WEALTH

by

SANDEFUR

Disclaimer: this is fan fiction just for fun. I have no claims.

Occurs during 'Wealth of Nations', the worst episode of Joan of Arcadia ever.

X-X-X-X-X

10/25/04, Monday

Judith Montgomery steps out of the girl's locker room hating the dumb gym clothes she has to wear – a floppy yellow tee shirt and baggy blue shorts. Still, even like this, she enjoys hanging out near the boy's locker room before the start of gym class. The guys will be returning from the track soon, all sweaty and hot, and hopefully one of the cuter ones will notice her. Judith acknowledges to herself that this is a little pathetic, but 'pathetic' is a good description of her time so far at Arcadia High. Judith heads for the usual bench where she sits while waiting for the guys, but hesitates when she sees it is already occupied.

"Oh, hello Judith. Would you like to join me? There's plenty of room." the tall blonde girl says as she scoots over.

"Uh, thanks…Glynis." Judith replies, coming up with the right name at the last moment. Oh right, they share AP Chem together. No wonder she had trouble remembering considering how few times she has made it to that class.

"Are you here for the same reason I am?" Glynis asks.

"Reason?" Judith repeats while noting that Glynis is looking a lot hotter than usual. Her skirt is shorter, her make-up is perfect and she must be wearing contacts instead of her usual glasses.

"To flirt with the boys, of course."

" Yeah, I guess I am. I haven't really made a lot of social connections this semester, guy-wise."

"And I have had the same problem. I'm not really looking to…uh, connect, but my ego could certainly use a boost. A few smiles or nods or even a whistle can go a long way toward making a girl feel good about herself – especially after a long dry spell."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. But, I seem to recall from my party – not that I remember a lot about that night – you were really into some older guy."

Glynis blushes. "Sean. I met him at college when I was doing extra credit work over the summer. Sean…was a mistake."

Judith notes the pain in Glynis' voice and empathizes. If there is one thing she knows about, it is being hurt by guys. "He either treated you bad, lied his ass off to get you into bed, or ended it in a mean way."

"Two out of three. He told me he loved me, and then after getting what he wanted, he dumped me. How did you know?"

"Been there, done that. I have a real talent for picking the most rotten losers in the world and then…getting abused by them."

"Oh, a pattern you find difficult to break. Yes, I'm familiar with that."

"You? I find that hard to believe."

Glynis looks away, embarassed. "Last year, I had my first boyfriend/girlfriend experience with Luke Girardi…"

"Wait, I know Luke. He's not the kind of guy to treat a girl that way."

"Oh, he's not. The fault was mine. It was the first time for both of us…"

"When you say first time?"

"No, not that kind of first time. We never went further than second base. I meant the first time thinking you are in love."

"Yeah, I vaguely remember that. It's like there's a whole minefield of potential mistakes that can blow the relationship. Let me guess, you got too clingy?"

Glynis looks at Judith in surprise. "How did you know? Do I…give off a vibe?"

"Naw, it's just the most common rookie mistake. Nearly every girl does that, but as long as you learn from your mistake…"

Glynis groans in misery.

"You didn't learn from the mistake?"

"It established my pattern. Every time a guy says: 'I love you', I go into ultra clingy mode. I wrap myself around him like a boa constrictor, trying to hold onto him tightly."

"Which of course makes him run like hell. Do you know why you do this? I'm reluctant to suggest this since my parents are shrinks, but sometimes talking it out in therapy can help."

"After Sean dumped me, and he was my third 'mistake' of the summer, I spent a lot of time analyzing my behavior. It goes back to when my father abandoned me when I was ten. I apparently have a need for unconditional love from a guy while at the same time having a pathological fear that I will be abandoned. Odd, isn't it? My behavior guarantees that very result. But what about you, Judith? Did your time at Gentle Acres help you discover why you go for bad boys who abuse you?"

"You know about me and Gentle Acres?"

"It is hard to keep secrets in high school. You were 'at camp' with Joan this summer, and it is well known that she went to Gentle Acres to deal with some unknown, feverish delusions she was having due to her bout with Lyme disease. You see, no secrets. I even know you claim to have shot a moose in the cafeteria today." Glynis says with a smile.

"You heard about that already? I was just joking, trying to see if Jo-Jo and Adam were even aware I was there while they were talking to each other."

Glynis smiles again. "Those two. Yes, all of the subdefectives have experienced that feeling of non-existence when Adam and his 'Jane' are so deeply into each other. In many ways…it is enviable."

(The two girls share a small sigh of agreement.)

"But back to my question…"

"Okay, yeah, I talked over my own behavior pattern with 'Dr. Dan' and we didn't have trouble identifying what was going on. It goes back to why I've been acting out for years with smoking, drinking, drugs, and…violent, creepy guys. It's always about getting attention from my parents who have been so busy with their careers, I…sort of got lost in the shuffle. The only time they seem to make an effort is when they are dealing with my bad behavior."

"Knowing the cause…doesn't always solve the problem."

"You get that? Yeah, of course you do. So now I know why I've always been attracted to the bad boys, and why I've got to change, especially after...after what that last jerk did to me."

Judith, to her surprise, begins to cry and Glynis automatically gives a supportive hug. For a moment Judith accepts the comfort, but her need to appear strong reasserts itself. She steps away from the hug and wipes away her tears.

"Hey, Joan knows about this but…"

Glynis nods. "A mutual secrets pact. You know, I don't feel like flirting with the guys anymore."

"Me either. Truth be told, if any boy did flirt with me, I'd probably run the other way. I've gotten a little gun shy around guys…is that a pun?"

"Judith, if you would like to talk some more, this is a free period for me."

"And I certainly don't mind blowing off gym. We could go for coffee, after I change out of these lame gym clothes."

"I'd like that." Glynis says as she follows Judith into the locker room. "You know, the crush Friedman has on you is quite genuine. The change from his usual horndog behavior is rather remarkable…"

X-X-X-X-X

10/26/04, late Tuesday afternoon.

Steven Chadwick unlocks his car, checks his watch and sighs. It seems his workday ends later every week. After school hours there are always conferences with students, parents, teachers and counselors. Then there are the endless phone calls that range from the tragic to the ridiculous. For instance a concerned mother, vegetarian, actually called over a rumor that the cafeteria is now serving moose meat?

"Goodnight Prinicpal Chadwick, and thank you!"

Chadwick looks up and waves back to Joan Girardi as she runs to catch the bus. Odd girl, and the reason he is running so late. Just as he was leaving for the day, an excited Joan arrived at his door after having made a rushed journey from the basement of St. Agnes' Church. To his surprise Joan was not there with a problem but with a clever idea. St. Agnes is having their annual clothing drive for the homeless, and Joan's idea was to place collection bins throughout the school.

He had to hesitate - any connection between a public school and a church is always tricky, but it is a very worthy cause. In the end he agreed because Joan was showing so much enthusiam for the project, and that was an encouraging sign (despite the occasional odd reference to Adam Smith). Frankly he, Gavin, school counselor Bill Dingle and several of Joan's teachers have been expressing concern about the girl in their monthly student reviews.

Even before the semester started, Joan was on a special watch list due to the incident that occured at the end of the last school year. Already considered an at-risk student, Joan shocked everyone when she began hallucinating during a three-legged egg & spoon race, tied together with Gavin Price. Poor Gavin, not only did he have to endure his race partner shouting at people who weren't there, but to the amusement of many, Joan pointed at him asking: "Is he the devil? I always knew he was bad..."

Joan's collapse and subsequent ambulance ride to the hospital cast a pall over what was normally the happiest day of the school year. Of course the school corporation's lawyer immediately swooped in and began taking statements from everyone. It quickly became clear the school was liable as it came out that Joan was sick that day - feverish and vomitting. For her to have been allowed to participate in games, especially a race on a hot day, was a clear act of negligence. Fortunately the Girardi family seems not the sort to sue at the drop of a hat. Ironic, since Dingle reports that Joan has added stress at home due to her family being sued.

Chadwick gets in his car, but instead of leaving, he pulls Joan's file from his brieface. It is a thick file for someone who has been attending this school for less than two years, and the red stripe on the side indicates Joan's continued status as an at-risk child. With monthly student reviews coming up, Chadwick has been looking over all of the red stripe files, and he has been troubled about what to say concerning Joan. He knows his higher-ups are monitoring the situation, still so fearful of a lawsuit they have already cancelled the traditional last school day celebrations.

Poor Joan, he was surprised when he learned she spent most of the summer at Gentle Acres, the well respected camp for troubled teens. Chadwick wonders why the Girardis decided to send Joan there since her delusions (which apparently had been going on much longer than anyone suspected) were due to her bout with Lyme disease rather than an actual mental breakdown. Due to her time at the camp (details unknown because of doctor/patient confidentiality), Joan is now required to have twice weekly counseling sessions with Bill Dingle this semester.

Fortunately Joan is doing better after a somewhat rocky start to the school year. It was heart wrenching watching Joan trying to force an image of normalcy while behind the facade you could plainly see her trembling over her precarious mental health state. Still, since Joan is improving, everyone has begun to relax. This clothing drive is such a good sign, he will add a positive notation to Joan's file and give her public service credit points. He has agreed to Joan's request with some restrictions: three bins only, to be emptied, sorted and out of the school by the end of each day. He isn't going to have used clothing piling up in the hallways.

Joan readily agreed to these terms, saying she is sure her friend Judith will be willing to help. At the mention of Judith Montgomery, Chadwick almost changed his mind. Pulling out Judith's much thicker file, he shakes his head at what seems like a lost cause. It is a disturbing history of vandalism, petty theft (including stealing the family car at age 11), smoking, public intoxication, drugs and discipinary problems (last year at her old school, she walked around naked). Now at 16 Judith Montgomery has been kicked out of five schools in four years, despite a long history of counseling, discipline camps and a stint at Gentle Acres. It is Joan's close friendship with this new girl that has most worried him and the staff at Arcadia High. However...despite nearly dying of alcohol poisoning her first week at school, there has been a slight but steady improvement in Judith's behavior. Her active, enthusiastic participation in the recent school election was considered a miraculous turnabout. She is attending classes more regularly, and Dingle reports a significant improvement in Judith's attitude. Maybe Joan's association with Judith isn't such a bad thing after all...

X-X-X-X-X

10/28/04, late Thursday afternoon.

Friedman looks in the refrigerator, muttering against his two kid brothers who have cleaned out all of the goodies, leaving only 'healthy' food. "There's nothing to eat."

Mrs. Friedman replies, "Pour a glass of milk. I saved you some of my homemade snickerdoodles."

Friedman looks at the Tupperware container his Mom is holding and smiles. "Thanks! How did the ravenous horde miss these?"

"I hid them, and that's no way to talk about your brothers."

"That's the nicest thing I've called them all week."

"Theodrore!" Mrs. Friedman scolds, but with a smile. "I see you're without your old laptop. Did you sell it at school?"

"Uh...yeah. I'll finish these cookies upstairs. Gotta study."

"Hold it. That was a fast segue. What don't you want me to know about your computer?"

"Nothing... Almost nothing. I sold it for a little less than my asking price."

"Really? I thought you were rock solid on 425 because you were sure you could get at least 400 on e-bay. How much did you get?"

"Two-fifty."

"What? Including all of that fancy software we bought you? Theodore, why would you let it go for so little? Wait, did you sell it to that Montgomery girl?"

"No..." Friedman simply states while turning red.

"Is that why you are blushing so much?"

Friedman recalls how Judith 'persuaded' him to accept Joan's offer of 250 dollars. It was a ridiculously low price and normally he would never have considered it, but when Judith began flirting with him...it was as if he couldn't think right. ('Low blood flow to the brain.')

"Okay Mom, Judith did talk me into selling to Joan for a low price, or rather...she flirted me into it. Sorry."

Mrs. Friedman smiles. "Oh son, don't be sorry. I still remember what it's like to have your first serious crush, and I know you are taking this very serious. I just hope this grand romantic gesture of memorizing Hamlet works for you, and I look forward to meeting your Judith."

"She's not 'my' Judith, at least not yet."

"Theodore...a word of caution. Please try to keep your wits about you. Some girls will take outrageous advantage of a boy when they know he's smitten, and with the reputation of this Montgomery girl..."

"Mom!"

"I'm not judging, I swear I'm not. Because if you like her this much, then there must be something special about her. All I'm saying is be careful. Try not to be too hurt if things don't work out."

Friedman nods, gathers his milk and cookies and heads upstairs. As his mother watches him go, she feels a pang in her heart. Her little boy is growing up, and this first crush is a big but risky first step. She prays that the many rumors she has heard about Judith aren't all true...

X-X-X-X-X

10/29/04, Friday evening.

Adam Rove stares at the girl he loves, astonished. "You stole from the homeless?"

"Yes, I am a horrible person."

"Yeah..."

"Well you weren't suppose to say that."

"Jane, you stole from the homeless."

"OKAY, I think we've established that." (Gulps back tears.) "I don't know how things got so nuts. You know, I was...I wanted to help you. You've got school, and you've got work and help take care of your dad...and, we miss each other."

Adam rises from his drawing board and comes closer. "Jane, Jane look..."

"Just don't say anything perfect. I couldn't take it right now."

"We already have so much. Sometimes more than we need."

"Just don't. Don't." Joan says as tears begin to fall. She hurries over to the laptop, grabs it and makes a hasty exit.

Adam looks at the closed door and briefly wonders if he should chase after Joan. No, clearly she is determined to beat herself up over this and nothing he can say will change her mind. Joan is at heart such a good person, she needs to feel guilty and ashamed over her behavior. How could this have happened? The girl he knows so well and loves so much would never do such a horrible thing - at least not on her own. Yes, that's the obvious explanation. Even though he has been trying to get along with 'her' for Joan's sake, only one person could have led his girlfriend down such a dark path.

"Judith!"

X-X-X-X-X

10/30/04, Saturday morning.

Father Ken sits behind his office desk sure he has made the right decision but still disturbed by this turn of events. He looks at the remains of his just ended meeting - a small stack of cash, a laptop computer, a rose-colored leather coat and a pile of soggy tissues left by a repentant Joan Girardi. Through copious tears, Joan explained each step of her 'crime spree', ending with her taking half of all of the money raised through selling the high quality items donated to the clothing drive so she could buy her boyfriend this computer. (There were also some odd references to Adam Smith that he had trouble following.)

Although Joan took full blame, Father Ken suspects she was not alone in this. Through counseling sessions with Helen, he is aware of a new influence in Joan's life - some dubious choice for a friend named Judith (who has made no attempt to make amends for her part in all of this). He knows Helen hasn't interfered in this new friendship, formed in mutual misery at Gentle Acres, because she and Will are dealing with a lot of guilt. Their decision to send Joan to a camp for troubled teens was made hastily after a counsultation with a hospital psychiatric counselor, and they have deep regrets over sending their vulnerable daughter to a place designed for those with much more serious problems.

Of course as the organizer and sponsor of the clothing drive, it is up to Father Ken to decide Joan's fate. He rejected calling in the police even though it is well within his rights to have Joan arrested. He believes in Joan's heartfelt repentance and is sure she will never repeat such a terrible mistake. Now it is up to him to deal with the fallout of this strange turn of events.

First, he has already spoken to Evan Sanders, the upset husband of the late Ellen Sanders, the original owner of this stylish but highly impractical leather coat. Evan is a decent man and it wasn't hard to get him to see that this coat, beautiful as it is, can only be considered a foolish choice for a homeless woman. The coat isn't all that warm, is expensive to maintain and most likely would be stolen (or sadly, sold for liquor). Helen gave the coat back saying she wouldn't feel right keeping it, and this time Father Ken has permission to sell the garment.

This is the odd twist in Joan's shenanigans. This has been the most successful clothing drive in the church's history, with nearly triple the number of items donated as last year. It has opened Father Ken's eyes to how burdened with routine they have become. Next year, instead of just relying on the generosity of this flock, they will follow Joan's lead (minus the theft) in their annual clothing drive. They will be moving beyond the walls of the church to set up collection bins in schools and local businesses. Donors will be alerted that items of high quality may be sold in order to buy even more garments of much more practical use for the homeless.

Father Ken looks at the laptop and the small stack of cash. He will be able to sell the laptop for at least 400 dollars, and with all of this cash he will be able to buy those small items that people so often forget to donate: knit caps, scarves, mittens, warm socks and of course, underwear. (Why does everyone forget about underwear?) Isn't it odd, so many more people being helped this year and in the future by one girl briefly straying from the right path...

"God works in mysterious ways."

X-X-X-X-X

Saturday night.

Judith looks to her right and sees her father reviewing his notes on a lecture he will be giving at a psychiatric conference in the near future. To her left Judith sees her mother adding to the outline she is working on - the basis of an article she will be writing for a respected psychiatric journal. The three of them are at dinner, prepared by the housekeeper before she left for the day, because her parents have read the statistics on how families that dine together have kids with fewer problems. Great idea in theory, but the execution is flawed.

Having eaten at Joan's house several times now, Judith understands the difference. The Girardis talk to each other, are genuinely interested in each other's lives, and in between serious topics or casual ones, there is a light and loving banter that shouts: family. In the Montgomery household they talk at each other, or like now, they ignore each other as each person is too wrapped up in their own life to inquire about the others'. It is a disturbing difference that has Judith wondering why her family falls so short in comparison to Joan's.

Like, this business with the clothing drive. Joan's parents are allowing guilt to be their daughter's punishment, which seems weird - especially since it is working. Jo-Jo is so torn up about what she has done, no punishment could equal the soul-wrenching angst she is going through. And super odd, Mrs. Girardi has not called her parents to rat her out...as if that guilt thing will work on her too. Okay, maybe she is feeling a little guilty, after all Joan did take the full blame for what they did...

Judith wonders, is that an act of pure friendship, or is Joan subconsciously following her mother's example? Okay yeah, it was she who first noticed that there were some really valuable items being donated to the clothing drive, and it was she who first suggested selling those clothes at a vintage shop. Of course Joan wouldn't know which shop to go to, but she did. It's not like she hasn't made a few shifty deals with Rudy before. Then too, the belly rings were her idea, as was buying Friedman's computer for Adam.

Judith smiles as she recalls the way she twisted Friedman around her little finger. It felt good being able to do that to a guy and not be scared witless by how he might react. Maybe she should consider giving Friedman a chance. Dr. Dan is always saying she needs to dip her toe back into the dating pool again, being certain to avoid her usual type of guy, and Friedman is definitely different. Certainly Glynis gave Friedman a ringing endorsement, only cautioning her to be careful of him on the dance floor as he tends to get a little wild there. Judith smiles at the idea of Friedman being 'wild'. He's safe...isn't he?

Once again Judith feels that panic she sometimes experience when she contemplates allowing any guy to come near her again. No! She has to stop reacting this way...only, she no longer trusts her own judgement. After so many guys and so much pain, she is ridiculously 'gun shy'. Of course Dr. Dan, master of the obvious, pointed out that each time she was progressively hurt, her confidence and self-esteem were lowered. What began as a way to bug her parents turned into her feeling worthless - as if she deserved the abuse she was getting. "Only by breaking the pattern will you get any better." Well duh, Dr. Dan. My parents actually pay you for being pathetically lame at your job?

Judith looks again at her parents who are still absorbed in their work. An hour from now they won't be able to tell you what they ate, or if their only child was at the table or not. Judith feels her old resentment rising. She knows that down deep her parents love her, in their way, but why is it so hard for them to show it? Maybe because she has become so practiced at pushing them away to punish them, they no longer see a reason to try. Yeah, okay Dr. Dan, another pattern I need to break. But hey, I have been breaking patterns...thanks to Joan. By her own standards, she has made a big improvement these last few weeks because it bonds her closer to Joan. But...there has also been a growing resentment. Why does everything have to be on Joan's terms, even if they usually are the 'right' things to do? Is this why she deliberately led Joan down the wrong path? To prove that her life has valid alternatives to offer? That it doesn't just have to be Joan's way all of the time?

Okay...they got caught, but that was just a fluke. What were the odds Mrs. Girardi would buy that damn leather coat? If that hadn't happened, they would have helped a lot more homeless people and still gotten the things they wanted. No harm, no foul - right? So why are you feeling so guilty? You got away with it. Bill and Fran know nothing, which is just as well. If they ever found out...back into family therapy, forced to talk to each other. Instead, she can go to Friedman's Halloween party tomorrow night (pre-warned, parental supervision so no booze). Judith smiles at the thought of wearing a hula dancer costume, complete with grass skirt and coconut bra. Friedman would flip if he saw her like that, especially with her new belly ring. Yeah, she's going to go, and will have fun and won't have to think about...

"I stole from the homeless."

THE END

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