Home > Normal People(6)

Normal People(6)
Author: Sally Rooney

This is probably three times the size of my house, he said. Would you say?

She felt foolish for not realising what he had been thinking about. Probably, she said. I haven’t seen upstairs, obviously.

Four bedrooms.


Just lying empty, no one living in it, he said. Why don’t they give them away if they can’t sell them? I’m not being thick with you, I’m genuinely asking.

She shrugged. She didn’t actually understand why.

It’s something to do with capitalism, she said.

Yeah. Everything is, that’s the problem, isn’t it?

She nodded. He looked over at her, as if coming out of a dream.

Are you cold? he said. You look like you’re freezing.

She smiled, rubbed at her nose. He unzipped his black puffer jacket and put it over her shoulders. They were standing very close. She would have lain on the ground and let him walk over her body if he wanted, he knew that.

When I go out at the weekend or whatever, he said, I don’t go after other girls or anything.

Marianne smiled and said: No, I guess they come after you.

He grinned, he looked down at his shoes. You have a very funny idea of me, he said.

She closed her fingers around his school tie. It was the first time in her life she could say shocking things and use bad language, so she did it a lot. If I wanted you to fuck me here, she said, would you do it?

His expression didn’t change but his hands moved around under her jumper to show he was listening. After a few seconds he said: Yeah. If you wanted to, yeah. You’re always making me do such weird things.

What does that mean? she said. I can’t make you do anything.

Yeah, you can. Do you think there’s any other person I would do this type of thing with? Seriously, do you think anyone else could make me sneak around after school and all this?

What do you want me to do? Leave you alone?

He looked at her, seemingly taken aback by this turn in the discussion. Shaking his head, he said: If you did that …

She looked at him but he didn’t say anything else.

If I did that, what? she said.

I don’t know. You mean, if you just didn’t want to see each other anymore? I would feel surprised honestly, because you seem like you enjoy it.

And what if I met someone else who liked me more?

He laughed. She turned away crossly, pulling out of his grasp, wrapping her arms around her chest. He said hey, but she didn’t turn around. She was facing the disgusting mattress with the rust-coloured stains all over it. Gently he came up behind her and lifted her hair to kiss the back of her neck.

Sorry for laughing, he said. You’re making me insecure, talking about not wanting to hang out with me anymore. I thought you liked me.

She shut her eyes. I do like you, she said.

Well, if you met someone else you liked more, I’d be pissed off, okay? Since you ask about it. I wouldn’t be happy. Alright?

Your friend Eric called me flat-chested today in front of everyone.

Connell paused. She felt his breathing. I didn’t hear that, he said.

You were in the bathroom or somewhere. He said I looked like an ironing board.

Fuck’s sake, he’s such a prick. Is that why you’re in a bad mood?

She shrugged. Connell put his arms around her belly.

He’s only trying to get on your nerves, he said. If he thought he had the slightest chance with you, he would be talking very differently. He just thinks you look down on him.

She shrugged again, chewing on her lower lip.

You have nothing to worry about with your appearance, Connell said.


I don’t just like you for your brains, trust me.

She laughed, feeling silly.

He rubbed her ear with his nose and added: I would miss you if you didn’t want to see me anymore.

Would you miss sleeping with me? she said.

He touched his hand against her hipbone, rocking her back against his body, and said quietly: Yeah, a lot.

Can we go back to your house now?

He nodded. For a few seconds they just stood there in stillness, his arms around her, his breath on her ear. Most people go through their whole lives, Marianne thought, without ever really feeling that close with anyone.


Finally, after her third gin and tonic, the door bangs open and the boys arrive. The committee girls get up and start teasing them, scolding them for being late, things like that. Marianne hangs back, searching for Connell’s eye contact, which he doesn’t return. He’s dressed in a white button-down shirt, the same Adidas sneakers he wears everywhere. The other boys are wearing shirts too, but more formal-looking, shinier, and worn with leather dress shoes. There’s a heavy, stirring smell of aftershave in the air. Eric catches Marianne’s eye and suddenly lets go of Karen, a move obvious enough that everyone else looks around too.

Look at you, Marianne, says Eric.

She can’t tell immediately whether he’s being sincere or mocking. All the boys are looking at her now except Connell.

I’m serious, Eric says. Great dress, very sexy.

Rachel starts laughing, leans in to say something in Connell’s ear. He turns his face away slightly and doesn’t laugh along. Marianne feels a certain pressure in her head that she wants to relieve by screaming or crying.

Let’s go and have a dance, says Karen.

I’ve never seen Marianne dancing, Rachel says.

Well, you can see her now, says Karen.

Karen takes Marianne’s hand and pulls her towards the dance floor. There’s a Kanye West song playing, the one with the Curtis Mayfield sample. Marianne is still holding the raffle book in one hand, and she feels the other hand damp inside Karen’s. The dance floor is crowded and sends shudders of bass up through her shoes into her legs. Karen props an arm on Marianne’s shoulder, drunkenly, and says in her ear: Don’t mind Rachel, she’s in foul humour. Marianne nods her head, moving her body in time with the music. Feeling drunk now, she turns to search the room, wanting to know where Connell is. Right away she sees him, standing at the top of the steps. He’s watching her. The music is so loud it throbs inside her body. Around him the others are talking and laughing. He’s just looking at her and saying nothing. Under his gaze her movements feel magnified, scandalous, and the weight of Karen’s arm on her shoulder is sensual and hot. She rocks her hips forward and runs a hand loosely through her hair.

In her ear Karen says: He’s been watching you the whole time.

Marianne looks at him and then back at Karen, saying nothing, trying not to let her face say anything.

Now you see why Rachel’s in a bad mood with you, says Karen.

She can smell the wine spritzer on Karen’s breath when she speaks, she can see her fillings. She likes her so much at that moment. They dance a little more and then go back upstairs together, hand in hand, out of breath now, grinning about nothing. Eric and Rob are pretending to have an argument. Connell moves towards Marianne almost imperceptibly, and their arms touch. She wants to pick up his hand and suck on his fingertips one after another.

Rachel turns to her then and says: You might try actually selling some raffle tickets at some point?

Marianne smiles, and the smile that comes out is smug, almost derisive, and she says: Okay.

I think these lads might want to buy some, says Eric.

He nods over at the door, where some older guys have arrived. They’re not supposed to be here, the nightclub said it would be ticket-holders only. Marianne doesn’t know who they are, someone’s brothers or cousins maybe, or just men in their twenties who like to hang around school fundraisers. They see Eric waving and come over. Marianne looks in her purse for the cash pouch in case they do want to buy raffle tickets.

How are things, Eric? says one of the men. Who’s your friend here?

That’s Marianne Sheridan, Eric says. You’d know her brother, I’d say. Alan, he would’ve been in Mick’s year.

The man just nods, looking Marianne up and down. She feels indifferent to his attention. The music is too loud to hear what Rob is saying in Eric’s ear, but Marianne feels it has to do with her.

Let me get you a drink, the man says. What are you having?

No, thanks, says Marianne.

The man slips an arm around her shoulders then. He’s very tall, she notices. Taller than Connell. His fingers rub her bare arm. She tries to shrug him off but he doesn’t let go. One of his friends starts laughing, and Eric laughs along.

Nice dress, the man says.

Can you let go of me? she says.

Very low-cut there, isn’t it?

In one motion he moves his hand down from her shoulder and squeezes the flesh of her right breast, in front of everyone. Instantly she jerks away from him, pulling her dress up to her collarbone, feeling her face fill with blood. Her eyes are stinging and she feels a pain where he grabbed her. Behind her the others are laughing. She can hear them. Rachel is laughing, a high fluting noise in Marianne’s ears.

Without turning around, Marianne walks out the door, lets it slam behind her. She’s in the hallway now with the cloakroom and can’t remember whether the exit is right or left. She’s shaking all over her body. The cloakroom attendant asks if she’s alright. Marianne doesn’t know anymore how drunk she is. She walks a few steps towards a door on the left and then puts her back against the wall and starts sliding down towards a seated position on the floor. Her breast is aching where that man grabbed it. He wasn’t joking, he wanted to hurt her. She’s on the floor now hugging her knees against her chest.

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