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Journeys

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You can’t help but find yourself watching in his direction again. Not in a creepy way, of course. You prefer to think of it as an admirable glance. You want to know what he’s writing, maybe it’s your inner journalist taking over, or maybe it’s your fondness of reading. One of the two. Even at a young age, your parents would always find you picking apart novels or magazines, anything you could get your hands on really, attentively claiming the words you liked for yourself. You still have a habit of writing down any word that comes of interest, haphazardly storing each one in one of many worn out journals you keep within reach.

Jughead Jones. That’s his name. Even though you’ve never spoken to him in more than three sentences, you’d like to consider him an acquaintance. He always interested you, always seemed like someone who had a lot more to say: an internal speaker. Though some may argue that everyone falls within some line of that category.

Regardless, he’s the sort of person you just can’t quite read. When it comes to most people, the more ‘external thinkers’, you can pick up typical body language, mannerisms, things that give away what kind of a person they are. But not Jughead.

Take his red-headed counterpart, for example: Archie Andrews. Archie has always been more than fond of the opposite sex, it’s written all over his facial expressions when Betty Cooper or Veronica Lodge head anywhere near his direction. Nothing against him though, you admire them too. Maybe not in the same way, but they are some of the smartest girls in your school.

You bring your mind back to the figure of Jughead, through the small greasy aperture in the wall which separates your world from his. He sits among the pristine booths, courtesy of your hard-labour, enveloped in his own frantic typing, the remains of a burger resting on his idle plate. You watch his hands; they move like they’re in autopilot, only stopping occasionally when his mind initiates a new idea. It’s exhilarating to watch.

You are only brought back down to earth from the nudge of a co-worker and your own reality sets in once again. The rich fragrance of fry ups and the chaos of sizzling and cutlery clatter disturb your blissful thoughts. You glance back down to the sink beneath you. A tower of dirty and used dishes stack up high precariously to your left, a swamp of filthy dishwater swelling beneath you. The beautiful moment has passed.

“Eyes on the prize, (y/n),” your boss, Pop Tate, reminds you, gesturing with his eyes at the sink in front of you.

“Yes sir,” you give a light-hearted salute and return to your task of scrubbing away at dishes. He slowly nods and moves back over to the grills, giving you a quick smile as he does so. Your strong work ethic is what gives you this kind of slack in the kitchen. Your daydreaming remains few and far between for the most part, so Pop rarely ever speaks up. Still, you return your focus on your job, returning your earbuds in place and letting the rhythm of the next song guide your working hands.

 

You think back to the previous nights, on both occasions, you had caught yourself surprised:

 

The first wasn’t all that significant. It was the sort of day that most people would forget, or maybe recall in a similar way to their previous meal. To most people, it would’ve been just another ordinary day, not worth mentioning. But you weren’t most people.

The diner was short on staff and Pop had asked you to take orders. It wasn’t a particularly arduous task but you weren’t exactly a social butterfly and you stood out like a sore thumb as the only waitress with a different uniform. You were happy flipping burgers in the kitchen with Pop, but you didn’t make a fuss. You were perfectly capable of talking to people.

And so, after a series of rounds, you brought what you thought was your last order of the evening. An extra member of staff had showed up which meant you could finally retreat, back into your cooking domain.

After setting down the plate you turned around, intending to do just that, but your gaze caught onto something all too quickly. You recognised him immediately, accidentally making eye contact and finding yourself frozen in place.

He gave you a warm smile, a rare one. It was something you hadn’t seen on his face that often, if not at all and it rendered you taken aback. Your rigidness must’ve confused him because he furrowed his eyebrows after that and moved to take a seat at the same old booth he always sat at, laptop under arm. He placed it in front of him, lifting the lid as you finally persuaded your legs to work.

“Um… hey,” You murmured carefully and he turned his head to look up at you. You felt uneasy under his stare. Being the one in the scrutinising spot light, alternatively, instead of being the quiet observer among the mass, felt entirely daunting.  

After a moment that felt longer than a year, he stopped looking at you like that. Instead, the smile made another appearance.

“Hey,” The response finally came, unwavering.

“So… can I get you anything?” You offered, feeling extremely out of place.

He nodded to the seat opposite, crossing his arms over the now closed laptop lid.

“Oh, I-,” Your voice came out weak, so you tried again, “I’m not allowed to… uh, while I’m meant to be working,”

“Not allowed to sit? Man, working-class jobs nowadays are starting to sound more and more like slave labour,” He joked, the smile still there. “Next you’ll be telling me, you’re not even allowed to eat,” He put emphasis on the last word.

You stifled a laugh, feeling a little less anxious, “Speaking of which, would you like anything to eat?”

He stared in thought at nothing in particular, as though he was making a life of death choice and you could tell he was teasing you. You knew from his previous visits that he had a reputation for eating a lot. “Depends,” He replied after a while.

You raised an eyebrow, “On…?”

“Whether I get company to go with my food,” He leaned forward, prodding like a cat waiting for a reaction.

You glanced sidelong at the counter and the other employees, far too preoccupied to notice you. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to sit down for five minutes; it wasn’t particularly busy in the diner at that moment.

“Okay,” You said at last, “Wait here,”

He gave you a nod.

You headed back into the kitchen, spotting Pop immediately and practicing the question in your head. You shouldn’t have been so worried, it was Pop, he would let you get away with murder if it was up to him, you just didn’t want to let him down.

“Perfect (y/n)! Just in time, could you check the meats for me?” Pop asked and you did so out of habit, grabbing the tongs and taking the burgers and hot dogs away from the heat. He was busy monitoring the deep fryer, lifting the fries out and throwing them skilfully onto a tray. “Thanks, Sweet,”

“No problem!” You grinned, eyes lingering on the food, “Hey Pop…”

“Yeah?”

“Any chance I could take a quick five-minute break?” You asked with a confidence you didn’t know you had and it startled both you and Pop.

“Uh, sure,” He raised an eyebrow, “(y/n) you know you can take a break whenever you need to, you barely sit down for dinner,”

You smiled in gratitude opening your mouth to say something but all you managed was a quick adrenaline induced, “Thanks!” after which you tumbled to the door in a flurry of limbs.

“Just a sec, (y/n),” Pop stopped you and you came speeding to a halt. You turned around in nervous apprehension. “You’d better get yourself something to eat, it’ll help you recharge,”

You widened your eyes in surprise and as if on cue, your stomach let out a groan, “Really? Thank you so much!”

Pop chuckled in amusement, already handing you a plate of fries before gesturing you to go and sit down. You shot him one last smile as you made your way back over to Jughead’s booth.

“Wow, for a minute there I thought you’d stood me up, but hey, you brought food so I’ll let it slide,” The smile shrunk back into a smirk and he took a handful of fries. “I gotta say, you have your perks,”

 You managed to give him an eyeroll as you sat down, tucking into your food and savouring every bite.  

“Was that an eyeroll too? You are just full of surprises. By the way, what’s your name? Since we’re eating together, I should’ve probably asked this earlier,”

You stifled another laugh before answering “It’s (y/n),” Of course Jughead had no idea who you were.

“Well it’s very nice to meet you (y/n) and while this is a fine cuisine,” He nodded to the fries, "I can't give it too much credit, you see nothing quite matches up to my Monday burgers," He shot you a mischievous glance.

You inwardly glowed. Unbeknown to Jughead, Monday was your burger day, Since the after-school shift was only short, Pop let you make burgers for the whole duration of it, meaning the burgers Jughead seemed to favour were in fact products of your very own expertise.

“What’s with that look?” Jughead tilted his head to one side in question, although his grin said otherwise, “You look awfully proud of yourself,”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” You sunk into the booth, hiding your expression. After a few more fries, you finally stood up. “Well I’d better get back to work, they’re all yours,” You moved the plate towards him and he cast a look at them before looking back up to you.

You could have sworn you saw a wave of disappointment flash across his face.

“Thank you… for the fries.”

 

You thought that would be the first and last encounter you would ever have with the enigmatic teenager, an anomaly among your memories, something that possibly was never supposed to happen. Yet your preconceptions were proven wrong not two days later.

 

“(y/n), I know who you are, I’ve seen you around at school,” Her nails tapped on the surface and she took a red-lipped sip of her icy beverage. You moved your gaze back from her hands to her eyes, “And I’m guessing by the look on your face you know who I am.”

“Veronica,” You breathed before trying a small smile.

"It's lovely to finally meet you, properly," The other voice, sweet as sherbet, sounded from the other side of the booth. You moved your vision to the vanilla milkshake and then further up to catch her blue eyes and the bright smile that embellished her face. Betty Cooper.

You aren’t quite sure how it happened. All of a sudden you had found yourself stood facing two of your biggest idols in school. You looked deep into the eyes of everything you wanted to be.

Veronica was the embodiment of a completed jigsaw; she was well put together; everything from her clothes to her hair to her nails seemed perfectly in place. She had a sharpness to her appearance, matching her audacious personality.

Betty was sweet and simple; she was genuine to the core; there was no hiding, no layers to cover up anything. She was honest and fearless, with a brightness that seemed to light up the room.

You had admired the two since you first saw them. Since Veronica first moved to town and since you first started school with Betty. Nevertheless, you had never plucked up enough courage to talk to them.

Until today.

You were conscious of your messy (h/c) hair, your hand-me-downs, your cheap second-hand shoes that were falling off your feet. You suddenly felt out of place: extremely out of place.

You had originally visited Pop’s to collect your pay check (Pop was old fashioned like that) and he never failed to offer you a bonus in the form of free milkshakes. You remember distinctly the rain pour that evening, as it drummed against the glass, your clothes were practically soaked through and you had barely made it two steps through the door when your path was obstructed.

“What’s your flavour?” Veronica studied you through fox-like brown eyes.

You cleared your throat before attempting to speak but your voice still managed to sound uneasy, “U-uh, what?”

“Are you more of a charming chocolate kind of gal? Or maybe an impulsive vanilla,” She flashed a grin towards Betty who rolled her eyes.

“She means what’s your favourite flavour milkshake,” Betty explained keeping her eyes on Veronica with intrigue.

“So what is it?” Veronica repeated, leaning her head on her hand.

You paused for a moment before answering, “Straw- uh, strawberry,” You replied, shoving your hands into your pockets to steady your shaking fingers.

“Interesting,” Veronica smiled slyly, “An introvert,”

Betty moved her head back and gave her an amused look, but she directed a smile your way, “Just ignore Ronnie, she’s kidding,”

“Hey Pop, can we get one strawberry milkshake please?” Veronica called over to the counter and you quickly tried and butt-in.

“No Veronica, that’s okay, you don’t have to-,”

She silenced you with a wave of her hand.

“Hey, you don’t have to stand, you know, why don’t you take a seat?” Betty offered, moving up.

Her suggestion made you double take and you glanced back over at Pop, too busy serving customers and moving in and out of the kitchen to notice you, before you finally nodded, shuffling in next to Betty. After around five minutes, a waitress set down a strawberry milkshake in front of you to which you responded with a sincere ‘Thank you,’ as you took the first sip. 

“So (y/n),” Veronica leaned forward eagerly, “You should tell us more about yourself,” she insisted, sipping her chocolate milkshake as her eyes stared through your skin.

“Well, I…” You trailed off, distracted, before jumping back into the moment, “Wait, not to be rude or anything, but why do you want to know?”

“Let’s just say we’ve had good word from a mutual friend,” The ravenette responded, letting a smirk crawl its way up her cheeks.

“V, no need to interrogate the poor girl,” Betty turned to you, “Sorry if we seemed invasive, (y/n),” You still weren’t used to them referring to you by your name, “We just wanna be your friend,”

“Friend?” you echoed just above a whisper before an uncontrollable smile took over your face, “Uh, that sounds great!”

“Great!” This time it was Veronica’s turn to echo. “In that case, here, put your number into my phone, and be prepared for group texts, I’m having a sleepover this weekend so be sure to come and we were all going to go on a hiking trip over the break, we’re shopping for supplies too-,”

“Wait, hold up, all? Who’s all?” You interrupted, startled by the sudden explosion of new information.

“We’re going hiking? Ronnie, you hate walking,” Betty cut in, as shocked as you were. “When did we arrange this?”

“Just now,” Veronica smiled, typing rapidly on her phone before she leaned back with her arms crossed and a look of pride on her face, “Check your phones,” She took a satisfactory sip of her milkshake.

You looked down in disbelief. Sure enough, the notification popped up on your phone, leaving you wondering when she actually got your number; you barely had a chance to give it to her.

“What?” She noticed the expression on both your face and Betty’s, "It's called efficiency, we've got nothing to wait for?"

You exchanged looks with Betty, triggering the two of you to start laughing.

“What’s so funny?!”

 

Something else happened that night too. As soon as you walked out the door, intending to go home, you were interrupted by another familiar stranger.

 

“(y/n)!”

“Archie?” You smiled in confusion, “Wait, why are you talking to me?”

“Are you leaving? Hey, so am I! How bout I keep you company on your way home?” He ignored your question.

“Uh, sure,” You looked him up and down sceptically, “Aren’t you here for Betty and Veronica?”

“Nah, they’re getting a lift home,” The red-head’s grin was so wide you worried it would peel right off his face. “Actually, I wanted to talk to you,”

You narrowed your eyes, pursing your bottom lip against your tongue.

Archie stopped still, giving you a strange look that lasted until you addressed it.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

Archie burst out laughing after that, “God, you remind me so much of someone!”

“Who?”

“You wouldn’t happen to know anything about this text from Veronica, would you?” He deviously changed the subject.

“About as much as you, before today I’d never even spoken to her,”

“Really? I could’ve sworn you were in some of our classes,” He stopped walking to look at you but you kept going. Finally, he caught up again.

“Probably, I don’t know,” You tip-toed over the statement. You knew fully well which classes you shared with them.

“…but we’ve never actually spoken properly,” Archie finished, coming to a realisation, “Sorry if I caught you off guard there, truth is-,”

He paused and this time you stopped to look at him.

He looked to be reading over all the possible answers in his head before he finally erased them and went with something else, “Where do you normally go at school? Between lessons I mean,”

“Uh-,”

“Because you should hang out with us, in the student lounge,” He stated, before shaking his head briefly, “But it’s totally okay if you don’t want to,”

You considered the offer, trying to suppress the smile that threatened to take over your face. Your social life had never really taken off, despite your peers. You weren’t complaining though; you were perfectly content studying in the library and staying in every weekend. You had never even imagined the prospect of someone wanting to actively communicate and generally spend time with you.

It wasn’t like you’d never had friends before, it was more along the lines of: the good ones had moved away and the ones that didn’t understand you, had moved on. When you’d slip in and out of your antisocial intervals, conclusions were jumped too, all inevitably leading to the same outcome.

“No- I…” You took a deep breath, “That sounds wonderful,”

 Archie mirrored your expression with a hint of surprise, “Sweet!”

 

You can’t remember the rest of the conversation, only that it floated around small talk and topics such as Archie’s music and your mutual appreciation of it. By the time you got home, you had gotten straight to work on your homework, completely oblivious to your phone that had been practically bursting with messages from Veronica’s group chat.

Thinking of which, you look down to check the time, only to see another stream of notifications (something your phone does not usually experience) and missed calls from Veronica Lodge herself.  You wonder why she is calling so late.