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Kathy wants to tell us about the last few years they had at Hailsham from ages thirteen to sixteen. And like typical teenagers, these were the more brooding years. You know, the years of inquisitive self-discovery and beginning to question what's going on around you? Yeah, those.
Remember that chat Kathy had with Tommy by the pond, and how they talked about Miss Lucy? (If you need a refresher, hop back to Chapter 3). Kathy sees that conversation as a turning point between the early years at Hailsham and the darker teenage years. And after the pond-side conversation, Kathy starts to ask more questions. A lot more questions.
She also starts to pay more attention to Miss Lucy. Kathy realizes that Miss Lucy is really different from the other guardians. And she gives us a flashback to show us how.
In this memory, it's a rainy day during their last year at Hailsham. Miss Lucy overhears two boys having a conversation and stops them. They've been talking about what it would be like to go to America and become actors.
This sort of day-dreaming really angers Miss Lucy. She doesn't like how the students don't have a clear picture of what their future will look like. So she decides to set the record straight.
Miss Lucy explains to the class that they were created with a single purpose: to donate their vital organs. Yikes! Well, that sounds horrible, but it also clarifies those ominous references to "donations" we've been getting all along.
This means that none of the Hailsham students will travel to America or get real jobs. Dreams? Dashed. Instead, they'll start making donations sometime after they leave Hailsham, and definitely before they are middle-aged.
Kathy discusses Miss Lucy's revelation with Ruth years later while she is Ruth's carer at the recovery center in Dover. Ruth says that Miss Lucy explained even more to them, telling them how they'd be carers first and other details of the donations process. But Kathy remembers it differently.
Kathy remembers how most people weren't that affected by Miss Lucy's speech. Excuse us, but this doesn't seem like an appropriate reaction to the revelation that one day someone is going to take away your vital organs while you're still alive. Where's the kicking and screaming?
But Kathy explains why they're not that surprised. She and the other students felt like they already knew everything that Miss Lucy had revealed to them about donations. It's like their future was always implied, even if it was never explicitly explained. They knew it in their guts.
Kathy realizes that a lot of the talks they had about donations coincided with talks about sex. The Hailsham students can't get pregnant from sex, but they are still taught to be careful about who they have sex with because sex can give you diseases.
So while they're learning a bit about donations during sex-ed, the atmosphere around talking about donations begins to change. When they were younger, donations were a taboo subject. Mention them and you'd pretty much guaranteed your temporary banishment on the playground.
At age thirteen, the students still didn't talk openly about donations, but they did become more comfortable with the subject. For example, they'd start joking around about them.
And the idea of joking about donations reminds Kathy of a practical joke some boys played against Tommy right around the time he was having his tantrums. So with that we enter another flashback to a specific day at Hailsham.
Tommy has cut his elbow, and an older boy warns Tommy that if he bends his arm then all the skin will unzip, which sounds pretty nasty. So Tommy starts keeping his arm straight at all times. And sadly for poor Tommy, it seems like everyone in the school is in on the joke except him.
When Tommy asks Kathy to tie a splint to his arm so that he won't accidentally bend it at night, she doesn't know what to do. Should she (A) tell Tommy that everyone is making fun of him and that the skin on his arm won't actually unzip, or (B) agree to help with the splint to avoid hurting Tommy's feelings, but then also help carry on the joke?
Kathy goes with option B but soon regrets it. Tommy finds out that he's the reason for everyone's laughter and Kathy feels like she betrayed him, which she—let's face it—pretty much did.
But the point of this story is that it connects with the way the Hailsham students started joking about donations when they were around thirteen years old. This idea that you could unzip your skin became one way people joked about donations.
Yet after Miss Lucy's big revelation, "jokes about donations faded away, and we started to think properly about things" (7.54).
Years later, Kathy and Tommy talked about Miss Lucy and realized that they never thought about her feelings. Not even when Kathy came across their teacher in Room 22 one day and it was clear that something was up with Miss Lucy.