Chapter 1: Air
But some how I'm still alive inside
You took my breath but I survived
I don't know how but I don't even care
Betty woke up to a dull throbbing throughout her legs. Every muscle entangled through her toes, feet, ankles, shins, thighs, and back resonated with a familiar, welcome pain, reminding her of the intense run she had endured the night before. The feel of wrinkled and stiff cotton on her thighs confirmed that she had indeed fallen asleep before changing out of her running clothes.
"Wonderful . . ." she groaned, rolling over her comforter. The digital alarm clock by her bed chose that moment to blare to life. The problem was easily solved with a well-aimed pillow, before Betty groggily climbed to her feet and removed her practice clothes.
A quick shower soothed any lingering muscle aches, and a more presentable Elizabeth Cooper emerged. Cool. Confident. Radiant. And, ready to tackle another day at Riverdale High.
Sweeping a hand over the fogged mirror, Betty took note of her damp hair, tanned skin, and clear blue eyes. A little bit of residual red stained the tender skin around her lashes, but that could be easily dealt with. On a darker day, Betty could confidently claim that she alone sustained the make-up industry with all the cover-up she used in the aftermath of an Archie-induced sob session.
But, today would not be dark.
Today would be a good day. Today would be a "Betty-Cooper-Doesn't-Give-A-Shit-About-Archie's-Infatuation-With-Ronnie" day.
With that in mind, the rejuvenated blonde beamed at the mirror. "That's right. You are beautiful and confident. Archie is an idiot, but he will see your amazing abilities as a woman, once you rock the track meet next month against Central." A touch of cover-up and a few spine-steeling swipes of mascara later, and Betty was ready for the day.
As always, dressing for comfort, the rejuvenated blond quickly slid her homework assignments into her lucky backpack along with a new change of gym clothes before making her way to the kitchen.
Looking up from a thick cooking book, Alice Cooper couldn't help but smile in ill-concealed relief as her daughter chirped a bright 'good morning.' The memories of a more distraught teenager from the night before were firmly shoved back. "How are you feeling this morning, sweetheart?"
"Back at 100 percent." Betty smiled, pulling a glass-container of Italian leftovers from the fridge. "The muscles aren't aching as much after a decent night's rest. I slept like a rock!"
Betty's subtle dodge of the inquiry on her supposed date--or lack there of--with Archie, did not escape Alice's notice, but she knew when not to pry. "You came home dead on your feet. I understand that the competition is in a few weeks, but you'll do no good for your team if you over-strain yourself."
Betty responded with an affectionate roll of the eyes. "I know my limits, Mom. I've only been running cross-country for four years. Do we have any of that left-over meatloaf? I thought I saw some yesterday . . ."
"Behind the tin of peach cobbler."
"Oooh. Peach-cobbler. Juggie would love this." Grabbing both containers, the bright teen placed them in a large blue-plaid tote along with the pasta. Knowing that her friend was more than capable of eating more, Betty decided that it was more than enough for a school lunch.
Alice chuckled at her daughter's self-satisfied look, flipping another page in her recipe book. "My, my. Your appetite sure has grown."
"Juggie has been mooching off me since the second grade, and you know it."
"And, how is our dear Forsythe?"
"Mom. You must be the only person on the planet, besides Jug's own mother, who calls him that. And, he's good." Slathering a piece of toast with sweetened pumpkin butter, Betty sat at the kitchen island with her mom. "What's with the recipe book?"
With a sigh, Alice ran her fingers through her silver-laced blond locks. "Your father is bringing a few co-workers to dinner tonight. I figured I'd whip up something other than my usual meatloaf or pot roasts."
Betty blinked. "Oh. Do you want me to come home early tonight to help?"
"Don't even consider it." Alice frowned. "I want you to have fun with your friends."
"We are only hanging out at Pop's." Betty offered, oddly not as eager to socialize as she had been earlier in the week. Feeling her mother's hands envelop hers, Betty looked up.
Moments like these, truly made Betty realize just how fortunate she was. The raw love, affection, and understanding reflected in her mother's crystal blue eyes was enough to make her want to cry and curl into her familiar comfort. Even with all the joys, stresses, and excitement she was always greeted with outside of her home, she always had the limitless support from her parents.
And for now, that was enough.
Her mother smiled. "I love you, Betty."
Holding back tears, Betty leaned over the island and pressed a kiss to her temple.
Everything was all right. So what if Archie never seemed to make it to her practices? So what if Archie canceled another date last-night?
So what if that lovable red-head and her best-friend will probably continue to break her heart in the future?
Betty prided herself on her ability to pick up the pieces and keep on going. After all, it wasn't like she was alone.
A genuine smile lit up her face. "I love you too, Mom. Thank you."
And, the moment ended on a bitter-sweet note as Betty quickly finished off her toast and threw on her backpack. "I'll see you later tonight!" Grabbing her lunch, she slipped into her tennis shoes. "Good luck with dinner!"
"Have fun as school, sweetheart."
Heartened by such a positive start to her day, Betty stepped out into the morning air and took a deep cleansing breath. As always, she looked forward to her usual 15 minute walk to school. Often, friends would pass by on their trucks and 8-year old cars, and offer her a ride. While she appreciated the gesture, she preferred to walk in the relatively serene atmosphere of a neighborhood that wasn't fully awake yet.
She vaguely wondered if Veronica would ever willingly sacrifice a ride in her father's Corvette, or the family's limousine for a nature walk to Riverdale High.
The absurdity made Betty chuckle.
Amused by her random daydreams, she never noticed the approach of another person until the lunch tote in her hand was pulled away and a familiar warmth brushed against her shoulder.
"Ooh. This has a bit of weight to it. A girl after my own heart."
And, another perk to morning walks . . .
"Good morning, Jughead."
A chocolate bar between his teeth, the taller teen snapped off a piece before giving her his customary two finger salute. "Good morning, sunshine."
Running a quick eye over his slightly disheveled red, t-shirt and jeans, Betty smiled. "You are up earlier. We usually meet up half-way."
"Eh." He shrugged, slinging the lunch bag over his shoulder. "Jellybean has a cold, so she woke everyone up at some crazy hour this morning. Mom's taking her in for a check up."
"Poor, Jelly. I hope she feels better soon." Betty remembered that it had been about a week since she had seen the little girl, and made a mental note to visit soon.
"Me, too." He snorted, biting off more chocolate. "I need my sleep. How else am I going to digest my daily intake in peace?"
Betty's laugh laced through the air around them as she looped her arm around his. Despite his penchant to to laze about, Jughead was actually the reluctant owner of a muscular body. She was initially shocked to discover in freshman year that her male companion was literally wrapped in lean muscle. He performed relatively average in gym class, which left her to ponder why Jughead possessed the body of a seasoned swimmer. Any inquireries on her part were always met with a lazy shrug or a grin.
To this day, Betty remained in the dark, but she didn't mind too much. Enjoying the feel of shifting muscles under her touch, she sighed at the comfort of having him here with her and in her life.
Jughead snorted. "What is it with you and molesting my arm?"
Betty closed her eyes with a smile. "That's what you get for being so damn reliable."
[Word Count: 1,391]
I will admit that I haven't picked up an Archie comic in YEARS, but I have recently re-discovered my love for these two.