A bell rang out Veronica’s entrance into the convenience store. It was Tuesday and it had already been a long week with still more to do before the weekend. Pop’s Diner had an image to maintain and unfortunately that required frequent check-ins with franchisees. A few stolen moments to stretch her legs wouldn’t throw off her schedule she decided as she strolled through the aisles full of junk food, energy drinks, and random accoutrements for a long road trip more suited to late 80’s films than the current era of Bluetooth and Bloogle Maps.
As she walked by the magazine rack, filled with the usual celebrity gossip and world ending tabloids a familiar face near the top of the rack jumped out at her. When she peered closer Veronica nearly dropped her coffee in shock. It was impossible to believe; certainly she was on one of those silly prank shows Reggie insisted on watching when it was slow at the bar.
A glance up and down the aisles proved she was the only one in the store, save for the half-asleep clerk behind the register.
Veronica stepped up to the rack and pulled down the magazine in question. It was wrapped with demure brown paper that she inched down for a better look. The face that stared back at her was the same one that she’d known so well in high school. The man that always proved how much he loved her everyday they were together, the same one she knew she’d love forever.
Her blood ran cold at the realization that her own personal angel was now the centerfold in an adult magazine.
It had been ten years since she’d last seen his face and almost five since she’d heard anything about him. And now here he was, plastered on the cover for everyone to see.
The bell above the door rang again and she was tempted to put the magazine back least she be the one on the tabloids tomorrow. She glanced back at Archie’s smile - always so confident in her - and was reminded that she didn’t care who saw her ogling him. It was, after all, 2020. She tucked the copy under her arm and marched up to the register.
The magazine landed with a loud crack on the counter that startled the clerk awake. His eyes, dull as a newborn foal’s, went wide when he recognized who she was.
“Will that be all, Ms. Lodge?” he managed with a stutter. His gaze flew between her and the still wrapped magazine while his hand inched towards his phone on the other side of the register.
She knew he’d be Squeeking about it before the door had a chance to close after her. Let him, she thought. Business needed a bit of a boost before spring.
“That will be all,” she said as she swiped her card through the machine. She glanced at his name card and smiled. “Phil. Have a nice day.”
With a sway to her hips Veronica walked back to her car. She threw the magazine onto the seat next to her and roared out of the parking lot.
It wasn’t until well after midnight that she made it back to the office. The illicit magazine had lain in the bottom of her purse all day and its presence sent a current of heat through her every time she remembered it. Once she was sure she was alone in the office, Veronica set the magazine down on her desk.
The brown paper was a bit tattered, but it was still snug against that body she’d known so well. Archie’s face still smiled up at her with that boyish charm that made her heart turn somersaults. Small lines around his eyes and mouth were proof he hadn’t lost his ability to see the good in life.
If she hadn’t known what the paper wrapper signified Veronica could have kept the pristine image of him frozen in her mind. The memory of him was a secret she shared with no one else and now his body was laid bare to the rest of the world. It was a ridiculous notion, she realized, as neither had been virgins when they’d begun dating. And yet on some level seeing him like this shook her.
It was strangely possessive for a man she hadn’t seen or heard from in almost a decade. He was an adult, free to do whatever he pleased with his body and image.
But it still felt as if someone had ripped away her memory of him and sold it to the highest bidder. She’d never been as affected by any of her other partners as she had since they’d broken up. If ever there was someone could make her nervous it was Archie. Her heart still raced whenever she thought of him.
He’d been the only man in her life who made her want to do better. To be better. Archie had been such a large part of her decision to forge her own path in life. It was because of him that she hadn’t allowed herself to become corrupted like her parents.
Curiosity, however, waited for no woman and Veronica greedily ripped the paper off in one clean strip. Like ripping off a bandaid. Only instead of new skin beneath it was Archie, clad only in low-hung blue jeans. An axe rested against his shoulder and the light gleamed off his skin. The cover was the picture of a rugged outdoorsman, more suited to a romance novel than a nudie mag.
Age had done him quite well, she decided. He was broader across the shoulders than she’d remembered, and he’d put on a bit more muscle. Her fingers traced the lines of his body and it was all too easy to remember how his skin felt under her, how his muscles twitched against her touch.
But there was something off about him standing before her, something she couldn’t place until she turned on her desk lamp. Long gone was the scar on his chest. Its absence tugged at her heart; did he remove it to forget his past, to forget Riverdale, to forget her?
Veronica pushed the thought aside and flipped through the magazine - past the sordid sex tips and beefcake and personal massager ads - desperate to find some blurb about him. Near the middle was a small write up about what Archie looked for in a woman, something she knew first hand, and his various hobbies. There were hints he was single and she couldn’t help the small ember of hope that arose.
She turned the page, hoping for something more only to find out just how much skin Archie Andrews was willing to bare.
It was tasteful, she decided after a few minutes. Or at least as tasteful as a nude photo meant to titillate could be. The spread was on par with the provocative trend of the late 90’s art scene and certainly on par with a suburban fantasy would be. By internet standards it was boring.
Everything that could be deemed offensive was hidden by long shadows that caressed his body. The hard lines of muscle belied the softness in his eyes as Archie looked just past the camera. It wasn’t the nudity that was the focus of the photo. Instead it was his vulnerability that his posture promised and with it a type of sensuality that was rare enough to be shocking in its own way. For this to have been chosen to be the centerfold there would no doubt be many left with fantasies about Archie’s wholesome American smile.
Veronica let her fingers linger over the photo. Her eyes drifted across his body. She let out a gasp when she realized that the mark on his left shoulder wasn’t a shadow, but a small tattoo in the shape of a V. In all likelihood it had nothing to do with her. But it was still enough to send waves of hope and longing through her, displacing her temporary lust. Her fingers lingered over it as she imagined what it would be like to see it in person.
She reached for her phone, her eyes still on the magazine in front of her, and opened up a new voice memo.
“Rachel, cancel my appointments next Friday through the following week. I’ll be in los Angeles during that time and will need a flight and hotel booked. And get in touch with a Mr. Archie Andrews. Give him my contact information and let him know where he can find me.”
As willing as Archie might be to take off his clothes, Veronica would much rather see him with his clothes on. At least until they could take them off in private.