Chapter no 35

The Silent Patient


Alicia didn’t look at me.

I went on, watching her carefully, “I happened to pass your old gallery the other day when I was in Soho. So I went inside. The manager was kind enough to show me some of your work. He’s an old friend of yours? Jean-Felix Martin?”

I waited for a response. None came.

“I hope you don’t think it was an invasion of your privacy. Perhaps I should have consulted you first. I hope you don’t mind.”

No response.

“I saw a couple of paintings I’d not seen before. The one of your mother … And the one of your aunt, Lydia Rose.”

Alicia slowly raised her head and looked at me. An expression was in her eyes I’d not seen before. I couldn’t quite place it. Was it … amusement? “Quite apart from the obvious interest for me—as your therapist, I mean

—I found the paintings affecting on a personal level. They’re extremely powerful pieces.”

Alicia eyes lowered. She was losing interest.

I persevered quickly. “A couple of things struck me. In the painting of your mother’s car accident, there’s something missing from the picture. You. You didn’t paint yourself in the car, even though you were there.”

No reaction.

“I wondered if that means you’re only able to think of it as her tragedy? Because she died? But in fact there was also a little girl in that car. A girl whose feelings of loss were I suspect neither validated nor fully experienced.”

Alicia’s head moved. She glanced at me. It was a challenging look. I was onto something. I kept going.

“I asked Jean-Felix about your self-portrait, Alcestis. About its meaning.

And he suggested I have a look at this.”

I pulled out the copy of the play, Alcestis. I slid it across the coffee table.

Alicia glanced at it.

“‘Why does she not speak?’ That’s what Admetus asks. And I’m asking you the same question, Alicia. What is it that you can’t say? Why do you have to keep silent?”

Alicia closed her eyes—making me disappear. Conversation over. I glanced at the clock on the wall behind her. The session was nearly finished. A couple of minutes remained.

I had been saving my trump card until now. And I played it, with a feeling of nervousness that I hoped wasn’t apparent.

“Jean-Felix made a suggestion. I thought it was rather a good one. He thought you should be allowed to paint. Would you like that? We could provide you with a private space, with canvases and brushes and paints.”

Alicia blinked. Her eyes opened. It was as if a light had been switched on inside them. They were the eyes of a child, wide and innocent, free of scorn or suspicion. Color seemed to come into her face. Suddenly she seemed wonderfully alive.

“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. Alicia smiled.

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