Sunday, July 21, 2013. Rachel wakes up and reflects on her meeting with Scott the day before. Yesterday, after getting off the train at Witney and making her way to Blenheim Road, Rachel rang Scott’s doorbell, and he invited her in warmly. Rachel immediately felt dizzy and disoriented as she realized that Scott and Megan’s house had the exact same layout as her and Tom’s old house just down the road. Scott made tea and asked Rachel what she wanted to tell him about Megan. Rachel quickly blurted out that she’d seen Megan kissing someone from the train. Scott was a bit weirded out by Rachel’s story—but he believed her and asked for more and more details about the tall, dark-skinned man Rachel spotted.
As Rachel finds herself entering Scott and Megan’s house for the first time, she is flooded with memories of her own marriage and the life she and Tom created in a house that looks just like the Hipwells’. The uncanny mirroring between these two couples, these two houses, and these two lives deepens the sense of mystery and secrecy in the novel—and suggests that Rachel and Megan’s stories are more intertwined than they might have initially seemed.
When Scott fixed himself a drink, Rachel began feeling badly about having been the bearer of such distressing news—and about lying her way into his house to do it. As Scott continued questioning Rachel about her connection to Megan and to Blenheim Road, he pieced together the fact that she was Tom Watson’s ex-wife. Rachel grew nervous and hurried to leave, but Scott insisted on showing her a picture of a former artist from the gallery, Rajesh Gujral. Rachel said Rajesh was not the man she saw. Scott then pulled up a picture of Kamal Abdic, Megan’s therapist, on his computer—and Rachel confirmed that Abdic was the man she saw with Megan. Scott, dismayed and angry, asked Rachel to leave.
Rachel and Scott’s first meeting is complicated and fraught. Rachel knows that she’s there on false pretenses—yet she hasn’t created an identity removed enough from her true self to prevent Scott from filling in the blanks about who she actually is. Rachel wants to help Scott, but she’s also furthering her own agenda—thus, she feels that she has to remain secretive and cagey at all times. Rachel can be a more authentic version of herself around Scott in some ways, yet she must constantly repress a fundamental truth about herself: that she did not really know Megan.
Now, after a slightly boring lunch with Cathy, Rachel sits at home alone and begins itching for a drink. As she starts getting ready to go to the liquor store, her phone rings—assumes it’ll be Tom, but when she goes to answer it, she realizes it’s Scott. Scott thanks her for her help the day before. He tells Rachel that he mentioned the tip about Dr. Abdic to Riley—but he left Rachel’s name out of it. Scott seems to truly believe that Abdic has something to do with Megan’s disappearance—even though he can’t find any letters or emails from him in Megan’s things. Scott asks if Megan ever talked about her marriage to him with Rachel. Rachel says Megan didn’t talk about Scott much—but that when she did, she “lit up.” Privately, Rachel beats herself up for lying using such a clichéd term.
Rachel continues lying to Scott in order to remain close to him. She feels connected to him in a way she can’t articulate—and she is desperate to insinuate herself into the lives of the “golden” couple she admired for so long. Rachel knows that the longer she stays in touch with Scott—and the more they discuss—the more outlandish her lies will have to become. Yet she isn’t willing to cut herself off from him just yet.
Scott confides in Rachel about the terrible fight he and Megan had the night of the disappearance. He admits that he simply let Megan go, believing that if she stayed away for the night, she might blow off some steam. Rachel recalls that even during her worst drunken fights with Tom, Tom always chased her down and calmed her. Scott admits that even in the morning, when Megan wasn’t home, he didn’t panic—it was only when he went over to Megan’s friend Tara’s and realized she wasn’t there that he got worried. Rachel wonders how much of what Scott is telling her is true.
Just as Hawkins establishes Rachel as an unreliable narrator and encourages readers to question her perspective and her motivations, so too does Rachel find herself in the position of receiving information from a person she doesn’t fully trust. Meanwhile, Rachel’s reflections about Tom always chasing her down and calming her when she was drunk contradicts his stories about Rachel being out of control and violent while intoxicated. This subtly implies that perhaps Tom can’t be fully trusted either.
Monday, July 22, 2013. Rachel wakes up feeling hot and stuffy in the warm morning air. She is sitting on the train when a man gets on and takes the seat next to her. He reads an article on his iPad about a man who was arrested in connection with Megan’s disappearance. Rachel apologizes for reading over his shoulder, but when she tells him that she knows Megan, he offers to let her read it. The article says only that “a man in his thirties” has been arrested, and Rachel anxiously wonders who it is. At the Witney stop, she disembarks and runs to number 15. She is afraid to knock at the door—but before she can make a decision about whether or not to do so, Scott opens the door, grabs her arm, and pulls her inside.
This chapter ends on a note of intense suspense as Rachel realizes that the wheels of Megan’s case are turning—possibly due to the information she’s given to both the authorities and to Scott himself. As Rachel arrives at Scott’s house to check in on him—and as he hurriedly pulls her inside—it is clear that her investment in him is deepening even as Megan’s case becomes more and more fraught.