Early one morning that winter, the five of them pile into a borrowed car and set off for Norfolk. Rodney drives, and Chrissie is seated up front, with Ruth in the middle of the back bench seat. Kathy tells the reader that Ruth spends much of the drive talking to the couple in the front, leaving Tommy and Kathy staring out their respective windows—but when Kathy asks Ruth if she’d like to switch seats, to let Kathy and Tommy talk, Ruth becomes enraged and sullen during the remainder of the ride.
Ruth’s desire to appear “grown up” even makes itself known during the car ride. This particular ride in many ways foreshadows the long trip Tommy, Ruth, and Kathy take later on, to see the dilapidated boat in the forest, when Tommy and Ruth are both donors. There, however, Tommy and Kathy feel comfortable confronting Ruth’s pride and vanity in the car—whereas here, as their younger selves, Tommy and Kathy are mostly quiet.
The group then finds a café in Norfolk for lunch. There, Chrissie and Rodney reveal what they have spent months talking about with each other—the possibility of a “deferral” of caring duties for Hailsham couples who can “prove that they’re properly in love.” Ruth nods heatedly in assent, as though she knew all about this possibility from Hailsham, but Kathy and Tommy are confused, and Kathy realizes that Ruth is pretending to know about this supposed special Hailsham privilege. Tommy, however, soon speaks up and says to the table that he has no idea what Ruth is talking about, that no such deferral was ever mentioned at Hailsham. At this, Ruth snaps at Tommy, implying he was too slow for complex conversation at Hailsham, and the group soon ends their lunch and drives into town to look for Ruth’s double.
Tommy’s perceived lack of guile and intelligence occasionally serve him well—sometimes he is able to speak the truth in small ways, without others around him (save for Kathy) really understanding what he’s saying. Here, Tommy indicates what the reader has sensed all along: that the idea of a deferral is only a rumor, one that Ruth has bought into totally; and that deferrals were never mentioned at all among Hailsham students. Ruth, in her desire to bend the world to her liking, is so willing to make Chrissie and Rodney happy that she pretends to have heard about deferrals, even though no news of them ever reached Hailsham.