Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)
They must have given you time off from the farm, says Peggy.
Quite, says Marianne.
Peggy continues telling her story then. She has lately taken to sleeping over in Marianne’s apartment when Jamie’s not there, eating breakfast in her bed, and even following her to the bathroom when she showers, clipping her toenails blithely and complaining about men. Marianne likes to be singled out as her special friend, even when this expresses itself as a tendency to take up vast amounts of her leisure time. But at certain parties lately, Peggy has also started to make fun of her in front of others. For the sake of their friends, Marianne tries to laugh along, but the effort contorts her face, which only gives Peggy another chance to tease her. When everyone else has gone home she snuggles into Marianne’s shoulder and says: Don’t be mad with me. And Marianne says in a thin, defensive voice: I’m not mad at you. They are right now shaping up to have this exact exchange, yet again, in just a few short hours.
After the Berlin story concludes, Marianne gets another bottle of wine from the kitchen and refills people’s glasses.
How did the exams go, by the way? Sophie asks her.
Marianne gives a humorous shrug and is rewarded with a little laughter. Her friends sometimes seem uncertain about her dynamic with Peggy, volunteering extra laughter when Marianne tries to be funny, but in a way that can seem sympathetic or even pitying rather than amused.
Tell the truth, says Peggy. You fucked them up, didn’t you?
Marianne smiles, makes a face, puts the cap back on the wine bottle. The scholarship exams finished two days ago; Peggy and Marianne sat them together.
Well, they could have gone better, Marianne says diplomatically.
This is one hundred per cent typical you, says Peggy. You’re the smartest person in the world but when it comes down to it, you’re a bottler.
You can sit them again next year, says Sophie.
I doubt they went that badly, Joanna says.
Marianne avoids Joanna’s eyes and puts the wine back in the fridge. The scholarships offer five years of paid tuition, free accommodation on campus, and meals in the Dining Hall every evening with the other scholars. For Marianne, who doesn’t pay her own rent or tuition and has no real concept of how much these things cost, it’s just a matter of reputation. She would like her superior intellect to be affirmed in public by the transfer of large amounts of money. That way she could affect modesty without having anyone actually believe her. The fact is, the exams didn’t go badly. They went fine.
My Stats professor was on at me to sit them, says Jamie. But I just couldn’t be fucked studying over Christmas.
Marianne produces another vacant smile. Jamie didn’t sit the exams because he knew he wouldn’t pass them if he did. Everyone in the room knows this also. He’s trying to brag, but he lacks the self-awareness to understand that what he’s saying is legible as bragging, and that no one believes the brag anyway. There’s something reassuring in how transparent he is to her.