Summary and Analysis
Ronnie goes in search of Blaze. Blaze admits that she knows Ronnie was not hitting on Marcus and that she put the merchandise in Ronnie's bag out of anger, but she is unwilling to do anything about it. Blaze's mother kicked her out of the house, so Marcus is all she has now, and he has forbidden it. Blaze tells Ronnie that she doesn't believe that Marcus is through with her, either. As Blaze begins to walk away, Ronnie extends an offer for a place to stay or get a bite to eat.
The next day, Ronnie struggles with finding something formal to wear to the wedding, and Jonah offers Ronnie the money he has amassed through blackmail and liar's poker. Ronnie finds a gown and even gets her hair done at a salon. On the day of the wedding, she is transformed into someone who looks totally different.
Steve borrows a car from Pastor Harris to drive Ronnie to the wedding, and Ronnie notices all the improvements made on the Blakelee estate for the occasion. Will wears a tuxedo, and he and Ronnie are both impressed with how the other cleans up.
An elderly couple sits in the same row as Ronnie, and she gets a vague sense of recognition, but she cannot place the man. When Megan appears, Ronnie doesn't notice that the man is paying more attention to her than to the bride.
Megan and Daniel recited vows that they have written themselves and mention achieving commitment only through the passage of time. Because he is a member of the bridal party, Will initially has only stolen moments of time to spend with Ronnie. As he is returning for additional pictures, Ronnie notices the elderly man watching her.
Although Scott, Cassie, and Ashley do not include Ronnie in dinner conversation, she does not care. Ronnie uses the time to reflect on the nature of her relationships with Kayla and her mother, and decides that both relationships are going to change when she returns to New York. Ashley interrupts Ronnie's thoughts to tell her that there is no way that Ronnie's relationship with Will could possibly last. Ronnie finally stands up to Ashley, telling her to never talk to her again without risking losing her teeth.
The truth, though, is that Ashley's words worry Ronnie. When Will approaches her, she voices her concerns to him. His words don't quite reassure Ronnie. As they kiss, she contemplates taking their relationship to a new level physically. Will asks her if she wants to go to his father's boat with him, and she whispers "Okay." As they make their way to the dock, Ronnie notices Susan talking with the elderly man.
As they make their way toward the boat, Marcus interrupts them. He makes a crack about the judge, and then Ronnie realizes the elderly man is the judge from her case. Marcus is trying to get Will to attack him as he moves toward the corner of the tent. Will does, and they fall on the ropes that are supporting the tent. The pegs are torn loose from the ground, and the corner begins to collapse.
Susan blames Ronnie for ruining Megan's wedding. She refers to Ronnie as low class and not good enough for her son. She also tells Will that she knows Ronnie is going to court for shoplifting. Tom takes Ronnie home, and she asks him to tell Will that she won't be seeing him any longer.
The next morning, Megan visits Ronnie and assures her that Marcus was the one to blame for the wedding fiasco. She tells Ronnie that she came over to ask if Ronnie loves her brother. When Ronnie admits that she does, Megan encourages her to change her mind about seeing Will. She reminds Ronnie about the volleyball tournament.
Ronnie arrives just before Will's first game. He is confused about seeing her, and she kisses him, asks him to forget what she said, and tells him to play like he's never played before.
In contrast to the introspective previous chapter, Chapter 26 is full of action as well as plot, character, and thematic development. It begins with Ronnie attempting to reconcile with Blaze, who admits to setting Ronnie up but is unable to do anything about it because of Marcus' threats. Even though this does not change Ronnie's situation, the confession softens Blaze, who is not a bad person but who keeps bad company. Blaze also drops an ominous hint about Marcus' plan when she tells Ronnie that "I don't think Marcus is done with you."
This whirlwind pacing of the chapter gives readers a chance to experience the events as rapidly as Ronnie is experiencing them. This enables readers to better understand the shifting emotions and responses Ronnie is encountering in a single day.
Will and Ronnie's brief break up indicates that their relationship is strong enough to withstand negative outside influences. The only question is whether it is strong enough to withstand their personal problems and issues.
Ronnie's appearance at the wedding provides her with a sense of confidence that enables her to stand up to Ashley. Even though Ashley is verbalizing Ronnie's innermost fears, Ronnie neither wants nor needs to hear this from her, so Ronnie threatens to punch Ashley if she ever talks to her again. Ronnie uses her newfound empowerment to ask Will about the direction their relationship is headed.
Although Will says all the right things about the distance not being too far, his sister living in New York, and Ronnie visiting him at Vanderbilt, Ronnie is not convinced. In what could be seen as a moment of weakness and a chance to find another reason to keep him connected to her, she agrees to go out to his dad's boat with Will. Ronnie's uncertainty about whether she wants to explore a sexual relationship with Will is consistent with her character but Marcus' interruption prevents Ronnie from finding out if she is really ready to sleep with Will.
Readers also get an opportunity to get to know Megan, and she is every bit as wonderful as Will has described her. Megan's concern for her brother is the catalyst to spark Ronnie's return to him. But Megan can only convince Ronnie to go to Will after Megan is certain of Ronnie's feelings for her brother. Megan is serving as big sister, best friend, protector, and confidante all in one.
The vows that Megan and Daniel share reflect an important theme. They speak to the importance of commitment: "Real commitment could be proven only through the passage of time," which applies to other relationships, such as Ronnie and Steve's, Ronnie and Will's, and Steve's and God's. Another important thematic topic is communication. Ronnie privately considers talking to her mom, like the way she has been talking with her father this summer. Ronnie's internalization of this attitude indicates her newfound maturity and growth.