Chapter 32: Pretty
Put your red coat on
and walk with a light in the woods
if it gets dark don't get scared
there's so much waiting for you
Cover up your tears and don't show them
cause you'll know much better than them
Three weeks into their last year of high school, Betty could not resist the call of the lasting summer heat, and convinced Jughead to eat out on the campus grounds with her for lunch. Since food was involved with her request, she didn't expect much complaint.
Her boyfriend simply shrugged, laced their fingers together and let her pull him through the crowded hallways.
Betty was always conscious of the stares they still received on school grounds. Not that she really blamed them. Students and faculty alike have always been accustomed to Jughead slouching along the hallways or in desk chairs: hands in pockets, food in mouth. Not a care in the world.
And, before, she was always linked with Veronica or Archie, never mind her drama of the day.
If the two of them were to walk together in the hallways last Fall, it was always with a few inches of space between them. Comfortable. Friendly.
Holding hands with Jughead in public was a different kind of comfortable she never wanted to get used to. There was nothing like the novelty of being with someone who actually wanted to be with her and only her. And, to have people actually see Jughead willing to spend time with her . . . it was enough to keep her flying on cloud nine for a while.
Their forty-five minutes of lunch was spent under the warm sun light: the soft grass under them, and their combined lunches spread out for the taking. Legs always touching, the two of them were able to enjoy the calmness of the moment. Interruptions came sporadically with waved "hellos" or "how are you guys doin's?" from passing friends. Betty finished eating before Jughead and was more than happy to lay in the grass with her head in Jughead's lap: the reading for her next literature class in her hands.
Jughead seemed very comfortable eating despite her invasion of his personal space, and simply shared her contented silence.
Betty never had comfortable silences with Archie.
It was enough to make her smother a giggle within the pages of her book.
"You want any of this pound cake, Sunshine?" Jughead asked her.
"All yours, Juggie."
Once he finished, he closed up the Tupperware containers he could reach without disrupting Betty's perch before leaning back on his arms and sighing in satisfaction. A few minutes before the bell could bring an end to lunch time, his fingers would card her fringe back, a jazzy beat vibrating in his chest as he hummed a tune only he could hear.
Forty-five minutes was not long enough for a break from the real world. Especially in the middle of the day.
Taking a deep breath of the last of Summer, Betty closed her eyes. Just a few months longer, and Jughead was going to Massachusetts. She could still remember the look of utter disbelief and shock and excitement on Juggie's face when she showed up at her doorstep with his wrinkled acceptance letter in hand. Betty always knew that her boyfriend was absolutely brilliant. It was no secret that he was able to fly through every one of his classes without a single glance at a textbook. He was a man comfortable with his own inner-workings and common-sense.
It didn't surprise her in the least that he would start receiving his acceptance letters first.
She was so proud of him.
(And, he enjoyed every bit of her pride after she had pinned him to her front door for a small celebration of their own.)
However, acceptance letters meant that adulthood was approaching fast. Betty looked forward to finally making her way in the world as a woman on a mission, but she would miss the careless joy and freedom of being a simple teenager with a boy who only wanted to be fed.
Betty was going to enjoy every single one of these moments for as long as he could.
Unfortunately, she couldn't plan on taking advantage of more time after school today. Veronica was having a professional masseuse from Switzerland visit for the week, and had invited Betty for an afternoon of pampering. The masseuse was really there for her parents, but she was able to beg for a few hours. When Veronica had gone on and on the night before about how gorgeous the man was, Betty figured she was due for a bit of pampering herself and accepted the invite.
After, all what middle-class girl got the chance for a real hot-stone massage by a God from Switzerland? Plus, it gave her more time to catch up with Ronnie, which was actually becoming one of the best parts of her life, ever since Veronica essentially "gave her blessing" on Betty's relationship with Jughead.
(Much to Jughead's non-amusement.)
The rest of the school day went by in an uneventful rush of busy hours, and after a quick goodbye peck on Jughead's cheek, Betty found herself relaxing in the luxurious leather seat of Veronica's Jaguar. The brunette was already talking a mile a minute as she went on about some fashion faux pas a foreign exchange student in her math class had the misfortune to commit in public. Betty was more than happy to listen to her best friend discuss the correct usage of colors, fabrics, and "textures, Goddamnit. Was the poor dear raised by a pack of uncultured wolves?!"
As long as the sharp-tongued Lodge-heir wasn't aiming her ire at her, Betty was fully within her rights to enjoy Veronica's fire.
"I don't remember any foreign exchange students in my classes this semester," Betty noted. "Where is she from?"
"Norway. Which, actually, makes her fashion choices even more of an abomination!" Veronica parked the sleek car in the garage at an alarming speed and pulled herself out of the vehicle with practiced grace, her nose in the air. "That country has brought the fashion world the likes of Mardou & Dean, Leila Hafzi, Fam Irvoll, and Eva Emanuelsen!"
Despite knowing Veronica for a lifetime, it still surprised Betty how easily Veronica could just roll thick accents and poetically complicated names off the tongue without a second thought. The teens at school didn't see Veronica as anything more than just a pretty face, with money, style, and a shrewd tongue. But, Betty was always given these sharp reminders that, Veronica was being groomed into a respectable and brilliant dignitary of the Lodge name and label.
She wore the responsibility like a queen.
Veronica looped her arm through Betty's once the blond stepped out of the car and began to drag her into the Lodge mansion. "But, that is a headache that is behind us now. You and I have a marvelous date with Christoph and his divine hands."
Betty laughed. "Christoph? Jeeze, Ronnie, where in the world do you find these guys with such romance-novel-esque names?"
"It is a Lodge family gift. What can I say?"
The pair said their greetings to Veronica's parents as they passed the living room and made their way into the custom built spa-prep room installed near the indoor pool. Betty didn't take advantage of the spa or the pool very often, but she was always welcome to use the facilities, and had her own locker, robe, and slippers available at any time. They quickly changed into their robes, Betty taking the time to bask in the buttery-softness of the terrycloth. "Oh, wow. Please remind me to thank Smithers for doing this. He still hasn't told me what kind of fabric softener he uses on these things."
"Pulease. That man will not tell you, just drop it!"
Betty had been trying for years to get the secret out of the elusive butler, and it was obviously an impossible mission she would never succeed in. Plus: she was pretty sure that the fabric softener was an original blend that she would never be able to find in any supermarket.
Just her luck.
"As interesting as fabric softener is, we have other things to discuss!" Veronica adjusted the collar of her own terry cloth robe and lead Betty into the indoor pool area.
Thick shades had been pulled over the glass walls leading out into the estate, covering the entire room in a mock of night time. In the far corner where Veronica was leading her, Betty could see two massaging stations set up, the entire area dotted with candles at varying heights. Rajasthani music hummed out of hidden speakers and pulled them closer. If Betty didn't know any better, she would think that this was a bad case of literal sleep walking.
A man, clad only in shorts so tight they looked ridiculously uncomfortable, stood between the two massaging stations. The candlelight highlighted the blonde in his hair as he crinkled his blue eyes in the cheesiest smile Betty had ever seen. This guy was supposed to be "drop-dead gorgeous?" She guessed that Christoph could be cute in a weird naive way. The sculpt of muscles along his midsection, chest, and arms wasn't bad to look at, but it wasn't exactly lust-worthy.
Betty knew exactly what lit her fire, and she was abandoning that line of thinking immediately.
With his thick accent and ever present smile, Christoph motioned either of them to take a seat at whichever station they pleased. One was a reclining leather chair, flanked by small tables that held creams, mud masks, and light perfumes. The other was a massage bed, with a collection of massage oils prepped for the first session.
Veronica slid herself into the reclined chair. "I think I'll start with my mud mask first. Lord knows that my fair skin need a lot more pampering and prep time. Betty dear, you'll get the first back rub."
Betty spotted a bowl of fruits and grabbed an apple before plopping herself on the edge of the table. "Okie-dokie."
Settling herself in her chair, Veronica made a show of adjusting herself and widening the collar of her robe to show the light swell of her breasts without seeming too slutty. She spared Christoph an alouf smile before closing her eyes and leaning back. "Now, do be a doll and start me off on the honey and papaya enzyme mask."
"Of course, Lady Veronica."
His eagerness to please the heiress was pathetically endearing, and Betty hid her smile behind a bite into her apple. Pulling her legs up, she crossed them and propped her free elbow on her knee to watch the process.
While Christoph used a warm towel to wipe Veronica's face clean, the brunette refocused the conversation to Betty. "All right, chicky. How have things been between you and Jughead lately? I saw that rather adorable picnic at lunch today, and I can assume things are rather smooth in paradise?"
Betty laughed, wiping a bit of the excess apple's juice from the corner of her mouth. "Jughead and I are fine! We spent a lot of time together over the summer and still try to see each other after school a few times a week, and he doesn't seem to be getting bored of the increased exposure of Cooper charm."
"Oh, please. As if he would get bored. I must admit, that even from my perspective, the poor boy is completely smitten with you." She paused as Christoph began massaging a light mixture over her skin. "Which, I have to admit, is a very odd look for our Jughead."
Betty shrugged. "I know. I thought the whole 'smitten Juggy' thing was weird too when we first started dating. But, it's really great. Things are going slow, but I think that's the best way to take things right now."
And, honestly. Slow was the understatement of the freaking century.
After dropping the apple core into the nearby trash can, Betty pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around her folded legs.
Veronica did not miss the note of frustration in her statement. "Slow, eh? And, by slow . . . you mean?"
Betty tried not to blush. "Ronnie . . ."
"What?" Veronica glanced at her. "We are girlfriends, Betty. We tell each other things. Besides, I know for a fact that you have been very close lipped about your relationship with Jughead with everyone. You must be bursting with the need to share something."
Which was very true, and the fact that Veronica could see that despite Betty's insistence at hiding the urge to talk and share everything, just made Ronnie the best best friend ever. She tightened her arms around her legs and dropped her forehead on her knees. "Oh God, where do I even start?"
Veronica's grin was so wide, Christoph had to add more mixture to her face. "How about starting with your obvious sexual frustration?"
Christoph looked over his shoulder to smile at Betty, and she wanted to sink into the ground in embarrassment. "Geeze, Ronnie. Could make me sound even more like a sexual predator?!"
"Betty. We are beautiful women. We have needs. You and I both know that we have gone much further than simple hand holding or an asinine game of footsie during a dinner date with Archie."
"Wha-wait, no!" Betty dropped her knees, quick to defend her relationship. "We have done more than just hold hands! We kiss! And, go on really romantic dates! And, we have had some pretty hot make-outs!"
Betty stopped. "What?"
"How many 'hot make outs' have you had with our prudish Jughead?" Veronica asked point blank, her fingers making the implied quotes.
Three. Betty knew exactly how many times she has felt Jughead just pin her against something and really kiss her. All with the touching and the possibility of skin and the need for just more. Betty didn't want to seem needy. She was really happy. Having Jughead as her boyfriend made her feel more confident in her own romantic abilities and sense of self. There was no doubt that she wasn't good enough, or that either of them were just "putting up" with the other. The relationship was fulfilling emotionally and spiritually.
And those three make outs? They were really hott. Was it so horrible that Betty wanted a little more of that? And, maybe a little less clothes?
Betty groaned. "God, I am a pervert."
Veronica snorted. "Hardly. Though I don't see what the problem is. We have already established that Jughead is capital 'L' in love with you. Why don't you just jump him?"
A mental image of Jughead staring at her like she had lost her mind made Betty shake her head. "Ronnie. I can't just jump Jughead. This is his first lasting relationship he has ever been in. He is completely new to the physical and emotional intimacies of a relationship and I can't just ask him to speed things up because I'm ready and he isn't." She frowned. "And, Jughead doesn't love me. We like each other, and we've only been dating for a few months."
Christoph motioned Betty to lay on her front, and she moved to the correct position, glad for the excuse not to make eye contact with Veronica's blatant disbelief.
Veronica crossed her arms. "Ok. How long did it take you to come up with that deep excuse for Jughead's delicate emotional wellbeing?"
"It's not an excuse," Betty grumbled, folding her arms under her chin and staring at a few of the candles flickering by Veronica's seat. "I just . . . I can feel it. There will be times when we are just hanging out with each other, and he's trying to hide his discomfort. I mean, I know that he likes having me around. But, there is only so much he can be comfortable with before he has to actively force himself to endure it." She peeked at Veronica. "Last month, Juggie and I were at the beach, and I offered to put suntan lotion on his back. I . . . I mean, he said ok, but I started taking shirt off without even thinking about asking him, and he kind of froze up for a second before saying he got it 'but thanks.'"
Feeling Christoph begin to knead at the muscles along her calves and up, Betty shrugged and wished she could actually enjoy the treatment. "And, it's just kind of been small things like that. Jughead hasn't outright told me that I was making him uncomfortable. I've just been paying attention." She managed to aim a smile at her best friend. "Isn't that what you're supposed to do with the person you're dating? Notice the little things?"
Veronica closed her eyes to consider what she had said, but the ill-concealed pity was a little hard for Betty to stomach, so she refocused on a cluster of candles.
The two of them fell silent as the music swirled the candles around them and Christoph finished massaging the muscles in both of Betty's legs. After rubbing the excess massage oil off his hands, he returned to Veronica's side to wipe the mixture off of her face. Patting the underside of her chin with the back of her hand, Veronica instructed the masseuse to put together some kind of citrus and rosemary mask, before turning on her side and propping herself up with an arm along the body of the chair, and her head propped on her hand.
"So, have you talked to Jughead about this?"
Betty blinked back some of the haze that had blanketed her brain. "What?"
"Look, you are going on and on about how healthy relationships are about being aware of what your significant other is feeling, but you are seriously missing the whole two-way street bit."
Betty wanted to know exactly how in the world she was getting the 'relationships are a two-way street' lecture from Veronica Lodge: SELF-CENTERED GIRLFRIEND EXTRAORDINAIRE.
Veronica continued, completely unaware of Betty's inner monologue. "I mean, look at me? I know for a fact that if I am happy, and beautiful, and pampered, it makes the boys that much happier to be in my presence! And I like being happy, and beautiful, and pampered, so it's a very smooth two-way street! You, on the other hand, seem to be so focused on keeping Jughead comfortable in this relationship that you are completely disregarding your own needs."
Ronnie smiled at her own brilliant insight. "Now tell me, how is Jughead supposed to be happy if you aren't?"
"Veronica, I am happy."
"No. You are just settling. For some God forsaken reason, you have this thing for Jughead, and that's fine. But, just because you are smitten for Jughead doesn't mean that you should be the only person to make the sacrifices in this!"
Betty blinked back the sudden tears in her eyes. "Ronnie . . . who are you, and what have you done with my best friend?"
Veronica snorted, warmth filling her eyes as she smiled and reached out to cup her hand around Betty's elbow. "You know I've always had your best intentions at heart, Betty. You have stuck with me longer than anyone. Even that insufferable Archie Andrews. And, I know I didn't show it when you and I were vying for Archie's affections, but I hate seeing you cry or be hurt when there is something I can do about it." She sat back with a grin. "Besides, now that we can be bffs without the added tension of romantic competition, I can be as supportive as sickeningly possible! You have yet to see my best-friend prowess!"
Christoph returned with a bowl of scented mud mask. "I would not mind assisting with the sexual tension? I hear I am very good at relieving that stress as well?"
"Christoph. Shut up and mask me."
Betty couldn't breathe through her laughter.
[Word Count: 3,298]
AN: Excuse my textual throw-up. Apparently, emotions make me word vomit all over chapters.
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