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Cat's Eye

Cat's Eye Summary


Here you will find a Cat's Eye summary (Margaret Atwood's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

Cat's Eye Summary Overview

Renowned artist Elaine Risley revisits her childhood city of Toronto for an art show, prompting her to reminisce about her past. As a child, her family had to move frequently due to her father's work as an entomologist. Upon settling in Toronto when she's eight, Elaine grapples with the complexities of female friendships and the unspoken rules of girlhood. She befriends three girls: Carol, Grace, and Cordelia, who eventually becomes a tormentor rather than a friend. The bullying intensifies when Cordelia throws Elaine's hat into a ravine, causing Elaine to nearly freeze in the icy river while retrieving it. A hallucination of the Virgin Mary helps her gather the will to leave the ravine and, upon returning to school, she dismisses Cordelia's provocations, making new friends, and suppressing those traumatic memories. Elaine and Cordelia go to the same high school where Elaine flourishes and Cordelia falters. Elaine becomes an achiever with a mean streak, shunning Cordelia who leaves school for failing too many subjects. Elaine pursues her passion for art, taking classes while in university, and starts relationships with her teacher and classmate, Jon. When Cordelia reappears, seeming more stable and successful, Elaine feels a pang of envy and decides to cut Cordelia off for good. Elaine later chooses Jon, marries him after getting pregnant, and continues to paint. She connects with a group of women artists who showcase her work, inadvertently kickstarting her career. Cordelia's suicide attempt and plea for help falls on deaf ears as Elaine focuses on her deteriorating relationship, resulting in her moving to Vancouver and marrying Ben. In present times, Elaine roams Toronto, feeling displaced by its transformation. Her art exhibition brings forth old emotions, especially her resentment towards Cordelia who doesn't show up at the event. The disappointment leads Elaine to revisit the ravine from her childhood, where she imagines seeing a young Cordelia. She acknowledges their shared feelings of fear and loneliness, offering her childhood tormentor the same advice she received years ago - to go home. Her journey ends with a beautiful moment of witnessing elderly women playing cards during her flight, making Elaine miss an old age she would never experience with Cordelia.

chapter 1

Stephen, Elaine's sibling, had mentioned the theoretical possibility of time travel to her, comparing time to a dimension, like space. Elaine visualizes time as layers of transparencies stacked upon one another, where nothing ever disappears.

chapter 2

Elaine recalls a time when she and her friend Cordelia, at thirteen, would critique the fashion choices of older women on the streetcar. They particularly admired the elderly women who wore garish makeup and flashy clothes, appreciating their perceived indifference to societal judgement. She reflects on her current, middle-aged self and has a realization: perhaps these seemingly bold older women were simply unaware of their eccentric appearances. Despite her own aging, Elaine still places significant importance on how she looks. Her thoughts then drift to Cordelia, contemplating a potential reunion. She visualizes an elderly Cordelia and finds it strangely easier to picture her in unfortunate circumstances: destitute, comatose, or confined to an iron lung.

chapter 3

Elaine, having a deep disdain for Toronto, relocated to British Columbia. She's now married to Ben, her second husband, and they have two daughters, Sarah and Anne. As a somewhat successful artist, Elaine finds herself back in Toronto for a review of her artistic works at a feminist gallery, Sub-Versions. Her ex-husband, Jon, has kindly offered his studio for her stay in Toronto. Upon seeing a poster promoting her art review, she sees her image vandalized with a mustache. She wonders if this act of defacement signifies her rise to a notable figure.

chapter 4

Elaine takes us into a journey through her past, though she narrates in present tense. Before settling in Toronto, their family roamed the country due to her father's research on caterpillars, staying either in tents or motels. The ongoing World War II dictates their diet, limiting them to food rations. Her brother, Stephen, infatuated with the war, carves out a wooden gun and indulges Elaine in his war games, where she has to imitate being deceased. During a particular night, Stephen instructs Elaine on adapting her vision in darkness, akin to a commando. Gradually, her vision aligns with the darkness, enabling her to distinguish shapes. Elaine, in the present, equates these faint shapes to her illustrations of the deceased.

chapter 5

For her eighth birthday, Elaine gets a brownie camera, yet she can't recall if it was something she truly desired. She remembers wanting craft materials to recreate the projects from her hobby book. She picks up silver paper from cigarette packs she finds on the streets, even though she doesn't have a specific craft project in mind. She also has fantasies about being friends with girls her own age, an idea she's gathered from books. Elaine's family frequently relocates, so her education comes from her mother, who teaches her and her brother, Stephen, at home. The family portrayed in Elaine's book lives in a traditional home with a yard and pets. When she draws, Elaine sketches clean, prim girls like those in her books, thinking of them as intriguing and foreign. Stephen, on the other hand, prefers to draw war scenes, sometimes incorporating elements of science fiction with space battles.

chapter 6

Shortly following Elaine's eighth year milestone, her family relocates to Toronto, acquiring a new home. Elaine's expectations of a pristine house from her childhood stories are dashed when confronted with an incomplete, bare, mud-encircled residence. The thrill of a personal room is replaced by feelings of solitude and a sense of isolation due to the absence of her brother.

chapter 7

Elaine's family has relocated to Toronto due to her dad's transition from field researcher to university zoology professor. Notably, her parents' style also evolves; her father's becoming more formal and her mother's becoming more traditionally feminine. Elaine and Stephen spend Saturdays at the university's zoology department with their father, a respite for their mother. The massive building, filled with a plethora of scientific wonders from preserved ox eyes to snapping turtles, fascinates the children. They relish exploring items under the microscope they know they ought not to - toe jam, snot, and scabs.

chapter 8

Elaine reflects on her struggle with depression, making even simple tasks like getting out of bed feel monumental. She recalls calling Ben out of loneliness, only to be met with the echo of her own voice on the answer machine. The thought of her voice remaining long after her potential death haunts her. A trip to the fashion district leads her to search for a new dress for her upcoming opening. Her current black dress feels too melancholic. She contemplates a pink one, having heard the color can disarm enemies. In a boutique, Elaine selects three dresses to try on. During her fitting, she thwarts a theft attempt, catching a hand trying to steal her wallet through the dressing room door. She hears the culprits laughing as they flee, and she points the finger at Cordelia.

chapter 9

Elaine and her brother Stephen start going to school, where she discovers an unfamiliar separation between boys and girls. She's required to wear a skirt, and their playing zones are segregated. Upon the ringing of the school bell, the children must split into gender-specific lines and enter through different doors, despite leading to the same place. Crossing these gender lines is believed to result in a beating. Elaine and Stephen encounter each other only during line-ups at school, which reflects a growing distance at home as well. Elaine understands that conversing with Stephen at school is off-limits, as boys face ridicule for associating with their sisters or mothers. Despite the daunting presence of other girls, Elaine befriends one named Carol. Carol introduces her to new perspectives, discussing topics like boys' infatuations and religion. Carol is also fascinated by Elaine's unique home life, spreading tales about Elaine's floor mattresses as an exotic feature.

chapter 10

Elaine brings her friend Carol to the zoology building during a weekend, but Carol is disgusted by the curiosities. Carol is playfully taunted by Stephen using an ox eye, much to his amusement. Later, the girls visit Carol's home where Carol presents her mother's new twin-set sweater to Elaine. Elaine is puzzled by the term 'twin-set', but comprehends the similarity in Carol's parent's individual twin beds. She also observes that Carol's home is more organized than her own. On occasion, Elaine and Carol engage in games with Carol's buddy, Grace. Elaine ceases her weekend visits to the zoology building and instead, spends time with her new companions. In Grace's home, Elaine and Carol take Grace's lead in selecting games to play to prevent Grace from pretending to have a headache. Their activities include coloring in books depicting movie stars and role-playing as students with Grace as the teacher. They also create collages using cut-outs of women from Eaton’s Catalogues and assign them possessions. Elaine quickly grasps that she is expected to compliment her friends' work while criticizing her own.

chapter 11

During the Christmas season, Elaine is gifted an album to match her camera and a plastic purse to store her cash. Even though the common spaces in their home are now completely furnished, the private bedrooms remain a work in progress. Occasionally, Grace invites Elaine over, excluding Carol, using her mother’s poor health as an excuse to limit guests. Mrs. Smeath, unlike Mrs. Campbell, sports hands raw from constant washing, and takes daily afternoon naps on the living room sofa. Elaine notices hand-me-down clothes drying, belonging to Grace's sisters, and perceives Mrs. Smeath's scorn when Carol talks about her mother's twinset. Elaine starts questioning the actual state of Mrs. Smeath’s heart. Elaine, in the present, observes that she's a decade older than Mrs. Smeath now and ponders over the root of her profound disdain for her.

chapter 12

As spring arrives, Stephen and his companions begin their backyard games. Elaine picks up rope-skipping from Grace and Carol. Marble games become a common sight at school, with each child striving to secure the most unique marbles. Elaine cherishes a particular blue cat’s eye marble, which she never gambles for fear of losing it. Instead, she safely stashes it in her plastic purse at home. With his increasing wins, Stephen starts to stash his marble collection in jars and hides them in the ravine.

chapter 13

In the warm season, a unique butterfly larvae outbreak leads Elaine's father to take the family up north. Elaine resumes her preference for trousers during their stay in a deserted lumberjack settlement. The siblings, Elaine and Stephen, engage in activities together, like gathering blueberries and lake swimming. They also compete to see who can spit water the farthest, a contest Stephen perpetually wins. Upon their homecoming to Toronto, Grace and Carol are joined by a fresh face, a new girl.

chapter 14

A girl named Cordelia arrives, extending a mature handshake and pointing out what she believes to be dog dirt on Elaine's shoe. Elaine corrects her, stating it's a squashed apple, but Cordelia comments that the two are similar. Elaine finds herself captivated by Cordelia. Observing Cordelia's double-storey house, Elaine compares it to her own humble home, realising their economic differences. Cordelia has two older sisters, Perdie and Mirrie, named after famous figures in Shakespeare. She claims they're gifted, yet remains vague when Elaine questions her own talents. Cordelia often encourages Elaine, Grace, and Carol to participate in dramatic enactments, contributing her vivid imagination. Grace, however, finds Cordelia's theatrical concepts excessive and chooses not to join in. During a stroll over the school's wooden footbridge, Cordelia points out a deadly nightshade, terrifying the girls. She further frightens them with a tale that the stream flowing beneath the bridge is filled with deceased souls, as it originates from the cemetery.

chapter 15

Elaine is now required to wear skirts frequently, thus the significance of underwear increases. She needs to be mindful of her movements to avoid revealing too much, while the boys jest about going commando. Curiosity about what types of undies the women teachers wear is common among the girls. Gossip circulates among the students that Elaine's teacher, Miss Lumley, removes her traditional blue bloomers every day before her class. Miss Lumley rules the classroom with an iron fist, punishing miscreants with a rubber strap herself rather than referring them to the principal. She has an obsession for neatness and symmetry, only displaying student artwork that meets her standards. She is fond of teaching about the British Empire, putting it on a pedestal above Canada. She instills fear by sharing terrifying tales of life outside the Empire. Elaine is apprehensive of Miss Lumley and the rumored blue bloomers because she feels they symbolize a shared flaw in them both. Elaine doesn't consider herself genuinely female, nor is she male. She feels Miss Lumley harbors the same incongruity.

chapter 16

Elaine confides in Ben about her reluctance to attend the retrospective, but asserts her need to go, citing the challenges she faced as a female artist. She then meets with Charna from Sub-Versions who proposes thematic display of her works, though Elaine favors chronological order. Her stress increases as Andrea, a reporter, comes to interview her. Andrea's questions center on Elaine’s experience as a woman artist from the seventies. Elaine corrects her, clarifying she belongs to the forties generation. She perceives Andrea's attempts to steer the conversation towards gender discrimination in art, a narrative Elaine evades. She maintains that all painters, regardless of gender, feel undervalued, highlighting her supportive husband and her male teacher who instructed her on painting nude women. When questioned why she paints women, Elaine simply replies, "painters paint women". She feels Andrea's underlying motive is to disparage her attire and artwork.

chapter 17

At Grace's place, she, Elaine, and Cordelia engage in the Eaton's Catalogue activity. Cordelia shows particular interest in the bra section, influenced by her maturing siblings. She shares insights on menstruation, which Elaine, Grace, and Carol find hard to believe. Cordelia further spins a tale about male reproductive organs and the process of conception, which Elaine is somewhat able to comprehend due to her father's insect studies. Cordelia adds another shocking revelation about the boys' kissing style involving their tongues, making Elaine construe it as a repulsive act.

chapter 18

Mrs. Smeath asks Elaine to accompany her family to church, despite knowing that Elaine's family isn't religious. Elaine's parents aren't thrilled because they view church as a means of indoctrination and religion as a source of conflict and intolerance. Regardless, they permit her to attend. During the service, Elaine copies Grace to blend in. Moving to Sunday School, she feels anxious as she hasn't learned the psalms like the other children. Yet, her teacher welcomes her warmly and Elaine feels accepted. Post church, Mr. Smeath takes Grace, her sisters, and Elaine to watch the trains at their request. Elaine observes that Mr. Smeath appears more interested in the trains than Grace or her sisters. She begins to feel that her parents have deprived her of knowledge about things like God and psalms. As she retires to bed, the stars seem more vigilant than distant to her.

chapter 19

In school, the children play in gender-segregated groups. Elaine notes that the boys are more active in their exclusion of girls, while the girls silently exclude the boys. She starts paying attention to how differently the boys behave compared to the girls, noticing their loud voices, plain clothing, and open discussion of untidy body functions. Stephen reveals to Elaine a secret girlfriend he has, who doesn't even know about her own status. Elaine thinks this secret relationship has made Stephen dull. Soon, though, Stephen's fascination for the girlfriend fades, replaced by a keen interest in chemistry. Once his chemistry phase ends, he develops a passion for astronomy. He imparts his knowledge of star names and constellations to Elaine. The stars he describes to her are unlike biblical stars; they are enormous, silent, and ablaze.

chapter 20

Cordelia has embarked on a project to dig a large hole in the backyard, aiming to construct a clubhouse. Every time she tries, the ground collapses. One day, Cordelia, along with Grace and Carol, usher Elaine into the hole. Elaine, dressed as Mary Queen of Scotts, is then trapped as the girls cover the hole with planks and soil. Initially, Elaine considers it a playful act, but soon comprehends the grim reality. Elaine’s memory of her ninth birthday party is hazy. Despite being certain she held her first legitimate birthday party, she can only recall fragmented images. The joy usually associated with birthday celebrations has been replaced with disdain. Her ninth birthday conjures images of nightshade, a memory that doesn't align but provokes a sense of mourning.

chapter 21

Following her interview, Elaine heads to Simpson’s Department Store to shop for groceries. The modern, disposable nature of the items on display prompts her disdain. Accidentally, she boards the wrong escalator, ending up in the girls’ clothing section. Elaine’s mind wanders back to her elementary school days, recalling how she would intentionally peel the skin off her feet at night, finding solace in the pain during her daytime hours. The memory of her fear when she gave birth to her daughters floods back. She was unsure of her capacity to take care of them, or shield them from harm. However, Elaine was taken aback to discover that her daughters, Anne and Sarah, did not require any protection.

chapter 22

Cordelia, along with Grace and Carol, determines to make Elaine conform to the norms of other girls. Elaine begins to procrastinate her departure for school, as the trio devotes the whole day to rectifying her. Carol, being in the same class, monitors Elaine's conduct and updates the others. Elaine is convinced that she must never divulge the harassment from her friends. She remains under the impression that their actions are a result of friendship, not hatred.

chapter 23

Carol occasionally becomes the girl who must better herself, although she's overly sensitive. Some days, the game ends completely, but Elaine can't shake the feeling of being observed. She starts finding reasons to leave after school, citing household chores as her obligations. Assisting with laundry becomes a favored task due to her fascination with the wringer. She fantasizes about her hand getting trapped and emerging flat and tidy. The girls soon see through Elaine's pretenses and direct her to request permission to join them. Her mother allows her to. Elaine attends church with the Smeaths on Sundays. Grace keeps tabs on Elaine's Sunday school performance. Elaine gets derided for either performing too well or not meeting expectations in her quizzes. During a Sunday meal, Mr. Smeath cracks a bean-related joke. His wife scolds him, but he maintains Elaine found it amusing. Elaine, however, doesn't understand the joke. The following school day, she gets teased for not getting Mr. Smeath's crude joke. Despite her surprise at his lack of decorum, Elaine views Mr. Smeath as part of the zoology building universe, which contradicts Grace's domain of Eaton's catalog women. She's uncertain of where Cordelia fits in these worlds.

chapter 24

Elaine observes Cordelia's acting in The Wind in the Willows. Elaine struggles to identify Cordelia, who's wearing a mask during the play, causing her unease. Mr. Banerji, her father's Indian grad student, joins Elaine's family for Thanksgiving. Elaine is intrigued by him, finding similarities in their seemingly displaced presence. Elaine's dad shares that domestic turkeys are not smart and can't fly, unlike their wild counterparts. Elaine's interpretation of this leads her to categorize people she knows as either wild or tame. Elaine's family, Mr. Banerji, and Cordelia are deemed wild, while Carol and Grace are considered tame. This categorization makes Elaine perceive eating turkey wings as consuming lost freedom.

chapter 25

Elaine starts working for her neighbor, Mrs. Finestein, by babysitting her infant son, Brian. While performing her duties, she encounters Cordelia, Grace, and Carol who scornfully reveal to Elaine that Finestein is a Jewish surname. Elaine, ignorant about Judaism, asks her parents who elaborate that it's a faith and talk about the Holocaust. On another occasion, Carol wants to push Brian's pram, but Elaine is cautious about Brian's safety. Carol and Grace respond by making antisemitic remarks, and Cordelia manipulates Elaine into insulting her own father using a derogatory term for gay people. This leaves Elaine feeling she's let down both Mrs. Finestein and her father. Elaine spends her earnings from babysitting on sweets to distribute among her friends. Their appreciation makes her feel cherished.

chapter 26

On a certain Saturday, Grace tells Elaine that they will be visiting her. As Elaine steps outside to greet them, Cordelia reprimands her, saying she wasn't given permission to come out. This makes Elaine throw up and she has to return home. Discovering a new tactic to evade her friends, Elaine pretends to be ill and avoids school. During her time in bed, she starts reading women's magazines. She realizes that irrespective of their efforts, women always have some flaw or imperfection.

chapter 27

As spring arrives, Elaine uses her cat's eye marble as a talisman, convinced it gives her a distinct view of the world. This special vision transforms people into detached images. Following the school year, her family heads north for her father’s fieldwork, providing Elaine with a sense of relief. She stumbles upon a decomposed raven and prods it with a stick, aware it can't feel any pain. Stephen occupies himself with chess puzzles and learns about butterflies from a book. Meanwhile, their mother prepares chokecherry jam which, due to its intense red color, looks lethal. Elaine's dreams are filled with unsettling imagery. One dream features an undead yet rotting raven. In another, her dress is too tight, and her body protrudes awkwardly. Her special marble falls from the heavens, striking her with an icy touch. In a state of fear, she finds herself stranded on a disintegrating bridge above a ravine, cut off from the people on the road. Her chokecherry jam making morphs into a sinister scene where the chokecherries turn into deadly nightshade and the jam transforms into blood.

chapter 28

Elaine is seated at the espresso counter of the food hall at Simpson's, observing a shoe repair shop. She feels a sense of relief seeing old items being restored rather than thrown away. Her thoughts drift to her mother, a woman who despised housework. Elaine ponders whether her mother was aware of the cruel treatment she received from other girls, although she realizes her mother would have had limited options during that era. Elaine recalls a painting she made of her mother, titled Pressure Cooker, designed as a double triptych. The upper three panels portray her mother in a dress, the first as a detailed pencil sketch, the second as a collage, and the third as raised outlines. The lower panels mirror the sequence but feature her mother in pants, making jam outdoors. She scoffs at critiques suggesting the painting represents gender roles. She painted it shortly after her mother's passing, an attempt at her resurrection. Exiting Simpson's, Elaine comes across an inebriated woman sprawled on the pavement. Elaine gives her a ten-dollar bill. The woman praises Elaine, referring to her as "our lady," but accuses Elaine of not loving her. Elaine recoils, noticing the woman's green eyes, reminiscent of Cordelia's. As she moves on, Elaine admits that her act was not borne out of kindness, recognizing her own vindictiveness and cunning.

chapter 29

In fifth grade, Carol and Elaine are taught by the Scottish Miss Stuart. Although popular among the students, Elaine feels indifferent due to her emotional numbness. Her coping mechanism is a cat's eye marble, used as a symbolic tool to objectively view her peers. Thoughts of self-harm invade her mind, with Cordelia's voice in her head encouraging such actions. Elaine's mother advises her to befriend other girls, causing Elaine to fear that her mother might inform other parents. This scares Elaine as she considers her mother to be less of an adult. Her mother's advice to assert herself is misconstrued by Elaine, as she views it as blaming her for the bullying. When her mother expresses her wish to help Elaine, she realizes that her mother is incapable of doing so.

chapter 30

Elaine finds solace in Mr. Banerji's similar sense of disorientation during her parents' bridge parties. She believes his ongoing existence implies her own survival as well. The entire city of Toronto is in a state of anticipation for Princess Elizabeth's imminent visit. Elaine, stimulated by Miss Lumley's tales of the Princess's courage during the Blitz, holds out hope that the royal visit will bring about a personal transformation. The Princess's procession passes directly by Elaine's home, prompting her to wait outside in a light drizzle. Despite her eagerness, the car speeds past too fast for Elaine to catch a glimpse of Princess Elizabeth. Elaine grasps that she would have needed to risk her safety and halt the car to gain Princess Elizabeth's attention and provoke the life-altering event she desired.

chapter 31

Miss Stuart frequently encourages the students to work on art projects. The boys often produce unrefined drawings, and she reproves them, stating they're too intelligent to create such images. She gives them an assignment to illustrate their post-school activities, which causes Elaine to worry. She starts to sketch her bedroom but ends up hiding it all in black. Although she anticipates criticism, Miss Stuart instead offers her a comforting touch on her shoulder. During Valentine's Day, Elaine receives more cards from her male classmates than Carol, her friend. However, fear prevents her from sharing this with her friends. She starts to think that the boys are secretly on her side. Carol begins to develop physically faster than the other girls and constantly talks about it. She swipes an old lipstick from her mother's collection and is punished when her mother finds out. Yet, she proudly displays the punishment's physical evidence. One day, Elaine wakes up to an empty house, with her mother gone to the hospital. Her brother, Stephen, tells her that their mother had a premature baby, a concept Elaine struggles to grasp. Elaine has a series of dreams where Mrs. Finestein and Mr. Banerji are her biological parents. She also dreams about her mother giving birth to twins, but only a peculiar gray baby shows up. In another dream, her house is engulfed in flames. In yet another one, her parents helplessly descend into the ground.

chapter 32

Elaine's father takes her, Stephen, and Stephen's pal to a public showcase at a zoology facility during a weekend. A loudspeaker emits the noise of a deceased turtle's pulsating heart in one of the rooms. Elaine gets engulfed in the mob and loses consciousness. Upon awakening, she discovers a new way to skip time by fainting. Elaine is stationary against the school's wall, waiting due to Cordelia's new game. She gazes at the sky until she faints. After school, Cordelia and the rest are gentle towards Elaine. However, Elaine takes advantage of this new skill of feigning unconsciousness to avoid Cordelia's cruelty until Cordelia realizes her trick.

chapter 33

Elaine consumes a pizza slice en route to Jon's workshop, a stark contrast to the nutritious meals Ben encourages her to have. She indulges in unhealthy food whenever she's alone. Upon reaching the studio, she searches through the telephone directory with no luck in finding any familiar names from her past life in Toronto.

chapter 34

During a playful post-dinner game at Grace's residence, Elaine stumbles upon Mrs. Smeath and Aunt Mildred gossiping about her in the kitchen. Aunt Mildred brands her as an irredeemable nonbeliever, to which Mrs. Smeath agrees, insinuating that Elaine's treatment by their peers is justified. Their conversation is cut short when they notice Elaine listening in, and Mrs. Smeath cautions Aunt Mildred about their conversation being overheard. Shaken by the incident, Elaine decides to stop praying altogether. She can't bring herself to recite the Lord's Prayer as she holds a grudge against Mrs. Smeath and has no intention of forgiving her. Walking back from school one day, she discovers a flyer from the neighborhood Catholic school bearing the image of the Virgin Mary. An idea strikes her—she decides to offer her prayers to the Virgin Mary instead.

chapter 35

In March, the girls engage in snowy fun, making angels in the snow. Cordelia tumbles down the hill by the ravine, which the girls find amusing, believing it to be deliberate, and causing Cordelia's anger towards Elaine. In a fit of rage, Cordelia hurls Elaine's hat into the ravine, demanding Elaine fetch it for a shot at forgiveness. She instructs Elaine to count to one hundred post-retrieval before returning to the bridge. However, when Elaine attempts to retrieve her hat, the river's ice gives way, filling her boots with freezing water. The chilling temperature intensifies on the shore, and Elaine is unable to climb back up the ravine. Lying there, helpless, Elaine sees a figure emerge. The figure appears to be a woman, donned in a long skirt with a dark hood and her heart visibly pinned on her chest. The mysterious figure whispers to Elaine, telling her she can go home.

chapter 36

Elaine's mother discovers a distraught Elaine returning from the ravine, but Elaine conceals the incident, attributing her survival to the Virgin Mary's intervention. During the night, Elaine has a nightmare in which she's pursued through the school. She's whisked away by an unseen hand, climbing a concealed staircase until the cries of her pursuers fade. Elaine avoids school for a couple of days. Cordelia reaches out with an apology, which Elaine discerns was not genuinely heartfelt. Upon returning to school, Cordelia proposes the girls retaliate against Elaine for snitching. Elaine, in a moment of clarity, understands she can disconnect herself from Cordelia and her gang. She recognizes Cordelia's reprimands as mere adult mimicry. She likens her experience to stepping into thin air and realizing she won't fall. At last, she leaves this toxic friendship behind.

chapter 37

Elaine visits churches regularly as an adult, intrigued by the saints' statues, though the Virgin Mary sculpture never seems accurate to her. During her maiden voyage to Mexico, she stumbles upon a tiny church. The Virgin Mary sculpture here portrays a woman clad in ebony, adorned with trinkets on her apparel. Elaine labels her the Virgin of Lost Things, the sole Mary statue that resonates authenticity for her. She contemplates lighting a votive but struggles to decide what to pray for. When her companion, Ben, discovers her, Elaine cannot recall how she ended up sprawled on the floor.

chapter 38

Elaine switches to a different elementary school on her family's side of the ravine, letting go of her past school's horrors. She considers herself "happy as a clam," having developed a tough exterior. The city substitutes the wooden footbridge with a sturdier concrete one. Approaching high school, Elaine stores her cat's eye marble in the red plastic purse, and preserves it in a cellar box alongside her childhood sketches. Elaine unexpectedly gets a call from Cordelia's mother before high school begins, suggesting that the girls go to school together. Elaine's mother queries Elaine about this, which baffles Elaine, but she consents. Cordelia shares with Elaine that she got expelled from her previous school, but acts nonchalant about it. She claims she was too advanced for high school since she was promoted a year early. Elaine, having also skipped a grade, frets about potential failure.

chapter 39

Despite being one of the youngest in her freshman class, Elaine feels emotionally mature compared to her peers. Her health textbook suggests teenagers like her should experience fluctuating moods, but she remains composed. Having already completed a year of high school, Cordelia guides Elaine in making humorous comments about their classmates and teachers. They enjoy listening to music, with Cordelia often praising the singers. Elaine mimics her, though she is aware it's a mere performance. With adolescence, Perdie and Mirrie appear even more worldly. They criticize Cordelia's fashion choices and caution her about their father's belief that she will fail again unless she improves her behavior. Cordelia begins to shoplift, once stealing a horror comic which she shares with Elaine. The comic narrates the tale of twin sisters - one beautiful and the other disfigured by a burn. The scarred sister commits suicide in front of a mirror, then haunts it. When the beautiful sister looks into the mirror, her disfigured sibling possesses her body attempting to take her boyfriend. However, he notices the reflection in the mirror is of the disfigured sister, smashes the mirror, and restores the beautiful sister's body.

chapter 40

Stephen is enrolled in a challenging private high school. Even though Elaine had the chance to join a private girls' school, she did not want to. During dinner, Elaine's father continues to predict humanity's doom due to reckless scientific practices. Stephen, intrigued by astronomy, no longer sees humans as intriguing. He shares with their father that the human race's importance is moot, as the sun will eventually go supernova. Elaine has gained more insight into her father's history, an aspect she disapproves of since it forces her to consider his reasons behind his actions. In an effort to ensure Elaine does not turn out like other girls he deems as unintelligent, Stephen attempts to guide her education. He works to prevent her from spending excessive time preparing in the bathroom. It is around this period when he clarifies the concept of space-time to Elaine.

chapter 41

Elaine receives a call from Charna about Andrea's article on her making front page headlines in the Entertainment section. However, Elaine is reluctant to read the piece titled “Crotchety Artist Still Has Power to Disturb.” The article features images of two of her paintings, 'Erbug, The Annunciation' depicting the Smeaths flying like beetles, and 'Eye for an Eye' where Mrs. Smeath, scantily clad, holds a potato and knife. Elaine is agitated by the language used in Andrea's article, which makes her sound aged. She's particularly annoyed at being described as “deliberately provocative” for her remarks on contemporary women. Nevertheless, she hopes that the article might draw Cordelia to attend the retrospective. Elaine has only created a single painting of Cordelia, 'Half a Face.' In this painting, Cordelia's full face is shown, yet another obscured face is depicted behind her. Elaine attempted to portray Cordelia's aggressive demeanor, instead, she seems scared. While Elaine doesn’t fear a reunion with Cordelia, she fears turning into her.

chapter 42

Elaine hits puberty as she enters tenth grade, shaving her legs for the first time. Her brother Stephen teases her about her vanity. On a walk home, Elaine and Cordelia engage in making fun of Grace's family, with Cordelia mocking them as the "lump-lump family." Elaine finds joy in this, though she doesn't comprehend why or why Cordelia keeps ridiculing them. Cordelia's narrative has them never having respected Grace. During their visit to the cemetery, the girls continue to tease the Smeaths. Cordelia pauses for a smoke, and they gaze at the Eaton Mausoleum. Elaine proclaims that Mrs. Eaton and herself are vampires, maintaining a serious demeanor despite Cordelia's attempt to laugh it off. It dawns on Elaine that she likes unsettling Cordelia and feels superior to her.

chapter 43

During her junior year of high school, Elaine becomes well-known for her harsh treatment of other girls, garnering her popularity. She feels immune to intimidation from boys. Elaine especially enjoys tormenting Cordelia, her favorite victim, for every action she takes. Elaine begins to date, engaging in prolonged phone conversations with boys. These chats are often filled with silence, providing a refuge from the prying eyes of adults and peers. She believes she has a keen understanding of the male psyche, enabling her to avoid derogatory labels such as "bitch" or "bag" that boys often use for other girls. She observes these insults associated with other girls in school who are trying to attract boys.

chapter 44

Elaine attempts to assist Cordelia in understanding her physics assignment. Stephen intervenes, commenting that the atomic model they're studying is outdated and that atoms are predominantly empty space with a mere tendency to exist, paralleling Cordelia's existence. Cordelia has begun dating, but her over-polite demeanor and intense attention confuse her male companions. In Elaine's perspective, Cordelia interacts with boys as if she were an adult, oblivious to the concept of masculine silence. A joint school-professional theater company stages Macbeth, with Cordelia handling prop management. Macduff, in the final act, is supposed to throw a cabbage symbolizing Macbeth's head on stage. When Cordelia discovers the prop cabbage is rotting, she substitutes it with a fresh one. To her horror, the cabbage bounces during the performance, much to the amusement of the professionals. Elaine teases a mortified Cordelia the following day at school. In their senior year, Elaine and Cordelia are biology lab partners. Elaine easily dissects worms, frogs, and crayfish, a task Cordelia considers revolting. Elaine occasionally joins Cordelia's family for dinner. Without Cordelia's father, the meal is relaxed. However, with him present, it turns formal. He finds Elaine's academic pursuits amusing, something Cordelia struggles to achieve due to her fear of him. Cordelia continuously fails to be the person her father would approve of.

chapter 45

At a local eatery, Cordelia recounts to Elaine an incident when she consumed mercury to evade school. She queries Elaine if she recalls their digging escapades from the past, which Elaine doesn't. Cordelia expresses her desire to possess a safe haven, a dug hole, from her regularly irate father. She admits her only affection from her primary school days was reserved for Elaine. Elaine abruptly experiences vertigo and self-resentment, unable to comprehend the cause. Swiftly, she diverts the conversation back to frivolous humor.

chapter 46

Elaine begins distancing herself from Cordelia without fully grasping why. Their homeward journeys are filled with Cordelia's chatter, interspersed with inquiries about Elaine's state of mind. Elaine's constant response is that nothing is amiss. Cordelia playfully quizzes Elaine about her impressions of her, to which Elaine claims indifference. As Cordelia's academic failures mount, her parents decide to shift her to a different school. Elaine undertakes her final year examinations. A moment of clarity strikes during her biology paper; she knows she is destined to be an artist, not a scientist. Soon after exams, an invitation from Cordelia arrives. Elaine is greeted with Cordelia's boy-charming cheeriness. Cordelia has a new tutor for her summer classes - a clear sign that she has flunked her year once more. Cordelia boasts about her successful distractions aimed at her tutor. Elaine warns Cordelia about taking her life seriously, although she is aware that Cordelia's affluent family exempts her from having to work. Cordelia sees a bleak future in tertiary education, fearing she might turn into her tutor. Cordelia brings up their shared past, including the cabbage incident during the staging of Macbeth. The trip down memory lane begins to unsettle Elaine. She becomes eager to escape the conversation, fearing Cordelia might delve further into their past. Consequently, she hastily finds reasons to depart.

chapter 47

Elaine awaits Jon for their scheduled lunch in the present day. Jon is late, and they engage in some friendly mockery upon his arrival. He teases Elaine about her appearance considering she has 'sold out,' and she jests about his job in film props. Elaine mentions a harsh review from a newspaper, though Jon doesn't perceive it as such. Elaine recalls their past squabbles with a newfound fondness due to their current estrangement. Jon discloses that his new wife has left him, acknowledging his part in it. They reflect on a previous accident that led to Elaine's hospitalization, but neither accepts blame. Elaine muses on why she finds it easier to forgive men than women. After parting with Jon, Elaine recalls a painting she made titled Falling Women. Previously, she perceived fallen women as those who harmed themselves due to men, likening the men to a rock the women stumbled over. Her painting portrays women tumbling off a bridge into a ravine, where, in her imagination, men are lurking.

chapter 48

Elaine begins going to an evening life drawing class. She's not officially enrolled in the art school, but they let non-students in if the teacher believes they're committed. Mr. Hrbik, the teacher, reviews Elaine's drawings and labels her a total novice, yet lets her join the class. The class is mostly made up of men, with a pair of older women and a young woman named Susie who is Elaine's age. In the aftermath of the initial drawing session, Mr. Hrbik informs Elaine that she has sketched a dead body instead of a living one. Her artistry lacks fervor. He tells her she's a work in progress, but assures her that this course will develop her.

chapter 49

Elaine joins the University of Toronto's art and archaeology course due to her parents' disapproval of her painting aspirations. She attempts to assimilate with her female peers, but they unsettle her. Gradually, Elaine's focus shifts to fitting into her life drawing class, adopting an all-black attire, causing her university peers to distance themselves. In her life drawing class, two elder women, Babs and Marjorie, tease Elaine about her funeral-like attire. Both are professional portrait artists, and Elaine finds them to be a source of discomfort.

chapter 50

Elaine is used by her male classmates from life drawing to access the superior "ladies and escorts" sections at the beer parlors. They nickname Marjorie and Babs as "lady painters," a term used to belittle women who are poor at painting, while talented women are simply called "painters." They also ridicule the models in class, but always look to Elaine for her response. She finds pleasure in being an outlier. The boys' jesting at the expense of Mr. Hrbik, a European immigrant who became homeless amid World War II and the Hungarian Revolution, doesn't sit well with Elaine. Their irritation at being required to take life drawing class because it's valued in the art world also bothers her. During a beer parlor outing, Susie joins them. Elaine disapproves of her flashy attire and heavy makeup and concludes that Susie likely lacks the intelligence required for university admission.

chapter 51

Elaine's academia concentrates on Medieval and Renaissance art, with numerous paintings of the Virgin Mary. The girls find the images of breastfeeding awkward, pledging to opt for bottle-feeding instead. Elaine indicates that breastfeeding was a method of depicting the Virgin Mary's humility, as she didn't employ a wet nurse. The discussion about baby Jesus's natural processes appalls her classmates. Elaine conjectures that Susie and Mr. Hrbik are engaged in a romantic relationship. Elaine paints a picture where Mr. Hrbik is smitten with Susie, who seems to be playing with his feelings. Once Susie grasps that their secret is out, she refrains from concealing it. She begins to share information about Mr. Hrbik, now referred to as Josef. While Marjorie and Babs cheer on the relationship, the boys in class behave disrespectfully towards Susie. Elaine feels the urge to save Mr. Hrbik from Susie's clutches.

chapter 52

Elaine, residing in her family home to save cash, relocates to the basement to evade her old bedroom. Her father is distressed because Mr. Banerji has left for India due to lack of promotion at the University. He thinks that scientists should be immune to bias. Stephen ends up behind bars in California for unintentionally entering a military site while pursuing butterflies. Luckily, his graduate school secures his release. In his letters to Elaine, he skips mentioning his arrest. Instead, he ridicules his classmates and muses over the cosmos. Elaine begins to question if Stephen's supposed courage is actually ignorance. He believes his honesty excuses him from the repercussions of his actions.

chapter 53

During the final life drawing class, Mr. Hrbik evaluates each student's work. Following a teary-eyed exit by Susie, Elaine receives commendation from Mr. Hrbik who highlights an improved line in her work. A moment of intimacy ensues between them, culminating in a kiss and he escorts her home, where Elaine has her first sexual encounter. Their relationship extends throughout the summer. Elaine starts waitressing at the Swiss Chalet and shares an apartment with coworkers. Her meetings with Mr. Hrbik are limited to twice a week due to his ongoing relationship with Susie. He pleads with Elaine to keep their affair concealed from Susie. Elaine finds a thrill in harboring the secret. In a French eatery, Mr. Hrbik tells Elaine that she is his "country," causing her to recognize a feeling of sadness within herself.

chapter 54

Elaine decides to catch up with Cordelia during her coffee break. Cordelia appears sophisticated while Elaine feels unkempt in her work clothes and exhausted from her late nights with Mr. Hrbik. Cordelia has a seasonal role at the Stratford Shakespearean Festival, leaving Elaine feeling unaccomplished. Cordelia excitedly shares that the renowned English director believes she could portray the First Witch in Macbeth. She brings up their previous cabbage incident, though Elaine prefers to forget their shared history. Cordelia admits the only part of their past she enjoyed was shoplifting because it made her feel like she truly owned something. Elaine attends The Tempest to watch Cordelia perform as an attendant of Prospero. However, due to the stage lighting, she struggles to identify which attendant Cordelia is.

chapter 55

Mr. Hrbik positions Elaine like one of his models. Seeing her reflection, she recognizes her resemblance to a Pre-Raphaelite artwork. They dine at the rooftop restaurant of the Park Plaza Hotel, one of Toronto's highest structures. Mr. Hrbik shares his aspirations of moving to America to work in films. When he asks Elaine if she would do anything for him, she replies, “No.” Unexpectedly, Jon appears at the Swiss Chalet and invites Elaine for a beer. When questioned about Mr. Hrbik, Elaine denies having seen him. Jon jests that he must be spending time with Susie. Elaine senses that Jon is interacting with her as if she's one of his male friends. Despite leaving, she yearns not to return home alone. Sensing her distress, Jon offers to accompany her home which moves Elaine to tears. Instead, they go to Jon's place where they have coffee, share a kiss, and end up sleeping together.

chapter 56

Elaine strolls along Queen Street in the present day, passing the site where the zoology building once stood. The area around Mr. Hrbik's old residence has gone through gentrification. Even the national flag has changed. With age, Elaine has gained a better understanding of Mr. Hrbik's isolation. Yet, she questions his pursuit of younger women and admits she would confront any older man flirting with her daughters. Inside a store for gift shopping, she is approached by a Middle Eastern woman pleading for help, revealing the fatalities in her homeland due to war. Elaine realizes this woman refers to the same conflict that claimed Stephen's life. She offers the woman some money, all the while suspecting that this stranger might harbor ill feelings towards her.

chapter 57

As fall begins, Elaine resumes her university studies and moves back into her parents’ home, shaking off the idle summer days. She relishes in the company of two men, relishing the lack of necessity to choose between them. Mr. Hrbik's possessiveness escalates, becoming menacing and revealing his violent past. Jon, however, serves as her respite from the oppressive adult world encompassing her. Jon, an abstract artist, firmly believes his work embodies the artistry of painting. Elaine, on the other hand, likens his work to roadkill. His refusal to maintain cleanliness in his place and labeling of women as either intelligent or foolish irks Elaine, despite his assurances that she ranks higher than most. Unexpectedly, Susie pleads for Elaine's presence after a botched self-induced abortion. Elaine contacts Mr. Hrbik and accompanies Susie in the ambulance, during which she understand Susie's guilelessness. Despite empathizing with Susie's plight, a part of Elaine cannot help but feel she brought it upon herself. Mr. Hrbik questions Susie's reluctance to confide in him about her pregnancy, to which Elaine replies she was frightened. Elaine eventually distances herself from him, and when he confronts her, she nonchalantly dismisses him. Elaine's dreams often feature a younger, carefree Susie playing with a skipping rope. When dream Susie inquires about a twinset, Elaine feels a pang of guilt, realizing she made a mistake.

chapter 58

Elaine develops feelings for Jon, yet he continues to be with other women, viewing monogamy as a middle-class concept. While studying art history at university, Elaine observes a similarity between how artists portray nude women and food. Elaine gravitates towards Medieval and Renaissance art. Despite her aversion towards oil paints, she crafts her own egg tempera. Elaine grows an interest in glass and reflective elements in paintings, particularly obsessing over Van Eyck's 'The Arnolfini Marriage.' Aware that Jon would belittle her artwork, she chooses to keep her creations away from him. Additionally, Elaine enrolls in a night course focusing on the application of art in advertising.

chapter 59

After finishing university, Elaine enrolls in additional evening art classes. She secures a job in the advertising industry and rents her own apartment. Jon teases her about her home-loving lifestyle, yet prefers spending time at her apartment rather than his own. Elaine's parents relocate to Sault Ste. Marie, due to her father's concern over pollution in Toronto. Elaine starts getting succinct postcards from her brother Stephen. His messages detail his marriage and subsequent divorce, yet he seems to deny responsibility for these events. She witnesses Stephen giving a lecture and tries to engage him in memories afterwards. However, he seems hesitant to discuss their shared history. She speculates if he begrudged her persistent presence as a younger sister, and is frustrated by their different recollections of their childhood years.

chapter 60

Jon has transitioned into creating art that highlights commercial items and capitalism. Elaine thinks he might benefit from her professional insights, but doesn't voice these thoughts. While she is not usually concerned with keeping her home tidy for her own sake, she ensures it's clean when Jon visits. Suddenly, Elaine discovers she's expecting a child. She's immediately filled with fear, convinced that Jon will suggest an abortion. Elaine begins to produce still life paintings. One such piece features a washing machine with a pink-colored wringer. Another showcases three sofas, the middle one adorned with a broken egg in a large egg cup. One of her final works is a nightshade sprig in a glass container, with the eyes of cats peering through the foliage. Elaine also creates a series of paintings portraying Mrs. Smeath, her eyes seemingly blaming Elaine for every misfortune.

chapter 61

Following Sarah's arrival, Elaine adjusts to family life with Jon. Jon occasionally addresses Elaine as "Mummy" when talking to Sarah, a term Elaine detests. Elaine attends a gathering of female artists. These women assert that men suppress women through aggression and bias. These meetings, while invigorating due to the prevalent anger, also instill a fear in Elaine that she might be too ordinary. She envisions being evaluated by the other women for being a married mother. Elaine engages in painting during the night. One piece portrays the Virgin Mary embodied as a lioness. Another depicts Mary landing on earth, dropping grocery bags. Jon advises Elaine against painting at night, and Elaine understands he'd rather she not paint at all. He perceives her artwork as inconsequential. Their disagreements escalate into physical violence, with them hurling items at each other.

chapter 62

Jody, one of the art group ladies, sets up an exhibition featuring Elaine's creations in a vacant grocery store. Jon is noticeably absent. As Elaine surveys the exhibition, she feels her work doesn't resonate as strongly as the others'. Suddenly, she spots Mrs. Smeath, but it dawns on her that it is, in fact, Grace. When Grace questions her about her intent to harm others, Elaine looks regretfully at her paintings depicting Mrs. Smeath in stages of undress. However, witnessing Grace's teary eyes, Elaine experiences a surge of power. In truth, the woman isn't Grace at all. She hurls a jar of black ink at a painting of Mrs. Smeath wrapped in white paper. The local newspaper's coverage of the exhibition highlights this ink incident, while criticizing the art as "shrill" and "aggressive." Jody boldly uses these words for promotional purposes.

chapter 63

Cordelia’s folks pack her off to an upscale mental institution. After reading about Elaine's art show in the papers, she reaches out and asks for a visit. Elaine gets permission to bring Cordelia out for coffee. Cordelia, evidently medicated, confesses her suicide attempt by overdosing and asks Elaine for assistance in breaking out of the facility. Elaine contemplates sheltering Cordelia at her place but fears Jon's disapproval and the potential impact on Sarah. Annoyed and indignant, she refuses Cordelia's request, who then accuses Elaine of perennial malice, leaving her baffled. Elaine experiences vivid dreams where Cordelia falls, resembling her artwork 'Falling Women'. In her dreams, she sees an older version of Cordelia in their old school yard, showing resentment towards Elaine for abandoning her. In another dream, Jody’s mannequin artwork holds Cordelia’s head, veiled in white. Elaine attempts to write to Cordelia, but her letter is returned undelivered.

chapter 64

Elaine is at a mock 1950s eatery, recalling the movie Mr. Hrbik made. It's a story of two women losing their sanity because the man they are both in love with can't decide between them. Elaine acknowledges that Mr. Hrbik never viewed women as individuals, but she was fine with it as he wasn't real to her either. She once created an artwork named 'Life Drawing', showing Jon and Mr. Hrbik from behind, in their birthday suits. In the artwork, Mr. Hrbik is crafting a woman's portrait in Pre-Raphaelite style, while Jon is busy with one of his action paintings. The model in the center of the art piece has a blue crystal sphere for a head. Elaine and Jon share a drink at Park Plaza before heading to his studio for intimacy. It's clear to Elaine it's their last intimate encounter. She extends an invite to her retrospective, but he declines. On reflection, she realizes she'd rather have him absent.

chapter 65

Elaine's relationship with Jon is falling apart, with her discovery of his infidelity. Their tensions climax when Jon questions Elaine about her affair with Mr. Hrbik, which she confirms, provoking his rage. When Jon enquires about her seeing other men, Elaine laments her lack of time for anything else. Angry, Jon storms out of their home. Elaine's health begins to decline, causing her to halt her painting. She avoids contact with Jody because she can't bear any positive words. One evening, Jon stays out, and Elaine self-harms with an exacto knife. Jon rushes her to the hospital. However, Elaine won't discuss her attempted suicide, particularly since it was prompted by a childlike voice she heard encouraging her to take such action.

chapter 66

Elaine decides to depart from Jon and Toronto. Fearful she might take her own life and leave her daughter Sarah without a mother, she purchases a ticket to Vancouver. Jon finds her leaving but acknowledges he's powerless to stop her. In Vancouver, Elaine secures a job refurbishing old furniture. She gains a reputation among the local female artists due to the infamous ink-throwing incident. Yet, Elaine is more daunted by these women than she was in Toronto. They engage in conversations about their pains caused by men, something Elaine doesn't relate to as she feels her and Jon inflicted equal harm on each other. As a result, she starts avoiding these gatherings, believing she's a subject of their gossip and they aim to 'better' her. Elaine's art begins to gain popularity and her pieces start selling. In due course, she encounters Ben, a man she finds refreshingly ordinary. They tie the knot and Ben assists her with the monetary aspects of her work. In time, they welcome a child, Anne.

chapter 67

Elaine rouses from sleep much later than usual, nervously whiling away the hours before the gallery retrospective. She retraces her steps from when she used to commute from school. She observes young girls, clad in denim, making their way home and muses they seem less vocal than during her time. However, she admits that her height might be making their chatter less audible.

chapter 68

Stephen passed away five years before the current events due to a perceived form of justice. Elaine visualizes his last moments onboard a plane heading to a conference in Frankfurt. The aircraft is idling on a runway, hijacked, and Stephen is unsure of their location. The hijackers let the women and children depart, negotiating with air traffic control for the remaining hostages' release. Stephen prays for calmness. He is then commanded to stand, led to the front, and forced off the plane. In the past, Stephen shared a tale with Elaine about a twin who ages a decade after his brother who travels at high speed around the world for a week. Elaine now realizes that while she continues to grow older, Stephen remains frozen in time.

chapter 69

Elaine's parents are greatly affected by the loss of Stephen. Elaine's dad passes away and her mom falls sick. Elaine visits her mother to offer assistance at home. Her mother still discusses Stephen as though he is eternally twelve. Elaine's mom recalls the hard times Elaine faced with her school pals, which leaves Elaine confused and worried about her mother's mental health. Her mother speculates that Grace was the instigator of the bullying, considering Elaine and Cordelia were best friends later in high school. Elaine is left puzzled about this conversation, especially when her mom refers to the ravine. Elaine and her mother sort through the stored boxes in the basement. Stumbling upon her old red plastic purse, her mom recommends discarding it. A peculiar rattling noise from inside prompts them to open it, revealing the cat's eye marble. As Elaine peers into the marble, she sees her life reflected back.

chapter 70

Elaine arrives at the school grounds, only to find it renovated. The entrances are no longer segregated by gender. She ascends the wooden incline to the peak of the mound. The chatter of pupils rings in her ears as she implores Cordelia for release. She has outgrown her desire to stay nine years old.

chapter 71

Dressed in her new black outfit, Elaine attends her art retrospective. She arrives ahead of time and peruses the catalogue curated by Charna. The artwork is displayed in chronological order, starting with the still lifes that Charna believes radiates the allure of day-to-day items. Elaine then moves on to her portraits of Mrs. Smeath, instantly recognizing the spite she imbued in them. She comprehends that Mrs. Smeath, being from a smaller place, might have struggled to understand Elaine’s family, yet attempted to look out for Elaine. Several new creations are featured in the exhibition. One named Three Muses presents Mrs. Finestein, Mr. Banerji, and Miss Stuart. Charna interprets it as disassembling traditional gender roles. Mrs. Finestein is seen in her chic attire, Mr. Banerji in a Balthazar of the Magi-esque costume, and Miss Stuart in a lavender gown and nurse's mask. Elaine sees that her portrayal reflects her personal perception of them rather than their true identities. Their kindness was insignificant to them but monumental to her. Another triptych, One Wing, shows Stephen plummeting with a wooden sword, paired with an airplane and a moth. Charna interprets this as a symbol of the naivety of war. Cat’s Eye presents the upper half of Elaine’s face with a mirror in the backdrop, reflecting three girls' silhouettes. Unified Field Theory presents the Virgin Mary floating over a bridge, holding a cat’s eye marble. Elaine has an epiphany that even though she believed she was preserving memories through her art, she can't dictate the paintings’ interpretations by the viewers.

chapter 72

Elaine is led by Charna to a secluded area to prepare for her grand appearance, her mind filled with remorse. She starts to suspect Charna might be scheming against her when she comes back. Elaine vigilantly scans the crowd for Cordelia, longing to discuss their shared history and share her recollections. A young admirer approaches Elaine to express her admiration for Fallen Women, unintentionally making Elaine feel her age. Yet, Elaine surprisingly refrains from replying with her usual sarcasm. As the exhibition comes to a close, Cordelia is noticeably absent.

chapter 73

Inebriated and exhausted, Elaine brews coffee in Jon’s atelier, puzzled by Cordelia's nonattendance. She contemplates if she's finally retaliated against Cordelia, but doesn't find satisfaction in such retribution. Considering Cordelia's possible death, she quickly rejects the idea, stating, “No. I’m not.” An internal echo insists that Cordelia is no more, advising her to rest.

chapter 74

Oversleeping, Elaine misses her plane and takes a stride down memory lane, retracing her old school path. She's consumed by a sense of hate and stops at the familiar bridge. Although different now, it's the same to her. She gazes at the spot where she once heard a voice, realizing now that the voice was never real. Elaine glances downwards to spot Cordelia in her old, gray snowsuit, triggering memories of her own solitude. She understands now that these emotions weren't hers but belonged to Cordelia. They always did. Assuring Cordelia that she can go home, Elaine reaches out to her.

chapter 75

En route home, Elaine encounters two elderly ladies engrossed in a card game. Their uninhibited laughter resonates with her. It strikes Elaine that it's the joy shared between women, something she shared with Cordelia, which she longs for the most, a happiness now lost to her.

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