Veronica felt the cool hand slip up the back of her neck, a trail of goosebumps rippling along the path those nimble fingers had traced from the collar of her shirt to the baby hairs at the base of her scalp. She could feel the manicured nails slip ever-so-slightly in-between the roots of hair and trace small, almost non-existent circles and patterns; a drawing Veronica could feel against her skin and it felt like a masterpiece.
It took everything she had to fight back a shudder, despite the overwhelming heat of the room.
In a sea of tinted red, Veronica turned and pulled a pile of yellow into her lap, gathering up an angel in her arms as if she could fly away back to heaven at any moment, leave the sinful mortals of earth to wallow in greed and shame, Veronica amongst them. She couldn’t let that happen.
Time and forgiveness and alcohol made it easy to forget the horrible monstrosity that was Heather McNamara’s past self, as well as the behaviour that seemed far more suiting to the ball of sunshine. The pain that she had caused so many people had weighed heavily down onto the petite girls shoulder; a mixture of guilt and self-hatred swallowing up her mind alongside her reasons for her previous attempt at suicide. So it appeared as if Heather McNamara had been trying to right every wrong that had ever graced any of the Heathers’ minds before the tragic ‘Westerburg suicides’.
Guilt had been something Veronica had shared with the other girl; having the blood of three innocents on her hands was enough to cause any morally correct person even the slightest bit of grief, and it had almost killed the brunette, so if anyone knew about wanting a second chance, it was her.
The two girls had found solace in each other, their coincidental friendship blossoming into an intense bond. Without one, the other would surely be dead.
Neither knew if it were particularly healthy, the amount they depended on one another, but when three of your classmates die and another attempts to blow up the school before killing himself, or you attempt suicide in the bathroom of your school after one final cry for help: the healthiness of the relationship is thrown out of the window.
Above her, Veronica hears Heather giggle that same, squeaky giggle that she doesn't remember her having before the suicides, the one thats carefree and fluttery and a little bit too loud. Veronica loves it. She pulls her tighter and buries her face into a mop of soft, blond curls, a grin tugging at the corners of her mouth, until her nose nudges against the shell of Heather’s ear,
“Hi, Princess.” She mumbles, and it almost feels too hot with Heather pressed so firmly against her, in a room with over-heated teenagers with flushed cheeks all chugging alcohol as if it was going to be taken away. But the party was far from over and Veronica made no move to pull away.
After the incident had occurred out on the football field, and Veronica’s self-proclamation of ‘Sheriff’, no one had any protest for the girl covered in soot and sporting at least 4 second-degree burns and a limp, even when school resumed after a week or two of break. It was like a switch had been flicked, people respected Veronica and understood that her rules were to be followed. No one had been name-called that day, or shoved into a locker, or had their lunch tray smacked to the floor, because no one wanted to piss off the girl who had survived a bomb, promptly ripped the red scrunchie from Heather Duke’s hair, and l gave literally zero fucks about what you think. So it had continued in almost perfect bliss. People weren’t saints by any means, but they were no longer the hatred-hungry gremlins who had crawled those halls before. The students of Westerburg High were… Nice. And that was about as good as any school was gonna get. After all, it was still a highschool.
But everywhere Veronica went, there was respect of her power… mixed with a little fear, of course. And where Veronica went, Heather Mac was sure to be by her side. Martha had been moved by her parents to a different school, somewhere far away from the Jason Dean’s and Heather Chandler’s of the world, so the two were left to their own devices.
And that lead to ‘The Princess’ being born. Westerburg’s ‘Sheriff’ had been tacked onto Veronica without question, occasionally a teacher would even refer to her as this title, and, for some reason, the student body majority all decided that the yellow Heather was to be her ‘Princess’. It didn’t help that Mac began volunteering at the animal shelters, being held by staff as some animal-whispering-God, or that she showed up to school every day looking like she had stepped out of an issue of Vogue (she had branched from just yellow, not needing to conform to the role she had been given in her clique anymore).
No matter how much Veronica protested, the nicknames were their to stay until they graduated.
Heather’s ‘I can actually breathe and it’s great’ giggle brought her back to reality, and she leaned back to watch her best friend with a look nothing short of adoration.
“Evening, Sheriff.” Heather shot back, her lips, stained red with lipstick applied about two hours ago, stretched into a grin along her apple cheeks. She was bathed in red and pink and purple, a dash of blue even peaking over the bridge of her hair from the lamps around the room someone had thrown coloured scarves over. It melted light into neon shades perfectly, and Veronica was almost impressed, because she didn’t know Heather McNamara could look any better than she always did; and yet here was the living proof.
“You enjoying the party?” The brunette asked, hands sliding absentmindedly over the thin red material stretched around her thin waist. She didn’t know what it was, but she was addicted to feeling the length of that waist in her hands, and it was easy to get lost in the action without even realised. Heather never seemed to mind, however, often getting lost in the touch and leaning into it more even.
“So much fun!” Was all Mac said, and suddenly Veronica realised that the petite girls hand was still latched into her wild, messy hair, as those absent circles had returned, fingers leaning up over her scalp and through cropped locks.
She hummed absent-mindedly at the feel of it.
In the other room, the bass pounded through the floor like a sledgehammer on glass, a great shuddering thump throughout the entire house; rapid in pace. She recalled she felt it a little unfair that her heart beat had been materialised into a coherent form without her being able to consult her poetry books for the right way to describe it. She had so many entries at home tagged with a little yellow post-it and nothing more, because each one spoke volumes without the slightest annotation.
She hated romanticising her own bleak hope, but coping was a mechanism her brain hadn’t tried to attempt properly yet.
“Are you havin’ a good time, Ronnie?” Honey seemed to drip from those pink, plump lips and settled gorgeously in the bottom of Veronica’s gut. It felt like Heather McNamara was maple syrup mixed with vodka and Veronica had blown off her last three Canadian AA meetings.
The alcohol she had consumed, plus the very addiction that was the blond girl sitting in her lap, had loosened up her courage enough that words appeared to spill from her mouth, her filter of appropriateness blurring into a haze. She didn’t even have time to question ‘Why not?’ before they were out there in the open, slurred and sloppy and definitely not thought through.
“Much better now you’re here… You’re the best.” The brunette laughed, and the the blond, thankfully, joined in without a second thought, blond curls tumbling down her back as she threw her face up towards the sky and Veronica suddenly knew what it meant when people say their hearts skip a beat.
“No- No, Ronnie, yo-you’re the best!” Heather splutters back, clinging tightly onto the taller girls shoulders so that she wouldn’t fall off her lap. Their skin connected where the skirts of their dresses had ridden up their thighs throughout the night, solid and flustering and hot. It almost felt like it was burning in a completely not-at-all-unpleasant way.
“But you’re so… you!” The brunette cried. McNamara only giggled again, cheeks tinting an even darker red, and for some reason Veronica felt an overwhelming desire to tell this girl the truth, try to get her to see how amazing she actually was, and it hurt that she didn’t see that, “y-you’re smart, and funny and you make me smile, and, Jesus, are you adorably sweet… I swear you’re giving me a cavity!”
Despite the bright red tint of the room, the way it rolled over the globe of Heather’s apple cheek, Veronica swore she could see her whole face flushing darker, or at least feel the heat of her blush, and she grinned at the prospect of being the cause. The small blond was fighting back a grin, but it was a battle she was already losing, so, just as a flash of teeth peeked through her lips, she ducked her head to hide in the crook of Veronica’s neck, using brown tresses to escape her embarrassment.
There, in her little hiding spot, it smelt of pine and smoke; a side effect of Veronica having sat outside for a while, where an impromptu (and probably extremely dangerous) bonfire was roaring in the centre of the garden. It was similar, though, to what it smelt like when Veronica had an occasional cigarette; earthy and familiar. She breathed it in, deep, allowing the smell of Veronica to fill her head with thoughts that were definitely not appropriate, but not halted in any way by her brain. She imagined Veronica, cigarette dangling between her lips hazardously, leaning against a Harley or Triumph, offering Heather nothing more than a kiss and a run away trip to Seattle.
If that had happened, she would have claimed both prizes.
“You’re embarrassing me…” Heather allowed her voice to whine, something she would have never thought of doing a few months ago, when Chandler’s death was still fresh and Duke was snapping at her for every comment. But now, she didn’t feel childish or stupid, she felt the comforting rumble of Veronica’s laughter; dorky and stupid, and oh-so-adorable in a way only Veronica could make it. And she felt safe.
“It’s not my fault, you’re just too cute. Pint-Sized. The Pint-sized Princess.” The brunette chuckled in response, squeezing playfully at the other girls waist.
Heather leaned back an inch, so she could side-eye Veronica with her chin still on her collarbone.
“You’re cute too, y’know.”
Before the conversation could continue, a large group of drunken teens stumbled into the room, bringing the rest of the world back into existence for the two girls. They were in the kitchen, Veronica suddenly remembered, at a party.
“Sh-Sheriff! Veronica! Sheriff!” One particularly rambunctious guy hollered, feet staggering underneath him, barely holding his 6 foot frame upright.
“What can I do for you, Duncan?” Veronica sighed, leaning back against her seat, Heather following the lean of her body without a second thought, and settling back against her.
“Brian just broke out the Jello-shots; you want one?” Duncan grinned, holding out a tray of red jelly in plastic, fluorescent, shot glasses. Behind him, the crowd who had followed yelled in protest, but he snapped his head around to silence them with a bone-chilling glare, “Sheriff ’n’ The Princess get first pick, guys!”
“Don’t bother ‘em! They’re bein’ cute ’n’ shit!”
“Yeah, Dunc, they don’t want to talk to your sorry ass!”
Duncan, at the slurred words of his friends, turned to look at Veronica with fear behind his pupils, eyes seemingly darting to the small blond in her lap for the first time.
“Aw, gee, I’m- I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to- I didn’t think- I- Damn it, please don’t hit me!”
Veronica felt Heather stifle a laugh into her neck, so she simply rolled her eyes, snatching up a cup and giving the new quarterback a polite nod. The redheaded boy, a wave of relief apparently washing over his entire body, smiled proudly at her and wandered back to the rest of the party.
McNamara lifted her head up, finally; eyes fixed on the tiny plastic cup in the brunette’s hand.
“He totally thought you were gonna hit him.” She smiled mischievously. Veronica’s eyes stared straight ahead, not engaging eye contact with the petite girl.
“I might of.”
“No you weren’t. Anyway, you gonna eat that? Or… like, drink it?”
Veronica frowned, looking down at the Jello-shot, “D’you drink or eat a jello-shot?”
“Well, you eat Jello…”
“But this is in a cup…”
“So you drink?”
“But like,” The Sheriff looked at her princess, brows furrowed in confusion, “It doesn’t change. It’s still a solid… I think.”
Heather shrugged, snatching the shot from Veronica and knocking it back.
“Hey!” The brunette yelled, grabbing back the cup, but it was empty by that point, and Heather was chewing thoughtfully on the jello.
“Y… Yeah you eat it.” She decided finally, slumping back into her temporary chair, sighing contentedly.
Her lips brushed softly against the skin of Veronica’s neck, feeling the goosebumps chase the trail they made, as she tipped her head back to trace the slope of her throat up to her jaw, where she placed a feather light kiss. The body underneath her, warm and solid and clad in a simple, black dress, shivered under the singular press of Heather’s lips against her skin. It made her smile.
“You stole my Jello shot, Princess.” The words were whispered like a bible verse into the room farthest from any Church, sin visible at the turn of a head; and yet the prayer was heard.
“You wanna taste?” She breathed back, hot breath against hot skin, ghosting over her cheek. All it would take was Veronica to turn her head ever so slightly, slide her hands that little bit further over Heather’s waist, to solidify the moment into history.
And so she did.
Later, people would argue that the Sheriff and the Princess had been together the whole time, that this was not their first kiss, or that the kiss happened in a diner just off of the Oldmill bridge, or in someone else's party in some other house.
But both Veronica and Heather knew that they kissed for the first time, sharing a Jello-shot, under a bath of crimson light around a strangers kitchen, Veronica’s hands sliding over Heather’s body eagerly, McNamara’s fingers painting patterns into the back of Veronica’s neck, until the black, midnight sky was just barely bruising a dark purple and the start of a new day began.