Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)
Right, they’re too busy bragging about who they’re having sex with, she said.
He paused for a second, like his ears had pricked up at this remark but he didn’t know exactly how to respond. Yeah, they do a bit of that, he said. I’m not defending it, I know they can be annoying.
Doesn’t it bother you?
He paused again. Most of it wouldn’t, he said. They do some stuff that goes a bit over the line and that would annoy me obviously. But at the end of the day they’re my friends, you know. It’s different for you.
She looked at him, but he was examining the spine of the book.
Why is it different? she said.
He shrugged, bending the book cover back and forth. She felt frustrated. Her face and hands were hot. He kept on looking at the book although he’d certainly read all the text on the back by then. She was attuned to the presence of his body in a microscopic way, as if the ordinary motion of his breathing was powerful enough to make her ill.
You know you were saying the other day that you like me, he said. In the kitchen you said it, when we were talking about school.
Did you mean like as a friend, or what?
She stared down into her lap. She was wearing a corduroy skirt and in the light from the window she could see it was flecked with pieces of lint.
No, not just as a friend, she said.
Oh, okay. I was wondering.
He sat there, nodding to himself.
I’m kind of confused about what I feel, he added. I think it would be awkward in school if anything happened with us.
No one would have to know.
He looked up at her, directly, with total attention. She knew he was going to kiss her, and he did. His lips were soft. His tongue moved into her mouth slightly. Then it was over and he was drawing away. He seemed to remember he was holding the book, and began to look at it again.
That was nice, she said.
He nodded, swallowed, glanced down at the book once more. His attitude was so sheepish, as if it had been rude of her even to make reference to the kiss, that Marianne started to laugh. He looked flustered then.
Alright, he said. What are you laughing for?
You’re acting like you’ve never kissed anyone before.
Well, I haven’t, she said.
He put his hand over his face. She laughed again, she couldn’t stop herself, and then he was laughing too. His ears were very red and he was shaking his head. After a few seconds he stood up, holding the book in his hand.
Don’t go telling people in school about this, okay? he said.
Like I would talk to anyone in school.
He left the room. Weakly she crumpled off the seat, down onto the floor, with her legs stretched out in front of her like a rag doll. While she sat there she felt as if Connell had been visiting her house only to test her, and she had passed the test, and the kiss was a communication that said: You passed. She thought of the way he’d laughed when she said she’d never kissed anyone before. For another person to laugh that way might have been cruel, but it wasn’t like that with him. They’d been laughing together, at a shared situation they’d found themselves in, though how to describe the situation or what was funny about it Marianne didn’t know exactly.