Veronica’s had a love affair with flying since she was a little girl.
She loves taking off, feeling herself tilted and then suddenly soaring above the earth—it’s been the dream of humans to fly since the very beginning, and here she is, doing it. She loves being in the air, knowing her earthly troubles are far below her. When she’s up there among the clouds, she doesn’t have to think about Betty or Archie or any of them. Flying severs a cord. She’s not Riverdale Ronnie Lodge anymore: she’s Veronica, and she can be whatever she wants to be when she’s up there. She can be nothing at all.
But what Veronica loves best of all about flying is landing. She always holds her breath like she did when she was four and on her first plane. She pretends her father and mother are holding her hands like they did that same flight. And she looks out the window—and there it is—
As the plane lands, Veronica can see the Eiffel Tower in the distance, and her heart leaps. She’s been practicing her French for months. She can be of this city in a way she mightn’t have been before.
When her mother graduated from high school, her parents sent her on a summer tour of Europe. So she wanted to do the same for her daughter, her beautiful cosmopolitan daughter. Veronica has been to all these cities before, of course, but she’s never been on her own. It thrills her.
Her mother had offered to let her bring a friend, offered to pay for the friend, assuming, of course, that that friend would be Betty. But Veronica had demurred. She wanted these memories to be wholly her own. Call her greedy, but she wanted to see the world by herself, free from the influence of anyone but herself.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” murmurs the man in the next seat. She turns and smiles at him. His name is Pierre; he’s the classic image of a Frenchman, smooth and handsome and secure in himself in a way the boys back in Riverdale are not.
Okay, so Veronica’s already found a man of the week. Can she help it? She imagines protesting to Betty that an essential part of understanding other cultures is to understand other people—and then, she realizes, she doesn’t have to protest.
A wide grin spreads over her face. Pierre, poor man, thinks it’s for him.
“Yes,” she breathes. “It’s absolutely gorgeous.”
Pierre escorts her out of the airport, where they part with a promise to meet again later. He’s going to pick her up at her hotel at two. “I will show you the Tour Eiffel, and so many other beautiful things,” he promises. She lets him kiss her on the cheek before she slides into her taxi.
At the hotel, she unpacks immediately; Veronica Lodge has never been one to live out of a suitcase. She hangs her clothes in the closet, sets up her laptop at the desk, emails her parents to let them know she’s arrived safely. I met the most wonderful Parisian on the plane, she tells them. A real native to show me around! I’m terribly excited. This trip is off to a great start. She sends the same basic email to Betty, although with some added poetics about how handsome Pierre is. Then she shuts her laptop, leans back in the chair, and grins.
“Paris,” she says to her window view of the Notre Dame, “here I am!”
When she’s done freshening up and changing clothes, she heads down to the lobby to wait for Pierre. She’s too full of energy to hang around in her room, so instead she goes to the hotel bar, reveling in the fact that she’s actually the legal drinking age in France.
“Vesper martini, s’il vous plaît,” she trills to the bartender in her best Parisian accent. She’s already getting a couple of admiring looks, and as she sips her martini, she makes sure to glance around the bar from time to time, her gaze lingering for just a few seconds on the men who keep staring.
Pierre comes in while she’s chatting with an Italian businessman, and she’s inwardly gleeful at the faint jealousy that crosses Pierre’s face. “Mademoiselle Veronica,” he says stiffly, coming up to her. “I trust you have not forgotten our plans?”
“Of course not! Marcello here—“
“So sorry. Silvio here was just keeping me company while I waited for you.”
Pierre looks Marcello/Silvio up and down. “Of course. I apologize for interrupting, but she and I did have plans.”
“Of course,” says Marcello/Silvio with an easy smile. “I will see you later, Veronica?”
She sets her martini glass down and shrugs lightly, smiling. “Perhaps.” And then she gets up and follows Pierre out.
“Don’t be mad, dear,” she says to him as they walk down the street toward the Eiffel Tower. “I don’t like to be bored and there was nothing to do in my room.”
Pierre considers her for a moment, and then laughs. “I’m not your boyfriend. You don’t need to justify yourself to me.”
“Fine.” A smirk crosses her face. “He was very handsome, very wealthy, and he bought my drink.”
“There it is,” Pierre laughs. “Well, he’s not here now, so it doesn’t matter. Come on—let’s go see the Tour Eiffel.”
Veronica winds up seeing a lot more of Paris in that evening than just the Eiffel Tower. The Tower is beautiful at night, and so is the view of Paris from the top—all glittering gold lights, a city dancing below her feet. The wind blows fiercely about the viewing platform, and Veronica finds herself breathless, clutching onto the railing. In that moment, the world shrinks to just the city lights below her and the sound of the wind in her ears. She forgets about her parents, about Betty and Archie, about Pierre and Marcello/Silvio. She is free, and she has never felt this way before.
The moment ends when Pierre’s lips graze her neck and his arms encircle her waist, but there’s still something magical about being at the top of the Eiffel Tower, watching the city romantic beneath them. When she turns around and kisses Pierre, and again later when she takes his hand and pulls him into her hotel room, it feels like she’s taking her life into her own hands more firmly than ever before.
She likes it.
Veronica sees Pierre twice more that week. He is her guide through the city, pointing out the best places to eat and drink. The rest of the time, she spends by herself, wandering the streets and visiting the Must-Sees that she has never really seen before: the Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Sacre-Coeur. The Louvre, as it turns out, is Veronica’s favorite. She likes the cathedrals, but she’s never been particularly religious nor spiritual; she feels closer to something holy when she’s standing in front of Nike of Samothrace.
She wonders, if her thoughts were marble, would they turn into something like this? A woman of raw power, standing tall against invisible winds and sea spray—this is the embodiment of the woman victorious.
Eating some frites by the Seine the afternoon she’s due to take the Eurostar across the Channel, with Pierre telling her how much he’s going to miss her, she pictures the Nike, and she knows then that she’s ready to go elsewhere.
London is grey and gloomy in the exact same delightful way it is in photographs. Of course she’s seen London before, but as she emerges from the Eurostar station she thinks that perhaps she’s never seen it quite like this. Or perhaps even fog is more vibrant in the absence of any cares. She doesn’t know. She can’t say she particularly desires to think further on it.
There’s even some drizzle, falling gently on her face. She’d close her eyes and lift her face up to the sky, inviting a downpour, but she just bought this eyeliner in Paris and she doesn’t want to test how waterproof it might be just yet.
First stop, after her hotel, is Harrods. She’s never been here by herself. It reminds her of a New York department store, except of course those stores are all modeled after this one—and even if they’re not, she thinks after a moment of contemplation, they couldn’t possibly compare.
She wanders through the store for hours. This type of place has always been a second home to her. Locations and times might change, but fashion remains the same, a stalwart reminder that the things she loves do not change when taken across the ocean.
When Veronica emerges from the store, the sun has not yet begun to set. Thank goodness for long summer days. And—she bites down a smile, not wanting to look unhinged—long summer nights.
She’s got a man in her contacts list here, as she has everywhere. She pulls out her phone, scrolling through the names, until her thumb alights on the one she was looking for.
When she came to London last fall, she met Will Charles at a dinner her parents hosted. Will was the twenty-year-old son—twenty-one now—of Irving Charles, one of her father’s many business colleagues. Will was supposed to be some sort of playboy, and she’d had fun teasing him at the dinner—and giving him a kiss for putting up with it afterwards. He’d told her to give him a ring the next time she was in town, and, well…
“Hi, Will,” she says into the phone, crossing the street without a look either way.
“Veronica!” He sounds genuinely pleased to hear from her. “Does your calling me mean perhaps that you are in London?”
“Perhaps…” She examines her nails. “Look, I’m in town for a bit and I wondered if you wanted to get dinner. Tonight?”
“Throw in some dancing afterwards and I’m absolutely in.”
“Of course there’ll be dancing, darling—who do you think I am?”
“I know exactly who you are, Veronica Lodge,” he murmurs. “Maybe we can compare notes tonight.”
She names a restaurant her mother had ordered her to go to—something about being friends with the owner, he’d be insulted if a Lodge was in town and didn’t stop by, something like that. “Eight o’clock. Be there on time or I’ll never speak to you again.”
“Is that a challenge?”
“Bye, Will,” she says sweetly, and hangs up.
On her way back to her hotel, she pauses outside Debenhams. It would really be a shame to make a dinner date for tonight and show up in some old thing brought over from America—
With a slight shrug of her shoulders to no one in particular, Veronica marches into the store, in search of the perfect dress for tonight’s little date.
When she shows up at the restaurant, Will’s jaw literally drops.
Okay, not literally, since that’s physically impossible and Will is a rather restrained guy. What actually happens is that his mouth does open, just a little bit, and his eyes glaze over. Veronica can’t blame him: she found the best black dress in London, demure enough for a classy restaurant but sexy enough for a date, and damn if she isn’t wearing the hell out of it.
She checks her phone. “Eight on the dot. You’re a good kid.”
“Yes, well, I’ve always been punctual.”
She smirks and kisses him on the cheek; his face turns a bright red. “Shall we go inside, then? I’ve got a reservation.”
“Of—of course.” He walks in beside her, looking a little stiff; she can’t help but be terribly amused.
“So, Will—you’re going to show me around London tomorrow, aren’t you?” she asks as they sit down and the waiter puts menus in front of them.
“Am I?” He picks up the wine list, studying it.
“Sure you are. It’s been so long since I was here, and Daddy’s never let me go around London by myself before.”
“If you’re with me, you won’t really be by yourself, will you?”
“I didn’t say I never get lonely.”
He flushes again and stares hard at the wine list. “If you want company, I’d be happy to provide it.”
“You know…” She leans back just a little in the chair, eying him mirthfully. “I think you’re the only boy I’ve ever met who gets more formal when a girl talks to him.”
“I can’t be the only one. Besides—“ he smiles—“maybe I just want you to keep talking.”
“Mm.” She reaches for the wine list, deliberately brushing her hand against his as she takes the menu. “In that case, maybe you’d better start.”
“Oh, Veronica,” he sighs, and she doesn’t have time to draw back before he grabs her hand and brings it to his lips. “What do you want? Name it—I’ll do it—anything for just one kiss—“
She laughs. “Please, Will. Begging doesn’t become you.”
“I can think of times when it does,” he says quietly, raising his eyebrows at her, and she’s so surprised by the audacity that she can’t think of a retort.
“I managed to get us a private car on the London Eye,” he says to her later, as they’re walking to whatever place he’s picked to go dancing. “Just the two of us and the whole city below us.”
“How many strings did you have to pull?”
“A magician never reveals his secrets,” he says with a grin. “It’s for two in the morning. The city will be gorgeous.”
“It looks like rain.”
“This is London, Ron. It always looks like rain.”
“Did I say it was a bad thing?”
The thing is that Veronica has always loved the rain. She finds it—cleansing, really. Of course rain in big cities is always terribly polluted, but at the same time there’s a richness to it that you don’t get elsewhere, a feeling like the rain is bringing the whole character of the city with it. Riverdale’s too clean, she thinks, but she’s not quite referring to the environment anymore. She’s never met a man like Will back in Riverdale. Hell—she’s never met a man like him anywhere.
“What are you thinking about?” he asks her as they stop at a crosswalk to let a car go past.
“Definitely not you,” she says, and kisses him.
Despite her personal rule against public displays of affection—or at least ones she considers tacky—once she and Will get onto the London Eye, she’s feeling tipsy enough from the drinks he bought her at the club to get to second base with him without even wondering if there are security cameras in the pods.
The city stretches out below them, orange lights glowing soft and tiny. She can see so many landmarks, so many places that she’s only ever seen from a plane before. (Why hasn’t her father ever taken her on the Eye before? Too touristy?) She’s up in the air, and the Eye is going round, and Will’s got her pressed up against the glass wall with his mouth on her collarbone, and—
“Will,” she whispers as he reaches his hand up her dress. “Not here. Come on.” When he reluctantly removes his hand, she turns around, gazing out into the night. “It’s so beautiful,” she whispers. “I don’t think I ever realized how beautiful London was before.”
“That might be the cognac talking,” Will says, but Veronica doesn’t think so. She feels like she might step into a Victorian novel once they touch ground again, and even if she doesn’t, she’s stepping into a city of her dreams.
But even dreams get tiresome when they repeat, and after a week, she’s ready to go.
Madrid is hot—and she’s not quite sure if she’s talking about the weather or the men.
Veronica’s always been an appreciator of fine art, and Madrid is the perfect place for that—from the cool galleries of the Museo del Prado and the Reina Sofia to the hot open spaces of the Plaza del Sol and its smaller cousins that dot the city. The best part about Madrid, though, is that everything is open late—the Spanish, she thinks gleefully, know how it’s done.
Paris was cool and collected, elegant and aloof in its beauty; London was busy, fast, more given to geometric lines than twisting Parisian architecture. Madrid, though, is alive. The city’s heart beats with life, and from her hotel balcony, overlooking one of the plazas, Veronica can see it all. Children wander around licking ice creams; people get on and off the metro in the same hurry characteristic of everyone who takes public transportation; lovers hold hands and walk through the shaded city parks. And this is just in the day! At night—well, she’ll just have to see it for herself, now that she’s finally here and unfettered by parental chains.
And god, how sweet that freedom is when she’s sitting at a bar eating tapas and drinking sangria.
She’s met up with a Spanish friend, Sofia Casillas Perez, the beautiful daughter of an equally beautiful makeup tycoon. Sofia’s promised to show her around Madrid’s nightlife, and this bar, it seems, is where that all starts.
“I hope you don’t mind,” Sofia says, taking a sip of her sangria. “I invited a few friends out with us tonight. They’ve been asking me to go out with them for ages and I simply haven’t had the time.”
“It’s no problem at all,” Veronica responds in Spanish. “Part of why I came here was to meet new people!”
Sofia chuckles. “I think you’ll really like Madrid, Veronica.”
“I love it already.” Veronica raises her eyebrows pointedly and takes another drink from her glass. Sofia laughs again.
“It is nice for you Americans to be in Europe, isn’t it.”
Veronica smirks. “Oh, my dearest Sofia, you have absolutely no idea.”
A couple minutes later, Sofia gives a small yelp of recognition: her friends have arrived. There are four of them, two women and two men; Sofia introduces them as Antonia, Ileana, Oscar, and Iker. They are all beautiful, but especially Ileana and Oscar. Ileana looks like the Venus de Milo given life and new arms; her soft brown hair cascades to her chin, framing her lovely face like a painting. There’s stubble around Oscar’s knowing smile, and Veronica feels like his eyes bore right into her.
She’s very, very into this.
“So,” says Ileana, sitting down. “Do we need to speak in English for her?”
“No need,” Veronica tells them. “I speak fluent Spanish.” And French, and Italian, and Mandarin… Sometimes it’s good to be a Lodge—her father expects her to take over the business someday, so she’s got to be able to speak a whole host of languages. It’s always nice to see the surprise on people’s faces when a pretty, wealthy American girl starts talking to them in their own language.
Oscar grins. “Of course someone as lovely as you speaks the language of love.”
She raises an eyebrow. “I thought that was French.”
He snorts. “Have you ever read Neruda?”
“Why don’t you educate me?”
His grin widens, and Sofia elbows Veronica. “Ron, stop that,” she laughs. “There will be plenty of time for it later. Were any of you going to order?”
“Just more sangria,” says Iker. “And then—where are we going tonight?”
Sofia names a well-known, upscale club. “Only the best for Veronica Lodge.”
“Don’t you know it,” Veronica says with a laugh, and from across the table, Ileana smiles very slightly.
Veronica has to admit—not that it’s hard—that she loves European clubs. She can’t really put her finger on why, but perhaps it has something to do with the fact that this one is in an abandoned cathedral, and the mixture of sangria and a stained-glass Mary (or Maria here, she supposes) gazing down on her is giving her a slightly hysterical, albeit pleasant, edge.
Out on the dance floor, holding her drink, she bursts into giggles. “What is it?” asks Ileana, leaning in so that she can speak directly into Veronica’s ear. The sound of the other girl’s voice and the feeling of her lips brushing softly against Veronica’s skin brings a cold rush over her body, stilling her, quieting the laughter.
“Nothing,” Veronica says. “Nothing…”
She turns to look at Ileana then, at the bright green eyes hidden under thick dark lashes, and Veronica feels like time is slowing down. She reaches for Ileana’s hand just as Ileana reaches for hers, and in a moment Ileana’s mouth is grazing Veronica’s jawline and she can’t help but close her eyes before their lips even meet.
Veronica has kissed girls before. She and Betty used to practice when they were much, much younger, but they grew up and found boys to kiss and they stopped kissing each other. Riverdale’s a small town, and Hiram Lodge has big dreams for his daughter. It might be the 21st century, but Riverdale still seems partially stuck in the past, like nothing’s happened in sixty years and time has gone on around it. Of course there’s Kevin Keller now, but that doesn’t mean—
And then Veronica stops thinking as Ileana’s hand drops to her waist. Everything becomes white noise but Ileana.
It doesn’t matter what things are like in Riverdale. She’s in Spain and there’s a beautiful girl kissing her, a beautiful girl who will go back to the hotel with her later, and no one really knows her here. So she lets herself go, giving herself up to the music and the heat of another body pressed against her own.
She’ll go home eventually. But not anytime soon.
She’s not flying anymore. She’s landed.