More and more veterans and then ex Hailsham students begin to leave The Cottages in order to become carers. Tommy shows Kathy his book of imaginary animals that he has been drawing and Kathy praises them, noting how vulnerable some of the creatures look. She begins having a relationship with a veteran called Lenny until he too leaves to become a carer. Ruth and Kathy are chatting about Lennie one day when Ruth spots Kathy’s Judy Bridgewater tape. Kathy tells Ruth that Tommy helped her to find it when they were in Norfolk and Ruth appears not to be jealous that Tommy helped Kathy or to mind that they did not tell her. The conversation turns to Tommy’s imaginary animals and, in order not to annoy Ruth, Kathy laughs at some of the negative comments Ruth makes about his drawings. However, Kathy knows she should have told Ruth how much progress she felt Tommy was making with his art work.
Tommy tells Ruth his theory about the Gallery and how it might be linked to the 'deferral' system. Ruth humiliates Tommy by rubbishing his animal drawings and tells him Kathy finds them ridiculous too. Ruth later tells Kathy that even if she splits up with Tommy, he will never want to be in a relationship with Kathy because he is fussy about his girlfriends. She implies that Kathy has had too many boyfriends and one-night stands and that Tommy finds it distasteful. Shortly afterwards Kathy decides to leave Hailsham to become a carer.
Kathy describes her career as a carer and how she is quite successful at it, so much so that she is sometimes allowed to pick the patients she cares for. She meets an old friend Laura, who is struggling with being a carer. Laura tells her that Ruth has begun the donation process and that she is having trouble with the person who is caring for her. The reader also learns that Hailsham school has closed.
Kathy becomes Ruth’s carer and begins to visit her in her recovery centre in Dover. Ruth tells Kathy about a boat that is stranded on the marshes. Kathy offers to take Ruth to see it and they agree to visit Tommy on the way. Tommy has also begun the donation process. Ruth admits she has not seen Tommy since she left The Cottages to become a carer and that they drifted apart.
Kathy and Ruth visit Tommy at the Kingsfield Recovery Centre. The three of them take a trip to visit the stranded boat but Ruth appears to be quite weak. They discuss the fact that Chrissie 'completed' after only her second donation. Ruth admits she was jealous of the friendship between Kathy and Tommy and that she did all she could to keep them apart. She tells them that they ought to be in a relationship and that they should try to get a 'deferral'. She believes it does not matter that Tommy has already donated twice. She has managed to discover Madame’s address and tells them to visit her to discuss the matter. Like Chrissie, Ruth 'completes' after only her second donation. Before she dies Kathy promises to be with Tommy and to try to get a 'deferral'.
Kathy becomes Tommy’s carer after his third donation. They begin having a relationship but are sad that circumstances mean they have left it so late. Tommy begins working on his drawings again in preparation for a possible 'deferral'. Kathy goes to the address Ruth gave them and discovers that Madame actually lives there.
Kathy and Tommy travel to Littlehampton in order to visit Madame. She is shocked to see them but invites them into her house. They tell her that they are in love and ask about the deferral system. Suddenly Miss Emily, their old guardian from Hailsham, appears in a wheelchair.