· The narrator and several other women are sleeping in a high school's gymnasium. Speaking for all of them, the narrator says they are thinking about the events that used to take place there and the romances that transpired. They think about what's to come and what has passed, while they sleep on army cots.
· Two women, called Aunt Sara and Aunt Elizabeth, act as guards to keep them from talking or rising up. They use cattle prods, while the other guards have guns.
· The women have to stay inside except for their twice-daily walks. Outside, the school's football field has been turned into a fort guarded by barbed wire and people called Angels. The women think about trying to seduce the Angels, but the Angels never even see them.
· Since the women aren't allowed to talk, they use lip-reading to tell each other their names.
· The narrator describes a room, minimally furnished and white. It's decorated in an old-fashioned feminine style and has one chair.
· The room has a picture of flowers, but there's nothing in it that could be used as a weapon. A woman called Aunt Lydia said it was like being in the army. The narrator thinks that despite her situation, she wants to stay alive.
· A bell rings and the narrator gets dressed in a red outfit that covers her whole body, including her hands, and shades her face. She takes her shopping basket and goes downstairs.
· The house is big enough for a family, but there are no children. The narrator passes a mirror and umbrella stand and thinks of the Commander's Wife.
· She goes to the kitchen and sees Rita, the cook, who's a "Martha." She wears an outfit that's similar to the narrator's, but it's green. When the narrator goes outside no one's supposed to see her face. Rita gives her some tokens.
· The narrator thinks about how she eavesdropped on Rita and Cora, the cleaner, once. They were talking about the narrator and how they'd never do what she was doing—they would rather be Unwomen.
· The narrator thinks she'd like to stay and talk with them, have coffee—which is now a luxury—and chat. She knows the Marthas chat to each other about dreadful things—children that don't make it, poison, death. But Rita won't talk to her; the Marthas aren't supposed to talk to the narrator and her kind.
· She thinks about what this would be called, and about a man named Luke, who loved words.
· She accepts the tokens, which have pictures of food on them, and on Rita's orders goes to the market.
· The narrator passes through the nice garden, which belongs to the Commander's Wife. She thinks about the garden she used to have and about the Commander's Wife, who spends a lot of time knitting.
· She met the Commander's Wife five weeks earlier, when she arrived from a prior, similar situation. Someone called a Guardian dropped her off.
· She came in the front door but now she uses the back. The Commander's Wife, not a Martha, let her in grudgingly.
· The narrator doesn't speak to the Commander's Wife, ...