At dinner at home with her parents, Melinda is bombarded with roaring anger, because the guidance counselor had called them about her grades. She compares them to volcanic eruptions: “Mount Dad, long dormant, now considered armed and dangerous and Mount Saint Mom, oozing lava and spitting flame.” She conjugates Spanish verbs “behind her eyes.” They keep asking her questions which she feels she can’t answer, because they really don’t want to hear what she has to say. So she is grounded “until the Second Coming.”
She hides in her bedroom and sleeps in her closet while also scratching herself with the sharp edge of a paper clip. She wonders if a suicide attempt is a call for help, what is the cutting? A whimper or a peep? When her mother sees the cuts at breakfast, her response is to warn Melinda that she doesn’t have time for this and talks about suicide as if practicing tough love. She leaves a book about it on the back of the toilet to educate Melinda who says nothing in response to any of her comments. Her mother has “figured out that she doesn’t say too much. It bugs her.”
Melinda’s depression is beginning to escalate. She tries to mask her internal pain with external pain. The cutting of her wrists is at this point metaphorical for the real thing, but dangerous, nonetheless. The fact that her mother doesn’t take it as seriously as she should, and, in fact, acts as if it’s an annoyance, reveals much about how lonely Melinda must be. Her mother is not very good at mothering and even if Melinda had not been raped, she would have problems anyway. Her parents just really don’t get it. Like the title of the chapter, Melinda may as well just be a renter in this house, because her parents are acting incapable of raising a child.
When Melinda arrives at lunch, she sits across the table from Heather who is sitting on the fringe of the Marthas. They are all dressed alike, except for Heather, whom they hadn’t invited to go shopping with them. The Marthas proceed to berate Heather for the type of and amount of cans she is turning in. They claim she isn’t carrying her weight. Furthermore, they ridicule the posters Melinda made and then make her carry their trays to the dishwasher.
While Heather is carrying trays, some of the Marthas notice that Andy Evans has just walked in. Melinda reveals that Any Evans is IT. One of the Marthas, Emily, is excited that he had called her the night before. She says he is gorgeous, rich, and “just the itsiest bit dangerous.” Siobhan, another Martha, points out that it’s rumored he sleeps with anything. Melinda sits there with her peanut butter sandwich locking her jaws closed. When he approaches them, she feels like the “Prince of Darkness had swept his cloak over the table.” He stands behind Melinda’s chair to flirt with Emily and twirls her ponytail in his fingers. She mumbles something idiotic and runs for the bathroom. She heaves up her lunch and washes her face with ice cold water. Heather never comes looking for her.
This chapter creates both sadness and deep anger in the reader. The hypocritical attitude and the criticism of the Marthas are so ridiculous that we can’t help feeling sad for Heather who wants so much to be a part of them. She doesn’t see how stupid they are and how much better she really is than they are. Furthermore, they ridicule the posters which Melinda worked so hard on. They liken them to what a child would do. They don’t know that Melinda created them, but the pain she feels at hearing their remarks is real.
Then, the anger begins with the monster, Andy Evans, who continues to torment Melinda while he flirts with another girl. He is a horrible person and, as readers, we want so much to smash his arrogance and cruelty. We keep rooting for Melinda to find the voice that will put him in his place and reveal what he has done, but she still cannot find her voice. She is choking on the peanut butter, she says, but in truth, she is choking on her inability to speak.