Study Guide

Lucy: A Novel Chapter 4: Cold Heart

By Jamaica Kincaid

Chapter 4: Cold Heart

  • Lucy stands at a window inside Lewis and Mariah's apartment. She looks across the street into a luxurious apartment and thinks about how great it would be to live there.
  • She's all alone. Mariah and Lewis took the kids apple picking. Sure, they all looked so jolly before they left on their outing, Lucy reflects, but she's pretty sure there's trouble brewing.
  • Lucy waits for Peggy to call and tell her what time they should get together to hang out in the park and check out guys, their Sunday afternoon ritual.
  • Ugh, Sundays. Lucy just hates them.
  • Thinking about how much she hates Sundays leads her to thinking about her home and her mother. She tells us that her mother's written her a ton of letters, but she hasn't opened any of them.
  • Peggy shows up at the apartment. She and Lucy go to the park, but can't find any dudes worthy of their time and so they each head home.
  • Curled up in bed, Lucy has a bunch of random thoughts. First, she reflects on the summer.
  • Then she thinks about how she's decided not to keep going to school at night and that she's not going to try to become a nurse.
  • Ouch: lately Lucy has been having killer headaches, she tells us. This gets her to thinking about her mother, who's also had bad headaches.
  • And then Lucy contemplates how she and Peggy don't have much in common. She observes that Peggy doesn't like museums like she does.
  • Lucy goes to a party with Peggy in a dank, creepy building. The party is filled with artists who are high on marijuana. Lucy joins in and partakes in the pot smoking, too.
  • At the party, Lucy meets a guy named Paul. Uh-oh, Peggy warned her that this dude is a pervert. But Lucy is nevertheless totally attracted to him.
  • Lucy flirts with Paul, which gets Peggy steaming mad. Peggy tries to dissuade Lucy from pursuing Paul by telling her that he has a small penis. That should be a dealbreaker, right?
  • Not for Lucy. She finds the silver lining of a small penis: it will fit perfectly in her mouth.
  • Lucy watches Paul as he reaches into a fish tank to retrieve someone's lost earring. Wow, this party is pretty wild.
  • Speaking of wild, the sight of Paul's hands reminds Lucy of a very wild story about a girl back home and a man named Mr. Thomas.
  • A short time later, Peggy and Lucy start talking about getting a place together. Peggy can't stand living with her family and Lucy wants to have a life outside of working for Mariah's family.
  • Lucy thinks about Mariah, which then causes her to think about her own mother. And her thoughts eventually wander to a babysitter she once had named Maude Quick who took delight in torturing her.
  • Update on Mariah and Lewis from Lucy: things are pretty stormy. The two are arguing a lot, and Mariah is often in tears.
  • One day when she and Mariah were sitting in the kitchen, Lucy tells us, they began talking about sex.
  • Basically, Lucy's sex life is hot and Mariah's is not. Lucy revealed to Mariah that she's having non-stop sex with Paul. Mariah tells her that the sex with Lewis is terrible.
  • Bad sex? Lucy never imagined there could be such a thing!
  • A letter from Lucy's mother arrives that says Urgent on it. Lucy tears it open, right? Nope. She just throws it on top of her enormous collection of unopened letters from her mom.
  • Lucy has really been getting into photography lately so she buys a camera.
  • She gets more than a camera at the store when she ends up sleeping with the dude who sold it to her.
  • After she leaves the dude's place, she goes to meet Paul at his place. She kisses him and feels kind of guilty. He tells her he loves her. Lucy kisses him extra hard. Uh-oh. Maybe that was a bad idea, she thinks, because he might take it to mean that she loves him back.
  • One day Lucy returns from a walk with the children to the apartment where Lewis and Mariah are sitting together. Mariah looks like she's been crying.
  • Photo time! Lucy takes a picture of them for some weird reason (even she admits she doesn't know what she was thinking).
  • Lewis gets up and leaves.
  • Mariah tells Lucy that she's going to ask Lewis to leave. Permanently.
  • One night, Lucy lies in her bed looking around at all the photos she's taken and hung up on her wall.
  • Knock, knock. Mariah comes into the room. Lucy's got company.
  • Lucy goes out to the living room to find that monstrous babysitter from her past, Maude Quick.
  • Maude hands Lucy a letter from her mother. Before Lucy can open it, Maude blurts out that father died of a heart attack a month ago.
  • Lucy's mother wants her to come home, Maude tells her. Lucy doesn't reply.
  • Awkward hug time: Maude embraces Lucy and leaves.
  • Lucy opens the letter from her mother, which basically says what Maude already told her. But there's something else: Lucy's mother adds that her father's death has left her broke because he died owing a ton of money.
  • So much for the money Lucy was saving for her new apartment. She sends it all to her mother. And when Mariah hears what she's done, she gives her more money, which Lucy also sends to her mom.
  • All the kindness doesn't last for long, though. Lucy sends her mother a letter berating her for having married a guy who would leave her in such a bad financial situation. And she adds that she is thoroughly enjoying her life as a "slut" (the one thing her mother did not want her to be).
  • Her mother writes back to say that she loves her anyway. The letter winds up in Mariah's fireplace.
  • Mariah tells Lucy that she and Lewis are getting divorced, but she's kind of okay with it because she feels free.
  • During their heart-to-heart, Mariah suggests that Lucy forgive her mother.
  • Lucy tries to explain why she has such major beef with her mother.
  • Here's the story: when Lucy was nine years old, her mother had three little boys in the span of five years. Her parents planned to send all of the boys to a university in England, but there would be no such fancy schooling for Lucy.
  • Unfair. This really made Lucy feel like her mother betrayed her big time.
  • Mariah leaves the room and comes back with a big fat book about women's history that she gives to Lucy.
  • Sigh. Lucy takes one look at the book and laments to herself that Mariah totally doesn't get it. Her life, she thinks, "could not really be explained by this thick book" (4.54).

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