After the other three leave, Tommy tells Kathy that he never cared much about the “possible” idea, since he figures it doesn’t really matter who they’re modeled on—it’s not as though they’re actually like their “clone parent.” Kathy is quiet for a moment, and Tommy tells her that, in Woolworth’s, he was looking for a present for her. Kathy seems pleased, and asks what present it could be—Tommy responds that it’s the tape Kathy lost at Hailsham (Tommy learned long ago from Ruth that the tape was missing). Tommy tells her he couldn’t find it primarily because he couldn’t remember it’s title, and Kathy reminds him that the artist’s name is Judy Bridgewater.
Ruth was not the only one looking for Kathy’s tape. Here, the reader learns several things, not the least of which being that Ruth was genuinely concerned about Kathy’s happiness, and wanted to find the tape in order to repay Kathy for her previous kindness (concerning Miss Geraldine’s affections). Tommy, in his typically loveable and slightly feckless way, leads Kathy coincidentally to the place where her new tape can be found, but does not actually find the tape in the stacks—Kathy does that.
The two decide to “rummage around” for the tape in Norfolk, since, after all, they joke together that it’s the “lost corner” of England. They come upon a second-hand shop and, sure enough, Kathy discovers the tape among a box of other used, old cassettes. She understands that this isn’t the actual lost tape from Hailsham, and Tommy is upset with himself that he didn’t spot it first, but he nevertheless offers to buy it for her, and Kathy is deeply pleased at the pleasant hour she and Tommy have been able to spend together.
Kathy sees how delightful this coincidence is. The only way this could be more perfect would be if the metaphor were actually true—if Norfolk were in fact a “lost corner” where actual lost things reappeared. Instead, the Bridgewater tape here is a clone, a double, a copy of the original—just as good for Kathy’s purposes, but not quite the same, and not holding the entire sentimental value with which Kathy had viewed the original.
As they are walking outside the shop, and waiting for the others, Tommy tells Ruth that he has another theory about Hailsham, one he’s been thinking about since they left. Tommy fears that the Gallery was used as a way of selecting art samples from each of the students, as a means of determining what those students were “really like in their souls.” Tommy believes that these gallery art projects are then used to determine if members of a romantic couple have similar art, and therefore similar souls—in other words, as a means of determining whether the couple is “really in love” and thus worthy of a deferral.
A very important section in the novel. As it will later turn out, Tommy’s theory is not so wildly off—though he misunderstands the ultimate reason for the Gallery, and presumes it must have something to do with the rumor of deferral. This is another incredibly poignant and sad realization—for Tommy, we learn, has always regretted his lack of creativity, and wants to do whatever he can to remedy it, in order to make life better for himself and possibly for Ruth.
Kathy listens to Tommy’s theory in a kind of stunned silence, and thinks also, unrelatedly, of her own small dance to the song “Never Let Me Go,” which caused Madame to cry. But Kathy refocuses and listens to Tommy again, as he goes on: Tommy says that he’s worried he and Ruth won’t be able to get a deferral, since Tommy never got any art into the gallery. For this reason, Tommy has been working on new art—a series of “small animals,” with almost robotic or mechanical features, which he hopes will show that he is in fact creative, and that he and Ruth might have souls that “match up.”
The nature of Tommy’s artwork is very interesting, and the reader only hears of it in small snatches, from Kathy’s perspective. Kathy never appears completely taken with the animals—she finds them strange and disconcerting, very much “unlike” the other art that was common in Hailsham at the time. But Kathy also seems to respect Tommy’s initiative, and his willingness to devote long stretches of time to this project.
Kathy tells Tommy that his idea is interesting, but appears too flummoxed by the enormity of his theory to offer any coherent response. As the two wait near the car for the rest of the group, Tommy also tells Kathy he’s realized why Kathy was looking through the old pornographic magazines—Kath was searching for her own “possible.” Kathy knew, and Tommy realized, that her clone original was probably also from the “dregs of society,” and Kathy explains to Tommy that her strong sexual urges make her believe that perhaps a sex worker or pornographic actress was her original, and “passed along” this desire for sex to Kathy.
Another very important moment. Tommy finally understands what Kathy was doing—she, like Ruth, has internalized the idea that the clones come only from people society cares nothing for. Thus the clones are copies of “normal” humans whose bodies and contributions to society are greatly devalued. What, Kathy feels, can a clone have to offer, if they are merely a doubled version of a person who didn’t seem to matter very much in the first place in the eyes of society?
But Tommy tells Kathy that this is a silly idea, and anyway, if it were true, it wouldn’t matter, since Kathy’s personality does not “derive” from that of her original. Just as they are wrapping up this conversation, the rest of the group comes back, overjoyed from their laughing good time with Martin, and on the ride back, Ruth makes a special effort to include Kathy and Tommy in conversation. Kathy notably doesn’t tell the rest of the car about the Bridgewater tape Tommy bought for her, since Kathy doesn’t want to “spoil the moment” of happiness they all have together.
The Bridgewater tape assumes a new symbolic dimension after Kathy and Tommy locate the copy of it in Norfolk. Before, it was a private way for Kathy to commune with herself, and with the idea of a family life beyond Hailsham. But now the tape has been invested with her friendship with Tommy, with their closeness and intimacy. This, it seems, is another reason why Kathy can’t share the news of the tape immediately with the rest of the car.