Richie listened to the routine sounds outside - doors opening and closing, laughter, occasional shouts, footsteps passing along the corridor. At his side, Tam fidgeted. She was unusually quiet, and he turned to check how she was doing. She opened her mouth as if to say something, then closed it again.
"What?" he asked.
"Go on," he said. "You can ask me about her."
"I don't want to... OK. I do, but I don't even know what to ask."
"You want to know what she's paranoid about?"
Tam nodded again. "But I can't say for sure it isn't morbid curiosity."
Richie didn't think so, but he appreciated her candour. "Well, she thinks people are trying to take her stuff. Not just her belongings, her thoughts as well. She always has to be doing something because when her brain is idle, that's when they steal her thoughts. She'll probably tell you about the voices herself sometime. They never go away. She says it's like a radio, and she can turn the volume down but she can't turn it off. She knows they're not real, and she's learnt to cope with them when she's well, but she has no concept of her paranoia, like she forgets about it once it's back under control.
"And she buys jewellery. I mean, lots of jewellery. Then they take it off her when she comes in here, which fuels the paranoia, but it's not safe to leave it with her. She'll mention it tonight - she always does - but I don't think there's anything else you need to know in advance. If she kicks off, just...I dunno. Follow my lead?"
"OK." Tam glanced up at the clock. "They're taking their time, aren't they?"
"This is normal. She'll be setting traps in her room to catch trespassers. Should be here soon - " As he said it, the heavy door opened, and his mum shuffled in, eyes darting between her visitors.
"I know who you are," she pointed accusingly at Tam.
"Mum - "
"He said you'd be coming."
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