Distressed by what she’s just witnessed, Addy calls her boyfriend, Jake. When he answers, though, she begins crying too hard to talk, and Cooper takes over the phone call. He tells Jake to meet him and Addy outside—something has happened, he says. Cooper’s Deep South accent is out in full swing—it becomes thicker when he’s agitated or excited.
In a mystery like this, characters’ reactions to pain and violence might be clues to their involvement—or lack thereof. McManus will continue toying with the truth as the novel progresses, forcing her characters to consider how everything they say, do, or feel reflects back on perceptions of their guilt or innocence.
Bronwyn asks Ms. Grayson if their detention group is free to go. Ms. Grayson supposes they are; she asks the students if Simon ate anything with peanuts in it before the attack, as he’s allergic to them, but they all insist he just drank a sip of water. Ms. Grayson thinks it’s possible that Simon could’ve had a delayed reaction to something he ate at lunch, but nonetheless she picks up the cup he dropped in case one of the paramedics or “somebody” wants to take a look at it.
For someone with as serious an allergy as Simon, this weakness would have been common knowledge throughout a school—especially one as gossip-oriented as Bayview.
Addy, still crying, shouts that she wants to go home. Ms. Grayson tells Cooper to help Addy home, and the two of them leave. Addy is grateful for Cooper’s arm around her shoulder—he is like a brother to her. In the hallway, they run into Jake, and Addy jumps into his arms. As Jake comforts Addy, Cooper walks out of school and heads home. Addy feels sorry that she didn’t do more for Cooper—he must be just as “freaked out” as she is. She knows, though, that Cooper’s girlfriend, Keely, will know how to help him.
Cooper and Addy were the only two people in detention who have a connection to one another outside the bounds of that room, and this passage serves to show how close they are and how tight-knit their insular, popular friend group is.
Jake drives Addy home, where Addy’s mother, having already heard the news through her “mysterious but foolproof” school gossip network, is waiting out on the porch. Addy’s mom greets her theatrically, begging to know what happened, but Addy doesn’t feel like talking—especially with her mother’s much-younger boyfriend, Justin, waiting just inside the house. Jake tells Addy’s mother that he’s going to take her upstairs and help her settle down—afterwards, he says, he’ll come down and fill her in. Addy is always “amaze[d]” by the way Jake talks to her mother “like they’re peers.”
Addy’s mother is a stereotypical Southern California housewife—she is just as invested in the gossip and drama swirling through Addy’s life as she is in her own problems. Her desire to be close to her youthful daughter—and Addy’s friends, too—shows how enviable Addy’s life is even to her own family, and how pervasive the economy of popularity and gossip is in Bayview.
Addy reflects on how she and her sister, Ashton, were raised. Addy’s mother entered them both in beauty pageants when they were little, but they were both always the runners-up. Addy’s mother has instilled in her the belief that the only way to get through life is by the side of a man who can take care of her; despite this, Addy’s older sister Ashton is failing in her two-year-long marriage, and Addy’s mother can’t make a man “stick.”
As Addy’s point of view roves deeper and deeper into the cracks of her life, it becomes clear that the way Addy moves through the world and makes decisions has been influenced by some bad—even damaging—advice from her own mother, demonstrating how the adults in the world of this book are often untrustworthy and uninformed as to what their children and students really need.
Back in the parking lot at school, the narrative switches to Nate’s perspective. Nate offers Bronwyn a ride home on his motorcycle; Bronwyn refuses, calling the bike a “deathtrap.” Nate shrugs and takes a swig from a bottle of bourbon he keeps in his jacket pocket. He offers her a sip, but she is outraged at the idea that he’d drink both on school property and before driving home. Nate admits he doesn’t drink all that much, and only took the flask from his father’s bar this morning. He is about to put the flask away when Bronwyn suddenly extends her hand and asks for a drink.
As Nate and Bronwyn talk—and then drink—together in the school parking lot, the first of the novel’s major unlikely connections begins. Nate and Bronwyn couldn’t be more different—he is a druggie, she is a brain—but of course they are more than their Simon-inflicted stereotypes, and their capacity to connect with one another blossoms as they bond over what has just happened to both of them.
Nate thinks back to elementary school, when he and Bronwyn attended the same Catholic school—this was “before life went completely to hell.” Bronwyn and Nate sit together in shock, drinking from the flask and remarking on the strangeness of what has just happened. When Nate remarks that Addy was “useless” during the ordeal, Bronwyn chastises him—they have all been through a “huge trauma” together, and must support one another. Nate finds Bronwyn tiring—but at least, he thinks, she isn’t boring.
Nate and Bronwyn are revealed to have overlapping parts of their pasts—deepening the points of connection they share, despite the outward appearance of having absolutely nothing in common.
Bronwyn tells Nate that she’s sorry to hear about his mother, who died in a car accident a little while ago. Nate doesn’t want to talk about his mother, though, and redirects the conversation back to Simon’s collapse. Bronwyn expresses amazement and admiration at how fast Nate came to Simon’s aid, and then says she should get going. Nate offers her a ride one more time—this time, she accepts. As Nate helps her up, she stumbles, already apparently feeling the effects of the alcohol.
There is more to Nate than Bronwyn thought—though they were in class together as children, they’ve clearly drifted far apart since then, and perhaps have allowed the stereotypes that have been thrust upon them dictate the way they relate—or don’t relate—to one another.
Bronwyn gives Nate her address—he notes that she lives in “the rich part of town.” Nate helps Bronwyn put on a helmet, and then they take off. Bronwyn squeezes Nate tightly the whole time, clearly frightened. When they arrive at Bronwyn’s house, she hops off the bike, and her phone begins ringing. She pulls it out of her backpack and answers it—the call upsets her, and when she hangs up, she informs Nate that Simon is dead.
Bronwyn is symbolically putting her trust in Nate when she allows him to drive her home on his motorcycle—as soon as they arrive, though, the realization that Simon is dead throws everything they’ve just experienced into sharper relief—and makes everything more dangerous.