“Alright Vixens, I’ll see you here tomorrow, and hopefully you’ll all have a better grasp on the new routine by then.”
Betty’s voice echos through the gymnasium, drilling its way into everyones ears. From her position behind the tall girl, Veronica watches as her fellow Vixens exchange nervous looks before breaking off into clumps of two or three and whispering amongst themselves on their way to the locker rooms.
Betty strides off in front of her, ponytail swinging and Veronica hurries to catch up with her, breathing heavily, with sweat beading at the nape of her neck.
“Betty! Wait up I need to talk to you.”
Betty slows her speed dramatically, looking over her shoulder and chugging water from her water bottle.
“What is it V?”
“Its about the new routine. I know that you want to impress everyone with your routine at the presentation next week, but I’m just a little concerned about everyone managing to learn it perfectly in time.”
All the other girls have let the gym now and Betty slows to a complete stop beside her, eyes flashing with something close to anger.
“And what is it that you’re suggesting I do?”
“Well…I was thinking that we could just preform the routine that Cheryl had us learning before she left.”
Betty doesn’t say anything at first, just tightens her fists in a way that Veronica has grown uncomfortable familiar with over the past two years.
“Veronica, I’m cheer caption now. And that means that if I want the Vixens to preform my routine instead of Cheryl’s, thats whats going to happen.”
“I understand that Betty, I really do, but there is going to be collage admission scouts there, and there are so many girls on the squad who are counting on scholarships for collage, including you!”
“Exactly Veronica. And because of that it makes it all the more important that my name is the one next to the choreography credit on the presentation pamphlet.”
Her voice is cold and her body stiffens under Veronica’s gaze.
“Again, I understand that, but if you only give the us a single school week to learn this routine the only person that it would even slightly benefit would be…well, you.”
Betty doesn’t react to Veronica’s words, just stares at her angrily. And just like that Veronica realizes that at some point through the years, the girl standing in front of her had changed from an innocent, kind girl next door, to a manipulative women, whose first and only priority was herself. The knowledge hit Veronica like a sucker punch in the stomach and she sucked her breath in tightly through her teeth.
“Betty…you a can’t just use the Vixens for your own personal gain. We’re a team and we should do what is best for everybody.”
The blonde laughs, tossing back her head like Veronica’s words are the funniest thing that she’s heard in years.
“That is a really sweet sentiment Veronica. But unlike you, I don’t have dear daddy Lodge’s money ready to pay for whatever collage I want to bluff my way through.”
Veronica’s nose begins to tingle, just like it always does when she’s about to cry and she takes an involuntary step back from Betty.
“How can you-. No, forget it. The Vixens are still a democracy and I’m going to have everyone vote; so they have a choice in what they want to do.”
“Oh, you do that. Or, I mean, you could have done that if you were still a River-Vixen.”
“What are you talking about Betty”
“I’m talking about how you just got kicked out of the Vixens. I need girls who’ll support me on my squad, and you just very effectively proved that you don’t. So you’re out.”
Betty turns on her heel, leaving Veronica frozen to the floor behind her and tosses back over her shoulder,
“You have until the next practice to clear out your locker. If your stuff isn’t gone by then I’ll be doing with it whatever I see fit.”
The gym doors close behind her with a bang and Veronica stares after her, not really sure what had just happened.
She talks to Principle Weathersbee but there technically isn’t anything that he can do; she considers talking to her mother but using her mothers position as mayor doesn’t really sit well in her stomach. So on Tuesday morning, everyone at Riverdale High watches as Veronica Lodge cleans out her Vixen locker.
Most people ignore her, just like they had been doing ever since her dad had gone back to jail, but others openly laugh at her, jeering about the great Veronica Lodge being brought down a peg. Kevin is ignoring her, his head probably having been filled with lies from Betty and Archie just gives her a small smile when they make eye contact in the hallway, which is honestly more then Veronica had expected considering the fact that they hadn’t really spoken since their breakup.
But no door closes without another opening Veronica learns. Because in-between classes later that day when Veronica is hiding in the student lounge, Josie comes up to her and gives her a big hug, whispering in her ear,
“Once a Pussycat always a Pussycat Ronnie.”
Its a touching sentiment and helps Veronica get through the rest of the day, with head held high and a confident spring in her step. She falters slightly when she makes eye contact with Betty by the lockers and the end of the day, cursing the school for placing them just across the hall from each other, but then she opens her locker and she’s not thinking about Betty anymore.
Because on the middle shelf, sitting atop her math homework and a bag of Pops’ fries that she probably should have thrown away a long time ago, is a single sprig of cherry blossoms.
“Perfuming the air in your locker Lodge?”
Toni Topaz’s voice comes from behind her and before Veronica has a chance to say anything she hears the click of Toni’s camera’s shutter.
“Hey Toni. I guess that someone is, ‘cause I didn’t put these in there. I don’t know where they came from.”
Veronica lifted the buds to her nose, taking a delicate sniff, unable to fight back a small smile.
“You didn’t? Well someone call the Blue and Gold; looks like we’ve got a case of a Secret Admirer on our hands!”
“Oh shut up Topaz.” Veronica protested, laughing and hiding her reddening face with her hair while she tucked the cherry blossoms carefully into her purse.
Pops is quiet for the most part that night, a blessing that Veronica is devastatingly thankful for. Her head is way to full of Betty and the Vixens and the cherry blossoms that came from seemingly nowhere, to try and stuff the orders of customers in it.
The bell above the door rings and looking up Veronica sees Jughead entering the diner, headphones on and look of disenchantment covering his features. She knows that look, thats the look that means Jughead is only going to be wanting a basket of oily onion rings and multiple refills of plain black coffee until Pops closes for the night.
“What are we listening to tonight then? Is it The Smiths? Lord Huron? The Arctic Monkeys?”
Jughead stares at her confused for a moment, then pulls one of the headphones off his ear with an irritable,
“I was asking what you were listening to.”
“Oh.” a pause “Cage the Elephant.”
“Its giving inspiration I hope.”
“I guess.” he mutters un-committedly, reaching up and taking his order out of Veronica’s hands.
“Nothing. Its on me today.”
He glances up at her again, eyes filled with half suspicion and half…something else. Something else that wasn’t unfamiliar to Veronica, and yet was completely mysterious at the same time.
“Because you were lucky enough to catch me in a generous mood.”
Her tone is sharp, so sharp even she can hear it, but she’s to frustrated to care. Over the past few months she’s had moments that she’s thought that she and Jughead were probably the closest thing that the other had to a best friend, but then nights like this would happen with Jughead treating her like she was no more important the any of his other classmates.
So she lets out a frustrated huff and turns on her heel, heading back behind the counter, not noticing the way that Jughead looks up from his plate and watches her off and on for the rest of the night.
School gets a little bit better everyday. She eats lunch with Toni and Josie, and Kevin walks with her to class again after a day or two, although Veronica knows that he’s most likely only back to hanging out with her because she’s the center of the newest bit of gossip.
Because its Friday, and Veronica’s still getting a fresh sprig of cherry blossoms in her locker everyday after the school day is over. Which is amazing, and whoever is doing it is really sweet to try and make her feel better, (at least thats what she and Toni and Josie had decided it was,) but Veronica couldn’t help wishing that the mysterious sender would leave a note our something so she could figure out who it was and thank them. But there hadn’t been any note, not even a single scribble.
“Who do you think it is?”
The three of them are sitting in Veronica’s bedroom, painting each others nails and ignoring their English homework that they were supposed to be doing.
Veronica looked up from Josie’s now pale pink fingertips to where Toni was laying on her bed, her head hanging over the edge with feet in the air.
“I honestly have no idea Toni. And I have a feeling that now we might never know.”
“You said you haven’t told that many people about cherry blossoms being your favorite right?” asks Josie.
“Not really, I mean, its not the sort of thing that comes up in normal conversations. My mom knows, and I’m sure that I mentioned it to some of my friends in New York, and now you guys know, but I can’t think of anyone else I’ve told.”
“Maybe it came up during a game of Twenty Questions!” Toni jokes, lifting up Veronica’s phone.
“Can I use this?”
“Sure. The password is…nine-eight-three-four.”
Toni hums her thanks and falls quiet, leaving Veronica and Josie to their discussion of how Reggie Mantle had tried to pass off a spark notes summery of The Catcher In The Rye as his essay the day before.
“I thought Mr. Flutesnoot was going to explode!” Josie squealed, tears of laughter gathering in her eyes. “And Reggie just stood there, looking like the picture of innoce-“
“Shut up Josie!”
Both Veronica and Josie looked up at Toni, faces startled. Toni stood up, eyes fixed on the glowing screen of Veronica’s phone and whispered,
“I figured it out.”
“What? What do you mean you figured it out.”
“I mean I know who your secret admirer is!”
Toni looked up at Veronica, her eyes shining with excitement and shoved the phone in her face.
Veronica took the phone gingerly, almost expecting it to explode in her hand. A series of texts sat in front of her and while she read them understanding flooded her features.
Veronica: Valentines is a consumeristic holiday and I don’t have any problem with abstaining from celebrating it.
Jughead: And here I was assuming that you would be all over the roses and candy thing.
Veronica: I can buy myself candy and chocolate any other day of the year, and roses are overrated.
Jughead: Roses overrated? Now there is something that I never thought that I’d hear you say.
Veronica: Well, I live to challenge hipster wannabe's expectations. ;)
Jughead: Seriously though, if you’re anti-roses, what flower does live up to your lofty expectations?
Veronica: My expectations are NOT lofty!
Veronica: But if I had to choose a favorite, (which I’m against btw,) I guess that I would have to say…Cherry Blossoms?
Jughead: Of course it is. Why am I not surprises. Leave it to Veronica Lodge to have her favorite flower be one of the most expensive to buy.
Veronica: Don’t box me in Jones. And you wrote surprises instead of surprised. ;)
Jughead: I’m deleting your number now. ‘,:(
“Oh my gosh…” muttered Josie, who was reading over Veronica’s shoulder.
“I can’t believe it! How did I not notice that Jones had a crush on you? I mean, I’m with him pretty much every single day.” exclaimed Toni.
Veronica felt her stomach flip flop inside her. Was it possible? Could it really be that Jughead liked her? And did she like him? Veronica hadn’t ever really thought about it in depth before, but now she was and…well she certainly wasn’t opposed to the idea.
“What are you going to do Veronica?” asked Josie, looking at her with worried eyes.
“I…I don’t want to confront him head-on, but I do think that we should talk about it.”
Veronica felt the muscles in her jaw contort slightly, then smiled brightly as a new idea popped into her head.
“I know exactly what I’m going to do!”
Veronica: Hey Jones. I have to ask you something.
Veronica: Do you ever think about me?
Veronica: Cause I do. I think about you a lot more then I should probably admit and if I’m right about you being the one putting flowers in my locker I think that you think about me too.
Jughead: You figured that out?
Veronica: Yeah, I did with a little help.
Veronica: So I’ll ask you again. Do you ever think about me?
Jughead: Every second Lodge. Every second.