Kathy begins Part 2 by reminiscing about her essay, which is the final assignment given to Hailsham students when they leave at the end of their age-16 year. Kathy chose to write on the Victorian novel, and though her essay didn’t really count for anything—it was never graded or even submitted—it was designed to occupy the students minds during their two-year stay at the Cottages, where Kathy, Ruth, Tommy, and several others from Hailsham are sent. The Cottages, like several other communities around the UK, are designed to house smaller groups of students from many schools, not just Hailsham, and to prepare them for their lives as carers and donors. Kathy reflects also on the older students who had already been at the Cottages one year, when Kathy and her friends arrived—they are called “the veterans,” and seem startlingly mature compared to Kathy’s cohort.
Although Kathy appears to understand that the essay is merely something to pacify former Hailsham students, and to occupy their time, she also has developed a real interest in Victorian literature, and wishes to expand her knowledge on the subject. This is more or less indicative of Kathy’s demeanor generally: although she knows that she will live her life as a carer and donor, she nevertheless delights in life’s small pleasures, in her visit to the boat with Tommy and Ruth, in her walks around small seaside towns. In a way Kathy's life is both controlled and meaningless, and entirely hers and meaningful at the same time. The essay is a kind of trick, but it is also enjoyable and interesting to her. Kathy makes meaning within the constraints of the life she has, just like everyone else.
Kathy also describe Keffers, the grumpy maintenance man who cares for the Cottages, stoking wood for the huts and the main, old farmhouse, and complaining to himself that the students do not do a good job keeping up their living quarters. Kathy states that, when she and her friends first arrived at the Cottages, they were terrified of their freedom, the lack of guardians, and the new world beyond Hailsham they were meant to inhabit. Kathy also states that, although their time at the Cottages become quite idyllic—something like a collegiate atmosphere of free discussion, sex, and companionship—there remained an underlying anxiety about the upcoming stages in their lives, when they would begin their appointed jobs.
If Hailsham is the clones’ equivalent of high school, then the Cottages are most similar to college. There, the clones have the kinds of freedom one might expect of a 16 to 20-year-old. he Cottages are less structured than Hailsham, and the students become more aware of the outside world, and of their place in it. The few skills they learn while at the Cottages have immediately to do with their soon-to-be jobs. Driving, for example, is a fun diversion at the Cottages, but will also be useful to the carers as they travel between treatment centers, visiting donors.
Kathy notices that Ruth has made certain adjustments to her behavior since arriving at the Cottages. For one, although she and Tommy have only just restarted their relationship, the other “veteran” couples, including a pair named Chrissie and Rodney, welcome Ruth as “one of their own.” Ruth begins imitating some of the mannerisms of the older couples, including a certain way of touching their boyfriends gently in order to say goodbye—a method Ruth believes to be mature and cool, but which Kathy finds affected. Kathy also realizes that Ruth has begun to fudge knowledge of all the books she’s supposedly “read.” Ruth views reading as a kind of competition, and an indicator of maturity, even though Kathy knows Ruth hasn’t had enough time at the Cottages to pore over long novels like War and Peace.
Once again, Kathy demonstrates her astute knowledge of interpersonal relations. Kathy sees that Ruth, more than Tommy, is eager to show how “mature” and “grown up” she is at the Cottages. This means emulating those who have been at the Cottages before. What Ruth does not realize—but Kathy does—is that these gestures of maturity are in fact taken from television, magazine ads, and other forms of pop culture—since the clones have no real family life to speak of. Ruth is, in a sense, imitating a version of “real life” that she can never have.
One day, Kathy is reading and Ruth approaches her, telling her the plot of Kathy’s novel (George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda). Kathy becomes angry at Ruth’s affectation, and, in a fit of spite, asks Ruth why Ruth has begun taking on the mannerisms of the older couples, and why Ruth occasionally ditches Tommy to hang out with veterans like Chrissie and Rodney. Ruth fires back, however, that Kathy need not try to maintain the old social order of Hailsham, and that Kathy ought to “grow up” and enjoy the life of the Cottages more. Ruth also implies, as a parting shot, that Kathy has been promiscuous with some of the older veteran boys at the Cottages, while Ruth, for her part, has remained true to Tommy.
Another of the running difficulties in Kathy and Ruth’s relationship is Ruth’s continued insinuation that Kathy’s sexual desires are somehow improper, strange, or exceptional. Kathy’s libido—the subject of a great deal of her consternation—is probably no “worse” than Ruth’s (as Ruth later admits), but because Ruth is dating Tommy, she may feel superior to Kathy and in a position to criticize her sexual choices, or she may be trying to ensure that Kathy won't ever come between Ruth and Tommy.