Chapter 11 Summary
Kathy explains the conflict beneath her spat with Ruth. For Kathy, there are two Ruths: the one that is her good friend and the one that is trying hard to be accepted in the Cottages. During the day, it seems like Ruth will turn her back on Kathy and Tommy to make friends. However, every night she and Kathy sit together and share their secrets, hopes, and fears. One of Kathy’s secrets is that she has become sexually active.
Kathy explains that although she had every intention of finding a stable boyfriend at the Cottages, she ended up having several one-night stands. She explains to Ruth that sometimes the urge to have sex simply overpowers her. So although she might not be interested in one of the veterans hitting on her, she would sometimes find herself surprised by her sudden desire. She shares her concern over this with Ruth, who offers an understanding and concerned response. These feelings strike Ruth as odd, but she is confident they will pass in time.
Up to this point, no matter what happened during the day, the girls had an implicit understanding that their nighttime confessions would never spill over into their disagreements during the day. However, Kathy is convinced that Ruth has now betrayed her by callously referencing her sexual history. Only after she grew up did she realize that Ruth might have felt betrayed by Kathy’s intrusions. Regardless, Kathy felt insulted at the time.
Otherwise, life at the Cottages continues. Kathy notes that the veterans rarely discuss certain things. The courses they take to become carers are never discussed. The students who have left the Cottages are also rarely mentioned. They may not be taboo, but they are usually only mentioned in passing. On the other hand, everyone recalls Steve for his enthusiasm for pornography.
When Kathy considers it, she realizes that all the students at the Cottages are interested in pornography. Of course, they never let on, but everyone looks at pornographic magazines before nonchalantly discarding them. One day, Kathy takes a stack of magazines into the boiler room and begins flipping through them to look at the faces the women make. Then she catches Tommy spying on her. When Tommy inquires what Kathy is doing, she claims to be enjoying the magazines and that she will gladly pass them on to him when she has finished. Tommy suggests that she does not look like she is enjoying them, but Kathy stands by her statement.