‘You got into the car with her. I watched you go.’ He’s still smiling, but there’s no longer any conviction there, and I don’t know whether I’m imagining it, but he looks a little paler to me now. He relaxes his grip on Anna, releasing her once again. She sits down at the table, her back to her husband, her daughter squirming on her lap.
Tom passes his hand over his mouth and leans back against the kitchen counter, folding his arms across his chest. ‘You saw me get into the car with who?’
‘Oh, right!’ He starts laughing again, a loud, forced roar. ‘Last time we talked about this, you told me you saw me get into the car with Anna. Now it’s Megan, is it? Who’s it going to be next week? Princess Diana?’
Anna looks up at me. I can see the doubt, the hope, flash across her face. ‘You’re not sure?’ she asks.
Tom drops to his knees at her side. ‘Of course she isn’t sure. She’s making this up – she does it all the time. Sweetheart, please. Why don’t you go upstairs for a bit, OK? I’ll talk this through with Rachel. And this time—’ he glances up at me, ‘I promise I’ll make sure she won’t bother us any more.’
Anna’s wavering, I can see it – the way she’s looking at him, searching his face for the truth, his eyes intently on hers. ‘Anna!’ I call out, trying to bring her back to me. ‘You know. You know he’s lying. You know that he was sleeping with her.’
For a second, no one says a thing. Anna looks from Tom to me and back again. She opens her mouth to say something, but no words come.
‘Anna! What does she mean? There’s … there was nothing between me and Megan Hipwell.’
‘I found the phone, Tom,’ she says, her voice so small she’s almost inaudible. ‘So please, don’t. Don’t lie. Just don’t lie to me.’
The child starts to grizzle and moan. Very gently, Tom takes her from Anna’s arms. He walks across to the window, rocking his daughter from side to side, murmuring to her all the while. I can’t hear what he’s saying. Anna’s head is bowed, tears dripping from her chin on to the kitchen table.
‘Where is it?’ Tom says, turning to face us, the laughter gone from his face. ‘The phone, Anna. Did you give it to her?’ He jerks his head in my direction. ‘Do you have it?’
‘I don’t know anything about a phone,’ I tell him, wishing that Anna had mentioned this earlier.
Tom ignores me. ‘Anna? Did you give it to her?’
Anna shakes her head.
‘Where is it?’
‘I threw it away,’ she says. ‘Over the fence. By the track.’
‘Good girl. Good girl,’ he says distractedly. He’s trying to figure things out, work out where to go from here. He glances at me and then looks away. For just a moment, he looks beaten.
He turns to Anna. ‘You were so tired all the time,’ he says. ‘You just weren’t interested. Everything was about the baby. Isn’t that right? It was all about you, wasn’t it? All about you!’ And just like that, he’s on top again, perked up, pulling faces at his daughter, tickling her tummy, making her smile. ‘And Megan was so … well, she was available.
‘At first, it was over at her place,’ he says. ‘But she was so paranoid about Scott finding out. So we started meeting at the Swan. It was … Well, you remember what it was like, don’t you, Anna? At the beginning, when we used to go to that house on Cranham Street. You understand.’ He glances back over his shoulder at me and winks. ‘That’s where Anna and I used to meet, back in the good old days.’
He shifts his daughter from one arm to the other, allowing her to rest against his shoulder. ‘You think I’m being cruel, but I’m not. I’m telling the truth. That’s what you want, isn’t it, Anna? You asked me not to lie.’
Anna doesn’t look up. Her hands are gripping the edge of the table, her entire body rigid.
Tom gives a loud sigh. ‘It’s a relief, if I’m honest.’ He’s talking to me, looking at me directly. ‘You have no idea how exhausting it is, coping with people like you. And, fuck, I tried. I tried so hard to help you. To help both of you. You’re both … I mean, I loved you both, I really did, but you can both be incredibly weak.’
‘Fuck you, Tom,’ Anna says, getting up from the table. ‘Don’t you lump me in with her.’
I look at her and realize how well suited they are, Anna and Tom. She’s a much better match than I am, because this is what bothers her: not that her husband is a liar and a killer, but that he’s just compared her to me.
Tom goes to her side and says soothingly, ‘I’m sorry, darling. That was unfair of me.’ She brushes him away and he looks over at me. ‘I did my best, you know. I was a good husband to you, Rach. I put up with a lot – your drinking and your depression. I put up with all that for a long time before I threw in the towel.’
‘You lied to me,’ I say, and he turns to face me, surprised. ‘You told me everything was my fault. You made me believe that I was worthless. You watched me suffer, you—’
He shrugs. ‘Do you have any idea how boring you became, Rachel? How ugly? Too sad to get out of bed in the morning, too tired to take a shower or wash your fucking hair? Jesus. It’s no wonder I lost patience, is it? It’s no wonder I had to look for ways to amuse myself. You’ve no one to blame but yourself.’
His expression changes from contempt to concern as he turns to talk to his wife. ‘Anna, it was different with you, I swear. That thing with Megan, it was just … just a bit of fun. That’s what it was meant to be. I’ll admit it wasn’t my finest hour, but I just needed a release. That’s all. It was never going to last. It was never going to interfere with us, with our family. You must understand that.’
‘You …’ Anna is trying to say something, but she can’t get the words out.
Tom puts his hand on her shoulder and squeezes it. ‘What, love?’
‘You had her looking after Evie,’ she spits. ‘Were you screwing her while she was working here? While she was looking after our child?’
He removes his hand, his face a picture of contrition, of deep shame. ‘That was terrible. I thought … I thought it would be … Honestly, I don’t know what I thought. I’m not sure I was thinking at all. It was wrong. It was terribly wrong of me.’ And the mask changes again – now he’s wide-eyed innocence, pleading with her: ‘I didn’t know then, Anna. You have to believe that I didn’t know what she was. I didn’t know about the baby she killed. I would never have let her look after Evie if I’d known that. You have to believe me.’