It's summer. Did you know that? It is. Therefore, longest chapter in the worrlllldd. This isn't a continuation of OPH&PB, but it'll kind of follow along the same themes, since I'm not a very creative writer like that. Review immediamente please, you know I love it.
Disclaimer: Archie comics belongs to someone else entirely, but I think you should start a petition for me, please and thank you.
He had heard them say that when you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you--but this was especially true for her. She had always had an uncanny knack for making others smile. All she had to do was point her blue eyes at the subject in distress, and his or her frown would fade away into a grin of genuine happiness. Yes, there was just something about her that made everyone else a little bit more comfortable. Her smile was contagious, her laugh was infectious, her eyes were stupefying. Seeing her smile was like tickling a baby. It was just completely heart-warming.
Seeing her cry, on the other hand...
Currently she pounded the pavement down with her converse sneakers, head down and hands in the pockets of her denim shorts. Her fluffy, oversized, blue sweater was dotted with the pockmarks of angry tears, and she wiped them bitterly away with her soaked sleeves. She mumbled to herself and kicked a lone pinecone with the tip of her toe over and over again, sending it flying and then catching up with it repeatedly. She paid no attention to her surroundings until a loud yelp sounded from a few feet in front of her.
She continued walking, hands in her pockets, averting her eyes and abandoning her quest for that blasted pinecone, instead doubling her pace to pass by anyone that might be near.
"Hey! Hey, Betty!" She inhaled sharply, stopping dead in her tracks but refusing to look up. Fingers wrapped around her upper arm and she dabbed at her nose with her sleeve before meeting the eyes of her attacker. "You know that pinecone hit me right in the--hey, what's wrong?" She sighed angrily.
"Nothing's wrong, Juggie."
"Don't lie to me, what's wrong?"
Betty crossed her arms, the too-large sweater draping over them like water. She adjusted the hem so that it rose above her shorts, and she scratched at her bare thigh with carefully manicured nails. "I told you, I'm fine." Jughead pressed one hand to his hip thoughtfully, using the other to lift a vanilla soft-serve to his mouth. There was silence for a moment as Betty stared at his plain black loafers. Her eyes drifted upwards and she realized that he was wearing them with argyle socks, black skinny jeans, and a red sweater with a geometric print on it. She smiled in spite of herself.
"Would you care for a lick?" Jughead asked quietly, clearly attempting to break the silence.
"What are you dressed up for?" she answered, ignoring the question.
"Why are you crying?"
"Where did you get those shoes?"
"Who made you sad?"
"Is that really your sweater?"
Jughead raised both eyebrows and blinked his eyes a few times. "I can play this game all day, Betty," he said plainly. The corners of her mouth turned up in a sweet little smirk of amusement, and Jughead raised the ice cream to her mouth again.
"Jughead, I don't want any ice c--"
"It will make you feel better," he interrupted seriously. She stared skeptically at him for a moment before darting her tongue out to touch the cone. Jughead grinned and she couldn't help but laugh. "Didn't I tell you? See, I know stuff."
"Yeah, okay, you know how to make me smile. But you still don't know pre-calculus or physics or Spanish."
"Betty, you know I'm an English and History person," Jughead replied, scrunching his face up into a pout. She laughed again, and this time she ended with a shuddering sigh, rubbing once again at her eyes. Jughead expelled a quick puff of breath and shoved his ice cream cone into her hand, and before she could object he had taken hold of her head with both hands and was pressing the pads of his thumbs to her eyelids.
"What are you doing?" she asked in surprise, attempting to swat his hands away.
"Shush, I am healing you," he answered mysteriously, holding her firmly.
"You are such a strange boy." A moment passed and he released her with a grin, leaving her to cross her arms and take another lick of his ice cream.
"Was it Veronica?"
"What?" Betty asked, caught off guard. She looked away a little too quickly and tucked a lock of blonde hair behind her ear.
"I mean, was it her and Archie?" Betty just stared at him in silence, knees pressing together involuntarily. She inhaled and looked away again, biting her lower lip. "You don't really have to tell me if you don't want to..."
At this, Betty's eyes brimmed with tears again and she fought to keep control, squeezing her arms hard and shuffling her feet in embarrassment, tiny coughs and sharp sobs spilling freely out of her throat.
"Betty," Jughead began, clasping his hands behind his back awkwardly. "I didn't mean to make you cry! I'm sorry!" Her hands flew to her face and her mouth opened in a lopsided O, teeth bared in an inherent gesture of unrestrained grief. She hiccupped loudly and cried out, slurring and skewing her words into nonsense.
"I done - know - wat - to - doooo, Juuuggg!" She inhaled and exhaled sharply, like a second-grader throwing a tantrum. "I jus - I jus wan him to - love - meeeee!" She finished by throwing her head back and screaming the last few words, making Jughead blush and raise a finger to his mouth, left arm wrapping around her almost automatically.
"Shh, Betty, it's going to be okay!"
"Don't lie to me, Jughead!" she yelled. "I'm not stupid, I know he won't ever love me! Not when he has Ronnie!"
"Betty, you have to be quiet, people are staring at you!" He pressed his right hand to her lower abdomen to quell her sobs, bending his back slightly to shield her from the other pedestrians on the sidewalk. A middle-aged woman with bleached hair and a disapproving glare passed by Jughead with a bag full of groceries and he screamed, "Hey, lady! Keep walking! Shit like this happens every day, mind your own business!" Betty paid him no heed and continued to cry, growing louder with every minute.
"Why is she so perfect, Jughead? Why can't I be perfect like she is? Why aren't I pretty?"
"Betty, don't say that, you're pretty! You're pretty, you're gorgeous! Don't say that!" he blurted, glancing around to catch anyone who might potentially be watching this embarrassing exchange.
"I am not! I'm not pretty, and I'm not rich, and I'm not good at anything like Ronnie--"
"Betty! You are the prettiest girl I know, and Ronnie's a spoiled brat, and you can beat her at anything in the world--"
"Except I can't beat her in this, Juggie! How come she has a million boyfriends and I can't even keep one? How come she's got everything and I've got nothing? Juggie, how come I never have anything I want?"
"Betty, you have me! Right? We're friends! Right? Okay, see! There. I won't ever be friends with Ronnie! I don't even like her!"
Betty lowered her hands and stared angrily into his eyes. "You can't say that! Veronica is my very best friend!" Jughead rolled his eyes and snorted.
"Since when?" Betty stared straight ahead, hands resting on her cheeks, deep in thought. Then she gave one more shuddering sigh and let her hands drop down to her hips.
"I don't know."
"Why do you call her your best friend when she always does this stuff to you?" Jughead asked, embarrassedly retracting his right hand from her lower stomach.
"I don't know! I guess...I guess because I always have," Betty muttered, wiping her nose with her sleeve again. Jughead rolled his eyes.
"That doesn't sound like a very good reason to me," he replied, using his left arm to rub her shoulder comfortingly. She smiled.
"You're right, you know? I don't think Ronnie is my best friend."
"There you go! That's one problem solved. At least now it's not your number one who's hurting you anymore."
The two seventeen-year-olds stood awkwardly in the middle of the sidewalk, back turned to the street from when Jughead was trying to hide her from passersby, facing a shop window featuring seductively-posed mannequins in lingerie. Jughead blushed again and used his left arm, still anchored around Betty's shoulders, to steer her away from the window. She laughed.
"I really don't think I want to talk about it, Jug," Betty said stubbornly for the fifth time.
"Betty, if you don't talk about it, how do you think it's ever going to get better?" He stirred his milkshake with a dull silver spoon, the handle chipped and scratched from thousands of uses. She watched him and shrugged her shoulders.
"Maybe I don't want it to get better." Jughead stared at her. "I mean, I really want Archie to like me. I've been wanting it for a really long time. And maybe, if I just keep at it, maybe he'll see how--"
"No, Bets," he interrupted, putting the spoon in his mouth and shaking his head. "He won't see. Think of Archie like a blind, retarded puppy. And think of Veronica as this primo puppy chow. That puppy only knows that he's hungry, since he's retarded. And all he's going to do, forever and ever, is look for his puppy chow. No matter what you do, he's going to keep looking for it. Does that make sense?"
Betty frowned at him. "Okay so Veronica's top-notch puppy chow. What does that make me?" Jughead, caught off guard, bought himself more time by swallowing spoonful after spoonful of chocolate malted until he was finally struck with the perfect metaphor.
"You, Betty," he began, smirking to himself, "are pterodactyl food."
She raised her eyebrows disbelievingly. "I am pterodactyl food."
"Yes, you are."
"Would you care to explain that one?" she asked, grinning with half-lidded eyes and resting her chin on her hands.
"See, blind retarded puppies can't see pterodactyl food because all they want is puppy food. So they pass by it without ever knowing it's there." Betty's smile faded considerably. "But have you ever seen pterodactyl food?" he asked.
"No, I can't say that I have," Betty answered, smile recharged.
"Oh, that's rather depressing. Well, take it from me! Pterodactyl food is the most amazing substance known to man. It's enormous! Each pebble of it is the size of my head. And pterodactyls eat a lot of it, you know, so there's always around a hundred pebbles. It's really colorful. Each pebble is this indescribable color, somewhere between red-orange and purple, and they're constantly changing in the sun, so sometimes they're navy blue sapphire and other times they're light gold and they shimmer like diamonds. They taste like strawberries and mangoes, if they were a million times sweeter, and when you eat them the red-orange-purple juice dribbles down your chin like watermelon but it never stains. And they smell like Jesus-fruit air freshener. And they're as smooth as the smoothest rock at the beach. And when you touch them, your fingers leave a mark that ripples out like when you drop something into that lake that we go to in the summertime."
"Jughead--" Betty began, in a stupor.
"I'm not finished, I'm not finished!" he retaliated, using his hands to gesture now. "And see, pterodactyl food only attracts one thing: not retarded blind puppies, but pterodactyls! And you know what a pterodactyl is, I'm sure! It's a massive dinosaur with an unbelievable wingspan, and they come in all different shapes and scientists think that they're this ugly grey and green color, but they were really blue! With yellow polka dots! Or sometimes, they were orange with zebra stripes! Pterodactyls sing this song that's a lot prettier than that one that humpback whales sing, and they only sing it when they're near pterodactyl food. And pterodactyls love this food more than anything in the entire world. And they would do anything to get it, and some of them spend their whole lives searching for it. But, do you know what Betty? Have you ever seen a pterodactyl?"
She stared at him in silence, a tiny smile playing around her lips. She shook her head slightly.
"That's because they are very, very, very, very rare. And some people say they're extinct. And that they don't even exist anymore. But those people are wrong, Betty! They exist! But the thing is, sometimes when you put the pterodactyl food out, it takes a long time for a pterodactyl to actually find it, because there are so few of them that the closest one may be thousands of miles away. But, Betty, the pterodactyls would do anything for even one pebble of this food, so they will find it. Do you get it?"
She said nothing but continued to stare at him, that tiny smile unchanged.
"Betty, a pterodactyl is coming for you right now. But if you move, if you go around chasing one of those stupid fucking blind puppies looking for that stupid fucking puppy chow, (and trust me, there are a million blind puppies in this world and just as much puppy chow,) but if you go chasing a puppy, Betty, the pterodactyl will have a much harder time finding you since you keep on moving."
Betty blinked her eyes a couple of times, not saying anything, and Jughead came out of his story-telling zone and realized the impact of everything that he had just said, and his ears went hot and he had to look away, taking another spoonful of his shake and pressing the cold spoon handle to the tip of his nose.
"You are amazing, Jughead," she said finally, laughing a little. "Do you know that? You are one of the most amazing people I've ever met in my life." Jughead smiled but continued to look down at his chocolate shake, just a tiny bit mortified. "Thank--You're--You're...I don't even know. You're just. Amazing." She took hold of one of his hands and used the other to move his glass out of the way, leaning over the table to press her lips against his left cheek, then his right one, and finally to the tip of his nose. She gave his hand a squeeze and stood up, exiting the booth and then leaving the restaurant. She waved to him as she passed by the huge glass window and he waved back, watching her figure retreat until it was too small to watch anymore. He breathed out and leaned his elbow against the table, pressing his wrist against the center of his forehead, letting the chocolate drip off the spoon and back into the glass.
That was close.