Sunday, August 18, 2013. Rachel watches Anna hurry into the house and embrace Tom, with Evie between them. As they break apart, Tom smiles and asks if Anna and Rachel are sitting around “gossiping.” When Rachel doesn’t laugh, Tom asks if she’s drunk. Rachel pulls out her phone and tells Tom that she saw him with Megan the evening Megan went missing—and that she remembers him hitting Rachel herself. Tom turns to Anna, grasps her arm, and tells her not to believe Rachel. He urges Anna to go upstairs so that he can make sure Rachel never bothers them again.
The confrontation in this passage comes down to a battle of words: Anna has to decide whether to believe Tom or Rachel. Whereas Tom is clearly a prolific liar, Rachel is also untrustworthy to Anna because Tom’s abuse has made Rachel drink to excess and behave erratically. Believing Rachel means that Anna must give up her picture-perfect life—but believing Tom means pushing aside the evidence of all his misdeeds.
Rachel calls out to Anna and begs her to see that Tom is lying. She reminds Anna that Tom was sleeping with Megan. Tom insists that there was nothing between him and Megan, but Anna says that she found Megan’s phone—she knows everything. Evie begins to cry. Tom takes her from Anna’s arms and rocks her. Tom explains that he started seeing Megan because Anna was tired and consumed with motherhood, whereas Megan was “available.” Anna seems hurt. Tom insists he’s giving her what she wants: the truth.
Tom is such a prolific liar that he’s willing to lie about something that all three of them know to be true. Having created a vast web of secrets and lies in order to control the women around him, Tom believes that he can simply tell more lies to get out of his earlier ones—but that strategy is put to the test here, as Rachel and Anna confront him. Tom doesn’t know how to tell the truth—only how to weaponize it.
Tom says that it is exasperating to put up with women like Rachel and Anna. He blames Rachel for growing depressed, heavy, and slovenly, and driving him away—then turns to Anna and insists that he just wanted to have some fun with Megan. Anna is furious that Tom would sleep with someone who was looking after their child. She demands that Tom give Evie back to her. Tom, however, continues rocking and hushing Evie. Anna begins screaming.
This passage demonstrates how Tom sees women as the source of all his problems. He can’t accept responsibility for anything he does, instead blaming even the most heinous acts on the provocations of the women he’s abused. He tries to convince the women in his life that they are the source of his problems—and often, he succeeds.
Rachel drags Anna outside and begs her to calm down and distract Tom while she herself calls the police. Anna agrees. Rachel takes out her phone and struggles to unlock the keypad with shaky hands. By the time she gets the number dialed, Tom is behind her. He kicks her, sending her to the ground and taking her phone while she struggles to regain her breath. Tom takes Rachel by the arm and leads her inside. Rachel is unsure whether Anna betrayed her. Anna begins nonchalantly making lunch for Evie. Tom places his hand on Rachel’s neck and asks her what he should do with her.
The mystery Hawkins creates in this passage heightens the reader’s suspense by showing that Anna is perhaps as untrustworthy as Tom is. After all, she stands by idly as Tom attacks Rachel. Rachel now realizes that she can’t truly rely on anyone but herself to get out of this mess and save herself from Tom’s clutches once and for all.