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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

Oh, because all the Asians at the table are going to get offended, are they? says Jamie.

Marianne stands up abruptly and says: I’ll go get dessert. Connell is disappointed by this display of spinelessness, but he says nothing either. Peggy follows Marianne into the house and everyone at the table is silent. A huge moth circles in the dark air and Jamie bats at it with his napkin. After a minute or two Peggy and Marianne bring dessert out from the kitchen: a gigantic glass bowl of halved strawberries with a stack of white china dishes and silver spoons. Two more bottles of wine. The dishes are passed around and people fill them with fruit.

She spent all afternoon halving these little bastards, Peggy says.

I feel so spoilt, says Elaine.

Where’s the cream? Jamie says.

It’s inside, says Marianne.

Why didn’t you bring it out? he says.

Marianne pulls her chair back from the table coldly and stands up to go inside. It’s almost dark out now. Jamie ranges his eyes around the table, trying to find someone who will look back at him and agree that he was right to ask for the cream, or that Marianne was overreacting to an innocent query. Instead people seem to avoid looking at him, and with a loud sigh he knocks his chair back and follows her. The chair tips over noiselessly onto the grass. He goes in the side door to the kitchen and slams it behind him. There’s a back door too, which leads down into the other part of the garden, where the trees are. It’s walled off from here, so only the tops of the trees are visible.

By the time Connell turns his attention back to the table Niall is staring at him. He doesn’t know what Niall’s stare means. He tries squinting his eyes to show Niall he’s confused. Niall casts a significant look at the house and then back at him. Connell looks over his right shoulder. The light is on in the kitchen, leaking a yellowish glow through the garden doors. He only has a sidelong view so he can’t see what’s going on inside. Elaine and Peggy are complimenting the strawberries. When they stop, Connell hears a raised voice coming from the house, almost a shriek. Everyone freezes. He stands up from the table to go to the house, and feels his blood pressure drop. He’s had a bottle of wine to drink by now, or more.

When he reaches the garden doors he sees Jamie and Marianne are standing at the counter, having some kind of argument. They don’t see Connell through the glass right away. He pauses with his hand on the door handle. Marianne is all flushed, maybe from too much sun, or maybe she’s angry. Jamie is unsteadily refilling his champagne glass with red wine. Connell turns the handle and comes inside. Alright? he says. They both look at him, they both stop talking. He notices Marianne is shivering as if she’s cold. Jamie lifts his glass sarcastically in Connell’s direction, sloshing wine over the rim and onto the floor.