Judd is woken up by his phone ringing. It’s loud and jarring and for a moment he can’t figure out where he is. This isn’t his usual room, none of the things in it are what he recognises. Then he realises, remembers where he is. He’s at home, the family home, and he’s in the house that he’s always had whenever he returns. He reaches for his phone as it continues to ring and he’s surprised when he sees that it’s Charlie calling him.
“Hello?” he asks quietly, his voice thick with sleep.
“What are you still doing in Farlow Judd?” Charlie asks, “You’re out of the game and you’re supposed to be out of Farlow too,”
Judd blinks for a moment, trying to figure out exactly what Charlie is talking about. Then he remembers. It’s been three weeks since Judd declared that he was out of the drug dealing business and it’s been three weeks since he has been in touch with any of his old gang, apart from Reece.
“Well?!” Charlie demands. “What’s your excuse?”
“I’m half asleep mate,” Judd says, yawning as he runs a hand over his face, “Give me a minute to wake up,”
“Fine,” Charlie snaps.
The other end of the line falls silent but Judd can hear Charlie breathing and the muttering sound of voices from wherever Charlie is.
“I can’t leave,” Judd says eventually, “I would if I could but I have to stay,”
“What’s so important?!” Charlie cries, “You have a chance to get out of this shitty little town! What’s so important that you can’t leave?”
“My life,” Judd says. He shrugs as he speaks even though Charlie can’t see him, “My entire life is here in Farlow and I’m not ready to leave it yet,”
“Well you need to get ready,” Charlie snaps, “You can’t stay in Farlow forever and you being here is going to make people think you might come back to the game,”
“Well tell them I won’t!” Judd snaps back, “I don’t want to be in that world any more and I never want to go back. But I can’t leave.”
“Why?!” Charlie asks, his voice harsh.
“Because of my dad,” Judd says quietly, “Because my dad’s in prison for beating up a seventeen year old and my step mum’s all on her own.”
“Oh…” Charlie says quietly at the other end.
“I promised my dad I would look after her,” Judd explains quietly. He’s glad for the chance to vent to someone completely removed from the situation, even if it is Charlie, “I can’t just leave. If I go she’ll be all on her own and I won’t do that to her. She’s like my mum and she needs my help.”
“So you’re staying then?” Charlie asks. It’s not really a question though.
“Yes,” Judd says, “I’m staying in Farlow. At least until my dad gets out. After that… well after that I don’t know. But for now Farlow is my home and I’m not going anywhere,”
“Ok,” Charlie says quietly, “Ok, I understand. I’ll spread the word,”
“Thanks Charlie,” Judd says, surprised to find that he’s genuinely grateful, “I’ll try and get a few of my mates to spread the word too. I just want to be here for Sally, and get my course finished. I don’t want any trouble and I don’t want to come back to your world. I’ve left it behind me and I’m looking for a better life now. The sooner people get that then the better,”
Charlie hangs up and Judd rolls over to go back to sleep. He’s staying in Farlow, whether people like it or not.