The principal announces that the wombat mascot is no more. The mascot costume was going to suck money from the prom committee’s budget. It is thus decided that the Hornets much better represent Merryweather High. Melinda is allergic to hornets.
One morning, Melinda oversleeps and misses the bus. Her mother tells her that she must walk to school, because her mother is already running late. On the way, Melinda stops at a town bakery to buy two jelly doughnuts. Just as she is about to enter, however, she notices Andy exiting the store. She tries to remain still and hopes that he will not notice her, but, of course, he does. He wolf-whistles and offers her a bite of his doughnut. She runs away and decides to skip school.
Melinda first wanders Main Street, but soon gets cold and boards a bus headed toward the mall. She strolls, reminiscing about fifth grade and its simplicity. She begins thinking that she should tell someone her secret. When she sees a security guard, Melinda heads back to the bus stop. She decides she will need to take days off every once in a while.
Melinda’s English class is reading Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Hairwoman tells the class that it is all about symbolism, which Melinda thinks of as breaking a code. Others, however, do not like symbolism as much as Melinda does. Rachel/Rachelle says in class that she believes Hairwoman is inventing the symbolism. As a result the class is assigned a 500-word essay about symbolism, so people yell at Rachel/Rachelle.
Mr. Freeman finds an alternative to the paperwork the school board wants him to produce: a mounted wall chart with student progress. Melinda has a question mark by her name, because she has yet to complete a linoleum block. Mr. Freeman does not worry about this, as he is focused on his own anger at the school board.
Heather and Melinda sit alone at lunch one day. Heather tells Melinda that it was nice of her to be her friend at the beginning of the year, but they both need to admit that they are very different people. Melinda tries to think of something mean to say, but cannot produce the words. Heather tells her that they were never truly friends anyway. She continues, explaining that Melinda is depressed, no fun to be around, and needs professional help. Melinda says that friends are supposed to be there for each other in tough times, but Heather calls her “weird.” Melinda understands that Heather can either choose her or the Marthas. Heather leaves her, goes to sit with the Marthas, and does not look back.
On Valentine’s Day, Melinda notices an envelope taped to her locker. She is too nervous to read it and heads straight to biology class. She wonders if the letter is from David Petrakis, and secretly hopes that it is. She spends the entirety of biology overanalyzing her every interaction with David. Melinda pulls the skin on the edge of her thumbnail too far back and it starts bleeding. David hands her a tissue. She writes, “Thanks!” on her notebook and slides it toward him. They spend the rest of the class passing the notebook back and forth. When Melinda returns to her locker and opens the letter, however, she discovers that it is from Heather. The card thanks her for being so understanding and returns the friendship necklace Melinda gave her. Melinda heads to her janitor’s closet and cries.
The second time Melinda skips school, she falls asleep on the public bus and misses the mall entirely. She ends up at Lady of Mercy hospital. She enjoys wandering around and eating in the cafeteria. After lunch, she notices a laundry-room worker pushing a basket of green robes around. She wants to put on one of the robes and lie in a bed. She picks it up but puts it back immediately. She says that she is not sick, or at least not sick that you can see.
Anderson uses the metaphor of the baby rabbit to illustrate Melinda's fear and vulnerability. She attempts to hide from Andy Evans by being still and quiet, but he of course sees her anyway. This is reflective of the way that she has dealt with him, and with fear, in the past. She does not stand up for herself, but waits quietly, hoping she will be left alone.
The Scarlet Letter provides an obvious intertextual comparison. Melinda shares several traits with the protagonist, Hester Prynne. For one, both women are outcasts and both remain silent. They are both marginalized by a sexual act. Both of them see silence as a solution, not as a problem. Melinda believes that she would wear an "S" instead of an "A,” for silent, stupid, scared, silly, or shame. Melinda's ability to connect with the book shows that she has a deeper understanding of her situation.
Heather's termination of her friendship with Melinda is a break in Melinda's last tie to high school society. Melinda is hurt, but cannot come up with something mean to say in response. Once again, her words fail her. In the end, she admits she understands Heather's motivation. And although she doesn’t say it, the reader realizes that Melinda, too, was using Heather—she never particularly liked her, but only wanted a friend to not be alone at school, and even explicitly tells the reader that earlier. So though she judges Heather for not being a good enough friend to her, she herself has not been a good friend to Heather.
Melinda's hope that the Valentine’s Day card was from David Petrakis is directly related to her admiration for his character. She develops a secret crush on him because he represents everything she wishes she could be. Her sadness in discovering that the letter is from Heather is not only caused by the coldness of the gesture. She is disappointed that someone representative of who she wants to be cannot like the person that she is now.
Melinda's field trip to the hospital makes her believe her problems are inadequate and inconsequential. When she considers putting on a robe and lying in a bed, she decides against it. She says that she is not sick, or at least not sick that you can see. Her belief that she does not have a real illness indicates that Melinda does not believe she needs help and that she is not ready to accept it. Because her depression so coincides with her social ostracizing, she thinks that her problem is one of fitting in more than of mental illness.