Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)
It’s no bother, he says. I’d like to go, to be honest.
He indicates and pulls into her gravel driveway. Her mother’s car isn’t there, she’s not at home. The huge white facade of the house glares down at them. Something about the arrangement of windows gives Marianne’s house a disapproving expression. Connell switches the engine off.
Sorry I was ignoring your messages, says Marianne. It was childish.
It’s alright. Look, if you don’t want to be friends anymore, we don’t have to be.
Of course I want to be friends.
He nods, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel. His body is so big and gentle, like a Labrador. She wants to tell him things. But it’s too late now, and anyway it has never done her any good to tell anyone.
Alright, says Connell. I’ll see you tomorrow morning at the church, then, will I?
She swallows. Do you want to come inside for a bit? she says. We could have a cup of tea or something.
Oh, I would, but there’s ice cream in the boot.
Marianne looks around, remembering the shopping bags, and feels disorientated suddenly.
Lorraine would kill me, he says.
Sure. Of course.
She gets out of the car then. He waves out the window. And he will come, tomorrow morning, and he will be wearing a navy sweatshirt with a white Oxford shirt underneath, looking innocent as a lamb, and he will stand with her in the vestibule afterwards, not saying very much but catching her eye supportively. Smiles will be exchanged, relieved smiles. And they will be friends again.
Six Weeks Later (SEPTEMBER 2012)
He’s late to meet her. The bus was caught in traffic because of some rally in town and now he’s eight minutes late and he doesn’t know where the cafe is. He has never met Marianne ‘for coffee’ before. The weather is too warm today, a scratchy and unseasonal heat. He finds the cafe on Capel Street and walks past the cashier towards the door at the back, checking his phone. It’s nine minutes past three. Outside the back door Marianne is sitting in the smoking garden drinking her coffee already. No one else is out there, the place is quiet. She doesn’t get up when she sees him.
Sorry I’m late, he says. There was some protest on so the bus was delayed.
He sits down opposite her. He hasn’t ordered anything yet.
Don’t worry about it, she says. What was the protest? It wasn’t abortion or anything, was it?
He feels ashamed now that he didn’t notice. No, I don’t think so, he says. The household tax or something.
Well, best of luck to them. May the revolution be swift and brutal.
He hasn’t seen her in person since July, when she came home for her father’s Mass. Her lips look pale now and slightly chapped, and she has dark circles under her eyes. Although he takes pleasure in seeing her look good, he feels a special sympathy with her when she looks ill or her skin is bad, like when someone who’s usually very good at sports has a poor game. It makes her seem nicer somehow. She’s wearing a very elegant black blouse, her wrists look slender and white, and her hair is twisted back loosely at her neck.