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Songs of our Hearts

Chapter Text

Slurp!


Betty Cooper-Jones swallowed down the very last sip of her triple chocolate shake. She turned around in her seat taking in the sight of Pop's Diner being filled to the brim with customers. It made her very happy to see it this way as it should be. People were laughing and chattering merrily while they gobbled down their meals. It was a beautiful sight and up on the stage was a customer belting out a song that was casting out lyrics on the screen in front of them, which was a big night at Pops. Over the last year, Pop Tate managed to turn his basement in for a fun center targeted to pull in more customers and to offer them a fun night such a Karaoke night. It was also used as a center for business meeting and the like. Betty also takes in the little details around the room that her the reason she was here on that night. The night was her seventh wedding anniversary to her wonderful husband, Jughead Jones. Speaking of Jughead, Betty's eyes scanned the crowd looking for those eyes that only he could possess but only finding him by the old beanie hat that sat upon a bed of messy curls. She smiles to herself as she has a secret to tell him later. She could not believe how life had blessed her when just a few years ago she was sure that it was going end with her funeral. The song came to an end, and the crowd gave a hearty applause as the singer made their way off the stage.

Betty got out of her stool to go up to the mic. The singer was not bad in the least but was slightly off tune. But that was not what this night was ever about. It was about having fun in a judgment-free zone where the singer whoever it is didn't have to worry about whether or not that sang badly. If anyone in the audience was rude, they were asked to leave. It was also a place where people could tell stories or jokes, whatever was on their tongue.


"Way to go," Betty beamed into the mic as she turned to the rest of the eyes staring her way. She spotted her devilishly handsome husband who was standing with her father-in-law FP Jones and caught the blue eyes that she loved so much.

"I want to take a moment to thank everyone who has come out to celebrate this special night with my husband and me," She continued as she looked for the owner of the diner Pop Tate. "Also to Pop who graciously opened his doors to us and by serving his wonderful food for all us to enjoy. Is there anyone who would like to go next?" Betty asked looking around the room for any potential volunteers to call upon. The voice of her husband as her eyes swinging back to him.

"How about you tell us a story," he suggested with a simple shrug of his shoulders. "I think everyone would like to hear one."

Betty rolled her eyes at him. "And what story would that be, my Love?" she asked him, knowing what he was going to say.


"You know the story," Jughead replied looking to his dad. "The one that everyone loves to hear." He finished by taking a sip of his drink.


"What does everyone else think about that?" Betty asked the crowd as she pulled up a stool to sit on because this was going to take a while. The crowd responded enthusiastically, and she could see her parents smiling at him from where they were seated at their table. "Where should I start?"

"How about at the beginning?" he said his eyes were swirling with happiness.

"I can do that," Betty agreed, crossing her legs at the knee trying to get comfortable, but never once breaking her eye contact with her husband as he mouthed "I love you," to her. Betty could do nothing but smile at him.

Betty takes a deep breath before speaking into the mic to begin the long winded story. "If you all don't know by now, my name is Elizabeth Cooper-Jones," she said with a sense of pride of sharing the name with the man. "And that is Jughead Jones," she included nodding her head to the goof. "He is the star-cross Love of my life," Betty tells her audience. "You see I fell in Love with him like the way you fall asleep. First very slowly, and then all at once. Our story is an epic romance, and I may not be able to tell you this story without bursting into a puddle of tears, but I will give it my best shot." Betty's eyes fall back on to the man who took her heart and made it his own as she began to tell the story of her life. The best journey she lived over and over again because she couldn't get enough herself.

Chapter Text

Chapter One



Eight years earlier…



“Elizabeth Cooper!”

 

Betty looked up from the magazine she had been flipping through at the sound of her name echoing through the lobby. She tossed the book aside and grabbed on to her oxygen tank as she got out of her seat to meet the nurse that was patiently waiting for her. As she walked, Betty could see every eye in the room on her back. People told her that over time that she would get used to the stares. But for some reason, Betty never did. They would often make her want to crawl under a rock and never come out. However, that was not the way to face her problems, so she kept marching on. Betty smiled at her nurse when she finally reached her.

 

“Good Morning, Nancy,” Betty greeted the elderly lady as Nancy opened the door allowing her to walk through to her work station.

 

“How are you today, Betty?” Nancy asked, closing the door behind her, “how are you feeling today?”

 

“Pretty well,” Betty replied before sitting in a rock hard chair that felts like bricks more than leather.

 

“That is great,” Nancy said while looking over my chart, writing something down. “You are here for your biweekly stick, am I correct?”

 

“You are.”

 

Nancy continued with standard 100 question procedure with the same answers that she always give. They were still awkward even after the many times that Betty answered them.

 

“Can you please tell me  your diagnosis, please?”

 

Betty took in a deep breath. This was the part that she always hated. “Acute Myeloid Leukemia,” she stated, and that is why she hated to answer. All because of those three words and the reason she was here on this very morning just like every other Tuesday. Betty would have to come to have her blood counts checked to make sure that they didn’t drop or she wasn’t having any complications. Betty wished that they would remember her answers, but realized that they had way too many patients for that to happen.

Nancy scratched something off on the chart she was holding. “What is the status?” she asked looking up through her wired rimmed glasses.

 

Betty swallowed as her throat felt very sticky. “I have been in remission for about 14 months,” she answered, slowly. She always felt like she would jinx her chances for saying it. But so far so good.

 

Nancy placed the chart on her desk and started to gather the things that she will need. Soon, she was wrapping the blue ribbon around her upper arm and tied it tight enough to create a wince out of Betty.

 

“Sorry,” she muttered moving away from Betty for a second when the ringtone of Betty’s phone pierced the air. Betty moved down to get it out of her bag but was stopped when she caught the stern look from Nancy. She quickly remembered Nancy’s rule about phone calls. Nancy would always grumble about phone calls in the middle of patient visits saying that it disrupted her work. Betty sat back in her chair deciding to let Nancy win that battle.  Betty figured that it was probably just her boyfriend, Archie Andrews, giving her a call. Well, Archie would have to wait until later. Betty was hoping that he would call today because she needed to talk to him about something. A little something about the fact that she would be attending Juilliard in just one week.

 

Betty could hardly contain her excitement about going. It was something that she wanted since she was a little girl falling in love with music for the first time. Ever since she heard the name Juilliard, she had become obsessed with the school. It became her dream. So ever since she decided that that was her dream, Betty placed every effort of her being to reach that dream. And all that hard work was rewarded with a full music scholarship and being accepted into the school at the age of 17. Everything was ready to go, but then that dream had to be placed on hold. Because apparently, Betty was meant to walk a different path as she was diagnosed with Leukemia the summer before her senior year. Three months from the date that she was granted her wish. Then after that, her life went downhill.

 

Her mind ran away from the mopey memories to her parents. Her two ever-loving parents, who had been her knights in shining armor, her battle warriors in ways that she will never be able to thank enough. The very parents who she will be leaving in just eight days to the city that was a little over an hour away from New York City where she will be staying for the next four years. Or maybe it was two hours. She couldn’t quite remember the exact number. To go to Juilliard.

 

Juilliard where she will finally get to begin her freshman year. Yes, Juilliard was her dream school, but her biggest dream was to be a songwriter. And that was why she was going there for their songwriting program.

 

“And you are done, my dear.”

 

The intrusion of Nancy’s voice brings Betty out of her inner thoughts and back down to Earth. Betty stared at the nurse as she pieced together the words she had spoken. “What?” she asked her and looked down to see her arms wraps in a dark purple gauze. “Really? I didn’t even feel it,” Betty murmured touching the bandage. Then again she never really feels it anymore. After being stuck so many times over the last year or so, Betty grew immune to the sting.

 

“Yes, that was it. You are free to go,” Nancy said pulling off her gloves to throw them away before walking over to her desk. “Remember, that in two weeks that you have your new appointment with Dr. Hamburgs office. The office here has already faxed over your record to them. So they should have everything that they need. All you need to do is take care of yourself while you are gone, you hear?” Nancy swallowed as Betty picked up the slight hitch in her voice. She reached into the small jar on her desk pulling out a stick with a white kitten on it, peeled it off and placed it to Betty’s shirt. “For good luck, next week,” she smiled warmly at her.

 

Betty returned the smile as she wrapped her arms around the other woman. She didn’t know if it was okay to do such a thing, but she didn’t care. “Thank you for everything, Nancy,” she said as she pulled back from the hug. Nancy had been one of her biggest allies during her fight outside of her parents. And being the bright-filled person is, Nancy quickly became one of Betty’s favorite people in the world making her glad to have met such a person.

 

“Good luck, sweetheart.”

 

With one last weak smile, Betty kicked back her tank and wheeled her way out of the room. Once she was out of the building, Betty reached into her bag for her phone, so she could check to see who called her. And her guesses were right about the caller had been her boyfriend. She hit the call button and put the phone to her ear listening to it to ring a few times before Archie answered.

 

“Hey Honey,” he greeted her making her grimace at the fuzzy name that made her want to vomit. Yes, Betty hated the pet names that he tended to call her, but she was not about to tell him that.

 

“Hey,” she smiled into the phone while scanning the parking lot for her mother’s car until she spotted the old green station wagon in a shady place. Betty felt relieved that her mother was able to grab the spot until the giant tree because it was hotter than hell, being the end of July.

 

“How did it go today?” he asked her curiously.

“It was just bloodwork, Archie. So I will know in a few days,” she told him scrolling over to the car climbing inside to escape the never-ending heat. “I will let you know what I find out,” Betty promised him.

 

“I can’t wait to hear it. Look, there is a reason I called earlier,” Archie started before clearing his voice before talking in a slightly louder voice. “I was wondering if you would like to go get something to eat at Pop’s tonight?” Betty started to answer but was distracted by the sound of a muffled voice that sounded familiar to her.

 

“Is Veronica with you?” Betty asked him.

 

“No, it’s just my mom,” Archie said quickly, and Betty felt her eyebrows raise.

 

“Archie,  your mom, lives in Chicago,” she reminded, “you told me last week that she has a major court case this week and would busy every day,” she said, feeling confused on why Archie would lie about being with Veronica. Veronica was their best friend. They didn’t need to lie that they like hanging out together unless there was something else going on… Would they do such a thing? No no no, Betty thought to herself. Veronica and Archie wouldn’t do something like that to her. Veronica always said over and over again, that hoes always came before bros. “Anyway, tell Veronica that I said hello and I would love to have dinner with you tonight.”

 

“Awesome! I will see you in a little while, Honey,” Archie said before hanging up. Betty internally shudders at the pet name because it was twice in one fucking phone call.

 

“Was that Archie?” her mom asked her pulling out of the parking space turning the car to move towards the main road. Betty nodded before Alice began to shower her with questions about her appointment. But Betty couldn’t hear her as she could only think about the upcoming night and her mind turned to Archie.

 

Archie Andrews was one of her biggest heroes. She thought back to when they first met when they were only four at the time when Betty’s parents bought the house next door to Andrews. However, they didn’t start out as friends, and in fact, Betty hated the fucker. He was lazy and would often make fun of her.  Whenever they would look at each other, it was usually with a glare. That lasted until one day; Betty found him sitting on his front porch, after riding her bike around the block, upset. Puzzled at seeing him like this, Betty asked if he was okay. Archie told her that his parents were splitting up and that he had to repeat the second grade if he didn’t get his reading score up. He looked so sad as he said this. Like someone took his kite and stabbed it. Betty wanted to help him feel better, but she couldn’t help with his parents, but she could help with the reading part.

 

So, she ran back over to her house to her room to try and find any books that would be a good start for Archie.  After she had her arms filled with books, Betty marched back over to Archie’s porch and promised him that she would help him pass the class. And the rest past was history as they quickly became best friends and were inseparable after that. Wherever Archie went, Betty was with him and vice versa.  Then high school happened where things began to change for Archie and Betty. Betty was in complete denial of her feelings for Archie until he went on a date with Josie McCoy.

 

It was only then that Betty allowed herself to realize that she had a crush on her best friend, Archie Andrews. But it scared her. She wanted to tell him how she felt but was also worried about losing his friendship. So she said nothing. The fling between Josie and Archie quickly fizzled out because the two of often fight over the smallest things. After that, things slowly went back to normal. Then Betty was asked out by Trevor Brown which turned out to be one of the worst dates in Betty’s short life. Betty liked to call it failed date or a fate.

 

Later on in the year, Betty found out that Trevor came out of the closet as gay.  Betty figured that that was the reason why the date was a no go for them and that Trevor only asked her out on that date to try and prove something to his parents. Betty pulled her thoughts back to that train tracks of Archie to the moment things changed for them.

 

It was during the first week of their junior year, and Betty was about to walk home when Archie asked her to go with him to the Back to School dance.  Betty felt her heat burst as she immediately said yes to him. The rest of the week went by very slowly for Betty and the night finally arrived.

 

There was something about that night that clicked between them, and it eventually led them to their first kiss that sealed the deal for them. Everything was going great for them. Archie was the football captain, and Betty was a cheerleader. It was almost like a fairy tale until Betty’s health started to turn for the worse and the cause behind it as eventually revealed that Betty had cancer. Archie had been incredibly supportive through the whole thing. He would go with her to the appointments, hold her hand when she needed some extra strength. Archie was great a great friend and even a great boyfriend. But Betty frowned as she couldn’t help but notice something had changed between them as her thoughts moved to her other best friend, Veronica.

 

Veronica Lodge moved to Riverdale during Archie and Betty’s Sophomore year. Veronica was the reason that Betty was even able to be on the River Vixens squad. The cheerleading captain and Betty’s cousin, Cheryl Blossom, was often a bitch to Betty. By commenting on her weight or find something about Betty insult. When Veronica moved to the Riverdale, she had put a stopped to it and demanded that Betty was placed on the squad or Veronica herself would not join the squad and it worked. Veronica was also great through her cancer battle as well.

 

She would sleep with her during her hospital stays when her mother or father needed a night away. She would lay on the bed and watch movies. Veronica would hold her when she needed to cry, and she even helped shave Betty’s hair when it started to fall out. Betty swallowed thickly thinking about her support system and believed that the only way she was able to make it through was because of them.

 

Another good thing about her two best friends was that they too were accepted into the school of Juilliard. Betty knows that it sounds weird that three students from Riverdale had been accepted into just a sacred school that was for music and other talents. But they did. Betty just happened to be starting a year later than she was supposed to.

 

Betty is pulled from her head when her mother blows the horn. She looked out the windshield to see her mom pulling into the driveway of their house and could see her father sitting on the side porch reading the Riverdale Register. Betty shook her head at this. She didn’t know why her parents had to read a paper that they owned and a paper that they wrote most of the stories. Yeah, her parents were weird, but they were her parents. Betty often wondered if he just read the paper to drown out her mother sometimes or out of complete boredom.  When her mom placed the car into the park, Hal Cooper raced around to her door to help her as Betty’s tank gets tangled with the door.

 

“I got it, Dad,” Betty told him as she reached down to unravel the wired from around the window handle. It was an older car, so it had features like that in it.  Betty tried not to get frustrated with her dad because she knows that he only wanted to help. But Betty felt like she had to prove to them that she could handle things on her own so that they won’t worry as much when she leaves next week.

 

“You know I don’t mind helping you, Honey,” he said holding up his hand in a surrender like stance. Now, Betty doesn’t mind when her dad calls her that because her dad has been calling her that since she was a little girl. But when Archie does it, it turns her the wrong way. “I missed you.”

 

Betty snorted at him while rolling her eyes. “It’s only been two hours since we left the house,” she laughed at him as he led the Cooper Women into the house where Betty was hit with the most delicious aroma coming from the crock pot that was sitting in the middle of the island. Betty knew that yummy smell only came from chili and it was made her mouth water. She sat down on a stool while she watched her dad take the lid off to stir it. She took another deep whiff of the smell coming from the bubbling red goodness in front of her.  Her dad noticed her face and chuckled. One of her favorite sounds as he held out a spoon for her.

 

“Would you like some?” he asked her waving the spoon in front of her, and it was enough to make her cave.

 

Betty slipped the spoon into her mouth and almost melted at the tastes. It was rich and spicy and everything that chili was supposed to be. “It’s good, but it needs some salt,” she told him. Hal quickly grabbed the salt shaker and sprinkled the seasoning over the chili, stirred it and tasted some for himself.

 

“How about now?” Hal asked her offering her another spoon and Betty was only too happy to accept it.

 

“Yep,” Betty said after swallowing her bite. “It’s perfect now,” she smiled smacking her lips while her stomach growled begging her for more. “No more,” she said when he started to hand her another spoon.

 

“She has a big date tonight, Hal,” Alice said, sliding into the seat next to Betty before grabbing the spoon that was meant for Betty.  Betty felt her cheeks begin to burn as her father’s attention returned to her.

 

“How is good old Archie?” Hal asked, “I have seen him much since he has been home from school for the summer.”

 

“He is doing pretty well, Dad,” Betty said waiting for her heart to do its little flip at the thought of Archie’s smile, but it doesn’t happen. Betty takes a deep breath as she watched her mom stick the spoon into her mouth. Betty laughed as her mom’s eye rolled around something Alice Cooper did when she was thinking about something.

 

“It needs salt.”

 

Hal frowned at his wife. “I just put salt in, Alice,” he told her, and with that, her parents erupted into a minor snippet over the salt content of the chili. They tended to have small arguments over the slightest thing, and Betty was not in the mood to watch the sexual blabber between her two parents. She did want an appetite for later after all.

 

“I am gonna go get ready,” Betty said to her parents, but they were deep in their conversation that they didn’t hear her. So, Betty slid out of the stool to head to her room and over to her most dreaded thing, the stairs.  As she made the harsh trek up to her room, a tune started coming together in her mind. She finally makes it to the top of the stairs and hurried to her room. Betty sank into her chair feeling completely winded from the climb. That was why she hated stairs. No matter the direction she was going on them, they seemed to wipe all the oxygen and energy from her body.

 

Betty took a deep breath before turning to her two most prized possessions. Her soundboard and her keyboard. They were presents from her parents on her birthday and now played a significant role in her songwriting. Betty looked over to her bookshelves that were lined with many numerous journals. Well, they would look like journals to anyone else, but they weren’t. They were the books filled with the many songs that Betty has written over the years. And those were just some of them. Betty had a few boxes in her closet that held even more.  Betty turned her attention to the important matter at hand. The tune in her mind. She glanced to the door making sure her mother was nowhere around before cracking her knuckles. She knew if her mom caught her doing this, it would cause a major lecture that would end with Betty’s ears bleeding. Betty called it getting her fingers ready for their little work out.

 

Betty played the tune over and over in her mind before testing it on the keys. She winced as it was not what she had in mind, so she tried again and again until she was happy with that she was hearing. Betty’s fingers continued to float over the keys as she loses herself in the music. This was what she loved about music. It was like she grew wings that took her to another world where there’s no cancers or oxygen tanks.  It was like she landed on her fantasy island that was for her. She missed this place so much and wanted to stay here forever. If anyone who ever see inside her mind, they would think that she was crazy. But she didn’t care. She loved music.

 

“Betty! Archie is here!”

 

Betty jumped hitting an off-key at the sounds of her mother’s shrill voice wavered up the stairs.  Betty’s eyes snapped over to her clock where the numbers were angry red and screaming the numbers 6:45 at her.

 

“Shit!” Betty scrambled out of her seat as fast as she could go. Archie hated being late, and they were going to be really late. Betty hurried over to her closet doors searching through the rows of clothes looking for something that would catch her eye. Betty never had much of a fashion sense and always preferred to dress for comfort. And that was kicking her in the ass as she settled on a red shirt with a black skirt. They were only going to Pop’s anyway, so she didn’t need to go all out. When she leaned down to snatch up her black boots, she felt her chest tighten. She stood up slowly and walked over to her bed to sit down feeling completely breathless. Betty hated when this happened. It often meant that she was moving way too fast and that she needed to slow down.  She changed her outfit quickly not even bothering with any jewelry.

 

When she was done, Betty gave herself a glance in the mirror and grimaced at the image. Staring back at her was not the girl she could recognize. Her face held every little color, and there was a thick batch of messy curls barely covered the back of her neck. Her hair was nothing like it was before. She missed being able to put her hair up in a ponytail. She had wigs that she could wear, but they were more itch than comfortable. Her eyes then settled on the cannula sticking out of her nose and shook her head in disgust. She applied a thin layer of foundation to try and hide the dark circles under her eyes, and after a quick swipe of a pink gloss, Betty Cooper was ready for the evening.

 

"Do you need help?"

 

Betty looked up to see her mom standing in the door and shook her head telling her no.

 

"Are you okay?" Alice asked her daughter sounding a little worried. "You look a little pale." She noted walking into the room to place her hand on Betty's forehead.

 

"I'm fine, Mom," Betty assured her. She looked at her mom in the mirror to see her hold up her hand revealing a small necklace with a little red teardrop.

 

Betty turned around in her stool to look at it. "Is that grandma's necklace?" she asked as she began to place it around her neck.

 

“Yes, Ma’am,” she finished with the clasp and placed her hands on to Betty’s shoulders. “You look beautiful, Betty.” Betty could see a thin layer of tears in her mother’s eyes. “I love you so much, Elizabeth.”

 

“Me too, Mom,” she said getting out of her seat hugging her close. Betty Cooper was fortunate to have Alice Cooper for a mother. (I know it is not true in the show. I mean what kind of mother would do everything she could to get her daughter to a farm that farms organs?) Betty didn’t know how her mother made it through her illness, but Alice Cooper did it like a fucking champ. Betty could only hope to have that kind of strength one day.  She walked back over to her keyboard to hit the save button on her new piece. She never took any chances with that because she never knew if the power would blink or something odd would happen.

 

“Now let’s go,” Alice said, leading Betty out of the room by her arm. “You have a very handsome gentleman waiting for at the bottom of the stairs.” With her mother’s help, Betty slowly made her way down to the living room. Betty looked up and there he was Archie Andrews in the flesh. With his red hair gleaming in the light and his white teeth on to show like he was in an Extra Gum commercial. He looked terrific, and she had missed him.

 

“Finally,” Archie sighed when he spotted her. Yep, he was not happy because there was an edge to his voice. Betty glanced at her father making sure that Hal wouldn’t pick up on it because she didn’t need him going all ape shit over Archie when he went into one of his protective modes. And Betty knew that he was probably irritated because they were late leaving for Pop’s.

 

“Sorry, I was writing again, and I lost track of time,” Betty said as her eyes dropped to the floor. She didn’t know why she was apologizing for when Archie knew what writing meant to her.

 

“Oh, Honey,” Archie snickered while shaking his head. Betty cringed internally and bit down on her lip so she would not lose her cool.

 

“Well, I am ready now,” she smiled at him walking over to take his arm and they were out the door. But not before Betty waved goodbye to her parents knowing that they were watching from the front door.

 

“Don’t be home too late,” her mom yelled out the door, her voice echoing throughout the neighborhood. Betty snorted when she saw their neighbor’s porch light come on. Yeah, her mom had that kind of sharp voice that could pierce its way through brick walls.

 

“I won’t,” Betty said blowing them a kiss before Archie tried to help her into the car only for her to fall clumsily into the seat.  Betty missed being able to get into a car with a little bit of grace. Betty waved one more time at her parents before Archie pulled away from the curb and into the nights. Betty’s stomach growled as she thought about the huge plate of cheese fries that waited for her. But Betty didn’t know that she was riding into a night that she least expected.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Two

 

Betty had to bite back an excited grin as Pop’s finally came in their view. Pop’s was her favorite restaurant in the whole world. The atmosphere was nothing but comfort and warmth that made Pop’s what it was. And the food, of course. The food was nothing short of fabulous — the best burgers and fries in Riverdale. Then there are the milkshakes. They deserve their own glory because there was nothing like a Pop’s milkshake — creamy, smooth, delicious treats. Betty had been coming to Pop’s since her family moved to Riverdale when she was only a little girl. It was where she and Archie had their first date. It was also the place where Betty would come to work on her songs when she wanted to get out of the house. Some of her best songs were written here due to the people watching she would do. But there was something else that made Pop’s great and it wasn’t just the food. It was because of Pop Tate himself. One of the warmest souls that a person could find in the world. He was everyone’s favorite grandpa, which seemed odd because he never had kids of his own, nor did he ever marry. He was just so devoted to the diner after his mother passed away that nothing else seemed to fill the void.

 

Archie pulled into the very last vacant spot that he could find which was surprising because the diner was buzzing with people tonight. This was a common sight on a Friday night. Betty could hear the constant ringing of the bell as people walked in and out of the door. When they would walk to Pop’s, Archie and Betty could hear the bell ringing from a block away. Betty opened the door to get out and was met by Archie who hurried around to help her causing the independence bubble inside her to grow. That was just how she was. Thankfully, she was able to escape from the car with no issues for the book tonight, and the couple goes inside.

 

Betty’s stomach began to growl at the yummy smell of food hit her nose. She was hungry when she left the clinic only to go home to the smell of chili cooking in the house. And they were here, and she was starving. It did not take long for Pop to spot them, and he came over to them with a big smile on his face as usual. Did the man ever have any bad days?

 

He walked around the counter, enveloping Betty into his strong arms in a warm buttery embrace. Wow, three hugs in one day… How lucky am I , Betty thought to herself, but in all honesty, Betty loved his hugs.

 

“My Betty Dear,” He greeted with an overflowing fountain of jolly. “We missed you in here.”

 

Betty chuckled as she pulled out of the embrace giving him a crazy look. “It’s only been two days since my last visit.”

 

“It must be my old mind going,” Pop rubbed his forehead that was dripping in sweat.  A sign that he had been working up a storm trying to feed the entire hungry with little to no help. “I always look forward to seeing my favorite customer.”

 

“Oh Pop,” Betty beamed. “You live to flatter me.” Betty looked around the place spotting a free booth in the corner while Pop turned his attention to Archie, who was standing behind her quietly waiting to take his seat.

 

“Archie,” he said coldly as he extended a hand out to the redhead.

 

Betty blinked at the iciness in Pop’s voice, bringing the temperature of the diner down a few degrees. She was more stunned than anything. She has never heard Pop speak like that to anyone before. Hell, she never knew he could be like and to Archie of all people. What was that about? She wondered to herself.

 

“Go ahead and take that seat over there,” Pop said, waving his hand in the direction. “Someone will be with you guys shortly.”

 

Betty gave Pop a thankful smile before walking over the booth sliding into the seat. She sighed at the welcoming seat as she was feeling tired. She decided after she went home that she would go to bed and sleep. Her chemo treatments wiped out most of her stamina, and it didn’t take her much to get tired.

 

After placing her tank under the table and out of the way, Betty looked over to Archie only to see him not staring at her but the table. She then realized that Archie had been unusually quiet all evening. She begins to ask him what is wrong, but the words never leave her mouth as a waitress appeared at their table read for their order.

 

“Hello my Dears,” she smiled warmly placing rolled silverware in front of them along with two straws. “What can I see started for you? Chili cheese fries are the special tonight.”

 

“Oooh,” Betty sighed as the image of cheesy fries enter her mind. “I will have those with a bacon cheeseburger with a vanilla milkshake with extra whipped cream.”

 

“That sounds delicious,” the waitress said, writing it down on her pad before turning to Archie. “For you Hon?” Soon the waitress was scurrying off to turn in their order, leaving them alone and once again no words were exchanged between the couple.

 

Betty nibbled her lip as the uncomfortable silence began to eat at her. She was not a big fan of these moments, and it quickly tore at her patience. So she decided to be the one to break the ice. “Is everything okay?” she asked, causing Archie to lift his eyes and look at her for the first time since they sat down.

 

Archie shrugged a shoulder as he picked up a napkin off the table, shredding it into pieces. “I have a lot of things on my mind tonight,” he mumbled so lowly that Betty had to lean forward to hear the words.

 

“I can tell,” Betty said, reaching over to place a hand on his saving the poor napkin from its ill fate. “Do you want to talk about it? Are you worried about school?” she asked him.

 

Archie shook his head. “No, it’s not school. I can’t wait to get back to that.” He pulled his hand out of Betty’s grasp.

 

Betty took a deep breath as she tucked her hand into her lap, feeling confused at Archie shrugging her off. He never did that to her. “Well, there is something wrong with you tonight,” she said pointedly, and he said nothing. If she had known that their date would be like this, she would have stayed home to have chili or do something else with her time. “Are you mad because I made us late?” she pressed, and again she was met with another closed lip Archie which started to irritate her.

 

Archie closed his eyes before leaning forward into his seat. “We need to talk,” he said, looking up at her.

 

Betty let out a curt laugh. “That is what I am trying to do here, Arch.”  

 

Their conversation didn’t get any further as their waitress appeared with their food. She placed their plates in front of them along with their shakes. “You kids enjoy,” she said with a smile turning around to talk to another customer.

 

“Let’s eat first,” Archie said quickly pulling his plate closer to him.

 

Betty raised an eyebrow at his while snatching up the ketchup to drizzle over her fries. Feeling frustrated at Archie and her favorite way to deal with frustration was to eat. So, she stuffed three fries that was smothered in cheese, chili and, ketchup into her mouth as she simmered to herself. But it didn’t help her mood at all. “No,” she said, firmly pushing her plate away from her. “Talk to me.”

 

“Just eat your food, Betty.”

 

Betty’s head jerked back at the forcefulness of his voice. He had never spoken to her like that before, and did he not know who she is? There was no way in hell she was letting this matter dropped because she wouldn’t be able to enjoy her evening with her mind on Archie’s fucking attitude.

 

“No,” she crossed her arms, furrowing her brow at him. “Tell me what is going on with you? And please do not tell me it is nothing. I am not an idiot, so get on with it already.”Archie stared at her for a moment.

 

She reached under the table for her tank strap deciding that she about had had enough of Archie’s bullshit for one night when Archie’s lips finally part open.

 

“We need to break up.”

 

Betty felt her jaw drop open as his words registered with her mind. Whatever it was...she was not expecting this. She narrowed her eyes at him. “I’m sorry. Did you just say that we need to break up?” She swallowed against a harsh lump building up in her throat. It wasn’t the fact of breaking up that was getting to her. It was their history of being friends to best friends, to lovers to ex-lovers. Their relationship would end. Their time and efforts doing down the drain into separate pipes that would never come together again- lost forever.

 

“Yes, I did.”

 

Betty looked down to her uneaten food, trying to blink back the tears and anger quickly sets in. “So that is the reason that you brought me here tonight? So that you can end things?”

 

Archie broke his stare, dropping his eyes back down to the table. “Pretty much.”

 

“I see,” she said in a quiet voice as her mind recalled the last few weeks. Archie had been coming to see her before his term at school let out, and it made her wonder if breaking up was the reason behind his visits. But he didn’t have the guts to say anything. And if Betty was honest with herself, Archie had been acting strangely for a while. More distant. She just figured it was because of him being away at school. He also had been calling her a lot more. When he first started school, they would talk a couple of times a week, and he would come and see her. Then school began to take over, and things had to be moved around, and Betty understood because school was essential and extremely competitive. But Betty had to know for herself. “Have you been trying to break up for a while?”

 

“Yeah,” he said through thinned lips like it was actually paining him to say it.

 

Betty pursed her lips at this. “Why?” she crossed her arms. “Why drag it out? Why couldn’t you do it and get it over with? I mean I am missing chili night with my family,” she told him and she didn’t care that she was feeling bitter about either.  Betty loved chili night with her family, and this one might be the last one until she came home for the holidays. “Just tell me the truth.”

 

“I just didn’t know how to do it,” Archie said slowly, “I didn’t want to hurt you, Betty.”

 

“I can assure you that you didn’t,” She told him. Okay, he did hurt her, but Betty would never admit it to his face. “I am more pissed that you took so long to do it.”

 

“You need to know the truth why I am breaking up with you,” he mumbled, “I have been seeing someone else.”

 

“There is something else that I need to tell you, Betty,” he started dropping his gaze.

 

“Let’s hear it,” she pressed, hating that he was tiptoeing around the bush. She began tapping her fingers on the table while she waited for Archie to speak if that was ever going to happen. “Just get it over with already.”

 

Betty stared at the man before her, or the shadow of a man, feeling the air in her lungs being sucked out her. The air spread through her veins like an icy chill on a cold day. “You are seeing someone else?” she asked him in a small voice. Archie nodded, and she felt like she had been punched in her stomach. Archie had been seeing someone else while he kept telling her that he loved her? While he made promises to her? Why wasn’t she enough for him? Was being with her too much of a hassle that Archie had to off to graze in greener pastures. “Are you serious?” she was unable to keep the hurt of her voice. Betty was strong, but she was still human.

 

“I am.”

 

The lump in her throat grew by the second. “How could you do something like this, Archie?” she swallowed. Betty closed her eyes, feeling her fists curl tightly. “I never thought you would be that kind of a guy. You are better than this Archie. How long?”

 

“What?” he asked her.

 

“How long?” she repeated, “I deserve to know the truth about everything. You owe me that. So tell me how long this has been going on?”

 

“Does it ever matter?”

 

Betty glared at him. “It matters to me. It matters to me that I just wasted my time with someone who had no regards for my feelings. So do me a favor and answer my damn questions. Can you at least do that for me?” she asked icily, knowing that she was probably gaining unwanted attention from the other diner goers, but she didn’t care. She was past that point.

 

“Six months.”

 

Betty scoffed as she pulled her milkshake taking a nice long sweet sip of the creamy goodness. It was yummy and comforting. “You know, I never pegged you as a cheater, Archie.” Her mind ran back to their phone call earlier that day. “I hope you and Veronica are happy together.”

 

“What?” Archie’s eyes widened. “How do you know? Has she said something to you before?”

 

Betty shook her head while playing with her straw. “Nope. You just did. And Veronica? Archie, she is my best friend. Wait, sorry was my best friend as well as your best friend.”

 

“I know that, and we know that what we have been doing is wrong. I want to say-”

 

“Stop,” Betty raised her hand, shaking her head. “Don’t,” she said with extra coldness in her voice. “Don’t you dare apologize to me because I do not want it. I can believe that my two best friends have been going behind my back. The two people that I have trusted the most.” A tear rolled down her cheek and hurried to erase it. Archie and Veronica didn’t deserve her tears and they sure as hell were not going to get them. Her stomach rolled violently taking away any appetite she had, making her push her plate further away.

 

Betty pushed the hurt aside. “Fine. Whatever. If you want to be with Veronica, then be with her. I can’t change your mind or take back your actions,” she said bravely. “What done is done. I hope you can live with your actions because I never want to see you or Veronica again. So I hope it was worth it. However, I will be giving you two no more, though, because I leave for Juilliard in  a week.”

 

“What do you mean leaving for Juilliard?” Archie questioned. “When will you be going there?”

 

She rolled her eyes at her ex-boyfriend. “Did you not hear what I just said? I said next week, dumbass.” She took another sip of her shake. “Maybe if you weren’t so wrapped around Veronica and other parts of her body, you might actually hear what I have to say. Or pay attention to others around you.” She applauded herself on the excellent line she just gave. Hell, she was proud of herself. Someone had to be, why couldn’t it be her?

 

“Betty,” Archie said gently, “you can’t go to Juilliard.”

 

“Why the hell not?” She asked him harshly, crossing her arms, wanting to know his reasoning behind his words. “Wait, is it because you and Veronica also go there?”

 

“Well, yeah.”

 

Betty tutted, shaking her head at the redhead in front of her. “You are one of the dumbest people I have ever known, Archie Andrews.” She felt an urge to slap him right across the face for asking her such a thing. Doesn’t he know how hard she had to work to get to this point in her life? The itch in her palm grows even stronger, but she refrained herself. “Did you really just say that?” she asked too stunned even to believe herself.

 

“You are so talented, Betty. You can go anywhere you want,” Archie tried to reason with her. Betty had to tighten her hand around her milkshake because the itch in her palm grew even mightier. “Just please, don’t go to Juilliard.”

 

Betty narrowed her eyes at him. “The only reason that you don’t want me to go is so that you and Veronica don’t have to feel guilty every time you see my face,” she shook her head. “I am sorry, but no. You don’t get to ask me that. I have worked my ass my entire life for this. I am not giving my dream up, not even for my cheater of a boyfriend who cheats on me with my best friend. What kind of a sick son of a bitch are you?”

"Betty, please stop. I am sorry that I hurt you."

 

“I’m not,” she snapped at him, “In fact, you are doing me a favor. Now that I am not tied down with a relationship, I can focus on my career. I have lost enough time, so this can be a good thing for me to catch up. So thank you, Archie, from the bottom of my heart,” she placed a hand on the middle of her chest before nodding to the door. “You need to leave,” she said, not wanting to look at his face.

 

“What?”

 

“I said that you need to leave,” she said her voice growing hoarse. There was so much doing on inside her that it was beginning to stress out her lungs. There were feelings of anger, hurt, and betrayal that her lungs began to seize up. She wanted to scream, laugh, cry, and hit him all at the same time. There was never a time in her life where she felt like a fool, even when she was bald.

 

Archie had the nerve to give her a smug look. “You can’t make me leave,” he pointed out to her just as Pop walked through the aisle talking to other customers.

 

“She can’t make you leave,” Pop piped up, causing Archie to twist around in his seat. “But I can,” Pop prodded himself in the chest before sending a wink Betty’s way.

 

Archie turned back around in his seat, looking at Betty. “How would you get home?” he asked her.

 

“Now you are worried about my wellbeing? Where was this when you decided to hook up with Veronica?”

 

Archie reached over to place a hand on her arm, but Betty jerked her arm away before he had the chance to touch her. “I still care about you, Betty.”

 

“Yeah, right.”

 

“Let me at least take you home,” Archie pleaded with her. “It’s a long walk back to your house.”

 

“I am not going anywhere with you,” she sneered coldly, “I will find a way home myself,” she looked away from him.

 

Pop took this moment to grab the back of Archie’s shirt, pulling him out of the booth. “Let’s go,” he ordered the boy, dragging him through the aisle towards the door. Betty watches them go before her eyes drop to their milkshakes and she couldn’t keep the grin from spreading on her face and reached under the table for her tank slipping it on to her shoulder before grabbing the shakes.

 

She tucked the milkshakes behind her back before making her way through the diner, trying to catch up to them. “Pop wait,” she called out, her voice echoing through the place, causing the two men to stop just a few steps from the door. “Archie forgot something,” she explained to Pop and Archie gave her a confused look. When she reached them, Betty smiled at them before yanking her hands out from behind her back, pouring not one, but both shakes on to Archie’s head. Her insides squealed like a little girl in a candy store as she watched the vanilla and chocolate liquid mix together as it slowly slid down the shocked face of Archie Andrews coating it in the glorious stickiness. Revenge never felt so sweet. Betty shook her head at the irony of her thoughts.

 

The diner burst into applause, causing Betty to look around to see everyone shooting her a big thumbs up. She bows to her audience for her incredible performance before turning to her ex-boyfriend for the last time. “Now you may go,” she told him with a satisfied smile while Archie scrambled to wipe the flood from his eyes.

 

“Betty,” he said, stunned at her actions. It was indeed the funniest thing she had ever seen. Archie was looking at her like a fish in a fishbowl, making her want to take a can of worms to shove into his gaping mouth. “Why did you this? This will get all over my car,” he said, looking down at his covered shirt as it had dripped down his shoulders to his chest. “My dad will kill me for messing up the front seat.”

 

Betty smiled at him. “I am so sorry about that, Archie,” she shrugged her shoulder at him. “I wish that I could really help you with that, but it is no longer my problem. Call Veronica and ask her to give you a ride home.” Betty turned on her heel as Pop pushes Archie out of the diner. She plopped down in a stool as tears filled her eyes as she thinks about the two friends that she had lost in a matter of an hour. Two bonds that she held very dear and close to her heart all because two people decided to be so selfish. Well, to hell with them! She told herself.

 

She covered her face as tears leave wet trails down her cheek. She tried to hold on to the sobs that were begging to let loose until she was home in her bed with her favorite stuffed cat, Ginger, without the world witnessing her falling apart. But it was no use as they sliced through her wall and into her hands. She felt the counter vibrate under her elbows followed by the sound of a bowl being placed in front of her. She lifted her wet eyes from her hands to see a sundae with, sprinkles, caramel, cherries, and extra whipped cream. The sight of her favorite things in front of her warmed her heart from the icy shatters of the evening.

 

She wiped her tears off her cheeks, pulling the treat closer. “Thanks, Pop,” she smiled weakly at him chucking a stemless cherry into her mouth. The sweetness was good, but not enough to chase her sadness away. “He’s been cheating on me,” she sniffed swallowing thickly against another wave a tear threating to make their appearance. “I feel like such an idiot.” She poked at the ice cream with her spoon, watching the caramel drip on off the end. And she did, for not noticing the signs or were there any? Was it her? Was it her fault? Was she not enough for him? Was her cancer battle too much for him? What happened?

 

Pop shook his head at the girl. “Betty,” he said warmly coaxing her eyes away from the counter. “A true man never cheats on a woman of his affections,” he told her through years of wisdom.

 

Betty looked back down, feeling her eyes sting with tears once again as Archie’s words burn through her mind. “He asked me not to go to Juilliard,” she wiped a tear escaping her eye, not knowing how he could ask her such a thing when Archie knew that Juilliard was her biggest dream. The only thing she ever wanted to do in her life. The only thing that kept her going through the past year. The goal of her going to Juilliard had been her savior.

 

“Please, do not listen to him, Betty,” Pop begged her, “you deserve to go. You have been working way too hard for this, only to let him stir you away from what you want.”

 

Betty took in a deep breath. “Oh, hell would be freezing over before that ever happened. There is no way that I am giving that up.” She felt a new sense of determination filling her soul. A determination that was like gasoline to a fire that only made that fire rage hotter.

 

“There is the Betty Cooper that I am so fond of. You are too talented ever to do something like that. I will be missing you when you leave next week. And speaking of Juilliard,” Pop reached for something under the counter. “I have something for you,” he said, holding up his hand that now contained a yellow envelope. “I was planning on giving you this the night before you left for school, but I figure now would a good time as ever,” he handed it to her.

 

Betty gave him a surprised look as she took it into her hand. It was very thick, and her breath caught as she opened it to see what it was. Inside was a bundle of cash in every denomination from 100 dollars bills down to 1 dollar bills. By the amount of money in her hand, she guessed it was pretty close to a thousand in total. “I can’t accept this,” she whispered, flicking the pad of her thumb along the side of the bills.

 

“Sure you can,” Pop said as she looked back down at the money. She was stunned by the offer. An offer that she couldn’t take. “This is just something that was collected for you over the last year.” Betty felt her eyes burn for a different reason. “It’s just a little going away present from the town and wanted to tell you how proud we are of you. You are very loved here, Betty.”

 

“Pop Tate,” She muttered in awe of the generous man before her. She couldn’t believe that he would go to such lengths or well the whole town just for her. “Can I at least pay my meal with it?” She asked, hopefully.

 

“No,” Pop shook his head. “I will be very offended if you did. Consider the meal on the house,” he said with a final note in his voice before his eyes shifted to the door. “I think your ride is here.”

 

Betty twisted around in her seat to see her other best friend, Sweet Pea, pushing his way into the diner.  She gave him a smile when he spotted her. If there were ever an odd friendship, her and Sweet Pea would be at the top of the list. They were complete opposites, and she knew that is why their friendship was so great. Betty could tell him things that she would never even consider telling Archie or Veronica. Their friendship happened by accident. Sweet Pea was from the Southside, and for some reason, the city of Riverdale found his school unsafe and closed it down due to building hazards. Hence, the Southside High students were transferred to her school, Riverdale High.

 

Sweet Pea was also the reason that she fell in love with soundboards. It was their sophomore year, and she had stayed after school to work on the music for their school production. She walked into the AV room where she found a soundboard looking so beautiful and begging her to play with it. So, she sat down, pressing different buttons, trying to figure out how it worked. Her fun was disrupted when Sweet Pea came back from the restroom. She felt eyes on her back, so she turned around to see him standing behind her watching her. Not expecting him to be there, Betty jumped, causing herself to fall out of the chair in front of him. He did nothing but laugh at her, and that was how their friendship started.

 

After she made a fool out of herself, the burly looking boy helped her out of the floor. She thanked him and asked about the soundboard. They talked a bit before he sat down to show her how to make melodies on it. Then they agreed to work on the sound for the play which put their friendship in the books.  Most days, Betty preferred Sweet Pea over Archie or Veronica. They just clicked. Sweet Pea was more comfortable to talk to because he rarely passed any judgment, or he would see things and offer advice.

 

“I saw the way things were going in that booth, and I called him,” Pop said, pulling her attention away from Sweet Pea. “I figured that you would need a friend, but he will be mad that he missed the milkshake attack.”

 

“What milkshake attack?” Sweet Pea asked, sinking into the seat beside Betty. “Don’t tell me I missed another great evening again.”

 

Betty snickered. “Hardly.” She worked on her ice cream while filling Sweet Pea on the events of her night. By the end of it, his fingers were curling into fists.

 

“That son of a bitch,” Sweet Pea grumbled into his root beer float. “Wait until I see that Rooster. He will be looking like a cooked lobster when I am done with him.”

 

“Sweets,” she giggled as she tried to picture it. “Thanks for the offer, but you don’t need to do that. He already got a milkshake facial in front of the entire diner. So, I think he had enough same for the night.” She patted him on the shoulder. To a stranger, Sweet Pea looks like a big tough guy with his tall height and scowls along with his muscular arms in armless denim jackets. But he was really a soft teddy bear she found out as she got to know him better well at least to her he was. To the other students, they tended to stay out of his way unless their name was Reggie Mantle and normally Archie usually lagged behind him making a riff between the boys. They never did see eye to eye on anything. Reggie and Sweet Pea both had big mouths that often would land the two boys in trouble or either a fist fight that would receive numerous detentions. Sweet Pea was honestly the sibling she never had.

 

Sweet Pea scowled at the counter. “One day, I will get my punch.” He turned to look to Betty. “He was never good enough for you, anyway. Archie will never be able to replace you, you know?”

 

“And he will have to live with that because I will never be taking him back,” she vowed to Sweets offering him a cherry. “You didn’t know, did you?

 

Sweet Pea took the cherry from her. “If I had known what he was doing, you would have known a lot sooner after I kicked his ass.”

 

Betty laughed before breaking into a yawn causing Sweet Pea’s anger to shift to concern. Sometimes, Sweet Pea could be a worry wart. “I’m just tired,” she told him, pushing her empty dish away from her.

 

“Are you ready to go home?”

 

“Yeah,” she sighed as she realized that she now had to tell her parents what happen, but decided to tell her parents her own story. They didn’t need to know the reason why she and Archie ended their relationship or a reason to worry about her leaving for school even more. “It’s been a long night.”

 

Sweet Pea gave her a small smile before they walked out of Pop’s to where he helped her into his dark green truck because of the wide gap from the ground to the step bar. They share a bit of small talk since Betty was not really in the mood to do anything talking during the drive back to her house. Sweet Pea gave her a long-winded pep talk, and she wished him a good night and head inside to her parents. When the long conversation was over, Betty went up to her room.

 

After a nice hot shower, she climbed on to her bed, hugging Ginger tightly to her chest while she turned on Netflix to find a movie. She scrolled through several rows before settling on Bambi. Soon she is lost in the film as the scenes go by laughing at the cute animals on the screen. When it moved to the scene, she dreaded the most and covered her face with her pillow. She could hear the dangerous music followed by the sound of Bambi’s mother telling him to run with fright in her voice. Gunshot after gunshot sounded until the fatal shot rang through her ears. She poked her eye out of her pillow to see Bambi leaving his thicket to look for his mother. His desperate calling for his mother. This was the part that always broke her, and this time, it was no different. Tears welled up in her eyes as the music played, and the words of Bambi’s father breaks her dam.

 

Betty sobbed into Ginger as large tears leaked out her eyes wetting the stuffed cat. She wept for several minutes until she decided that it was enough. She wiped her cheeks dry as she got out of her bed to walk over to her keyboard. She glanced at the time which had her reaching for her earphones, knowing that her parents were most likely in bed. She plugged them in diving into the music, her emotion flowing through her fingers to the keys testing out different tunes until she found the one that suited her mood. She reached over to her desk for a blank music sheet marking down the notes along with some lyrics that popped into her head.

.

Betty set her pencil down as her eyes scanned the page. She let out a sigh of frustration as she didn’t know what the problem was. Something wasn’t clicking, and she didn’t know if it was the words or the melody. She rubbed her eyes and looked back at the clock, which widened as she read 2 am. How did time fly by so quickly? When she looked earlier, it was just before midnight. She turned back to her new song. Betty liked what she had so far, but something was missing. Maybe the reason it wasn’t making any sense to her was due to her brain being half asleep. She decided to read over it one more time before she went to bed.

 

"You stole my happy. You made me cry. You took the lonely and took me for a ride. And I want to undo it. You had my soul, but now I want it back."

 

Betty stopped to strike out the word soul and replaced it with the word heart . She smiled to herself as it sounded better. And it would have to do for the time being because her body was begging for sleep. She stood up, stretching her limbs as she walked over to her bed climbing in, making sure to take her evening meds, which were only vitamins, and did what was necessary for the oxygen tank. She turned out her lamp and fell asleep to the quiet hum of her fan.

Chapter Text

Chapter Three

 

The next week went a snail’s pace, and finally the day Betty had been waiting had finally arrived. Betty tossed a few things into a box before sealing it up with a mighty strip of tape. She grabbed another box, placing several odds and ends inside. She looked around the room to see if she overlooked something. She spotted Ginger on her floor and picked her up off the floor setting on top of her luggage. She did not want to forget that cat because she couldn’t sleep without it. It was odd seeing her room so bare but so comfortable at the same time. It was her place, and it held many memories. It was her shelter when she wanted to hide away from the world. The shield that kept her feeling safe. The walls that witnessed many tears, anger, and giggles. Where she would have sleepovers with...

Betty cleared her throat as she pushed her mind away from those memories. She shifted to see her mom holding a picture of her when she was a little girl. They had spent the whole week packing together to make sure that nothing got left behind. She also knew that it was hard for her mom since each full box was a step closer to the door. She plucked the sweater off her chair to lay it with Ginger when something small fell from the pocket to the bed. Betty turned it over to see it was a photo strip of her and Archie at prom their senior year. Determined not to let Archie ruin her day, she shoved it into an open box to deal with later.

“What about these?”

Betty looked up from her box to see her mom holding up a pair of slippers.”Yes, I can’t forget Buns Buns,” she pointed to a box on the floor. “In the clothes.”

“I am glad that you inherited my organizational skills and not your fathers,” Alice muttered while she placed the item inside.

“Hey,” Hal tutted as he wandered into the room with Sweet Pea at his side. “I have a system, and it works.”

“Only for you,” she retorted. “Your system is throwing everything into a pile and forgetting about it. Then you come whining to me when you can’t find what you are looking for.”

“I never said it was perfect.”

Sweet Pea and Betty rolled their eyes. “What goes next?” he asked Betty looking around the room.

“This one,” Betty walked over to the box her mother was working on. She peeped inside. “I don’t think we can put anything else in here or it will break.” She sealed it shut with a long strip of tape. “And that one” She patted a large box.

“Geez, did you pack your entire room?” he grunted as picked the boxes up.

“Almost.”

Betty shifted back to her parents. “I think that is everything,” she breathed. “I can’t think of anything else that I will need.”

“Did you follow the checklist?” Alice questioned her.

“Yes,” Betty extracted the sheet out of her purse. “Sheets, check. Toiletries, check. Composition paper, check. Notebooks, check. Keyboard, check.” She looked towards her soundboard that she would have to leave behind.

“Good,” Alice hummed, looking to Hal. “Did you want to give it to her now?”

Betty looked back at her mom. “Give me what?”

Her parents traded a smile before Hal walked out of the room only to return a few minutes later with a big package.

“Here,” he said, handing it to her. “We were gonna wait until we dropped you off, but we just can’t wait anymore.”

Betty stared at the package. It was kind of heavy. “What is it?”

“Open it and see.”

Betty sat down on her bed and went to work on the package. When she opened the lid, her jaw dropped open when she saw what was inside. “Oh my God!” she whispered. It was the portable oxygen compressor that she had secretly wanted for months. All she would have to do was toss the strap on to her shoulder, and she was good to go. It would be easier to get around on campus without dragging the other one behind her all the time. Nor would she have to worry about changing out tanks when they got low, only swapping the batteries. “How did you know?” Betty looked up from the box.

“We didn’t,” Alice smiled as Hal wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Okay, I may have seen you looking at it one night when I passed by your door. I talked to your father, and we decided to get it for you.”

Betty shook her head as she looked down with awe. “But it was so expensive. Is that why you guys were working overtime at the Register?”

“Don’t worry about the cost, Sweetheart. You deserved it.”


Betty beamed as she got up to hug both her parents. “I love it. Thank you so much.” Hal grabbed another couple of boxes to take out to the car while her mom helped her set up the machine.

“Now,” Alice started in a tone telling Betty that she was in for a lecture. “I still want you to take the roller with you just in case if this fails for some reason. That way, you have a backup and won’t be without air. And there is a number on the booklets if you need a replacement. It is under a lifetime warranty so you won’t have to worry about money. I hope you won’t need to use it, but you never know. Better safe than sorry.” She unraveled the new cannula and looked up at Betty. “Ready?”

Betty nodded, removing the tubing from her ears running to the bit that was in her nose. She silently counted to three before pulling the tips from her nose. She closed her eyes while Alice worked quickly to replace the old with the new. It only took a few seconds, but those seconds were rough. It was hard for her to breathe without the oxygen; at times, it could be painful as she struggled even if it was brief. Soon, the air was flowing through the spouts in little pulse, and she could feel her body calming down.

“Are you okay?”

Betty took in a deeper breath to get more oxygen into her system that ended with her breaking into a cough. “Yeah,” she said, sending her mom a strained smile. “Better now,” she tried to hide how winded she felt because she could see the worry wheels in her mom's eyes spinning like little blue tornadoes.

Hal walked back into the room with Sweet Pea, clasping his hands together. “Is that everything?”


“I believe so,” Betty said, getting to her feet once she felt well enough to move. It didn’t take her long to bounce back once she got a steady stream of air going through her nose. She smiled as she swung the strap over her neck like a purse. “Oh yeah, this is way better.”

“Do you like it, Betty?”

“I love it, Dad. Thank you so much,” she looked to both of her parents.

“You are welcome, but if we don’t get going, we will miss your check-in time, and the drive is two hours plus traffic,” he told her and Alice.

“Right,” Betty pulled her large bag on to her shoulder, tucking Ginger securely into the bag. She always felt better knowing her cat safe from being dropped or lost.

“Betty, no,” Alice said, reaching to take the bag from her.

Betty backed away, shaking her head. “I can manage a bag,” she huffed, scanning her room to make sure that she was leaving nothing behind. Her eyes lingered on her soundboard, the one thing that she would have to leave behind.

“That bag is really heavy,” Alice tried to reason with her daughter. “Remember, no heavy lifting.”

“How can I not with everyone reminding me about it,” Betty said sourly. “The bag is not heavy at all. I made it that way on purpose.”

“I want you to be careful,” Alice pressed, “do you have all your meds?”

“Yes, I do,” she said, patting the bag. “They are all in here.”

“Remember to take your acid reflux pills on time and your night time meds as well,” Alice said worriedly. “I stuck a planner in one of your boxes so you can write them down if you get busy so you won’t forget.”

Betty smiled at her mother. “I won’t forget,” she said, motioning her head to the door. “We need to get going before I am really late.”

Alice closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. “Alright, easy down the stairs.” She walked out with Sweet Pea and Hal on her heels.

Betty shook her head at her crazy but wonderful family. A mental note popped up in her head, propelling her over to her desk. She pulled out the drawer pulling her songbook out of it’s resting place. She could not believe she almost forgot it. Without it, she would be very lost. Betty took in the moment of just being in her room all by herself for the last time.

After a few slow minutes with the chair, Betty walked out to the car where her father and mother were already in their seats. Sweet Pea was talking with her dad when Hal spotted her.

“Are you sure that you have everything?” he asked. “Better make sure now before we leave.”

“I am sure, Dad,” she huffed unable to keep the annoyance out of her voice walking around to the hatch, placing her bag inside before shutting it. She turned around to see Sweet Pea had followed her.

“Don’t you forget me while you are gone,” he told her and Betty rolled her eyes.

“There is no way I would forget you, Sweets,” Betty laughed as Sweet Pea crossed his arms.

“Sure. You will probably meet someone that will replace me as soon as you get there,” Sweet Pea huffed.

“Replace you?” Betty snickered, shaking her head. “Never. No one could ever place you, Sweets.”

“You say that now.” Sweet Pea turned to look towards Archie’s place. “Want me to pay him a visit?” He asked, glaring at the house. “You know I would love to do it. Give the bastard what he deserves.”

“No,” Betty said firmly. “You don’t need to cause yourself trouble over Archie. He is not worth it.”

“You are worth the trouble,” Sweet Pea sighed, turning back around. “Just say the word, and I will be in that city kicking down his door to give him a nice shiner.” He pointed to his eyes.

She raised an eyebrow at him. “I thought you said that you would never come to the city,” she reminded him. “That it’s full of prissy women and jerks of men.”

Sweet Pea grinned at her. “I thought you said that you didn’t pay attention to anything that came out of my mouth.”

“Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t,” She laughed. “It depends on my mood.” Betty shrugged her shoulders as the horn sounded telling her that it was time to go. “I am going to miss you, Sweet Pea.”

“Same here. I will finally be able to think in the quietness.”

Betty glared at Sweet Pea who was wearing a smug smirk. “Be nice!” She swatted him on the arm.

“Ow,” Sweet Pea cried, rubbing his arm. “You must have been a slugger in your past life because you have an arm on you.”

“Let’s go, Betty!”

She turned to see her mom waving at her. “Coming,” Betty yelled back looking to Sweet Pea, opening her arms up for a hug. “I won’t tell anyone, I promise.”

“You better keep it,” Sweet Pea said before sweeping her up into a hug. “I love you, girlie, and I am so proud of you.”

“Don’t say that,” she said, pulling out of the hug feeling her eyes sting. “I said I wasn’t going to cry today.”

“Remember to call me,” Sweet Pea said, backing away from her. “I need to get going before Hog Eye gives my job to someone else.”

“Yeah, you do,” Betty nodded at him walking to her door. “You can’t be late anymore, or he will start blaming me again.”

“Well to be fair, it was you this time,” Sweet Pea quickly moved out her way before she could slap him again. Instead, Betty shot her middle finger at her.

“No thanks,” Sweet Pea shook his head at her. “You are not my type, Betty.” Sweet Pea turned around to walk down the driveway before Betty could say another word.

Betty shook her head as she slid into the back seat of her car to see her parents staring at her. “What?” she asked him, beginning to get creeped out by the two of them. “You do know that it is not nice to stare, right?”

“Oh Betty,” Alice tutted patting her on the leg before turning around in her seat. “You are going to miss him aren’t?” she asked Betty while Hal backed out of the driveway.

Betty watched as they passed Sweet Pea walking on the sidewalk. “Yeah, I am,” she said, laying her head back, trying to get comfortable for the long ride awaiting them. Twenty minutes into the car ride, Betty fell asleep to the soft humming of the road.

A few hours later, Betty groaned as she felt hands shaking her shoulder. “Stop,” she grumbled, trying to push the offender way. Couldn’t they see that she was sleeping? “Leave me alone,” she said, lifting her head to look at them ready to tell them off for bugging her. Except, she found her parents looking at her from the front seat.

“Didn’t we have this conversation before we left that house?” she asked them grumpily. Betty leaned her back, ready to go back to sleep, but still got that feeling that she had eyes on her. Betty opened one eye to look at them. “What?”

Alice chuckled, shaking her head at Betty. “Well, at least some things never change. Betty, we're here.”

“Really? Already?” Betty yawned, sitting up in her seat. She looked out the window to the glossy glass entrance whirl by. Her jaw dropped open as she took the beautiful building in sending excitement through veins. “Why didn’t you wake me up?”

“We tried several times as we got closer,” Hal said, looking at her through the rearview mirror, “but you were out like a light. Where do we need to go?”

Betty reached into her bag for the paper that had all the information reading it out loud. She looked up to see the entrance. “There,” she said, pointing to it.

When the car was finally parked after several minutes of searching, Betty got out of the vehicle to hear the sounds of New York City buzzing in her ears. She could hear the sound of a siren a few streets over, the voices of people as they walked along the sidewalk, the hiss of a bus releasing its engine. She could smell the grease from the garage pavement, the scent of delicious food from several eateries around the block, and fresh air. She couldn’t keep the grin off her face even though she was in a parking garage. It wasn’t just a parking lot, it was a parking lot at Juilliard, but there was a lot to do before she could fully enjoy her arrival. She grabbed her purse to go inside to check in.

After waiting in line for over fifteen minutes, Betty received her envelope that held her floor number, her suite key card, and the key to her room. It also included her class schedule, book list, and her meal card. She went back to her family’s car, where her parents were waiting on her.

“Here it is,” she said, walking up to them holding up the packet for them to see. Alice placed a hand on her chest before reaching for her phone to take a picture.

“Our baby is an official college student,” Alice said tearfully, showing the picture to Hal before posting it to her Facebook for the whole town of Riverdale to see. She took a few more until Hal told her it was enough for the moment.

“They said there are carts on the eleventh floor to help bring out stuff up,” she said reading the paper. Betty and her mom grabbed a few things and set off to the elevator. Once they got off, Hal went in one direction to find a cart and Betty and Alice went through the turnstiles the elevator that took them up to the fourteenth floor. Betty led her mom through the hall until she stopped at the door with her number on it. She looked back at her mom before swiping her card, and her heart did a little happy dance when she heard the little acceptance beep. Betty stepped into the suite to see two other people standing in what looked to be the living area that had a couch, some chairs, and a few tables. One was a petite girl with long hair with awesome pixie pink highlights, and the other was a guy who was tall with short brown hair. They hurried over to her with big smiles on their faces.

“Hey there,” she stated while she walked around Betty to her mom. “Let me help you with that,” she suggested, taking a bag from her hands before she dropped it. “Kevin, come help us,” she directed over her shoulder at the guy who sprang into action. “They already assigned our rooms, so you just have to find your name on the door.”

Betty turned around, walking deeper into the suite looking for her name until she found it. “Here,” she said, pointing to the door.

Her mouth fell open when she saw the window that opened up to the skyline of New York City. She dropped her bag on to her bed before walking over to look out. She could see a helicopter piercing through the sky at a fast speed. There was jet moving towards the runway of JFK. She could see little dots that were people walking along the sidewalk, going to their destination — the streets lined with many cars backing up to the next block. Two cars looked like they had had a fender bender, and the owners were standing in the street arguing. She could even see a little line of the blue from the water of the bay. It was amazing to look at, and she couldn’t wait until it was night time to see it all lit up. She would be able to watch it rain and the sunsets or sunrises depending on which direction she was facing.

“Just sit them there, Kevin.”

Betty turned around to see the guy called Kevin, placing pillows on to her bed. He sent her a shy wave before walking over to her. “I am guessing your name is Kevin?” she asked with a smile.

“That would correct,” he nodded bending forward. “A little warning, she is kind of bossy.”

Betty giggled at this. “She’s not that bad. I can sense that she has good leadership.” She glimpsed over to the door where she could see the girl and her mother talking.

“So, what are you studying?”

“I am studying, music composition,” Betty returned, going over to her bed, unzipping her bag to pull stuff out to find a place for it. “What about you?”

“I am a drama student,” Kevin replied, picking up the little cat. “This is so darling,” he held the stuffed cat to his chest. “What is her name?”

“How do you know it is her?”

Kevin held up the cat studying it. “Because there is no way this is a guy. This cat gives off a girly vibe.”

Betty sighed. “Alright, you are right. Her name is Ginger. She is sweet and spicy at the same time. I got her from one of those claw games. I think I battled that thing for a good half an hour before I got the prize.”

Kevin’s eyes lit up as he listened to the story. “That is impressive as hell. I can tell that we are already are going to be best buds.”

“Totally.”

Alice strolled into the room with the girl, whose name she learned was Toni, and they got to work unpacking her things on Hal arrived with the cart. A few hours later, Betty took a step back to look at the state of her room, which was a mess. There were things piled on her bed, but at least the bed was made. Betty, her mom, and Toni worked on that while Hal put together a set of plastic drawers for extra storage. It was beginning to get so cluttered that it was making her anxious, and the fact there were many bodies in the small space wasn’t helping at all. Betty was looking forward to the moment she was alone so that she could do things her way at her own pace. But she knew that this was important to her parents, so she said nothing. Betty finished putting her items into one of the desk drawers before standing up. She stretched as her mother stepped into the room.

“I think it is time that we take a break and go get something to eat,” Alice proposed to her husband.

“I could eat,” Hal said, standing up from his spot on the floor. “Honey, what do you want to eat?” he asked, looking to Betty.

“I don’t want anything,” Betty said sincerely as she was not hungry. “I think I will stay here and work on the room while you guys are gone.”

“Are you sure?” Alice inquired, planting her hands on her hips. “You haven’t eaten all day, Betty.”

“Well, maybe you can bring me back a slice of pizza or something,” Betty reasoned with her mom while she placed some clothes into the closet. “I think it is just nerves.”

Alice sent her a disapproving look while clutching her purse. “Alright,” she conceded. “You can stay here, but you will be joining your father and me for dinner tonight before we head back home. Understood?”

“Of course,” Betty nodded, holding her hands up in mock surrender. She watched her parents leave the room, feeling her shoulders sag under relief. Now, she could think. Betty loved her parents to death, but they could, at times, be overbearing, especially her mother. Betty went back to work sorting through the boxes, placing the things in appropriate places. Her medical stuff went under her bed like the paperwork for her upcoming doctor visit, numbers, that kind of stuff. She put the rolling tank in the corner where it was easily accessible when needed. Betty set her songbooks on the shelf above her work desk in order by the numbers. Yes, she numbered her books, but that how she kept up with them. She decorated her walls with her pictures of her parents, places she had been, and posters of places she wanted to see like Italy. Italy was her dream vacation to go and fill up on as much pasta as she could eat. There were a few posters with positive words on it that helped her during her roughest times. She set up her laptop on her desk, making sure to charge so she could watch Netflix later when she had time to relax.

“Hey, Betty?”

Betty turned to see Toni sticking her head through the door. “Yeah?”

“Kevin and I are going to get our student IDs made. Do you want to come with us?” Toni asked her. “Just to get out of the room for a little while?”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Betty said. “I can get mine done too. Just give me a few minutes?” she requested.

“Of course,” Toni smiled, extracting her head from the door. “Meet us out here when you are ready.”

“Okay,” Betty called to her. She walked over to her full-length mirror to do a quick look over on herself. She pulled the beanie off her head, running her fingers through her blonde fringe smoothing out her knots. She bit down on her lip, wondering if she should put on one of the wigs on for her picture. But decided against it. Betty was surprised that she wasn't sporting any dark circles under her eyes because she felt like she could sleep a week. Mainly due to her not getting any sleep the night before because she was too excited to get any rest. She fixed her cannula, making her it was secure enough around her ears. She decided on a headband rather than her beanie as it was a little hot outside.

Betty dragged herself from the mirror to get her phone off the charge and slipped the strap of her concentrator over her head to sit snugly on her shoulder. She figured it would be safer for her that way. After a quick text to her parents, Betty walked out to where Kevin and Toni were sitting on the couch waiting for her.

“Sorry,” she tugged at her tubing nervously.

“Damn, babe,” Toni said, getting up from the couch walking to Betty beaming at her. “You are smoking,” she said, looking her up and down. “Please tell me you are single?”

Betty laughed at Toni. “I just got out of a relationship just last week. I am not looking for anything at the moment.”

“Dang,” Toni sighed dramatically, “But I understand. Was it a bad break up?”

Betty scoffed at this. “He cheated on me with my best friend,” she confessed. “For six months.”

Toni scowled at this. “What an asshole,” she wrapped an arm around Betty’s shoulders. “I am so sorry. That sucks so bad. What does your best friend have to say?”

“I don’t know,” she threw her hands up into the air. “I haven’t spoken to her since his confession. I haven’t spoken to her in a while, but that is fine. I have nothing to say to her at the moment.”

“If I were you, I would have been beating down the door to kick her ass,” Toni scoffed, “I don’t understand how you can do that to someone or one of your friends.”

Kevin sighed. “Girls can be the coldest bitches in the world at times, Toni. You would be surprised how many girls will knock their best friend out of the way to get what she wants.”

“It still stinks though,” Toni pointed out. “Well, you never have to worry about that with me. I am more into girls than guys. Girls are just better.”

“And I say guys are better,” Kevin piped up, wiggling his eyebrows while wearing a big grin. “But girls are a close second because we can do so much.”

“Alright, enough of this,” Toni said, taking Betty’s hand pulling her the door. “Let’s get out of here. See ya, room!”

The trio made their way down to the eleventh floor to the bridge that led to the main building. They began their way across when Betty stopped in her tracks, looking at the building. She felt her breath catch into her throat as it hits her that she made it. She could feel her heart pounding away in her chest as more excitement filled her blood as everything she had worked for was at her fingertips. Betty wanted to walk over to the wall to kiss it like an air passenger finding land after a terrible plane ride. She curled her fingers to fight back urge so she wouldn’t make a fool of herself in front of her potential classmates and teachers. That would not be a good impression at all, she thought to herself. It’s been a few years since she been here for her tour of the school, but this was different. Betty was here to stay for the next three years, and she couldn’t wait to see what they had in store for her.

“Are you okay?”

Betty turned to see Toni and Kevin staring at her. “Yeah,” she said, looking forward. “I can’t believe that I am here, you know?” she smiled to them. “It’s all a little surreal. I never thought that I would ever get here, and I am standing a few feet from the door. Two years ago, my dream of Juilliard seemed almost impossible,” she stopped as she felt strong emotions coming on. “I’m sorry, it’s a huge moment for me,” Betty explained to them. “I know that it is everyone’s big moment but -”

“It’s a little different for you?” Toni asked with a gentle smile. “Isn’t it?”

Betty took a deep breath, trying to hold back her tears. “Yeah,” she sniffled behind her hand. “I was supposed to start last year, but things happened that made me push it back. Now, here is it is. Although some good came out of it because I got to meet the two of you.”

“There is always a bonus for everything,” Toni said following Betty’s eye line. “You are going to love it here, Betty. It’s a little intimidating. Like I have this giant fear that I will fail big time.

“I think we all have that fear,” Kevin said, moving out of the way so people could get through. “We should take a selfie of the three of us. There is nothing like capturing a big moment and making it last forever.”

“That is a great idea, Kev,” Ton said, pulling out her phone. “We should all take one and tag each other.” The three friends huddle closer to get the shots which ended up being a mini photo session with one serious photo and the others with silly poses that made them break down into deep laughter.

Betty covered her mouth as she coughed. Toni looked at her a little worried. “It’s nothing. I just choked myself with my spit because of Kevin’s moto.”

Kevin shrugged his shoulders. “I warned it that it was a killer one.”

“No lie,” Betty panted through her giggles. “It was fucking worth it. Did it kill the guy you gave it to?”

“No, it made him fall in love with me,” Kevin shuddered at the memory. “Something I rather not relive ever in my life again. Turned into a creepy stalker. One night I caught him outside my window taking pictures of me.”

“That’s creepy,” the two girls said at the same time.

“He only took the pictures of me so he could out my to my high school,” Kevin said looking down as they started their trek across the bridge. “That is why I am so glad to be here. No, one cares what you are here.”

Toni rolled her eyes in disgust. “I hate when people out other people for their own personal gain. I mean it is not your secret to tell, you stupid bastards.”

“Ladies,” Kevin said, holding the door open for them so they could walk through welcoming the gentle cool breeze of the air-conditioning. “That feel’s great,” he breathed with relief.

The building was buzzing like a while beehive in the wild. Busy as it could be undisturbed and free. Every corner filled with students carrying instruments, books, and campus maps. Their family members surrounded most of the students. Some were giving tearful goodbyes, and some were talking about favorite memories. Several faculty graced them with their presences to answer any questions or to point them in the right direction. Betty spotted a big banner with the words: Freshmen Registration in big blue bold letters. There were several tables laid out for various needs, such as to find classes, problems with tuition, and other student services. Betty walked over to the student ID section going to the table that handled the first letter of her last name.

“I need your packet and you to sign here,” the guy, who was operating the station, said in a monotone kind of voice that gave Betty the idea that he would rather be somewhere else.

“Can I have your name?”

“Elizabeth Cooper,” Betty said, watching him do down a long list of names before finding hers crossing her out.

“Do not lose your ID. It is your access to the library after hours when needed. If you do happen to lose it, you can get a replacement in the registration office for a small fee.”

“Okay.”

He pointed to the blue backdrop behind her. “Please go stand over there,” he grabbed the camera, getting it ready. He gave her an awkward look. “You will have to take this out,” he said, pointing to his nose.

“My cannula?” Betty gave him a confused look. She touched the tubing. “I can’t take it out of my nose.” Things would go downhill very fast if she were to do that. Her body would go into distress as it did earlier that morning when she changed machines.

“It is college policy that nothing can obstruct the face in your ID picture,” he explained in the same bored tone.

“I don’t think that meant things that are medically necessary requirements,” Betty argued with him shaking her head. “You can’t make me do that.”

He shrugged his shoulders at her. “Then I don’t know what to tell you. It has to come off for the picture to be taken.”

Betty glared at that guy. “There is no way in hell that I can do that. It is my cannula to my oxygen,” she pointed to her bag. “Which you can see is right here. Also, please get me the campus handbook because I don’t remember seeing that in there.” The guy stood there, giving her nothing but silence. “Get me someone else who can do it then,” she demanded.

“I am the only one here at this table,” he said, looking to the neighboring tables. “The others are busy.”

Betty took a deep breath. “Then stop standing there gawking at me like an asshole and take my picture so I can go about my day. If you are uncomfortable, you will have to get someone else because I am not dying on your dime today,” she said in a huff.

“I am not uncomfortable.”

“Then take her damn picture and stop harassing her.”

Betty turned around to see Toni standing behind her glaring at the guy. She marched up to the table, pointing a finger at him.

“What you are doing is illegal,” she hissed through her teeth. “The only one who is making it hard is you, so just take her damn picture,” Toni repeated, sending a sharper glare at the guy.

“The book says-”

“The book doesn’t say that,” Toni said harshly, crossing her arms. “If she says she can’t take it out, she can’t take it out. How many times does she have to say it?” She gave him a look that dared him to say more.

“Fine,” he relented, looking at the short girl like she was a demon with extra horns that was ready to attack him. Betty wanted to laugh because she sort of wanted to see Toni kick his ass. Betty gave him a triumphant smirk as the flash went off.

As he was preparing the ID, Betty turned to Toni. “Thank you,” she smiled warmly at the girl. Toni was a person who she quickly was beginning to admire. She was beautiful, kind, but hells on wheels went someone was wrong in the world. She reminded her of Sweet Pea. Betty knew that she would have to invite Toni over to her house, so those two could meet. They would probably hit it off and become fast friends. Maybe. Sweet Pea usually stayed to himself unless someone forced their way through his barriers as Betty did.

“No problem,” Toni said, sending a sneer towards the guys. “I hate men who think they know it all or they are complete idiots. Which most of them are.”

“Hey!” the guy screeched from behind the table at the girl.

Toni shrugged her shoulders at him. “I am just stating my honest opinion, and the way you just acted makes my opinion more of a brick wall. Firm and unbreakable. Is her ID ready yet?”

“Almost.”

“Then why did you stop?”

“Because you insulted me,” the guy argued.

Toni rolled her eyes at him. “I wasn’t insulting you, Dumbass. Now that was an insult. I said men as in men, in general, are idiots.”

“Well, I am a guy, so I am included in that.”

“No, you are too much a guy who has a guilty conscious,” Toni said, smartly at him. “Hurry up,” she snapped. “We don’t have all day.”

“It’s finished,” the guys said holding up a lanyard that sported the Juilliard name.

“Great,” Toni said sarcastically to him. “Now hand it to her or do I have to tell you how to do that too?”

Betty smiled as the guy place it into her hand. “Now what that so hard?” she asked him in her own sarcastic manner.

“No,” he said, not meeting her eyes probably in fear of Toni blasting him for the fourth time about something.

“I didn’t think so,” Betty huffed, breaking the conversation as another student came up to the table. “Let’s go,” she said to Toni. They stopped at several tables that were handing out school paraphernalia such as pencils, water bottles, mini flashlights, folders, bags so they could show their school spirit.

“I’m sorry that guy was such an ass to you,” Toni sighed, as she placed a weird looking calendar back on to the table.

“I am kind of used that behavior,” Betty shrugged at her. “People who don't know me get uncomfortable when they see this,” she pointed to the cannula. “It freaks them out.”

“Still, that guy was wrong in every one of his corners,” Toni said, picking up a small cupcake from a mini concession stand. “How cute,” she cooed, pointing to the letter J on top a mountain of white icing. The stopped outside of the large dance room. “I can’t wait to get in there and start practicing,” she sighed. “There is so much room, and the views here are to die for.”

“I agree with you there,” Betty laughed before catching a sight that had her freezing her tracks. “Oh my God,” she gasped. It was Archie walking through the crowd of students, and he was not alone. Standing next to him was Veronica, and they were laughing about something. And holding hands. The sight of them caused the gut-wrenching pain to come back like someone was stabbing her in the stomach with a knife and twisting it.

“What’s wrong?” Toni said over her shoulder to see Betty’s face as white as a ghost. “Are you okay? Was I walking too fast?” she wondered out loud.

“No,” Betty said, shaking her head. “My ex-boyfriend is standing just over there,” she explained slowly.

“Seriously?” Toni gaped, following her stare. “Who is the girl standing next to her?” she asked.

“That would be his girlfriend, Veronica,” Betty revealed slowly as she watched them from afar.

“Is she the girl he left you for?” Toni asked, studying the girl a little closer. “Why? He had to leave her for the money. I mean she is pretty, but damn she is no you, babe.” Betty giggled at that. “What are they doing here?”

“They are students here as well.”

Toni’s jaw dropped opened. “Are you shitting me?” she turned around to look at Betty. “They go to school here too?”

Betty sighed. “Yep. All three of us got in here. I was the first to get accepted into here.” Her eyes drifted back to the offending couple. Veronica giggled at something Archie said, and Betty suddenly felt angry. “They are acting like nothing ever happened,” she grumbled to Toni. “Like they don’t even care. Stupid bitch.” Betty scoffed.

Toni placed her hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry. I say tonight you, and I will grab some ice cream and curl up to watch sad movies,” she suggested. “I have a huge collection of old movies we can choose from, or we can go on Netflix.”

“That sounds like a good idea. We should include Kevin,” Betty said. “He will be mad if we didn’t invite him. Let’s get out of here. I don’t want to see them anymore.”

“That sounds like a plan,” Toni agreed. “I will get the ice cream later. They are coming this way. What do you want to do?”

Betty looked to her left to see a door. “I can go into the bookstore and look around. Besides, I want to get my books before they all get picked over.”

“Okay, I will text you when the coast is clear,” Toni said, holding up her phone. “I see a table that I want to check out.”

Betty stepped into the bookstore, which was just as busy as the atrium. There was a long line of students at the checkout desk. The poor cashier looked like she wanted to burst into tears as three different people were screaming at her to get some help. She grabbed a hand basket making her way through the aisles running through her list. After getting her business book, Betty headed for the music section to get her Music History and Music Fundamentals textbooks. It was nice and quiet. The only other person in the area was a guy with jet black hair sticking out of a weird looking hat with big circular headphones covering his ears. He was skimming the shelves for something. Betty went on with her business continuing through the aisle searching for the final book before she had to go battle that long ass line up front. Spotting the book that she needed and went to grab it off the shelf.

Betty had her hand on the book when another hand at the same time landed harshly on top of hers, making Betty’s heart jump out of her chest. She turned to the owner of that hand to see the bluest eyes that she had ever seen in her life. She felt the breath leave her damaged lungs. She knew that she was staring, but she couldn’t look away. There was something in those blue depths. It was like a pull from a magnet that made her want to get lost in them. He had three beauty marks on his left cheek that created a triangle. She wanted to run her finger over them to connect the dots. His full pink lips went perfectly with his smooth olive complexion. Betty’s eyes dropped to their hands on the book feeling an electric current climb up her arm warming her. Like a beautiful spring day after a harsh cold winter, the warm sun shining to thin the ice. Ice she didn’t know she had. There are cases where ice needed to be broken, and this moment was one of them.

Betty tugged on the book. “I’m sorry,” she gave him a sheepish smile. “I kind of need this book.”

Those blue eyes quickly turned unrelenting. “So?” he spoke harshly. “I need it too, and I was here first.” His tone was utterly void of any emotion. “Now let go.”

Betty was floored. What looked to be a gentle giant turned into a giant asshole. “I will not let go, and you were not here first. You were over there.”

“Look, I don’t have time for this,” he sighed, impatiently. “Just let go, and be can be our merry little ways. I have to be at my job in ten minutes, and I have been looking all over for this book.”

Betty glared at him. “That sounds rough. If you take your hand off of mine, we can get our books. Although, you getting out of here will take forever because the line up front is a mile long.” She tightened her around the binding of the book determined not to let him win.

“Fuck,” he grumbled, looking down to his feet. “No worries, there is always the back register. So let go.”

“We are not getting anywhere,” Betty sighed, trying to push his hand off of hers. But he wouldn’t budge. “Let me have the damn book and our problems will be solved.”

He glared at her. “Why because you are sick?” he snapped, his eyes running down the long tubing of her cannula down to her bag.

Betty shook her head. “No, it’s because you are being a dickhead for no reason. You are making this harder than what it needs to be. So grow the fuck up already.”

He blinked at her words. “Let me guess. You are one of those sickly people who uses her sickness to get away with anything. To get anything you want?”

Betty jerked back from the sting of those words. She licked her lips. “You don’t know anything about me. Like I know nothing about you. Not even your name-"

"It's Jughead."

"I don't care what it is, nor was I asking for it," Betty scoffed, "my point is this. It is not my place to judge what I see. I was always told that you should never judge a book by the cover. Perhaps you should do the same.”

The anger in his eyes turned into deep regret. Betty looked away to regain herself as she felt her eyes stinging. She shrugged his hand off. “Take the damn book,” she spat, needing to get away from him. From all humanity for a while. She didn’t know why his words struck so painfully. It was like a hard slap across the face. Betty gripped the basket tightly as she walked out of the aisle. Once she paid for her purchases, Betty walked out of the shop to where Toni was waiting for her.

“Did you find what you were looking for?” Toni said, standing up from the bench. She frowned as she looked at Betty. “Are you okay?”

“Let’s just go,” Betty said, not wanting to repeat everything. “My mom just texted, saying that they were on their way back. I will just come back to get what I need later.”

“No, that’s not it,” Toni narrowed her eyes at her. “There is something else. The light in your eyes has dimmed a little. Did something happen?”

“It’s nothing. They didn’t have what I was looking for,” she said. “Come on. We best get back before my mother does.”

Toni made small talk while Betty stayed quiet on their way back to their dorm. Her head was swarming with all kinds of thoughts. She had been here less than a day, and it was supposed to be everything she wanted. But the city was different from her comfy hometown of Riverdale, where everyone embraced her. But this was New York City where she had met various people who were anything but friendly. Her whole life she had been dreaming of this day. Never did she imagine that she would feel like Juilliard wasn’t the place where she belonged. And the classes haven’t even started yet. Betty wondered if she would be able to do this at all.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Four


Betty stood in front of the door to her building with her mother’s arms wrapped tightly around her neck. Her father was standing a few inches back while he watched his two girls share their goodbyes. Except one was having a hard time letting go.

 

“Alice,” Hal whispered, placing his hand on his wife’s back. “You need to let go sometime tonight.”

 

“Oh, leave me alone,” Alice hiccuped, pulling back, leaving Betty’s neck sticky from her mother’s tears. She moved to cup her daughter’s face. “I am not even in the car, and I already miss you.”

 

“I am going to miss you too, Mom,” Betty gave her mother a weak smile. It was killing her to see her mom in such a state. Hell, even her own insides were beginning to turn to mush. But, she on very tightly to her cliff. She was afraid if she let go that her mom would indeed drown her in tears.

 

“It’s gonna be weird not having you around the house,” Alice sniffled, wiping her cheeks dry. “I don’t know what I am going to do.”

 

“I have been telling her to get a puppy,” Hal snickered to Betty. “It would be like bringing a brand new baby home to replace you until you are home for the holidays.”

 

“Hal!” Alice tutted, turning around to swat him on the chest. “Betty is our only child. We are leaving her in New York City. One of the most dangerous cities in the world and one of the biggest. And you think a puppy would solve all of this? A puppy would fill the gaping hole left in my heart?” Alice was nearing another fresh round of gigantic tears. “How can you say such a thing?!”

 

“A puppy would be nice,” Betty tried in a light tone towards her mother. “I always wanted a dog when I was little. This could be our chance.” She gave her mom a big grin.

 

Alice glared at her. “Not you too!” She pointed her finger at her nose. “A dog will not solve our problems. A dog would wreck the house. I just steam cleaned the carpets. No, no, no. We are not getting a dog.”

 

“All I’m hearing are excuses, Mom,” Betty laughed, and an idea came to mind. “A dog would be nice. I bet the moment you see that sweet baby face, you will fall instantly in love.”

 

Alice let out a big sigh. “We will see. The dog will never be you, though. I can never bake with the dog or watch movies. It just wouldn’t be the same.”

 

“No, it wouldn’t,”  Betty agreed. “It would be a brand new adventure for you guys.” Her mom said nothing, and Betty knew that it was time for them to part ways. “I better get inside. I still have a lot of work to do in my room.”

 

Alice’s chin wobbled as tears leaked from her eyes. “Are you sure? Maybe we can go out for ice cream,” she suggested. “I am sure there is something close.”

 

Betty smiled at her mom, knowing that she was only trying to delay the inevitable. “I am still full from dinner.” She pulled her mom close in a tight embrace. “I will miss you guys so much.” Betty would feel another pair of arms wrap around them, and she knew her father had joined in. Tears filled her eyes as she realized that at the end of this moment, she would not see her parents again for a while.  Her biggest support system would be almost a hundred or so miles away, leaving her all by herself. And it scared her a bit.

 

“Make sure that you keep up with your appointments,” Alice said firmly, as they pulled out of the hugs. She turned her serious eyes to her daughter. “I mean it, Betty. I will not be around to remind you. They are essential that you keep them.”

 

“I know, Mom,” Betty sighed as her mom’s worries ruined the sweet moment. “I have everything written down in my planner.”

 

“Good. Remember, you have an appointment next week with your new doctors. I want to know what they say so call me that night,” Alice told her, wiping her face. “Do you understand me?”

 

“I do understand,” Betty said seriously. “ I will call you every few days to let you know what is happening in my life.”

 

“Good girl,” Alice smiled at her. “Promise me that you will take care of yourself. If you start feeling bad or off, call me and I will be down here as fast as I can.”

 

“Alright.”

 

“Alice, leave the girl alone,” Hal said from the side. “Betty knows everything she needs to do.”

 

“I am just reminding her, Hal.”

 

“And I am reminding that Betty is a big girl. We raised our daughter well,” Hal walked up to his wife, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “Let’s get out of here. I think we have done enough to embarrass Betty for a lifetime. Make sure you make good use of that mini-fridge we bought you.”

 

“Oh, I already have plans for that,” Betty laughed, thinking of the beautiful purple fridge sitting in her room waiting to be filled with goodies. She gave them a quick kiss to their cheeks.

 

“We love you so much,” Alice said as Hal pulled her along. “Call me on your first day. I want to know everything. Okay?”

 

Betty watched until they turned at the corner, leaving her standing in an empty corridor. And all she wanted to do was to run to her parents, begging them to take her home. The sounds of her mother’s sobs weren’t helping either. She forced herself to turn around and take the elevator up to her floor as tears fell from her eyes. She was thankful to have the lift alone, and when the bell sounded at her stop, she wiped away any evidence that she had been crying. She hated letting the world see her cry. So much that she could even bring herself to walk into Pop’s several days after the break because she felt so foolish.

 

Betty walked into her suite to see it much more lively than when she had left for dinner. She winced at the loud music blaring from one of the rooms that had the door open. There were also a few faces in the room. A girl with deep red hair that could give Archie a battle in the hair color department and a dark-haired boy with tanned skin with deep dimples in his cheeks. Kevin was standing next to the guy with a wide grin on his face and chatting his ear off. The red-head was walking around several large boxes. They didn’t seem to notice her, which was fine with her. She was not really up for company anyway. Maybe the loud music was a godsend. She looked around for Toni but didn’t see her anywhere. So she hurried into her room not wanting to be in anyone’s way. 

 

She changed out of her clothes into something more comfortable. Her favorite blue pajama bottoms and her worn pink t-shirt was all she needed. Betty worked on unpacking the rest of her room until her phone beeped. She flipped it over to see that she had a text from Toni telling her to come to the door. Betty got off the floor and opened the door to see Toni waiting with a small plastic bag in her hand. She moved back to her spot on the floor as Toni came into the room, closing the door with a loud bang. Betty figured it was Toni’s way of protesting the loud music, and it did nothing to lower the volume.

 

“Why the fuck do they need the music so loud for?” Toni grumbled, glaring sharply at the door. “I can’t even hear myself fucking think!” She yelled at the door. “How long has this been going on?”

 

“I have no idea,” Betty shrugged, shaking her head at the music. “It was like this when I walked in. I think it is even louder than before.”

 

“Ugh,” Toni scoffed, sitting down across from Betty. “I am dreading this already. The girl that is moving into my room seems to have brought her whole house. I swear I am not going to have anywhere stuff. That is where the music is coming from. I already marked her as a spoiled brat.”

 

“You can always sleep in here if you need to get away,” Betty suggested, looking around the room. “The offer is always there.”

 

“I might take you up on it because I am sure that I will end up beating her ass before this night is over with,” Toni said, pulling the bag closer. “We have plans remember?” she pulled out two pints of ice cream. “I didn’t know what flavors you liked, so I guess.”

 

“I am not picky when it comes to ice cream,” Betty said, picking up the tub of vanilla chocolate swirl. “I will take this one.”

 

“And I will take the rocky road,” Toni pulled the lid off of her and ate a big spoon. “I swear whoever invented ice cream was a woman. Because no man could eve come up with something this good.”

 

“Agreed. You know my mom was hoping you would come with us for dinner,” Betty said, placing her pint on the floor, pushing a box away.  She decided that the rest would wait until tomorrow. She was tired, and the damn music was beginning to give her a headache.

 

“I know, but I didn’t want to intrude,” Toni swallowed a bigger bite. “It was a family moment that you guys needed to have.”

 

“Intrude?” Betty laughed, leaning up against her bed. “Are you kidding me? My mom practically adopted you the moment she saw you. I think it was your pink hair. My mom is a die-hard fan of the color pink.”

 

“I knew there was something I liked about her,” Toni sighed. “Your mom is like the coolest.”

 

“Says the person who hasn’t lived with her for the past nineteen years,” Betty said, laying her head back. “My mom is pretty great. She said the next time she is in town that you are going with us.”

 

“Tell her I said it’s a date,” Toni smiled, eating another spoon. “Are you okay? After saying goodbye to your folks?”

 

Betty gave her a small smile. “It was tough, but I think I will be okay. My mom took it the hardest, though. She had a massive sob fest. My dad had to make her leave. I think she is just worried.”

 

“She has a right to be.”

 

This made Betty look up from her pint. She felt a big wad of panic fill her throat. “Did she say anything to you?” she asked slowly.

 

Toni looked at Betty for a moment. “She asked me to keep an eye on you, but didn’t go into much detail about it.”

 

Betty swallowed painfully. “So, is this why you have been hanging out with me?” she asked in a small voice. “Because of my mom?”

 

“No!” Toni shook her head quickly. “Not at all. I think you and I are going to be best friends and I think you are really cool. Not to mention funny as hell. Your mom only mentioned something to me while you were getting ready to go out for dinner.”

 

Betty jabbed at her ice cream with thoughts racing through her mind. Of course, her mother would do something like that. “She is mainly worried about my health,” she mumbled, not looking up at Toni.

 

“I figured she way,” Toni pointed at her nose. “But that is not what I meant by her being worried. Your mom is your mom. She will worry about you most of her life. It probably didn’t help that she left you in a city all by yourself for the first time.”

 

“True,” Betty sighed, placing the lid back on her ice cream. She wasn’t feeling very hungry at the moment. “I’m sorry,” she said guiltily. “I used to be able to see the good in everyone, but now, I never know their true intentions. If people want to be my friend for me or because they feel sorry for me. My mom asked people in the past to be my friends. I want people to see more than just this,” she pointed to her nose.  Betty thought back to the bookshop. It was where her mind had been all day. That stupid little conversation between her and that guy. The way he threw that up into her face like a baseball bat. Why did it bother her so much?

 

“It is not like that with me. I promise,” Toni said, closing her own pint. “Do you want to know I am friends with you? The real reason?”

 

“Tell me.”

 

Toni smirked at her. “I keep hoping that I can wear you down enough to ask you out on a date. Because I have a major crush on you.”

 

Betty doubled over with laughter. Whatever she had expected from Toni. It wasn’t this. She was glad that she hadn’t taken another bite of ice cream because she probably would have choked on it. She sat up, covering her mouth with her hand. “I’m sorry,” she giggled, tears streaming down her face. “Are you fucking with me?” she breathed. This was the laugh that she had needed ever since that stupid night at Pop’s with Archie. It was wonderful to laugh like this. It was refreshing, chasing all of her nervousness away. 

 

“Nope. I am totally serious,” Toni said seriously. “I think tonight I will go to be and have nice dreams about the adventures you and I will have together,” she added, breaking down into deep giggles.

 

Betty placed a hand to her stomach, which was hurting due to laughing so hard. “Oh my God,” she panted, punched with another wave giggles at the thought of them. 

 

“You should have seen your face,” Toni wheezed, pushing locks of pink hair out of her face. “Your eyes got this wide,” she teased, showing her with her hands. “You know I am just joking, right?”

 

“I do.” The looked at each other breaking down into more laughter.

 

Their moment of laughter was short-lived as the music was suddenly turned off followed by a high pitched scream right outside the door.

 

“What to do you think you are doing?! You can’t just waltz in my room like that you Hobo!”

 

Toni and Betty shared a look before scrambling to their feet to check out the disturbance. Toni opened the door to see the red hair standing with her hands on her hips, glaring at someone Betty could not see.

 

“I was doing everyone a favor by saving their hearing.”

 

The red-head crossed her arms. “That system costs more than you make a month. If you shorted it out because of what you did, you better come up with the money to replace it!”

 

“I didn’t break it. All I did was unplug the damn thing. The next time you ignore me when I ask you politely to turn it down, I will cut the wires.”

 

“You wouldn’t dare?”

 

“I can give you a demonstration if you would like.”

 

The red-haired girl then noticed her audience. “What are you freaks looking at?” she snapped at them.

 

Toni glared her. “I am looking at you, Ariel,” she stepped out into the hall. “I am just wondering what is going on.”

 

“The name is Cheryl Blossom,” she tutted, looking Toni up and down. “ You must be a freshman because all students know who I am.”

 

“I don’t care who you are,” Toni shot back at her. “I just want to know why you are yelling on top of your lungs.”

 

“Because of him,” Cheryl pointed at her target. “He just barged into our room and turned off the music. You know you could have asked for it to be turned down.”

 

Betty turned around to see the guy from the bookstore just a few feet away from her.  What was he doing here? She thought to herself. His eyes widened at the sight of her. The blue depths are swirling with a familiar emotion, but that was quickly shadowed as he turned back to Cheryl.

 

“You ignored me,” he cried in defense. “I tried to get your attention several times, but you couldn’t hear me.”

 

Cheryl rolled her eyes.  “Have you ever heard of tapping someone on the shoulder? It’s a thing you know. You should try it next time.”

 

“I was afraid of dying a painful death by tripping all over your things,” he mentioned to the clutter of boxes. “There is no room to walk almost.”

 

“There is plenty of room to move around,” Cheryl scoffed, looking back at her things. “Quit blaming your laziness of me. The music was not bothering anyone. It better not be broken because of you. I mean it!”

 

“There should be no damage to your system by unplugging it,” Toni assure her. “I know a little bit about radios, so how about I check the wires?”

 

“That would be great,” Cheryl nodded, before glaring back at Jughead. “Don’t ever come into my room uninvited again.”

 

“I don’t plan too,” he promised, holding up his hand in a scout’s honor kind of way.

 

“C’mon,” Toni said, leading Cheryl back to their room. “Betty, I will be right back, okay?” she called over her shoulder.

 

“Take your time,” Betty turned to go back into her room to see Jughead making his way towards her. “Stay away from me,” she ordered him firmly, but he didn’t listen. He hurried his steps, and soon, he was blocking the door to her room.  She closed her eyes, feeling annoyed. “Can you please move?” she crossed her arms.

 

“In a minute,” Jughead said quickly. “There is something that I want to say to you.”

 

Betty shook her head at him. “No. I don’t want to hear it,” she scoffed at him. “I heard enough from you earlier.”

 

“Yeah,” Jughead rubbed the back of his head. “That is what I want to talk to you about. I tried looking for you, but I couldn’t find you.”

 

Betty breathed heavily through her nose. “What are you even doing here?” she asked him, tiredly. She was done with talking to people for one day. Especially him standing there in front of her door looking so so so...sexy with his black curly hair sticking through his beanie cap and his blue eyes that were so clear. Wait...what? He does not look sexy, she yelled at herself. What the hell was she thinking? This was the idiot that insulted her just hours before.

 

Jughead smirked at her. “It looks like you and I are going to be roommates,” he said in a way that made her want to slap him. 

 

Betty stared at him. “You live here?” she asked him. 

 

“Sure do,” Jughead pointed to his door. “Right next to you it seems,” he explained causing a massive swell of dread to fill her stomach. “This is going to be fun,” he added with a bigger smirk.

 

“I will stay out of your way,” Betty said, playing with the long strand of her hair. She was still wearing the wig that she had worn to dinner with her parent. “And you don’t have to worry about catching any kind of germs from me. What I am is not contagious.”

 

The smirk fell from his face. “That is not what I meant,” he sighed. “You are not making this easy.”

 

Betty raised an eyebrow at him. “I’m not making what easy?” she asked him shortly.

 

“That thing you do when you offend someone,” Jughead explained to her. “I want to apologize for what I said to you.  It was wrong of me.”

 

“It was wrong,” Betty agreed. “Have you considered that maybe I don’t want your apology?” she asked. 

 

Jughead frowned. “You don’t want it?” he asked her, confused.

 

“Nope.”

 

“Why not?”

 

Betty smiled to herself, watching Jughead become flustered. She did want an apology, but why should she make it easy on him? “Because saying sorry is not going to take back what you said.”

 

“I wish that I could,” he looked down at his hands. “I have felt terrible all day about the way that spoke to you.”

 

“Good,” Betty sighed. “Now move so I can go into my room. My phone is ringing.”

 

Jughead stared at her before looking to her room. “I don’t hear anything,” he pointed out.

 

“That is because it is on vibrate,” she explained. “Now get out of my way.”

 

“You really don’t want to hear what I have to say?” he asked her. “It’s really good.”

 

“I am sure it is,” Betty said to him. “You just want to apologize so that you can have clean slate until you say something else that is rude to dirty it up again. So that you don’t have to feel guilty. Well, I am not ready to forgive, so even if you were to say it. It probably would not even work.”

 

“Not even a little?”

 

“Not even a fraction.”

 

Jughead leaned up against her door frame. “But you said it probably wouldn’t work which means I may have a chance?”

 

“This is getting boring,” Betty sighed, looking to the ceiling. 

 

“Maybe for you,” Jughead grinned at her. “But not for me.”

 

“Can you just get out of my room?”

 

“Not until I accept my apology,” he told her with a bigger grin. “All you have to do is hear it.”

 

“Well I don’t want to hear it,” Betty groaned, tired of playing his little game. “And forcing me to hear it will not get me to accept it so it would be a waste of your time.”

 

Jughead chuckled. “You know getting your feather ruffled is fun,” he leaned his head against the door frame. “I think I just found my new hobby.”

 

Betty rolled her eyes. “I hope you bring a lot of food to that little island because I am not joining you on it.”

 

“Oh, trust me. There will be plenty of food to keep me fed for years. As long as you keep feeding me, I will be full forever.”

 

Betty had to bite down on her lip to keep herself from laughing. “That didn’t even make sense.”

 

Jughead’s jaw dropped. “Is that a smile?” he asked her pushing off of the frame.  “I think it is.”

 

“No,” Betty denied, covering her lips with her hand. “It’s not.” She could feel a smile pulling at her mouth.  “You don’t stop do you?” she asked him even though she already knew that answer. He didn’t seem like like the type to give up, and he was wearing her thin. Damn, that means he could find a weakness in her. Well, that wasn’t good, she thought to herself. And if he was capable of doing just that who knows what he could do to her. She would have to be very careful around him.  She couldn’t afford to be weak anymore, not when it comes to her heart, which still had many cracks from Archie’s betrayal. Cracks that she was still figuring out how to stitch back together. The cracks were deeper from just seeing him just before she went into the bookstore where she met her currently annoying acquaintance.

 

“If you say so,” Jughead stepping out of her way. “But at least I can sleep soundly tonight knowing that I have a chance of you forgiving me. Good night Betty.”

 

“How do you even know my name?

 

Jughead turned around just outside his room. “Well there is the sign on your door, and then there was Toni who said it earlier. So I did a quick math equation of putting two and two together.”

 

“Do you ever give a simple answer?”

 

Jughead shrugged his shoulder. “Where is this fun in that? Give the average answer that everyone else gives.” And with that, he stepped into his room, but before he closed the door, he stuck his head out into the hall. “It was nice to meet you.” Then shut the door leaving Betty bewildered of what just happened.

 

Betty looked around the hall seeing that she was the only in it.  That meant, she was the only witness to this strange encounter, but even more strangely,  she felt the urge to walk over to that door and knock on it. Only so she could talk to him more. But was that a good idea? Would that give him the wrong impression? She was supposed to fight the urge to forgive him, not immediately give in just because she found interesting. Was he interesting? Would it hurt to talk to him even more? She indulged in her urge, walking over to the door, staring at it, telling herself that it was okay. Was it okay? Her eyes bore into the white painting of the door telling herself to do just a small tap, but she couldn’t move. It was like she was frozen in time. Or was it fear that was freezing her? Betty heard another door open just down the hall that sent her running for her room before anyone could see her.  However, she didn’t know that Jughead was on the other side, fighting that very same urge. Resisting the pull to the knob to open it as well.


The next morning, Betty woke due to the bright rays of sun shining on her face.  To most people, it would mean a joyful morning of being blessed, but to Betty, it was downright annoying. What can she say? She liked her sleep and hated to be disturbed even if it was due to the fireball in the sky. She thought about going back to sleep because she was still pretty tired from moving the day before. And it didn’t help that she couldn’t fall asleep after a very long and promised phone to Sweet Pea. She blamed it on being in a new bed in a strange place that she just needed to get used to. She got out of bed and grabbed her things for a shower. She decided that she preferred the floor early in the morning while everyone was still sleeping. It was peaceful if a person could ignore the snores coming out from Kevin door. She was glad that she was sleeping alone and hoped whoever had to endure that sound had some good earplugs because damn...they were loud!

 

Thirty minutes later, Betty was sitting on her bed pulling her shoes on. Her outfit of the day was nothing spectacular. It was just a pair of jean shorts, a red shirt with thin straps and sandals. Her stomach was growling, begging for something to eat while her brain pleaded for caffeine so that it could start working. She pulled her strap on to her should after grabbing her songbook and pen to work on some song lyrics while she ate her food. Betty checked her pocket to make sure that she had her phone and looked in the mirror to make sure her wig didn’t look too fake, either. And she was ready to start her day. She walked over to her door, noticing something on the floor. She frowned because she didn’t remember seeing there moments before and she was sure that she hadn’t dropped anything.  She walked closer to see that it was a book on some sort and crouched down to pick it up. She turned it over and was surprised to see that it was the textbook that Betty had left behind to flee from Jughead. 

 

“No way,” she whispered to herself as she quickly opened the book to see if the title was the same or it was a mean trick. To her surprise, it was. On the other side of the cover was a little post-it note with very neat handwriting that her smiling as she read what it said.

 

“I know that you don’t take apologies lightly and I was hoping that this would be a great place to start.”

Jughead

 

Betty felt her heart inside her chest turn into nothing but mush. The simple gesture deeply touched her. She stood up, placing the book on her desk for later. Betty knew that she should thank him but didn’t know what to say. The growling in her stomach interrupted thoughts, making her continue on her journey in search of some food.

 

“Thank you,”  she smiled to the cashier as they handed her what she ordered which was a green tea with lemon and honey to wash down the yummy looking cinnamon bun she got, Betty sat down at a small round table in the corner opening her book to a blank page. She bit down on the tip of her cap as she tried to think herself some words so she could get started.

 

“So you are an earlier raiser like me.”

 

Betty looked over her shoulder to see Jughead coming down the aisle. She shook her head at him as he planted his butt in the seat across from her. “You know if you talk any louder, you might raise the dead and they will find me in my little corner of the world and blame me for it.”

 

“Well, aren’t you dramatic,” he deadpanned. “Please tell me you are not a drama student. They are very boring.”

 

“What would you do if I was one?” she asked him, curious of his answer. “And how can a drama student be boring? Aren’t they supposed to be dramatic? Hence the word ‘drama’”

 

“You would think so, but then when you get them on a stage,” Jughead sighed, “the drama is nowhere in sight. And if anyone is going to wake up the dead, it would be Fang’s snoring.”

 

“Poor Kevin,” Betty cringed for her friend. “To single beds dorms.” She held up her tea to him and took a sip. “And to answer your question, I am not a drama student.”

 

“Thank God,” he placed a hand on his chest. “We have way too many of them around here. I didn’t peg you as a drama student, anyhow. You don’t have the vibe.”

 

Betty tilted her head. “The vibe? What does that mean?”

 

“Well, drama students have this sense about them. I mean you can spot them a block away,” he reached over, tearing a piece of her bun.

 

“Just help yourself,” she scoffed at him, pulling the plate closer to her so she could guard it.

 

“I will thank you,” he said, sticking the piece in his mouth. “Not as good as homemade ones, but they will do. But not enough icing.”

 

“Now who is dramatic?”

 

Jughead shook his head at her. “I was not dramatic. I was stating a fact,” he pointed a finger on him. “Icing is the best part of life. Without the icing, what do people have to look forward to?”

 

“Not getting a rough crash from a sugar rush?”

 

“I guess you can count that as a good thing,” Jughead turned away from her as he continued to speak. He started to stroke with his chin, and Betty couldn’t help but follow the way he traced the subtle curve of his lower lip. Or notice the way he dragged the tip of his tongue to moisten them and the way his mouth quirked up in a half smirk when he said something with a hint of sarcasm.  She closed her book and settled her cheek on her hand as she listened to him talk. She decided that she could listen to him talk for hours and never get bored. He had a smile that lit up his entire face. It was nice when it would meet his blue eyes, causing them to fill up with passion.

 

Betty realized that she was staring and grabbed her tea to get a deep drink. God, what is wrong with her? She thought to herself. She was staring at him like a creature out of the sea that was starved of air. She hoped that he hadn’t notice and if he did, it didn’t seem to bother Jughead. He turned his eyes back to her.

 

“Betty?”

 

She floated back down to earth and out of her wicked thoughts. She couldn't believe she was thinking like some school girl who had a crush. A crush? I do not have a crush on him , she told herself. Wasn’t he the guy that is supposed to be begging you for forgiveness and here you are letting him run his mouth to you about everything subject under the sun? Her subconscious asked her.

 

“Betty?” Jughead leaned over, waving his hand in front of her face. “Are you in there?”

 

“What?” Betty blinked, seeing Jughead observing her. “I’m sorry. What did you say?”

 

“Jughead!”

 

Her eye widened at the new voice.  A voice that she knew all too well. How did Jughead know Archie? She didn’t want to see him yet, and when Jughead looked over her shoulder, it made her gather her things quickly. “I have to go,” she said, blocking out the confused look on his face. She hurried out of her seat as she could hear footsteps coming closer and closer. Betty let out of sigh of relief as she rounded the corner wanting to put as much distance between her and Archie as possible. Betty knew that she would eventually run into him or Veronica. It was only a matter of time before she would have to talk to them face to face, but she didn’t want to. At least not yet. She wanted to enjoy her newly found freedom before she had to face any kind of demons.  Betty was almost to the doors that would take her to the bridge the went to the residence hall. She felt someone grab her arm, making her heart fly out of her chest. 

 

She turned around ready to confront her follower, who she suspected to be Archie. Except it wasn’t Archie at all. It was Jughead. There was a deep concern in his eyes that made them a lighter shade of blue. She held her hand to her chest feeling her heart pounding against her ribcage. Her gaze dropped to his hand.

 

“Sorry,” Jughead mumbled, removing his hand from her arm. He frowned at her. “What happened back there? Did I say something wrong?”

 

Betty gave him a small smile. “No,” she shook her head, shifting her book to the side. “It wasn’t you at all. I don’t want to talk to him.”

 

There was even more confusion in his voice. “Talk to who?” he asked.

 

“To your friend.”

 

Jughead blinked he realized who she was talking about. “You mean Archie?” he asked her, sounding even more confused.

 

Betty looked at the name. “Yeah,” she replied hoarsely. “Archie,” Betty confirmed.

 

Jughead shook his head. “You don’t have to worry about Archie. I mean the guy doesn’t have his ducks lined up in his head, but he’s an alright guy. Come back with me, and I’ll introduce you to him.”

 

“No, thank you,” Betty said, looking away from Jughead. “Archie won’t be that happy to see me.”

 

“You say his name as if you know him.”

 

“I do know him,” Betty confessed. “Or at least I thought I did. I would tell you the story, but it is very boring. You will be in tears by the end of it.”

 

Jughead snickered. “It doesn’t sound that boring at all,” he told her. 

 

“Jughead!”

 

“Fuck!” Betty muttered as Archie’s voice echoed through the hall. “Maybe one day I will tell it to you, but it won’t be today. Now don’t keep him waiting. He tends to be impatient when it comes to that.”

 

“Are you sure that you don’t want to join us?” Jughead asked her softly. “I don’t have to go back with him. We can go explore the city if you want?”

 

“Thanks for the offer but don’t cancel your plans on my behalf. I am gonna go up to my room and work there for a while,” she told him. “Now go and have fun.” Betty turned around on her heel, walking off before Jughead had a chance to respond.

Chapter Text

Chapter Five

 

When Betty got back to her room, she slipped off her shoe and curled up on her bed, wanting to continue where she left off. It didn’t take her long to get in the flow of things. She worked for a few hours until there was a knock on her door. She walked over to answer it. It was Fangs telling her that there was someone at the door for her.

“Thanks,” she smiled at him and walked over to see what they wanted. It was a young boy who had bright blue eyes with slicked-back hair. “Can I help you?”

“Are you Betty Cooper?”

“I came to the door, didn’t I?” she asked him. “So that would answer your question.” Betty winced at how mean she sounded. “Sorry. Sarcasm is how I deal with the world.”

“No big deal. I am delivering a message from Dr. Maxwell.”

“Ah,” Betty smiled at the name. “What does he want?” she asked him, opening the door even wider.

“He wants you to come to his office,” he explained.

“Okay,” she nodded. “Give me a few minutes okay?”

Betty hurried back to her room for her shoes and went back out to where the guy was waiting on her. “Did he say what it was about?” she asked, closing the door behind her.

“Not really. He just asked if I could get you for him,” he said. “My name is Joaquin by the way.”

“Cool name,” Betty smiled as they stepped into the elevator. “So are you a student of his?”

The walk to Max’s office was a long one. He had moved from his old office to another location in the school. Betty had to memorized certain things so that she wouldn’t get confused the next time she had to talk to him. Joaquin stopped outside of a door and knocked very loudly. Seconds later, the door opened to reveal Dr. Maxwell himself. He waved them in and held up a finger before pointing to the phone that was planted to his ear.

“I told you that I will be home soon, Lisa,” he said to his caller. “I need to wrap a few things up before I leave. So I will be home in about 30 minutes or so. Love you.” Max ended the phone and threw it on to his desk before turning to his students. “Sorry about that guys,” he said. “My wife wants me home for dinner tonight. Her parents are coming so she is on the fritz about everything.”

“Leave Lisa alone,” Betty said, dropping down into a chair. “I was told that you wanted to see me?”

“I do,” Max nodded. “Thank you for bringing her Joaquin. You may go if you need to.”

“I need to practice,” Joaquin said, walking out of the room. “See you guys later.”

Max turned to Betty. “So how's life treating you these days, Betty?” he gave her a warm smile. “I am glad to see that you have finally made it.”

“I know!’ Betty laughed, covering her face with her hands. “But I am here. Everything is good right now. My health is in top-notch, and I am getting back on track with things.”

“That is wonderful to hear dear,” Max settled back against his desk. “What do you think so far?”

“It’s amazing,” Betty sighed dreamily. “I often have to pinch myself to make sure that this is really happening.”

Well, you deserve it,” Maxwell nodded. “How is the boyfriend?”

“The boyfriend is now currently an ex,” Betty replied.

Max blinked in surprise. “Really? How is that going?”

Betty shrugged her shoulders. “It has its moments, but what can we do about it?” she asked him. “How is Lisa doing?”

“She is doing really good,” Max smiled, blushing at the mention of his wife. “She is pregnant.”

Betty gasped, laying her hands on her chest. “Really?” she squealed. “That is amazing!”

Max put a finger to his lips. “Shh! No one knows but you,” he said.

Betty zipped her lips. “Your secret is safe with me.”

“Good,” Maxwell walked around his desk and went into a drawer. “I have something for you here,” he told her, getting something then closed the drawer. He walked around to her, holding out a key.

Betty took it from him and looked at Max. “What is this for?” she asked him.

Max pointed to the key. “That is your ticket to the sound room,” he told her. “That way, you have unlimited access to the sound room. When you get a moment go have a look around and get to know the system very well. They can differ from other makes and models. Just don’t get caught in there when we have a power outage. The locks are electronics, and so are the keys. If there is no power, nothing will work. That helps prevent our equipment from being stolen.”

“Got it,” Betty nodded. She closed her hand around the key feeling like she was holding the golden ticket to the chocolate factory. Except this key took her to the land of sweet music making.

“There are many pianos around our ground, as you know. You are welcomed to each one of them if any of them are free in that moment of need. Remember not to get caught up in the work but to have fun. Don’t force yourself to write because nothing good comes out of it. If you feel blocked, take yourself out into the city. There is plenty of things to do hear that will feed you with motivation. Also, we want our students to succeed, so if you are having issues talk to us. We will always lend an open ear. I want you to practice with me at least once a week for a few hours that way, I can give you some guidance in the right direction.”

Betty stared at him. “You are practicing your dad lectures on me, aren’t you?” she asked him teasingly.

Max's shoulders fell. “Is it that obvious? How am I doing?” he asked her nervously.

“I think you sound too much like a brochure,” Betty giggled. “Of things that I have heard many times in the past.”

He pouted at her. “I know, but I want you to listen to what I have to say, Cooper. This isn’t a dream anymore. You are at Juilliard for real this time. You will begin your classes in about a week. This isn’t time for games.”

“I know that it isn’t,” Betty sighed, getting out of her chair, folding her arms against her chest.

“There is something else that I need to tell you,” Max stated solemnly. “There has been a change to your program,” he informed her.

“What do you mean?”

“We have partnered up with a sister school,” he told her. “Have you ever heard of NYU?”

Betty nibbled her lip. “It’s New York University,” she said. “What about it?”

“You will have to take a couple of courses on the campus,” he explained. “ A few courses that aren’t offered here. There was a course added to your schedule. It should have the initials NYU beside it.”

“So that is what that means.”

“Yeah,” he nodded. “You will have to take a class there once a year until your program is completed.”

“Okay. No problem,” she nodded. “That actually sounds kind of fun. Is that everything?”

“For now. I want to see you once a week to see how everything is going in your life. And I don’t mean when you come for your lessons. I want to make sure that you have everything that you need while you here. Okay? Now get out of here. I need to get going, or I will be sleeping on the couch tonight.”

“That won’t be good. Tell Lisa I said hello,” Betty said, walking out of the room with one final wave over her shoulder.

Betty walked back to her floor, thinking about everything that Max had mentioned to her. It was all was a little overwhelming that made her a little bit more nervous about starting her classes. What Max said was true. This is no longer a game. The stakes were even higher now. She wasn’t the only one who had a talent or a musical ability. She was surrounded by walls where legends were made, and every student that walked these halls were trying to become their own legends. The floors were roads that were traveled on, and every step that was taken was an inch closer to a dream that came true. Along a trail that if a student took a wrong turn, it could lead to failure. Every musician has had to face disappointment at least once if not many times in their career. Some have failed so much that it was hard even to get up the courage to try again, and others never made it back to music. Where they lost the music after the light had been dampened way too many times. Betty wouldn’t know what to do if she were to lose music again. It had been hard when she had to stop to fight for her life. She hadn’t planned on letting the music go when she got sick, but she ended up having to put it on the back burner. Betty would try to write, but often she would be too tired and would fall asleep at the desk. Or she would end up in the hospital after she would spike a fever. Or when she just felt like shit from the treatments. But there would be moments where Betty would get a moment of inspiration that had her opening her book, and she would write for hours. Afterward, she would feel a weight being lifted off her shoulder, and it was these moments that made her fight like hell. She wanted more of those moments, and she made sure she got them.

The bell sounded at her floor, and she got off the elevator. Betty walked through the door to see Cheryl and Toni dancing like foolish monkeys. It looked like they were having a blast because they both giggling hysterically. They freeze at the sound of the door shutting and turn to Betty with big eyes.

“Please don’t stop on my account,” she said, shaking her head at them. “It sounds like you were having fun.”

“We were,” Toni yawned, stretching her arms. “You should join us,” Toni suggested sitting down on the couch. “That song is just one that makes you bust a move.”

Cheryl sat down next to her, setting her feet on the table. “At least it was just you and not the guys. I don’t think they would understand.”

“I am just glad that there are other girls here because if I had been stuck with all guys. I would go insane,” Toni grumbled. “Just thinking about it gives me the willies. One is okay, but three of them. No, thank you.”

Cheryl looked over at Betty excitedly. “We should have like a massive sleepover. Eat an insane amount of foods, chocolates until our hearts are content. Do our nails, have facials. It would be a spa heaven.”

“Oooh,” Betty cooed. “That sounds amazing, Cheryl. Count me in! We should invite Kevin.”

“Totally,” Cheryl agreed. “We can not have a sleepover without Kevin. That would be like the biggest sin ever. It should be soon before our classes start and we get too busy.” She looked at her phone. “We should start getting ready. It starts in about an hour.”

“Get ready for what?”

Cheryl turned her phone around to show her the screen. “For the Student Mixer tonight. It’s a thing that Juilliard holds every year so that the students can get to know each other. They get this insane chocolate fountain, and you dip all kinds of food into it. A few of the music groups, and sometimes they have improv performances where people act out stuff. It was hilarious last year. I will see you two in a bit.” Cheryl stopped and turned around. “Are you coming, Toni?” she asked. “I want your help in finding something to wear.”

“Be there in a minute,” Tonin said as Cheryl walked into their room. She turned back to Betty. “What have you been doing today? I have barely seen you.”

“I just been out and about,” Betty picked at her nails. “I worked on some lyrics, got some breakfast, and talked to my mentors. Are you going to this mixer thing?”

Toni nodded. “I was there at the word chocolate. Besides, I think Cheryl would drag me if I refused.”

Betty smirked at her. “Cheryl, huh? She is very pretty.”

Toni’s eyes widened. “No way,” she said, shaking her head. “Cheryl is pretty, but she is not my type, and I don’t even know if she goes for girls.”

“Toni, the girl was making heart eyes at you while you were talking,” Betty told her. “There is a spark there, Toni.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Toni grumbled getting up at the sound of Cheryl calling her name. “Coming!” She yelled, walking into the other room.

Betty walked into her room, going over to her closet. She flipped through her many shirts, looking for something nice. She chose a light pink Bardot top with short sleeves that were just off the shoulder and a short dark navy skirt that had five black buttons on the right leg. There were flats on her feet that matched her shirt. To complete her look, Betty picked out her favorite studded earrings and her silver bangles. She kept her makeup light as usual and brushed out all the knots from her hair until it fell into soft waves slightly below her shoulders.

“Betty, are you ready?” Cheryl yelled through her door as she was pulling on a light sweater since Betty had a tendency to get chilly.

“Yeah,” she called back, running a finger over her lips to give them a glossy shine. She opened the door. “Ready,” she smiled, and her jaw dropped as she looked at Cheryl, who wore a dark red v neck dress that went to her mid thigh and black knee high heeled boots. “Damn girl, you look amazing.”

“I know,” Cheryl clapped her hand excitedly, flashing Betty a crimson smile. “But wait until you see Toni! Toni, my babe! Bring your gorgeous ass out here.”

Betty held back a secret smile, wondering if she should make a bet with herself about these two girls. Toni came out in a leather skirt that had silver studs all over her and a thin strapped yellow checkered shirt that stopped just before it reached her skirt showing off a lovely inch of her skin with black booties.

“This is why I love girls,” Toni sighed, twirling around. “Girls are the most beautiful creatures on the planet. Huddle for a selfie,” she hurried over to Betty and Cheryl holding her phone out.

A few hours later, Betty found herself sitting at the bar watching the room bubble about. In the corner, a string quartet was playing a song that she considered to be a lullaby because it was making her sleepy. She browsed the room for her friends, but she couldn’t find them amongst the people. They must have been mingling good because she hadn’t seen them since they arrived. When they scattered, Betty made her way through the crowd trying to blend in the best could, but felt like a square in a round hole. She was never a party person. She couldn’t remember the last time she had been to an event like this. And she was reminded why she never went. They always turned out to the same where Betty would end up sitting by herself watching other people having a good time while she was bored as hell.

A waiter walked by with a silver tray that had several flutes of champagne. Betty waited until the guy wasn’t looking before snatching herself a glass. She smiled proudly at herself as the waiter went on as nothing happened and leaned back against the bar, enjoying the first sip.

“So you are a loner like me, huh?”

Betty turned to see Jughead standing looking way too damn good in his tight blue sweater and dark jeans. His beanie sat on top of his hair as if it never moved an inch.

She pointed to her cannula in her nose. “It’s not the best welcome mat for people,” she said over the rim of her glass, taking another sip of the fruity liquid. “Please tell me these things get better,” she begged.

“Do you want me to lie to you?” Jughead shrugged, sitting down in the stool next to her.

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “I can’t stand liars. I want people to be straight up with the truth.”

“Well then,” Jughead sighed. “No, they don’t. They get worse unless something is entertaining going on.”

“I figured,” Betty downed the rest of her drink. “Well that was fun while it lasted,” she pouted, looking at her empty glass as she placed it on the counter behind her.

Jughead stared at her for a moment. “Do you want to get out of here?” he asked her.

Betty raised an eyebrow at him. “What do you have in mind?” She felt her stomach flip when he graced her with a small smirk.

“Are you hungry?”

Betty wondered if he could see into her soul where she was dying to get something to eat. “I am starving,” she confessed.

“Great answer,” Jughead said, getting out of his seat. “Let’s go, I will show you what I liked to do when I am bored out of my mind.”

“And what is that?”

Jughead smiled at her. “Follow me, and you will see. Do you trust me?”

Betty pursed her lips at him, standing up. “I don’t know you well enough to trust you, and I am letting you take me to wherever you want to go. What does that tell you?”

“All I need to know,” Jughead said, turning around leading her out of the crowded hall. Betty didn’t know what was happening to her as her veins filled up with a feeling she never felt before it. It was nervousness and enthusiasm mixed up as one. Like she was floating on the wings of butterflies that could cave in at any moment. What was in that drink because it was working some dangerous magic on her. But she found herself hoping that it wasn’t the drink at all.

Jughead held the door open for as she stepped out into the city for the first time since her arrival at the school. Betty had imagined that it would be her own doing, not some guy who was leading to who knows where. She froze in her tracks as she remembered something that she had to think about. Betty pulled her oxygen pack around to her front and unzipped the top.

“Are you okay?”

Betty looked up to see that Jughead had walked back to her. “I’m sorry,” she grimaced as he watched her. “I just need to make sure my battery is okay before we go too far,” she explained, pushing a few buttons. “I can’t run out of oxygen.”

“You don’t have to apologize, Betty.”

She smiled, bashfully at him. “Thanks, I just hate being an inconvenience to other people,” she muttered, looking at her screen. “We are good to go.”

Jughead blinked at her. “Are you sure? We can go back if you need to. Just let me know.”

“I am sure, and I am letting you know that we can go,” Betty said, pointing to her pack. “We have about five and a half hours before I have to be back here.”

Jughead nodded, pulling his phone pocket, checking the time. “So I have to have you back by midnight.”

“Yeah.”

Jughead looked up from his phone, smirking. “Will you hit me if I start calling you Cinderella? You aren’t going to lose any glass slippers while we are out right?”

Betty glared playfully at him. “If you do, I will smack that beanie off your head and hide it.”

Jughead touched the object on his head. “You did not just insult my crown,” he narrowed his eyes at her. “The crown is my signature look. I can never go anywhere without my crown. How will people know that they are in the presence of a king? You feel humble that I let you in my court.”

“A king, huh?” Betty teased. “What am I supposed to do bow at your feet?”

Jughead scratched at his chin. “That is not a bad idea. Show me what you got.”

“I don’t think so,” Betty shook her head. “I am bowing to no one. How about I will let you call me Cinderella once and if you don’t make me bow, deal?”

“Deal.”

“Great. Now, where are we going?” Betty asked him, looking around the street.

“Right,” Jughead remembered and pointed over his shoulder. “We are going this way to the subway.”

Betty followed him over to the stairs that would lead them underground, and she shook her head at him. “Can’t go this way,” she said, staring at the offending obstacle course standing in her way. “Not if you want to end this trip before it started with me passed out at the bottom.”

Jughead’s shoulders sagged, and Betty chuckled. “Don’t worry,” she said, pulling on his arm over to the elevators that would take them down to the rails. “There is always a way,” she punched the button. “I told you that I can be an inconvenience.”

Jughead narrowed his eyes at her. “You are not an inconvenience, Betty,” he told her as they stepped inside the lift.

“You say that now. But wait, you will be changing your mind,” Betty said as the doors closed.

After a brief quarrel about who would pay for the fare, Betty was looking out of the window watching the dark fly by her window. She glanced at Jughead, who was biting on his lip while looking at his phone.

“So where are we going?” Betty questioned him as the train stopped to let off some passengers.

Jughead turned to her. “If I told you where the mystery of this adventure would be destroyed. And the mystery is what makes it fun. I promise you that it isn’t anything dangerous or illegal.”

Betty gawked at him. “When people say that, it usually is dangerous and illegal at the same time.”

“I thought you said that you trusted me,” Jughead said, with a pout. “I am not going to get you into trouble. Anyway, here is our first stop,” he got out of his seat to wait in line to get off.

It was very congested so Jughead took her hand so they wouldn’t get separated and when they got to the street level he tugged on her hand, drawing her in the direction he wanted to go. And he didn’t let go not that she minded. She actually kind of liked someone holding her hand again. She missed it. Jughead continued walking until they were outside of a Chinese restaurant.

“Don’t go anywhere,” he told her. “I am just going in to get our order, and we will be on our way.”

Betty didn’t get a chance to ask any questions because he disappeared through the doors. She looked around to see where they were at. It was a street that was off one of the main roads of the city. The whole block was filled with little businesses. Some were eateries, and some were small boutiques that sold little trinkets. I reminded her of the mom and pop shops that lined Main Street in Riverdale. At the corner, a man was working a popcorn stand that had a long line. A bell sounded, and Jughead was coming out of the place with a massive bag of food.

“Don’t you think that is a bit too much?” She asked him, eyeing the bag that was giving off a delicious aroma. “That looks to be enough for six people.”

“Wait until you have your first bite,” Jughead said, holding up the bag. “You will be thankful that I got this much and you are eating with me. This could be a snack for me.”

“You could eat all of that yourself?” Betty questioned him and looked at his lean and lanky frame. “How? You are like a toothpick with legs.”

“Are you checking me out?”

Betty felt her face burn under that rotten smirk of his. “Of course not. I was just stating a fact.”

“I have special talents, and one of those talents is eating,” Jughead smiled at her. “Also, Mrs. Chen always gives out large portions with her servings, and most times, it ends up in multiple containers. Now, come on Cinderella, our dinner spot awaits us. And you were checking me out!” He added, walking away from her.

“I was not!” Betty yelled at him, her voice echoing through the crowded street, gaining her looks from strangers walking along.

“Where are you going?”

“Back to the subway.”

Betty let out a long sigh as she turned on her heel to follow Jughead. She wondered what was going through his mind. Usually, she was good at reading people, but Jughead was a mystery. She never knew what to expect with him, and it excited her. Maybe that was why she was following him like a lost puppy all over the creation that was New York City. Soon they were back on the train heading for the place that Jughead had in his mind. She leaned back in her seat, placing her head against the glass looking over at Jughead who was standing beside her. He had given up his own seat for a little elderly lady with a cane. She smiled as she watched the exchange between Jughead and the said lady who was now sitting next to her snoring away. She knew that she has been wearing a smile ever since, but she couldn’t help it. The whole thing was the sweet thing ever.

They went over a bump in the rails making Jughead reach for a handlebar and clutch the bag of food like he was about to lose it. She snickered as he would glare at anyone who would dare get near him like it was his most prized possession. She giggled into her hand when he petted the bag with a gentle hand. A voice came over the intercom announcing that they were entering a new station.

“Ready?” Jughead asked her, holding out his hand for her to take as the train came to a complete stop.

“Yes,” she said, taking his hand, allowing him to steer her through the doors that finally opened. She noticed that his palm was a little sweaty and wondered if he was nervous about anything. Once they were out of the station, Jughead walked a few blocked before pulling her through a small alleyway that was making her a little uneasy. “You aren’t going to get us lost, are you?”

“No, I know this city like the back of my hand,” Jughead laughed, turning the corner of a path that took them through what looked like a park. “Where we are going, I have been to a thousand times. I usually come here when I need to clear my head or something.” He pulled her around another corner to another path that was lined with a long line of benches on one side and railing with lampposts on the other, looking over a large body of water. The sun was setting casting colors of reds, oranges, pinks, and yellow all over the sky. She could hear the sound of water slapping against the concrete wall and the music of seabirds echoing through the air as they dive bombed for their nightly dinner. It was a beautiful sight and felt herself relaxing with every step they took.

Jughead let go of her hand as he sat down in a bench placing the bag of food on the side. “This is the best spot in the whole city,” he said, putting his hands behind his head. “I can come here and stay for hours on end.”

Betty smiled at him as she joined him on the bench. She could see what he was talking about. The glow on the water from the sun made the area brighter, and when she looked over she could see the New York City skyline beginning as many windows were starting to become alive as people worked tirelessly in their offices. She could see several boats out on the water gliding along to turn their catches in for people to eat and a ferry was docking just several feet away with people who went to see the Statue of Liberty.

“Crap!”

Betty looked over at Jughead, who was digging around in the bag. “What?” she asked him.

“You aren’t a vegetarian, are you?” He questioned, looking up from the bag. “I forgot to ask you earlier,” he closed his eyes apologetically.

Betty bit down on her lip and decided to mess with him. “What would you do if I was?” Jughead’s eyes widened.

“Are you really? I can go and get you something else if you want me to. All that's here is pork and shrimp,” he began to place the bag beside her and got out of his seat. “What do you want? I know a place that has just plant-based foods.”

“Jughead,” she covered her mouth with her hand to hide her growing smile. “You would do that for me? Just so I can have something special?”

“Of course. What do you want?”

“I think I want whatever is in the bag,”

“Okay,” he said, walking off in the direction, making her wonder if he heard what she said. He got about halfway to the corner when he suddenly stopped and turned around. Betty couldn’t hold back her laughter any longer as he marched back to the bench. “Are you serious?”

“Maybe,” she laughed as he sat back down. “Or maybe I was trying to have all the food for myself.”

“That is not funny,” Jughead grumbled, going back into the bag. “If I weren’t such a nice guy, I would not share my food with you. In fact, I still might not share. That was a dirty trick.”

“I never said that I played fair,” Bett snickered, taking a carton that he was holding out for her. “And that was funny as hell. I can’t believe that you couldn’t see past my smile. So what are we eating?”

“The best homemade dumplings in New York City,” Jughead said, stuffing one into his mouth. “And egg rolls. You can have as many as you like. There is plenty.”

“Is there any hot sauce?”

“In the bag,” Jughead mumbled through a mouth full of food. She found the sauce, and they settled into the meal keeping the conversation light as they ate. She shook her head when Jughead tore off a piece of eggroll and threw it at a bird.

“Why did you do that?” She asked him as the bird flew off with its treat. “You could have left it alone.”

Jughead shrugged. “The thing kept staring at me, and it made me feel guilty,” he said, going in for another roll. “What do you think?”

Betty pushed her empty carton away. “I think that I have eaten way too much food,” she sighed, feeling completely stuffed from their meal. “That was really good too.”

“I’m glad,” he smiled, shifting in his seat. “So we never got to finish our conversation from earlier.”

Betty wiped at her mouth free of any crumbs. “What conversation?”

“The one where I was trying to figure out what kind of student you are.”

Betty stared at him for a few moments. “You should just ask me, and I could just tell you. And what about you? You never said anything about what you are studying.”

“You never asked me,” Jughead shrugged, walking over to the railing, leaning over it. “Do you want to know?”

“Only if you want to tell me,” Betty said, looking over the edge to the water. “So what kind of student do you think I am?”

“Hmm,” Jughead studied her thoroughly. “That is the thing. I have no idea, and it stumps me. And I am studying to be a playwright.”

“A playwright? Like a person who writes scripts for plays?

“Something like that.”

“So that makes you a drama student,” Betty smirked at him. “I thought you said that drama students are boring.”

“They are boring,” Jughead nodded. “At least the ones I study with. They lack the passion for it. They want to be these great actors and actresses but don’t want to put the work in and learn.”

“Do you love it?”

Jughead nodded again. “I do. I love that I can get an idea and make it come to life. There is something about creating something and being able to call it my own. Many times have been times where I get into bed, and an idea will come to mind, and I will have to get up and work out the kinks before I can sleep. There are many worlds out there waiting to be discovered, and I like creating them. And maybe one day if I ever get enough courage, I can write my own book series. It has always been a dream of mine to write my own novel.”

Betty smiled at him. “What is stopping you?”

“What if I write it and no one wants to read it? What if I write it and it sucks?”

“You’ll never know until you try, Jughead. I am sure when the right story is in your mind, the words will be there to show you the way,” she offered. “But I get what you mean about being able to create something. I love it too, and at times it can be downright addicting. Music is the same way for me. I love getting lost in it when the real world tends to be too much for me to handle. It saved my life.”

“So you are a music student,” Jughead beamed at her. “I told you that I had no clue. I was leaning towards a ballet dancer.”

Betty laughed and shook her head. “No way. I tried ballet when I was a little girl, but my poor toes begged me to stop. I love to dance, but I haven’t been able to do it since being put on the oxygen. I run out of breath too fast now. But it’s not what has my heart.”

“Singing?”

Betty watched the ferry drift farther and farther from the dock. “Singing is fun, and I really enjoy it. But I much rather write the songs to sing them.”

Jughead straightened up. “You can write music?” he asked, sounding surprised at the fact.

Betty nodded. “Yep. I can also play several kinds of instruments as well. I think I am up to six right now? I want to learn how to play the violin next.”

Jughead whistled. “I am in the presence of a child prodigy,” he said, sounding very impressed.

Betty scoffed. “Please. I am not. I just figured if I wanted to be a songwriter that I should know at least a few instruments. I do have one question for you, though.”

“What’s that?”

Betty studied the soft feature of his face. “How do you know Archie?” she asked him, curiously.

They started walking along the path, walking close to each other not enough to touch, but with every swing of their arms would brush up against the other. “We were roommates last year. We bonded on over video games and pizza. I thought he was dumb at first but turns out that he was a good guy. What about you? How do you know him?”

Betty sighed. “Do you want the whole story?”

“Tell me all of it.”

“He’s been my best friend since we were four,” Betty began, looking towards the bay of water.

“That’s a long time. So why don’t you want to talk to him then?”

“We broke up a few weeks ago,” she said to him.

“Ah. How long were you two together?”

Betty had to think. “We started dating our junior year of high school. So it was for two years.”

“Wait a second,” Jughead stopped, turning to her. “That can’t be true. Archie has been dating Veronica since like last December. He never mentioned that he had a girlfriend back home.”

Betty frowned at Jughead. “That is why we are no longer together. It’s a whole big mess, and that is why I don’t want to talk to him. He came to visit me a couple of weeks ago where he told me that he had been seeing someone else while dating me.”

“That sucks.”

“It fucking does,” she nodded. “It sucks, even more, when the girl that he’s seeing was also my best friend.”

“Ouch,” Jughead grimaced, placing a hand on her shoulder, giving her soft squeeze. “I am so sorry that they did that to you. I had no idea that it was happening in front of my face. I guess you can never know everyone’s true colors.”

Betty stopped and turned to him. “Don’t let what happened between Archie and me affect your friendship. I know Archie and what he did was a million times of fucked up, but I still know that he is a good guy.”

“I won’t,” he promised softly to her. “I have to say that I am disappointed in him though.”

“He never mentioned me at all?”

“Nope. Not one peep. He did say that he had a best friend back home that liked to fix cars, but nothing about dating someone.”

“The best friend who likes to fix cars is me.”

Jughead blinked in surprise. “Really?” he grinned and shook his head. “I don’t know why, but it is all I can picture now. You like getting your fingers dirty, huh?” He wiggled his eyebrows at her.

Betty shoved him lightly. “Shut up. Another thing that I am really pissed off about is that he asked me not to come here.”

“But you did, anyway.”

“Damn straight I did,” she nodded. “What they did really hurt me, but I think I would have been okay with it over time. I always had this feeling in my gut that something would happen between those two. I am not blind. Anyone could see it, the way they were with each other. Honestly, I am not surprised that it didn’t happen sooner. I just didn’t see them doing it while Archie and I were together. I feel that punch in the gut every time I see him, and I know it is all very fresh. I mean, I still love them, and I think a part of me always will. But it is the fact that he asked me not to come here is what I can’t see past. I should have let fate run its course by breaking things off with Archie. Maybe it would have saved me from a hard break up down the line.

“Betty,” Jughead took her hand, pulling her over to a bench sitting down. “You do know that what they did is not your fault, right? You can’t put the blame on yourself.”

“I know it isn’t, but I can’t help when my mind decides to go down that path.”

“Do you regret coming here?”

Betty shook her head. “Not for a second. I could never regret this. Juilliard has been my dream ever since I heard the name. I worked so hard to get here to let it go because of Archie. I got accepted into Juilliard when I was 17. Won a scholarship too. I was supposed to start last year, but I got sick, and it had to put off.”

“Sick?” Jughead asked.

“Nope. We are not talking about that tonight,” she told him firmly. “I already told you the sob story that is called my life. Sorry that I unloaded all that on to you.”

”I don’t mind,” Jughead said softly. “Sounds like you had a lot weighing on your shoulders. How do you feel now?” He moved closer, wrapping an arm around her making her feel safe and warm.

“Better,” she admitted, and it was true. She did feel better. Her mind was even clear of the fog that had been clouding her every thought. Like a rainstorm had washed away all the haze. Betty thought that she had been dealing well with Archie and Veronica’s betrayal, but now it looked like she hadn’t made any progress in moving forward. “Enough about me, what about you? What does your life story look like?”

“A very boring one,” Jughead said dryly as he pulled at a string sticking out of the knee of his pants.

“I don’t believe that at all. Where did you get the name Jughead from? Is that your real name?”

“I have no idea where the name came from. I just grew up with it. And yes it is a nickname, and before you even ask, I am never telling you the real one. It is so horrible that you will probably laugh every time you think of me,” Jughead told her.

“I would never,” Betty scoffed, studying him. “Was it hard growing up with that name? I can’t imagine it being easy.”

“It wasn’t,” Jughead confessed, tilting his head. “I was bullied a lot because of it. I never could find a place to fit in the world. And that is where I found the joys of writing. It was my way of escaping the world for a little while. Made it seem like it wasn’t so bad and for some reason, Juilliard thinks that I have a talent for it and well here I am.” he trailed off, and Betty turned to see him staring at her.

She looked away and looked back to see that his eyes never once moved away from her face. “What are you staring at?” she asked him. “Do I have food on my mouth?” Betty reached up to wiped at her lips. Damn, why didn’t she bring a mirror? She probably had something green in her teeth and no way to check it out. Betty looked behind her to figure out what he was seeing. And of course, there wouldn’t be a restroom or something close to them. “What are you looking at?”

“You are so beautiful.”

Wait...what? Did he really just say that? Or was her freshly wiped mind playing games on her? Never in a million years did she expect those words to drop from Jughead’s lips. And was he really looking at her that way? Did he really just call her beautiful? What planet is he from? Surely, he had to be talking about another female who walked by their bench. She was anything but beautiful. She hadn’t felt beautiful in years, not since she lost all of her hair. The world can be a cruel one sometimes, and she just didn’t have it in her heart for it to play her again. “Stop it,” she giggled to try and shush him. “No, I am not.”

“Why? I am only speaking the truth,” Jughead said. “You really are beautiful, Betty. And Archie is a dumbass for letting you slip through his fingers for some other girl.”

There a very few times in her life where Betty has been shocked to complete silence. And this moment was just added to that list. He really thought she was beautiful? She struggled to find the words to tell him that he was a fool for thinking such a thing, but none would skate her tongue. She looked into his eyes, and she could see nothing but the honest truth in them. They were so blue, like dark, clear water that you could see through to the bottom. She really did love those eyes. She felt like she could stare into them forever. But forever wasn’t even long enough.

Betty wasn’t ready for them to drop to her lips. But they did, and she fell a force pulling her closer. A power that she had no control over. His soft looking lips that were only inches away. She could smell the cabbage on his breath, and it made her hungry. Hungry for him. She told herself to stop, but she couldn’t. No, she didn’t want to. All she had to do was tilt her head just a hair, and it would close the gap.

And she did. She would never forget how good it felt to feel his lips brush over hers. She pulled back slightly before capturing his lips again. The kiss was soft as their lips moved together, seeking each other as if the last wasn’t enough. Her breath hitched, feeling his hand run up her arm to cup her jaw, pulling her closer. She shifted in her seat, pressing closer to him sinking into the kiss. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest as the tip of his tongue swept across her bottom lip. Betty tilted her head to the side, allowing him into her mouth while her hand moved to the back of his head, playing with the soft curls she found there.

Their lips tangled, and she couldn’t believe how good he tasted. She could taste a bit of heat from the spicy sauce from earlier and also something sweet like chocolate with a hint of mint. It was amazing, and god, he was kissing her in a way she could only dream of. It really made her just want to crawl into his lap and get even more lost into him. But since they were in a park, that probably wouldn’t be a good idea because that could end with them being in a jail cell. She didn’t feel like getting arrested or wanted her first criminal offense to be because she couldn’t contain herself. The kiss went even deeper making her toes curl in her shoes sending goosebumps up her legs.

Their moment was shattered by the sound of one of their cellphones ringing. Jughead pulled back from the kiss groaning at the interruption. “Shit,” he muttered, reaching for his phone. Betty closed her eyes as she tried to control her breathing while she waited for him to return to her lips. “Uh, Betty?” His voice was hoarse, and she had to keep herself from smiling.

“What?” she turned to see his phone screen. “Fuck!” she screeched when she noticed what the time. “We need to get going. If we want to make it back in time.” Feeling utterly foolish that she let time get away from her.

“Let’s go,” Jughead said, getting up. They quickly discarded their empty garbage and hurried to catch the subway.

During the ride back to the school, Betty reached over for his hand. “Thank you for tonight. I had a lot of fun,” she smiled, shyly at him.

“I am glad,” Jughead nodded, curling his fingers with hers. “A lot better than a stupid party, huh?”

“Way better.”

Before they knew it, they were taking the elevator up to their floor. Betty looked out the corner of her eye, wondering if she should say something, but the doors opened before she could speak. When they stepped off the lift, the first thing that they noticed was Archie standing by their door banging on it. They were halfway down the hall when Archie spotted them, making him stop his assault on the door.

“There you are,” Archie sighed, walking over to him. Betty could tell that he was very frustrated. He held his hands up in confusion. “I have been looking all over the school for you. Where were you?”

“My stomach got the best of me and decided to go get something to eat,” Jughead shrugged like it was a big deal. “You know that food comes first to me.”

Archie frowned at him, unimpressed. “What the hell?” he shook his head. “I thought you wanted to a skit at the mixer and then I couldn’t find you anywhere.”

“No, I never wanted to do a skit. That was you, Archie,” Jughead corrected. “You know that I hate doing skits. Beside a skit couldn’t fix the boring atmosphere in that place.”

“Well, now Veronica is pissed at me,” Archie grumbled, running a hand through his hair. “Because I told her that you would help her.” Archie’s eyes dropped down to Betty, and his eyes widened at the sight of her.

Betty had to suck on her bottom lip to keep from laughing when Archie’s jaw dropped open. Seeing the shocked look on his face made her feel so good. It was almost as good as feeling Jughead’s lips on her, but she knew that nothing would ever beat that.

“Betty?”

Hearing her name on his lips slid through like an icy knife. She suddenly couldn’t bear to be in his presence. Saying nothing, Betty got her key out of her pocket and went inside closing the door behind her leaving Archie with Jughead.

In her room, Betty pulled off her sweater tossing over her cair and spotted the book. The book! She immediately picked the item up as she realized that she forgot to thank him for it. She smiled when she opened it to the small note he had written to her and pull it from the sleeve. She pressed a small kiss to the paper before placing it on to the corkboard above her desk where she kept little treasures. As she read the words quietly to herself, Betty started feeling breathless, and this time it wasn’t because she had shitty lungs. It was because of the boy she had spent her entire evening with. Her lips tingled, remembering the kiss that ingrained in her mind forever and touched them. Well, if she didn’t thank him for the book tonight, then at least she had an excuse to speak to him tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Chapter Six

 

Present Day- 2026

 

“And that is how it all started,” Betty said into the microphone with a big grin. “He had to kiss me.”

“I never heard this before,” Alice piped up from her seat. “Why haven’t you said anything about this to me?”

 

Betty shrugged. “There are still things that I hold sacred that I keep close to my heart.  This is just the beginning, though. This moment is so small compared to what is coming up in the story. But in a way, it is not small at all because it was a stepping stone that led me to something that I was not prepared for. Anyway, I have an idea. Jug, why don’t you come up here and help me tell the rest of the story. I can always tell my side, but as you say, there are always several sides.”

 

“That is true,” Jughead agreed, pulling away from the bar walking up to his wife, plopping down into the chair he carried with him taking the talking device from her. 

 

Betty looked over to Jughead. “You know I remember something that you said to me in the bookstore the first time I ever laid eyes on you.”

 

Jughead raised his eyebrows. “What was that?” he asked her curiously.

 

Betty smirked. “You told me that you had to be at work that it was the reason why you were in such a hurry. But you know what?”

 

“What?”

 

Betty shook her head. “You never went to work. Because you were in the dorm that night and the next morning at breakfast, you weren’t at work or the student mixer.”

 

“I got my shift times mixed up,” he shrugged. “I normally worked on Thursdays, but I forgot that I asked off so I can move in and go to the mixer.”

 

Betty looked towards the crowd. “I see. So, that meant you used it as an excuse to talk to me?” She winked. “I think I have it all figure out now.”

 

“If you say so. Now, you want me to continue with the story or not?”

 

“Please do.”

 

Jughead nodded. “Here we go…”



2019

 

Meanwhile,  out in the hall, Jughead watched the door close gently in their faces. He knew that she was only trying to get away from Archie. Archie. He looked at his red-head friend who seemed to be frozen with shock. Maybe this could be his chance to go inside and check on her. But of course, that was not the case as Archie came alive.

 

Archie looked at the door before looking back him. “What were you doing with her?” he asked her.  

 

“Nothing,” Jughead lied. What Archie didn’t know would not hurt him, and he certainly wasn’t going to let Archie ruin the best night he had had in a long time.  

 

Archie shook his head. “It didn’t look like nothing from where I was standing. You two seem awfully chum together.”

 

“I think you are seeing things,” Jughead tried to reason with Archie. “All we did was ride the elevator together.”

 

Archie began pacing the hallway nervously. “This is just great,” he grumbled like it pained his entire being. “What the fuck do I do? She is not supposed to be here.”

 

“How do you know her?” Jughead asked her, playing curiously. Even though he knew the story already, but didn’t plan to break Betty’s trust any time soon.

 

“She’s my ex-girlfriend,” Archie replied, leaning up against the wall. “I thought she would listen to me.”

 

Jughead couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He always knew that there were sides to every story, but here was Archie confirming everything that Betty had said. “Apparently, she didn’t listen to you, and now she is here.”

 

“This isn’t going to work. I need to talk to her,” Archie said, turning around to pound on the door once again.

 

“Let’s not do that,” Jughead said, pulling Archie way from the door. “Maybe you should deal with the fact that she is here. If she didn’t listen to you the first time, what makes you think she will listen a second time?”

 

Archie looked at Jughead suspiciously. “ You act as if you know her. Has she said anything to you about me? I can’t imagine it being anything good. She has probably been blasting me to the moon and back.“

 

Jughead shook his head. “Betty doesn’t seem the kind of person who would do that.”

 

Archie crossed his arms. “So you know her name, huh? Is that where you have been all night? Blowing your friends for some girl you met? What all do you know?”

 

That she deserves better than an asshole like you, he thought to himself. Jughead held up his hand. “That is not fair, and I didn’t blow you off. I told you the truth. I got hungry and went to get something to eat where I only took the elevator with her to come up and here, and you know the rest. Why do you care so much?”

 

“It is very complicated,” Archie sighed. “I can’t have her here smearing my name all over the place. It will ruin my chances of me getting anywhere in my career. Just stay away from her okay?”

 

“It’s kind of hard to do that when I share a room with her Archie,” Jughead pointed out. “She seems really nice. I rather live my time here without any drama.”

 

Archie stared at him for a long moment. “Well, that is fucking great. And with Cheryl. You have to tell me if you hear anything. Okay? This won’t just damage me, but it could damage Veronica too.”

 

Jughead looked at Archie hesitantly. “Please don’t ask me to be involved. I don’t want any part of your drama. Maybe you should just let it go. She might not be out to get you like you this she is. How long have you known this girl?”

 

“My whole life,” Archie said slowly with a hint of sadness in his voice making Jughead wonder what was going through his head.

 

“Has she ever done anything that would hurt you on purpose?”

 

Archie laughed, shaking his head. “No. Betty was my best friend. She would never hurt anyone. She cried for three days when her goldfish died.”

 

Jughead smiled as he tried to picture it. He could see her being upset over something like that and having a little funeral for the fish in her backyard and finding a rock to place at the head with its name. “Then what are you so afraid of?” he asked him. “From what I have seen, Betty is pretty excited to be here.”

 

Archie’s shoulders sagged. “Just let me know if you hear anything. Even if it the smallest thing.”

 

“I told you that I am not getting involved. So please don’t ask again,” Jughead said firmly. “I have enough on my plate as it is and I don’t want to overfill it. Now come on, let's go find Veronica and I can explain where I was so we can get you out of the dog house.”

 

“Please do and do not mention this to Veronica either,” Archie begged walking to the elevator.

 

“That I can do. I don’t want to get the banshee started in the wee hours of the night.”

 

“Hey, that is my girl that you are talking about, Jug.”

 

And Betty’s mine. Jughead was surprised that his mind went in that direction. Betty was just a girl that he royally pissed off in an ill moment. A girl that has been on his mind ever since he could see the hurt shining through her green eyes. A pain that he caused. Then she spoke, and he could hear it, washing over him like cold water freezing his veins when he could move his feet again. Jughead tried to find her. He looked everywhere he could think off. After hours of searching, he retired to his room only to find the girl he had been looking for all day lived next door to his room. When he got back, he was greeted with the ground stomping sound of loud music. He did everything he could to ignore it, but feeling the music becoming his blood was too much for him to handle. So, he went out of his room to try and ask for the music to be turned down. That didn’t work. He yelled her name, waved his hand at her, even tried jumping up and now. But Cheryl couldn’t hear him or ignored him on purpose. With his head starting to pound, Jughead walked into her room to unplug the damn stereo, and that did get her attention with dramatics added. Dramatics that brought that girl back into his life.

 

Then he spoke to her hoping to apologize only to find that it was going to be harder than he thought. He could see that she surrounded herself with a large brick wall that would take Jughead time to climb over. Then she smiled, and Jughead found himself wanting to it again. She counteracted everything that he said with something sarcastic. Flash forward to the next morning where he found her sitting all by herself immersed in her book. He couldn’t resist sitting down and having a chat with her. With every word, Jughead found himself more entranced by her. She was exciting, and her laugh cut through him like the sound of wind chimes. He couldn’t name it, but there was something about her that made him want more, which was weird because he didn’t know her. But in her presence, it felt like she had been his friend his whole life. He wondered what her story was with her nasal cannula. He didn’t want to appear rude, so he didn’t ask. Then Archie came...Archie.

 

Jughead looked over at his best friend watching his face light up as the street lights flew by his window. He didn’t understand what was going on at that moment. They were talking, and he was trying to figure out what she was studying at Juilliard. Their moment was shattered by the sound of his name being called, and Betty flew into a panic. Gathering her things as fast as her little hand could go and shot for the exit out, leaving him completely stumped. Before he could call her name, Archie appeared with a towering list of questions that made his mind go blank. It was like he couldn’t hear a word that he was saying because he needed answers. And Archie wouldn’t be able to answer. This had him turning around on his heel to go after her. He finally caught up to her at the door.

 

Jughead could see a dim light in her eyes as they talked. It was a gleam of pain that dulled her eyes. He wanted to know what caused that pain, and he was relieved that it wasn't his fault. He then learned that they shared an acquaintance with a certain red-head. Soon she was gone and out of his sight again. But he felt this pull to go with her and had to force himself to go back to Archie who was standing waiting for him.

 

“Who was that?"

 

“They dropped their wallet,” Jughead explained quickly. “I was just returning it,” he said, walking back to where Archie was sitting. He snatched up a donut of his friend’s tray, taking a bit.”

 

“Really?” Archie asked, sounding confused. “It looked like it was more serious than that. Were you asking her out?” Archie wiggled his eyebrows at him.

 

Jughead nearly choked on the donut he was enjoying.  He chewed slowly before following the rough bite. “No.”

 

Archie’s shoulders dropped with disappointment. “Why not? Man, you need to get laid. How long has it’s been since Ethel?”

 

Jughead closed his eyes as he remembered where that conversation went with Archie. A place he didn’t want to go. He was perfectly fine without dating or being tied down with someone. He was only 20 years old. He had all the time in the world to find someone to settle down with after he managed to reach his goal with career. Or if the right person were ever to come along. And he didn’t understand why Archie was obsessed with his dating life. He had his own life to worry about not his Sure, Archie had a girlfriend that he now lives with, and that is great. He is happy for him, but why did he have to date to be satisfied? He was content with his life. He had a job that he loved. It was a barista job at a bookstore that had a crappy pay, but he loved it. He loved the people and talking about books or giving them suggestions when they needed something to read. He liked making the coffee. It was fun and even more relaxing than school. He found the job last spring after Archie kicked him out of their dorm so he and Veronica could bang, which was an often occurrence. So instead of doing somewhere to wait until they were done, Jughead went out to find the little store that happened to be hiring. He put in the application and soon he was working there with shifts at night and on the weekend.

 

Soon, Jughead crossed the threshold of Archie’s apartment. He whistled as everything in the condo sparkled. Like someone had polished the entire thing with a rag just before he entered. It was a lovely set up with a 50 inch TV mounted to the wall, and there were many chairs planted across the floor.  The kitchen was all stainless steel appliances with a grey marbled counters. There was a window that went from the ceiling to the floor that let Jughead see out into the sea of lights of the city. The view was great, but Jughead was not going anywhere near it. He could see himself dangling over the edge into the street below where his body would be found. He shuddered, to feel his hands begin to sweat at the thought. Yeah, he was keeping his butt planted in his seat while he waited for his lecture to begin. And he didn’t have to wait long. The sound of heels clicking echoed through the room as Veronica entered the room.

 

“There you are,” she said with her hands on her hips. Veronica was not pleased with him at all, and it made him want to jump out that window.

 

“Here I am,” Jughead forced a sarcastic grin to grace her with. “You look swell Veronica. As always.”

 

The black beauty rolled her eyes. “Don’t try to butter me up, Jones. You let me down tonight.”

 

“I know, and I am sorry,” Jughead tried, taking the drink that was offered to him by Archie. “You know I always think with my stomach and not my head.”

 

“And where did you go?”

 

Jughead shrugged. “I paid a visit to my old neighborhood and talked a bit. You know I have to see Michelle at least once a week.”

 

Veronica’s eyes softened at the name. “How is Mrs. Chen?”

 

Jughead ran his finger around the rim of the glass. “She is good. She needed me to do a few things for her like take the trash out and clean the fryers. That is why I was not back in time for the skit.” Jughead was surprised how smoothly the lie fell from his lips and how much Veronica and Archie seemed to be eating it up. He isn’t a fan of lying, but if it helped Betty to have a much easier time, then it would be worth it. Veronica and Archie start talking about the classes were taking in the upcoming semester, and Jughead’s mind floated back to the blonde that is now filling every thought.

 

When he walked into that party earlier that night, Jughead did a double take when he noticed her sitting all by herself at the bar. He couldn’t stop his eyes from sweeping down her impossibly long legs. Jughead had to talk himself up to go over to her in fear of sounding like a bumbling idiot. And he was so glad he did. 

 

After a brief conversation, they were ditching the party for some food.  The night was going great, and he loved it when she would get annoyed at him. Betty would try to be annoyed, but he could see that she was biting back a smile. Jughead had to turn himself away several times so he wouldn’t be caught staring. The way the sun was hitting her face as it set made her even more beautiful than she already was, nor could he believe that Betty was giving him the time of day. He would never be so lucky to have someone like her. And the strength this girl possesses as they talked about personal things was astounding.

 

Betty was wise beyond her years, and Jughead could actually see the weight disappearing from her shoulders. Her eyes were brighter, and her smile was genuine. Not buried under miles of pressure. She was amazing. It was as simple as that. What was Archie thinking? Didn’t he see what a great thing that he had with Betty? That he threw it all away for another girl? Yes, Veronica was beautiful and fierce, but she was no Betty. Then he was struck by her beauty once again, and then he kissed her. Her lips were on his, and his mind went blank. Why did he kiss her? What the fuck was he doing? He never did anything like this, and it never felt this good. The way her lips moved against his. The way she tasted. He told himself to end it. To pull away but he couldn’t. He wanted more of her, and then his stupid phone had to ruin the moment. Jughead really wanted to toss it over the side into the water and go back to kissing her, but the time was against them, and now he was here. He was looking at the two culprits who broke her heart to pieces. And he couldn’t say a thing to them. 

 

Because he didn’t know what kind of trouble that would cause Betty. If he told them what he knew and he couldn’t have them drive her away for their selfish reasons. They would win, and Betty would lose again. But not this time, Jughead would make sure that Betty would be on top with flying colors even if it meant that he had to stay away from her for the time being. Jughead knew that Archie was like a dog with a bone. He would eat away at everything until it was just crumbles of nothing. Wanting to know everything about Betty and Jughead couldn’t do that to her. He wouldn’t do that to her. Betty had enough assholes in her life, and he wasn’t going to be another. He knew that it would be hard because he already felt the need to go back to his dorm and talk to her. At least he would be able to see her from afar, and that would have to be enough for now.

 

“Jughead! Hello?”

 

Jughead blinked to see both Veronica and Archie staring at him. “What?” he muttered, pushing away the glass. He didn’t feel like drinking because he wanted to keep his head clear. They shared a look before turning back to him.

“I asked you if you wanted to play video games,” Archie said and that cued in his interests. How could he say no to that?

 

“Sure,” Jughead nodded, getting out of his seat to take another one if the big stuffed recliner. If he couldn’t beat Archie’s ass in the real world for hurting Betty the way he did at least he could do it in a virtual world. And he was bringing the mercy on thick.