Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Paterson

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Chapter 7 Summary

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In the weeks after Christmas, Leslie has very little time to spend with Jesse in Terabithia because her father has begun repairing the old Perkins place and needs her help. After school and on weekends, he wants her to be home to do the“hunting and fetching” for him as he works—and he enjoys her company. Jesse tries going to Terabithia alone, but it is not the same without Leslie. Because his little sisters are always underfoot and his mother is frequently cross, he does not like to spend his time at home either. Sometimes Jesse goes over to the Perkins place. Prince Terrien is usually “exiled” to the porch to keep him out of trouble, so Jesse takes the unhappy puppy to play out in the fields.

Leslie has a great relationship with her father, which Jesse has trouble understanding. He even begins to feel resentful of Mr. Burke, who monopolizes Leslie’s time and occupies such a special place in her heart. Finally, in February, Leslie takes note of Jesse’s dissatisfaction and asks him why he does not like her father. Jesse sulkily responds that, because of Mr. Burke, Leslie is always busy. Leslie counters by asking indignantly why Jesse does not just offer to help.

Jesse begins working on the old Perkins place with the Burkes. At first he is uncomfortable with Leslie’s father, but he soon gets used to being around him, especially when he discovers that Mr. Burke, “for all his brains and books,” is not very handy with home repair. Jesse finds that there are things he can do that the older man cannot, and Mr. Burke praises him genuinely, making him feel that he is really useful and “not a nuisance to be tolerated.” As they rip apart the ancient fireplace, peel wallpaper, patch, and paint, Mr. Burke plays old records or sings with the children and talks to them about things that are going on in the world. As the group interacts with increasing camaraderie, the room on which they are working reflects their harmony and good feelings. When it is done, Leslie surveys the walls, which have been painted the color of the sun, and comments on its“golden enchantment.” To Jesse's relief, she does not compare it to Terabithia, which remains a world “just for the two of them.”

After more than a month away, Jesse and Leslie return to Terabithia. Leslie reverts effortlessly into “queen talk,” and the two of them (along with P. T., who is ecstatic) reenter their world of fantasy by fighting off the imaginary evil forces that have encroached upon their realm in their absence. They then enter the“sacred” grove of pines to thank the spirits for their victory.

At school a few days later, Leslie, who has just come out of the girls’ room, tells Jesse that she believes Janice Avery is crying in one of the stalls. Unlike Leslie, Jesse feels sorry for Janice, and he convinces her to go back to find out what is the matter. Leslie is uncharacteristically frightened to approach Janice, but she bravely returns to the girls’ room to talk to her. Jesse waits outside, and when the bell rings he returns to class alone, where he sits in worried anticipation for Leslie to return.

When Leslie finally comes into the classroom, she is smiling. Jesse is “going crazy wanting to know” what happened during her encounter with Janice Avery, but he does not get to talk to Leslie until after school. On the bus, Leslie refuses to say anything about the incident, and it is only when she and Jesse are back at Terabithia that she reveals that “Janice Avery is a very unfortunate person.” Janice’s father apparently beats her, but the real reason she had been crying was because she told her two best friends about it, and those so-called friends had “blabbed it all over the seventh grade.” Jesse, who knows that “lots of kids’ fathers beat ’um,” is at first surprised that a tough girl like Janice would be crying about that, but when he hears that news of Janice’s father’s behavior is now common knowledge, he is filled with pity for Janice. It is an unwritten rule in Lark Creek that “you never mixed up troubles at home with life at school.” By speaking badly about her father, Janice has betrayed him; according to the code of the community, that is an unpardonable sin.

Leslie had consoled Janice Avery by commiserating with her and advising her to just ignore what people are saying about her. She suggested that “everybody would forget about it in a week.” Janice had seemed to feel better, and Leslie triumphantly tells Jesse that now she has “one and one-half friends at Lark Creek School.” Jesse is pleased to know he is Leslie’s only “whole friend” at school, but he is sad for her obvious loneliness.

That night, May Belle announces to Jesse that she knows where he and Leslie “go to hide”: she has followed them to Terabithia. Jesse is furious and threatens to tell May Belle’s best friend that she “still wet(s) the bed sometimes” if she reveals their secret to anyone. Terabithia and the time he shares there with Leslie matter more than anything in his life, and Jesse worries that it would not take much to destroy everything.

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