The silent patient by alex michaelides

“Then ask Yuri to arrange it, will you? Report back to me afterwards.” 

“Good.” I tried to conceal my excitement. “I will.”


THE THERAPY ROOM WAS A SMALL, narrow rectangle; as bare as a prison cell, or barer. The window was closed and barred. A bright pink box of tissues on the small table struck a discordantly cheerful note—presumably it was placed there by Indira: I couldn’t imagine Christian offering tissues to his patients. 

I sat on one of two battered, faded armchairs. The minutes passed. No sign of Alicia. Perhaps she wasn’t coming? Perhaps she had refused to meet me. She would be perfectly within her rights. 

Impatient, anxious, nervous, I abandoned sitting and jumped up and walked to the window. I peered out between the bars. 

The courtyard was three stories below me. The size of a tennis court, it was surrounded by tall redbrick walls, walls that were too high to climb, though doubtless some had tried. Patients were herded outside for thirty minutes of fresh air every afternoon, whether they wanted it or not, and in this freezing weather I didn’t blame them for resisting. Some stood alone, muttering to themselves, or they paced back and forth, like restless zombies, going nowhere. Others huddled in groups, talking, smoking, arguing. Voices and shouts and strange excitable laughter floated up to me. 

I couldn’t see Alicia at first. Then I located her. She was standing alone at the far end of the courtyard, by the wall. Perfectly still, like a statue. Yuri walked across the courtyard toward her. He spoke to the nurse standing a few feet away. The nurse nodded. Yuri went up Alicia cautiously, slowly, as you might approach an unpredictable animal. 

I had asked him not to go into too much detail, merely to tell Alicia the new psychotherapist at the unit would like to meet her. I requested he phrase it as a request, not a demand.

Alicia stood still as he spoke to her. But she neither nodded nor shook her head nor gave any indication of having heard him. After a brief pause, Yuri turned and walked off. 

Well, that’s it, I thought—she won’t come. Fuck it, I should have known. The whole thing has been a waste of time. 

Then, to my surprise, Alicia took a step forward. Faltering a little, she shuffled after Yuri across the courtyard—until they disappeared from view under my window. 

So she was coming. I tried to contain my nerves and prepare myself. I tried to silence the negative voice in my head —my father’s voice—telling me I wasn’t up to the job, I was useless, a fraud. Shut up, I thought, shut up, shut up— 

A couple of minutes later, there was a knock at the door. “Come in.” 

The door opened. Alicia was standing with Yuri in the corridor. I looked at her. But she didn’t look at me; her gaze remained downcast. 

Yuri gave me a proud smile. “She’s here.” 

“Yes. I can see that. Hello, Alicia.” 

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