When Jesse wakes up on Thursday morning, it is still raining. He hears his father drive away in the pickup truck; even though he is out of a job, Mr. Burke still leaves early every day to look for work. Jesse gets out of bed to feed and milk the cow. May Belle asks where he is going, and he is at first abrupt with her but makes it up to her by joking around and getting her to laugh before he goes.
Jesse is still bothered by his fear at the thought of crossing over the water into Terabithia. As he does his chores, he reflects on ways he can overcome his terror, reasoning that “he may not have been born with guts, but he [doesn't] have to die without them.” He decides that he will ask Leslie to teach him how to swim that summer. In the meantime, he knows that all he has to do is tell her that he does not want to go to Terabithia today, and she will not make fun of him.
Jesse is so involved in his thoughts that he does not even hear May Belle come in to give him a message. “Some lady” is on the phone and would like to talk to him; Jesse is mystified as to whom it might be. He is pleasantly surprised to discover that it is Miss Edmunds, who invites him to go to Washington, D.C. with him for the day to visit the Smithsonian or the National Gallery. Jesse creeps into his mother's room to get permission; he is hoping to ask her “without really waking her up,” as he knows she is likely to say no if she really thinks about it. Jesse gets Momma's sleepy okay, and Miss Edmunds says she will pick him up in twenty minutes.
Not until Jesse and Miss Edmunds are well on their way does he realize he might have asked if Leslie could come too, but he guiltily realizes “a secret pleasure” at having his favorite teacher all to himself for one day. Jesse has never been to Washington before, and he is surprised to find that the famous monuments look very much like he has seen them pictured in books. The gallery itself, with its rooms and rooms of pictures, is a “sacred place” like the pine grove in Terabithia. Jesse is intoxicated with the hugeness and beauty of it all and the closeness of Miss Edmunds. Miss Edmunds takes him to the gallery cafeteria for lunch, and to his great embarrassment and relief, she insists on buying his meal. After lunch, the two of them go to see the Smithsonian.
When Miss Edmunds and Jesse come out, the rain has stopped and the sun is shining brilliantly. It feels like a miracle. All the way home, Mrs. Edmunds tells funny stories about a year she spent going to college in Japan. Jesse listens, spellbound, and thinks of all the things he has to tell Leslie when he gets back. He considers that his mother may be angry at him for staying out for so long, but decides it has been worth it; it has been the “one perfect day of his life.”
Jesse asks Miss Edmunds to drop him off on the road near his house, and when he bids her goodbye, he cannot find the words to fully communicate his gratitude. With “joy jiggling inside of him,” he runs to the house, and is all the way into the kitchen before he realizes that something is very wrong. The entire family is sitting there, not eating and not watching television. When his mother sees him, she lets out “a great shuddering sob,” and May Belle quietly and stubbornly says that she had told them that he had “just gone off somewhere.” Jesse does not know what has happened or how he should react until Brenda sullenly says, “Your girl friend's dead, and Momma thought you was dead too.”