When Tom and Brendan leave the hospital, they're too exhausted to swim in the ocean so they begin the long drive home. Brendan asks Tom's opinion on how Fin is. Tom mentions that Fin is starting to remember things from before, but privately, Tom thinks it'd be better for him to not remember. Brendan asks if Fin was conscious the entire time and tells Tom that Fin was lucky to have him there. Tom thinks of the lady who counseled him, Matt, and Snorter. She said to let the memories in and then move on. Tom doesn't want to remember the fear he saw in Fin's eyes, or Luke and Nicole dead in the car.
Remember that water acts as a symbol for growth and happiness throughout the novel. By choosing to not swim after this visit with Fin, Tom and Brendan symbolically reject the opportunity to grow after this visit. This is evidenced further by the fact that Tom's narration leads right into telling the reader about the accident itself—he goes backwards, not forwards towards healing.
The night of the accident, Tom yelled for Daniel as Daniel ran away from the car. Matt redirected Tom to the others in the car as Snorter drove away to find cell service and call an ambulance. Tom and Matt circled the car, trying to see in, and Tom heard muffled crying from inside. Matt started to curse and scream "no," and he and Tom held each other and cried: Luke and Nicole were dead. Tom and Matt returned to searching the car and found Fin, fortunately in a place where he couldn't see Luke and Nicole. Tom crouched down next to him and touched his bloody head, trying to comfort him. Fin kept saying that he couldn't feel anything. Tom stayed with Fin until the ambulance arrived, though he wanted desperately to go to Daniel.
Tom's desire to go to Daniel and see for himself that Daniel was alright reinforces the brothers' bond. Though Tom will later question it, this does suggest that Tom's relationship with Daniel is stronger than his relationship with Fin. Matt's levelheadedness in this situation shows that he understands that being a good friend and community member means doing what he can to make sure that his friends get the help they need and not fixating on his own emotions.
It took until morning for the paramedics to cut Fin out of the car. Tom sat with him the entire time, thankful that Fin didn't see Nicole and Luke's bodies taken away. Dad and policemen coaxed Daniel out of the woods and they left, and someone came to take Matt and Snorter as well. Tom kept telling Fin that it would be okay.
By staying with Fin, Tom inadvertently starts to atone for Daniel's actions. This continues to show that Tom is far more engaged with his friends and his community than Daniel is.
Back at Gran's house, the sound of her complaining about the price of lamb is a welcome distraction from everyone else's gloom. Brendan insists that Fin is doing well, but Tom knows that Brendan just doesn't want to upset Dad. He also knows that Dad won't tell anyone how Daniel's doing, because most everyone believes Daniel got what he deserved. Tom heads down the hallway and sees Mum sitting on her bed. He notes that she usually is better for a day or two after seeing Daniel, and then she goes back to spending all her time asleep. Tom misses her and feels like it's torture seeing her like this.
Admitting that Tom misses Mum shows that as painful as everything else is in his life right now, effectively losing her as a parent is one of the most profound losses brought on by the accident. The adults' unwillingness to tell the truth about how Fin and Daniel are doing is actually a way that they're trying to care for each other, but Tom's understanding of the situation suggests that it would possibly be better to be truthful about things so that everyone could move forward.
Mum notices Tom and invites him in. She mentions that she's hardly seen him, and Tom wants to be close to her so badly he doesn't mention that this is her own fault. Tom lies down next to Mum and thinks that she smells like an old person. Mum says that Daniel is feeling very down and that they're thinking of moving him to a different wing of the jail. Tom knows there's more to this. Mum asks what she did wrong with Daniel and whispers that Daniel had no right to drive that night. Tom takes her hand and assures her it was an accident, but he knows Mum is right. He chokes out a question of why Daniel had to ruin everything, but Mum firmly tells him to stop.
When Mum tells Tom to stop, it suggests that she's struggling even more than Tom is: as far as Tom is concerned, Daniel did ruin everything, but that also doesn't mean that what happened wasn't an accident. This begins to create some nuance that will eventually start to help Tom grow up and become more mature—as well as help pull Mum out of her funk and return her to a functional parent again.
Tom goes to Kylie's room, where he finds her blasting music and sitting in front of her mirror. She insists she hates her hair; Tom retorts that he hates his life. Kylie turns off the music and lights a cigarette out the window. Kylie says that she called her best friend from Mumbilli from Brianna's house and admits that she told Brianna everything about what happened. Tom curses and yells that Brianna might not be trustworthy, and Kylie shouts back that everyone is going to find out at some point anyway. She orders him out of her room.
The cigarettes and Kylie's hair signal that Kylie is struggling more than she's letting on, which begins to show that different family members will grieve and heal at different rates. Tom's fear and anger that she told Brianna about the accident again shows that Tom has totally given up on friendship at this point and trusts no one. This is also one of the reasons he refuses to trust Kylie here.
At school, the other boys talk only about rugby. Tom thinks it's weird that it feels so familiar before reflecting that rugby tryouts are also taking place next week at St. John's. Matt has continued to email Tom, even though Tom hasn't replied. Rory and Tom discuss tryouts one afternoon, and Rory notes that Kylie and Brianna are friends now. He tells Tom to warn Kylie about her, as Brianna and her friends are troublemakers.
The fact that Matt continues to email Tom even without replies shows that Matt is truly a good and loyal friend to Tom, while also reinforcing that friendship doesn't always mean that both parties give to the relationship equally. Rory's warning suggests that if Tom were to look, he would discover friends in Coghill—he's just too afraid to do that right now.
In homeroom, Harvey announces the upcoming rugby tryouts and gives a general breakdown of when games will be. He releases the class, but Tom remains seated, trying not to get sucked into the black tunnel. Rory tries to engage Tom, but he finally leaves Tom alone. Tom finally realizes that he and Harvey are the only ones left in the classroom. Harvey tries to talk to Tom about the move and mentions that if Tom needs to talk, he's around. He mentions that Rory plays five-eight, and Tom's mind starts to spin—that was Daniel's position. Tom checks out until Harvey finally says that he's glad Tom is meeting "them." Tom is confused but realizes that Rory had invited him to meet the guys at the pool later.
When the announcement about rugby tryouts sends Tom into his dark tunnel, it shows that Tom still links rugby and Daniel to each other and is unable to look at either individually. This is one of the ways that the novel insists that Tom ties up his identity with Daniel's and is, at this point, unable to see himself as a unique individual. This is reinforced when Tom simply checks out when discussing Rory; Tom simply can't fathom this change to his rugby identity.
Tom isn't sure he wants to swim, but he decides the pool is better than being home for Gran's prayer group. The man at the gate played at the Australia Day touch game and recognizes Tom as Brendan's nephew. Tom counts out his change, admits that he's from Mumbilli, and realizes he's 20 cents short. The man looks Tom in the eye and asks if he should still let Tom in. Tom's eyes widen in fear, but the man insists he's joking, waves Tom in, and cautions him to not open his eyes on account of the chlorine.
Tom's choice to swim instead of going home shows that he is starting to become ready to heal by opening himself up to new relationships. The fear he feels at the gate reminds him and the reader that the choice to start the healing process isn't going to be easy, but the fact that Tom persists suggests that, at the very least, he's tired of wallowing.
Tom tries to tell himself to relax as he kicks off his shoes. He leaps into the cold water several times. Tom feels free and light as Rory, Jimmy, and Soupe, two other rugby players, join him. Brad Wiseman, a tall and heavy rugby player, belly flops into the pool to cheers from everyone. Tom feels as though his eyes are on fire from the chlorine and joins Rory in line for the shower. Tom watches as the girl in front of him squeezes water out of her ponytail, which runs down her back into her bottoms. He feels the start of an erection and is totally caught off guard when she turns around—it's Chrissy. She asks after Tom's granddad, and Tom feels the black tunnel engulfing him.
As with the gate attendant's joke, being afraid and regressing into the black tunnel at the reminder of Tom's real life shows that the healing process isn't linear. More poignantly, it shows that Tom is living in crushing fear that his secret will be found out. By placing the fun time with rugby friends next to this fear, the novel suggests that these new friends will be instrumental in helping Tom face his fears and come to a better place.