Sunday, August 18, 2013. Rachel awakens to the sound of rain and thunder. Her head throbs as she raises it to look at Tom, who is sitting at the table, drinking a beer. He asks her, once again, what he should do with her. Rachel is determined to get herself out of this situation—she knows now that she can’t rely on Anna. Tom tells Rachel that she’s brought this upon herself, and he suggests that she’s responsible for Megan’s murder, since she riled him up before he met Megan that night. But Rachel recognizes that Tom is bending the truth and manipulating her like he always does.
Rachel feels that she is utterly alone against Anna and Tom—but as Tom tries to isolate Rachel further by preying upon her weakness and low self-esteem, Rachel recognizes what is happening and finds the strength within to resist it. Rachel has spent a long time letting Tom blame her for his own cruelties—now, she is stronger than his lies.
Tom pulls Rachel to her feet. She promises that she still loves him—and that because of that, she won’t tell anyone about what he’s done. Tom, however, doesn’t believe her. He calls her a kicked dog, and then he kisses her. As he pushes her against the counter, Rachel slips her hand into a drawer. Tom pulls away. Rachel feels what she has been looking for in the drawer. She lunges forward, throwing Tom off balance and stomping on his foot as hard as she can. She pulls his hair and drives her knee into his head, then flees out the back door.
In this passage, Rachel keeps a cool head and uses Tom’s own arrogance against him in order to free herself from his clutches. Rachel knows that Tom uses not just physical but psychological manipulation to keep the women around him down—but she is not falling for his psychotic mind games any longer.
Rachel runs for the fence separating the yard from the train tracks, but she slips and falls. Tom follows her and throws his weight on her. She manages to wriggle away and call out for help—but a train is approaching, and she knows that no one will hear her. As Tom approaches her once again, Rachel draws back and plunges the item she pulled from the kitchen drawer—a corkscrew—into his neck. Tom falls to the ground. Rachel watches as the train goes by, ferrying passengers safely home.
As Rachel stabs the corkscrew into Tom’s neck, she defeats him at last and ends his reign of terror over her and Anna. The use of a corkscrew—an item so closely associated with alcohol—to kill Tom represents Rachel’s triumph not over just the man who subjugated her for so long, but over her alcohol dependency. Rachel takes back her life in one decisive moment.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013. As Rachel rides the train into London, she notices that she’s not the only one looking at number 15 and number 23 when the train stops at the signal any longer. Other passengers point at the now-empty homes and whisper about what happened in them. Rachel tries not to think about the night of her encounter with Tom—but she can’t help it.
Rachel is not the only one who’s been impacted by the terrible things that happened on Blenheim Road any longer. She isn’t isolated in her pain or in a web of secrets and lies: everything is, at last, out in the open.
Rachel recalls how Anna called the ambulance that night—it arrived too late to save Tom. The police and detectives Gaskill and Riley showed up, and Anna answered all their initial questions as Rachel sat in shock on the couch. Anna vouched that Rachel had acted in self-defense when Tom went for her with the corkscrew. The authorities took Anna and Rachel to the police station and questioned them separately; afterwards, they let both women leave.
Rachel feared that Anna would turn against her at every point in their climactic and violent final encounter with Tom—she knows how insidiously society pits women against one another. In the end, though, Anna chose the truth over ignorance and decided to stand with Rachel in solidarity against a man who betrayed them both.
In the wake of Tom’s death, Rachel and Anna have learned that Tom was never in the army at all. He cut ties with his parents after he stole money from them and lost it. Tom, both women now understand, lied compulsively, all the time. Rachel now feels that she never knew Tom at all.
Tom deceived everyone around him, and he got away with it for a long time. Now that Rachel and Anna both know the truth, they must confront how secrets and lies have shaped their lives—and how they will stop the vicious cycle of deception that has underpinned their lives.
Rachel’s train ride takes her from London to a coastal town. Tomorrow, she plans to ride farther north, perhaps all the way to Scotland. She isn’t sure where she’s going, but with the help of a loan from Rachel’s mother, she feels free to figure out where she wants to be. She drives out to Holkham, Megan’s hometown, and visits the place where Megan and Libby are buried. At the gravesite, she thinks about Scott and worries that he will never find peace. She wrote him an email a while ago to apologize for her lies—but she has not heard back. Rachel hasn’t had a drink in exactly three weeks. Back in town, she takes a walk around the harbor and down to the dark, chilly beach. Something there frightens her, so she hurries back to her hotel room.
Now, as Rachel rides the train north, she is not escaping from her life but instead investing more deeply in it. She wants to understand what has happened to her and reckon with it fully—she’s no longer denying or numbing herself to her traumas. Instead, she’s finding ways to face them head-on—even when they still frighten her. In visiting Megan’s graveside, she symbolically begins to forgive herself for her own perceived failures as a woman by empathizing with Megan’s struggles with womanhood and motherhood as well.
Safe inside, Rachel recalls one more detail about the night of Tom’s death. After she pushed the corkscrew into his neck, Anna ran out to the garden, fell to her knees, and put her hand to Tom’s throat. Rather than trying to stop the bleeding, however, Anna twisted the corkscrew further into his neck to make sure that he would die. Rachel has not seen Anna since that night—but she feels that they are now tied together forever. As Rachel turns off the light and gets to bed, she anticipates a restless night, yet she knows she must at least try to fall asleep. She has to get up early in the morning—she has a train to catch.
In the novel’s final lines, Hawkins reveals Anna and Rachel’s triumphant collective defeat of Tom and all that he represents. Rachel remains drawn to trains and the potential for escape they represent—but now, she is not escaping to drown out the past but rather to invest in her own future.