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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

The next morning she quit school. It wasn’t possible to go back, however she looked at it. No one else would invite her to the Debs, that was clear. She had organised the fundraisers, she had booked the venue, but she wouldn’t be able to attend the event. Everyone would know that, and some of them would be glad, and even the most sympathetic ones could only feel a terrible second-hand embarrassment. Instead she stayed home in her room all day with the curtains closed, studying and sleeping at strange hours. Her mother was furious. Doors were slammed. On two separate occasions Marianne’s dinner was scraped into the bin. Still, she was an adult woman, and no one could make her dress up in a uniform anymore and submit to being stared at or whispered about.

A week after she left school she walked into the kitchen and saw Lorraine kneeling on the floor to clean the oven. Lorraine straightened up slightly, and wiped her forehead with the part of her wrist exposed above her rubber glove. Marianne swallowed.

Hello, sweetheart, Lorraine said. I hear you’ve been out of school for a few days. Is everything okay?

Yeah, I’m fine, said Marianne. Actually I’m not going back to school. I find I get more done if I just stay at home and study.

Lorraine nodded and said: Suit yourself. Then she went back to scrubbing the inside of the oven. Marianne opened the fridge to look for the orange juice.

My son tells me you’re ignoring his phone calls, Lorraine added.

Marianne paused, and the silence in the kitchen was loud in her ears, like the white noise of rushing water. Yes, she said. I am, I suppose.

Good for you, said Lorraine. He doesn’t deserve you.

Marianne felt a relief so high and sudden that it was almost like panic. She put the orange juice on the counter and closed the fridge.

Lorraine, she said, can you ask him not to come over here anymore? Like if he has to collect you or anything, is it okay if he doesn’t come in the house?

Oh, he’s permanently barred as far as I’m concerned. You don’t need to worry about that. I have half a mind to kick him out of my own house.

Marianne smiled, feeling awkward. He didn’t do anything that bad, she said. I mean, compared to the other people in school he was actually pretty nice, to be honest.

At this Lorraine stood up and stripped off her gloves. Without speaking, she put her arms around Marianne and embraced her very tightly. In a strange, cramped voice Marianne said: It’s okay. I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.

It was true what she had said about Connell. He didn’t do anything that bad. He had never tried to delude her into thinking she was socially acceptable; she’d deluded herself. He had just been using her as a kind of private experiment, and her willingness to be used had probably shocked him. He pitied her in the end, but she also repulsed him. In a way she feels sorry for him now, because he has to live with the fact that he had sex with her, of his own free choice, and he liked it. That says more about him, the supposedly ordinary and healthy person, than it does about her. She never went back to school again except to sit the exams. By then people were saying she had been in the mental hospital. None of that mattered now anyway.