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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

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Are you angry he did better than you? says her brother.

Marianne laughs. And why shouldn’t she laugh? Her life here in Carricklea is over, and either a new life will begin, or it won’t. Soon she will be packing things into suitcases: woollen jumpers, skirts, her two silk dresses. A set of teacups and saucers patterned with flowers. A hairdryer, a frying pan, four white cotton towels. A coffee pot. The objects of a new existence.

No, she says.

Why wouldn’t you say hello to him, then?

Ask him. If you’re such good friends with him, you should ask him. He knows.

Alan makes a fist with his left hand. It doesn’t matter, it’s over. Lately Marianne walks around Carricklea and thinks how beautiful it is in sunny weather, white clouds like chalk dust over the library, long avenues lined with trees. The arc of a tennis ball through blue air. Cars slowing at traffic lights with their windows rolled down, music bleating from the speakers. Marianne wonders what it would be like to belong here, to walk down the street greeting people and smiling. To feel that life was happening here, in this place, and not somewhere else far away.

What does that mean? says Alan.

Ask Connell Waldron why we’re not speaking anymore. Call him back now if you want to, I’d be interested to hear what he has to say.

Alan bites down on the knuckle of his index finger. His arm is shaking. In just a few weeks’ time Marianne will live with different people, and life will be different. But she herself will not be different. She’ll be the same person, trapped inside her own body. There’s nowhere she can go that would free her from this. A different place, different people, what does that matter? Alan releases his knuckle from his mouth.

Like he fucking cares, says Alan. I’m surprised he even knows your name.

Oh, we used to be quite close actually. You can ask him about that too, if you want. Might make you a bit uncomfortable, though.

Before Alan can respond, they hear someone calling out from inside the house, and a door closing. Their mother is home. Alan looks up, his expression changes, and Marianne feels her own face moving around involuntarily. He glances down at her. You shouldn’t tell lies about people, he says. Marianne nods, says nothing. Don’t tell Mam about this, he says. Marianne shakes her head. No, she agrees. But it wouldn’t matter if she did tell her, not really. Denise decided a long time ago that it is acceptable for men to use aggression towards Marianne as a way of expressing themselves. As a child Marianne resisted, but now she simply detaches, as if it isn’t of any interest to her, which in a way it isn’t. Denise considers this a symptom of her daughter’s frigid and unlovable personality. She believes Marianne lacks ‘warmth’, by which she means the ability to beg for love from people who hate her. Alan goes back inside now. Marianne hears the patio door slide shut.