Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)
In her ear Karen says: He’s been watching you the whole time.
Marianne looks at him and then back at Karen, saying nothing, trying not to let her face say anything.
Now you see why Rachel’s in a bad mood with you, says Karen.
She can smell the wine spritzer on Karen’s breath when she speaks, she can see her fillings. She likes her so much at that moment. They dance a little more and then go back upstairs together, hand in hand, out of breath now, grinning about nothing. Eric and Rob are pretending to have an argument. Connell moves towards Marianne almost imperceptibly, and their arms touch. She wants to pick up his hand and suck on his fingertips one after another.
Rachel turns to her then and says: You might try actually selling some raffle tickets at some point?
Marianne smiles, and the smile that comes out is smug, almost derisive, and she says: Okay.
I think these lads might want to buy some, says Eric.
He nods over at the door, where some older guys have arrived. They’re not supposed to be here, the nightclub said it would be ticket-holders only. Marianne doesn’t know who they are, someone’s brothers or cousins maybe, or just men in their twenties who like to hang around school fundraisers. They see Eric waving and come over. Marianne looks in her purse for the cash pouch in case they do want to buy raffle tickets.
How are things, Eric? says one of the men. Who’s your friend here?
That’s Marianne Sheridan, Eric says. You’d know her brother, I’d say. Alan, he would’ve been in Mick’s year.
The man just nods, looking Marianne up and down. She feels indifferent to his attention. The music is too loud to hear what Rob is saying in Eric’s ear, but Marianne feels it has to do with her.
Let me get you a drink, the man says. What are you having?
No, thanks, says Marianne.
The man slips an arm around her shoulders then. He’s very tall, she notices. Taller than Connell. His fingers rub her bare arm. She tries to shrug him off but he doesn’t let go. One of his friends starts laughing, and Eric laughs along.
Nice dress, the man says.
Can you let go of me? she says.
Very low-cut there, isn’t it?
In one motion he moves his hand down from her shoulder and squeezes the flesh of her right breast, in front of everyone. Instantly she jerks away from him, pulling her dress up to her collarbone, feeling her face fill with blood. Her eyes are stinging and she feels a pain where he grabbed her. Behind her the others are laughing. She can hear them. Rachel is laughing, a high fluting noise in Marianne’s ears.
Without turning around, Marianne walks out the door, lets it slam behind her. She’s in the hallway now with the cloakroom and can’t remember whether the exit is right or left. She’s shaking all over her body. The cloakroom attendant asks if she’s alright. Marianne doesn’t know anymore how drunk she is. She walks a few steps towards a door on the left and then puts her back against the wall and starts sliding down towards a seated position on the floor. Her breast is aching where that man grabbed it. He wasn’t joking, he wanted to hurt her. She’s on the floor now hugging her knees against her chest.