“It should have been you two. I’m not pretending I didn’t always see that. Of course I did, as far back as I can remember. But I kept you apart. I’m not asking you to forgive me for that. That’s not what I’m after just now. What I want is for you to put it right. Put right what I messed up for you.”
This quotation occurs in Chapter 19, when Kathy is driving Ruth and Tommy back from their visit to the boat. Kathy parks the car under a billboard featuring an open-plan office, where they have a tense conversation about whether or not Ruth should have looked into the deferral rumor more fully. In this quote, Ruth admits that she kept Kathy and Tommy apart from one another intentionally. Her speech is candid and straightforward, which is somewhat exceptional for Ruth. She also directly takes responsibility for manipulating Kathy and Tommy, which she has not done in the past. This moment affirms that Ruth, flawed as she may be, continues to have a deep well of decency and goodness within her. It also shows her ongoing sense of hopefulness, and her desire to believe in possibility. Although the open-plan office once represented Ruth’s hopes for her own future, it now represents her hopes for Tommy and Kathy. Stopped under the billboard, Ruth exposes her belief that there is still time to make things right. She is about to give them Madame’s address, hoping that Tommy and Kathy will use it to pursue a deferral.