Monday afternoon, Nate listens to his mother and father talking in the next room while wondering what he can say to Bronwyn to make amends for allowing her to believe that his mother was dead. He can’t decide what to say, though, and puts his phone away. Nate’s mother comes into the room; she apologizes for abandoning him and tells him that she’s been sober for three months. As soon as she saw the news, she started coming by the house—but Nate was never home. Nate gestures to the dilapidated house and asks his mother if she would spend any time here if she were in his position.
Nate has been a loner for much of his life. This is largely out of necessity—he’s had minimal parental support, and has had to be his own advocate in life. He hasn’t been entirely successful, though, and his existence is impoverished in a lot of ways. Nate has learned to put walls up as a result; letting Bronwyn in is one thing, but reestablishing a connection with his mother, who betrayed him so deeply by leaving, is another thing altogether, and one that Nate may not be ready for.
Nate’s mother apologizes for having left Nate with his father—she admits that she hoped he’d step up in her absence, but sees now that he hasn’t. She tells Nate that she doesn’t expect him to forgive her, but offers up the fact that she’s sober and on the right medication for the first time in her life. She tells Nate he deserves more than what he’s gotten in life—Nate brusquely dismisses her, telling her to leave and to send him a postcard sometime. She begs to help him, or at least take him out to dinner. Nate tells her that if she leaves a phone number, he might call her, and then slams his way out of the house.
Nate doesn’t know how to relate to his mother; he’s cold and dismissive towards her despite her attempts at connection. McManus gives the impression in this passage that Nate has had to deal with similar things before—with his mother’s volatility and broken promises—and is emotionally drained, unable to make any more concessions.
Nate rides his motorcycle aimlessly. When he stops for gas, he considers calling Bronwyn, but still has no idea what to say. He drives out towards the desert, getting closer and closer to the campgrounds at Joshua Tree—the only place he and his parents ever went on vacation. It is midnight by the time Nate finally loops back to Bayview; there is a text on his phone notifying him of a party happening that night, and he decides to stop by.
Nate has no idea how to repair a broken or threatened connection—instead of calling Bronwyn or even driving over to see her, he launches himself into the desert to be alone.
It is not a Bayview High party, and Nate enjoys a little anonymity until two girls recognize him from Mikhail Powers’ show. Nate says it wasn’t him on the show, but the girls know he’s lying. They tell him that they think he’s innocent, and believe “the girl with the glasses”—Bronwyn—is guilty. The girls offer Nate acid, but he declines, and leaves the party. Out in the yard, his phone buzzes—it’s Bronwyn, and Nate feels an enormous sense of relief.
Nate’s old social scene no longer satisfies him—people assume things about him because of his public profile, and they only want to talk about the investigation, which Nate is sick of. He turns down an offer of drugs and leaves when the girls at the party insult Bronwyn, showing just how much he cares about Bronwyn and her reputation.
The perspective switches over to Bronwyn, who is nervous about sneaking Nate into the house. Her parents are already furious with her and have grounded her for not telling them about Simon’s blog post. Nevertheless, when she receives a text from Nate telling her he’s waiting outside, she opens the basement door, sticks her head out, and beckons him in. Though her parents are three floors up and sound asleep, she keeps quiet, afraid of being heard. She and Nate sit together on the couch, and she asks him why he never told her the truth about his mother.
Though Bronwyn is playing with fire, her feelings for Nate are too strong to deny. He’s hurt her and frightened her by lying to her, but she still believes the best in him—and wants to give him the chance to explain himself and redeem himself in her eyes.
Nate resignedly states that the lie about his mother was easier than facing the truth—not to mention the fact that he half-believed it, sure that she’d never return. He promises Bronwyn that he hasn’t lied to her about anything else—he really has stopped dealing drugs, and really didn’t do anything to Simon. Bronwyn believes Nate, and asks him to tell him about her mother. They talk for over an hour, and Nate reveals many stories about his childhood.
Lies are always easier than the truth at first glance—but what Nate, and all of the other characters in the novel, have come to realize is that lies always make things harder in the end. As Nate settles in with Bronwyn, he finds himself telling her all about his past, reveling in the chance to tell the truth and expunge all of his past lies.
After a while, Bronwyn starts to get tired. Nate switches the subject, telling Bronwyn that his mother thought Bronwyn was his girlfriend earlier when she saw them together. Bronwyn asks if that would be out of the question, but Nate insists he “doesn’t know how to be with somebody like [Bronwyn.]” Bronwyn insists she’d liked to try, and confesses her true feelings for Nate. They begin kissing, but Nate stops and admits he’s afraid of being caught by Bronwyn’s parents. He suggests they watch a movie together—Bronwyn doesn’t care what they do, she thinks, as long as she gets to “stay wrapped around [Nate] for as long as possible.”
Bronwyn and Nate know that they’re polar opposites—and that, for this reason, other people might believe they’re bad for one another—but their feelings are too strong to deny. They have forged ahead in the face of hardship and recommitted to honesty with one another; bolstered by this change, Bronwyn allows herself to surrender fully to her feelings for Nate and her desire to be with him.