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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

I think maybe take this off, Lukas says now.

He’s gesturing to her bra. She reaches behind her back and snaps open the clasp, then slips the straps off her shoulders. She discards it out of view of the camera. Lukas takes a few pictures, lowers the camera’s position on the tripod, moves it forward an inch, and continues. Marianne stares at the window. The sound of the camera shutter stops eventually and she turns around. Lukas is opening a drawer underneath the table. He takes out a coil of thick black ribbon, made of some coarse cotton or linen fibre.

What’s that? Marianne says.

You know what it is.

Don’t start this now.

Lukas just stands there unwinding the cloth, indifferent. Marianne’s bones begin to feel very heavy, a familiar feeling. They are so heavy she can hardly move. Silently she holds out her arms in front of her, elbows together. Good, he says. He kneels down and wraps the cloth tightly. Her wrists are thin but the ribbon is pulled so tight that a little flesh still swells on either side. This looks ugly to her and instinctively she turns away, towards the window again. Very good, he says. He goes back to the camera. The shutter clicks. She closes her eyes but he tells her to open them. She’s tired now. The inside of her body seems to be gravitating further and further downwards, towards the floor, towards the centre of the earth. When she looks up, Lukas is unwrapping another length of ribbon.

No, she says.

Don’t make it hard on yourself.

I don’t want to do this.

I know, he says.

He kneels down again. She draws her head back, avoiding his touch, and quickly he puts his hand around her throat. This gesture doesn’t frighten her, it only exhausts her so entirely that she can’t speak or move anymore. Her chin drops forward, slack. She’s tired of making evasive efforts when it’s easier, effortless, to give in. He squeezes her throat slightly and she coughs. Then, not speaking, he lets go of her. He takes up the cloth again and wraps it as a blindfold around her eyes. Even her breathing feels laboured now. Her eyes itch. He touches her cheek gently with the back of his hand and she feels sick.

You see, I love you, he says. And I know you love me.

Horrified, she pulls away from him, striking the back of her head on the wall. She scrabbles with her bound wrists to pull the blindfold back from her eyes, managing to lift it far enough so that she can see.

What’s wrong? he says.

Untie me.

Marianne.

Untie me now or I’ll call the police, she says.

This doesn’t seem a particularly realistic threat, since her hands are still bound, but maybe sensing that the mood has changed, Lukas starts to unwrap the cloth from her wrists. She’s shivering violently now. As soon as the binding is loose enough that she can draw her arms apart, she does. She pulls the blindfold off and grabs her sweater, tugs it over her head, threads her arms through the sleeves. She’s standing up straight now, feet on the mattress.