Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)
No need to worry, Marianne, she called. I’m not going to steal him away.
Marianne thought Connell would gaze off into the water, pretending not to hear, but instead he looked around at her and smiled.
She’s not worried, he said.
She didn’t know what that meant, really, but she smiled, and then the game began. She felt happy to be surrounded by people she liked, who liked her. She knew that if she wanted to speak, everyone would probably turn around and listen out of sincere interest, and that made her happy too, although she had nothing at all to say.
After the game was finished Connell came over to her, standing in the water where her legs were dangling. She looked down at him benignly. I was admiring you, she said. He pushed his wet hair back from his forehead. You’re always admiring me, he said. She kicked her leg at him gently and he put his hand around her ankle and stroked it with his fingers. You and Sophie make an athletic team, she said. He kept stroking her leg under the water. It felt very nice. The others were calling him back to the deeper end then, they wanted to have another game. You’re alright, he said. I’m having a break for this round. Then he hopped up onto the side of the pool, beside her. His body was glistening wet. He put his hand flat on the tiles behind her to steady himself.
Come here, he said.
He put his arm around her waist. He had never, ever touched her in front of anyone else before. Their friends had never seen them together like this, no one had. In the pool the others were still splashing and yelling.
That’s nice, she said.
He turned his head and kissed her bare shoulder. She laughed again, shocked and gratified. He glanced back out at the water and then looked at her.
You’re happy now, he said. You’re smiling.
You’re right, I am happy.
He nodded towards the pool, where Peggy had just fallen into the water, and people were laughing.
Is this what life is like? Connell said.
She looked at his face, but she couldn’t tell from his expression if he was pleased or miserable. What do you mean? she said. But he only shrugged. A few days later he told her he was leaving Dublin for the summer.
You didn’t tell me you were in town, he says now.
She nods slowly, like she’s thinking about it, like it just now occurs to her that in fact she did not tell Connell she was in town, and it’s an interesting thought.
So what, are we not friends anymore? he says.
Of course we are.
You don’t reply to my messages very much.
Admittedly she has been ignoring him. She had to tell people what had happened between them, that he had broken up with her and moved away, and it mortified her. She was the one who had introduced Connell to everyone, who had told them all what great company he was, how sensitive and intelligent, and he had repaid her by staying in her apartment almost every night for three months, drinking the beer she bought for him, and then abruptly dumping her. It made her look like such a fool. Peggy laughed it off, of course, saying men were all the same. Joanna didn’t seem to think the situation was funny at all, but puzzling, and sad. She kept asking what each of them had specifically said during the break-up, and then she would go quiet, as if she was re-enacting the scene in her mind to try and make sense of it.