The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides Read Online (FREE)
“I had a word with Professor Diomedes—he’s agreed to it, and so has Rowena.… So it’s up to you, really, Alicia. What do you think?”
I waited. She stared at me.
And then, finally, I got what I wanted—a definite reaction—a sign that told me I was on the right track.
It was a small movement. Tiny, really. Nonetheless, it spoke volumes.
THE CANTEEN WAS THE WARMEST ROOM at the Grove. Piping-hot radiators lined the walls, and the benches closest to them were always filled first. Lunch was the busiest meal, with staff and patients eating side by side. The raised voices of the diners created a cacophony of noise, born from an uncomfortable excitement when all the patients were in the same space.
A couple of jolly Caribbean dinner ladies laughed and chatted as they served up bangers and mash, fish-and-chips, chicken curry, all of which smelled better than they tasted. I selected fish-and-chips as the lesser of three evils. On my way to sit down, I passed Elif. She was surrounded by her gang, a surly-looking crew of the toughest patients. She was complaining about the food as I walked by her table.
“I’m not eating this shit.” She pushed away her tray.
The patient to her right pulled the tray toward her, preparing to take it off Elif’s hands, but Elif whacked her across the head.
“Greedy bitch!” Elif shouted. “Give that back.”
This prompted a guffaw of laughter around the table. Elif pulled back her plate and tucked into her meal with renewed relish.
Alicia was sitting alone, I noticed, at the back of the room. She was picking at a meager bit of fish like an anorexic bird, moving it around the plate but not bringing it to her mouth. I was half tempted to sit with her but decided against it. Perhaps if she had looked up and made eye contact, I would have walked over. But she kept her gaze lowered, as if attempting to block out her surroundings and those around her. It felt like an invasion of privacy to intrude, so I sat at the end of another table, a few spaces away from any patients, and started eating my fish-and-chips. I ate just a mouthful of the soggy fish, which was tasteless, reheated but still cold in the center. I concurred with Elif’s appraisal. I was about to throw it in the bin when someone sat down opposite me.
To my surprise, it was Christian.
“All right?” he said with a nod.
Christian didn’t reply. He hacked with determination through the rock-solid rice and curry. “I heard about your plan to get Alicia painting,” he said between mouthfuls.
“I see news travels fast.”
“It does in this place. Your idea?”
I hesitated. “It was, yes. I think it’ll be good for her.”
Christian gave me a doubtful look. “Be careful, mate.”
“Thanks for the warning. But it’s rather unnecessary.”
“I’m just saying. Borderlines are seductive. That’s what’s going on here. I don’t think you fully get that.”