Lou knows that she is not dumb, but she has always felt inferior to her sister Katrina, who everyone calls Treena. Lou dresses in crazy colors and outlandish outfits, thinking that it’s because it is the one way she can stand out from Treena’s cleverness. Lou also enjoys looking the way she wants instead of trying to look like all the other girls at school. Yet Lou has no idea what she wants to do with her future, outside of having the ordinary life that awaits an ordinary girl.
Lou and Treena have a complicated relationship. Though Lou obviously loves her sister, there is also an undercurrent of jealousy at all the things that Lou has had to give up to support her sister’s success. Meanwhile, Lou’s fashion sense marks her as someone who longs for something outside the norm, even though Lou professes no desire to do anything other than have an ordinary life.
Lou’s mom insists that Lou wear her old suit from the 80s to her care interview. Lou hates the boring cut of the suit, but is even more ashamed that the suit is a bit too small for her. On the bus, Lou realizes that she has no idea how to interview or negotiate a job contract, as her job at the café had been a rather informal affair. Lou worries that she is not qualified to be a caregiver for a quadriplegic man. She had enough trouble dealing with her Granddad right after his stroke.
Lou seems to be playacting at being conventionally respectable for this interview by wearing her mother’s clothes. But these clothes do not fit right, a sign that Lou cannot hide her real personality for long. Lou does not have experience with normal job considerations, but she may have experience with the things that matter most for this job.
Lou has no time to consider her possible short-comings because the bus is already at Granta House, the home of the well-off Traynor family, who owns and operates the nearby Stortford Castle. Lou is intimidated by the grandness of the house, and further disheartened by the coolly polished look of the woman who steps out of the front door before Lou even rings the bell.
Moyes folds class differences into the story, as the outward wealth of the Traynor family at first seems like a sign that the Traynors are happier than the poorer Clark family. Lou feels inferior to their elegance.
Lou sticks out her hand to shake politely and the woman shakes her hand disdainfully before introducing herself as Camilla Traynor. Camilla leads Lou into a luxurious sitting room and begins to ask Lou about her qualifications while Lou struggles to answer coherently. Lou’s too-tight suit then splits at the seam and Lou rushes to cover it with her suit jacket.
Lou’s lack of experience in the real world shows through in this interview. Clothing is again an important indicator of Lou’s inner thoughts. As she becomes more flustered, her suit falls apart too.
Camilla sharply asks Lou what she plans to do with her life, and Lou has no answer. Camilla finally sighs, asking Lou to give her one reason to hire her instead of someone else. Lou hesitates, slightly too long, then says that she is a hard worker who would be happy to help Camilla’s husband. Camilla corrects Lou, explaining that it is her son who is quadriplegic.
Again, Lou is unable to show any ambitions for her own life. Camilla seems to care more for her son than she does for her husband when she corrects Lou. Lou is taken aback at this news, as she had assumed that a handicapped man would be older, rather than someone her age.
Lou is flustered at her mistake and finally settles on telling Camilla that she can make a mean cup of tea. Lou stutters to correct herself again, realizing that she just suggested that quadriplegia can be solved by tea, but Camilla just tells Lou that the job has a six-month contract that would start as soon as possible. Camilla goes on to explain that they expect no medical expertise, but want someone to care for her son’s mental health. To Lou’s surprise, Camilla offers her the job, with the caveat that she wear something less revealing than the skirt that is rapidly splitting up Lou’s leg. Lou gratefully accepts.
Lou’s offer of tea suggests that she would treat a quadriplegic person like a normal able-bodied person, which is what Camilla wants. Camilla’s advice that Lou wear something less revealing effectively gives Lou permission to display her quirky style, as Lou has already said that she does not like to wear suggestive clothing.
At home that night, Treena and Bernard speculate about how disabled this man will be. Josie is excited that Lou will be working for a “posh” family. Treena and Bernard continue to joke about the new job, telling Patrick that he won’t have to worry about sexual harassment and wondering if the man will speak with a machine like Stephen Hawking. Lou shakes her head that her sister is so smart and yet can be so thick, like when she dropped out of university in her final year because she got pregnant with Thomas.
Josie’s fascination with “posh” families suggests again that Josie believes that money reflects a higher quality of life. Stephen Hawking is a physicist and one of the most brilliant men of the 20th century who is also confined to a wheelchair, making him a prime example of the difference between mental and physical health. Treena gave up her own ambitions for her son Thomas, a sacrifice that also requires Lou to work so that Treena can keep living at home with him.
Lou tries to hide her discomfort from her family, but she is unsure about her ability to care for a disabled person’s needs, especially a man from a high-class family. Meanwhile Patrick just comments that this job is better than Lou’s stint at the chicken factory. Bernard then laughs, saying that Lou should use this time to get fit with Patrick’s personal training business. Lou is hurt at this latest jab, so Bernard apologizes and reminds Lou that they are all proud of her taking this next step.
The members of the Clark family continue to show their love by teasing. Lou disagrees with Patrick’s obsession with physical fitness. While Patrick is always focused on the physical condition of people, Lou is worried about her new employer’s mental and emotional needs.