The Face on the Milk Carton

by Caroline B. Cooney, Caroline Bruce

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Chapter 4 Summary

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Janie sleeps well, and in the morning she marvels that she did not have nightmares. However, she is still shaken by the daymares she experienced yesterday. She does not call them memories in her mind.

When she goes to school, Janie watches and listens while her friends talk and joke. One of them, Adair, is taking her driver’s test this afternoon. She comments that she is terrified that she will do something ridiculous, like forget her birth certificate. Hearing this, Janie panics. She didn't know that a person needs a birth certificate to get a driver’s license. Suddenly she wonders if her parents have her birth certificate at all. She cannot help suspecting that they do not.

Jason, another of Janie’s friends, tells a story about the first time he saw his birth certificate. The date on it was wrong; he panicked, thinking that he was adopted. Eventually he found out that two dates are recorded on the birth certificate: the date of birth and the date the baby is registered officially. The dates on his certificate are a few days apart, and he had noticed the latter one.

When Janie gets home from school, she asks to see her birth certificate. Her mother says that it is at the bank, in the safety deposit box. When she says that she is too busy to get it now, Janie asks if they can go tomorrow. Her mother replies that the bank will be closed tomorrow, and Janie demands to go Monday. Annoyed, Janie's mother loses her temper. “Why don’t you want me to see my birth certificate?” Janie asks.

Janie’s mother disregards the question and offers a snack. Janie goes to the kitchen to find something to eat. Her mother, who normally eats a snack with her every day, does not follow. Janie wonders if her mother is indeed hiding something. The thought brings on a confused, dizzy feeling, and she has another daymare.

In this daymare, Janie is in a messy kitchen full of people and toys. Babies are screaming. Janie is asking for milk. Nobody hears her, so she gets out the milk carton and pours herself a glass. It spills, but she wipes it up. She feels proud of herself; then someone picks her up and hugs her.

When Janie snaps back to the present, she looks around at her neat, uncluttered kitchen. It is nothing like the one she just saw in her mind. She rushes outside and finds Reeve raking leaves in his yard. He asks her to help; she joins him in the task, but she rakes so quickly that he guesses she is upset. He lies down in the leaf pile and asks what is wrong.

Janie sits down next to Reeve. She feels safe and hidden among the leaves—but not safe enough to tell him what she suspects about her family. Thinking of the 800 number listed on the milk carton, she asks if calls to such numbers can be traced. He laughs, wanting to know if she is thinking of calling the Secret Service. She brushes off the question, and he reaches up to kiss her.

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