Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)
Eventually the night of the Debs came. Rachel wore an extravagantly expensive dress and Connell stood in her front garden while her mother took their photograph. Rachel kept mentioning that he was going to Trinity, and her father showed him some golf clubs. Then they went to the hotel and ate dinner. Everyone got very drunk and Lisa passed out before dessert. Under the table Rob showed Eric and Connell naked photographs of Lisa on his phone. Eric laughed and tapped parts of Lisa’s body on-screen with his fingers. Connell sat there looking at the phone and then said quietly: Bit fucked-up showing these to people, isn’t it? With a loud sigh Rob locked the phone and put it back in his pocket. You’ve gotten awfully fucking gay about things lately, he said.
At midnight, sloppy drunk but hypocritically disgusted by the drunkenness of everyone around him, Connell wandered out of the ballroom and down a corridor into the smoking garden. He had lit a cigarette and was in the process of shredding some low-hanging leaves from a nearby tree when the door slid open and Eric came out to join him. Eric gave a knowing laugh on seeing him, and then sat on an upturned flowerpot and lit a cigarette himself.
Shame Marianne didn’t come in the end, Eric said.
Connell nodded, hating to hear her name mentioned and unwilling to indulge it with a response.
What was going on there? said Eric.
Connell looked at him silently. A beam of white light was shining down from the bulb above the door and illuminating Eric’s face with a ghostly pallor.
What do you mean? said Connell.
With herself and yourself.
Connell hardly recognised his own voice when he said: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Eric grinned and his teeth glittered wetly in the light.
Do you think we don’t know you were riding her? he said. Sure everyone knows.
Connell paused and took another drag on his cigarette. This was probably the most horrifying thing Eric could have said to him, not because it ended his life, but because it didn’t. He knew then that the secret for which he had sacrificed his own happiness and the happiness of another person had been trivial all along, and worthless. He and Marianne could have walked down the school corridors hand in hand, and with what consequence? Nothing really. No one cared.
Fair enough, said Connell.
How long was that going on for?
I don’t know. A while.
And what’s the story there? said Eric. You were just doing it for the laugh, or what?
You know me.
He stubbed out his cigarette and went back inside to collect his jacket. After that he left without saying goodbye to anyone, including Rachel, who broke up with him shortly afterwards. That was it, people moved away, he moved away. Their life in Carricklea, which they had imbued with such drama and significance, just ended like that with no conclusion, and it would never be picked back up again, never in the same way.