As the weather gets colder, Ma and Kim struggle in the apartment since the heat doesn’t work. They are the only ones living in the building, so the heat had not been fixed. This made staying at home even worse for Kim, since she was cold and alone with the bugs and mice. When the weather got even colder, they would keep the oven on at all times.
Kim pretended to go to school another day, not knowing that it was Thanksgiving. Luckily, Matt told her that school was out, so she has time to prepare an excuse for Ma. But, almost getting caught lying and the knowledge that her mom wanted her to work for a better life was motivation for Kim to go back to Mr. Bogart’s class. She even thought to forge an excuse letter for the time she missed.
The class had a math quiz that day, which Kim was excited about, since she knew math very well. She did get embarrassed again by her bad English, but a girl named Annette Avery was nice to her and became Kim’s first school friend.
Ma occasionally had to bring bags of clothes home from the factory so she could finish all her work. Sometimes she would stay at the factory all night. Ma and Kim would work on the garments in front of the oven, but even then the cold made the work difficult.
Having Annette as a friend meant that Kim now was able to look forward to school. Annette had very pale skin and blue eyes, things Kim had never seen before. They became friends as Annette helped Kim with English and Kim taught Annette how to speak Chinese.
Another boy in the class who Kim likes is Tyrone. He gets the best scores on all the tests, but he doesn’t like to show off. Still, Mr. Bogart always compared the rest of the class to him and said the others didn’t try hard enough.
The class is assigned to work on dioramas in partners, so Kim pairs up with Annette. That means she gets to go to Annette’s house one day after school to work. Kim is amazed that not only are there animals in the house without fleas, but there is fruit sitting out uncovered and no roaches are running to it.
Mrs. Avery gave them supplies, so building their diorama took hardly any time at all. That meant Annette and Kim got to play in Annette’s big bedroom. Eventually though, it was time for Kim to go home. She insisted that Mrs. Avery drop her off at the school, since that’s where Ma would be waiting.
With Christmas coming up, Kim wanted to get Annette a present, since she knew that Annette was getting her one. Ma didn’t have much money to spare, but they found a big plastic plant that was only $1.99, so they bought that. Annette gave Kim a small stuffed panda bear, which Kim loved. The last day of school before Christmas, Ma went with Kim to school and gave Mr. Bogart a large, soy sauce drumstick. Kim knew that Mr. Bogart wasn’t going to like it, but Ma viewed it as a luxury. Kim wasn’t sure if Santa Claus would come to her house, but she was happy to see that her Ma gave her two dollars and an orange, which was a great gift.
After the new year, Kim and Ma found plush cloth outside of a stuffed animal factory. They took as much of that as they were able to carry, and they were able to use it to keep themselves warm in the colder nights.
The Chinese New Year came around, and that meant the factory was closed and Kim got to stay home from school. The ceremonies for the day were symbolic of the entire year to come, so they were both very careful in all they did. They had sacred papers and food and wine that they set out in the kitchen. The sacred papers had to then be burned, and the wine was to ensure that petty spirits wouldn’t be able to steal the gifts from the intended gods.
One day when Ma and Kim were walking home from the store, they saw Mr. Al with a clearance sign at his store. He informed Kim that a new development was coming into town and all the buildings were going to be torn down. He said it could be one year or it could be ten, but he was getting out before anything happened.