The silent patient by alex michaelides

I WENT TO MEET KATHY at the National Theatre café on the South Bank, where the performers would often congregate after rehearsal. She was sitting at the back of the café with a couple of fellow actresses, deep in conversation. They looked up at me as I approached. 

“Are your ears burning, darling?” Kathy said as she kissed me. 

“Should they be?” 

“I’m telling the girls all about you.” 

“Ah. Should I leave?” 

“Don’t be silly. Sit down—it’s perfect timing. I’ve just got to how we met.” 

I sat down, and Kathy continued her story. It was a story she enjoyed telling. She occasionally glanced in my direction and smiled, as if to include me—but the gesture was perfunctory, for this was her tale, not mine. 

“I was sitting at a bar when he finally showed up. At last, when I’d given up hope of ever finding him—in he walked, the man of my dreams. Better late than never. I thought I was going to be married by the time I was twenty-five, you know? By thirty, I was going to have two kids, small dog, big mortgage. But here I was, thirty-three-ish, and things hadn’t quite gone to plan.” Kathy said this with an arch smile and winked at the girls. 

“Anyway I was seeing this Australian guy called Daniel. But he didn’t want to get married or have kids anytime soon, so I knew I was wasting my time. And we were out one night when suddenly it happened—Mr. Right walked in.” Kathy looked at me and smiled and rolled her eyes. “With his girlfriend.”

This part of the story needed careful handling to retain her audience’s sympathy. Kathy and I were both dating other people when we met. Double infidelity isn’t the most attractive or auspicious start to a relationship, particularly as we were introduced to each other by our then partners. They knew each other for some reason, I can’t remember the precise details—Marianne had once gone out with Daniel’s flatmate possibly, or the other way around. I don’t remember exactly how we were introduced, but I do remember the first moment I saw Kathy. It was like an electric shock. I remember her long black hair, piercing green eyes, her mouth—she was beautiful, exquisite. An angel. 

At this point in telling the tale, Kathy paused and smiled and reached for my hand. “Remember, Theo? How we got talking? You said you were training to be a shrink. And I said I was nuts—so it was a match made in heaven.” 

This got a big laugh from the girls. Kathy laughed too and glanced at me sincerely, anxiously, her eyes searching mine. “No, but … darling … seriously, it was love at first sight. Wasn’t it?” 

This was my cue. I nodded and kissed her cheek. “Of course it was. True love.” 

This received a look of approval from her friends. But I wasn’t performing. She was right, it was love at first sight— well, lust anyway. Even though I was with Marianne that night, I couldn’t keep my eyes off Kathy. I watched her from a distance, talking animatedly to Daniel—and then I saw her lips mouth, Fuck you. They were arguing. It looked heated. Daniel turned and walked out. 

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