What Really Happened
Chapter 6, page 6






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    The operating system and software were acting strangely, but Rebecca was able to overcome each bug. There wasn't much time, but she couldn't imagine waiting until evening to visit Howie's web site. She'd promised to take Mikka on a shopping trip, down to the valley where a sprawling mall offered an enticing selection of teen fashion labels. 
    It was tough last night, telling Mikka and Howie everything, with Dorothy adding context and softening Rebecca's harsher memories. But Rebecca didn't doubt for a moment that she needed to tell it all, and that Mikka needed to hear how bad things could get. And Mikka heard, tearfully begging at the end to call up her arch FriendMap enemy and make amends. Howie made the call, speaking to the girl's parents first, then handed the phone to Mikka. They all heard her say "I am really sorry" and then spoke among themselves so she could finish trading apologies in private.
    "Why didn't the police get involved?" asked Howie.
    "In this town?" said Dorothy, "At the time, there was just one sheriff and he had no sympathy for that poor boy's grandma. Everyone blamed her 'trailer trash' ways. She died within the year."
   "People just hushed it up," said Rebecca. "They said it was what kids do, kids being kids. Angela's family got a settlement from the school and that really pissed the town off.  They couldn't build a new gym for years. Her family moved."  Rebecca went on to explain how she and Dorothy, still shaky from Nate's death, visited Jeff's grandmother and Angela's parents. Rebecca told them that she was the one who'd invited Angie to the bonfire that night, that Cindy wanted to play a trick on her. How J.D. wanted to humiliate Jeff. How the two kids were locked in the shack, a board nailed across the only door. "I think they were just going to leave it up until morning, so that everyone would know they'd spent a night together. No one wanted to set the shack on fire. It just happened. And it happened so fast. There was no way to stop it."
    The rest of the evening was spent in calm togetherness. Dorothy served up nice things to eat. Mikka did her homework, while Howie and Rebecca read through shopping cart technical specs. Rebecca didn't sneak into Howie's room that night, careful of the creaking hallway floorboards. Instead, after Howie tucked in Mikka, and Dorothy said her goodnights, Rebecca walked upstairs and into the bedroom that was now theirs.
   As sunlight poured through the kitchen windows, Rebecca opened the browser on her laptop and typed in the address she knew by heart. A web site unfolded before her eyes. Here was Howie's elegant design and perfectly engineered code in evidence once again. Endearing photos, measured words, the whole speaking to her in one sincere request, click here if you love me.