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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

You never said any of this to me, he says. When we were …

It was different with you. We were, you know. Things were different.

She twists the little strip of wood with both hands and then releases it on one side so it recoils from her fingers.

Should I be feeling insulted? he says.

No. If you want to hear the simplest explanation, I’ll tell you.

Well, is it a lie?

No, she says.

She pauses. Carefully she sets down the wooden coffee-stirrer. She has no props now, and reaches to touch her hair instead.

I didn’t need to play any games with you, she says. It was real. With Jamie it’s like I’m acting a part, I just pretend to feel that way, like I’m in his power. But with you that really was the dynamic, I actually had those feelings, I would have done anything you wanted me to. Now, you see, you think I’m a bad girlfriend. I’m being disloyal. Who wouldn’t want to beat me up?

She covers her eyes with her hand. She’s smiling, a tired and self-hating smile. He wipes the palms of his hands on his lap.

I wouldn’t, he says. Maybe I’m kind of unfashionable in that way.

She moves her hand away and looks at him, the same smile, and her lips still look dry.

I hope we can always take each other’s sides, she says. It’s very comforting for me.

Well, that’s good.

She looks at him then, like she’s seeing him for the first time since they sat down together.

Anyway, she says. How are you?

He knows the question is meant honestly. He’s not someone who feels comfortable confiding in others, or demanding things from them. He needs Marianne for this reason. This fact strikes him newly. Marianne is someone he can ask things of. Even though there are certain difficulties and resentments in their relationship, the relationship carries on. This seems remarkable to him now, and almost moving.

Something kind of weird happened to me in the summer, he said. Can I tell you about it?

 

Four Months Later (JANUARY 2013)

She’s in her apartment with friends. The scholarship exams finished this week and term is about to start again on Monday. She feels drained, like a vessel turned out onto its rim. She’s smoking her fourth cigarette of the evening, which gives her a curious acidic sensation in her chest, and she also hasn’t eaten dinner. For lunch she had a tangerine and a piece of unbuttered toast. Peggy is on the sofa telling a story about interrailing in Europe, and for some reason she insists on explaining the difference between West and East Berlin. Marianne exhales and says absently: Yes, I’ve been there.

Peggy turns to her, eyes widened. You’ve been to Berlin? she says. I didn’t think they let people from Connacht travel that far.

Some of their friends laugh politely. Marianne taps the ash off her cigarette into the ceramic tray on the arm of the sofa. Extremely hilarious, she says.