The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides Read Online (FREE)
The subject was Alicia’s aunt, Lydia Rose. It was obvious why she had been so upset by it. Lydia was nude, reclining on a tiny bed. The bed was buckling under her weight. She was enormously, monstrously fat—an explosion of flesh spilling over the bed and hitting the floor and spreading across the room, rippling and folding like waves of gray custard.
“Jesus. That’s cruel.”
“I think it’s quite lovely.” Jean-Felix looked at me with interest. “You know Lydia?”
“Yes, I went to visit her.”
“I see.” He smiled. “You have been doing your homework. I never met Lydia. Alicia hated her, you know.”
“Yes.” I stared at the painting. “Yes, I can see that.”
Jean-Felix began carefully wrapping up the pictures again.
“And the Alcestis?” I said. “Can I see it?”
“Of course. Follow me.”
Jean-Felix led me along the narrow passage to the end of the gallery. There the Alcestis occupied a wall to itself. It was just as beautiful and mysterious as I remembered it. Alicia naked in the studio, in front of a blank canvas, painting with a bloodred paintbrush. I studied Alicia’s expression. Again it defied interpretation. I frowned.
“She’s impossible to read.”
“That’s the point—it is a refusal to comment. It’s a painting about silence.”
“I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”
“Well, at the heart of all art lies a mystery. Alicia’s silence is her secret—her mystery, in the religious sense. That’s why she named it Alcestis. Have you read it? By Euripides.” He gave me a curious look. “Read it. Then you’ll understand.”
I nodded—and then I noticed something in the painting I hadn’t before. I leaned forward to look closely. A bowl of fruit sat on the table in the background of the picture—a collection of apples and pears. On the red apples were some small white blobs—slippery white blobs creeping in and around the fruit.
I pointed at them. “Are they…?”
“Maggots?” Jean-Felix nodded. “Yes.”
“Fascinating. I wonder what that means.”
“It’s wonderful. A masterpiece. It really is.” Jean-Felix sighed and glanced at me across the portrait. He lowered his voice as if Alicia were able to hear us. “It’s a shame you didn’t know her then. She was the most interesting person I’ve ever met. Most people aren’t alive, you know, not really—sleepwalking their way through life. But Alicia was so intensely alive.… It was hard to take your eyes off her.” Jean-Felix turned his head back to the painting and gazed at Alicia’s naked body. “So beautiful.”
I looked back at Alicia’s body. But where Jean-Felix saw beauty, I saw only pain; I saw self-inflicted wounds, and scars of self-harm.
“Did she ever talk to you about her suicide attempt?”
I was fishing, but Jean-Felix took the bait. “Oh, you know about that? Yes, of course.”
“After her father died?”
“She went to pieces.” Jean-Felix nodded. “The truth is Alicia was hugely fucked-up. Not as an artist, but as a person she was extremely vulnerable. When her father hanged himself, it was too much. She couldn’t cope.”