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.