The idea of a “possible,” the person who had been the original on which a clone was based, intrigues the clone characters who populate Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, but they generally keep their interest bottled up. Kathy’s memories of Ruth—which are the filter through which the reader learns about her—show that even as a young girl, she was a strong-willed person with a carefully constructed worldview, including how other children could earn their way into her good graces, such as becoming a member of the “guard” she created for Miss Geraldine. Kathy soon realizes that Ruth is a liar who cannot accept her own ignorance and invents stories to cover it up. It is only when Kathy exposes one of Ruth’s lies that she gains her respect, which leads to a solid friendship between them.
After Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy move from Hailsham to the cottages, two veterans tell Ruth that they may have seen her possible. This is apparently the first such report Ruth has ever heard. The details of the sighting, such as the type of office in which she worked, begin to intrigue her. Although Kathy claims the idea of the possible does not really interest her, she may disclaim interest because it was not her possible who was sighted. She goes along with Ruth’s plan to go to the woman’s office to see for themselves.
It is on the trip out of town to look for this woman that the topic of “deferment” is brought up by the veterans, Chrissie and Rodney. The former Hailsham students claim never to have heard of the idea, which is essentially to extend the time before their organs are harvested and they die. The topic seems to unnerve Tommy, so it may be that he had heard the tale before and has contemplated trying to do it.
When it turns out that the woman does not resemble Ruth closely enough to be her possible, Ruth shows a different side of her personality. She claims it is well known that their models were nothing like bank clerks, but were “trash,” such as “junkies.” This is the first real indication that all Ruth’s earlier behavior was bravado to cover her real feelings about her “rubbish-bin” origins. She had longed to learn that a middle-class woman was actually her original in order to enhance her feelings about herself.