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As they approach Lake oí the Cherokees, Estevan and Esperanza become visibly relaxed. There are few white people in the area so they seem to fit in. This is Turtleís original home, so she, too, fits in. And though Taylor has enough Cherokee blood to qualify for "head rights", she feels she is the odd one out. Turtle and Esperanza have developed a strong bond, which adds to Taylorís uneasiness. Then Turtle suddenly shouts, "Mama" as they pass a cemetery. Taylorís heart skips a beat.
The terrain around Lake oí the Cherokees is green and hilly, a welcome contrast to the flatness of Oklahoma. Taylor is relieved that the Cherokee Nation isnít a "complete bust". Determined to have a good time for just one day, they rent a cottage. Relaxing on a stream bank, Taylor notes that, especially when holding Turtle, Esperanza seems happy, as if, "behind her eyes, or deeper, in the arteries around her heart, something was starting to move." In this idyllic setting, Taylor also notes very deeply her feelings for Estevan. At sunset they picnic on sandwiches and fruit that Mattie had packed for them, while Turtle runs in circles around the trees. Later, Turtle settles down and buries her doll in the dirt, once again saying, "Mama." Taylor and Turtle have a tearful discussion about Turtle having seen her mama buried.
At the very end of the chapter, Estevan and Esperanza agree to do a very big favor for Taylor.
This chapter sets the tone for the climactic next chapter. The four travelers, victims to a situation not entirely of their own making, have bonded into relationships unique to each configuration of the pairing. Estevan and Esperanza, refugee husband and wife, are able to relax somewhat because of their ability to blend in with the natives of the area and the natural way they appear as a family with Turtle. Turtle and Esperanza have become inseparable, one having lost a mother, the other having lost a child.
This particular relationship sets the scene for the emotional purge, which is to come. Taylor and Turtle are beginning to understand how fragile a mother and child relationship can be and how important it is to each of them to maintain their togetherness. Taylor and Esperanza connect as both act the role of mother to Turtle, however Taylor is uncomfortable with the attachment that has developed between Turtle and Esperanza. Lastly, Taylor and Estevan skirt the possibility of a deeper relationship that neither of them can afford. Taylor, as narrator, confesses her heartbreak.