Chapter 17 Summary

As Kathy looks back, it seems like the argument between her, Ruth, and Tommy was the catalyst that pulled the three apart. At the time, however, it seemed like one of the many arguments Ruth and Kathy have. Even without the fight, perhaps the three would have split up anyway because “there were powerful tides tugging us apart by then.”

More and more students are leaving the Cottages to become carers. At first, Kathy is intent on finishing her essay. When she and the others first arrived at Hailsham, the essays seemed so important, but since then they have become less pressing. Kathy notes that the same thing that bound her, Tommy, and Ruth together as Hailsham students weakens as their dedication to the essays weakens. Ultimately, it seems unlikely that they will ever see the guardians again.

Kathy tries to keep things together between her, Ruth, and Tommy. However, she finds that things have progressed to the point that she can no longer just approach her old friends and apologize or laugh off spats. Still, she tries to reconcile with Ruth, and Ruth seems to play along. However, before long, she and Ruth discuss Kathy’s relationship with Tommy. Ruth explains that Kathy is not intruding on their relationship because Kathy is one of them. However, she also tells Kathy that Tommy would never date her because

Tommy doesn’t like girls who’ve been with...well, you know, with this person and that.

Kathy responds that it is good to know this. Suddenly, Ruth is talking about what she would do if she had a car. Kathy makes a reference to Hailsham, and Ruth claims not to know what she is talking about. Kathy thinks Ruth is feigning ignorance and calls her on it. However, Ruth continues to pretend, and so they continue their conversation.

Soon afterward, Kathy makes her decision to leave the Cottages to become a carer. There is very little to the process besides a declaration of intent. There are no tests or long goodbyes. After she makes the decision to leave, Kathy notices that life at the Cottages seems different. She leaves without talking at length to Tommy or Ruth again.