Categories > TV > Joan of Arcadia

beautiful and broken

by Northlight 4 reviews

They're better, together.

Category: Joan of Arcadia - Rating: PG - Genres: Angst - Characters: Joan Girardi, Judith Montgomery - Published: 2005-05-22 - Updated: 2005-05-22 - 1404 words - Complete


There were a lot of things that Judith didnt believe in. Hope was one of them. Life sucked, and pretending otherwise meant only that you'd be stunned and screwed when the world ground you face-first into the mud.

Hope was for the deluded, and the stupid, Judith had decided long ago. Yet, as Joan's lips turned into a delighted grin, her arms opening as she hurried forward, Judith found herself believing: believing that things could be good, that they could be better than they'd ever been. Joanith, together again, and anything seemed possible--anything at all.

Judith looped her arms through Joan's, and smiled.


Judith wasn't crazy, but she hadn't been normal--hadn't been right--in a long time. She took a perverse satisfaction in her deficiencies, and collected flaws the way other girls gathered hopes and dreams. She tucked stolen jewelry into the sleeves of her coat; left the living room windows closed when she smoked, and smirked through her mother's lectures when she returned home; and gave Tommy Elliot a rushed and awkward handjob after detention, in the empty boy's washroom.

Judith's parents despaired, and wondered in hushed voices where they'd gone wrong. Her friends grew up, and grew a little wiser as Judith embraced reckless disregard for everything, everyone. There was no one there to marvel at her daring when Judith got a tattoo, and hardly anyone left to care when Judith began tearing out her hair by the fistful. It was easier than she'd expected: hair winding and knotting around her fingers, followed by a quick, sharp tug. Easy, and Judith had gasped the first time, and cried, and screamed, and there hadn't been a reason for any of it, nothing that made sense.

Nothing at all.

Judith wasn't crazy, but sometimes she came so close that the distinction hardly mattered. Judith was who and what she was, and she couldnt remember how to be anyone else--didnt want to remember what the world had looked like before shed decided that hating it was easier than living in it.

She hadn't been surprised when her parents decided to send her to Camp Crazy. She had cursed them, and had beaten at her mirror with her hairbrush until the glass shattered. She had screamed, and left boot-prints smudged against her bedroom wall. She had packed without being told, her scalp aching, and her throat tight with terror at the very thought of herself.

Camp had been almost exactly what Judith had expected: counselors full of cloying concern, and smug sanity; girls like Judith, both better and worse, but all of them hating the world, and themselves.

And Joan.

Joan, who was nowhere near expected. Judith didn't like anyone, but she liked Joan, who had come to camp with sad eyes, and a resentful twist to her lips. There was nothing special about Joan, but being around her made Judith feel normal, crazy only in the way that all teenage girls are.

They were friends before Judith had realized what was happening.


Unspoken camp rules stated that they weren't supposed to ask questions, and weren't supposed to push for answers that weren't freely offered. Judith didn't give a damn about rules, and weren't friends supposed to be nosy? Joan was sitting behind Judith on her bunk, arranging what was left of Judith's hair around ragged patches of scalp. Everyone knew why Judith was there, or saw enough that they believed they did, but Joan was flaky, and self-absorbed, and so ordinary that Judith wondered that Dr. Dan had anything to say to her at all.

So she asked.

Joan's fingers stilled. Her voice was too calm, and even Judith recognized the sound of something trying very hard not to care. "I believed in God," she said.

Judith's parents didn't believe in God because they were reasonable people; people who believed in the here, and the now, and in things that could be figured out with enough time, enough analysis. Judith didn't believe in God, because any God that she might have wanted to believe in wouldn't have made Judith Judith.

Judith turned around, and scooted forward until her knees bumped against Joan's. Her fingers were twisted together, knuckles white with stress, and Joan wouldn't meet Judith's eyes. Judith said: "I always thought that God was a jerk."

Joan's shoulders twitched. "You wouldn't be wrong about that," she said.

"A real dick," Judith said.

Joan's entire body shuddered. She looked up, and when she did, she didn't look nice anymore. She looked angry, looked furious. "A bossy, self-righteous dick," she agreed, explosively. She ducked her head, blinking back tears. Then, softly: "I was sick. I don't believe anymore."

"It's all right," Judith said, "I never did." She grabbed Joan's hand, smiling fiercely. "Forget God," she said, "let's have a bit of fun. What'd you say? Wanna flash the counselors?"

Joan squeaked. "Judith!"

"C'mon, Jojo. Let's give Dr. Dan something to really think about."

Joan was laughing.

They didn't talk about God again.


Judith shouldn't have liked being called "Joanith." It was cutsey, and cloying, the kind of thing that she imagined little girls still on the playground might have appreciated. She shouldn't have liked Joanith, shouldn't have wanted to be part of Joanith--but she did. She liked it, she wanted it, and there were worse things than being considered an extension of Joan, than having Joan being seen as part of Judith.

Judith didn't have friends. Judith had people she partied with, drank with, did drugs with. They didn't care about Judith, and Judith didn't care about them. It was safe, and easy, and Judith hadn't realized how lonely she was until Joan. Joan didn't have many friends, but she had more than Judith, and Judith hated the idea of Grace and Adam.

"I think you'd like her," Joan said of Grace.

Judith didn't agree. She comforted herself by imagining buck-teeth and zits onto Grace, and by providing her with a nasal voice. Judith didn't like thinking about all the things that Joan and Grace had done, together. She didn't like to think about the secrets Grace knew, the things that Joan hadn't even thought to tell Judith.

She knew what some of their fellow inmates at Gentle Acres thought. Joan was Judith's friend, and she didn't lust after her, and wasn't in love with her, but she hated the idea of Adam even more than she did Grace. Joan's voice always grew softer when she talked about Adam, and there were secrets in her smile when she thought of him. Adam was important, as important to Joan as Judith was, even more important.

Joanith didn't exist in the world beyond Camp Crazy. There was Joan, and Joan and Adam, and a whole life without Judith. She was part of something special here, and now, and without Joanith, she'd just be the same old unhappy fucked-up Judith as always. She liked being Joanith; she hadn't liked being Judith in a long time.

Dr. Dan preached tolerance, and understanding: non-judgment in the face of the most extreme of confessions. He wouldn't have approved of the turn Judith's thought took, when it came to Joan, and her friends, and her life without Judith.

Judith never told Dr. Dan about anything that mattered, anyway.


The night before they left Gentle Acres, Joan climbed into Judith's bunk. They curled together, silent, as Joan's hand sought out Judith's. Fingers hooked together, Joan sighed. Judith didn't speak; she had spent a lifetime trying not to give a damn about anyone, anything, and it was impossible that she'd grown to need someone else in so short a time.

"I'm going to miss you, Joanith," Joan said.

Judith's breathed hitched. She blinked furiously. "Miss you, too, Joanith."

The night wasn't long enough.


There were a lot of things that Judith didnt believe in. Hope was one of them. Life sucked, and pretending otherwise meant only that you'd be stunned and screwed when the world ground you face-first into the mud.

Arm-in-arm with Joan, the world didn't look as horrible as it had even moments ago. Maybe Dr. Dan wouldn't think it healthy to put so much hope into one single person, but Joan was here, and with Judith, and that was as much happiness as Judith had known in a long time.

"Joanith, together again!" Judith said.

"Together again," Joan said.


(Written for another_juxtaposition, as a yuletide gift.)
Sign up to rate and review this story