Next Question

Ava: I know what this is. I know what I’m ‘supposed’ to say, doctor-

Dr Stewart raises his hand.

Stewart: Ms Ward, please.

He gets up and moves round the desk to perch in front of her. He takes off his glasses and rubs his eyes.

Stewart: Do you know how many of these exchanges I have to sit through in a day?

Ava stares at him, confused.

Stewart: How many I must have experienced in a lifetime? Do you know how many people have sat exactly where you’re sitting and thought that they were going to outsmart me too?

He gestures with his glasses.

Stewart: I do this for a living. There is nothing that you can say or do that will hide what lies beneath from me. At this point, all these attempts at flair and intrigue bore me. I’d rather get this done, finish my bento box and watch question time. I understand that exposing yourself is not exactly a welcomed opportunity, but whether you answer my question or not, you’re still telling me what I need to know. Everything you are seeps through into everything you do. Being defensive in these meetings, or coy, or pedantic, or flippant, all of it gives me clues as to who you are and what you would do if we were to let you leave. This is not a test you can cheat. I am good at my job. I am really good at my job. And this, what you’re doing now, thinking you’re about to play a game with me, is a long and tedious journey to an already predestined end point. Think about it this way-

He puts his hands together and points them at Ava.

Stewart: I’m always going to get to where I need to go. But I’d appreciate it if I could get there and still be home in time for dinner. Do you understand?

Ava: Yes.

Stewart: Good.

He smiles and takes his seat.

Stewart: So let’s start again. What does your father think about your condition?

Eva’s eyes flick across the room and then back to Doctor Stewart, without a word.

Stewart: Ms. Ward-

Ava: Could you repeat the question?

Stewart: Your father. What does he think-

Ava: He doesn’t know. We don’t really speak anymore. He’s in prison.

Stewart: Interesting.

Ava: Is it?

Stewart: Why is he in prison?

Ava: For being a criminal.

She shrugs.

Ava: I’m sorry. But you have to admit you walked into that one. If you want to ask me a personal question, go right ahead. If you’re just going to ask me things that you could find out on the internet, then I might not be so forthcoming.

She leans back in her chair.

Ava: To quote you, it bores me.

Stewart: So he doesn’t know you’re here.

Ava: I don’t know. Maybe he reads the paper.

She laughs.

Ava: He probably doesn’t read the paper.

Stewart: Do you miss him?

Ava: No. Does that make me a bad person?

Stewart: No. Do you think it’s bad that you don’t miss your father?

Ava: I don’t know. Shouldn’t people miss their parents? I miss my mother. But I don’t miss my dad. Maybe because he’s alive. I don’t know. Maybe because he’s a failure.

She nods.

Ava: That’s probably it. Because I still  don’t understand it. I can’t. How hard is it to wipe your fucking computer? I mean…I’d have more respect for him if he was a successful criminal. Is that bad?

Stewart: Depends. Do you mean if he was successful or if he was a criminal?

Ava ponders over this for a while.

Ava: Successful. Right now, he makes me ashamed. Ashamed to be his daughter. He tried to be a criminal. First mistake. He failed. Second mistake. He somehow managed to lose money rather than make any, He tore our family apart and then, and then-

She realises she has gradually been getting more and more animated. She lowers her voice.

Ava: Then, he got found out. Mistakes 3-70.

She looks at her hands.

Ava: He dragged us all into it. Couldn’t he just…implode on his own?

She shrugs.

Ava: But then…I don’t hate him. Because he, you know, brought me into the world and yadda yadda yadda. Always made a cake on my birthday. I don’t have a problem with him as a father. But I do have a problem with him as a man. I suppose everyone goes through that at some point, when they realise that their parents are not these infallible titans that they’ve come to revere them as. They’re just sad little people like the rest of us, trying to cope with the terrible, terrible decisions they’ve made in life. So I don’t hate him. I just don’t want him around me. And that’s not too hard. Because like I said: He’s in prison.

She rubs her hands together.

Ava: Next question.


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