Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)
I never said I hated you, he says.
That gets her attention, and she looks up. Confused, he continues looking away from her, but in the corner of his eye he still sees her watching. When he talks to Marianne he has a sense of total privacy between them. He could tell her anything about himself, even weird things, and she would never repeat them, he knows that. Being alone with her is like opening a door away from normal life and then closing it behind him. He’s not frightened of her, actually she’s a pretty relaxed person, but he fears being around her, because of the confusing way he finds himself behaving, the things he says that he would never ordinarily say.
A few weeks ago when he was waiting for Lorraine in the hall, Marianne came downstairs in a bathrobe. It was just a plain white bathrobe, tied in the normal way. Her hair was wet, and her skin had that glistening look like she had just been applying face cream. When she saw Connell, she hesitated on the stairs and said: I didn’t know you were here, sorry. Maybe she seemed flustered, but not really badly or anything. Then she went back up to her room. After she left he stood there in the hall waiting. He knew she was probably getting dressed in her room, and whatever clothes she was wearing when she came back down would be the clothes she had chosen to put on after she saw him in the hall. Anyway Lorraine was ready to go before Marianne reappeared so he never did get to see what clothes she had put on. It wasn’t like he deeply cared to know. He certainly didn’t tell anyone in school about it, that he had seen her in a bathrobe, or that she looked flustered, it wasn’t anyone’s business to know.
Well, I like you, Marianne says.
For a few seconds he says nothing, and the intensity of the privacy between them is very severe, pressing in on him with an almost physical pressure on his face and body. Then Lorraine comes back into the kitchen, tying her scarf around her neck. She does a little knock on the door even though it’s already open.
Good to go? she says.
Yeah, says Connell.
Thanks for everything, Lorraine, says Marianne. See you next week.
Connell is already heading out the kitchen door when his mother says: You can say goodbye, can’t you? He turns to look over his shoulder but finds he cannot actually look Marianne in the eye, so he addresses himself to the floor instead. Right, bye, he says. He doesn’t wait to hear her reply.
In the car his mother puts on her seatbelt and shakes her head. You could be a bit nicer to her, she says. She doesn’t exactly have an easy time of it in school.
He puts the keys in the ignition, glances in the rear-view. I’m nice to her, he says.