It is the middle of February; Bronwyn has been dating Evan for three months. She is unenthusiastic about their relationship; she feels hardly anything for him, and knows they will break up when she goes to college. Next month, she will find out whether or not she’s gotten into Yale, but over the last few months she’s been interning for Eli and coming to realize that one university does not make or break her future. Bronwyn still thinks a lot about the ordeal she’s been through, and about Simon, too—she wonders about his belief that he was owed something he didn’t get. Though she wants to think this line of thought is far from her own brain, she concedes that the impulse that drove her to cheat came from the same desire; she is working hard, though, not to be that person anymore.
All of the things Bronwyn thought she wanted at the start of the novel—a connection with the cute mathlete, a letter of acceptance to Yale, popularity—are now hers or at least within her reach, but the events of the novel have so changed her that she has reframed who she is and what she wants. She knows now that she doesn’t have to follow a predetermined path. As Bronwyn strives to become a better, more well-rounded person, she reflects on her old desires—and the dark ways they motivated her to do things she never thought she’d do.
Tonight, Bronwyn is on her way to play a piano solo at the San Diego Symphony as part of their High School Spotlight concert series. She is nervous as she and Maeve prepare to leave, and texts last-minute directions to Kate, Yumiko, Addy, and Cooper—who is coming to the concert after dinner with Kris’s parents. As she heads out the door, Bronwyn realizes she forgot to invite Evan, but is unfazed by this realization.
The friendships most important to Bronwyn are both the old ones with Kate and Yumiko and the new ones she’s forged with the “murder club”—the connections she thought she wanted, like her relationship with Evan, hardly matter to her now that she’s truly found her tribe.
At the concert, Bronwyn pours every ounce of emotion she’s felt over the last several months into her piece, and receives an enthusiastic ovation from the audience. After the performance, she catches up with her friends, who gush over her and present her with flowers. Ashton and Eli are there, too, and congratulate her on doing so well. Addy cranes her neck as if she’s looking for someone, but when Bronwyn asks her what’s up, she insists she’s just admiring the building’s lavish décor.
Music has been Bronwyn’s way of expressing herself for a long time, and now, as she takes center stage, she unleashes all the feelings she’s had pent up over the last several months. The horrible things that have happened to her have made her a stronger, wiser, better person.
After a little while, Bronwyn and her family make their way outside. Her father goes to get the car while Maeve, Bronwyn, and their mother wait at the front; Bronwyn is shocked when a motorcycle suddenly pulls up. Maeve, spotting Nate’s approach, hurries their mother closer to the parking lot while Bronwyn stands rooted to the spot.
Bronwyn has been pining for Nate—he is the one thing missing from her new life. Now, in an unlikely and unexpected encounter, he shows up—perhaps in order to make amends.
Bronwyn greets Nate coolly, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of knowing how badly she’s been pining for him. They catch up for a moment, and Nate reveals that while his father is back in rehab, his mother is still sober and living in Bayview, taking care of him. Nate admits that he saw Bronwyn’s solo, and congratulates her on an amazing job. Bronwyn asks why Nate showed up and begins crying. Nate admits he’s been an idiot and apologizes for allowing getting arrested to mess with his head and convince him that Bronwyn’s life would be better off without him in it.
In this passage, Nate admits to the personal demons and self-defense mechanisms that forced him to push Bronwyn away. He apologizes for hurting her—it’s not quite enough, but he’s still proving to himself and to Bronwyn that he’s capable of surprising moves and remarkable feats of introspection and self-awareness.
Nate reveals that Addy convinced him to come tonight and explain himself to Bronwyn. Bronwyn pulls herself together and admits that what hurt most about losing Nate was not just losing their romantic connection, but their deep friendship. Bronwyn tells Nate that just showing up doesn’t make things all right, and Nate says he understands. Still, he invites her to a movie as friends, and confesses he misses her “like crazy.” Bronwyn agrees to go, secretly excited but afraid to betray her emotions to Nate. He tells her he’ll call her on her burner phone before squeezing her hand in a goodbye. As Bronwyn walks towards her parents’ car, she can’t stop smiling; she turns around to look at Nate one last time and sees that he can’t stop smiling either.
Though Nate and Bronwyn haven’t fully repaired their relationship, they have both realized that what they carved out with one another is something too special to throw away. Their relationship, in many ways the emotional crux of the novel, is on the road to repair—the unlikely connection these two forged possibly saved both their lives, and helped their whole school and community to become a better, less judgmental, more open place to be.