Kathy realizes that, after this conversation with Ruth and Tommy, and its abrupt ending, it will be difficult to patch things over and continue friends as it was before. Time continues at the Cottages, and before long, it’s the spring and then summer of their second year. Kathy is one of the few Hailsham students still to be working on her Victorian novel essay—she knows that the essay doesn’t matter, but worries that, if she doesn’t continue working on it, the bond that cemented the Hailsham students together, and to a sense of shared past, will be “broken.”
Kathy now realizes, full on, what the essay means to Hailsham students now at the Cottages. More than something to occupy themselves, it is a “link” to Hailsham and to the bond they shared as young people. Kathy understands now that their lives as carers and donors will be difficult and lonely ones—and that the Cottages soon will come to an end, leaving only a tightly-controlled professional life afterward (which is, again, in some ways different only in the extremity of its degree from what faces most "normal" people after they leave college and enter the workforce).
Kathy also has a conversation with Ruth, several weeks after the confrontation in the field with Tommy. Kathy learns that Ruth has apologized to Tommy for making fun of his animal drawings. Ruth goes on to say, however, that though she and Tommy are probably splitting up, Tommy “doesn’t see Kathy” as a potential girlfriend, primarily because Kathy has been indiscriminate in the boys she’s slept with. Kathy, though shocked by this bald-faced and hurtful statement, remains quiet, and even “thanks” Ruth for her honesty.
An even more devastating conversation with Ruth. This is perhaps Ruth’s lowest and cruelest moment. Ruth seems intent on making Kathy believe that she has no chance with Tommy. Perhaps Ruth senses, even at this point, that Tommy and Kathy are growing closer together, and that, inevitably, they will begin a relationship. Or perhaps Ruth wishes to upset Kathy even more, after their other difficult conversation outside, about Tommy’s “animals.”
At the end of this conversation, Kathy makes a comment about the rhubarb patches at Hailsham—a reference she assumes Ruth will understand—but when Ruth “only vaguely” remembers what Kathy is talking about, Kathy responds “sharply,” implying that Ruth is pretended to be “beyond” their time together at Hailsham. The two quickly end their conversation on somewhat strained terms, and several days later, Kathy decides abruptly to leave the Cottages and begin her job as a carer, without discussing the matter with Ruth and Tommy.
Kathy, for her part, has decided that she will have no more of what amounts to bullying by Ruth. When Kathy asks to leave the Cottages a bit early, she realizes how tenuous the Cottages were, compared to Hailsham—it is easy to leave, and indeed the clones are essentially encouraged to do so after they have prepared themselves for the working world. Kathy’s desire to become a carer now seems to be the intended purpose of the Cottages.