Scene: Arnold is in Mr. Sheridan's history class, and the lecture is really boring. He leaves to go to the bathroom.
Arnold does his business and starts popping zits. That's when he hears vomiting sounds coming from the girls' bathroom.
He knocks on the door, but the voice yells at him to go away. So he waits. Who walks out? Yup. The lovely Penelope. It turns out that she's bulimic. (Not anorexic, as she explains to Arnold.)
Arnold tells Penelope not to give up. She starts crying and tells Arnold that she's lonely and not as perfect and beautiful and intelligent as everyone thinks.
Arnold finds all this talk weirdly sexy. (Hormones.)
Over the next few weeks, Arnold and Penelope become a kinda-sorta couple at Reardan.
Penelope's father Earl, a racist, is pretty peeved. He tells Arnold to keep his hands out of his daughter's pants and that, if he knocks her up, he'll disown her.
Arnold speculates that Penelope is only dating him because he's an Indian and she wants to get "a little smudged" (15.73).
Still, Arnold is using Penelope too. He becomes instantly popular—girls, boys, even teachers start noticing him.
There are some "bigger and better reasons" the two have a connection (15.86).
For example: Penelope gets all goofy and dramatic and tells Arnold she wants to leave Reardan because people there have "small ideas" and "small dreams" (15.87). She wants to travel, to see the world, like the pyramids and Mount Everest.
Arnold laughs and Penelope complains that no one takes her seriously.
Arnold asks what she really wants to do. She says she wants to go to Stanford, study architecture, and make something beautiful because she wants to be remembered.
Arnold doesn't laugh at this because it's his dream, too.
Arnold also mentions that he loves just to look at Penelope, and he then graces us with an aside on her crazy beauty.