Chapter 13 - 14
Turtle recovers from her assault, but she and Taylor are required to meet with a social worker because it was reported to the police. Turtle is herself again, but there is bad news. Now that their arrangement has come to the attention of the state authorities, they realize that Taylor has no legal claim to Turtle. At first, Taylor is despondent and Lou Ann tells her she needs to try to find a way around it. Then, Taylor meets with Cynthia, the social worker, and tries to figure out a plan.
Taylor decides to go to Oklahoma and try to find Turtle's relatives. While she is going, she will take Esperanza and Estevan with her to a safer place. Mattie is concerned because it is illegal and dangerous, but Taylor insists on helping her friends.
On the night before they leave, Virgie May Parsons comes over and tells them to get the kids out of bed. A special plant, the night-blooming cereus, is blooming, which happens only one night a year. It is beautiful and they are all inspired by it.
Although they are stopped by a routine immigration check, the group manages to get to Oklahoma with relatively little incident. The only difficult part for Taylor is watching how close Turtle and Esperanza seem. Turtle looks a lot like Esperanza, and seeing them together makes her sad.
When they get to the bar where Taylor was given Turtle, they are disappointed. It is under new ownership, and the girl working there has no idea who the people Taylor knew were. However, Taylor does learn that she is not really in the Cherokee Nation, that this ugly place is just the outskirts. They all decide to go to the Lake o' the Cherokees in the Cherokee Nation to rest and to think of how to keep Turtle.
After Turtle's assault, Lou Ann and Taylor seem to switch attitudes. Lou Ann has become more upbeat and confident now that she is working. Taylor's influence is also helping her be stronger. Taylor, on the other hand, is vulnerable for the first time in her life. She is overwhelmed by how difficult the world is and wonders whether she is fit to try to raise a child in an unsafe world. However, she regains her strength and confidence with the help of her friends. Mattie tells her "You're asking yourself, Can I give this child the best possible upbringing and keep her out of harm's way her whole life long? The answer is no, you can't. But nobody else can either" (187). The world may be unsafe and difficult, she assures Taylor, but the best thing people can do is try to be there for one another. Taylor regains some perspective and that is why she helps out Estevan and Esperanza. She realizes that the world can be an awful place but that she can make it better for some people.
The night-blooming cereus is an example of rare beauty that is ephemeral. If you cut the blooms, Edna assures Taylor, the scent disappears. It is best to appreciate the plant as it is, in its moment. This is like people. Rather than try to keep people as we want them to be, the best thing to do is to appreciate their beauty for as long as we have it. This lesson is important, as Taylor needs to understand that she cannot protect Turtle by keeping her locked away, like a flower in an icebox. She needs to allow Turtle to be herself in her own space.