Cheryl lays across her bed, ruby silk dressing gown flowing over pale skin as she tries to brainstorm cheer routine ideas before bed. There is a chill in her room, as there was in all of Thornhill. It wasn’t a place where you ever got fully comfortable.
Hard furniture. Too many dark corners. Drafty even in the summer.
When Cheryl was younger, her brother constantly teased her that their house was haunted with all the creeks and groans it had. And even though JJ was only joking, when Cheryl got genuinely scared he always let her shuffle into his bed, tucked against his side like they babies sharing a crib again.
Mother had always pulled her back out again when she caught them though. She got to locking Cheryl’s door for good measure even when she cried and threw herself against it, scared of those lurking monsters.
She can hear her mother and uncle Claudius arguing downstairs now, the sound bouncing off all that cold, polished wood. Their voices were getting so intense Cheryl could barely concentrate on her Vixen’s playbook. They've been arguing relentlessly about the maple business for the past few months and it's driving her absolutely crazy.
Sound traveled in Thornhill. It leaked through the floorboards and vents, keeping no secrets. It’s how her mother always knew if she and Jason were misbehaving, or if she had snuck a friend home after school.
She can hear her uncle yelling at her mother about votes and the board of directors- her mother growls back, demanding they honor Clifford’s wishes for the business.
It always went like this. Claudius wanted to take things in a different direction Penelope wanted them to see through the plans her father had made while alive.
Even though he was corrupt.
Even though he had been the one to kill her only son.
Cheryl sighs and rolls over onto her back, giving up on work.
There had been so much resentment building lately, and on top of her mother running an in-home brothel, she is finding it impossible to sleep. Keeping the Vixen’s performances flawless, maintaining the perfect grades she demanded of herself and her student body president responsibilities meant a lot of sleeplessness nights and hard work.
Having her mother nit-pick over her and her uncle’s sleazy gaze on her didn't help.
Claudius had moved in after her father had committed suicide. He blown in with the wind last spring during the will reading and never left.
The official line was that he needed to be in Riverdale and help run Blossom Maple Farms out of Clifford’s old office until Cheryl was fit to take over.
However, Cheryl knew she’d never be ‘fit’ in her family’s eyes. Claudius had decided for them all that he would inherit everything- not her.
Truthfully, Cheryl didn’t care. It was just that Claudius repulsed her so. He was leering and scheming. Whenever they were alone together in the manor, she could feel his eyes following her.
Beady and watchful.
It made her anxious.
At first, she didn’t recognize what the feeling was. She is used to being outwardly confident, on top of everything. But as soon as she walks through Thornhill's heavy oak doors, she felt the weight of the whole house pressing down on her. The only monsters in the house now are those two, and she doesn’t have her twin’s safe, warm bed to crawl into.
So she is always sick to her stomach.
Shaky and meek.
She hates it.
The roaring downstairs is punctuated by a sudden crash, the sound of glass shattering. Cheryl is sure her mother has thrown her crystal cup across the room, always one for dramatics.
It makes her jump in the darkness anyway, breath catching in her throat.
She knows she’s not going to find any sleep while her mother and uncle carry on. There was too much tension in the air.
She tiptoes out of her room down the stairs, yanking on her red coat and boots over her nightgown as she goes.
She knows better than to take the front door when she sneaks out, and she moves through the house like a ghost till she gets to the service door in the kitchen that only the maids use.
When the night air hits her face, she feels herself able to breathe again.
Even though it’s winter and snow fall isn’t far away, the cold makes her feel alive and she smiles as she eases her and JJ’s convertible out of the driveway as quietly as she can.
Cheryl drives aimlessly for a bit, blasting the heating in her car. She thinks about just passing the time in Pop’s but decides against in case she runs into anyone from school.
She’s only been driving for half an hour when she starts to get to the end of the Northside. Riverdale is just too damn small.
She pulls up at the back of Twilight Drive-In which straddles and North and the South. It wasn’t the kind of place she would waste time in, but nobody from school would be here and she could stay in her car.
An old Hollywood horror is playing. The lot is basically empty except for a bunch of younger Serpents mucking around up the front- tossing back beer cans and laughing too loud. Their figures cast shadows against the projection screen and Cheryl scowls.
Didn’t they have anything better to do on a school night?
She tries to concentrate on the film but her tummy keeps rumbling.
She hasn’t eaten since breakfast. Mother didn’t believe in lunch, so Cheryl wasn’t allowed to either.
Dinner never got served because of the arguing.
Cheryl gives in and struts across the lot to the attendant booth for snacks, only to have to queue behind a couple of serpent girls.
They’re taking their time chatting to the pimpled kid working there. It’s dark out but she can see in the dim light of the booth their snakes shimmering on their jackets as they giggle.
One of the girls is ringing up a huge order while flirting with the attendant. She already has cola and popcorn in arm, but she’s insisting the attendant fix them hotdogs with all the trimmings.
The serpent girl laughs along at her friend’s antics. She has beautifully curled, pink hair tumbling over her shoulders, and when she turns and notices Cheryl behind them, she gets a glimpse of big brown eyes and full lips that matched the color of her hair.
The girl holds her eyes for a minute, lips turned up from laughing at her friend.
Cheryl looks away.
She clears her throat loudly to get them to hurry up.
The friend flirting with the attendant either doesn’t hear her or she doesn’t care that she is holding someone up, but the pink-haired girl turns to her fully and gives her an apologetic look.
“Sorry about her, she’s desperate.” She says softly, flashing perfect white teeth as she smiles at Cheryl like they have an inside joke.
“I see”, Cheryl says curtly, frowning back.
“I haven’t seen you around here before… do you hang here a lot?” the serpent girl asks, clearly trying to be friendly while they wait.
Cheryl shakes her head, not interested in small talk. She just needs this bitch to get out of the way so she can get some food and get back to her warm car.
“Oh. You came here alone?” the pink haired girl persists, not unkindly.
Cheryl resists the urge to scoff. She could have been here with someone back in the car.
Does she scream loneliness that bad?
“Yes, actually I did,” Cheryl snips back, narrowing her eyes.
“Uh, that’s cool… You could join us though, if you wanted,” the girl shrugs out, offhand.
Cheryl doesn’t know whether this girl is genuinely being this nice or if she’s just trying to rub it in that she has nowhere better to be. Regardless, she wasn’t some sort of social leper that needed charity.
Finally, the pink-haired girl’s friend turns around to them.
She takes one long look at Cheryl with her silk nightgown on under the expensive coat, painted red lips, and she sneers.
Cheryl recognizes this girl. She hangs out with hobo Jughead sometimes when he isn’t doing his best impression of a tortured hermit.
Before anyone can say anything, the girl is shoving food into the pink haired girl’s hands and then dragging her away by her jacket, muttering about Northside trash taking over.
She thinks she hears Blossom scum but it could just be her own head.
Cheryl is left standing there, shaking slightly with cold.
The stupid attendant is gawking at her exposed legs and suddenly she doesn’t feel so hungry anymore.