"My ________. These years I've spent in steep obsession.
Where are they leading? _________ [An open question.]"
This chapter opens with a sonnet by Aggie, in which she reflects on the different roles Penny's played in her life: enemy, ally and lover, and in which she wonders what Penny will be to her in the future.
Jack, drunk for the first time in several months, barges into Stan's bedroom and finds him in his boxers but apparently alone. Jack explains he's gotten drunk in order to shed his inhibitions and reach his true feelings about his endangered relationship with Katy-Ann. Although he loves her and wants to spend his life with her, part of him wants to have sex with Brandi, whom he claims has been signalling interest whenever they play basketball. Also, once again, he says he's morally unworthy of Katy-Ann. Stan, who's had this discussion with him many times, says he doesn't know what else to tell him. Then, to Jack's shock, Lisa, hair down and clad in T-shirt and panties, pops out from under the bedcovers and suggests Jack talk with her instead.
Reassuring Stan that she still wants him to be her first time and that she still wants to keep their "thing" a secret, Lisa dresses and heads out the back door with Jack, leading directly to the beach. With guilt over spilling her friend's secret, she tells him what Katy-Ann apparently hadn't, about the time she got drunk on his beer in Communion
: namely, her calling herself a "tease" for having them wait to sleep together, and then calling his name while undoing her pants. Over Jack's protests of disbelief, she explains that while Katy-Ann is indeed serious about waiting so as to "make love stronger," when drunk she castigated herself for not living up to her own high behavioural standards, just as he's been doing. Lisa tells him that he's still not seeing Katy-Ann as she really is, and that they need to see each other "for reals," as even Lisa and Stan do as "fuck buddies." "Otherwise," she says, "you're just playin' house [...] but kids' games don't last forever."
At these words, the comic "pans" to Penny and Aggie on a date. The suntanning Penny declines to join Aggie in the water, so Aggie has her keep an eye on her phone, which has her latest, private piece of writing on it. Penny soon succumbs to the temptation to read it, only to find that Aggie's left a snarky sticky-note on the back of her phone, inviting her to do just that. When Aggie returns, Penny uses the phrase "an open question" (see page quote) to allude to what she found on the phone, namely Aggie's sonnet from the beginning of the chapter. However, when Aggie suggests that they explore the implications of the poem together, Penny reveals that she merely skimmed it (even though it was fourteen lines long). Aggie stomps off back toward the water, calling Penny "insensitive" and pointing out the effort she put into the sonnet. However, as Penny desperately follows her into the ocean, Aggie, whom the reader can see is wearing a devilish smile, suddenly grabs her in a headlock and dunks her. Although peeved at first over being tricked, Penny playfully engages Aggie in underwater wrestling, ending with them exchanging affectionate insults as usual.
When Brandi's brother Carlos tells her someone's at the door wanting to play basketball, Brandi, assuming it's Jack, perks up and rushes to see him, only to find, to her shock, Katy-Ann. On the court, Katy-Ann notices that she's beating Brandi unusually easily and asks her exhausted friend whether she's okay. Wracked with guilt, Brandi bursts into tears and confesses that she's been secretly lusting for Jack all summer. Katy-Ann, more bemused than anything else, tells her that there's nothing wrong with merely lusting in one's heart—something she's done herself for guys other than Jack—and that if Brandi had in any way tried to break them up, Katy-Ann would've been able to tell. So she forgives her. "You would!" says Brandi, bawling and hugging her friend. Katy-Ann gently tells her to collect herself because, having received a "We need to talk" text from Jack, she's scared and needs Brandi's help choosing a dress.
Desperate for private spots to make out now that Nick is done teaching summer school and thus home during the day, Aggie straddles Penny in the latter's closet. She awkwardly tries to remove Penny's bra, when the door swings open and Lynda catches them. She, like Rob and Nick, has been unaware all this time that their daughters have moved from friends to lovers.
The three parents immediately sit the girls down for "the talk." Lynda, the most comfortable with and accepting of the situation, assures them that although they'd like them to "take certain things slow," their parents will neither stop loving them nor judge them. Nick readily agrees, Rob more guardedly and reluctantly, although Rob does quip, to Lynda's and Penny's annoyance, that at least Aggie's a better choice than Rich. Despite Aggie's assurance in turn that they already know everything Lynda's said, Lynda and Nick suggest they must be scared of "what society will think" of their same-sex relationship. When Penny replies that they aren't, Rob angrily demands to know why not, citing what happened to Sara.
For their part, Penny and Aggie calmly admit they're scared of being hurt by love again, or hurting each other, but reassert they're unafraid of what their peers may think. They point out that they've always made "social rules" rather than follow them, that their generation is growing more accepting of non-heterosexual relationships all the time, and that having both been popular and unpopular at times, they understand that what's most important is being the most "honest-with-ourselves" and most "fulfilled" people they can be, as that's how their parents raised them. Nick, while somewhat impressed, reminds them that "we're not quite done with the raising yet."
Katy-Ann, having invited Jack to her home for dinner, greets him at the door with a new dress, seductive perfume, sultry voice and passionate kiss. After the meal, they head upstairs to "study." As she locks the bedroom door and saunters over to him, the disoriented Jack says he wants to stay with her, but not if it makes her into someone she isn't. She insists she is
being herself, that she's through just talking, and that she wants nothing more than to "lose control" with him and touch him, "the way I know you touch yourself." When Jack protests that this would still make him feel dirty and ashamed, because he's sure she's
never masturbated and considers it sinful herself, she sinks to the floor laughing.
Nick, Lynda and Rob, though still nervous about their daughters' relationship, show that they accept and trust them by going out to dinner together, thus enabling Aggie to invite Penny over for the evening. Excited, she dons a new fancy blouse-and-skirt ensemble and shows it off to Finister, her pet rat since before the beginning of the comic. As Penny drives over, she reflects on the novelty of having a partner whom her parents have both met and approved of. However, she's unprepared when Aggie answers the door sobbing: Finister has died.
Penny finds herself thrust into an unfamiliar role as she tries to comfort Aggie and assuage her feelings of guilt over not having paid Finister more attention recently. She proves exceptionally bad at this, suggesting to Aggie that it's understandable she's ignored him lately because people "outgrow the little quirks they nursed back when they had no social life." When Aggie understandably takes offence, Penny hurriedly calls Nick so he can take over, then heads home to talk things over with her mother. She wishes that she could take back what she said to Aggie. However, Penny says, she doesn't understand why Aggie's gone to pieces over her rat, admitting that if her cat Charles died, she'd be "mopey" but that's it. "Does that make me a bad person?" she asks.
Lynda points out that Penny takes after her father that way, in that he's less immediately empathetic and tactful than she is. However, she says, that's not a bad thing, because "it's good to have someone around who's less easily moved." She adds that the fact Penny and Aggie have always had contrasting personalities doesn't mean they can't be compatible.
Meanwhile, Jack and Katy-Ann happily engage in mutual masturbation. As she relaxes with him afterward, Katy-Ann asks him finally what he'd wanted to talk about. Jack replies they've already covered it. This suggests that, with Jack having finally realized Katy-Ann's as human as he is, and with their having discovered how to be intimate without going all the way, they'll last as a couple after all.
Whether that will be true for Penny and Aggie, however, is now rather less clear, despite Lynda's reassuring her daughter. As Aggie goes to bed that night, she attempts to visualize Penny watching over and comforting her, as she's done before with her mother and once did with Marshall. But when she closes her eyes, Penny isn't there.
- Bedmate Reveal: Jack, despite Stan's claim that he's with someone in bed, assumes when he barges in that Stan's only been pleasuring himself. However, a few minutes into their conversation, Lisa pops out from under the blanket.
- Call Back: Lisa wears one of Stan's "Self-Marketees" seen in Tees and Cues. Appropriately, it's the "Ready for my deflowering" one.
- Coming-Out Story: Penny and Aggie, by accident, end up coming out to their parents, who now must deal with their conflicting feelings about their daughters being in a same-sex relationship, even with someone they as parents personally like and respect.
- A Date with Rosie Palms
- Death by Newbery Medal: Finister's death, in addition to being a teenage rite of passage in itself for Aggie, signals the end of the courtship or "playing house" stage of the titular characters' romance, in that they face their first serious obstacle as a couple.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Penny's and Aggie's underwater wrestle has a certain...intimate subtext to it.
- Fanservice: Penny and Aggie, in bikinis, wrestling each other.
- Foreshadowing: The wrestling scene, as well as Aggie's new habit of calling Penny "bitch" as a term of endearment, presage the kinky and, ultimately, violently dysfunctional turn their relationship will take in the following chapter.
- Friends with Benefits: Stan and Lisa.
- Good Parents: Nick, Lynda and even Rob, who's visibly less comfortable personally with it, do their best to be understanding and supportive of their daughters' new relationship. Also, Lynda gives Penny a useful perspective on how contrasting personalities can still make a relationship work, while Nick understands that the best way to comfort Aggie in the first throes of grief is to say nothing at all, but rather just to hold her.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Jack finally understands this is not true at all of Katy-Ann, leading to the positive resolution of their plot thread.
- Off The Wagon: Jack, for real this time, if briefly.
- Rule of Symbolism: How do the titular characters' parents discover their daughters are dating each other? By catching them about to engage in heavy petting in a closet. Never mind that, as Penny herself points out, a closet isn't the most comfortable place to do that.
- Secret Relationship: Stan and Lisa. Also, the title characters, with regard to their parents, until Lynda discovers them making out.
- Their First Time
- Averted for Stan and Lisa, first when Jack warns Stan he's about to come in and Lisa hides under the covers, and then subsequently when Lisa reveals herself and puts off their tryst until the next day because Jack's desperately in need of advice. Their actual first time thus takes place off-panel.
- Played with with regard to Jack and Katy-Ann, who don't in fact go all the way in their love scene. Nevertheless, the mutual masturbation in which they engage, as a way of honouring in spirit their commitment to abstinence, is as fulfilling to them as if they had done so.
- Wild Child: Discussed, angrily, by Penny when Aggie unexpectedly dunks her in the ocean. Penny's actual words are "Were you raised by wolves?" but this isn't an instance of the trope by that name; nor is it the trope for which the entire question is an alternate name.