[ I want to thank Mouse from Mouse’s Musings for being gracious enough to host this story on Right Behind as well as providing the impetus and encouragement to start this AU story about Left Behind: The Kids.
I’d also like to thank VMink, who took time out of a busy schedule to read this and comment on it for me.
Finally, please note that while some canon elements are the same, I’ve chosen to introduce, omit, or change characters as need be to help make more realistic, likable versions of Judd Thompson and Vicki Byrne. ]
Judd Thompson wasn’t unusual, as teenagers went. Sixteen years old, played basketball at high school and partied after the games, win or lose; maybe smoked a joint between beers. He’d dated a couple of girls, but for the moment he was just playing the field.
Lately, though, it seemed like his dad and his mom were just constantly on his case about something or other. He didn’t clean his room well enough. He left his plates in the sink. He didn’t switch the outdoor light off on the way to his bedroom. He didn’t come along to church. He didn’t do this, he didn’t do that.
Thinking back, he realized it had been three days before The Event that he’d cut afternoon classes with his friend Jason, knowing Mr. Stewart wouldn’t mark him absent from History. Kind of helped that he was also the school’s basketball coach.
Judd had spent an hour killing time with Jason but still got home earlier than usual, so neither of his parents were home, but the mail had been delivered. He’d idly flipped through the pile of envelopes, dropping them one by one onto the kitchen table as he wondered if any were for him. Since he and his father had the same name, they sometimes got their mail crossed. He saw the “Citibank” return address on one of the envelopes, and felt around it, noticing the stiff part that meant a credit card had to be inside it.
Later, the only really good explanation he could come up with for what he was about to do was that he’d been frustrated, annoyed and just fed up. He’d had yet another round of fighting with his dad that morning about not attending church again, and then at school he found out he’d bombed the English quiz from the day before.
Not that it really excused what he did.
He went up to his bedroom, closed the door and sat on his bed, fiddling with the envelope. It was addressed to “Judd Thompson”, but Judd knew without a doubt that meant his father. Nobody gave teenagers credit cards.
Judd licked his lips, then ripped the envelope open and took out the contents. He noticed that there was a pre-approved card with a $5000 credit limit. All he had to do was activate the thing. He hesitantly plucked the card away from the form letter, and began picking off the sticky silly-putty-like stuff still stuck to the back of the shiny plastic.
If I could just get away from here for a while, he thought.
Suddenly, the card opened up a vista of possibilities. He and his friend Jason could go on a nice long trip, catch a few NBA games, maybe even pick up a few girls. He had a cousin down in Baltimore he might be able to crash at for a few nights.
Judd grabbed his cordless phone and began dialling the number on the back of “his” credit card. He told himself he’d just use it for a while, then cut the card up.
But not before he used it to have a little fun.
Vicki Byrne stormed out of her trailer, wondering when her mother would just get the point. She didn’t want to hear about her grades, about her dresses, about whatever. Her parents could God-bother her some other time too – preferably much later than now, as far as she was concerned.
She was fourteen, and like several other girls in her school, she liked to drink and smoke, and cut classes now and then. She didn’t think that was worth all the fuss, but her mother clearly had different ideas.
Vicki’s dad wasn’t as bad about nagging her, but she thought it was more because he didn’t have time for her anymore. He was seriously trying to hold down the latest job he’d managed to get, which meant he could be out on 12-hour shifts sometimes. He’d come home, shower briefly, try to eat a little bit of dinner at nine o’clock, then shuffle off to bed for more of the same starting at six in the morning.
It was almost like he wasn’t there these days even when his body was at the dinner table. But, mused Vicki, at least they’d laid off the drinking for a few weeks now. Maybe that was why her mom was being crabbier than usual; waitressing at the truck stop on the highway probably didn’t help a lot.
Her friend Shelley Brown, who lived in the trailer across the way and was sitting on the front stairs, eyed her up and down and said, “Lookin’ dressed to kill today, huh?”
Vicki knew she looked older than fourteen, and she’d soon gotten the knack of dressing like the older girls at her school did. She rolled her eyes and replied, “My mom was just raggin’ on me again about this stupid skirt. The way she tells it I should dress like a nun for the rest of my life.”
Shelley laughed. Vicki liked hearing that laugh. It wasn’t a nasty laugh like some of the richer kids had when they sneered at Vicki for being “trailer trash”, or a patronizing laugh like that jerk Daniel had when he was talking at her like she didn’t know anything about cars when he was bragging about his souped-up Camaro. It hadn’t helped that he’d been staring at her chest half the time.
Shelley was attractive, Vicki thought. Straight black hair, light blue eyes, lips that stood out so well with red lipstick and a body to match Vicki’s. The two girls had danced together at a couple of parties, but other than that, Vicki didn’t know if Shelley felt about her the way she felt about Shelley.
Vicki bit her thumbnail and tried to take her mind off the track it was running in. She said, “Hey, wanna get out of here for a bit and have a smoke down by the pond? I blew my science quiz today and you already know my mom was at me again about stuff.”
Shelley smiled. “Yeah. Gimme a sec, gonna run in and grab my purse, okay?” She stood up and dashed in her trailer, letting the screen door shut with a clack.
Soon, Shelley was back and the pair walked in the direction of the small forested pond behind the trailer park.
The two girls sat on the old bench facing the pond. Vicki looked up; the late-afternoon sky was a nice clear blue, though some of the sticky humidity that portended summer was evident. Shelley opened her purse and rummaged for the cigarette pack she’d taken from her mom’s stash.
Vicki grabbed her cigarette and Shelley’s lighter, not waiting for the other girl to light her up. As soon as the embers at the end began glowing, she inhaled deeply, then let the smoke trail out her nostrils as she breathed out. She already felt calmer, less stressed out. She tossed the lighter back at Shelley, who lit her own cigarette.
“Hey, Vicki?” Shelley said after a drag.
Vicki looked at her friend and at her concerned expression, she replied, “What? Do I have something on my face?” She gestured vaguely with her right hand, her left hand flicking the ashes off her cigarette in the direction of the pond.
“No. Just… you look like you’re close to biting someone’s head off. You didn’t even wait for me to light your smoke like I usually do.”
Vicki took another drag off her cigarette and sighed. “Yeah, I guess. It’s just… My mom and dad don’t even seem to know they’re just winding me up with all this do-better-this and stop-doing-that and it just never ends, you know? Man, I’m so glad you found out there’s gonna be a party this weekend, Shel.”
Shelley moved closer and put her hand out. Vicki clasped it in response, feeling the strength in her friend’s grip. Solid. Reassuring.
“It’ll be okay, Vicki. Look, if it gets too much, I’m sure you could stay over for a couple of nights. Mom’d be cool with it.”
Vicki smiled. “Thanks. Boy, I can’t wait for that party.”
Shelley grinned and released Vicki’s hand. She said, “Maybe we can find you a cute guy there.”
Vicki laughed. “What about you, huh?”
Shelley just smiled and took a drag off her cigarette.
“Boy, I can’t wait for the party at your place tonight, Jason,” said Judd as he heaved a sigh and threw the books he didn’t need into his locker. He stuffed his backpack with what he needed, and made a note to stop by the ATM on the way home.
It had been a piece of cake to get authorized for a cash withdrawal PIN. Judd figured if he had about a thousand bucks saved up, he could let Jason in on the plan and they’d sneak off on the upcoming spring break to see Drew in Baltimore.
Jason grinned and thumped Judd’s shoulder. “Me too. Hey, need a ride home?”
“Sure; I didn’t bring my car today.” Judd closed his locker, locked it up and the two went to Jason’s car. Inside the car, he said to Jason, “What’s the occasion anyway? We don’t have any intramural games right now and the football guys don’t have theirs until next week.”
Jason grinned cockily as he drove the car out of the school parking lot. “Kegger night. Dad’s already taken off for a week to somewhere with this lady he’s seeing and my brother Randy’s coming down with whatever you can fit into a pickup truck.”
Judd whistled. “Is he loaded or something?”
“He got a full ride at college, so all the money Dad sends is just gravy. I’m helping pay for some of it too ‘cause Dad left some spending money.”
“Nice. Hey, stop at that 7-11, wouldya?” asked Judd as he pointed to the store coming up the road.
There was an ATM in the store; not too many customers were inside and the clerk was engrossed in a newspaper. Judd withdrew the maximum daily limit, which was $400, and made sure nobody was paying attention as he stuffed all the bills into his backpack except for a twenty. He bought a couple of Cokes and gave one to Jason as he got back in the car.
“Feelin’ generous, are you?” joked Jason.
“Why not? Dad finally coughed up my allowance,” answered Judd easily.
Judd turned on the radio and the two boys listened to the music playing for the rest of the way home.
At Judd’s place, Jason said, “Come on over around seven or eight, huh? Things should be going pretty well by then.”
Judd answered with a thumbs-up before he got out of the car and went into his house, remembering to toss his empty Coke can in the recycle box. He made a beeline for his bedroom and quietly locked the door. He pulled out a shoebox hidden under several others at the back of his closet and stuffed the thick wad of bills in with the rest, which were now creatively stuffed in between his golf shoes. He figured there was a thousand dollars in there now. He decided to wait for one more withdrawal, then talk to Jason after the party was over.
After replacing the box, he reflected that he wasn’t going to play golf any time soon if he could help it. His dad seemed to have a fascination with the whole whacking-a-ball-around thing, but Judd couldn’t see the point to it. He made sure to unlock the door again before doing his homework.
Judd fiddled around with his math homework, not really puzzling out the answers so much as just staring at the questions. What on Earth, he thought, was he going to use freakin’ conic sections for?
Dinner was a welcome distraction as he ate his beef and veggies. Judd then grudgingly helped clear the table before escaping back up to his room to get changed for the party. Half an hour later, he was in his best jeans and a tight-fitting T-shirt. He grabbed just his house keys, deciding to leave his wallet behind. Jason was only a ten-minute walk away, anyway.
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