Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)
She’s actually a very sensitive person, says Lorraine.
Can we talk about something else?
Lorraine makes a face. He stares out the windshield and pretends not to see.
Three Weeks Later (FEBRUARY 2011)
She sits at her dressing table looking at her face in the mirror. Her face lacks definition around the cheeks and jaw. It’s a face like a piece of technology, and her two eyes are cursors blinking. Or it’s reminiscent of the moon reflected in something, wobbly and oblique. It expresses everything all at once, which is the same as expressing nothing. To wear make-up for this occasion would be, she concludes, embarrassing. Without breaking eye contact with herself, she dips her finger in an open pot of clear lip balm and applies it.
Downstairs, when she takes her coat off the hook, her brother Alan comes out from the living room.
Where are you going? he says.
She puts her arms through the sleeves of her coat and adjusts the collar. She’s beginning to feel nervous now and hopes her silence is communicating insolence rather than uncertainty.
Just out for a walk, she says.
Alan moves to stand in front of the door.
Well, I know you’re not going out to meet friends, he says. Because you don’t have any friends, do you?
No, I don’t.
She smiles now, a placid smile, hoping that this gesture of submission will placate him and he’ll move away from the door. Instead he says: What are you doing that for?
What? she says.
This weird smile you’re doing.
He mimics her face, contorted into an ugly grin, teeth bared. Though he’s grinning, the force and extremity of this impersonation make him look angry.
Are you happy that you don’t have friends? he says.
Still smiling, she takes two small steps backwards, and then turns and walks towards the kitchen, where there’s a patio door onto the garden. Alan walks after her. He grabs her by the upper arm and tugs her back from the door. She feels her jaw tighten. His fingers compress her arm through her jacket.
If you go crying to Mam about this, says Alan.
No, says Marianne, no. I’m just going out for a walk now. Thank you.
He releases her and she slips out through the patio door, closing it behind her. Outside the air feels very cold and her teeth start to chatter. She walks around the side of the house, down the driveway and out into the street. Her arm is throbbing where he grabbed it. She takes her phone from a pocket and composes a text, repeatedly hitting the wrong key, deleting and retyping. Finally she sends it: On my way. Before she puts the phone back, she receives a reply: cool see you soon.
At the end of last term, the school soccer team reached the final of some competition and everyone in the year had to take the last three classes off to go and watch them. Marianne had never seen them play before. She had no interest in sport and suffered anxiety related to physical education. In the bus on the way to the match she just listened to her headphones, no one spoke to her. Out the window: black cattle, green meadows, white houses with brown roof tiles. The football team were all together at the top of the bus, drinking water and slapping each other on the shoulders to raise morale. Marianne had the sense that her real life was happening somewhere very far away, happening without her, and she didn’t know if she would ever find out where it was and become part of it. She had that feeling in school often, but it wasn’t accompanied by any specific images of what the real life might look or feel like. All she knew was that when it started, she wouldn’t need to imagine it anymore.