“The fantasy never got beyond that—I didn’t let it—and though the tears rolled down my face, I wasn’t sobbing or out of control. I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be.”
These are the last lines of the novel, occurring at the end of Chapter 23. Kathy describes the aftermath of Tommy’s death, when she drove to a field in Norfolk and imagined him appearing on the horizon. Kathy’s return to Norfolk expresses her impossible desire to recover everyone and everything that she has lost. It is also a faint and lonely echo of her previous trip to Norfolk, when Ruth and Tommy accompanied her. Her “fantasy” is a version of an old childhood fantasy about Norfolk, the place where Hailsham students used to believe lost items could be recovered. But in these final lines, Kathy’s fantasy is as restrained as her narrative voice. She does not let herself imagine more than a distant wave from Tommy, and pointedly states that she does not let her emotions get out of control. Kathy’s muted description masks her deep grief and sorrow, much in the way that she has masked the depths of her feelings for Tommy throughout the novel.