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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

Early in their relationship, without any apparent forethought, she told him she was ‘a submissive’. She was surprised even hearing herself say it: maybe she did it to shock him. What do you mean? he asked. Feeling worldly, she replied: You know, I like guys to hurt me. After that he started to tie her up and beat her with various objects. When she thinks about how little she respects him, she feels disgusting and begins to hate herself, and these feelings trigger in her an overwhelming desire to be subjugated and in a way broken. When it happens her brain simply goes empty, like a room with the light turned off, and she shudders into orgasm without any perceptible joy. Then it begins again. When she thinks about breaking up with him, which she frequently does, it’s not his reaction but Peggy’s she finds herself thinking about most.

Peggy likes Jamie, which is to say that she thinks he’s kind of a fascist, but a fascist with no essential power over Marianne. Marianne complains about him sometimes and Peggy just says things like: Well, he’s a chauvinist pig, what do you expect? Peggy thinks men are disgusting animals with no impulse control, and that women should avoid relying on them for emotional support. It took a long time for it to dawn on Marianne that Peggy was using the guise of her general critique of men to defend Jamie whenever Marianne complained about him. What did you expect? Peggy would say. Or: You think that’s bad? By male standards he’s a prince. Marianne has no idea why she does this. Any time Marianne makes the suggestion, however tentative, that things might be coming to an end with Jamie, Peggy’s temper flares up. They’ve even fought about it, fights that end with Peggy curiously declaring that she doesn’t care whether they break up or not anyway, and Marianne, by then exhausted and confused, saying they probably won’t.

When Marianne sits back down now, her phone starts ringing, a number she doesn’t recognise. She stands up to get it, gesturing for the others to continue talking, and wanders back into the kitchen.

Hello? she says.

Hi, it’s Connell. This is a bit awkward, but I’ve just had some of my things stolen. Like my wallet and my phone and stuff.

Jesus, how awful. What happened?

I’m just wondering— See, I’m all the way out in Dun Laoghaire now and I don’t have money to get in a taxi or anything. I wonder if there’s any way I could meet up with you and maybe borrow some cash or something.

All her friends are looking at her now and she waves them back to their conversation. From the armchair Jamie continues to watch her on the phone.

Of course, don’t worry about that, she says. I’m at home, so do you want to get a taxi over here? I’ll come outside and pay the driver, does that suit you? You can ring the bell when you’re here.