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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

These are champagne glasses, says Peggy.

No, I mean the tall ones, Jamie says.

You’re thinking of flutes, says Peggy. These are coupes.

Helen would laugh at this conversation, and thinking of how much she would laugh, Connell smiles. Marianne says: It’s not a matter of life and death, is it? Peggy fills her glass and passes the bottle to Connell.

I’m just saying, these aren’t for champagne, says Jamie.

You’re such a philistine, Peggy says.

I’m a philistine? he says. We’re drinking champagne out of gravy boats.

Niall and Elaine start laughing, and Jamie smiles under the mistaken impression that they are laughing at his witticism. Marianne touches a fingertip to her eyelid lightly, as if removing a piece of dust or grit. Connell hands her the bottle and she accepts it.

It’s an old style of champagne glass, says Marianne. They belonged to my dad. Go inside and get yourself a flute if you prefer, they’re in the press over the sink.

Jamie makes wide ironic eyes and says: I didn’t realise it was such an emotional issue for you. Marianne puts the bottle in the centre of the table and says nothing. Connell has never heard Marianne mention her father like that in casual conversation. Nobody else at the table seems aware of this; Elaine may not even know Marianne’s father is dead. Connell tries to catch Marianne’s eye, but he can’t.

The pasta is delicious, says Elaine.

Oh, says Peggy. It’s very al dente, isn’t it? Maybe too al dente.

I think it’s nice, Marianne says.

Connell takes a mouthful of wine, which foams cold in his mouth and then disappears like air. Jamie starts telling an anecdote about one of his friends, who is on a summer internship at Goldman Sachs. Connell finishes his wine and unobtrusively Marianne refills his glass. Thanks, he says quietly. Her hand hovers for a second as if she’s going to touch him, and then she doesn’t. She says nothing.

*

 

The morning after the scholarships were announced, he and Marianne went to the swearing-in ceremony together. She’d been out the night before and looked hungover, which pleased him, because the ceremony was so formal and they had to wear gowns and recite things in Latin. Afterwards they went for breakfast together in a cafe near college. They sat outside, at a table on the street, and people walked by carrying paper shopping bags and having loud conversations on the phone. Marianne drank a single cup of black coffee and ordered a croissant which she didn’t finish. Connell had a large ham-and-cheese omelette with two slices of buttered toast, and tea with milk in it.

Marianne said she was worried about Peggy, who was the only one of the three of them not to get the scholarship. She said it would be hard on her. Connell inhaled and said nothing. Peggy didn’t need subsidised tuition or free on-campus accommodation, because she lived at home in Blackrock and her parents were both doctors, but Marianne was intent on seeing the scholarships as a matter of personal feeling rather than economic fact.