Anita Minteer (Drew Barrymore) is a troubled, lonely high school student and the object of her classmates'?? jokes. When a class assignment calls for the students to have pen pals. Anita begins corresponding with Howard Hickock (James LeGros), an inmate in a central California prison. As their exchanges grow from polite friendship to passion, Anita develops a new found confidence in herself. When she is assaulted once again by her sexually abusive stepfather, Anita shoots him to finally free herself from his persistent attacks. Anita has arranged for Howard to stay with the town'??s preacher upon his release from prison, who marries them despite his objections to their relationship. On their wedding night, the couple consummate their relationship by revealing their darkest secrets; Howard being a virgin and Anita being a murderer. Later that night, they retrieve Anita'??s stepfather'??s body and bury it at a dump site where they encounter two of Anita'??s tormentors from school. In a heated exchange, Howard kills both of them. The fates of the lovers are now sealed as they start to go down in a violent blaze of glory.