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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

He rings the doorbell, and almost straight away the door opens. Marianne is standing there, her right hand on the door, her left hand covering her face, holding a crumpled tissue. Her eyes are puffy like she’s been crying. Connell notices that her T-shirt, her skirt and part of her left wrist are stained with blood. The proportions of the visual environment around him shudder in and out of focus, like someone has picked up the world and shaken it, hard.

What happened? he says.

Footsteps come thumping down the stairs behind her. Connell, as if viewing the scene through some kind of cosmic telescope, sees her brother reach the bottom of the staircase.

Why have you got blood on you? says Connell.

I think my nose is broken, she says.

Who’s that? says Alan behind her. Who’s at the door?

Do you need to go to hospital? says Connell.

She shakes her head, she says it doesn’t need emergency attention, she looked it up online. She can go to the doctor tomorrow if it still hurts. Connell nods.

Was it him? says Connell.

She nods. Her eyes have a frightened look.

Get in the car, Connell says.

She looks at him, not moving her hands. Her face is still covered with the tissue. He shakes the keys.

Go, he says.

She takes her hand from the door and opens her palm. He puts the keys into it and, still looking at him, she walks outside.

Where are you going? says Alan.

Connell stands just inside the front door now. A coloured haze sweeps over the driveway as he watches Marianne get into the car.

What’s going on here? says Alan.

Once she’s safely inside the car, Connell closes over the front door, so that he and Alan are alone together.

What are you doing? says Alan.

Connell, his sight even blurrier now, can’t tell whether Alan is angry or frightened.

I need to talk to you, Connell says.

His vision is swimming so severely that he notices he has to keep a hand on the door to stay upright.

I didn’t do anything, says Alan.

Connell walks towards Alan until Alan is standing with his back against the banister. He seems smaller now, and scared. He calls for his mother, turning his head until his neck strains, but no one appears from up the stairs. Connell’s face is wet with perspiration. Alan’s face is visible only as a pattern of coloured dots.

If you ever touch Marianne again, I’ll kill you, he says. Okay? That’s all. Say one bad thing to her ever again and I’ll come back here myself and kill you, that’s it.

It seems to Connell, though he can’t see or hear very well, that Alan is now crying.

Do you understand me? Connell says. Say yes or no.

Alan says: Yes.

Connell turns around, walks out the front door and closes it behind him.

In the car Marianne is waiting silently, one hand clutched to her face, the other lying limp in her lap. Connell sits in the driver’s seat and wipes his mouth with his sleeve. They are sealed into the car’s compact silence together. He looks at her. She’s bent over her lap a little, as if in pain.