Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)
Oh no, says Marianne. I’m much too self-conscious. I’d die.
Peggy says: Really? She says this in a pleasant, interested tone of voice, like she’s just as happy discussing Marianne’s self-consciousness as she would be engaging in group sex. Connell tries not to display any outward relief.
I have all kinds of hang-ups, says Marianne. Very neurotic.
Peggy compliments Marianne’s appearance in a routine, effeminate way and asks what her hang-ups are about.
Marianne pinches her lower lip and then says: Well, I don’t feel lovable. I think I have an unlovable sort of … I have a coldness about me, I’m difficult to like. She gestures one of her long, thin hands in the air, like she’s only approximating what she means rather than really nailing it.
I don’t believe that, says Peggy. Is she cold with you?
Connell coughs and says: No.
She and Marianne continue talking and he rolls the folded label between his fingers, feeling anxious.
Marianne went home for a couple of days this week, and when she came back to Dublin last night she seemed quiet. They watched The Umbrellas of Cherbourg together in her apartment. At the end Marianne cried, but she turned her face away so it looked like she wasn’t crying. This unsettled Connell. The film had a pretty sad ending but he didn’t really see what there was to cry about. Are you okay? he said. She nodded, with her face turned, so he could see a white tendon in her neck pressing outwards.
Hey, he said. Is something upsetting you?
She shook her head but didn’t turn around. He went to make her a cup of tea and by the time he brought it to her she had stopped crying. He touched her hair and she smiled, weakly. The character in the film had become pregnant unexpectedly, and Connell was trying to remember when Marianne had last had her period. The longer he thought about it, the longer ago it seemed to have been. Eventually, in a panic, he said: Hey, you’re not pregnant or anything, are you? Marianne laughed. That settled his nerves.
No, she said. I got my period this morning.
Okay. Well, that’s good.
What would you do if I was?
He smiled, he inhaled through his mouth. Kind of depends on what you would want to do, he said.
I admit I would have a slight temptation to keep it. But I wouldn’t do that to you, don’t worry.
Really? What would the temptation be? Sorry if that’s insensitive to say.
I don’t know, she said. In a way I like the idea of something so dramatic happening to me. I would like to upset people’s expectations. Do you think I’d be a bad mother?
No, you’d be great, obviously. You’re great at everything you do.
She smiled. You wouldn’t have to be involved, she said.
Well, I would support you, whatever you decided.
He didn’t know why he was saying he would support her, since he had virtually no spare income and no prospect of having any. It felt like the thing to say, that was all. Really he had never considered it. Marianne seemed like the kind of straightforward person who would arrange the whole procedure herself, and at most maybe he would go with her on the plane.