With a proud smile, Kevin surveyed the Riverdale community garden.
“The service club did good work today,” he commented to Reggie. They were the last two members to remain, and were loading the lawncare equipment into the trunk of Kevin’s car. “I think we can give ourselves a pat on the back, don’t you?”
“Oh, yeah,” Reggie remarked sourly. “Slaving over a mound of dirt was a great way to spend my Saturday. I’m just about ready to throw a ticker tape parade.” He hadn’t volunteered for this outing; Kevin had essentially shanghaied him into labor.
“Hey, cheer up.” Kevin gave Reggie a friendly nudge with his elbow. “We’re done before four, just like I promised, and now you can go get ready for your date with Cheryl.”
Reggie glanced at him disapprovingly. “And I suppose you’re going to get ready to go out with a certain grotesque glutton, aren’t you?”
Kevin frowned at him. “Reggie, please. You’re talking about my boyfriend. Try to be nice.” When Kevin had begun dating Jughead, his best friend, he’d found a new best friend in Reggie. But Reggie, along with Kevin’s other best friend, Veronica, didn’t approve of his choice of boyfriend. However, as Jughead hated the both of them right back, it somehow worked out — in a perpetually dysfunctional kind of way.
Reggie buffed his nails on his sweatshirt. “I’m just saying that with your looks and me here to upgrade your wardrobe from standard preppie to sleek and chic, you could a lot better than some kook with a weird hat.”
“Jughead’s hat is a part of his charm,” Kevin explained patiently. “And I like my clothes. Some of the outfits you want me to wear make me look like a male hooker from the red-light district.” 1
Reggie huffed. “Excuse me, but I have great taste in fashion, and you have horrible taste in partners. Honestly, you’re incredibly lucky that I’m here to guide you.”
“If you say so.” Kevin rolled his eyes.
“Thank you so much for all of your help, Kevin,” Mrs. Andrews gushed. “I know my knitting group will really appreciate these cookies.”
“No problem, Mrs. Andrews,” Kevin said, wiping his hands on a dish towel. “I was happy to give you a hand.”
The front door swung open, and Archie dashed inside. “Sorry I’m late, Kevin! Things with Valerie went on a while longer than I thought, and I just lost track of time!”
“No problem,” Kevin replied smoothly. “I kept busy while I waiting.”
“He helped me with the lawn and your mother with baking,” Mr. Andrews added. He folded his newspaper and gave his son a reproachful look. “He even raked the leaves you’ve been promising to tackle for the past two weeks.”
“Aw, Dad, I was planning to get to them!” Archie protested.
Mrs. Andrews gently swatted at her husband with a dishcloth. “That’s enough, Fred.” She nodded to Kevin and Archie. “You boys go upstairs and work on your history report. Let me know if you need anything.”
The teens followed her instructions, and once Mrs. Andrews heard the door close upstairs, she turned to her husband. “That Kevin is such a nice boy.”
“Hardworking, too. Not like a certain son of ours that I could mention.” Mr. Andrews scowled.
Mrs. Andrews hesitated. “Now it’s not that I want to be judgmental or nosey,” She began. “But I can’t understand why someone like Kevin, who’s so industrious and diligent and responsible, is with —”
“Someone like Jughead, who spends more time weaseling out of work than actually doing any?” Mr. Andrews shook his head. “Your guess is as good as mine, Mary. I have absolutely no idea.”
“Morning, all,” Kevin said cheerfully as he strode into the teachers’ lounge. As a student, he technically wasn’t allowed into the room, but the faculty had exempted him from the usual rules due to his position as student body president and officer of various school clubs.
“Morning, Kevin,” Coach Clayton said amiably from where he stood by the coffee pot chatting with Miss Grundy and Mr. Adams.
Without missing a beat, Kevin began distributing materials. “Coach, here’s the money from the art club fundraiser. Miss Grundy, here’s the yearbook photos. Mr. Adams, here’s the letters I wrote for Amnesty International.”
Coach Kleats stepped through the door, and Kevin zipped over to him. “And Coach, here’s the tutoring schedule Dilton and I worked out for Moose. We should have his GPA rising in no time. I hope you find it satisfactory, but let me know if you have any questions.” He gave them all a wave goodbye. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting for the Junior Engineering League.”
The staff chorused their goodbyes, but once the door swung shut behind Kevin, Mr. Adams shook his head. “You know, every time someone tells me he and that Jones boy are an item, I feel like I’m being conned.”
“They seem very happy together,” Coach Clayton offered.
“They do, but it’s such an odd couple,” Miss Grundy opined. “Just look at Kevin. Highly driven, willing to lead, not afraid to shoulder the burden of duty. President of the student body. Student tutor. Member of the community service club, Amnesty International, the art club, yearbook —”
“Track team and cross country team,” Coach Clayton contributed.
“Swim team,” Coach Pacer reminded them.
“Environmental club,” Professor Flutesnoot added from where he was engaged in a chess match with Mr. Weatherbee.
“Debate team.” Mr. Weatherbee put in, momentarily diverting his attention from studying the chess board.
“And then there’s Jughead,” Miss Grundy continued, “whose main activity at school is skulking around the home ec hall, hoping for free food.”
Miss Crouton snorted from over where she was washing out her coffee mug in the sink. “I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had caught him lurking around outside my classroom.”
“It’s a study in opposite attraction, that’s for sure,” Coach Clayton remarked.
“Well, just don’t tell Ms. Burble about it,” Miss Grundy warned, referring to Riverdale High’s latest guidance counselor. Her predecessors, Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Grimley, had been driven away by the chaotic lifestyles of the student body. “If she tries to figure out that particular psychological puzzle, sooner or later, we’re going to be stuck looking for yet another candidate for the position.”
When they entered the Blossom mansion, Jason’s face was still burning to match Cedric’s continued cackling.
“Shut up ,” Jason hissed at Cedric. His hyena-like laughter echoed in the marble entry way.
“I can’t help it,” Cedric gasped. “Oh my God, I can’t believe that kid rejected you with the line he did. That’s just too good.”
“Jason got rejected?” Cheryl materialized from around the staircase, Manolos on her feet and Sugar, her Pomeranian, in her arms. “Give me all of the details!”
“Oh, can it, Cheryl,” Jason snapped.
Cedric didn’t hesitate to bask in his friend’s chagrin. “You know Kevin Keller?”
Cheryl rolled her eyes. “That boring kid who’s always doing some community service thing or another? What about him?”
“Well, Jason’s had the hots for him since he moved here —” Cedric started.
“Thanks for nothing, Benedict Arnold,” Jason spat.
Cedric ignored him. “So, tonight, he went to ask that kid out, and what does the kid say? ‘Sorry, I’m already with Jughead.’ ” Cedric dissolved into peals of laughter once more. “Of all excuses! He must have been really desperate to avoid going out with you, Jason, if he defaulted to Jughead as a cover boyfriend.”
Cheryl snickered. “That’s hilarious. But you know what would be funnier? If Kevin really was dating Jughead, and Jason was just too late. Can you imagine if Jughead and Kevin actually were a couple?”
Jason scoffed. “Like that’s possible. What could someone as handsome, composed, strong, witty —”
Cedric sighed. “Here we go.”
“How dull.” Cheryl yawned.
“— vivacious, intelligent, and driven as Kevin possibly see in Jughead Jones?” Jason finished. “He’s just a slob with a metabolic disorder. Kevin would be crazy to go for him when he could have someone like me.”
The ballroom of the Lodge mansion was magnificent on its own, but for Veronica’s Christmas party it looked more elaborate than ever, bedecked with stunning decorations and furnishings to create an indoor winter wonderland. Had Kevin the chance to breathe, he would have admired the beautiful scene, but he was too busy being whisked off the dance floor by various partners. Veronica and Reggie were not so subtly trying to interest him in potential dates who, unlike Jughead, met their approval.
“And have you been introduced to Randy?” Veronica all but pushed him toward a young man dressed in a very cosmopolitan outfit that mostly consisted of black clothing. “He’s spent some time in Japan. You two could talk about your travels!”
At the conclusion of the song, Kevin tried to make his way back to the refreshment tables, where Jughead had stationed himself, only to be pulled in the opposite direction by Reggie. “Kev, have you ever met my friend Streaky Shore? He’s a record-setting runner, and you were on the track and cross country teams. Look at that, a conversation topic already!”
Again, Kevin tried to politely excuse himself at the dance’s conclusion, but Veronica caught him once more. “Why, it’s Angel Angelino! Angel, it’s been so long — we need to catch up. But in the meantime, have you met my friend Kevin?”
“Delighted,” Kevin said, smiling politely despite his annoyance and shaking the offered hand. “Actually, Angel, would you mind excusing us for a few minutes?” He tugged Veronica toward the veranda for a private discussion, stopping to drag Reggie away from his conversation with Cheryl as he did.
Once on the porch, Kevin folded his arms over his chest and looked at the two of them squarely. “I’m not going to mince words here. I’m sorry, Veronica. I know it’s your party, but this needs to be said.” He took a deep breath. “Jughead and I are together. Neither of you have to like that. Neither of you even have to approve. But you two are both my best friends, and I ask that you accept and respect that I’m already in a relationship. And that you stop trying to fix me up with other guys.”
“We are sorry, Kev,” Veronica offered. “We were just trying to do what was best for you.”
“Yeah, we didn’t mean any offense,” Reggie said sincerely. “It’s just that you could do so much better —”
“But the person I’m with makes me happy,” Kevin interrupted. “That should count for something, shouldn’t it?”
Veronica and Reggie exchanged reluctant glances.
“I guess.” Veronica’s tone was dubious.
“If you say so.” Reggie did not seem particularly convinced.
“Thank you,” Kevin said earnestly, ignoring their obvious lack of enthusiasm. “I really would like to see the two of you and Jughead get along, you know.” He turned back to the ballroom. “C’mon. There’s a party, and you two should be able to have a good time instead trying to control my dating life.”
Later that night, Kevin prepared several mugs of cocoa and brought them into the Jones’ living room. A few moments later, Jughead joined him, carrying in a plate of cookies.
“Did Jellybean go to sleep okay?” Kevin asked. Mr. and Mrs. Jones were out of town for the weekend, leaving Jughead to care for his younger sister.
“Out like a light,” Jughead said, munching on a cookie. “How about you? Are you tired after Reggie and Veronica basically tried to arrange your marriage?”
Kevin chuckled. “I was so annoyed when that was going on, and I got stuck having to grin and bear it.”
“Hey, if you ask me, I’d sooner pick you as the charm school graduate then either of those two slimeballs,” Jughead said frankly.
“I appreciate the vote of confidence,” Kevin said dryly.
"Anytime." Jughead shrugged.
“I just wanted to dance with you, but they keep pulling these guys out of the woodwork and trying to sell me on all their talents and awards.” Kevin groaned in exasperation at the memory. “Good God, Reggie and Veronica were practically reading me their resumes! It’s funny now, but it wasn’t then.”
“I don’t know, I thought it was pretty funny then,” Jughead said with a lopsided grin. “You’d be smiling and talking with one of those guys, all refined and polite, and then you’d throw a look at Veronica or Reggie like you were plotting to kill them. But they’d just be getting ready to trot out the next guy for you to sample.” He gave Kevin a teasing nudge with his elbow. “You sure you don’t want them to act as your dating agency?”
“Hm.” Kevin snuggled closer to Jughead, kissing him on the cheek and using the remote to change the channel to a monster movie marathon. “Honestly? I’m perfectly fine with my date right now.”