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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

They went to a party in Sophie Whelan’s house one night as the exams were ending. He knew he would finally have to tell Marianne that he was moving out of Niall’s place, and he would have to ask her, outright, if he could stay with her instead. Most of the evening they spent by the swimming pool, immersed in the bewitching gravity of warm water. He watched Marianne splashing around in her strapless red swimsuit. A lock of wet hair had come loose from the knot at her neck and was sealed flat and shining against her skin. Everyone was laughing and drinking. It felt nothing like his real life. He didn’t know these people at all, he hardly even believed in them, or in himself. At the side of the pool he kissed Marianne’s shoulder impulsively and she smiled at him, delighted. No one looked at them. He thought he would tell her about the rent situation that night in bed. He felt very afraid of losing her. When they got to bed she wanted to have sex and afterwards she fell asleep. He thought of waking her up but he couldn’t. He decided he would wait until after his last exam to talk to her about moving home.

Two days later, directly after his paper on Medieval and Renaissance Romance, he went over to Marianne’s apartment and they sat at the table drinking coffee. He half-listened to her talking about some complicated relationship between Teresa and Lorcan, waiting for her to finish, and eventually he said: Hey, listen. By the way. It looks like I won’t be able to pay rent up here this summer. Marianne looked up from her coffee and said flatly: What?

Yeah, he said. I’m going to have to move out of Niall’s place.

When? said Marianne.

Pretty soon. Next week maybe.

Her face hardened, without displaying any particular emotion. Oh, she said. You’ll be going home, then.

He rubbed at his breastbone then, feeling short of breath. Looks like it, yeah, he said.

She nodded, raised her eyebrows briefly and then lowered them again, and stared down into her cup of coffee. Well, she said. You’ll be back in September, I assume.

His eyes were hurting and he closed them. He couldn’t understand how this had happened, how he had let the discussion slip away like this. It was too late to say he wanted to stay with her, that was clear, but when had it become too late? It seemed to have happened immediately. He contemplated putting his face down on the table and just crying like a child. Instead he opened his eyes again.

Yeah, he said. I’m not dropping out, don’t worry.

So you’ll only be gone three months.

Yeah.

There was a long pause.

I don’t know, he said. I guess you’ll want to see other people, then, will you?

Finally, in a voice that struck him as truly cold, Marianne said: Sure.

He got up then and poured his coffee down the sink, although it wasn’t finished. When he left her building he did cry, as much for his pathetic fantasy of living in her apartment as for their failed relationship, whatever that was.