The Face on the Milk Carton

by Caroline B. Cooney, Caroline Bruce

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Chapter 5 Summary

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Janie and Reeve kiss for a long time. When they separate, Janie takes a moment to feel amazed; she then kisses him again, putting her hands on the back of his neck, feeling his pulse. They are interrupted when Mrs. Shields calls out to Reeve to tell him he has a phone call. Reeve runs inside. When he is gone, Janie fixes the leaf pile to erase the impressions of their bodies. Reeve does not come back out, so Janie goes into her house.

Inside, Janie’s mother excitedly takes a pan out of the refrigerator. She has been practicing her cake-decorating skills all day, with impressive results. She has created a frosting football scene on a sheet cake. Tomorrow Janie's family is having a tailgate party with Reeve’s and Sarah-Charlotte’s families, and Mrs. Johnson is planning to serve the special cake for dessert.

The mention of the party makes Janie realize she has all day tomorrow to spend with Reeve. The idea excites and frightens her, partly because Sarah-Charlotte will be there, too. Janie is not sure that she is ready to tell anyone that she shared her first kisses with Reeve. She does not even know if the moment meant anything to him.

Janie’s mother notices the leaves in her hair, and Janie says mildly that she and Reeve have been acting “like a pair of third graders,” jumping around in a leaf pile. She excuses herself, saying that she wants to get the weekend’s homework done early because of the tailgate party tomorrow. She goes upstairs and thinks about kissing Reeve. She debates whether or not to call her friends and tell them about it. Finally, she decides not to call.

Janie opens her school bag and dumps her books on the bed. Her notebook flops open, revealing the milk carton she has clipped inside. She takes it out and looks at the picture of Jennie Spring. She picks up the phone and starts dialing the 800 number listed below the picture. Before she can finish dialing, she loses her courage and hangs up.

Calling the number seems impossible. For one thing, Janie does not know what she would say. For another, it feels like a betrayal of her parents. However, she knows there is a set of parents out there hoping to find out what happened to their daughter. They probably fear the worst—that their little Jennie is dead or perhaps living a terrible life as a victim of sadistic rapists or torturers. How would they feel if Jennie turned out to be a happy, healthy teenage girl who was simply growing up in a different family?

All Janie wants to do is to think about normal things like kissing, but she cannot get her mind off the kidnapping. She considers telling her friends about it, but she worries that the story would get back to her parents somehow. Then they will know that Janie is crazy, fixating on a “sick, twisted, perverted daydream.” Janie tells herself to forget the whole subject, but she also wonders what will happen if she cannot make the idea disappear: "What if it sits there, and grows, like some terrible egg, splitting open and turning into something real?"

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