerous to ask anyone to accompany her. Curtis asks Lauren to marry him now, but she refuses. She knows she needs to tell him about Earthseed eventually. She promises him that after her family is “back on its feet” they can get married and leave.
Although Lauren has been acting like an adult for a number of years, this passage highlights the fact that she is now truly on the precipice of adulthood. A future traveling north with Curtis would mean leading an independent life and perhaps starting a family of her own, while also leaving her birth family in the neighborhood (or, perhaps, in Olivar). However, although she and Curtis are very close, Lauren has thus far hidden the most important aspects of her life and thoughts from him.
A few days later, someone sets fire to the Payne-Parrish house. While neighborhood residents try to put the fire out, three more houses are robbed, including Lauren’s house. Lauren says that people set fires because it helps them commit theft, because they are desperate, and also because of the increasing popularity of pyro, the drug that makes watching fire “a better, more intense, longer-lasting high than sex.” Lauren is woken up by an alarm at 2 am; she runs outside to find the Payne-Parrish house burning. Someone has called the fire department, but all the Paynes are missing. Just as the fire is dying down, the alarm goes off again, and Harry Balter’s mother starts screaming that there are intruders robbing the houses.
Either the neighborhood has become less secure, or the world outside is getting more violent (or both)—regardless, it seems likely that Lauren’s community will not be able to hold out much longer. Note the timing of when Lauren mentions the fact that pyro makes starting fires better than sex—this takes place soon after she and Curtis have sex, and is thus a reminder that even as they dream of creating a better life for themselves (and perhaps even having a family), people around them are hell-bent on total destruction, and even find joy in it.
Fortunately, the community manages to scare the thieves away, and Lauren is relieved to find they didn’t discover all of the money hidden in her house. However, they have taken Cory’s sewing machine, which will cause difficulty for the family. Curtis comes to the window and says that the burnt bodies of the Payne family were found inside the house. Even though Lauren doesn’t like Wardell (who survived), she feels sorry for him, as he is lost his house and his whole family.
After this series of tragic events befalls the neighborhood, Lauren and Cory must try to adapt yet again and keep going with their lives.
A few days later, Lauren writes that Cory has pleaded her way into taking over part of Lauren’s father’s job at the college. This means that Cory will have to go outside, and she has already started recruiting men to escort her. Lauren, meanwhile, will take over the neighborhood school. Wardell stays at the Olaminas’ for a week, behaving nonsensically and refusing to eat anything. Eventually, he demands to go home, saying: “I hate it here; everyone’s dead!” Lauren suspects that Wardell will not live long himself.
In the end, it is Wardell who—in his state of shock and grief—actually speaks the truth of what has taken place and how he feels about it. Lauren interprets Wardell’s words as indicating that he will not live long either, which in turn suggests that the only way to survive the total loss and devastation that the characters are forced to deal with is to block it out of one’s mind.