Study Guide

The Usual Rules Chapter 3

By Joyce Maynard

Chapter 3

  • At school, Wendy has just learned that a plane has crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers, a.k.a. her mom's office.
  • There's a lot of chaos and the students are all confused—and then the other tower goes down and it just gets worse. People are realizing this is most definitely not an accident and instead it's an attack.
  • Parents keep showing up to take their kids home, but Wendy remains at school waiting for her mother, hoping she'll walk through the door.
  • Then the door opens and Louie walk in. She asks them where her mother is, but Josh says they haven't heard anything yet.
  • The subways are closed so Wendy walks home with Josh and Louie. There are so many people out in the streets, and when Wendy looks into stores, she can see the image of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center playing on TV.
  • Josh tells her they need to get home now so they're by the phone when Janet calls. He keeps telling them that Janet must have gotten out and is probably trying to call them right now.
  • The phone keeps ringing, but it's always people checking in to see if they've heard from Janet yet. They watch the TV for a while, but eventually Josh turns it off.
  • Josh goes out on foot to check the hospitals in the hopes of finding Janet, and Wendy is left at home to take care of Louie. She reads him books and eventually he falls asleep.
  • Josh calls and she tells him that Janet hasn't called yet. He says he's at the hospital, but she's not there either. Hrm.
  • Wendy doesn't go to bed until past 2:00AM, and even though she waits to cry, the tears don't come. She remembers when Princess Diana died and her mother started crying even though she'd never seen her in real life.
  • Even though she can't cry, Wendy suddenly realizes she can hear herself making the same noise over and over again—saying mama.
  • She falls asleep and then wakes up in the morning to find Josh in the kitchen. He's looking through their photo albums and says they need pictures of Janet so they can make a flier to post around the city.
  • Suddenly Wendy realizes that Josh looks so young. He's nine years younger than her mother, but it never seemed like a big deal until now.
  • He writes up a flier with the pictures of Janet, a description of what she wore to work that day, and a phone number so people can reach him.
  • Josh goes to Kinko's to print the fliers, but when he realizes he doesn't have his wallet, the people there let him make them for free. Everyone looks at them with pity and it's terrible.
  • Louie goes to his best friend's house with an overnight bag because Josh is so overwhelmed.
  • Wendy helps Josh put up the fliers; there are other fliers everywhere, and she looks at all the faces of other missing people.
  • When she gets to Union Square, she sees a bunch of people gathered. They're writing poems and messages on big pieces of paper and there's a shrine with offerings set up.
  • Josh's sister comes over and he tells them both the story of how he met Janet, even though they've heard it a million times before.
  • School's back in session, but Wendy doesn't go. She stays at home and watches TV, even though it makes her feel sick to see the news coverage of the destroyed towers.
  • The family that Louie is staying with calls to let her know his preschool orientation day went well.
  • After school, Amelia comes over and cries when she sees Wendy. Then she tells Wendy what's been going on at school and all the special assemblies they've been having; Wendy's the only kid at school who had a parent in one of the towers.
  • With Amelia by her side, Wendy finally lets herself cry. It's like a flood, and when she finally stops, Amelia suggests getting some ice cream.
  • Wendy thinks back to last week when her mother wouldn't let her go to California and how she said all these nasty things about Janet to Amelia.
  • Now she wishes she hadn't said any of that stuff. Amelia promises her that she'll never tell anyone, assuring Wendy that she knows she didn't actually want her mom to die.
  • Wendy dreams her mother is stuck in an air pocket underneath all the rubble, surviving off a bag of animal crackers. She also dreams that she's on top of the mound of rubble, digging with a little spoon.
  • In the dream, she calls out that she's sorry about fighting with her mom and says Janet is the best mother in the world. She just wants her to come home.
  • Wendy gets dressed at night after Josh falls asleep and takes a taxi to the site of the two towers. It's cordoned off but she manages to get through; she sees all the rescue workers and the base of her mother's building.
  • She recalls the last time that she was here, with Josh and Louie, to visit her mother and take her out for a cup of coffee.
  • One night, Wendy wakes up to the sound of music playing and walks into the kitchen to find Josh smoking a cigarette. She tells him she should call her father to tell him what's happened, and Josh says that it's a good idea.