In grade thirteen, the girls are each other’s lab partners in biology class. Elaine has no problem dissecting the worms, frogs, and crayfish, which Cordelia finds disgusting. 

Sometimes, Elaine goes to dinner at Cordelia’s house. When Cordelia’s father isn’t home, the women eat a relaxed meal. When her father is present, dinner is quite formal. He asks Elaine what she’s studying and finds Elaine’s responses charming in a way that Cordelia can’t manage to be because she’s afraid of him. Cordelia can never be the kind of person her father approves of. 

Summary: Chapter 45

While they drink milkshakes at a diner, Cordelia tells Elaine about a time she ate mercury from a thermometer so that she wouldn’t have to go to school. Cordelia asks Elaine if she remembers the holes they used to dig. Elaine doesn’t. Cordelia says she wanted a hole for herself where she could be safe. She wanted to hide from her father because he used to get angry with her often. Cordelia confesses she hated the kids from elementary school except for Elaine. 

Elaine suddenly feels dizzy and self-loathing and doesn’t understand why. Quickly, Elaine changes the subject back to stupid jokes.

Analysis: Chapters 41–45

Cordelia’s “lump lump” game sheds some light on her emotional state during childhood by reworking their group’s social dynamics. In this game, Cordelia ostensibly changes their history with Grace by making Grace the target of ridicule instead of Elaine, and erasing the way both Cordelia and Elaine had actually looked up to Grace. However, Cordelia’s rewritten history isn’t entirely false because Cordelia never appeared to truly enjoy Grace’s world. Cordelia didn’t really want to play the catalogue game but wanted to act and tell ghost stories, which suggests that the imaginative Cordelia probably did find Grace boring. In this sense, Cordelia’s retelling may not reflect how things actually played out, but it expresses more emotional truth than her behavior at the time did. We see here that, as a child, Cordelia’s behavior and her true feelings didn’t always align. While neither she nor Elaine actively discuss the bullying here, Cordelia’s emphatic insistence on playing the “lump lump” game acts as a kind of apology to Elaine by rewriting their past to reflect how she truly felt rather than how she behaved. However, Elaine interprets the game as a continuation of old patterns, as evidenced by her enjoyment of tearing Grace down and her segue into tormenting Cordelia.

Elaine’s cruelty to other girls is a manifestation of her painful socialization. Her constant torment of Cordelia for whatever she does recalls the women’s magazines she used to read, which taught her that everything women do is subject to ridicule. Her defensiveness around other girls also comes from her understanding from both magazines and lived experience that relationships between girls center around policing and judgement. In fact, cruelty to girls appears so normative in Elaine’s world that she becomes popular because of it. While Elaine’s popularity may not offer deep emotional connections, considering she doesn’t even mention another girl’s name aside from Cordelia, it does offer her emotional security. Elaine also enacts her socialization when Cordelia starts the lump lump game. Elaine views this game as a continuation of the way they behaved as girls and brings up the vampire story as a way to secure her power. Vampires suck the life force from human beings and also to mind the parasitic dynamic between the twins in the horror comic. Instead of continuing to bond together with Cordelia against Grace, Elaine goes on the offensive, asserting that theirs is a hierarchical relationship, and only one can be on top. 

In these chapters, Elaine begins reaping the social rewards for being a girl aligned with boys. However, her success has frightening implications for her sense of identity. Comfortable silence plays the most important role in Elaine’s communication with boys, which means they can interpret her however they want. Elaine calls her silences an escape from adults and peers because she doesn’t ask questions or make demands, like an adult, nor does she try to impress boys by being loud and gregarious like other teenagers. In other words, these silences neither demand her crushes give up anything nor even force them to acknowledge her as a person. Therefore, Elaine’s popularity with boys relates to the numb detachment and commitment to nothingness that she created with her cat’s eye. This nothingness also underlies Elaine’s sense that she can walk between the insults thrown at other girls because those words are labels, and Elaine is, in an odd way, no one. Cordelia, of course, flounders now that boys and men control social capital. Cordelia handles social situations by acting, playing a role, including her exaggerated manner of flirting. If Elaine has cultivated the art of being nobody, Cordelia can’t help but be someone. 

Cordelia’s slightly different memories of her shared childhood with Elaine offer new context on what happened between them that Elaine refuses to acknowledge. In Chapter 45, we see that Cordelia’s actually felt similarly to Elaine throughout elementary school, even faking being sick just like Elaine used to. Cordelia’s revelation that she wanted to use the holes to hide from her father adds a new dimension to her burial of Elaine. By placing Elaine in the hole instead of herself, Cordelia displaced her fear and loneliness onto Elaine. Long ago, Elaine noticed that Cordelia’s torments actually appeared to be imitations of someone else, and now we understand that person was likely Cordelia’s father. Cordelia had been taking out the ridicule she herself was experiencing on Elaine as a method of coping. Elaine cannot handle this revelation and changes the subject because, as she learns in Chapter 40, it would force her to acknowledge Cordelia as a whole person with feelings, which Elaine believes would make Elaine weaker. According to the rule of twins and her understanding of friendships between women, only one of them can exist in a position of strength. Elaine therefore quickly pushes past the subject to maintain her superiority over Cordelia.