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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

No, I agree with you, said Marianne. I guess I just got caught up in how much they seemed to like me.

Yeah. I think in your better judgement you did realise how obnoxious they were. But it was easier for me because they never really liked me that much.

Marianne was surprised by this matter-of-fact turn in the conversation, and felt a little castigated, though Joanna’s tone remained friendly. It was true, Peggy and Jamie were not very good people; bad people even, who took joy in putting others down. Marianne feels aggrieved that she fell for it, aggrieved that she thought she had anything in common with them, that she’d participated in the commodity market they passed off as friendship. In school she had believed herself to be above such frank exchanges of social capital, but her college life indicated that if anyone in school had actually been willing to speak to her, she would have behaved just as badly as anyone else. There is nothing superior about her at all.

*

 

Can you turn and face to the window? says Lukas.

Sure.

Marianne turns on the mattress, legs pulled up to her chest.

Can you move, like … legs down in some way? says Lukas.

Marianne crosses her legs in front of her. Lukas scoots the tripod forward and readjusts the angle. Marianne thinks of Connell’s email comparing her to a deer. She liked the line about thoughtful faces and sleek bodies. She has lost even more weight in Sweden, she’s thinner now, very sleek.

She’s decided not to go home for Christmas this year. She thinks a lot about how to extricate herself from ‘the family situation’. In bed at night she imagines scenarios in which she is completely free of her mother and brother, on neither good nor bad terms with them, simply a neutral non-participant in their lives. She spent much of her childhood and adolescence planning elaborate schemes to remove herself from family conflict: staying completely silent, keeping her face and body expressionless and immobile, wordlessly leaving the room and making her way to her bedroom, closing the door quietly behind her. Locking herself in the toilet. Leaving the house for an indefinite number of hours and sitting in the school car park by herself. None of these strategies had ever proven successful. In fact her tactics only seemed to increase the possibility that she would be punished as the primary instigator. Now she can see that her attempt to avoid a family Christmas, always a peak occasion for hostilities, will be entered into the domestic accounting book as yet another example of offensive behaviour on her part.

When she thinks of Christmastime now she thinks of Carricklea, lights strung up over Main Street, the glowing plastic Santa Claus in the window of Kelleher’s with its animated arm waving a stiff, repetitive greeting. Tinfoil snowflakes hanging in the town pharmacy. The door of the butcher shop swinging open and shut, voices calling out on the corner. Breath rising as mist in the church car park at night. Foxfield in the evening, houses quiet as sleeping cats, windows bright. The Christmas tree in Connell’s front room, tinsel bristling, furniture cramped to make space, and the high, delighted sound of laughter. He said he would be sorry not to see her. Won’t be the same without you, he wrote. She felt stupid then and wanted to cry. Her life is so sterile now and has no beauty in it anymore.