The players . . .
Hamlet: Jughead Jones
Ophelia: Betty Cooper
Laertes: Chic Cooper (Betty’s long lost older brother)
Polonius: Alice Cooper
Ghost: Gladys Jones (Jughead’s formerly absent mom)
I lay in the snow, the sting from the wound killing me as I bled. Chic collapsed beside me. I had taken the knife he had stabbed me with and stabbed him right back. Like my dad always said, I was scrappy. LOL.
And now we were dying together on the frozen ground in a myriad of poison, snow, and blood.
“My sister was pregnant you know,” he said to me. Those were his final words on this earth.
I thought back to the last real interaction I had had with Betty. Not my teasing her mercilessly at the play, forcing her to let me rest my head upon her lap, to the embarrassment of all but me. Nor my freak-out upon her grave mind you – she was already dead – that didn’t count. No, I thought back to the last time she had been alive and it had been just the two of us. Before I had killed her mother, before she had succumbed to her family’s madness and thrown herself into Sweetwater River in despair after I had left her pregnant and alone.
I hadn’t known. A tear dropped to the snow as I processed my regret.
I must have scared her to death the day I burst into her room - the very day I had run into my mom, who had practically been a ghost to me. I had been rattled. Time was out of joint. I . . . I . . . needed Betty.
But by then she had already blocked me on all accounts and any calls or texts of mine were being rejected. We hadn’t spoken in days – there had been no other way to reach her. Her sudden dismissal of me seemed like it had come out of the blue, without reason. Oh, but there had been one . . . two of them actually.
I hurtled myself through her window, my hat lost somewhere below in the bushes, and my hair disheveled, like the rest of me. I reached for her wrist and captured it in my hand as I pulled her to me, hard. I needed her comfort, her support, but she was silent. Silent and stiff.
Not letting go of her wrist, I pushed her away from me and just stared at her. Agonizing moments passed as I analyzed every feature of her face. Something was wrong. We were no longer . . . us. Was she afraid of me?
Was this why she had blocked me?
I shook her arm a little bit. Betty, are you in there?
I just couldn’t help it - a piteous sob escaped me. And when her eyes softened in response, it shattered me. Almost ended me. I dropped her wrist and just stared at her as I made my way out, holding her gaze until the last possible second . . .
Turns out Alice and Chic had turned Betty against me. And here I thought Chic had been my friend, we had gotten along so well, even hitting it off immediately when he came back into everyone’s lives in Riverdale. Just goes to show, people will always disappoint you. *sigh*
And Alice had confronted my father with some emails I had sent to Betty, having a completely insane meltdown over their inappropriateness and demanding that my father make me stop, because in her words I was “out of control.” Well, he didn’t have to. Betty, always the obedient daughter, had already blocked me. For the record, there had been nothing inappropriate about those emails. We weren't even sexting.
But after that, you bet I had a great time implying to Alice that Betty might get pregnant. It was satisfying to get her goat. I just had no idea that I was right.
And Chic? Well, given his illicit beginnings and his other sister, Polly’s early entre into the world of teen motherhood, I guess I could understand his motivation for wanting his sister to be chaste – to keep her away from the likes of me, a “bad boy” from the Southside.
But Betty? Why did she comply? Didn’t she love me? Didn’t what we had mean ANYTHING to her? Was the appearance of virtue and not being associated with the Southside more important to her than what had grown between us? The whole thing just pissed me off.
So the last time I saw her alone, when it was just the two of us . . . when she came to me with the purpose of returning some gifts I had given her, I became unhinged, mean, ruthless. Combined with the haunting reappearance of my mother in my life, there had just been too much going on. I had had it. And I broke . . .
“I never gave you those,” I sneered at Betty and crossed my arms, refusing to take them.
“Jughead,” she said plainly, simply. “You know you did.”
She picked up a trinket, walked it closer to me, and showed it to me up close and personal. “Don’t you remember how you told me you loved me when you –“
I turned my shoulder to her, refusing to look. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her hand fall. She was no longer holding the bauble up to me.
“Well, now that those feelings are gone, Juggie, these gifts just don’t mean the same thing. Take them back.”
I turned on her. “Are you honest?”
“You’re pretty enough, aren’t you?”
“What?” she replied to my non-sequitur, bit flustered, fluttering her eyes.
“Beauty can tear down honesty faster than truth can be crafted out of beautiful deceit.”
Her brows creased together.
I wanted to see if she would get this. “I did love you once.”
That was the truth.
She teared up. “You made me believe so.”
“Well, you should not have believed me.” I snapped. Time to push this. “You cannot expect someone like me to put up with your endless virtue, like your mom wants. I’m from the wrong side of the tracks remember? It was a game I couldn’t stand not winning. I just wanted to tear down your beauty, your virtue,” I seethed.
I braced myself. That had been hard enough. Now time for the big lie. “I never loved you.”
Would she buy it?
“You deceived me . . .”
I hung my head. Damn. She bought it. I had been holding out hope that she still knew who I was, able to tell my truth from my lies despite the foul mood I was in. Apparently, she didn’t. Quietly, my rage built.
Shaking, I came right up to her and loomed over her, practically breathing on her face. To her credit, she stood her ground. “You’re going to find yourself with the nuns someday, just like Polly.”
She stiffened. Had she already known she was pregnant? Despite her discomfort at my proximity, she tilted her head up and looked me directly in the eye. Damn, she was fierce.
“I’m just like every other guy, Betty.” No I wasn’t. “You know what I was in it for. I’m just like Archie, Reggie . . . Chuck. Let me give you some advice. Believe none of us.”
Her bold stare and silence unnerved me. I had to break it and stepped away from her. “So, where’s your crazy mom?”
“Back at home,” she said testily.
“Well, I pray she never leaves the house again so that she doesn’t have to suffer the public humiliation of yet another daughter’s disgrace.”
“You’re mad, Jug.”
“You know what, Betty? When you get married someday, this ‘perfect’ virtue thing you’ve got going on is only going to end in disaster. You’d better find an idiot to marry you. Those of us with brains know better.”
“You seriously need help,” she replied. I couldn’t tell if that was anger or concern.
“I know both sides of you, Betty. You can’t hide your darkness from me. And you never know, perhaps it’s rubbed off and made me mad by now, like you said.” I let out a maniacal laugh for emphasis and spouted some more nonsensical garbage, proclaiming, “There will be no more marriages! It’s just the nuns for you I’m afraid.”
I was done. She truly believed I had never loved her. That hurt beyond belief and I found I just couldn't prolong my own torture by staying in her presence any longer.
I stalked out.
But I hated myself for the way I had treated her that day . . .
The poison spread throughout my chest, pricking at my heart. The pains were coming faster – it wouldn’t be long now. With my less bloody hand I reached for my phone. I wanted to see one last email. The last one I had sent her - the one she should have heeded.
The little blood that had been on my cleanest finger made swiping the screen quite frustrating. A dip into the snow made little difference. It remained wet despite a quick wipe on my pants, just of a different consistency, and I didn’t have time to wait for it to fully dry. Time wasn’t just out of joint, it was running out. But finally, despite the frustration, I was able to find what I was looking for. Relieved, I relaxed back fully onto the snow and read the text that formed the letters on my screen . . . the wasted letters of the last email I sent her. . .
Doubt that the stars are fire
Doubt that the sun even moves
Doubt truth to be a liar
But never doubt that I love
She had doubted and now we were here. She in the river and I in the snow.
Just after my eyes froze in their sockets, the tears dried on my face. They were the last tears I’d ever shed for Betty, the only love of my very short life.