Friday afternoon, a guard comes to Nate’s cell; Nate can tell that something has happened. The guard instructs Nate to follow him, and bring his things; Eli is in the warden’s office, and informs Nate that the “whole thing” has “blown wide open.” Nate is free. As Eli fills Nate in on Jake’s arrest and Addy’s hospitalization—due to a concussion and a fractured skull—Nate grows numb with the knowledge that so many people have sacrificed their health and safety to help him.
One of Nate’s indictments of Addy early on was that she was “useless” in detention while Simon was choking—Nate, who has had to work his whole life just to make ends meet, sees uselessness as one of the worst traits one can have. When he’s sprung from jail, then, he’s full of feelings of impotence and uselessness, having had to sit in a cell while his friends and family worked hard on his behalf.
As Nate heads out of the facility, he finds his mother and Bronwyn waiting for him. Bronwyn throws her arms around Nate, and for a moment, things are all right—until the reporters start shoving microphones into his face. Eli handles the media as Nate contemplates everything Eli told him back inside—about how Bronwyn, Kris, Addy, and Cooper all worked together to clear Nate’s name. Nate feels useless and dejected as he, Eli, Bronwyn, and his mother pile into a car and drive away.
Though Nate should be happy and relieved to have his name cleared, he is so traumatized by all he has been through, shocked by how fast things are happening, and ashamed of his own “uselessness” that he can barely muster any reaction to the chaos around him at all.
As they drive down the highway, Eli talks rapid-fire about getting Nate’s drug charges dropped and making a statement to the media; Nate can hardly absorb anything. Bronwyn asks if Nate is all right, and he can barely meet her eyes. He worries that he will only disappoint her. He looks away from Bronwyn and tells her he just wants to go home and sleep; out of the corner of his eye he sees her dejected face and realizes he is “disappointing her right on schedule,” and that this is the first thing that has made sense in a long time.
It’s possible that while he was sitting in jail, Nate worried that his future as he knew it was over—now, as all that potential for positive change and a new start floods in, he feels overwhelmed, and begins reverting to stereotypes of his old ways in order to push everyone who wants to love and help him away.
Saturday morning, Cooper goes downstairs for breakfast to find Nonny reading an issue of a gossip magazine with his face on the cover—it is a candid shot of Cooper and Kris leaving the station after Cooper gave his statement to the police. Cooper considers how strange and fickle fame is—he has been hated and loved in the span of just a few weeks. Cooper’s little brother tells him that his Facebook fan page is up to a hundred thousand “likes,” but Cooper’s grandma looks forward to Cooper being able to go back to “normal” life.
This passage shows how the tides of fame have turned over and over on Cooper, leaving him breathless and half-drowned. His all-American jock reputation was tarnished, threatened, and dragged through the mud, and he was reviled by the press for weeks; now, he is a hero again, and though the support flooding in from the press and the media is ubiquitous, Cooper barely registers it as real.
In the week since Jake was arrested, he has been charged with numerous counts of assault, obstruction of justice, and other crimes. He is being held in the same detention center Nate recently got out of. Though this is some kind of “poetic justice,” it doesn’t feel right to Cooper, who mourns the fact that one of his best friends turned out to be such a monster. Janae, meanwhile, is cooperating the police and will receive a plea bargain; she and Addy are “thick as thieves,” though Cooper still has mixed feelings about Janae’s involvement in the whole ordeal.
Cooper was close friends with Jake for years, and is nearly as traumatized by the revelations about him as Addy herself is. Still, Addy wants to continue her friendship with Janae and look past the ways in which Janae hurt her; Cooper doesn’t know if he’s ready to do that, and is still obsessed with the secrets and lies which were just beneath the surface of his friend’s spotless exterior.
Cooper’s father comes into the kitchen and begins talking to him about baseball. Cooper has received scholarship offers from all of the top-five college teams except for LSU, and Cooper is excited to play college ball—though he thinks he’ll attend Cal State, the only place who didn’t rescind his offer when he was outed.
Though Cooper has gotten a lot of tempting, shiny offers from great schools, he wants to choose the one that never stopped celebrating the real him, and never wavered even when things got tough.
Addy is out of the hospital and recovering well physically; the “emotional stuff,” however, is taking longer to process. She is both angry at Jake and in mourning for the person she thought he was; her heart has been hurt as badly as her head by the realization that he hated her and wanted her dead. Addy has been fielding calls from TJ, who she can tell wants to ask her out; she laments that she can’t accept, though, because of their checkered past. Some things, Addy muses, just can’t be undone.
The traumas that Addy have suffered have reoriented her life; she believed certain things about herself and about Jake, and over the course of the last several weeks has had it all come crashing down. She rejects TJ because she knows that even if they’d be good for one another, their past is too rooted in pain and deception. She wants to live her life in the light, and distance herself from anything that reminds her of the way secrets, lies, and subterfuge once ruled—and nearly ended—her life.
Ashton and Eli are practically dating, and though they are an odd couple, they seem to really like one another. Now, after picking Addy up from her follow-up doctor’s appointment, Ashton drives Addy to an apartment complex, offering to show her something “good”; the girls take the elevator up to the third floor, where Ashton unlocks the door to a trendy two-bedroom she’s rented. She invites Addy to come live with her—it will be a fresh start for the both of them. Addy happily accepts.
Addy wants a fresh start, and her sister Ashton is prepared to help her make one—together, they are going to escape the harmful ways in which they’ve been raised and make a new family together, one based not on marketing themselves as desirable to men, but on working to discover who they truly are and what they want and deserve as independent women.
Bronwyn, meanwhile, has given only one interview to the media in the week since the truth was revealed—she spoke to Mikhail Powers after he ambushed her outside her house. She said she had only one thing to say; on-camera, she revealed that the rumors about her cheating were true. She apologized for her mistake and promised she would never do something like it again.
Bronwyn, too, wants to live her life in the open; she owns up to her cheating accusations, admitting that she made a grave mistake and promising to learn and grow from it and never repeat it. She is no longer cowering beneath a web of secrets; she is stepping into the light.
Bronwyn is on her way to Nate’s—he has been avoiding her all week, but has finally agreed to let her stop by. As they greet one another, things are awkward, and Nate says he doesn’t have much time; he has to go meet with Officer Lopez, who is setting him up with a job. Bronwyn tells Nate that she still cares about him, but Nate replies that it’s time to get back to “normal”; he points out that they are “not each other’s normal.” Bronwyn insists this doesn’t matter to her, but Nate says he doesn’t see the point in pursuing a relationship when their lives and futures are so different.
The one good thing that came out of all this mess, for Bronwyn, was her unlikely connection to and meaningful relationship with Nate. However, now that everything has blown over and they’re at last free to be together, Nate is pushing her away—he is afraid of breaking free of the painful but familiar stereotypes and patterns he’s fallen into in his own life, and in the process rejects Bronwyn and the chance at a new start.
Bronwyn accepts Nate’s rejection and keeps it together until she gets home. When she reaches her room, she collapses on her bed in tears; Maeve comes into comfort her. Though she can’t make Bronwyn’s pain go away, she says, she has something exciting to show her; Maeve pulls out her phone and navigates to Twitter, where Yale University has tweeted, in response to her Mikhail Powers interview, “To err is human @BronwynRojas. We look forward to receiving your application.”
This passage represents the first healthy, positive use of social media as a tool for connection throughout the entire novel. The internet, apps, and phones have been broken or ineffective tools for connection up to this point; but Yale’s tweet shows Bronwyn that bridges can still be built and connections can still be fostered, even though her relationship with Nate didn’t work out how she wanted to.