Jeanette discusses Mrs. Winterson with her friend Beeban Kidron, who directed the TV adaptation of Oranges. Beeban wonders what Jeanette would have been without Mrs. Winterson. Jeanette believes she would always have lived a larger-than-life existence, and describes a vision of her life in which she is on her “second or third husband, with a Range Rover [and] a boob job and kids [who aren’t] speaking to [her.]” Her whole life has been an exercise in refusing to take no for an answer, and Jeanette believes she would have been this way with or without Mrs. Winterson. She believes there is an “inevitability” to who she is.
Jeanette’s fantasies of alternate versions of her life in which she is more repressed and more “normal” amuse her—she feels that there is an inevitability to who she is at her core, and she believes that where she grew up and how would not have been able to change her desire for a big, bold existence.
Ruth Rendell calls Jeanette, and tells her to “go [meet Ann] and get it over with.” Jeanette, who trusts Ruth and always listens to her, agrees. She takes a train to Manchester. She stays in a hotel where she last stayed on the night before Mr. Winterson’s funeral.
Jeanette experiences the intersection of the stories of her past, present, and future as she returns to the place where she was born.
On the way to Ann’s, Jeanette speaks to Susie on the phone. She is nervous as she travels through the outskirts of Manchester, which have been “slum-cleared” to reflect the population’s “changing fortunes.” As she exits the cab and approaches Ann’s house, she is frightened and feels “physically sick.” A man opens the front door—Jeanette knows him to be her half-brother, Gary. Ann appears at the door, apologizing for not having finished the washing-up before Jeanette arrived. Jeanette thinks that this is “just what [she] would say [her]self.”
Jeanette is intensely nervous to meet her birth mother, and distracts herself with observations on the changing landscape. She is relieved, however, when she finally arrives at Ann’s house, to see herself already reflected in Ann’s first words to her. This is a kind of homecoming for Jeanette, albeit a very late and very strange one.
Ann knows about Jeanette’s life already, she says. Jeanette sent Ann a DVD copy of Oranges, the story of which distressed Ann. She apologizes to Jeanette for having left her, and assures her that she didn’t want to at all. Jeanette, however, does not blame Ann—Mrs. Winterson gave Jeanette a “dark gift but not a useless one.”
Jeanette is grateful to Ann for taking an interest in the story of her life, as well as for her apologies—but assures Ann, and herself, that they are not needed. Jeanette’s life with Mrs. Winterson proved useful in ways that she never could have seen while she was in the depths of her childhood misery.
Ann is “straightforward and kind,” and this baffles Jeanette, who believes “a female parent is meant to be labyrinth-like and vengeful.” When Jeanette reveals that she is a lesbian, both Ann and Gary are accepting. Jeanette flashes back to a memory of Mrs. Winterson, in which Jeanette tries to tell her that she is in love—she is already living away from home, and will soon be going off to Oxford. She confesses that she loves women and always will, and a varicose vein in Mrs. Winterson’s leg bursts, splattering blood all over the ceiling of the living room. Jeanette wonders what her life would have been like if Mrs. and Mr. Winterson had been accepting of her.
Jeanette is unsure of how to react in the face of kindness and acceptance, and the patterns she falls into with her partners—the patterns of feeling she does not deserve to love or be loved—reemerge here as she meets with Ann and her family. She tells a comic and macabre story about Mrs. Winterson in order to contrast the madness of the Winterson-world with the serenity and peace of the new story of her life.
Ann asks Jeanette if Mrs. Winterson had been a “latent lesbian,” and Jeanette nearly chokes on her tea. Ann herself has had four husbands, a fact which she reveals to Jeanette with a smile—Jeanette notes that Ann “doesn’t judge herself and doesn’t judge others.” Ann describes her relationship with Jeanette’s biological father, and Jeanette notes that she and Ann are both optimistic and self-reliant.
As Jeanette begins to feel even more calm, welcome, and free of judgment in Ann’s household, she and Ann open up to one another. She sees herself in her birth mother, and revels in the details of Ann’s life story.
After five hours, Jeanette decides to go. Though her new family has proven easy to talk to, she is exhausted. Ann embraces her and tells her how grateful she is that Jeanette has found her. Jeanette “can’t think straight [and is unable] to say what [she] want[s] to say,” and returns to London in a daze. When she arrives home, there is a text from Ann on her phone: “I hope you weren’t disappointed,” it says.
Jeanette is overwhelmed, and when it is time to go, she has difficulty accessing or expressing her feelings. The idea that Ann was worried she would be a disappointment to Jeanette—Jeanette who, due to her status as a constant disappointment to Mrs. Winterson, always worries about being a disappointment to others—comforts her and bonds the two of them even further.