From Anna’s section to end of chapter
Anna recalls imagining what life would be like if Kate died. It would be painful, but she also thinks of the exciting things she could do if Kate weren’t alive. In the present, Anna sits with her parents in the hospital cafeteria. Vern Stackhouse serves Sara with a temporary restraining order requiring her not to have contact with Anna. Anna says she never asked for that but Sara is furious. Sara and Brian fight in the car about hiring a “real” lawyer. Reporters have gathered at the courthouse, and Anna and Brian wait outside while Sara and Campbell talk to the judge. Julia arrives and asks if Anna wants Sara to leave the house. Anna says that’s not what she wants. She also says she’s changed her mind and doesn’t want to go through with the lawsuit anymore. After Julia leaves, Brian asks Anna if she wants to stay with him at the fire station to give her distance from Sara. They leave together.
Outside the courthouse, Campbell speaks to the reporters. He recognizes that he wants to draw attention to the case to capitalize on it. Sara and Campbell speak to Judge DeSalvo. Julia arrives, tells the judge that Anna is confused, and it would be a mistake to remove Sara from the house. Judge DeSalvo refuses to grant the restraining order, but he orders Sara not to say one more word to Anna about the case. Julia, Campbell, and Sara go outside to see Anna only to discover she has left with Brian. Julia tries to talk to Campbell but he avoids her. Once again, his dog, Judge, clearly tries to alert Campbell to something. Julia yells at Campbell while he tries to get away from her. She informs Campbell that Anna said she changed her mind about the petition. Finally, Campbell escapes into an empty room and locks the door.
Jesse arrives home to find Julia on his doorstep. He tries to flirt with her. She asks for Anna, but Jesse says no one is home. Julia brushes off Jesse’s continued flirtations and asks him about his family. He tells her a story about a Christmas Eve when he was 12 and Kate was in the hospital. Anna had to be taken in to give white blood cells, and Jesse was sent to a neighbor’s house. He left and chopped down a tree from his family’s front yard, then set it up in the living room and decorated it. The next day when he opened his gifts he realized they were all from the hospital gift shop. Brian and Sara never even noticed the tree. Jesse says that the story explains what it has been like to grow up in his family. He says at least Anna is on their parents’ radar.
Brian takes Anna to the fire station. He recalls his visit to the hospital earlier that afternoon. Kate slept, and Brian talked to Sara. He told her Anna was going to stay with him at the station. They argued when Brian told Sara he was worried about Anna. Sara said that, unlike him, she worries about both of their daughters. Later that night, the fire station receives a call to a nursing home where a woman has hit her head. Anna goes along and helps. They take the woman to the hospital, and Brian loses track of Anna. He finds her in Kate’s room, curled up on Sara’s lap. He takes her back to the station. Later, Anna and Brian watch a meteor shower from the station’s roof. Anna wonders aloud if it would be possible to find a fallen star.
Despite the bold decision she has made in bringing the lawsuit, Anna remains immature (or rather, she has the level of maturity appropriate for a thirteen-year-old girl). Though she finds herself in a difficult situation given Kate’s cancer and the legal drama she started, Anna can’t help but think of her school crush or dream of what she wants to be when she grows up. Her circumstances, however, do temper that innocence. She recognizes that her dreams of what she could be later in life depend on whether or not Kate is alive. If Kate dies, Anna has much more freedom, but she will have lost her sister and best friend. Anna simultaneously wants both scenarios and neither scenario to occur. When Brian takes Anna to the firehouse roof, we see how innocent Anna remains as she asks a very childlike question about whether they could find a fallen star.
As the story progresses, the cracks forming in Sara’s and Brian’s marriage begin to show more clearly. They obviously love each other, but Anna’s lawsuit has begun taking a toll on them. They argue, for instance, when Brian tells Sara that he is going to take Anna to stay with him at the firehouse, and they do not agree on how to handle the situation. Brian recognizes that Anna feels unhappy. He thinks they should listen to her and give her room to come to her own conclusions about the matter. Sara, on the other hand, still cannot see past Kate’s failing health and does not want to indulge Anna, who Sara thinks is throwing some kind of tantrum with the lawsuit. In their argument, Sara even makes a snide comment about Brian’s handling of the matter when she says that, unlike him, she is worried about both their daughters.
Campbell’s motion for a restraining order against Sara demonstrates that Campbell’s main goal at this point remains winning the lawsuit, not necessarily doing what is best for Anna. In his view, removing Sara from the Fitzgerald house will keep Sara from having an influence on Anna. It also makes Sara look bad in court. Both of these effects increase his chances of winning the case. He does not think that Anna might not want her mother removed from her house (after all, Anna still loves Sara, even if she disagrees with her) and he doesn’t consider the rift it would undoubtedly create in the Fitzgerald family. Ironically, Campbell’s actions resemble Sara’s treatment of Anna as a result. By being so focused on winning the lawsuit, Campbell fails to make Anna’s wellbeing his top priority, just as Sara’s focus on saving Kate often meant Anna’s wellbeing became a secondary concern. Both Campbell and Sara sacrifice Anna to win what they see as the larger battle.
Julia, on the other hand, recognizes that, as Anna’s guardian ad litem, her only responsibility is to determine what is best for Anna. She has no obligation to any other member of the Fitzgerald family and has nothing to gain from the lawsuit, whether Anna wins or not. The members of the Fitzgerald family, aside from Sara, appear to trust Julia for this reason. Consequently, Julia gets honest, straightforward descriptions of the family’s history from Brian, Kate, and even Jesse. Kate, for instance, tells Julia about a year when she was sick for every holiday and the effect that had on Anna. Jesse, whose interactions with almost everyone to this point have been short and flippant, describes very honestly his memory of one Christmas where he ran away from the neighbor’s house, chopped down a tree, and decorated it inside the Fitzgerald house. His parents, he says, did not notice because they thought only about Kate. All his gifts that year came from the hospital gift shop, indicating that his parents did not consider Christmas beforehand and had put no thought into making the holiday special for their other children.