Authors: Alex Michaelides
Tags: #Thrillers, #Psychological, #Fiction, #Suspense
Dr. West didn’t wait for an answer. He kept talking, reminding me what happened after my father died, about the breakdown I suffered, the paranoid accusations that I made—the belief I was being watched, being followed, and spied upon. “So, you see, we’ve been here before, haven’t we?”
“But that was different. It was just a feeling. I never actually saw someone. This time I saw someone.”
“And who did you see?”
“I already told you. A man.”
“Describe him to me.”
I hesitated. “I can’t.”
“I couldn’t see him clearly. I told you—he was too far away.”
“And—he was in disguise. He was wearing a cap. And sunglasses.”
“A lot of people are wearing sunglasses in this weather. And hats. Are they all in disguise?”
I was starting to lose my temper. “I know what you’re trying to do.”
“And what is that?”
“You’re trying to get me to admit I’m going crazy again—like after Dad died.”
“Is that what you think is happening?”
“No. That time I was sick. This time I’m not sick. Nothing’s the matter with me—apart from the fact that someone is spying on me and you won’t believe me!”
Dr. West nodded, but didn’t say anything. He wrote a couple of things down in his notebook.
“I’m going to put you back on medication. As a precaution. We don’t want to let this get out hand, do we?”
I shook my head. “I’m not taking any pills.”
“I see. Well, if you refuse the medication, it’s important to be aware of the consequences.”
“What consequences? Are you threatening me?”
“It’s nothing to do with me. I’m talking about your husband. How do you think Gabriel feels about what he went through, last time you were unwell?”
I pictured Gabriel downstairs, waiting in the living room with the barking dog. “I don’t know. Why don’t you ask him?”
“Do you want him to have to go through it all again? Do you perhaps think there’s a limit to how much he can take?”
“What are you saying? I’ll lose Gabriel? That’s what you think?”
Even saying it made me feel sick. The thought of losing him, I couldn’t bear it. I’d do anything to keep him—even pretend I’m crazy when I know I’m not. So I gave in. I agreed to be “honest’ with Dr. West about what I was thinking and feeling and tell him if I heard any voices. I promised to take the pills he gave me, and to come back in two weeks, for a checkup.
Dr. West looked pleased. He said we could go downstairs now and rejoin Gabriel. As he went downstairs in front of me, I thought about reaching forward and shoving him down the stairs. I wish I had.
Gabriel seemed much happier on the way home. He kept glancing at me as he was driving and smiling. “Well done. I’m proud of you. We’re going to get through this, you’ll see.”
I nodded but didn’t say anything. Because of course it’s bullshit—“we” aren’t going to get through this.
I’m going to have to deal with it alone.
It was a mistake telling anyone. Tomorrow I’m going to tell Barbie to forget all about it—I’ll say I’ve put it behind me and I don’t want to talk about it again. She’ll think I’m odd and she’ll be annoyed because I’ll be denying her the drama, but if I act normally, she’ll soon forget all about it. As for Gabriel, I’m going to put his mind at rest. I’m going to act like everything is back to normal. I’ll give a brilliant performance. I won’t let my guard slip for a second.
We went to the pharmacy on the way back, and Gabriel got my prescription. Once we were home again, we went into the kitchen.
He gave me the yellow pills with a glass of water. “Take them.”
“I’m not a child. You don’t need to hand them to me.”
“I know you’re not a child. I just want to make sure you’ll take them—and not throw them away.”
“I’ll take them.”
“Go on, then.”
Gabriel watched me put the pills in my mouth and sip some water.
“Good girl,” he said, and kissed my cheek. He left the room.
The moment Gabriel’s back was turned, I spat out the pills. I spat them into the sink and washed them down the drain. I’m not taking any medication. The drugs Dr. West gave me last time nearly drove me crazy. And I’m not going to risk that again.
I need my wits about me now.
I need to be prepared.
I’ve started hiding this diary. There’s a loose floorboard in the spare bedroom. I’m keeping it there, out of sight in the space underneath the floorboards. Why? Well, I’m being too honest here in these pages. It’s not safe to leave it lying around. I keep imagining Gabriel stumbling across the notebook and fighting his curiosity but then opening it and starting to read. If he found out I’m not taking the medication, he’d feel so betrayed, so hurt—I couldn’t bear that.
Thank God I have this diary to write in. It’s keeping me sane. There’s no one else I can talk to.
No one I can trust.
I’ve not been outside for three days. I’ve been pretending to Gabriel that I’m going for walks in the afternoons when he’s out, but it’s not true.
It makes me fearful, the thought of going outside. I’ll be too exposed. At least here, in the house, I know I’m safe. I can sit by the window and monitor the passersby. I’m scanning each face that passes for that man’s face—but I don’t know what he looks like, that’s the problem. He could have removed his disguise and be moving about in front of me, completely unnoticed.
That’s an alarming thought.
Still no sign of him. But I mustn’t lose focus. It’s just a matter of time. Sooner or later he’ll be back. I need to be ready. I need to take steps.
I woke up this morning and remembered Gabriel’s gun. I’m going to move it from the spare room. I’ll keep it downstairs where I can get to it easily. I’ll put it in the kitchen cupboard, by the window. That way it will be there if I need it.
I know all this sounds crazy. I hope nothing comes of it. I hope I never see the man again.
But I have a horrible feeling I will.
Where is he? Why hasn’t he been here? Is he trying to get me to lower my guard? I mustn’t do that. I must continue my vigil by the window.
I’m starting to think I imagined the whole thing. Maybe I did.
Gabriel keeps asking me how I’m doing—if I’m okay. I can tell he’s worried, despite me insisting I’m fine. My acting doesn’t seem to be convincing him anymore. I need to try harder. I pretend to be focused on work all day, whereas in fact work couldn’t be further from my mind. I’ve lost any connection with it, any impetus to finish the paintings. As I write this, I can’t honestly say I think I’ll paint again. Not until all this is behind me, anyway.
I’ve been making excuses about why I don’t want to go out, but Gabriel told me tonight I had no choice. Max has asked us out to dinner.
I can’t think of anything worse than seeing Max. I pleaded with Gabriel to cancel, saying I needed to work, but he told me it would do me good to go. He insisted and I could tell he meant it, so I had no choice. I gave in and said yes.
I’ve been worrying all day, about tonight. Because as soon as my mind started turning on it, everything seemed to fall into place. Everything made sense. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, it’s so obvious.
I understand now. The man—the man who’s watching—it isn’t Jean-Felix. Jean-Felix isn’t dark or devious enough to do this kind of thing. Who else would want to torment me, scare me, punish me?
Of course it’s Max. It has to be Max. He’s trying to drive me crazy.
I’m dreading it, but I must work up the courage somehow. I’m going to do it tonight.
I’m going to confront him.
It felt strange and a little frightening to go out last night, after so long inside the house.
The outside world felt huge—an empty space around me, the big sky above. I felt very small and held on to Gabriel’s arm for support.
Even though we went to our old favorite, Augusto’s, I didn’t feel safe. It didn’t feel comforting or familiar like it used to. The restaurant seemed different somehow. And it smelled different—it smelled of something burning. I asked Gabriel if something was on fire in the kitchen, but he said he couldn’t smell anything, that I was imagining it.
“Everything’s fine,” he said. “Just calm down.”
“I am calm. Don’t I seem calm?”
Gabriel didn’t respond. He just clenched his jaw, the way he does when he’s annoyed. We sat down and waited for Max in silence.
Max brought his receptionist to dinner. Tanya, she’s called. Apparently they’ve started dating. Max was acting like he was smitten with her, his hands all over her, touching her, kissing her—and all the time he kept staring at me. Did he think he was going to make me jealous? He’s horrible. He makes me sick.
Tanya noticed something was up—she caught Max staring at me a couple of times. I should warn her about him really. Tell her what she’s getting into. Maybe I will, but not right now. I’ve got other priorities at the moment.
Max said he was going to the bathroom. I waited a moment and I then seized my chance. I said I needed the bathroom too. I left the table and followed him.
I caught up with Max around the corner and grabbed hold of his arm. I gripped it hard.
“Stop it,” I said. “Stop it!”
Max looked bemused. “Stop what?”
“You’re spying on me, Max. You’re watching me. I know you are.”
“What? I have no idea what you are talking about, Alicia.”
“Don’t lie to me.” I was finding it hard to control my voice. I wanted to scream. “I’ve seen you, okay? I took a photo. I took a picture of you!”
Max laughed. “What are you talking about? Let go of me, you crazy bitch.”
I slapped his face. Hard.
And then I turned and saw Tanya standing there. She looked like she was the one who’d been slapped.
Tanya looked from Max to me but didn’t say anything. She walked out of the restaurant.
Max glared at me, and before he followed her, he hissed, “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m not fucking watching you. Now, get out of my way.”
The way he said it, with such anger, such contempt, I could tell Max was speaking the truth. I believed him. I didn’t want to believe him—but I did.
But if it’s not Max
… who is it?
I just heard something. A noise outside. I checked the window. And I saw someone, moving in the shadows—
It’s the man. He’s outside.
I phoned Gabriel but he didn’t pick up. Should I call the police? I don’t know what to do. My hand is shaking so much I can barely—
I can hear him—downstairs—he’s trying the windows, and the doors. He’s trying to get in.
I need to get out of here. I need to escape.
Oh my God—I can hear him—
He’s inside the house.
The aim of therapy is not to correct the past, but to enable the patient to confront his own history, and to grieve over it.
I CLOSED ALICIA’S DIARY
and placed it on my desk.
I sat there, not moving, listening to the rain pelting outside the window. I tried to make sense of what I had just read. There was obviously a great deal more to Alicia Berenson than I had supposed. She had been like a closed book to me; now that book was open and its contents had taken me altogether by surprise.
I had a lot of questions. Alicia suspected she was being watched. Did she ever discover the man’s identity? Did she tell anyone? I needed to find out. As far as I knew, she only confided in three people—Gabriel, Barbie, and this mysterious Dr. West. Did she stop there, or did she tell anyone else? Another question. Why did the diary end so abruptly? Was there more, written elsewhere? Another notebook, which she didn’t give to me? And I wondered about Alicia’s purpose in giving me the journal to read. She was communicating something, certainly—and it was a communication of almost shocking intimacy. Was it a gesture of good faith—showing how much she trusted me? Or something more sinister?
There was something else; something I needed to check. Dr. West—the doctor who had treated Alicia. An important character witness, with vital information on her state of mind at the time of the murder. Yet Dr. West hadn’t testified at Alicia’s trial. Why not? No mention was made of him at all. Until I saw his name in her diary, it was as if he didn’t exist. How much did he know? Why had he not come forward?
It couldn’t be the same man. It had to be a coincidence, surely. I needed to find out.
I put the diary in my desk drawer, locking it. Then, almost immediately, I changed my mind. I unlocked the drawer and took out the diary. Better keep it on me—safer not to let it out of my sight. I slipped it into the pocket of my coat and slung it over my arm.