‘Normal People’: Sally Rooney’s 2016 short story reveals what happens to Marianne and Connell

Not the happily ever after fans were hoping for...

If you’re anything like us, you binged watched BBC’s Normal People in a matter of days and have been unable to think about anything else since. The TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s best-selling, utterly heartbreaking novel took her story and turned it into the most talked about new series of the year. Brimming with yearning, raw emotion and sex scenes that’d make your nan blush, it more than lived up to the lofty expectations of longtime fans.

The only problem? It left us wanting more. The Normal People ending, which saw the couple preparing to live apart after Connell got onto a prestigious writing programme in New York, was ambiguous on purpose and fans weren’t given the happily ever after they so craved. However, a short story Sally Rooney wrote in 2016 offers some insight into what comes next for Marianne and Connell.

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At the Clinic is set when both characters are 23, and revolves around Connell taking Marianne to a dental clinic. Rooney wrote the short story two years before Normal People – and it was then published in The White Review. Once she finished writing the truncated story, Rooney realised she wanted more for the characters. “Something about the broadly symbiotic, intermittently sexual relationship between its two main characters, Marianne and Connell, demanded a larger canvas,” she recently told The Telegraph.

Given that Normal People ended when the couple graduated after four years at Trinity University in Dublin, they were probably 22 or 23 at the end of the series, so At the Clinic (where they’re 23) takes a look at what happens next. The two are still harbouring strong, if confused, feelings for each other – and are obviously seeing other people. Here’s what we learned about the future of Marianne and Connell in At the Clinic.

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Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal in ‘Normal People’. Credit: Element Pictures/Enda Bowe

So, what happened to Marianne and Connell after the Normal People ending?

They’ve remained close – but appear to be stuck in the will-they, won’t-they relationship we saw throughout the entire television series and in the book. Marianne counts Connell as her only friend – and somebody she can confide in about “distasteful medical conditions” (turns out he drives her to the clinic when she gets UTIs – a sign of true friendship). In the short story, the two characters have strong feelings for each other – Connell is shaken when Marianne quips “I’m not going to ask you to be my boyfriend” – and they still have a sexual relationship.

Marianne also reveals that she had a dream about marrying Connell, so he’s clearly still on her mind.

Marianne has just broken up with her boyfriend, Daniel

In At the Clinic, Marianne has just ended things with Daniel, a “skinny graphic designer who wore thick-framed glasses and talked about gender a lot”. Connell and Daniel didn’t seem to get along ­– they sat next to each other at Marianne’s birthday and instead of chatting they just watched a football game – which Daniel tried to turn into a philosophical discussion. Connell also disapproved of Daniel as he felt that he treated Marianne badly, as he tied her up and hit her with a belt during sex.

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Daisy Edgar Jones (Marianne) and Paul Mescal (Connell) in Normal People. Credit: Element Pictures/Enda Bowe

Connell has just dumped his girlfriend, Lauren

Connell has been going out with Lauren for almost 10 months until Connell Skyped her to end things. The relationship had been falling apart before then: Lauren moved away to Manchester, and a few weeks before the events of At the Clinic had got drunk on a night out and shagged. When Connell found out “he felt vaguely depressed and tired” for a few days, and then slept with Marianne.

It appears that Connell is still struggling with his mental health

When Connell found out Lauren cheated on him he was surprised at how little he felt – even going as far to Google: “why can I not feel things?” Rooney also describes that Connell felt “vaguely depressed” after Lauren admitted she strayed.

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