The Face on the Milk Carton

by Caroline B. Cooney, Caroline Bruce

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Chapter 17 Summary

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For the next week, Janie feels terrible all the time. Reeve refuses to look at her or speak to her. However, Sarah-Charlotte is not angry anymore. Janie thinks this is mostly because it is so much fun to play the comforting friend after a break-up. Sarah-Charlotte quickly develops the theory that Reeve broke up with Janie because she would not have sex.

Janie does not tell anyone the real reason for the break-up. Reeve had wanted to be the most important part of her life, and she had kept putting her problems first. Now she knows how awful it is to lose someone. This leaves her doubly sure that she cannot lose her parents’ love. She has to rid herself entirely of the idea of the kidnapping. She forms a plan to lock all the evidence in Hannah’s trunk. She finishes her letter to the Springs and puts it in an envelope with her return address. In an effort to be complete, she adds the Springs' address as well.

Janie’s worries have prevented her from eating properly for months, and she is fairly sure it has been days since she last consumed food. She walks dizzily through the school hallways, hardly able to hold herself up. At one point between classes, she decides to look at her letter. She searches for it, but it is missing.

Janie panics. What if someone finds the envelope and mails it? Then the Springs will learn everything. Janie has no choice but to confront the issue. She stumbles into Reeve’s classroom, so sick with worry and lack of food that she can hardly see. She calls out to Reeve that she needs Lizzie’s phone number. Reeve gets up, ushers Janie out of the classroom, and drives her home. When she explains what has happened, he explains something to her too:

I hate to play psychiatrist with you, but you didn’t lose that letter by any accident, Janie. Any more than you wrote it and put it in an envelope and addressed it by accident. You had to get out of this somehow, and that’s the route you took.

At Janie’s house, Reeve writes down Lizzie’s phone number. He offers to make the call, but Janie says no. Thinking that he is staying with her only out of politeness, she tells him that he can go home if he likes. Reeve says he wants to stay with her, and he asks her to forgive him for everything.

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