Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)
Any girlfriend or boyfriend on the scene at the moment? Yvonne says.
No, says Connell. No one like that.
Helen came back to Carricklea with him for the funeral. The morning of the ceremony they dressed in his room together in silence, with the noise of Lorraine’s hairdryer humming through the wall. Connell was wearing the only suit he owned, which he had bought for a cousin’s communion when he was sixteen. The jacket was tight around his shoulders, he could feel it when he lifted his arms. The sensation that he looked bad preoccupied him. Helen was sitting at the mirror putting on her make-up, and Connell stood behind her to knot his tie. She reached up to touch his face. You look handsome, she said. For some reason that made him angry, like it was the most insensitive, vulgar thing she possibly could have said, and he didn’t respond. She dropped her hand then and went to put her shoes on.
They stopped in the vestibule of the church to speak to someone Lorraine knew. Connell’s hair was wet from the rain and he kept smoothing it, not looking at Helen, not speaking. Then, through the opened church doors, he saw Marianne. He’d known she was coming back from Sweden for the funeral. In the doorway she looked very slim and pale, wearing a black coat, carrying a wet umbrella. He hadn’t seen her since Italy. She looked, he thought, almost frail. She started putting her umbrella in the stand inside the door.
Marianne, he said.
He said this aloud without thinking about it. She looked up and saw him then. Her face was like a small white flower. She put her arms around his neck, and he held her tightly. He could smell the inside of her house on her clothes. The last time he’d seen her, everything had been normal. Rob was still alive then, Connell could have sent him a message or even called him and talked to him on the phone, it was possible then, it had been possible. Marianne touched the back of Connell’s head with her hand. Everyone stood there watching them, he felt that. When they knew it couldn’t go on any longer, they let go of one another. Helen patted his arm quickly. People were moving in and out of the vestibule, coats and umbrellas dripping silently onto the tiles.
We’d better go and pay our respects, Lorraine said.
They lined up with everyone else to shake hands with the family. Rob’s mother Eileen was just crying and crying, they could hear her the whole way down the church. By the time they got halfway up the queue Connell’s legs were shaking. He wished Lorraine were standing with him and not Helen. He felt like he was going to be sick. When it was finally his turn, Rob’s father Val gripped his hand and said: Connell, good man. I hear you’re doing great things above in Trinity. Connell’s hands were wringing wet. I’m sorry, he said in a thin voice. I’m so sorry. Val kept gripping his hand and looking in his eyes. Good lad, he said. Thanks for coming. Then it was over. Connell sat down in the first available pew, shivering all over. Helen sat down beside him, looking self-conscious, pulling at the hem of her skirt. Lorraine came over and gave him a tissue from her handbag, with which he wiped his forehead and his upper lip. She squeezed his shoulder. You’re alright, she said. You’ve done your bit, just relax now. And Helen turned her face away, as if embarrassed.