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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

You actually make a very cute couple, says Peggy.

Thanks, Connell says.

I didn’t say couple, says Marianne.

Oh, says Peggy. You mean like, you’re not exclusive? That’s cool. I wanted to try an open-relationship thing with Lorcan but he was really against it.

Marianne drags a chair back from the table and sits down. Men can be possessive, she says.

I know! says Peggy. It’s crazy. You’d think they would jump at the idea of multiple partners.

Generally I find men are a lot more concerned with limiting the freedoms of women than exercising personal freedom for themselves, says Marianne.

Is that true? Peggy says to Connell.

He looks at Marianne with a little nod, preferring her to continue. He has come to know Peggy as the loud friend who interrupts all the time. Marianne has other, preferable friends, but they never stay as late or talk as much.

I mean, when you look at the lives men are really living, it’s sad, Marianne says. They control the whole social system and this is the best they can come up with for themselves? They’re not even having fun.

Peggy laughs. Are you having fun, Connell? she says.

Hm, he says. A reasonable amount, I would say. But I agree with the point.

Would you rather live under a matriarchy? says Peggy.

Difficult to know. I’d give it a go anyway, see what it was like.

Peggy keeps laughing, as if Connell is being unbelievably witty. Don’t you enjoy your male privilege? she says.

It’s like Marianne was saying, he replies. It’s not that enjoyable to have. I mean, it is what it is, I don’t get much fun out of it.

Peggy gives a toothy grin. If I were a man, she says, I would have as many as three girlfriends. If not more.

The last corner of the label peels off Connell’s beer bottle now. It comes off more easily when the bottle is very cold, because the condensation dissolves the glue. He puts the beer on the table and starts to fold the label up into a small square. Peggy goes on talking but it doesn’t seem important to listen to her.

Things are pretty good between him and Marianne at the moment. After the library closes in the evening he walks back to her apartment, maybe picking up some food or a four-euro bottle of wine on the way. When the weather is good, the sky feels miles away, and birds wheel through limitless air and light overhead. When it rains, the city closes in, gathers around with mists; cars move slower, their headlights glowing darkly, and the faces that pass are pink with cold. Marianne cooks dinner, spaghetti or risotto, and then he washes up and tidies the kitchen. He wipes crumbs out from under the toaster and she reads him jokes from Twitter. After that they go to bed. He likes to get very deep inside her, slowly, until her breathing is loud and hard and she clutches at the pillowcase with one hand. Her body feels so small then and so open. Like this? he says. And she’s nodding her head and maybe punching her hand on the pillow, making little gasps whenever he moves.