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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

Marianne? he says. Can we do this again like, next weekend and so on?

Whenever you want to.

He takes hold of her hair, not pulling it, just holding it in his hand. Whenever I want, really? he says.

You can do anything you want with me.

He makes a noise in his throat, leans into her a little harder. That’s nice, he says.

Her voice sounds hoarse now. Do you like me saying that? she says.

Yeah, a lot.

Will you tell me I belong to you?

What do you mean? he says.

She says nothing, just breathes hard into the quilt and feels her own breath on her face. Connell pauses now, waiting for her to say something.

Will you hit me? she says.

For a few seconds she hears nothing, not even his breath.

No, he says. I don’t think I want that. Sorry.

She says nothing.

Is that okay? he asks.

She still says nothing.

Do you want to stop? he says.

She nods her head. She feels his weight lift off her. She feels empty again and suddenly chill. He sits on the bed and pulls the quilt over himself. She lies there face down, not moving, unable to think of any acceptable movement.

Are you okay? he says. I’m sorry I didn’t want to do that, I just think it would be weird. I mean, not weird, but … I don’t know. I don’t think it would be a good idea.

Her breasts ache from lying flat like this and her face prickles.

You think I’m weird? she says.

I didn’t say that. I just meant, you know, I don’t want things to be weird between us.

She feels terribly hot now, sour heat, all over her skin and in her eyes. She sits up, faces the window, pushes her hair out of her face.

I think I’m going to go home now, if that’s okay, she says.

Yeah. If that’s what you want.

She finds her clothes and puts them on. He starts getting dressed, he says he’ll drive her home at least, and she says she wants to walk. It becomes a farcical competition between them, who can dress faster, and having a head start she finishes first and runs down the stairs. He’s on the landing by the time she closes the front door behind her. Out on the street she feels like a petulant child, slamming the door on him like that while he raced out to the landing. Something has come over her, she doesn’t know what it is. It reminds her of how she used to feel in Sweden, a kind of nothingness, like there’s no life inside her. She hates the person she has become, without feeling any power to change anything about herself. She is someone even Connell finds disgusting, she has gone past what he can tolerate. In school they were both in the same place, both confused and somehow suffering, and ever since then she has believed that if they could return to that place together it would be the same. Now she knows that in the intervening years Connell has been growing slowly more adjusted to the world, a process of adjustment that has been steady if sometimes painful, while she herself has been degenerating, moving further and further from wholesomeness, becoming something unrecognisably debased, and they have nothing left in common at all.