Maple sugaring season had come and gone, and things were still at full swing at the Blossom Maple Farms, despite the fact that the stickiness of the summer air matched the stickiness of the maple syrup. School had ended for the summer break, allowing throngs of teenagers to congregate in places like the town square, or Pop’s diner, or picnicking on the banks of the Sweetwater. The trials and tribulations of school have been put aside for three blissful months, with the exception of those who were in summer school, and a red-headed jock and his illicit paramour.
Rumors were swirling about the potential sale of the Drive In land, but the Mayor remained mysteriously silent on the subject, refusing to even comment on the potential to the paper of record. Thus, business remained as usual, with the typical fare being shown.
To an outsider, Riverdale seemed like the perfect town, filled with loving and caring families. The pinnacle of Americana. A place where pulling yourself up by the bootstraps still managed to mean something. Especially with the upcoming fourth of July festivities. Every year the town gathered to watch as a display was put on over the Sweetwater. It was a time for both sides of town to come together, as one, their prejudices abandoned for one blissful day.
But our story doesn’t start on the fourth of July. That tale would indeed be a tragic one. One that (if it were to occur) would irreparably shatter the tenuous peace of Riverdale. Fortunately for us, our story begins on July 2nd, an ordinary, summer, day.
Alice Cooper bit back a sigh as she spotted the car that was parked haphazardly on the side of the road, nicely blocking the entrance to Fred’s construction company, and she scowled at the intrusive vehicle, as if her best glare could convince the offensive automobile to move even the slightest bit to allow her station wagon to enter the construction site in order for her to finish her daily tasks.
Being neighborly to Frederick was one thing, Alice reminded herself, allowing bounced checks from his business to the Register’s advertising department was entirely another ball game. Or, at least, it would be if Alice believed in debasing oneself by utilizing sports metaphors. She decidedly did not.
She gave the horn a delicate tap. It was clear to her that the vehicle was occupied -- the poor Volkswagen was practically vibrating in response to whatever carnal actions were taking place within it -- and she was feeling charitable (Polly had broken up with the Blossom boy, and had managed to be a polite, well behaved, child for the first time in months, which Alice might have found suspicious had she not been distracted by Things To Do). It was summer, after all. A time of love.
Alice had been young once.
She had been foolish.
She had had her afternoons in the back of cars. Her stolen moments.
She would allow the young couple this.
She was certain that Riverdale would show its cruelty to them sooner, rather than later.
Alice really didn’t want to deal with Fred. She had better things to do with her time.
The Beetle was periwinkle in color, she noted, and she pursed her lips in disapproval of both the color scheme and the fact that an individual would own such an antique car and park it so haphazardly on the road, as if the mood striking was more important to the twosome it contained than proper road safety. Their hazards weren’t even on. Alice was tempted to anonymously call in a tip to the Sheriff. It would serve him right for not allowing her to tag in on those investigations.
She caught a glimpse of red hair.
She recognized that red hair, and if Archibald Andrews had had the gall to corrupt Elizabeth the day before she left on her internship, Alice was going to rip him to shreds and serve him to her guests at the next neighborhood block party on toothpicks. And who on earth had gotten Archibald such a hideous vehicle? If Fred had been purchasing antique cars and not properly paying the Register their money, Alice was going to fillet him. Such frivolities were unacceptable.
Archibald was a menace behind the wheel. He had taken out several of the neighbors’ mailboxes when Fred had been teaching him how to drive, and several years off of Alice’s life when she’d seen what he’d done to her hydrangeas. If the state of New York had actually given Archibald a license, she was going to revolt. Goodbye article after article deriding the Southside of town, hello article after article complaining about the lax standards that New York State demanded for their drivers. Alice could practically see the headlines now. She was certainly thinking them.
Corrupting her daughter’s youth and conning some poor, senile DMV employee into giving him an unencumbered license? One, if not both, of those things had to be stopped.
She drew in a deep breath, in an attempt to center herself, and pulled a prescription bottle out of her purse, needing the additional push towards sedation. It would do her no good if she castrated the Andrews boy in front of enemy territory, after all. No. Alice needed to wait. Lure him into a false sense of security.
Alice prided herself in being an example to emulate, and she turned on the station wagon’s hazard lights, before she unbuckled her seat belt, and exited the vehicle, handbag in hand. Her eyes flashed with non-amusement.
Archibald Andrews was not a suitable choice for Alice Cooper’s daughter. She didn’t care if he wasn’t that Blossom boy. Alice was not going to stand idly by while Elizabeth made the same mistakes her sister did.
She rapped on the passenger’s window -- not once, not twice, but three times -- not that that buffoonish oaf paid her any mind, and she bit back a sigh.
“I know you’re in there, Archibald,” she directed into the vicinity of the Vokeswagen. “If you don’t open this door right now--”
“Mrs. Cooper?” Archibald blinked up at her with his typical, vacant, expression, and she bit back a sigh as he attempted to evade her notice of his traveling companion. “I’m kinda, you know, busy right now.”
“With my daughter?” Alice commanded. “I swear to you, Archibald--”
“Oh, no, not with Betty,” he said. “Have you met Ms. Grundy--I mean, Geraldine?”
“Archie, I don’t think this is very appropriate--”
Alice peered suspiciously into the interior of the vehicle, her gaze locking on a woman entirely age inappropriate for someone of Archibald’s age group to engage in relations with in general, let alone someone that Alice recognized as a member of the Riverdale High School faculty! This Grundy woman was entirely correct, in that it was incredibly inappropriate for her to be fraternizing with students outside of school grounds, in a manner that required very little clothes to be worn by either party.
“Do as I say,” Alice said. “Do as I say and I won’t call the Sheriff. I have him on speed dial, don’t you know?” She forced herself to affect a pleasant, yet no nonsense, tone. “Archibald, you are to step outside of this vehicle, and you are to leave your shirt where it is,” she instructed. “Do not touch anything, don’t do so much as breathe. Do I make myself clear?”
Archibald gulped. “Crystal, Mrs. Cooper.” He scrambled out of the car.
“I don’t see what the big deal is,” Grundy claimed. “I was only giving him a ride home!”
“Do rides home typically involve shirtless minors -- who are your students -- and yourself in a state of disrepair involving carelessly tossed brasieres?” Alice demanded. “It’s been awhile since I engaged in inappropriate at best carnal pleasures and I seem to manage to give my children’s friends rides home without losing articles of clothing and steaming up my windows! I certainly would take special care to do so if I was an employee of the Riverdale Public School System.” She scowled. “You get out of the car, too.”
“I don’t think so--”
“Ms. Grundy, I would do as she says--”
“I thought I told you to be quiet, Archibald,” Alice hissed. “Why are you constantly incapable of listening to me?”
“You can’t be serious,” the woman said. Alice narrowed her gaze. “He’s not even one of my students--I’m allowed to date who I want--”
“Not when ‘who you want’ is a fifteen year old boy whose diapers I used to change,” she informed her. “How dare you question my level of seriousness? Do you have any idea to whom you are speaking? Get out of the car now before I take matters into my own hands and bring you straight to the police.”
In Alice’s opinion, that was what needed to be done anyway, but she was more than willing to pawn off parenting Archibald to Frederick if he was able to do so with any sort of aplomb. Given that Fred and Mary had spent 15 years disappointing Alice with their liberal, lax, parenting skills, she was entirely dubious that he would manage to do so. But giving him the opportunity was the least she could do. Especially since she needed to deal with his bounced checks.
If opportunity knocked, who was she to slam the door in its face?
“You wouldn’t dare--”
“Oh, I think that I definitely would,” she said. “And I assure you, not one of us involved would be happy about it.” She sighed. “Surely you want to make this easier on yourself? I mean, I’m sure that this is all a misunderstanding, and I would hate to make sure that the facts weren’t one hundred percent correct before I published the article I will be writing for tomorrow’s paper. Child predators? In our Riverdale?” She scoffed. “I mean, but you say that you’re not a child predator, right? So it won’t be any trouble for you and Archibald to accompany on my errand to Fred? Did you know Fred? He’s Archibald’s father. I’m sure he’d be very interested to brought up to speed.”
“Fine,” Geraldine said. Her tone was clipped. Alice sensed it was really not fine at all. She really didn’t care. “Archie has been wanting me to meet his dad. I suppose that I can indulge him.”
“Isn’t that so sweet? She wants to meet your father.”
Alice slipped on a pair of rubber gloves (a good journalist was always prepared) and grabbed on to Archibald’s bicep with one hand, and that woman’s with the other. If that Grundy woman thought Alice was going to be implicating herself in this debacle, she had another thing coming.
“I beg your pardon?”
“I said that I don’t see what the big deal is,” Fred Andrews repeated, seemingly oblivious to the alarming heights Alice could feel her eyebrows rising to, and the glances that those insipid minions that he had replaced FP Jones with were exchanging with one another. It was a cold day in hell that Alice wanted to agree with people that had clearly conspired with Fred to ensure FP went down a path of debauchery, but that day had clearly come, much to her silent horror. “Why can’t she give him a ride home?”
“Their ‘ride home’ didn’t involve much if any clothing!” Alice exclaimed. “I don’t understand how your mind works, Fred! Selling materials from your job sites is a crime worthy of tar and feathering and trumped up charges designed to ensure that you could fire someone whose child was in the hospital, but your child being groomed and sexually violated by a person in a position of authority is ‘not a big deal’? Perhaps if you examined and worked on your priorities, Archibald would not be in this situation, and you would not be forced to parent for once in your life.”
“Don’t tell me you believe him!”
Alice drew in a deep breath. “Believe whom? I don’t have to believe people when I have front row seats to a showing of pornography!”
“I’m talking about FP Jones,” Fred said. Alice gaped. “He’s a drunk, Alice. I don’t even think that there were medical bills to pay. He just had excuse after--”
“We are not focusing on FP now,” she interjected. “We are focusing on the fact that your son and one of the teachers at his school are engaging in highly inappropriate sexual acts. Stop trying to distract me by dredging up things that have nothing to do with this situation.”
Except for the fact that Alice would bet her house on Elm Street that if Jughead was the one who had been sexually assaulted by a teacher, FP would have actually done something about it, even if his actions were through dubious, illegal, means.
“I tried telling Mrs. Cooper that it’s not inappropriate,” Archie insisted. “Geraldine and I, we have something real, Dad. It’s not just a summer fling. We see a future together.”
And Alice saw a future with a bottle of tequila. That didn’t mean that either future was in any way shape or form a good thing to be encouraged.
“Did she tell you that?” Alice demanded. “Go ahead, Geraldine, share with the class what you and Archibald have been discussing.”
Geraldine cleared her throat. “Just that when my divorce is finalized, and Archie graduates high school, we’re going to become an official couple. Archie is going to become a world famous musician, and I am going to return to my studies at Julliard.”
“You do realize how utterly ridiculous this sounds, right? You can’t seriously think that this dalliance is in any way appropriate for your child to embark upon? Does the name Mary Kay Letourneau mean anything to you?”
“It’s complicated, Alice.”
“What, precisely, is complicated about this? There is nothing complicated about it at all! You turn her into the Sheriff and let the wheels of justice take over--”
“That’s only if Archie’s not happy with things,” Fred said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him having a crush, Alice. Better on Geraldine than Betty.”
“Fine,” she said, after a moment. “If you want to be involved in this foolish game of whatever the hell these two have going on, you be my guest. If you think for one second that I am content to just wait around until things aren’t complicated? You have another thing coming.”
She drew in a deep breath. “By the way, Fred? Your checks keep bouncing. You don’t want to make Harold angry.”
“Aren’t you going to apologize?”
“Apologize? Hah.” Alice rolled her eyes heavenward. “I have nothing to apologize for.”