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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

Yeah, he says. I would have a bit more energy for protesting if it was more on the brutal side, to be honest.

You want to get beaten up by the Gardaí.

There are worse things than getting beaten up.

Marianne is taking a sip of coffee when he says this, and she seems to pause for a moment with the cup at her lips. He can’t tell how he identifies this pause as distinct from the natural motion of her drinking, but he sees it. Then she replaces the cup on the saucer.

I agree, she says.

What does that mean?

I’m agreeing with you.

Have you recently been attacked by the guards or have I missed something? he says.

She taps a little extra sugar from a sachet into her cup and then stirs it. Finally she glances up at him as if remembering he’s sitting there.

Aren’t you going to have coffee? she says.

He nods. He’s still feeling a little breathless after the walk from the bus, a little too warm under his clothes. He gets up from the table and goes back into the main room. It’s cool in there and much dimmer. A woman in red lipstick takes his order and says she’ll bring it right out.

*

 

Until April, Connell had been planning to work in Dublin for the summer and cover the rent with his wages, but a week before the exams his boss told him they were cutting back his hours. He could just about make rent that way but he’d have nothing left to live on. He’d always known that the place was going to go out of business, and he was furious with himself for not applying anywhere else. He thought about it constantly for weeks. In the end he decided he would have to move out for the summer. Niall was very nice about it, said the room would still be there for him in September and all of that. What about yourself and Marianne? Niall asked. And Connell said: Yeah, yeah. I don’t know. I haven’t told her yet.

The reality was that he stayed in Marianne’s apartment most nights anyway. He could just tell her about the situation and ask if he could stay in her place until September. He knew she would say yes. He thought she would say yes, it was hard to imagine her not saying yes. But he found himself putting off the conversation, putting off Niall’s enquiries about it, planning to bring it up with her and then at the last minute failing to. It just felt too much like asking her for money. He and Marianne never talked about money. They had never talked, for example, about the fact that her mother paid his mother money to scrub their floors and hang their laundry, or about the fact that this money circulated indirectly to Connell, who spent it, as often as not, on Marianne. He hated having to think about things like that. He knew Marianne never thought that way. She bought him things all the time, dinner, theatre tickets, things she would pay for and then instantly, permanently, forget about.