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Marianne attends an overnight party that Connell is at as well. After she gets drunk with two friends named Peggy and Joanna, Marianne learns that the girl Connell has occasionally been seeing is not at the party. Marianne approaches Connell, kisses him, and asks him for sex, but he politely declines. The next morning, during the ride back to school, when Marianne apologizes for her behavior, Connell tells her to forget about it. By this time, people in Marianne’s social circle have gotten to know Connell. Although he is popular with the women, the men think he is uninteresting. They are surprised when Marianne says Connell is smarter than she is.
After a game of pool that Connell wins in impressive fashion, he and Marianne go back to her apartment. He finally apologizes for how he treated her in their last spring at school, telling her that others knew they were sleeping together, and no one cared. After having sex twice, they fall asleep.
Connell is covering his living expenses by working for the father of one of Marianne’s friends. A typical evening with Marianne consists of dinner, conversation about current events and social trends, and sex. A few days ago, however, she went home to Carricklea for a few days and came back in a dark mood. Marianne had fought again with her mother and brother, and a brief pregnancy scare had made her wonder about how her family and Connell’s would have reacted. When Connell replied that at the end of the day, her family would still love her, Marianne said nothing.
Connell arrives at Marianne’s place after she has had friends over. Peggy, drunk and the last to leave, asks whether Marianne and Connell are sleeping together. When Marianne confirms that they are but denies that they are “a couple,” Peggy suggests a threesome. Connell thinks to himself that sex with Peggy in front of Marianne is conceivable, but sex with Marianne in front of Peggy is out of the question. His relationship with Marianne is too private, too much a part of him. Marianne says she would be too self-conscious. After Peggy is gone, Marianne says she would have participated if Connell had wanted that. Connell tells her she should not do things she does not want to. It occurs to Connell that he could hit Marianne in the face, and she would let him. The thought makes Connell feel ill.
This section highlights Marianne and Connell’s sexual intimacy as both a substitute and conduit for communication. Though their relationship is now different because it is not hidden from their peers, it is still undefined. In their nonsexual communications, Marianne and Connell often attempt to mask their facial expressions or manipulate the tones of their voices when discussing topics that are emotionally significant to one, the other, or both. They carry the shared weight of their past as they try to reconnect in the present. When they do have sex, they don’t speak, yet afterward they enjoy complex discussions in which Connell is able to express his ideas on a range of topics as he is unable to in any other setting. They also joke about not having feelings for each other, and Connell sometimes worries about the jokes later and feels compelled to clarify his care for Marianne. He is mostly unable to articulate his feelings, however, and Marianne brushes his stumbling admissions aside as if he still isn’t serious. Though sex opens the door for communication, it does not always lead to unbarred intimacy.
The theme of submission and dominance surfaces in these chapters and will become important elements of the characters’ struggles with mental health. When Marianne tries to have sex with Connell at the overnight party they attend, she is drunk, forceful, and demanding. Though Connell submits to kissing her, he refuses to have sex with her even as she tries to forcibly remove his clothes. He recognizes the level of her inebriation but also knows that this dominant behavior is very uncharacteristic for Marianne. In the past, he has instinctually known that Marianne would do anything he asked her to do. But before they reconnect sexually, she admits feelings of shame for the way she allowed him to humiliate her back in secondary school. After their conversation with Peggy, Connell tells Marianne that she shouldn’t do things she doesn’t want to do. This moment is an important foreshadowing of Marianne’s future relationships and ongoing struggles with self-worth. When he calls her over and she comes to him, his recognition of her submission to him leads to the realization that she would let him hit her if he wanted to. The panic attack he suffers in that moment also foreshadows Connell’s own future battles with mental health. Though he has enjoyed Marianne’s submissive nature in the past, his ability to dominate her now frightens him.