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The next morning, Melody’s father shares that the team came in ninth place in the finals and received a little trophy. Melody tries to pretend that she doesn’t care but tears roll down her face. Her sadness turns to anger and although she has already been excused from school for the day, she decides she wants to go in holding her head up high to show the other students that this has not defeated her. She also wants to see Catherine.
It’s a very stormy, lightning-filled day, so Melody has to go back to using her manual wheelchair and her old Plexiglas communication board. The morning is very hectic for the whole family, but Melody’s mother agrees to take Melody to school in her SUV. After getting soaked by the rain, she gets Melody in the car. Just as she’s about to back out of the driveway, Melody sees Penny running out the front door. Melody’s mother does not notice her. Since Melody doesn’t have her Medi-Talker, she starts kicking, screaming, crying, and flailing about to try to warn her mother, but her mother thinks Melody is just acting out. The car starts backing down the driveway and they feel a soft thump. Melody’s father comes running out the door calling for Penny. Melody’s parents are horrified when they realize Penny has been injured by the car. Melody sits in the car frozen with fear.
Melody’s parents ride in the ambulance with Penny to the hospital. Mrs. V takes care of Melody and tries to calm her fears. Melody feels responsible for the accident because she insisted on going to school. Mrs. V tells her it’s not her fault and that Melody tried her best to warn her mother. Melody wishes it had been her in the accident because she thinks no one would miss her. Mrs. V replies saying she would miss her terribly if something happened to her. Melody brings up how the quiz team left her, and how she just wants to be like every other kid. Mrs. V doesn’t want her to be like every other kid and says she loves Melody for who she is. Mrs. V receives a phone call saying that Penny has some internal injuries and a badly broken leg but has successfully undergone surgery and will be fine. She and Melody are extremely relieved.
The details leading up to Penny’s accident create suspense and tension and foreshadow the accident itself. One thing after another goes wrong for the family as they try to get ready for the day, creating an overall mood of chaos and stress. The miserable weather outside reflects the chaotic household and injects a sense of danger into the scene. Mom’s migraine, Melody’s insistence on attending school, Dad’s injured hand, Penny’s naughtiness, the freeway pileup emergency, the early arrival of the school bus, and even Butterscotch’s behavior all contribute to the disorder of the household. The author establishes early in the book that Penny loves car rides and is an escape artist, a characterization that makes Penny’s dash for the car feel inevitable and contributes to a building sense of dread.
Melody’s personal predicament on the morning of the accident makes her feel as trapped and misunderstood as she felt in the first part of the book. Her deep unhappiness at being excluded from the quiz team trip and her stubbornness about attending school recall the frustration and hurt she regularly felt before the inclusion classroom, the power wheelchair, and the Medi-Talker changed her life. When Melody spots Penny running out of the house, she understands the danger, but her disability prevents her from helping; in the rain, she can’t use her power wheelchair or the Medi-Talker. As with the death of her goldfish, Melody finds herself unable to help because she cannot communicate. Throughout the book, Melody has gained more freedom and power, but on the day of the accident, she once again finds herself trapped and limited by her disability, unable to rely on the tools that have recently given her agency in her life.
Melody and Mrs. V’s conversation immediately after the accident illustrates important truths about both characters. Melody feels personally responsible for what happened, emphasizing her innate desire to do the right thing even when her disability makes it impossible. When Melody tells Mrs. V about her inability to protect and save her goldfish, Ollie, the fish’s death is explicitly connected to Penny’s accident. Although Melody has often felt deeply envious of Penny’s mobility, she is horrified at the thought that her family might end up with “two broken kids,” revealing her sense of guilt about how hard her parents work to care for her. When Melody says that her family wouldn’t miss her if the accident had happened to her, Mrs. V responds with loyalty and love. She explains that she treasures Melody as an individual, and she shows a continued belief in Melody’s future by sharing her plans for Melody’s college graduation. This scene deepens the novel’s portrayal of both Melody and Mrs. V, emphasizing their resilience, their empathy, and their affection for one another.