Now that Elena is back in Naples, she begins working with Lila to help her get away from Marcello. Stefano, emboldened by her encouragement, first buys the handmade shoes, as well as various sketches of other designs by Lila. He also rents the space next to the shop in case they want to expand and offers to invest in the development of workshop. This opportunity interests Fernando and Rino who begin working on a new line of shoes. Marcello becomes increasingly more despondent as he receives less and less attention from the Cerrullo family, and Elena takes the side of Stefano.
Within a short time, as work on the shoes progresses, Stefano formally proposes and Lila accepts. She breaks the news to Marcello, who is devastated, and then quickly settles into a life of privilege and authority as Stefano's fiancée. Elena, trying to put the incident with Donato Sarratore out of her mind and forge strong ties with Lila's future, begins dating Stefano's younger brother Alfonso, and also becomes increasingly enmeshed in her studies.
Tensions gradually emerge between Stefano's sister Pinuccia, his mother Maria and Lila. They resent the attention Stefano lavishes on her. Lila's new wealth and status make it difficult for her to continue her old habits and lifestyle with her childhood friends. She is often the target of envy and of accusations that she is marrying Stefano for his money.
Elena often feels left behind by the progression of Lila's life, but at the end of her next year of high school, she receives the highest possible score on all of her exams. She is also offered a pleasant summer job supervising the daughters of the stationer at the beach every day, and agrees to be Antonio's girlfriend. With him, she begins to gain sexual experience, and he also proves useful when Donato begins lingering in the neighborhood and making her uncomfortable.
Upon Elena's return, she quickly realizes that her hopes of continuing a similar pattern of life and close friendship with Lila are impossible. Lila is going to become engaged to either Marcello or Stefano in the near future. Recognizing this, Elena throws her weight into the plan that she thinks will be least disruptive to the friendship. In this way, Elena and Lila share a similar experience: they both might prefer an independent, autonomous life for Lila, in which she continue as a teenager without moving into a new life stage as wife and potential mother. However, that is not possible. The only power they can exert is by choosing who Lila will marry, not whether she will marry at all.
At first it seems like the results of this choice, at least for Lila, are rewarding. She no longer has to feel afraid or anxious; her life is made easy and comfortable, and she can look forward to security. At the same time, the privileges Lila starts receiving once she is engaged drive a wedge between her and her old life. Many of her childhood friends are jealous and resentful of her. Elena is less concerned with envy for Lila than fear that she is about to lose her friend. Just as was the case when Elena continued her studies and Lila didn't, this separation of their experiences threatens to jeopardize their closeness.