Chapter no 33

The Silent Patient

I FOUND DIOMEDES IN HIS OFFICE. He was sitting on a stool, in front of his harp. It had a large and ornate wooden frame, with a shower of golden strings.

“That’s a beautiful object,” I said.

Diomedes nodded. “And very difficult to play.” He demonstrated, sweeping his fingers lovingly along the strings. A cascading scale resounded through the room. “Would you like to try?”

I smiled—and shook my head.

He laughed. “I keep asking, you see, in the hope you will change your mind. I’m nothing if not persistent.”

“I’m not very musical. I was told so in no uncertain terms by my music teacher at school.”

“Like therapy, music is about a relationship, entirely dependent on the teacher you choose.”

“No doubt that’s true.”

He glanced out the window and nodded at the darkening sky. “Those clouds, they have snow in them.”

“It looks like rain clouds to me.”

“No, it’s snow. Trust me, I come from a long line of Greek shepherds. It will be snowing tonight.”

Diomedes gave the clouds a last hopeful look, then turned back to me. “What can I do for you, Theo?”

“It’s this.”

I slid the copy of the play across the desk. He peered at it. “What is it?”

“A tragedy by Euripides.”

“I can see that. Why are you showing it to me?”

“Well, it’s the Alcestis—the title Alicia gave her self-portrait, painted after Gabriel’s murder.”

“Oh, yes, yes, of course.” Diomedes looked at it with more interest. “Casting herself as a tragic heroine.”

“Possibly. I must admit, I’m rather stumped. I thought you might have a better handle on it than me.”

“Because I’m Greek?” He laughed. “You assume I will have an intimate knowledge of every Greek tragedy?”

“Well, better than me, at any rate.”

“I don’t see why. It’s like assuming every Englishman is familiar with the works of Shakespeare.” He gave me a pitying smile. “Fortunately for you, that is the difference between our countries. Every Greek knows his tragedies. The tragedies are our myths, our history—our blood.”

“Then you’ll be able to help me with this one.”

Diomedes picked it up and flicked through it. “And what is your difficulty?”

“My difficulty is the fact she doesn’t speak. Alcestis dies for her husband. And at the end, she comes back to life—but remains silent.”

“Ah. Like Alicia.” “Yes.”

“Again, I pose the question—what is your difficulty?”

“Well, obviously there’s a link—but I don’t understand it. Why doesn’t Alcestis speak at the end?”

“Well, why do you think?”

“I don’t know. She’s overcome with emotion, possibly?” “Possibly. What kind of emotion?”


“Joy?” He laughed. “Theo, think. How would you feel? The person you love most in the world has condemned you to die, through their own cowardice. That’s quite a betrayal.”

“You’re saying she was upset?” “Have you never been betrayed?”

The question cut through me like a knife. I felt my face go red. My lips moved but no sound came out.

Diomedes smiled. “I can see that you have. So … tell me. How does Alcestis feel?”

I knew the answer this time. “Angry. She’s … angry.”

“Yes.” Diomedes nodded. “More than angry. She’s murderous—with rage.” He chuckled. “One can’t help but wonder what their relationship will be like in the future, Alcestis and Admetus. Trust, once lost, is hard to recover.”

It took a few seconds before I trusted myself to speak. “And Alicia?” “What about her?”

“Alcestis was condemned to die by her husband’s cowardice. And Alicia—”

“No, Alicia didn’t die … not physically.” He left the word hanging. “Psychically, on the other hand…”

“You mean something happened—to kill her spirit … to kill her sense of being alive?”


I felt dissatisfied. I picked up the play and looked at it. On the cover was a classical statue—a beautiful woman immortalized in marble. I stared at it, thinking of what Jean-Felix had said to me. “If Alicia is dead … like Alcestis, then we need to bring her back to life.”


“It occurs to me that if Alicia’s art is her means of expression, how about we provide her with a voice?”

“And how do we do that?” “How about we let her paint?”

Diomedes gave me a surprised look, followed by a dismissive wave of his hand. “She already has art therapy.”

“I’m not talking about art therapy. I’m talking about Alicia working on her own terms—alone, with her own space to create. Let her express herself, free up her emotions. It might work wonders.”

Diomedes didn’t reply for a moment. He mulled it over. “You’ll have to square it with her art therapist. Have you come across her yet? Rowena

Hart? She’s no pushover.”

“I’ll talk to her. But I have your blessing?”

Diomedes shrugged. “If you can persuade Rowena, go ahead. I can tell you now—she won’t like the idea. She won’t like it one bit.”

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