Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)
Mechanically Connell sits up straighter, pushing the quilt off his body as if he’s about to get up. He runs his tongue around the inside of his mouth.
What did he say that for? he says.
I don’t know. He said no one would miss me if I was dead because I have no friends.
Would you not tell your mother if he talked to you like that?
She was there, says Marianne.
Connell moves his jaw around. The pulse in his neck is throbbing. He’s trying to visualise this scene, the Sheridans at home, Alan for some reason telling Marianne to commit suicide, but it’s hard to picture any family behaving the way that she has described.
What did she say? he asks. As in, how did she react?
I think she said something like, oh, don’t encourage her.
Slowly Connell breathes in through his nose and exhales the breath between his lips.
And what provoked this? he says. Like, how did the argument start?
He senses that something in Marianne’s face changes now, or hardens, but he can’t name what it is exactly.
You think I did something to deserve it, she says.
No, obviously I’m not saying that.
Sometimes I think I must deserve it. Otherwise I don’t know why it would happen. But if he’s in a bad mood he’ll just follow me around the house. There’s nothing I can do. He’ll just come into my room, he doesn’t care if I’m sleeping or anything.
Connell rubs his palms on the sheet.
Would he ever hit you? he says.
Sometimes. Less so since I moved away. To be honest I don’t even mind it that much. The psychological stuff is more demoralising. I don’t know how to explain it, really. I know it must sound …
He touches his hand to his forehead. His skin feels wet. She doesn’t finish the sentence to explain how it must sound.
Why didn’t you ever tell me about it before? he says. She says nothing. The light is dim but he can see her open eyes. Marianne, he says. The whole time we were together, why didn’t you tell me any of this?
I don’t know. I suppose I didn’t want you to think I was damaged or something. I was probably afraid you wouldn’t want me anymore.
Finally he puts his face in his hands. His fingers feel cold and clammy on his eyelids and there are tears in his eyes. The harder he presses with his fingers, the faster the tears seep out, wet, onto his skin. Jesus, he says. His voice sounds thick and he clears his throat. Come here, he says. And she comes to him. He feels terribly ashamed and confused. They lie face-to-face and he puts his arms around her body. In her ear he says: I’m sorry, okay? She holds onto him tightly, her arms winding around him, and he kisses her forehead. But he always thought she was damaged, he thought it anyway. He screws his eyes shut with guilt. Their faces feel hot and damp now. He thinks of her saying: I thought you wouldn’t want me anymore. Her mouth is so close that her breath is wet on his lips. They start to kiss, and her mouth tastes dark like wine. Her body shifts against him, he touches her breast with his hand, and in a few seconds he could be inside her again, and then she says: No, we shouldn’t. She draws away, just like that. He can hear himself breathing in the silence, the pathetic heaving of his breath. He waits until it slows down again, not wanting to have his voice break when he tries to speak. I’m really sorry, he says. She squeezes his hand. It’s a very sad gesture. He can’t believe the stupidity of what he’s just done. Sorry, he says again. But Marianne has already turned away.