He responds to the situation and tries to resuscitate the victim. That evening, he reflects on his past to the summer of , when he meets his first teenage crush Meg Loughlin Blythe Auffarth. Living next door to the Chandlers, David is aware of the charisma Ruth has, since she freely allows her sons and their neighborhood friends to her house, where she entertains them and offers them beer and cigarettes.
Meanwhile, Ruth starves Meg, accuses her of being a whore and subjects her to misogynistic lectures, whilst her children listen. One day, David visits the Chandler residence, where he sees the Chandler sons tickling Meg. Ralphie inappropriately tickles Meg's breasts, prompting her to fend him off as she runs from the room. His brothers humiliate Susan and when Ralphie brings Ruth to the situation, Ruth reprimands her for forgiving Meg's actions.
Ruth beats Susan's bare buttocks as the Chandler sons restrain a horrified Meg, who came back to the room to save Susan. Ruth then takes the ring that Meg wears around her neck, which belonged to her mother.
A few days later, Meg stops a policeman, Officer Jennings Kevin Chamberlin and reports the ongoing child abuse at the Chandler residence. As punishment, Ruth and her sons bind Meg in the basement with her hands tied to the rafters. They play a bizarre game of " confession ", and when Meg has nothing to confess, she is stripped naked. They blindfold her, gag her and leave her there. That night, the boys sneak back downstairs, giving her water.
They agree to loosen her bindings, but only if she lets them touch her. She refuses, but David loosens them anyway, promising to free her into the woods.
Eventually, Meg is untied but is unable to eat the food Ruth gives her since she is severely dehydrated , to the extent of choking if she did. Ruth again beats Susan's bare buttocks for Meg's disobedience. With Ruth's approval, the neighborhood children visit the Chandler residence to tie, beat, burn and cut Meg for fun. Ruth cauterizes the wounds Meg receives with cigarettes.
David tries to tell his parents but is unable to do so. Soon, the Chandler sons hear Officer Jennings arriving at their house, after having had his suspicions raised after a local boy reports a girl being beaten and used as a "plaything". Before answering the door, Ruth threatens to kill Meg and David if they make a noise in the basement.
Ruth and her sons then mislead Jennings and assures him that no wrongdoing has occurred. Back in the basement, David secretly loosens her bindings and tells her that it is time for her to escape. He also leaves money in the woods for Meg to run away with it. The next day, David still sees the money there, realizing that his plan had failed. David quickly returns to the basement. There, Meg is raped by Willie, as punishment for trying to escape. David tells Ruth to stop but is harshly ignored.
Donny steps forward, wanting to rape Meg as well, but Ruth does not want him to, considering it to be incest to have sex whilst his brother's " scum " is still inside Meg. Ruth instead offers Eddie or David to take a turn with her. When David declines, Ralphie requests Ruth to brand Meg so that she'll be known as a whore. Ruth taunts Meg about how she will never have relations with a man due to the branding. However, she fears that Meg may still have feelings, especially for David, and decides to perform a clitorectomy.
David tries to flee and tell somebody but the children, under Ruth's command, tie him up. Bound on the floor, David helplessly watches Ruth mutilate Meg's vagina with a blowtorch. The next morning, David awakes still on the basement floor. He frees himself from his bindings and finds Susan sitting with an unconscious Meg.
Susan tells David that Meg did not escape the night that he secretly untied her because she was caught trying to take Susan with her. Although David's plan was to come back for Susan after Meg escaped, Susan had told Meg that Ruth had molested her on a regular basis to extent of making her bleed, which made Meg want to escape, along with her sister, the house as soon as possible.
Susan then tearfully insists that Meg should have just gone without her and saved herself while she could, but David tells Susan everything was going to be all right. David is afraid that Meg won't survive much longer without help, so he tries to get everyone else's attention by lighting a fire in the basement.
Ruth notices the smoke from the fire and enters the basement. As she enters, David quickly bludgeons Ruth to death with Susan's crutches. Willie attacks David and vengefully attempts to stab him as Donny mourns his mother's death.
Jennings and another policeman arrest Willie and Donny and presumably Ralphie in time. Jennings checks Ruth's pulse and questions David but after he tells him about her crimes, he leaves Ruth for dead.
After Susan is taken from the basement by the authorities, David retrieves Meg's ring from Ruth's corpse and gives it to Meg as she succumbs to her wounds. Back in , the adult David reflects on how his past still haunts him to his present day, though as Meg taught him, "It's what you do last that really counts.