Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)
Would you be embarrassed if they found out? he said.
In some ways, yeah.
He turned over then, so he wasn’t looking up at the ceiling anymore but facing her. Why? he said.
Because it was humiliating.
You mean like, the way I treated you.
Well, yeah, she said. And just the fact that I put up with it.
Carefully he felt for her hand under the quilt and she let him hold it. A shiver ran along her jaw and she tried to make her voice sound light and humorous.
Did you ever think about asking me to the Debs? she said. It’s such a stupid thing but I’m curious whether you thought about it.
To be honest, no. I wish I did.
She nodded. She continued looking up at the black ceiling, swallowing, worried that he could make out her expression.
Would you have said yes? he asked.
She nodded again. She tried to roll her eyes at herself but it felt ugly and self-pitying rather than funny.
I’m really sorry, he said. I did the wrong thing there. And you know, apparently people in school kind of knew about us anyway. I don’t know if you heard that.
She sat up on her elbow and stared down at him in the darkness.
Knew what? she said.
That we were seeing each other and all that.
I didn’t tell anyone, Connell, I swear to god.
She could see him wince even in the dark.
No, I know, he said. My point is more that it wouldn’t have mattered even if you did tell people. But I know you didn’t.
Were they horrible about it?
No, no. Eric just mentioned it at the Debs, that people knew. No one cared, really.
There was another short silence between them.
I feel guilty for all the stuff I said to you, Connell added. About how bad it would be if anyone found out. Obviously that was more in my head than anything. I mean, there was no reason why people would care. But I kind of suffer from anxiety with these things. Not that I’m making excuses, but I think I projected some anxiety onto you, if that makes sense. I don’t know. I’m still thinking about it a lot, why I acted in such a fucked-up way.
She squeezed his hand and he squeezed back, so tightly it almost hurt her, and this small gesture of desperation on his part made her smile.
I forgive you, she said.
Thank you. I think I did learn from it. And hopefully I have changed, you know, as a person. But honestly, if I have, it’s because of you.
They kept holding hands underneath the quilt, even after they went to sleep.
When they get to her apartment now she asks if he wants to come in. He says he needs to eat something and she says there are breakfast things in the fridge. They go upstairs together. Connell starts looking in the fridge while she goes to take a shower. She strips all her clothes off, turns the water pressure up as high as it goes and showers for nearly twenty minutes. Then she feels better. When she comes out, wrapped in a white bathrobe, her hair towelled dry, Connell has eaten already. His plate is clean and he’s checking his email. The room smells like coffee and frying. She goes towards him and he wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, as if he’s nervous suddenly. She stands at his chair and, looking up at her, he undoes the sash of her bathrobe. It’s been nearly a year. He touches his lips to her skin and she feels holy, like a shrine. Come to bed, then, she says. He goes with her.