Winter has descended on Syracuse, and Melinda sleeps through her alarm one morning because it is so dark outside. Her mom makes her walk to school and on her way there Melinda decides to stop at the local bakery. In the bakery parking lot she sees Andy Evans. Melinda freezes, hoping he won't see her, but he does. He approaches her, offering her a bite of his jelly donut. She runs away and decides to skip school.
At first, Melinda spends her free day wandering around Main Street. She eventually tires of the cold, slushy streets, so she takes the bus to the mall. In the mall, she wanders around, enjoying the solitude, and remembers how much she enjoyed fifth grade and wishes she could go back. She also considers telling someone what happened to her last summer, thinking she might as well get it over with. She spends her entire school day at the mall then heads home, determined to give herself another occasional day off in the future.
Through the use of metaphor, memory, and Melinda's internal dialogue, Anderson helps us gain a fuller understanding of Melinda's character. First, by using the metaphor of a baby rabbit, you see that Melinda feels powerless and vulnerable when confronted by Andy Evans. Like a baby rabbit, she feels she has only two options: freezing and trying to be invisible, or fleeing the scene. This metaphor also builds on earlier metaphors Melinda has used to describe herself and her feelings (such as the animal or beast that lives in her gut). Through these ongoing metaphors, Anderson shows that as long as Melinda characterizes herself as powerless and vulnerable, she will continue to feel that way and be unable to make a change in her life.
Secondly, Melinda's recollections about fifth grade recall her other memories of childhood. When thinking about fifth grade, Melinda feels happy and safe, enjoying the mix of freedom and protection she felt at that age. Similarly, Melinda's memories of the apple orchard and past Christmases also recall these feelings of safety and contentment. Thus, through the use of such memories, Melinda is able to ignore both her present and her future.
While Melinda's memories and metaphors focus on her suffering, her internal dialogue suggests she is slowly moving toward healing. For the first time, Melinda thinks to herself that she might be able to tell someone what happened. By finally acknowledging that speaking up is a possibility, Melinda makes a first, tenuous step toward sharing her suffering with others and finding a way through it.