“Come to New York with me.”
There’s a glint in Veronica’s eyes as she says it, observing you over the top of her double chocolate shake. She bites the end of her straw and quirks an eyebrow, almost challenging, almost as though she’s trying to entice you, dare you to refuse.
You blink once. Twice. Three times. Swivel your head from left to right, making sure you’re alone in your booth, there’s no one else Veronica could be talking to. Her eyes never leave your face, and you pull your bottom lip in between your teeth as you note that even Pop Tate is currently away from your vicinity.
Your eyes meet hers again: warm, inviting pools of hot chocolate clashing with your own sleek ice storm. Sometimes, you think Veronica can see too much with those eyes. See through people, see their souls.
You swallow hard, nod. “Okay.”
Veronica grins like she never doubted your response.
It doesn’t go over well with your mother, to say the least. New York is not Riverdale. It’s not Alice Cooper. New York is inky night skies and buskers playing jazz on the harmonica and bad traffic and high heels and Veronica Lodge.
Alice Cooper has never really grown that fond of Veronica Lodge.
She makes a fuss, blows it up big and grand, adorns it with warning signs and stop lights. “What about Yale?” she says. “What about your dream?”
You remind her why Yale didn’t accept you in the first place, remind her of your admission at Columbia, remind her that you already deferred your acceptance to Yale for a year (just to prove a point, really, just to make them wait). You tell her you’ll do your first year at Columbia. You tell her you can always go to Yale for the start of the second semester if you detest New York City. You tell her you need this: time, space, away from Riverdale and all the memories tied to it. You need a tiny apartment and Chinese take-out and late nights curled on the couch watching chick flicks with Veronica.
You need, above all, Veronica.
(New York City is just as far from New Haven as Riverdale is, anyway.)
It’s when you go to your room that you stall.
The light from Archie’s room shines yellow through his window. It reaches through your own, decorates your bedsheets, kisses your face hello. It’s always been there, constant. Even when you fought, when you weren’t talking, even when Fred got shot, even when your dad was arrested, it always shone true. And maybe it’s absolutely tragic that it is this mundane thing that stops you in your tracks, but you can’t help but feel immediately bogged down by the idea that soon, you won’t see it anymore.
Archie isn’t coming to New York. You know this, deep down, without asking. He’s a small town boy: rugged and hard working and honest. He has his whole life here, laid out plainly on imaginary blueprints.
You have Veronica Lodge’s metaphorical hand clasped tightly in yours, and you know you’d follow her anywhere she asks.
Veronica declares, loud and dramatic over lunch one day, that it is your last summer together. She’s standing in the sun, and it hits her in a way that causes a halo around her head. You figure this must be what angels look like before they earn their wings, and your eyes stay glued to Veronica even as Jughead scoffs from beside you.
“And what, praytell, do you propose for us, then?” He says, in his best Veronica Lodge voice.
“Oh, nothing short of the most extravagant, captivating, enrapturing chain of events Riverdale has ever seen.” She responds, and you find yourself hanging on to every word. You can tell she means it, even if you know she has no clue what “extravagant, captivating” and “enrapturing” events will actually occur. Still, every breath is imbued with the excitement of new adventure, her fingers twitching with pure, unfiltered, barely contained glee. You look back up at Veronica and, in the back of your mind, you can picture a little bell dinging.
You’re only a little disappointed to find that, when you open your eyes after a long blink, she hasn’t sprouted wings.
The four of you roadtrip to the town over the day after next, after Cheryl loudly reminds you all of the “absolutely fantabulous” carnival she and Toni were going to. Toni had hushed an apology under her breath as they left, but Veronica only grinned at her, donning a wicked gleam in her eyes.
You knew what she was going to say the moment she had turned to you, and you also knew you wouldn’t deny whatever she asked. Veronica Lodge has always had a way of getting what she wants, especially if what she wants involves you.
So you find yourself sitting in Archie’s truck bed as the redhead drives the 25.8km it takes to get to Midvale, watching Veronica try to catch clouds in her teeth as the wind buffets her hair back. She laughs like she’s made of magic and catches your eye, grin wide and carefree and at ease, and you think that maybe she is.
You hold Veronica’s hand on the ferris wheel and feel like every cliche teen in every cheesy romance novel ever. Her hand is warm against your palm, though you can barely feel your fingers through the knuckle white grip she has on you. Veronica’s never really been a fan of heights.
The sky looks like it’s made of red and gold cashmere, and you pull lightly on Veronica’s hand to draw her attention away from how high you’ve gotten. She peers over your collarbones cautiously, as though she doesn’t trust herself to look just at the cottony sunset, and you find yourself being unable to look at anything but her.
“It’s beautiful, B,” she says.
“Yeah,” you hum, not at all talking about the sunset.
Maybe that should tell you something: something more about who you are versus who you try to be, something more than how pretty you think your best friend is, more than the simple facts of the matter, but maybe that’s just who you and Veronica are now. B&V. Best friends again, after the years and years of clinging to that hollow title when you clearly belonged solely to Jughead, and she belonged solely to Archie. Maybe this is just new, and better, and that’s all there was to it. Maybe you’re just overthinking, like you always do. Reading too much into the situation, giving a fleeting moment too much gravity.
Veronica hides her face in the crook of your neck as your cart lurches particularly violently, and you bite your lip to contain your laugh, your mind suddenly clear once more.
“Not funny, Betty,” Veronica says, hitting your thigh lightly with your joined hands. You can feel her smile against your neck.
You hold her hand tighter when the cart rocks again, and forget to breathe when Veronica puffs a laugh of her own against your collarbones.
It takes until August for Archie and Veronica to break up.
You’ve been waiting for it: you all have. Ever since Veronica had invited you to New York with her, ever since told you about her acceptance to Barnard College, about her hopes that she and Archie could do long distance, you’ve been waiting for it.
When Veronica shows up on your doorstep in the middle of the night, tears in her eyes and smile painfully pinching her cheeks, all you can do is open your arms and let her fall into you.
“It’s for the best,” she sobs into the collar of your sleep shirt, “it’s for the best.”
You nod, card your fingers through her hair, and walk her to bed.
Veronica spends the night curled into your side, playing with the fraying hem of your shirt. Her fingers occasionally brush the soft skin of your abdomen. You tell yourself your breath hitches because it tickles, but the more it happens, the weaker the excuse seems. So you draw circles into her shoulders and back and wonder why you still feel lonely.
“How are you and Jughead gonna do it?” She breathes, sometime around 2am.
You brush your fingers along Veronica’s shoulder blade, inhaling the remnants of her fruity perfume, thinking about how intoxicating it had seemed during your cheerleading tryouts in sophomore year.
“I don’t know,” you say.
You know you and Jughead aren’t going to do it. You haven’t really been doing it for a while now. You think, maybe subconsciously, you’ve been trying to put some space between the two of you to make this split easier. All you’ve known for three years is JugheadJugheadJughead and maybe it wasn’t always what you wanted, but it was (and kind of still is) your reality, and you’ve grown fond of his lopsided grin and his tousled hair.
You’re still fond of it even after you break up, a week and a half after Veronica and Archie.
An invitation from Cheryl appears on your doorstep not a day later, while everything is still raw and reeling. You can’t decide if going to a party right now is a good idea or not, but Veronica gets one too, and then you’re getting eyeshadow pressed into the crease of your eye as you sit, cross legged, on Veronica’s bed.
Veronica is made of secrets and stars, and you think if she gets any closer to your face while she paints your lips a pretty pink, you’ll either be privy to her world of mystery or you’ll explode. You’re not entirely sure which one is more likely. Her breath hits your face, steady, hot, and her fingertips brush your lips before she tells you to press them together. She rolls her tongue over her teeth, and doesn’t move away, even as your eyes flutter open. You wonder if you’d tickle her cheeks with your eyelashes if you blink.
She doesn’t say anything, and you swallow hard, nervous. “What?”
“You look hot,” she says, not missing a beat.
You think, maybe, flying too close, you’d explode.
The party is as parties in Riverdale always are: loud, daunting, a little sad. You remember you’ve never asked Cheryl what school she’s going to, you don’t know what’s going to happen to her and Toni, or her and Toni and the twins.
You sit in a plush velvet armchair in Cheryl’s living room, perpendicular to a matching sofa. Veronica’s bare thigh is pressed against yours, left exposed by the shortness of her maroon dress, warm from the gin and juice she was nursing in her hand. The two of you barely fit in the chair, but Archie has elected to spread out completely over the sofa, his legs propped unceremoniously in Jughead’s lap, who looked somewhere between fond and homesick, and also a little like he was trying not to throw up.
It was all rather melancholic: Archie’s eyes screwed shut as a headache pounded behind his eyelids - too much alcohol, too fast, Jughead’s hands balled together, resting against Archie’s shins.
Veronica, who is sitting next to you, breathing the same air, gin and juice forgotten in her hand as she adopts a forlorn look in her eyes, staring at something just past your ear, music pulsing somewhere in the background.
She looks new, almost. The slope of her nose is the same: the way her lips part as she subconsciously breathes out through her mouth unchanging, the ever present twinkle in her eye still years old, but she feels new.
“They’re happy,” she says.
You have to blink a few times to process. “Who?”
Veronica smiles a little, almost shyly, like something you said warmed her from the inside out, and she turns to look at you. There are tears in her eyes, and you don’t know if it’s because of the gin or if she’s genuinely about to cry. “Cheryl and Toni,” she says, and her voice sounds watery, but stable.
You stare a little longer at the way the tears make Veronica’s eyes look bigger, the way her iris’ seem ten shades darker behind them, in the dim light of Thistlehouse. She blinks, and a tear rolls down her cheek, and you think about catching it on the pad of your thumb. Veronica seems tangible like this. Just another girl from Riverdale with too much baggage and too few friends. She seems less far away from you.
You turn your head away, suddenly overwhelmed, and catch sight of Cheryl and Toni.
They’re standing together in the next room over, all glittery and red and immortal looking, their foreheads pressed against one after, arms tangled together. They’re just swaying, not saying anything, but you watch as Cheryl trails her hands up Toni’s back and sinks her fingers into her hair, intimate and delicate and unlike anything you’ve seen before from Cheryl. A grin spreads across Toni’s face, and she nudges her nose against Cheryl’s, whispers something you don’t catch.
Veronica squeezes your hand, presses her nose into your hair, and you try not to cry too.
The two of you manage to get yourselves packed and good to go in a week by some miracle (that miracle being Alice Cooper and her steel fist), and suddenly you’re holding keys in your hand and Smithers is hugging Veronica goodbye.
It’s all very fast - or maybe it’s all very slow and your perception of time is all warped. The two of you go through so many goodbyes before you finally get in the car, Veronica riding passenger, in the end never having learned how to drive. She puts on the radio early on, and you sit in silence while she hums along to the songs she knows, and tries to hum along to the songs she doesn’t.
You pass through Midvale on the way out, and it’s not long after that that you stop recognizing the scenery. You pass through towns you’ve never heard of before, houses that are built differently from the ones in Riverdale.
Veronica turns to you maybe thirty minutes into the drive. “We’re out, B.”
You swallow hard, “yeah.”
Veronica offers you her palm over the gear shift, and you slot your fingers in between hers before you can give it much more thought.
New York is not Riverdale. It’s not Alice Cooper, or Archie Andrews, or Jughead Jones. New York is inky night skies and buskers playing jazz on the harmonica and bad traffic and high heels. It’s bustling subways and grime and sketchy taco trucks you buy from anyway because rent is high and food is cheap there.
It’s Veronica Lodge.
It’s waking up with a nose pressed under your chin and a hand open palmed on your stomach. It’s shy kisses pressed to your eyelids when it’s far too late for either of you to see. It’s sleeping in a tiny bed with a dip in the middle that you don’t fit in together, but you put up with it just to be close to one another while the city wakes up and you fall asleep.
It’s your whispered confession, your making Veronica into a poetic piece, your omission you kissed to her knuckles one night after you were dared to kiss her , in that way that she dares you to do anything, the way you wouldn’t dare refuse her.
Veronica Lodge has always had a way of getting what she wants.
And you’ve always wanted her.