Saturday, July 20, 2013. Anna wakes up early to feed Evie and quickly falls back asleep with the child beside her in bed. When she wakes again, Tom is singing to her—it is her birthday, which she completely forgot about. After breakfast in bed, Anna opens her presents and snuggles with Tom and Evie until Tom falls back asleep. Anna takes Evie downstairs to the patio to watch the trains go by. As Anna gets dressed and takes Evie out to the shops to buy some things for dinner, she reflects on the unlikely success of her relationship with Tom—a relationship that began while Tom was still married to another woman.
By introducing Anna as a narrator, Hawkins adds yet another facet and perspective to the mystery at the heart of the novel. Anna is a devoted wife and mother—so devoted, in fact, that she completely erases herself and her own needs without even realizing it. Anna knows that Tom cheated on Rachel with her. She is subconsciously preoccupied by the knowledge that her marriage, however picture-perfect it is now, was founded on a bed of secrets and lies. At the same time, she tries to tell herself that everything is fine.
When Anna returns from the shops, she finds Tom on his laptop. He quickly closes it. Anna realizes that he is reading an email from Rachel. She asks what Rachel has written. Tom tells her it’s the “usual [drunken] nonsense.” Anna asks when Rachel will leave them alone and let them be happy, but Tom insists that they are happy. Later that evening, after a big lunch and some playtime outside with Evie, Anna reflects on the happiness she does feel with Tom and Evie. As Anna tidies up the living room and reaches to pull the curtains shut, she sees a woman scampering across the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. Tom comes in, finds Anna standing stock-still at the window, and asks what’s wrong. Anna insists that everything is fine.
Anna perceives Rachel as the most insidious, direct threat not just to her marriage but to her idyllic family life. In a society that teaches women to see other women as threats, Anna has failed to see the larger picture of what Rachel’s continued presence on the edges of her otherwise perfect life means. Instead, she brushes Rachel off as someone who spews “drunken nonsense,” because this is how Tom wants to characterize Rachel. Meanwhile, given that Rachel is going to see Scott on this same day, she’s likely the woman whom Anna sees on the other side of the street.