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“One night in May, Marianne’s friend Sophie threw a house party to celebrate the end of the exams. Her parents were in Sicily or somewhere like that. Connell still had an exam left at the time, but he wasn’t worried about it, so he came along too. All their friends were there, partly because Sophie had a heated swimming pool in her basement. They spent most of the night in their swimsuits, dipping in and out of the water, drinking and talking. Marianne sat at the side with a plastic cup of wine, while some of the others played a game in the pool. It seemed to involve people sitting on other people’s shoulders and trying to knock each other into the water. Sophie got up onto Connell’s shoulders for the second match, and said appreciatively: That’s a nice solid torso you have. Marianne looked on, slightly drunk, admiring the way Sophie and Connell looked together, his hands on her smooth brown shins, and feeling a strange sense of nostalgia for a moment that was already in the process of happening. Sophie looked over at her then.
No need to worry, Marianne, she called. I’m not going to steal him away.
Marianne thought Connell would gaze off into the water, pretending not to hear, but instead he looked around at her and smiled.
She’s not worried, he said.
She didn’t know what that meant, really, but she smiled, and then the game began. She felt happy to be surrounded by people she liked, who liked her. She knew that if she wanted to speak, everyone would probably turn around and listen out of sincere interest, and that made her happy too, although she had nothing at all to say.
After the game was finished Connell came over to her, standing in the water where her legs were dangling. She looked down at him benignly. I was admiring you, she said. He pushed his wet hair back from his forehead. You’re always admiring me, he said. She kicked her leg at him gently and he put his hand around her ankle and stroked it with his fingers. You and Sophie make an athletic team, she said. He kept stroking her leg under the water. It felt very nice. The others were calling him back to the deeper end then, they wanted to have another game. You’re alright, he said. I’m having a break for this round. Then he hopped up onto the side of the pool, beside her. His body was glistening wet. He put his hand flat on the tiles behind her to steady himself.
Come here, he said.
He put his arm around her waist. He had never, ever touched her in front of anyone else before. Their friends had never seen them together like this, no one had. In the pool the others were still splashing and yelling.
That’s nice, she said.
He turned his head and kissed her bare shoulder. She laughed again, shocked and gratified. He glanced back out at the water and then looked at her.
You’re happy now, he said. You’re smiling.
You’re right, I am happy.
He nodded towards the pool, where Peggy had just fallen into the water, and people were laughing.
Is this what life is like? Connell said.
She looked at his face, but she couldn’t tell from his expression if he was pleased or miserable. What do you mean? she said. But he only shrugged. A few days later he told her he was leaving Dublin for the summer.”