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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

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Connell comes back upstairs now and tosses her an ice lolly wrapped in shiny plastic. She catches it in her hands and lifts it straight to her cheek, where the cold radiates outwards sweetly. He sits back against the headboard, starts unwrapping his own.

Do you ever see Peggy in Dublin? she says. Or any of those people.

He pauses, his fingers crackle on the plastic wrap. No, he says. I thought you had a falling-out with them, didn’t you?

But I’m just asking if you ever hear from them.

No. I wouldn’t have much to say to them if I did.

She pulls open the plastic packaging and removes the lolly from inside, orange with vanilla cream. On her tongue, tiny flakes of clear unflavoured ice.

I did hear Jamie wasn’t happy, Connell adds.

I believe he was saying some pretty unpleasant things about me.

Yeah. Well, I wasn’t talking to him myself, obviously. But I got the impression he was saying some stuff, yeah.

Marianne lifts her eyebrows, as if amused. When she’d first heard the rumours that were circulating about her, she hadn’t found it funny at all. She used to ask Joanna about it again and again: who was talking about it, what had they said. Joanna wouldn’t tell her. She said that within a few weeks everyone would have moved on to something else anyway. People are juvenile in their attitudes to sexuality, Joanna said. Their fixation on your sex life is probably more fetishistic than anything you’ve done. Marianne even went back to Lukas and made him delete all his photographs of her, none of which he had ever put online anyway. Shame surrounded her like a shroud. She could hardly see through it. The cloth caught up her breath, prickled on her skin. It was as if her life was over. How long had that feeling lasted? Two weeks, or more? Then it went away, and a certain short chapter of her youth had concluded, and she had survived it, it was done.

You never said anything to me about it, she says to Connell.

Well, I heard Jamie was pissed off you broke up with him and he went around talking shit about you. But like, that’s not even gossip, that’s just how lads behave. I didn’t know anyone really cared.

I think it’s more a case of reputational damage.

And how come Jamie’s reputation isn’t damaged, then? says Connell. He was the one doing all that stuff to you.

She looks up and Connell has finished his ice lolly already. He’s playing with the dry wooden stick in his fingers. She has only a little left, licked down to a slick bulb of vanilla ice cream, gleaming in the light of the bedside lamp.

It’s different for men, she says.

Yeah, I’m starting to get that.

Marianne licks the ice cream stick clean and examines it briefly. Connell says nothing for a few seconds, and then ventures: It’s nice Eric apologised to you.