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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

Is your seatbelt on? he says.

He’s looking in the rear-view mirror like it’s a normal day. Actually it’s the morning after a house party in Swords and Connell wasn’t drinking and Marianne was, so nothing is normal. She puts her seatbelt on obediently, to show that they’re still friends.

Sorry about last night, she says.

She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional feigned embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to ‘make a big deal’.

Forget about it, he says.

Well, I’m sorry.

It’s alright.

Connell is pulling out of the driveway now. He has seemingly dismissed the incident, but for some reason this doesn’t satisfy her. She wants him to acknowledge what happened before he lets her move on, or maybe she just wants to make herself suffer unduly.

It wasn’t appropriate, she says.

Look, you were pretty drunk.

That’s not an excuse.

And high out of your mind, he says, which I only found out later.

Yeah. I felt like an attacker.

Now he laughs. She pulls her knees against her chest and holds her elbows in her hands.

You didn’t attack me, he says. These things happen.

*

 

This is the thing that happened. Connell drove Marianne to a mutual friend’s house for a birthday party. They had arranged to stay the night there and Connell would drive her back the next morning. On the way they listened to Vampire Weekend and Marianne drank from a silver flask of gin and talked about the Reagan administration. You’re getting drunk, Connell told her in the car. You know, you have a very nice face, she said. Other people have actually said that to me, about your face.

By midnight Connell had wandered off somewhere at the party and Marianne had found her friends Peggy and Joanna in the shed. They were drinking a bottle of Cointreau together and smoking. Peggy was wearing a beaten-up leather jacket and striped linen trousers. Her hair was loose around her shoulders, and she was constantly throwing it to one side and raking a hand through it. Joanna was sitting on top of the freezer unit in her socks. She was wearing a long shapeless garment like a maternity dress, with a shirt underneath. Marianne leaned against the washing machine and retrieved her gin flask from her pocket. Peggy and Joanna had been talking about men’s fashion, and in particular the fashion sense of their own male friends. Marianne was content just to stand there, allowing the washing machine to support most of her body weight, swishing gin around the inside of her mouth, and listening to her friends speaking.

Both Peggy and Joanna are studying History and Politics with Marianne. Joanna is already planning her final-year thesis on James Connolly and the Irish Trades Union Congress. She’s always recommending books and articles, which Marianne reads or half-reads or reads summaries of. People see Joanna as a serious person, which she is, but she can also be very funny. Peggy doesn’t really ‘get’ Joanna’s humour, because Peggy’s form of charisma is more terrifying and sexy than it is comic. At a party before Christmas, Peggy cut Marianne a line of cocaine in their friend Declan’s bathroom, and Marianne actually took it, or most of it anyway. It had no appreciable effect on her mood, except that for days afterwards she felt alternately amused at the idea that she had done it and guilty. She hasn’t told Joanna about that. She knows Joanna would disapprove, because Marianne herself also disapproves, but when Joanna disapproves of things she doesn’t go ahead and do them anyway.