Toni Little received a memo from the principal, Yvonne Noble. The principal asks her to join a meeting with Braxton to resolve some differences. Her temper continues to be off even in class. Braxton walked into Little’s class, where she started a tirade about how she always gets reprimanded for speaking her mind. She points out that she’s just making sure that the kids are learning. Moultrie is confused as to why Little is so irritated at her. Braxton reveals that Little is difficult to handle. On a Friday afternoon after school, Little reluctantly enters the principal’s office. Moultrie hands out copies of complaints that Little has made about her to other students and adults. Little sarcastically states that she wasn’t trying to oust Moultrie from her position. Moultrie tells her that what Little is doing is very unprofessional and that she had no time for Little’s insecurities. The principal reprimands Little and tells her that if she hears Little complaining about Moultrie next time, she won’t be as lenient.
Little thinks that she’s being harassed by the school for being white. She takes her class to the library for Braxton’s annual college prep talk. Olivia is nowhere to be found. Little ran into her later on the same day and Olivia reveals that she was in jail, that’s why she wasn’t able to attend class. She was arrested for forging stolen checks but doesn’t seem fazed by her arrest and thinks that it won’t affect her life.
A winter storm has arrived in Southern California, affecting Little’s mood. She discusses original sin and class and reflects on her experience in the principal’s office. She tells the author that they’re going after her. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Little’s students are panicking. The University of California applications are due Saturday and they were asked to write autobiographical essays. Little advised them to do the same thing that they did to their assignments. Meanwhile, Olivia sits in one corner of the classroom, thinking deeply. This had been a bad week for her and she’s starting to get worried about her court hearing. She had asked several people from Crenshaw to write letters to the judge. Her trial is scheduled for early December, and because of it, she had been slacking with her college applications.
Sadi saved Olivia from spending Thanksgiving alone by inviting her to join him and his mother at the last minute. Her trial was moved to January 24th. Even if she missed the application deadline for the University of California, her dream college, Babson College in Massachusetts doesn’t have a deadline until February. She admits that she gets depressed every time the holidays come around. The following week, she misses more days at school. Andriana, another student who missed a week of school, approached Little and explained to her what happened. She had to attend her grandmother’s funeral. As Little is organizing the exam for her class before the winter break, she wonders if Olivia will still show up to class and if Claudia will hand in her assignment.
Claudia had always been considered to be a gifted student. She had never missed a class and never been late to any of them. She does all of her exams but never turns any of them in. Her IQ is above 150 but her grades started to slip during her junior year. Braxton pictured her to be a student at an Ivy League college in the future. But he discovered that she was flunking English and he knew that no college would accept a student that failed English. Braxton confronted her about it, to which she didn’t give much response.
Claudia’s mother, Margarita, used to be an elementary teacher in Guatemala. She once visited Los Angeles and never returned. There, she met a parking attendant and had a child with him. By the time Claudia was in kindergarten her mother had managed to teach her the multiplication table and how to read and write in Spanish. When she was in first grade, her learning was so advanced that her teacher wanted her to skip three grades. Margarita refused and Claudia was placed in a gifted program. Claudia was an exceptional student until she slacked off when she was in 11th grade. No one could explain her sudden change in behavior.
One day, while her parents were out, Claudia found two birth certificates from the 1960s and yellowed obituaries at their house. She asked her aunt for an explanation and discovered that her mother was married in Guatemala and lost two children. That finally explained why her mother was over-protective of her. On December 16th their exams for AP English were held. Again, Claudia didn’t turn her exam in, but Little knew that Claudia’s only chance to pass is the final exam. Still, she was uncertain if Claudia would turn this one in.