Study Guide

My Heartbeat

My Heartbeat Summary

It's the end of summer vacation and things are starting to get tense for Ellen, her math prodigy of an older brother, Link, and Link's best friend, James. For a while now they've been an inseparable trio, but now they're also developing into an unfortunate love triangle: Ellen is madly in love with James, but James is in love with Link. And Link, poor Link, just doesn't know how he feels about that.

Ellen starts at her new school and she's filled with anxiety. She prefers to fly under the radar socially and academically, but at Cedar Hill everyone knows she's Link's little sister. She's determined to have a fresh start and be more social (no more teacher's notes on her unwillingness to make friends), but that proves to be difficult for her. (Hey teachers, there's nothing wrong with being introverted.)

One day at lunch, a friend observing Link and James remarks upon how much they seem like a couple, and the remark effectively blows Ellen's mind—of course they're a couple. So now she's consumed with the need to define their relationship in order to better understand her two favorite people.

Her first step is to ask her mom. Mom says that she wants Link to do whatever makes him happy (typical Mom thing to say) and that if Ellen really wants to know, she needs to ask him.

This advice turns out catastrophically. Ellen finally screws up enough courage to ask the boys if they're a couple, and things explode. James says yes, they are, but Link adamantly denies being gay, despite knowing that James is. Link storms out, and Ellen and James are left to sift through the remains of the fight for little kernels of truth.

Ellen decides that she needs to educate herself about what it means to be gay, but no matter how many books she reads, she can't seem to find the answers she wants.

Link starts dating a girl, so James and Ellen turn to each other for companionship. They start frequenting hospital cafeterias and playing games that teach them how to really "see" people. He starts teaching her how to draw, and over time their companionship turns into something more, and they start dating each other.

Poo really hits the fan when the school calls their parents to report that Link left all of his final exams blank. That's one heck of a cry for attention, and oh boy does he get some. His mom insists he see a shrink to talk about whatever it is that he's going through. His Dad just wants his academic super-star to keep on shinin', though, so he wants him to take his exams over, see the shrink for performance anxiety, and for Pete's sake, keep quiet about the fact that he's been paying him to date a girl. Say what?

Link finally agrees to see a shrink who specializes in math geniuses, but he holds firm on refusing to retake his exams. He also comes clean about his secret piano lessons, which surprises everyone. Ellen just continues to love James and wish she understood her brother at all.

Things also remain tense in the McConnell house: Link resumes his hostile interactions with anyone who loves him; Dad maintains his impressive state of denial about Link's possible homosexuality; Mom keeps pretty neutral; and Ellen spends most of her days obsessing about James, sex, homosexuality, her lack of sex, the possibility of sex, and James (oh, did we say that one already?).

Then: Link reveals to his parents that he got into Yale. For his Dad, it is a dream come true—the Holy Grail of possible educational institutions. Somehow this manages to diffuse their overwrought situation, and they all go out to celebrate.

James confesses to Ellen that he's going to Art School in Germany. She's heartbroken, because that distance is practically insurmountable for a fourteen year-old. As consolation, they finally have sex.

As Ellen blissfully walks home from James's house after the loss of her virginity, she envisions a bright future for herself.

  • Chapter 1

    • James has left the summer house in Maine after midnight, which is odd because he usually doesn't go anywhere without Link. And, uh… also because it's late, dude. Go to bed.
    • Link is our narrator's older brother, and James is his best friend. They're both total enigmas.
    • Our narrator is head over heels in love with James. He knows it (because Link is a mean older brother), but he's kind about it and says that he'll be broken-hearted when she grows out of her crush.
    • Even though James and Link both sound pretty self-absorbed, they are the two people our narrator loves to be around. She's like their silent, feminine shadow.
    • The reason James left without Link is because they're fighting. Apparently James made Link watch a terrible foreign film for the second time as a not-so-subtle jab about some other guy he was trying to impress.
    • It sounds an awful lot like Link is jealous of any attention James pays to anyone else—particularly dudes—and he's fond of stomping out during a spat. Real pleasant guy, that Link.
    • Link is a math prodigy. Maybe that's why he's so grumpy.
    • It's Ellen's fourteenth birthday tomorrow (yay—we get a name for our narrator), so she doesn't want her two best friends fighting. She decides to ask Link if she can sleep in his room like they used to do when they were little.
    • Despite being cranky, Link is sweet to Ellen and lets her sleep in his bed. (He sleeps on the floor).
  • Chapter 2

    • Ellen's Dad makes her a cake cut to look like a Saint Bernard for her birthday. She loves dogs, especially huge ones, but they live in NYC so there's no way she's getting one.
    • Link and James got her rollerblades, and she's psyched because she's wanted them for two years. Her mom got her a helmet and elbow and knee pads. Typical Mom.
    • James also got Ellen cheesy bumper stickers to put on her helmet so she'll feel less geeky. (We're thinking that plan might backfire.)
    • Their dad puts a lot of importance in intellectualism; he thinks being "geeky" is awesome. Perhaps that's why his gift to Ellen is The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton.
    • Ellen loves her new book because it's a love triangle much like her own. She sees herself as the Countess Ellen Olenska (having the same name doesn't hurt), and James as Newland Archer, the man hopelessly in love with her.
    • Link has already gone running in the rain by the time Ellen gets up. Ellen, a different creature entirely, decides to eat leftover birthday cake for breakfast because no one's around to stop her.
    • She spends the day reading. She gets so engulfed in the story she finds it difficult to differentiate between fiction and her real life.
    • The weather continues to be yucky, so everyone is reading now; Link and James are competing to see who can finish A Tale of Two Cities first.
    • When they all get bored, they drive to Cooper's Terrace for iced tea and cake for Ellen. (Girl, that's twice in one day—we like your style.)
    • Link spontaneously plays the piano, and even though he can barely read sheet music, he's a whiz at playing by ear. James, on the other hand, despite years of lessons, needs the sheet music to play.
    • Ellen decides her birthday wish is to understand Link and James's relationship better.
  • Chapter 3

    • Ellen finishes The Age of Innocence the same day they leave for home. Newland never gets to marry the controversial Countess, and Ellen thinks it's sad but pretty.
    • James isn't in any hurry to get back home because his parents are away on a vacation to Canada. They prefer to do fun things, like vacations, when they don't have to worry about "entertaining" him. Yikes. They're lawyers on Wall Street, and the term "absentee parents" fits them pretty well.
    • Ellen's dad is planning an all-nighter to prepare for his strategy presentation the next day, so instead of letting James sleep in his study (like he usually does when he stays over—it's very important to Dad that James and Link don't share a room, which is a bit bizarre) he's going to take Ellen's room. She doesn't mind sleeping on the couch for James.
    • Ellen's mom has to work, too. She's an interior designer, and she has five proposals in the mix.
    • Ellen, James, and Link stay up late watching foreign films and debating the merits of John Woo.
    • Now it's the night before the first day of school, and the McConnells are having their "sacred" family dinner hour where they recap their day.
    • Link has re-enrolled in the math program at Columbia for high-school kids doing advanced college-level math, even though it's held on Saturdays. That's commitment right there, folks.
    • The biggest fight her parents ever got in was over Link's academic future. When he was in seventh grade, Dad wanted to send him to boarding school in New Hampshire where he could really focus on math, but both Link and Mom wanted him to stay home. This was a really contentious issue, and apparently still is in the McConnell household. Dad wants to make sure Link's doing the program, and Mom wants to make sure Link wants to do the program. Tough stuff.
    • Now Dad turns his attention onto Ellen and what she thought of Age of Innocence. She's anxious to please him with her answers, which makes it more like a pop quiz than a family discussion. She kind of cops out, though, and just tells him next time she wants a happier book.
    • While she's lying in bed, anxious about her first day at school tomorrow (ninth grade + a new school = eek), her dad gives her Pride and Prejudice to read. (This guy has a real thing for the classics, eh?)
    • Ellen goes to orientation at her new school, Cedar Hill, and picks up her hideously ugly school uniform. Bummer.
    • Ellen has a problem making friends. It's so bad that even her teachers send home letters about her "unwillingness to form any firm social attachments." Ellen attributes this to the fact that most of the conversations around her tend to be trivial and trite—there's no need for her to chime in when the exchange is so inconsequential.
    • However, since she's in a new school, she is determined to make a fresh start and has decided she'll smile more. Baby steps, Ellen, baby steps.
  • Chapter 4

    • Despite her desire for a fresh start, Ellen is exhausted by the end of the day from smiling at so many people she doesn't know. Her goal is to go mostly unnoticed, which seems like a tiring/ineffective method of high school survival.
    • The problem is that now that she's in the same school as her brother and James, she's getting a lot of attention from the older girls who are interested in the enigmatic boys. They all want her to say "hi" to James and Link for them.
    • Ellen realizes that the guys are pretty standoffish, and that this is why the girls are so desperate for a messenger.
    • Her girlfriends at lunch explain that all the girls are in love with Link and James, but that it's pretty obvious they don't have time for girls. Put in that way, Ellen starts to reframe how she sees her two best friends.
    • Ellen is also desperate to maintain the right grades in order to stay academically obscure. She hates the attention she gets for being Link's little sister (and the expectations that come with that), but she can't do too poorly or her dad will get on her case.
    • Ellen just can't get into Pride and Prejudice, and is worried about disappointing her Dad, so James has her watch the movie instead. They have the Laurence Olivier version, though, which happens to be drier than the novel. Oops.
    • Link goes off to rent a better movie (ah, the days of Blockbuster), and Ellen takes the opportunity to tell James about his appeal to all of the girls at school. When Link gets back they tell him, too, and he thinks it's "gross."
    • Ellen ends up confessing to her dad that she didn't like the characters in Pride and Prejudice because they were too anxious, so he chuckles and gives her Jane Eyre instead; according to him it's romantic drivel with unhappy characters and a happy ending, so he's thinking it's right up her alley. He's totally right, and she loves it.
    • The next day at lunch Ellen is rescued from her gossiping girlfriends by James, who asks her to eat with Link and him. He says he and Link need her more than they do. (Interesting choice of words.)
    • At dinner they are celebrating that Mom landed all five of the jobs she submitted proposals for. Way to go, Mom.
    • Ellen gets caught reading Jane Eyre in French class, but her teacher actually commends her for having interests outside of schoolwork. Not too shabby.
    • Her friend Adena casually starts up conversation and works it back around to Link and James. She says that Ellen's lucky she has such a nice older brother. She also comments on how Link and James are like a couple, which totally blows Ellen's mind.
    • Even though Ellen sees the sense in thinking of them as a couple, she resolves to never ask them. Ever. That'll solve it…
  • Chapter 5

    • Ellen gets up early to finish reading Jane Eyre before she has to go clothes shopping with her mom. She loves it.
    • She's still pretty wrapped up in the "are they or aren't they" question about Link and James's coupledom. On the one hand, duh, it makes so much sense. On the other hand, though, if they are a couple, then why are they hiding it? And why would they encourage her crush on James if they knew it to be a cruel impossibility?
    • Since she can't ask them directly, she decides to ask her mom on their shopping trip. She'll know.
    • When she drops the maybe-Link-is-gay-bomb on her mom, it seems like she's both a bit blindsided and has expected it for a while. Her mom takes her to tea (and they get cake, obviously) in order to talk about it.
    • Unlike everyone else in their family, Mom is willing to talk about the matter directly. She doesn't know if Link is gay, but if he is then she's fine with it: whatever makes him happy. Their father, on the other hand, will care very much, and not in a positive way.
    • Mom thinks Ellen should ask Link herself, to show him that she cares. And she should ask James, too, because if she wants to know, asking them directly is the best way.
    • When they get home, Link has a headache from his "Maths for Freaks" class, and her father is doing his method of relaxation: reading a three-volume novel in German. He's been doing it for years, no end in sight, and to say it's "relaxing" seems like a stretch.
    • Link and Ellen go to James's house to hang out and watch another foreign film.
    • Ellen goes for it; she asks them if they're a couple. Link wants to know why she's asking, so she tells them that Adena called them a couple, and she was wondering whether it was okay to agree with her.
    • James says yes… but Link says no. Link gets really angry, in fact, and says that James is gay but he isn't. You can tell this hurts James's feelings. The difference, according to Link, is that James has actually slept with men.
    • Link doesn't want to have this conversation, so he gets angry and storms out. Ellen stays, despite Link's wishes, because she senses that she'll finally get answers if she talks to James.
  • Chapter 6

    • James tries to reassure Ellen that the fight wasn't her fault; they've needed to have that conversation for a while, and now he knows where they both stand.
    • Ellen wonders whether it's the sex that makes you gay, or the relationship.
    • James gets them shots of Sambuca and they talk about what it means to be gay.
    • James surmises that Link doesn't know whether he's gay, but he's scared of the answer, and that's why he gets so mad. James doesn't know whether he's gay either, but he's not scared of it; James slept with those men just to annoy Link.
    • Ellen guesses it wouldn't annoy Link if he weren't gay. However, he can't outwardly say it hurt him, because that would be confirming he's gay. Poor Link is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
    • James likes girls, too, so he's not sure if he's gay—he's just not afraid of it either way.
    • Ellen decides to go home. James gives her cab money because Ellen and Link never have any money since their allowance gets "taxed" by their dad so they have savings for Christmas and birthdays.
    • Ellen relays James's message to Link that he's sorry. Link just gets angry all over again, though. He doesn't want to talk about it, and he's not a "couple" with James, end of story.
    • Link tells Ellen that Adena leapt to conclusions about them being gay because her father is gay. Muy interesante.
  • Chapter 7

    • Ellen decides to research what it means to be gay, but her efforts are largely disappointing until she heads to a gay bookstore.
    • She learns about how taboo it used to be to be gay. Now, according to her, it's not a big deal—you only have to worry about AIDS or hate crimes. (Yeah, uh, those are still a pretty big deal.)
    • Link still isn't speaking to her.
    • Link also got himself a girlfriend, one Polly Keller, who is Ellen's friend Laurel's sister.
    • Polly calls every night and talks to a more or less silent Link for hours.
    • James thinks Ellen is wasting her time reading books about gay people—they won't tell her what she wants to know.
    • It's hard for James to watch Link with Polly (and their little posse of followers) so he and Ellen start to eat out for lunch instead of sticking around the courtyard.
    • Since ninth graders aren't allowed to eat off school grounds, James forges a note on Ellen's father's stationary. Ellen feels like quite the rebel, but to make up for her transgression she stops her gay research and gets back to committing herself to her schoolwork.
    • By midterms she manages to earn all B's—which was her goal—and her dad is relatively proud of her. He admits there's room for improvement, but he's glad the "ridiculous" reports on her social abilities haven't resurfaced.
    • Since she did so well in French, James offers to take her to Paris after graduation, but she insists that by then he'll be back with Link. He disagrees.
    • James tries to explain why the books won't help her (or Link), and he describes the unwritten social laws that make being gay taboo.
    • Ellen's dad probably told Link that being gay was wrong.
    • James figures that in order to get back on Link's good side, Ellen has to find a way to reach out to him without it involving talking about James or Polly. The answer? Running.
  • Chapter 8

    • As it turns out, Ellen's a pretty good runner; Link says she's free to join him anytime she wants.
    • Saturday, after she runs with Link, she joins James for an Iranian film festival. It's mostly because she lacks anything better to do, but she also wants to prove to James that she can be an intellectual companion like Link was.
    • She finds herself in over her head when it comes to critiquing the film, and she confesses to James that she wishes she thought more like Link. He convinces her that she has her own interesting qualities.
    • James decides he wants to "work on her visual vocabulary," so he asks her to join him at a hospital. He wants her to "learn how to see." Ho-kay…
    • James likes to go to the hospital cafeteria to people-watch. He often draws the people and creates a whole backstory based on what he thinks they're like.
    • He and Ellen play a game: You have to make a list of the things someone in the room owns, and the other has to guess who you're referring to.
    • This becomes a regular thing. Every day that week they go to hospital cafeterias after school to see which has the best people. After they play their game, Ellen does her homework and James draws.
    • James gives Ellen a drawing he's done of her. She's a storybook princess observing a party, and in the folds of her skirt he's woven words describing her "interesting qualities."
    • It's the only drawing he's ever let her see, and it's also the only one he's ever given away.
  • Chapter 9

    • Thanksgiving arrives, and in the McConnell family it is more of a business opportunity than a holiday—Ellen's father always invites the people on his staff who don't have other plans.
    • Everyone is super busy, Dad with his cooking, Link with college applications, and Mom's work is in full swing.
    • Ellen is now neglecting her homework in order to read art books so she can learn how to really look at paintings.
    • Her dad starts asking her questions about school, friends, and so on (you know, typical out-of-touch dad questions), and she dodges most of them.
    • For some reason both of her parents have been trying to ask her about Polly and Link, and she's curious about why.
    • Thanksgiving goes really well, much to Ellen's surprise.
    • James invites her to go rollerblading so she can finally use her birthday present. Also, so he can get out of the house while his half-sisters are visiting. They're not exactly fond of each other due to the circumstances under which he was conceived.
    • James and Ellen rollerblade for a while (Ellen falling a lot, James gracefully instructing her), and then when James realizes he left his wallet at home, debate where to go: brave the half-sister coven, or brave Link in order to get some food.
    • James insists it'd be too weird to go to Ellen's house because, as he says, "we're not dating […] the way your brother and I weren't a couple." So… they're dating?
    • After this revelation, they make out.
  • Chapter 10

    • James and Ellen have to awkwardly dissect what just happened between them.
    • James had been hoping to have everything patched up between him and Link before he started getting serious with Ellen.
    • He used to call her "our insurance" because if she was around, then Link and James couldn't experiment physically.
    • They hash things out. James and Link are done because Link's love for James made him unhappy, while Ellen's love for him, on the other hand, will be shown without hesitation.
    • Things are going to be awkward between Link and Ellen, but that's unavoidable. So be it.
    • Link's college essay is proving to be a bit problematic. It's supposed to be about why he loves math, but Ellen thinks it sounds more like he is drowning in it. She tells herself she must have missed the point as usual, but maybe this time she's the only one who sees through the charade.
    • Now Ellen divides aspects of her life into two categories: kissing and not kissing. It's obvious which one she prefers.
    • She is excited to finally be one of those girls who worry about sex, but with James she's not scared.
  • Chapter 11

    • In a huge act of rebellion, Link turned in all of his final exams blank.
    • It makes their mom cry—she says it's hostile—and since their dad is in Europe, they're trying to get ahold of him to tell him the bad news.
    • Link says it's about futility; he knows everything he studied throughout the year, and his teachers know he knows, so why should he have to prove that he knows it?
    • He also quit Maths for Freaks… way back in the fall. His dad is going to be destroyed when he finds out.
    • Link's been taking piano lessons instead, though; he took over James's lessons. Wow.
    • Link invites Ellen to his recital on Sunday.
  • Chapter 12

    • Dad rushes back from Europe in order to have a meeting with the headmaster and relevant faculty from the school.
    • Link has to pick him up from the airport, and he's not looking forward to facing his dad's disappointment.
    • Ellen goes to James's house to escape the exhausting awkwardness of her own house.
    • She takes a nap and doesn't wake up until late at night. When she does, it turns out James and Link conspired for her to sleep over without freaking out her parents—they think she's sleeping over at Adena Cohen's.
    • Ellen panics about sleeping over. She feels like that's crossing a line, somehow, despite James's vow that they will not sleep together.
    • She finally gives in and sleeps happily in James's bed.
  • Chapter 13

    • Ellen gets home in time to run—in silence—with Link.
    • Their parents are at the school having the meeting about Link; he wonders what's taking so long.
    • Ellen's pretty sure her parents are gearing up to a huge fight about who is to blame for Link's defiant actions.
    • Their parents get home. It's family meeting time.
    • The school will let Link take his exams again as long as he goes into therapy. He's… not a fan of this plan. He wants the school to just leave the grades as they stand, which would give him B-'s across the board.
    • His dad is preoccupied about colleges accepting him with the "bad" grades, but his mom insists that's not what they should be focusing on.
    • It's clear his parents aren't on the same page about the whole fiasco. His mom wants Link to talk about why he did it—she can see that there are underlying problems that led to this crisis—while his dad is quick to jump on easy explanations, like performance anxiety.
    • Whoa. It turns out his dad is giving Link a raised, untaxed allowance as a not-so-subtle bribe to have a girlfriend—dude's been secretly paying him to date Polly.
    • Mom is shocked and appalled. And very disappointed.
    • Mom tries to diffuse the situation. She is trying to be supportive of whatever Link needs, but continues to insist on therapy so that he can talk to somebody about whatever he's going through.
    • The truth about Link's switch from math to piano is revealed. Dad is angry (what's new?), and Mom is incredulous but supportive.
    • Link abruptly decides the family meeting is over; he and Ellen are going out to buy a Christmas tree.
  • Chapter 14

    • Link doesn't really want to get a tree; he just had to get the heck outta Dodge.
    • Link thinks if the three of them (him, James, and Ellen) can get together again everything will work itself out. He asks Ellen if she'll call James and set it up.
    • They all meet at James' favorite restaurant, and the boys catch up on everything they can without touching on sensitive subjects… and then awkward silence.
    • Link invites James to his recital.
    • James calls Link out. (Finally, someone does). He says that their parents are afraid that Link is gay, and that they'll continue to be afraid as long as he is.
    • James tries to convince Link that if he'd just tell his dad everything, maybe he'd try to come around on the subject—but they won't know unless he tries. Link thinks that talking to his dad is pointless, though. Plus, Link can't tell his dad how he feels because he's not sure about it himself.
    • Link and Ellen realize they're not prepared for Christmas at all. Better get to it.
    • Ellen wonders if Link and James would still be so distant if she weren't there. She also worries about whether she needs to back out of her relationship with James—but who would that benefit?
  • Chapter 15

    • Their family goes through the rituals leading up to Christmas, all while living under the tyrannical rule of everything that's going unsaid.
    • Links recital proves one thing: He certainly doesn't suffer from performance anxiety.
    • The night of the recital also marks the return of the family dinner… a.k.a. family meeting.
    • New rule: Link is sixteen, so he deserves increasing amounts of autonomy, but he also needs to comply with his parent's authority. Hence, he will have to see a shrink.
    • When Link fights back about seeing the doctor, everyone starts swearing, and Ellen is convinced it's a sign of the end times.
    • He finally agrees to see a shrink that he knows from Maths for Freaks—as long as he doesn't have to retake his exams.
    • Things are still awkward regarding their love triangle. Link is now avoiding Ellen and James again, and she's not quite sure what to think about that.
    • Instead of trying to get Link to see James, she tries a new tactic. James sees right through her, though, and insists that if he and Link wanted to see each other they would.
  • Chapter 16

    • Ellen and her dad go out to a fancy lunch to discuss his disappointment in her grades, and it leads to an enlightening conversation about literature, her lessons in learning how to "see" people… and her interest in everything gay.
    • Their conversation finally turns to Link and why her dad would have such a problem with him being gay. He thinks it would place limits on all of the things Link could accomplish.
    • Ellen dares to disagree with her father, and tells him that he's wrong for thinking the way he does. It's a breakthrough for her—and leads to a rapid end of the conversation. Her dad thinks if Link were really gay, no amount of money would be able to convince him to date Polly, end of discussion.
    • Ellen accidentally, in the heat of the moment, confesses to her dad that she's in love with James. On their way home, her dad buys her a sketchpad and colored pencils because he's "interested to see what you see." It's a pretty sweet gesture. Finally.
  • Chapter 17

    • Ellen starts drawing everything—she's inspired—but she can only draw things from memory. For some reason if she tries to draw something she's looking at it comes out all wrong.
    • James is impressed by her drawings, which is a relief to Ellen, who values his opinion almost above all others.
    • James starts giving her pointers on how to improve her drawings, but overall thinks she has a ton of potential.
    • Link has started seeing the shrink. He's advised him to give up track and start tutoring third graders. Now Ellen sees him even less. She makes up for his absence by drawing him over and over again.
    • Ellen's favorite thing to draw is her dad's study. She uses his German book as the theme that binds all the drawings together.
    • She's hoping that by drawing his study she can get to know her father a bit better.
  • Chapter 18

    • James and Ellen are officially "an item" at school now.
    • She continues to obsess over James's vow to never have sex. James is very concerned that he could have AIDS; he is planning to get tested, but keeps putting it off.
    • Ellen really wants to have sex, but her age and the little AIDS matter is enough to make James very careful not to. James is also reluctant because he's only had sex with men and thinks it would be unfair to Ellen for her to lose her virginity to someone like that.
    • James lost his virginity to a protégé of his father's who works at his firm. James refers to him as "The Weapon"—because if his father ever found out it would utterly destroy him.
    • Link was furious when James told him about The Weapon. He said it was proof that he couldn't trust James, but James thinks it was just proof that Link wasn't ready for a relationship.
    • Ellen makes a drawing of her, James, and the three men he's slept with laying in bed in a doctor's waiting room. She's pretty proud of how The Weapon turned out, as he's the only one whose expression feels right.
  • Chapter 19

    • In Dr. Koch's continuing assessment of Link, they determine he's fluent in French after only three and a half years of studying the language. Kid is smart, yo. He wants to see how fast he can teach himself Latin next.
    • Link has become even more hostile. Ellen feels like everything he says is like a dare, like he's constantly daring his parents to contemplate his (possibly gay) sex life.
    • Dad responds to these dares by saying, "I see," which is a perfectly noncommittal response that allows him to gracefully bow out without admitting defeat.
    • Mom calls him on it—she just wants him to come out and say what he really wants to say.
    • Long story short? Things are still pretty tense in the McConnell house.
    • College announcements come back, and Link got in everywhere he applied, including Yale, the place he always loudly proclaimed he'd never apply to because of how much his dad wants him to go there. Wow.
    • The family is heading out for a celebratory dinner to commemorate Link getting into Yale. What's weird is that they're going to their dad's favorite restaurant, which everyone else hates. Link doesn't mind, though, since he knows it's kind of his dad's victory.
    • Ellen is feeling wistful about it all; she's going to miss him, just like she already misses him because of the distance that's developed between them. She hopes someday they'll go out to dinner, just the two of them, and order what they want and finally really talk to each other.
  • Chapter 20

    • James only applied to art schools, which is a surprise considering that he and Link used to spend hours talking about college but art school never came up as an option.
    • James tells Ellen he's going to attend the Academy of Arts in Germany because he got a fellowship (which makes it free). Ellen is destroyed.
    • As a way to avoid the emotional breakdown that she feels is imminent, she starts kissing James. He's crying, too, and one thing leads to another, and they have sex.
    • Ellen is blissful. James is immediately worried about pregnancy, even though he used a condom. (You can't really blame him, though, knowing that he's the result of an unintended pregnancy in an illicit affair.)
    • Ellen is suddenly afraid he'll forget all about her when he goes to Germany. She wants him to bring the picture he drew of her so he'll remember her "interesting qualities."
    • As Ellen walks home she pictures her future, when she's all grown up and more confident, and she visualizes that everything is going to be okay.