"The timing is right; the stars are aligned"
A meat patty on top of a baguette is not a hamburger according to Jughead Jones-no matter how much fancy brie cheese, grainy mustard or arugula you put on it. When Jughead accepted the position as assistant in the Atelier Photographique at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, he’d be lying if part of the reason wasn’t to indulge in all of the fine cuisine the city has to offer. But, he had been living the city of lights for over three months now, and he was missing home and the comfort of a proper hamburger from Pop’s Chock ‘Lit Shop, the local diner in his hometown.
Jughead grew up in Riverdale, a small town in upstate New York. Anyone visiting Riverdale for the first time would see a quintessential small town but there was always more than meets the eye. The Southside Serpents, a biker gang based in the Southside of the small town, lurked in the shadows. It’s there too, where Jughead’s family life imploded before it even had a chance to begin. Jughead’s father, FP Jones II, was a foreman by day and the leader of the Southside Serpents by night. Through the thin walls of their small trailer, Jughead could hear his parents argue and fight and spit hatred to one another. He could see it in their eyes at the dinner table, though at his young age he could never have imagined the nearly unrepairable crevice it would create in his own heart.
Jughead still remembers seeing the suitcase in the corner near the door, the kiss on his cheek and arms wrapped around his little sister Jelly Bean, and the promise that she would be back soon, she just needed to spend some time away.
That was the last day Jughead saw his mother.
The realization that she would not return hit FP Jones II hard and he spiraled into the serpent’s drug dealings and even further into the bottle. If it weren’t for FP’s business partner and best friend, Fred Andrews, Jelly Bean and Jughead would have ended up in foster care. The last time FP was picked up by the local sheriff, Jughead was 14 at the time. He knew in his heart that this would be the last time they would see him. Fred Andrews had agreed to assume custody of Jughead and Jellybean.
Fred Andrews was a kind and hardworking man. After a failed marriage and amicable split from his wife Mary, it was just him and his son Archie. Archie and Jughead has been best friends their entire life. The two had a shared love of burgers from Pop’s and video games, but they had two very different personalities. Archie was the adorable golden retriever, the All-American football player and musical heartthrob. Whereas Jughead Jones was the brooding and sarcastic loner. Archie attempted to bring Jughead out of his shell, and Jughead helped bring Archie back down to Earth. The dynamic duo their entire childhoods, continued well into their adult years.
Graduation from Riverdale High came and went and the two were off to New York City. Archie attending the Manhattan School of Music and Jughead on a scholarship to NYU to study literature. Fred and Jelly Bean held down the fort and promised to continue their weekly family tradition of burgers and shakes at Pop’s.
One of the proudest moments of Jughead’s life was receiving the call from Jellybean letting him know that she had received a full ride scholarship to study Art History at Columbia. Despite the implosion of his family, having to take care of his sister, and being part of a pseudo-family with the Andrews, both Jughead and JellyBean were determined to make something of themselves.
It’s not that Jughead didn’t appreciate the good things that life offered him. If anything, he’d like to think he was more appreciative than the average person. He felt, for the first time in his life, that things were looking up. He lived with his best friend in New York City, saw his sister often, and generally enjoyed the work he was doing. Some might say his love life might be dismal, but Archie made sure to hook up with enough ladies for the both of them.
Still, when the darkness and brooding crept in, he craved something more. He had been feeling unmoored at his job and out of inspiration when it came to his photography. Jughead had picked up the hobby of photography in high school while working on the newspaper. He was by no means an Ansel Adams, but he prided himself on a strong portfolio. Perhaps the remnants of a world where he was forced to grow up faster than most, photography allowed him to always try and find the beauty in spaces. At one point in college, Archie and Jughead’s childhood friend had asked him to take pictures while he proposed to his girlfriend in Central Park. That led Jughead to also shooting their engagement. And had now led to a fairly steady stream of clients looking to capture their love on film. A love, that Jughead had yet to find or even begin to understand.
His love of art, literature and photography is what led him to his current job as an assistant to the curator of photographs department at The Met. Jughead enjoyed his job, albeit spending 40 hours a week in a tiny room in the basement of the museum which he is pretty sure at one point was a closet.
Perhaps it was the monotony that had found its way into his daily routine or seeing the love that others shared if only through a camera lens, but as of late, he found himself disassociating from the medium and withdrawing into himself more and more. Moving to New York City had been a dream come true, a the dream that a kid from the Sunnyside Trailer Park could only imagine. But that dream had a become a reality, and Jughead almost felt guilty at times for wanting more. There’s the old adage that in order to write about life, you must live life. In Jughead’s case, photograph it.
As fate would have it (or not, in Jughead’s slightly self-loathing world) an old advisor from grad school had reached out to him about a job at the famed Musee d’Orsay in Paris. He sat on the application and updating his resume for two weeks, before one night in the wee hours of the morning (Jughead Jones is veritable night-owl), he finally hit send. It was an opportunity to move to a new country, a new city, and a new environment. While the idea was absolutely terrifying, what scared him most is how much it excited him.
A few weeks later after he interviewed for the position, Jughead received a call that would drastically change the trajectory of his life.
“Monsieur Jones,, we were supremely impressed with your portfolio and your previous work,” the Director said in his heavy French accent. “We would be delighted to have you join us here in Paris.”
“This is...unreal, thank you so much. When do I need to let you know by?”
“The sooner the better Monsieur Jones. I’ll have my assistant send over the paperwork to you this afternoon.”
“Great, thanks so much. Or...I guess merci?”
The director chuckled into the line, “We’ll have to work on your french Monsieur Jones. Da rein, et au revoir!”
Later that day, Jughead hopped off at the York Street Station and walked the short distance to his and Archie’s apartment a little slower than he usually would, giving himself time to think.
Their Brooklyn apartment was small, but still bigger than the shoebox they shared on the Isle of Manhattan while in school. Archie constantly roasted Jughead about his ability to blend into the hipster aesthetic now taking over their neighborhood. He’d respond with “whatever, I was here first”. And Archie would tease that, “ that’s exactly what a hipster would say.” Archie would then usually receive a pillow straight to the head.
He arrived home to find Archie perched on the arm of their worn down couch, “Hey Jug”
“Hey Arch”, he replied as he set down his messenger bag at the kitchen table. Jughead flopped down onto the couch and rested his head against the back and let out a big sigh.
“Everything okay? You aren’t hangry are you? You know what happened last week when you came home hungry.”
“Yeah, yeah I already apologized for calling Reggie a meathead. But Arch, he was doing one armed push ups on our floor and dropping sweat all over the place. I know he’s your gym bro, but dude’s gross.”
“Yeah well, since somebody won’t go for runs with me, I have no choice.”
“Don’t need too, I’m the poster child for peak physical perfection”, he said gesturing to his long limbs.
“Yeah, okay,” Archie scoffed, “But really, what’s up?”
Jughead grimaced, “I heard back about that job in Paris...they offered it to me”
“Dude!,” Archie exclaimed, “that’s great! When do you start?”
“They’re sending over the paperwork tomorrow morning for me to look over and I need to let them know within the next few days I suppose”
“Jug, you’re not seriously thinking about passing up this offer are you? You’ve always wanted to travel. This is your chance to get out and live!”
“Hey, I live enough thank you very much.”
“Staying in to watch old movies all weekend, play video games and only go to a party when I practically drag by your beanie isn’t considered living. And let’s face it, you’ve been moping. Don’t lie to me and tell me you’ve been totally happy at work. You haven’t gone on anything other than engagement shoots in months.”
“I know, I know I haven’t. It’s just been hard at work, I’ve been working extra hours on this new installment we have. And I just can’t find the time to get away and shoot anything that I actually want to. But, I couldn’t just pack up and leave everything and move to Paris. That’s crazy! What about you and JB? And Fred?”
“What about us?”, Archie snorted. “JB is an adult now and can take of herself, plus she’s so busy with her classes anyways we hardly ever see her. My dad is fine, and plus he could visit us for Thanksgiving! Wait, they celebrate that there right?”
Jughead refrained from rolling his eyes, “Thanksgiving is an American holiday Arch, we’ve been over this”, Jughead rubbed his hand down his face, “Wait. What do you mean visit us?”
“If you think I’m not going to use the opportunity to live in Paris with you and meet gorgeous French girls, you’re not as smart as I thought you were Jug”, he laughed. “Plus it could be good for me to get some new experience writing in a different city. That whole French-Euro pop scene is exploding. I could be the next M83 dude!”
“Arch, not that I’m not honored you want to move with me, but are you sure?”
“Jug. It’s a huge deal.” Archie moved down from his perch on the couch arm, “Look, you’re my brother and you know I’m always straight with you. This is too good of an opportunity to pass up.”
Jughead looked from his hands in his lap and at his best friend. While he’d admit to no one but himself that sometimes his best friend, and defacto brother, lacked a few frames of a full movie, he still offered pretty sound advice from to time.
Jughead sighed, “Well, I guess we’re doing this.”
“Dude, yes”, Archie fist pumped the air, “ Plus, you know this is where french kissing was invented, right?”, Archie raised his eyebrows suggestively.
They both burst into laughter as Jughead shook his head at his best friend and thought about how he had just decided to turn his life upside down.
Jughead sighed and opted for the croque monsieur from the Café de l’ours and not the fancy French “burger”.
After finishing his lunch, he decided to walk through the museum. His usual route was straight through from the café to the Atelier. It was the height of tourist season and the crowds of people, their phones and selfie sticks were sometimes too much for him. Jughead Jones was by no means an art snob, but he did believe in putting your phone down, living in the moment and especially picking up a book now and then.
He still felt the incredible need to pinch himself on a daily basis. From a broken home in a trailer park, to one of the world’s grandest museums-the irony was not lost on him.
Jughead found himself wandering through the vast corridors. He stopped to admire the room that held the works of his favorite impressionist, Claude Monet. When his sister Jelly Bean, or JB as she preferred, moved to New York City, they would spend their Sundays wandering The Met. He appreciated painting as a medium of art, but with a sister who was getting her degree in art history, he had received an education in the works of the famous impressionist. He sat down on one of the benches next to an older Japanese man (who looked every bit the tourist right down to the fanny pack). He was lost in his thoughts as he stared at the painting in front of him and listened in to the tour guide talking about Monet’s work to the group next to him. He nodded to the older man as the group cleared, and that’s when he was met with the greenest eyes he’d ever seen.
The women had turned to put something into her bag, a journal maybe, and met his eyes. She was ethereal. Her golden hair pulled back into a ponytail. Her dress was green, with small white flowers adorning it.
She gave him a shy smile and turned back to the piece of art in front of her. As he stole glance towards her direction, he could see she was staring intently at one of Monet’s most famous works, Coquelicots.
Ever the wallflower and loner, Jughead quickly turned back to the painting on the wall in front of him; all the while building up the nerve to approach her. By the time he had managed to soak up the sweat collecting on his palms on his pants, she was gone.
He ran through the exit of the Monet room, and out in to the grand hall. He looked for her between the groups of tourists. The last glimpse he had of the mysterious blonde was the sway of her ponytail as she exited the entrance to the museum.
He decide that he would look for her again tomorrow, on the off chance she returned to the museum. Jughead’s productivity was at an all-time low that afternoon, as he day dreamed of emerald green eyes and poppies.
Betty Cooper really hates LA traffic.
She especially hates that fact that you are almost required to drive to every destination in and around Los Angeles. In theory, her commute of 11.2 miles from downtown LA to Beverly Hills should take around 20 minutes, tops. It’s 6:45 on a Tuesday night and it has taken well over an hour to get home. She rolls her windows down to get some relief from the stifling heat of her car; LA is in the middle of an early June heat wave. The warm air combined with the ever-present smog is suffocating. By the time Betty gets home, she is exhausted and in desperate need of a shower.
She digs her keys out of the bottom of her purse and unlocks the door. Her roommate Veronica is sitting at the breakfast bar thumbing through a fashion magazine.
Veronica raises a perfectly groomed eyebrow at her, “rough day?”
Betty sighs as she attempts to peel off her cardigan, “I don’t know how you do it V, it’s a million degrees outside and you still look impeccable.”
Betty pads over to the refrigerator and pulls out a bottle of chilled rosé. She pours herself a glass, and adds an extra splash for good measure. She takes a sip and immediately finds relief in the sweetness and then places the cool glass on her chest.
“Honey, it’s called a professional driver and a car with air conditioning”, Veronica replies.
Betty may hate traffic, but she loves her restored baby blue 1967 Ford Mustang, even if the air conditioning is a little unreliable at times.
“Hey, my dad and I rebuilt that car from scratch and it’s a classic!”, she reminds Veronica. She takes a seat on the couch in their living room tucking her legs under herself; the cool leather offering more relief from her overheated body.
Veronica joins her, “I know, I know, gearhead Betty is too proud to invest in a newer model. But girl, and I say this with love, you look like a hot mess right now.”
Betty downs the rest of her wine and sets the glass on the coffee table. Mentally chastising herself, she picks the glass back up and grabs a coaster. Betty was raised to be a perfect, polite and well-mannered woman. She could practically her mother’s voice “Now, Elizabeth, don’t be careless and put your glass on a coaster.”
Betty grew up in a small town in Northern California, and her parents Alice and Hal owned the local paper. And while Hal was a kind and quiet man, his wife Alice was high-strung and formidable.
Being the only child lent itself to an unrelenting pressure to be nothing if not perfect, all the time. At everything. A perfect GPA, the right mix of extracurriculars, and the the proper diet and exercise regimen were things that were hounded into Betty while growing up. The remnants of her suffocating childhood now required Betty to visit a therapist once a week for her anxiety. She tries to control the nagging of her mother’s voice in her head, but it finds itself in the deep recesses of her mind more often that she would like.
Betty had done her best to live up to her parents expectations her whole life. She had always done well in her classes, even though her plate was loaded with cheer practice, school government responsibilities, and editing the school newspaper, the Blue and Gold. Her true love was her work on the newspaper. Her love of writing is what led her to receive a scholarship from the University of Southern California to study journalism. It had also landed her several prestigious internships throughout her college career and also led her to her current job, as an assistant copy-editor for the Los Angeles Times.
It's not that Betty doesn’t like her job, she does. She’s grateful to be employed by one of the most widely circulated newspapers in the country, but it’s the lack of writing opportunity that makes her dread going to work most days. She’d interned at the LA Times during her senior year and they had offered her a job upon graduation. Now here she is, 6 years later. She had received a promotion from junior to assistant with the promise that she would eventually be able to contribute her own pieces. That was two years ago and she is still waiting.
While she certainly admires the Christiane Amanpours’ of the world, she’d rather be an Agatha Christie.
“To be perfectly honest V, I feel like a hot mess”.
“Talk to me. Is it work? Are they still not letting you write your own pieces?”
“They’re not. I presented one to my boss last week and he said he’d look at it. He did, and then told me it wasn’t the fit and that when the next opportunity came up, he’d let me know right away. Same story every week. Sometimes I think they keep me employed because I’m the sole person who knows how to properly use a semicolon”
“Oh B, I’m so sorry. You’re the most brilliant writer I know. “ she placed a hand on Betty’s knee, “you know, if you wanted to get into the fashion world, Mommy’s offer still stands. You can always come work at Maison Lodge.”
“I appreciate the offer, I do, but I couldn’t do that. It’s enough that you let me live with you and pay you a ridiculously low amount of rent.”
Veronica was raised in the world of caviar and champagne. The daughter of Hiram Marks and Hermione Lodge. Both incredibly successful in the business and fashion world, they were a power couple of the NYC social scene. That was, until Hiram was sent to prison for embezzlement. Thankfully, Hermione had never changed her last name and her fashion line and company were spared.
Betty and Veronica met during their freshman year of college. They had been placed together randomly as roommates and it was a match made in heaven. While Veronica was a classic high society party girl. She was vivacious and outgoing. And Betty, with her somewhat reserved personality and girl next door aesthetic, the two complimented each other in their own unique ways. They were V and B; Veronica with her raven black hair and pearls; Betty with her iconic blonde ponytail and cardigans.
“Bah laisse tomber! Forget about it, girl. You’re the best roommate and friend I could ask for. You’re a clean freak, an amazing cook, and still drive me to hungover brunch when needed.”
“True, I guess. But I still feel so lucky” she sighed, “I just don’t know what to do at work. I’ve worked so hard in one place hoping to be somewhere and still nothing. And my parents would be devastated if I left the Times and did anything else.”
“You should be caring more about yourself and what you want in life, not what your parents expect of you. You’re an adult after all.”
“Doesn’t feel that way on most days”
Veronica looked fondly at her best friend. Betty was easily the most kind hearted and compassionate person she had ever known,. She had watched for years as that goodness stopped her from finding her own happiness. “Well, what if I told you I might have an opportunity of a lifetime for you? One that involves good food, adventure and unbelievably gorgeous men?”
“V, I love you but I am not going on another double blind date with you. The last one ended with us picking up the bar tab for two bros whose only goal was to sink other teams in beer pong. No, not again,” Betty shook her head.
“Okay, while no doubt a regrettable evening, that is not what I am proposing.” Veronica got up to grab the bottle of rosé from the fridge and an extra glass. She brought the two over and refilled Betty’s glass and poured one of her own. “So, Mommy is hoping to retire soon, and as you know I’m set to inherit the company when she does. I’ve been doing what I can here in LA, but she’d prefer that I was a little bit closer”
Betty tried to mask the disappoint on her face as she thought of her best friend moving across the country. “Does that mean you’d be moving back to New York?"
“No, even better. She wants me working with the designers in Paris!”
She swallowed her gulp of wine, “V, that’s terrific. I’m so happy for you.”
“Yes, and I want you to come with! Imagine all the damage we can do on the Champs-Élysées. We can snack on macarons at Angeline and drink wine by the bucket load at adorable cafes. And you could work on your writing at a one of the cafes on Montmartre. You’d be trés, chic!”, she added dramatically.
Betty laughed, “That sounds like a dream. But, I can’t.”
“B, you’ve spent so much time thinking about others and their needs before your own. You deserve to be happy and explore your creativity. And what a better place than Paris!” she placed a hand on Betty’s knew, “Tell me you’ll at least think about it?”
“I’ll think about it, I will”
“Good. Just, don’t overthink it.”
Later than evening Betty laid in bed listening to the sounds of the ever-present cars driving up and down Melrose avenue, and recalled her earlier conversation with her mother.
“Elizabeth, don’t be ridiculous. You can’t go running off to to France.”
“Mom, it’d be such a great opportunity, and I could pick up some freelance work while I was there to pay rent to Veronica and her mother. It’d be a chance for me to explore and get experience for my writing.”
“You’re being absurd, darling. Plus, you’d be sacrificing your job at the Times, and think about how hard you’ve worked to get where you are.”
“Mom, I edit copy for other writers. It’s hardly glamorous”
“Well, maybe you’re just not trying hard enough. Why don’t you send some of your articles and I could offer my opinion? You know, you’ve always had an eye for editing, but your original work has always been lacking….”
Betty could feel the nails of left hand digging into the delicate skins on her palms. “Jeez, mom. I called looking for your advice and help and all you’ve done is shut me down” she let out the heavy sigh that had been building out, “I...I can’t do this anymore.”
“What do you mean you can’t do this anymore, Elizabeth?” her mother snipped.
“I mean,” she chose her next words carefully, “I can’t stand the pressure anymore. My whole life, it’s always been about pleasing you and being perfect. And when I don’t, you place a guilt trip on me.”
“No, mom. I’m done. I’m taking this opportunity with Veronica and there is nothing you can say that will change my mind.”
Betty Cooper had snapped. The tether holding her down to everyone else’s expectations had finally fractured apart. She did everything for everyone. She tried to be the perfect daughter, the perfect student, the perfect friend and girlfriend. It never seemed to be enough for those around her. She desperately searched for something that could be her own, and hope she would find it in Paris.
The next morning, Veronica was coaxed out of bed by the sweet smell of coffee and bacon. She followed her nose and padded into the kitchen. Betty had laid out a feast on their kitchen table. Fresh berries, delicious looking crepes with powdered sugar and what looked like Betty’s famous hazelnut French toast.
“Betty…” she said with with a suspicious grin arising, “what’s all this?”
Betty looked at Veronica sheepishly, “I just thought we should probably start preparing our taste buds for all of the French delicacies we’re about to enjoy.”
“Are saying yes to moving with me?” she exclaimed.
“I’m in, V”, she smiled.
Veronica embraced her in a hug and the two girls squealed in delight and sat down to start discussing moving plans and their big adventure.
Two months later
Betty wandered through the vast halls of the Musee d’Orsay. She was captivated by the art and the history of the infamous museum. She had made it her mission to visit every museum she could get to when they first moved to Paris, yet she kept finding herself back here.
Her favorite room in particular housed the works of Monet. There was a small bench that sat in front of Coquelicots, her favorite of the impressionist’s work. She had spent entirely too much time staring at the painting and writing in her journal that afternoon. As she reached into her bag to put back her journal she happened to look up and see the most strikingly beautiful blue eyes staring back at her.
à suivre (to be continued…)
Jughead Jones took the job opportunity of a lifetime, hoping to rekindle his love of photography.
Betty Cooper wanted to be the person that she wants to be and not what others expect of her.
A story of art, love, passion, and courage in the city of light.
Will Jughead Jones find the mystery girl he's been searching for?
Hugs to @a92vm for being my amazing Beta, xo.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"I need you now, I've waited oh so long"
Betty loves Paris in the morning. In particular, she loves the smell of fresh croissants and espresso wafting through her neighborhood.
In true Lodge fashion, the flat that she and Veronica had moved into was in the 3rd arrondissement, troisième, one of the more opulent areas of the city. Also one of the smaller arrondissements, it was filled with small shops and restaurants. Betty had only been in Paris now for a little over a month, and she was starting to finally get into a routine; some habits are harder to break, she supposed. Like many other traits drilled into her by her mother, order, routine and cleanliness where amongst the top three Betty still possessed. She was also now very grateful for her mother’s insistence on being proficient in at least one foreign language.
One day She had been out exploring and was in search of a treat after visiting Notre Dame, she had decided to pick up a single scoop of pamplemousse sorbet from Berthillon Glacier located on the Île Saint-Louis, the small island that sat in the shadow of the famed cathedral when she stumbled upon a flower shop, Au Nom De La Rose, with a help wanted sign in the window. Despite Veronica’s insistence that she did not need to not pay rent, Betty still felt the need to contribute something monthly so she took the job. Betty had worked part time at a floral shop in her hometown while in high school. At first it was a something to add to her college applications, but she soon found that she had a natural talent for arranging blooms and enjoyed being surrounding by them. She still only worked part time so it also left her leisurely mornings and long afternoons to work on her writing.
She could have never imagined that at her young age, she would be able to live her life so freely and in one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
A cool Thursday morning that brought the promise of yet again another warm August day, pulled Betty out of bed. She showered and pulled her hair into what Veronica had affectionately deemed her “iconic ponytail that was beyond reproach.” Dressed in a simple chambray sundress and some strappy sandals, she slipped her non skid clogs into her bag, and blew Veronica, who sat at the breakfast bar reading the paper, a goodbye kiss .
On the way to work she picked up two espressos, one for her and one for her boss. The small shop was owned by a women name Edith, who in her older age, was grateful for Betty’s help. The store itself was small and narrow but overflowing with various blooms and arrangements that spanned the entirety of the first floor. The walls that held up the high ceilings were covered in a thick wallpaper, it’s design featured intricately woven roses. In the back, there was a rod-iron staircase that led to Edith’s small office on one side, and the other a loft area where they would put together orders. The whole place was utterly romantic, and it was no surprise that Edith and the shop were beloved by locals. Though Betty’s favorite part of the store was perhaps the snooty French cat who lived there to keep the mice away. There were no mice to been seen yet, she wondered how effective the awfully round and lazy. orange tabby cat was.
She had enjoyed another day of meeting customers, some buying flowers to fill their homes, and others for a special someone. Edith had arranged to have dinner with friends so Betty had offered to close up the shop that day
It goes without saying that Paris is by far one of the most romantic cities in the world, and it was everything she could have dreamed of. As she put together an arrangement of sunflowers, she sighed as she thought about someone coming in and buying something this beautiful to take home to her. She quickly shook herself out of the thought. Betty had always been a romantic, but she came to Paris to find herself and expand her writing skills, not to find love.
After she finished moving the displays from outside back in again, she shook kibble into Pierre’s dish (to which he appropriately sniffed, then let a loud meow of discontent and slunked off to his cat perch). She was looking forward to meeting Veronica after work for drinks with some of their neighbors. She was tidying up upstairs as she heard the small bell above the door ring, signaling a customer and as fate would have it, Betty had forgotten to swap the entrez c’est ouvert to fermé.
Jughead was beginning to feel like a creep. Not like a creep in the sense of a stalker, but he was most definitely being calculated and persistent in his efforts to “run into” the beautiful mystery blonde again in the museum.
His first attempt was to return to the same room at the same time each day for the first week, yielded no sign of her. He changed his tactic to taking the long way to his department so that he could by walk by the Monet room on his way to work, to and from lunch, and again at the end of the day.
Fate, Jughead thought, was a cruel mistress. After 3 weeks of hoping to run into her to no avail, he was starting to think his active imagination had conjured her up.
He made his way out of the museum after a long day of sorting through new selections to be featured during the museum’s upcoming gala event. The theme, was aptly about romance in the city of light. Jughead never found himself an outwardly romantic person, per se. He had been staring at hundreds and hundreds of pictures of lovers-couples embracing one another under the Tour Eiffel, sitting together on park benches, watching the world go by from a bridge. All of this coupled with the image of the beautiful blonde in head led Jughead to letting out more wistful sighs than he was used to.
Growing up watching his parents marriage deteriorate in front of him, Fred and Mary’s amicable split, and listening to Archie write sappy breakup songs--romance and love sometimes felt like foreign concepts to him. Because of it, Jughead had never really understood giving someone the power to break you so completely. To give someone everything, every part of yourself only to have them destroy it and you in the process. He wasn’t cynical per se, but it’s never something that he let himself get too close too.
Love for him was expressed through his photography. He had found over the years that photography required a certain level of romance with the subject in front of the lens; be it a couple or a place. Perhaps it came from a deeply rooted need to capture the love and romance of others that his life was devoid of. And somewhere over the past few years, he had lost the ability to find that romance with the world around him.
Just before hitting the metro station, Jughead popped by a small sidewalk stand and grabbed one of his favorite discoveries in all of Paris: a crepe filled with nutella. Truthfully, he had visited the stand so often that Enzo, the owner, would start making his order as soon as he saw him walk up.
Jughead tipped Enzo and dove into his crepe on the way home. He decided to take the long way home and walk down Quai Voltaire and across Pont Royal to catch the Metro in front of the Louvre. It’s not like he needed to burn the extra calories from the crepe, but he could hear Archie in his head “Dude. You can’t keep eating like that and not have it catch up with you. You can’t bulk up on crepes!”, Jughead internally scoffed at the thought. He’d always been lanky and lean, and it finally evened out with a growth spurt in 10th grade.
Jughead and Archie had managed to find a three bedroom apartment in onzième, also known as the 11th arrondissement, near the Bastille. It was a densely populated area of the city with many families, but also other adults their age.
Archie was especially excited and dove right into Parisian life. Jughead recalls him coming in at 4 a.m. the second night they arrived wearing a black beret and a face covered with the remnants of red lipstick exclaiming, “Jug, this is greatest city on the planet!”
Jughead hadn’t yet taken to getting to know anyone much outside of work. He supposed he was still trying to find his bearings in a new space and enjoy the city on his own first.
He felt his phone vibrate in his pocket, wiping the leftover nutella from his face, “Hello?”
“Bonjour big brother!”
“Hey JB, are you ready for your flight tomorrow?”
“Oui, oui. I practiced with Vegas the whole week I was home.”
“I highly doubt that a fat golden retriever was any help”
“Hey, watch it bro. Sometimes I like him more than you.”
“Ha ha. Well sometimes he is better than me. Is Fred still taking you to the airport?”
“Yeah, he’s staying here tonight at my place and just ran out to grab a pizza for us” she added quietly, “I’m gonna miss him, Jug.”
“Archie and I miss him too. But, we’re pulling together to surprise him with a ticket to visit for Thanksgiving so that’s something to look forward too”
Jughead appreciated his sister’s enthusiasm over just about everything. They were similar in the familial traits of dark hair, blue eyes, and well appointed sarcasm. They also shared a love for art; something that had brought them closer over the years. He enjoyed spending what time he could with her in museums back in NYC, and he had given her his first camera as a graduation present. Despite her instance to be an annoying little sister at times, he admired her moxie.
“I should be able to get off work on time to meet you at the airport.”
She replied in a sing-song voice with only the slightest hint of annoyance, “I already told you I’m fine taking the Metro in.”
‘I know that, but I want to make sure you don’t get lost”
“You forget that I lived in New York for two years now Jug. I’ve got a great sense of direction”
He scoffed, “Oh, I’m sorry. Do you not recall when you called me crying when you got lost in Penn Station that one time?”
She was quiet for a moment before replying, “Touche, big bro. Touche. Well, whatever I’m excited to see you and Arch.” Jughead could practically hear her roll her eyes.
“The room is all set up for you and you should have enough time to get settled before your classes start next week. Look JB, I’m getting home now. Call me tomorrow before your flight leaves?”
“Sounds good, à bientôt!”
“Uh, yeah. Same to you?”
“Have you seriously not learned any French yet?”
“I’m working on it. Goodnight JB.”
“Au revoir!” He sighed as he hung up the phone and headed upstairs to their flat.
The apartment they found was a decent size, and it definitely had a that Parisian charm. The best part about their arrangement was that Archie had lost at rock, paper, scissors when they had moved in so he had won the bedroom with the tiny balcony.
Besides dabbling in the world of French women, Archie had also begun to get into the local music scene. One night he met a guy who knew a guy who knew of band looking for a new guitarist. Archie auditioned and was now part of the act. Their first gig was actually the upcoming gala at the museum and he was happy to see his best friend finding his way in their new city.
Still (somewhat) full from the crepe on his way home he opted for grabbing his laptop and sitting out on the balcony instead of grabbing dinner. He had started to plan shoots within the city and research places just outside of it. After a few hours, he shut his laptop and looked out across the neighborhood. He was still in quiet awe of his life, and this opportunity. He was determined to make the most of it and to find his lost inspiration.
The next day, Jughead finished up his work and headed to meet JB at the airport. With one last resolve, he meandered through the Monet room hoping to catch a glimpse of the beautiful blonde. He was met with yet again another group of tourists and no blonde in sight.
“No sign of ton vrai amour, Monsieur Jones?”, asked the security guard as Jughead was on his way out.
He sighed, “Hey Antoine. No, not today. You haven’t seen her again, have you?”
It was strange for Jughead to make friends with anyone outside of his inner circle. But, having grown up with a dad and adopted dad who were decidedly blue collar, Jughead learned at a young age to thank and be considerate of others in the same position. He had made friends with the security guards and janitorial staff and at The Met, and sought to do the same in his new workplace.
“No, je suis désolé. She’ll come back though, you must believe it” Antoine said with conviction. He had inquired about his round about way to the office one day, and Jughead had confided in him. Determined to see her again, he figured the help of a watchful eye could be a benefit.
“Even if she did, I wouldn’t know what to say to her. Anyway, have a goodnight, Antoine, I’m picking up my sister from the airport.”
“Ah, très bon! You’re bringing her some flowers, no? A woman always deserves flowers when she comes from the train or airport.”
Jughead scratched his head with curiosity, “Uh, no, I hadn’t thought about that. I guess she would like that. Any recommendations on where to buy some near here?”
“Come here Monsieur Jones,” he put his arm around Jughead and whispered conspiratorially as they walked out the doors, “The best place to buy flowers in all of Paris is Au Nom De La Rose, on Île Saint-Louis. You’ve been, no? No doubt you’ve visited one of the bakeries there, “Antoine teased. He had discovered that he and Jughead both shared a love for French cuisine. “I have been buying them for my wife for over 30 years and now for my daughters whenever they come to visit. Yes? Ta soeur will love them. Perhaps pick some up for your mystery girl too no?” he nudged Jughead in the ribs lightly.
Jughead made his way down the steps of the museum, and turned “Thanks, Antoine. Have a good night”
He shouted, “Bien sûr, bonne soirée!”
Jughead plugged the name of the florist into his phone headed off to Île Saint-Louis. He had become a little too reliant on his maps app since moving here and was thankful that work paid for his phone plan.
He had just enough time to get to the florist before they closed and then catch the metro out to Charles De Gaulle. He rounded the corner onto the street where Au Nom De La Rose sat and was disappointed to see that the street was quiet and devoid of people which meant that he was too late and they were already closed.
The facade of the store was old, but in a way that made Jughead think of the all of the pictures’ he’d seen of Paris in a LIFE magazine he’d once found in Fred’s basement. In the middle of two large windows was a black farmhouse style door. The small fairy lights outside and those inside were still on, so he tried his luck and pulled the door open.
He heard the bell above him ring, and looked around. He was surprised to see no one inside the store. “Uh, Bonjour?”
He heard the voice of a woman call down from the loft above him, “Désolé, nous sommes fermés pour la journée!”
He panicked, quickly grabbing his phone to pull out his translation app when he heard footsteps on the rod iron stairs. He was gobsmacked by the pair of emerald green eyes staring at him. There she was. Jughead had found the mystery blonde he’s been searching for.
Jughead bitterly thanked the Jones family luck that the gorgeous woman he’d been searching for, would of course, not speak the same language. Though he didn’t speak French, he absolutely would learn for this woman.
He thought what the hell and struggled in a broken accent, “Désolé, je viens...ah my French is terrible.”
The woman smiled, “Lucky for you, my English is much better than my French”
He let out a quick sigh of relief was going to have to remember to thank all that was holy above him that she spoke English, “Well I guess I am the lucky one. I know you’re getting ready to close, but is there a chance I could sway you into selling me a bouquet?” he asked sheepishly.
“I think that can be arranged” God her smile was stunning. She looked around the room thoughtfully as if she were putting together a puzzle, “Though our best blooms are usually sold in the morning when we have the most variety. I’ll have to put it together from what we have in the store right now, we don’t get another delivery until the morning.”
“That’s okay, I’m sure whatever you have is better than what I could imagine so anything will do.”
“Okay. Why don’t you wait down here and I’ll go put something together for you?”
As she turned to go back up the staircase, Jughead chanced a glance at her. She was dressed in a sleeveless sundress in a pale blue, almost jean looking material, and over it there was a black and white striped apron covered in dirt. Her hair was tied up in a ponytail with a blue silk scarf. He allowed himself to lower his gaze down her shapely legs and felt his mouth go dry. Never before had he felt such caveman like tendencies and it was jarring.
He was distracted from his thoughts by the sound of a purring, “Oh! Hello there kitty,” Jughead crouched down.
“I wouldn’t get your hopes up. Pierre is positively the most snooty Frenchman you’ll ever meet. I’ve been trying to get him to like me for weeks” Betty called down.
Jughead chuckled, “Well I’ve met quite a few of those since moving here so I’m sure he’s not any worse.” As Jughead stood, Pierre affectionately nuzzled his leg, “Seems like he likes me”
He looked up as she leant over the railing and despite her stained apron and the few tendrils of hair that escaped her ponytail, she looked gorgeous.
Jughead cleared his throat, coughed and looked back down at Pierre.
“Well, I see where your allegiances lay Pierre. Edith should have named you Bonaparte”
He laughed and then as she turned back to her work, he asked in an attempt to make conversation, “So based on your impeccable English, I’d say Paris is not home for you?”
“No, you’d be correct. My French is a little rusty but it definitely helps to jump in head first and have conversations with people who actually do speak the language. The whole ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’ saying rings true; but home for me is California” and added with a teasing lilt to her voice, “And I take it by your immecaple francophone skills you’re are also not from Paris?”
“Well Paris is home for me now, but I’m originally from New York”, he held his hand to his heart and smirked, “and I’ll have you know that I’m proficient in several French phrases that get me through my day, merci beaucoup” he said with an exaggerated French accent.
She leaned back over the railing to look at him at him with a raised eyebrow, “Oh, really? And those are..?”
“Mostly ordering food. You know, life essentials.” The butterflies floating around in his stomach fluttered a little faster at this new found banter.
“Uh huh, I see. So what brings you to Paris then?”
“I, uh...” he said scratching at the back of his neck and trying to hide that he’d seen her before, “ I work at the Musee d’Orsay. I’m an assistant in the photographs department”
She was quiet for a moment, “You know that’s funny, I thought you looked familiar. Maybe we’ve run into each other there before. My roommate jokes that I might as well become a statue since I spend so much time there already,” she laughed, “I also love the cafe des beaux arts around the corner, have you been?”
Trying to still his now rapid heartbeat and calm the blush on his neck, “Yeah, but I have a tendency to visit the crepe stand in front of it more often”
He wasn’t about to tell her that he had absolutely seen her in the museum before and that he was quite sure she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen and would love to get to know her, date her and then possibly even marry her. Even he was surprised at this avalanche of thoughts.
“The museum is so beautiful; my favorite one. I’ve enjoyed the Louvre too, I just find it overwhelming. I’m hoping to spend more time there in the winter when there are less people around. And cafe des beaux arts is so charming, I’m especially fond of their pan au chocolate, which I’m sure you’re familiar with right?” she teased. “I could sit there all day and watch Paris go by about it’s day and write.”
“You’re a writer?”, his interest piqued even more.
She was hesitant and almost earnest, “Well, no, not yet. Before I moved here I was an editor for the LA Times. Now, I’m part time florist, part time budding novelist”
“Well then, here’s the real rest, what’s your genre?”
“Mystery and true crime”
Heaven forbid she reference Capote, and he’d be down on one knee in a heartbeat.
“Oh! I almost forgot” she leaned back over the railing, “do you want to include a card for your girlfriend?”
“I didn’t think about a card...I uh...”
Her eyes widen, “Oh my god, I’m sorry I shouldn’t assume your sexuality. Boyfriend? Partner? Person?” He could she was slightly embarrassed as she started to ramble adorably, “ I mean it’s 2018 for god’s sake and people are still so hung up on sexuality. One of my best friends from home is gay and my neighbor is too and I think it’s just great. You know, I don’t think it’s fair. Love is love and it shouldn’t matter, everyone should be able to get married--”
“It’s okay! No offence taken. Though I do always enjoy a little social and political commentary on sexuality” he laughed, “And uh no, no they’re not for a girlfriend or boyfriend or partner. They’re for my sister, I’m picking her up at the airport tonight.”
“Oh.” Was that relief he saw on her face? “That’s sweet of you.” She smiled, and turned back to the workbench and out of his sight. Jughead blew out a silent deep breath as he mentally berated himself to try to get it together. Her ponytail bounced as she made her way down the stairs and he felt his palms start to sweat.
She placed the arrangement on what looked like an antique desk and made a little “tada!” motion with her hands. And once again, as if the stars needed any more alignment, the bouquet was of red garnet poppies. The very same poppies, that she was admiring when first laid eyes on her.
“Wow. I don’t know a lot about flowers, but these look great.”
“They’re poppies er, coquelicots, “ she caught herself, “Sorry, I’m still trying to remember the French names for all of the flowers. Would you still like to write a note for your sister?”
She pulled out a small card from a drawer in the desk and handed him a pen. Their fingers lightly brushed against each other as she did. Hers were warm but they sent a cool chill up his arm. He prayed that she didn’t notice the wake of goosebumps they left.
He laughed nervously and took the card. He thought for a moment, and then scribbled carefully on to the card, “JB, here’s looking at you, kid. Love, Jug”
He handed it back to her, “Great, I’ll just tie this to the bouquet and you’ll be all set.” She looked down at the card and tilted her head curiously, “JB, does that stand for something?”
“Yeah her real name is Jelly Bean”. He expected the usual confused face, but was instead met with a smile that reached her eyes, “well I think that is super cool. I wish my parents had named me after arguably the best candy
“That is not usually the response when people hear it”
“You know, I don’t recall a candy named Jug, so I’ll wager that’s a nickname too?”
“Short for Jughead. My name’s Jughead Jones”, as he held out his hand for her to shake. “And you are?”
“Nice to meet you Jughead Jones, I’m Betty Cooper,” she smiled.
Betty Cooper. The nostalgia of her name seemed appropriate given that her poise and lilt reminded him of the leading ladies he’d seen in all of his favorite classic movies.
As she finished ringing him up she commented, “I have to admit, I also respect anyone who can quote Casablanca”
She understood his film reference; be still his dark and brooding heart.
They shared a moment of eye contact that went just past too long, before he heard a meow from down below that distracted his gaze. “Right, right. Sorry, I’ll get out of here so you can close up shop.”
He grabbed the bouquet and made his way back to the front of the store as she followed to lock the door after he left.
“Thanks again for these”
“Of course, I hope she enjoys them. She’s lucky to have such a nice big brother”
“Well, it was nice to meet you Betty. Goodnight, er bonne nuit I guess?” he said with a small salute. Yet again, cringing inwardly at his own social ineptitude.
“See? You’re already moving past food!” she giggled lightly, and the butterflies in Jughead’s stomach were once again let loose.
“It was nice meeting you too Jughead”, she gave him sweet smile as she bid him goodnight.
He smiled back, with one that didn’t quite meet his eyes. As he started to make his way down the street, he heard the door close and was already preparing for the self loathing monologue that was about to occur in his head. Who was he kidding? She was clearly out of his league. Poised, beautiful, witty, and probably had the attention of every french guy in Paris.
Life had thrown him many curveballs over the years; some good, some bad. Never someone to seek out the affection or attention of others, he was used to remaining closed off and in a state self imposed loner-dome. Life lately had seemed to have other ideas however. Was it fate that he had managed to find Betty Cooper after searching for her for weeks? Jughead Jones did not entirely believe in fate, but he supposed things happened for a reason.
Deciding it was now, or quite possibly never, he quickly turned back and knocked on the door. She opened the door with a look of surprise and wonder in her bright green eyes.
“Sorry, I know that I’ve just met you and I don’t usually do this but uh...would you like to maybe grab a coffee sometime?” the butterflies now fluttering their wings aggressively in his stomach.
Her smile faltered slightly, and so did Jughead’s heart. “Oh, I um...” she hesitated.
Trying to hide the deflation on his face, “Right. Sorry I just met you and this was way too forward and I’m sorry” he shook his head and started to back away.
Betty quickly reached out and stopped him by gently grabbing his wrist, “No, no it’s not that. I mean yes, I just met you. But I should be honest with you, I’m not really looking for anything right now” she said slowly.
His smile upturned ever so slightly along with his eyebrows, “Even just a friend?”
“A friend...” she let go of his wrist and mulled the thought over. “ I suppose a new friend would be nice”
Jughead would take any moment with this girl that he could get, “Everyone could use another a friend, right?”
“Right, you’re right” she gave him a sly smile and mused.
His confidence increased ever so slightly, “Well, new friend, would you be free to meet for coffee a week from today at cafe des beaux arts?”
“That sounds great, but just a friendly cup of coffee right?” she raised one eyebrow at him.
“Scouts honor, friend.”
She rolled her eyes playfully, “I’ll see you there” and added with a mockingly dramatic sigh “don’t forget, we’ll always have Paris” as she smiled and went back into the shop.
Jughead couldn’t fight the stupid grin on his face the whole Metro ride to the airport.
à suivre (to be continued…)
So sorry for the delay! I hope that at least a few people are still with me and these two lovelies. As most people know, life gets in the way and that's exactly what happened with this chapter. More fun to come soon! Along with lots of wine, we'll get to meet Kevin and Fangs. And for those of you who haven't seen Casablanca, I highly recommend it.
Jughead Jones took the job opportunity of a lifetime, hoping to rekindle his love of photography.
Betty Cooper wanted to be the person that she wants to be and not what others expect of her.
A story of art, love, passion, and courage in the city of light.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
"I've got the strangest feeling; this isn't our first time around"
Betty grabbed her things, locked up the shop and made her way to meet Veronica and their neighbors at Le Barav, a popular wine bar near their apartment.
As she walked along quiet streets, she thought about the strange twist the evening had taken. Jughead Jones had been a surprise. When he came into the shop, she immediately recognized his spectacular blue eyes from the museum. He was objectively a very handsome man. Tall, with raven colored hair that was seemingly contained by what looked like a Basquiat shaped beanie.
She shook herself out of the reverie as she arrived at the bar. Once inside, she gave a quick glance around and found Veronica and their neighbors snuggled into a small table in the back.
Veronica got up and gave Betty a kiss on both cheeks, “There you are. I was starting to think you’d run off with some handsome Frenchman!”
Betty placed her bag on the back of the chair and sat down, “No handsome Frenchman for me,” as the thought of a handsome American crept its way into her thoughts.
“Let me introduce you to our neighbors, this is Kevin and Fangs!” she gestured to the two men sitting beside one another on the opposite side of the table.
“It’s so nice to meet you both.”
Kevin shook her hand first, “Likewise! V, you weren’t kidding, she is stunning,” he added in a stage whisper towards Veronica. He looked effortlessly French in a white and black Breton striped shirt. The man named Fangs was dressed in a blue chambray button up adorned by several necklaces and rings. Kevin’s chestnut brown hair was expertly coiffed and his ivory skin a contrast to Fangs olive colored skin and dark hair, and what looked like several tattoos along his forearms.
Fangs leaned across the table to shake her hand “Don’t let him embarrass you, Betty. I mean, he’s right you’re gorgeous, but Kevin’s subtlety could always be improved upon.”
“Um excuse moi? I can be complementing and subtle, mon amour. Besides, you love me just the way I am,” as he pretended to pick off invisible lint on Fangs’ collar.
“It’s true, I do.”
“You two are adorable,” Veronica clasped her hands together, “ Now, who’s up for another round?”
After plates of cheese and charcuterie were washed down with delicious wine, Betty was lulled into a quiet state of contentment as she listened to the conversation at the table. She had learned over the course of the evening that Kevin and Veronica were a fashion match made in heaven. Her, the heir to a fashion empire and him a personal shopper and stylist to several influential French men. Kevin was currently entertaining them with a story of a tailor who never showed up and how his client’s trousers had to be hemmed for an event he was attending that night,“And that’s how I managed to stick a pin into Hugo Lloris’ cute butt!”
They all let out a hysterical laugh, “It’s not that funny….okay, it is kind of hilarious,” he acquiesced.
Veronica picked up her glass to take another sip before she stopped herself, “Oh B, I forgot to tell you! Fangs invited us to this spectacular Gala he’s putting together for work. The theme is all about romance, isn’t that just so…,” at a loss for the word in her state of wine induced happiness.
Betty lifted quirked an eyebrow finishing her sentence for her, “Romantic?”
“You always have a way with words. Yes, that! So romantic” she added with a little coo in her voice. Betty giggled at her friend. Veronica always teased Betty for being the hopeless romantic, but deep down she knew her best friend was too. Where Betty was cauitous with her heart, Veronica willingly dove head first into love. A trait that Betty sometimes found herself envious of.
“Fangs has always thrown the best parties and now, people actually pay him to do it!” Kevin exclaimed, “Plus I get to go and drink free champagne!”
“I’ll toast to that,” the two clinked glasses.
“I haven’t planned any galas, but I was on the decorating committee for all of the dances when I was in high school so if you ever need help hanging streamers, you know where I live,” laughed Betty.
“It certainly feels like I’ve come a long way from throwing parties in my apartment during college.”
Kevin scoffed slightly, “Don’t forget love, if it weren’t for those we would have never met!”
Veronica placed a manicured hand on her chest, “I for one can’t wait for this gala. We’ll have to take a trip to Yves Saint Laurent, obviously.”
“V, I’m sure we can find something in your closet. What about some of the gowns that you’ve worn to the Vanity Flair Oscars parties?”
“Those are so two years ago.” Betty rolled her eyes at her friend.
“Ooh girl, can I come?” Kevin asked waving his hand between them.
Uh, duh, Kev. The invitation was implied,” they clinked glasses again, “Fangs! Do you have florist yet for the event yet?”
“Actually, that’s why I was late tonight, our florist backed out this afternoon and I was making calls to secure another. The gala is in a few weeks and I’m having a hard time securing someone.”
“My girl here is a brilliant florist and works for some adorable place over on Île Saint-Louis.”
Fangs titled his head curiously, “You do? Veronica said that you were a writer though?”
“I was,” Betty corrected herself, “I am. I was an editor back in LA for the Times but I’ve been writing for some local online publications and working on a novel while we’re here. When I’m not doing that, I work part time at Au Nom De La Rose The shop owner likes to keep her clientele small but sacred. She’s done work for weddings and events before though. I could bring it up with her tomorrow and see if she might be interested.”
“That would be awesome Betty, thank you,” she noted that he had a warm smile that felt genuine in any form.
Kevin stood up, “C’est magnifique! Now, excuse moi, I need to use the le ban,” he leaned down to leave a kiss on Fangs cheek. Betty could tell that Kevin’s Francophone skills were a work in progress.
She couldn’t help but enjoy the difference in the two men sitting in front of her. They were so clearly in love yet so different in personality. Kevin the more exuburent of the two; Fangs more reserved. Two people simply made for each other, and somewhere deep down in Betty’s heart, there was small pang.
“Of course, I’d be happy to help,” she picked up her glass to take another sip, “ So what museum do you work for?”
Betty spit wine across the table and started coughing.
“Oh my god, Betty! What the hell?!” Veronica patted her back and handed her napkin to wipe up the wine.
“Sorry...sorry. I must have swallowed that gulp wrong,” as she patted the table in front her where a a few droplets had landed.
“Right...I told Fangs how much time you spend there and I’m surprised you two haven’t run into each other yet,” she said slowly.
Betty was saved from Veronica’s watchful gaze as Kevin rejoined them, “I am seriously so excited you’re both going to come this gala. I was telling Veronica there are loads of gorgeous men who attend these things. It’s better than any dating app.”
Trying her best to be nonchalant as continued to clean up the small mess she had made,“So, do all of the museum employees attend the event?”
Fangs shrugged, “Most of them, it’s required for those who are a part of the event staff, auction and installations.” Betty felt her heartbeat quicken and heat bloom on her cheeks as she stared down into her wine glass trying desperately not to make eye contact with Veronica.
“B, what’s going on?” her friend quirked a suspicious eyebrow in her direction.
“What? Nothing, why?” she asked nervously.
Veronica turned in her chair to face her, “Because you nearly spit wine across the table at Fangs and now you’re blushing,” she narrowed her eyes, “What’s going on?”
“Nothing! It’s nothing. I, just...someone came into the shop tonight and he mentioned something in passing about also working at the museum.”
Kevin leaned his chin on hands and watch the conversation volley between the two friends.
“You’re a great friend and even better cook but you are a terrible liar Betty Cooper. Was this mysterious man perhaps the reason you were late?” she smirked then her eyes widened in horror, “Oh my god, please tell me you were not wearing those hideous clogs?”
Betty rolled her eyes and let out an small exasperated sigh. “Clogs?” Fangs asked.
“Betty has this absolutely wretched pair of clogs she wears to the shop---”
“Which are for safety so I don’t slip,” she cut in and pulled them out of her bag for evidence.
“Yeah, honey, no let’s not. Those are a major fashion faux pas,” Kevin grimaced and patted her hand from across the table. Betty always thought the little flowers on them were cute.
“Whatever you guys,”she stuffed them back into her bag and continued, “And yes, I had them on only because I wasn’t expecting anyone and was getting ready to close up. He was on the way to the airport to pick up his sister and came in to get flowers for her. We chatted for a few minutes while I put an arrangement together for him. That’s it.”
She found herself unwilling to share the detail that they had made plans to see one another again, for now.
Kevin’s eyes lit up and he asked excitedly, “That is the most adorable thing. What’s his name? Is he hot?”
“His name is Jughead Jones, and he’s….decent looking.” She tried to rid herself of his image for the time being, and the thoughts of those cheekbones that did something to her insides.
He gave her a puzzled look, “Oh. Well, that’s…. well that’s not hot. I was hoping for an Alexander or Pierre. What kind of name is Jughead?” Kevin asked.
“It’s a nickname, and we didn’t get into the details.”
Fangs interjected, “I’ve seen him around and he’s extremely good-looking, in that total brooding 90s heartthrob kind of way; a total Titanic area Leo.”
Can confirm, Betty thinks as she feels the blush on her cheeks deepen.
“I’ve met him a few times during the planning of the installation and we’ve eaten lunch together once or twice. Moved here from New York a few months ago I think. He seems to keep to himself mostly, a little mysterious and brooding if you ask me. One of the girls who works in the museum café tried chatting him up one day and he looked pretty uncomfortable the whole time. Though, I’m fairly certain he’s not playing on the same team as Kevin and I. I’m surprised he seemed to be chatty with you,” Fangs gave her a knowing smirk.
“How come you haven’t mentioned this hot piece? Should I be worried?” Kevin asked.
“Like I said I’ve only interacted with a few times. And of course not, you’re all the hot piece I need, mon amour” Fangs said as he leaned over to peck Kevin’s cheek.
“Good answer,” Kevin replied smugly.
“While this over here,” Veronica waived her hand at the two, “is absolutely precious, let’s get back to this beautiful man with the odd name who chatted my girl up. B, did you get at least get his number?”
Betty hesitated, “The opportunity never really presented itself.”
“Well he’ll definitely be at the event since he worked on the installation.”
Veronica placed her hand over her heart, “Swoon! What’s more romantic than a casual second meet cute?!”
“Second?” Betty questioned.
“The flower shop, duh. B, you made me watch all of those old movies with you so I know you know what a meet cute is.”
“You’re forgetting the fact that he could not even be interested in me,” Betty pressed.
“C’est n’importe quoi! You, my darling are a total smoke show” Kevin remarked as Veronica nodded her head in confirmation.
Betty ducked her head at the compliment. She could hear the snide voice in the back of her mind sneer “Sure, but you’re plain boring Betty Cooper.”
“He’s right, Betty. You’re absolutely gorgeous,” Fangs added and she gave him a look that she hoped conveyed her thanks.
“Cheers to surrounding ourselves with beauty!” Kevin declared as he and Veronica clinked glasses and tipped back the rest of their wine.
Betty laughed lightly, “Alright, alight. I’ll go to the event and if I happen to run into him, then well, we’ll just see what happens.”
Veronica gave her a hundred-watt smile, “And again, we toast! Here’s to new friendships and good fucking wine! Salute!”
An hour later, Betty was struggling to corral a wine drunk Veronica through the streets and into their apartment. They didn’t live far from Le Barav, but Veronica’s choice of footwear was complicating their journey home.
“V, you are going to kill yourself in those shoes. Do you really need to wear 4-inch heels all of the time?” She asked as she struggled to carry her own bag, Veronica’s purse and Veronica.
“Oh, you and your sensible shoes. I’m sorry we can’t all be 5’8 with mile long legs like you,” she let out a small hiccup and added dramatically, “And I live my life by Coco Chanel, ‘keep your heels, head and standards high!’”
Betty laughed and rolled her eyes, “Alright then Coco, let’s get you home.”
Jughead was exhausted after the metro ride to and from the airport to pick up JB, and all of her luggage. They had dropped her things off at the apartment and stepped out to meet Archie at a creperie down the street for a customary welcome-to-Paris Nutella crepe.
By the time the trio got home, it was all JB could do to keep her eyes open.
“Alright, guys. I’ll catch you two in the morning. Thanks again for picking me up, Jug. And for the flowers.” She had placed the bouquet in a tall glass filled with water when they had gotten home and placed them on the their tiny kitchen table.
“Night, JB and you’re welcome,” he said as he plopped down on the couch stretching out his long limbs tiredly.
Archie sat down in the chair next to the couch, “I’m stoked JB is here. This is going to be epic! It feels really good to have the three of us back together again.”
JB had become just as much Archie’s sister as she was Jughead’s, and for that he was grateful. Archie’s decisions, albeit questionable at times when it came to dating or doing his laundry, still he was a good influence on JB. He looked at the world through rose-colored glasses, and Jughead found himself frustrated at his own inability to do the same. They both had been through a lot and while Archie opened the door to others, Jughead built up a wall. You build a wall and no one can get in; no one can get in and you don’t get hurt.
“Yeah, me too. I still can’t believe that we all ended up here, it’s pretty incredible.”
Archie nodded in agreement, “ Now, we just have to make sure we protect JB from French guys. They’re trouble, you know. They think they’re all smooth with their accents, please,” he scoffed.
“Don’t remind me. And no offense, Arch, but you’re not much better. The whole, “I’m a musician” line?” he quirked an eyebrow at his friend.
“I am a musician, and it totally works. Anyways, Mr. Museum Man, when’s the last time you had a date? You’ve been out to the club with me like, one time since we got here. And even then, you stayed an hour, tops.”
“That’s because the sound of the bass in French techno pop makes my ears want to bleed after extended periods of time. And, I’ve I come out to see you play,” Jughead replied.
“Yeah and you have like one beer then bounce. I saw that gorgeous brunette chatting you up a few weeks ago during my set. What happened there?”
“Not my type,” Jughead replied simply.
“Gorgeous is not your type?” Achie asked.
“Not when we can’t understand each other. She only spoke French and mine is dismal, at best.
“Ah, but you forget the language that all humans speak…”
“Math?” he answered wryly.
“Love!” Archie gave him an exaggerated wink before Jughead tossed a pillow at his head.
Jughead’s thoughts drifted back to Betty Cooper. After weeks of staking out, more or less waiting, for her to show up again, he couldn’t believe that he walked right into her. He felt nervous and excited about seeing her again, but anxious. She was the kind of beautiful that stole your breath.
“Well,” he started hesitantly, “I may have met someone and we have had a moment.”
Archie’s eyes widened in excitement, “Alright, Jug!"
“Did you ask her out?!”
“I did. But she said she wasn’t interested in anything right now so we agreed to meet up, but just as friends.”
“Friends,” Archie added in air quotations.
“Yeah, just friends. I mean, I can totally be friends with her,” Jughead said as if to only reassure himself.
Archie gave him a pointed look, “You tell yourself that.” Jughead shot him a small glare as Archie added with some seriousness, “You’re my brother, so I’ll level with you. I know underneath that stale graham cracker crust, you’re just a giant marshmallow. So, just be careful.”
“I’m going to ignore the fact that you just compared me to a s’more for now, but thanks, Arch.”
“Anytime,” he got up and headed to his room. Once inside Archie popped his head back out, “Oh and if this doesn’t work out I’m taking you to the red light district to get laid sooo….”
“Goodnight, Archibald,” Jughead said in a forceful tone. He heard Archie’s door close and let out an exhausted sigh.
Betty woke before her alarm, having been too wound up the night before to fall into a restful sleep. She threw back the covers, got dressed, grabbed her running shoes and headed out into the Parisian morning. Her run ended up taking her further than she had planned and by the time she returned, she had ran over 8 miles down and around the Jardin de Tuileries and back.
She had learned over the years that it was much healthier to channel any anger, anxiety or restlessness into running than to hold it in. The small moon shaped scars that littered her palms were product of internalizing those types of feelings for too many years.
All day she tried desperately to contain her wandering thoughts that inevitably ended up back to Jughead. She kept reminding herself that she was going to enjoy a coffee with a friend, and it was not a date. They had made that clear; that she wasn’t looking for anything more than that right now. Never a vixen like Veronica, Betty had only dated a few men and never for more than a short period of time.
Finally, she just gave up on trying to get work done and decided to she’d try and find something to wear.
“B, you here?” she heard Veronica yell from down the hall.
“In my room!”
Veronica came in and laid across the ottoman in front of Betty’s bed with a dramatic sigh, “I swear, these consultants my mother hired to help with marketing; they couldn’t tell the difference between Thom Browne and Tommy Bahama.” A moment had passed without a reply, and she noted the distracted look on Betty’s face, “Uh, Earth to Betty? Everything okay in that pretty little head?”
She turned back around from her closet to face Veronica, “Hm? Sorry. What about this Tom guy?”
“You look like the cat who swallowed the canary.”
Betty bit her bottom lip, “ Okay…so...I might have a date today…”
Veronica’s lips twisted into a wicked grin, “It wouldn’t happen to be with a certain mystery museum man, would it?”
Betty hesitated, “It might be…”
Veronica let out a high-pitched squeal and clasped her hands together, “Okay. First and most importantly, what are we wearing?
“I was trying to decide what to wear when you came in. And we’re just meeting up for coffee. Just two friends grabbing a cup of coffee together.”
Her best friend quirked a curious eyebrow at her, “Lie to yourself all you want but you wouldn’t be this nervous if you weren’t a little bit into him.”
Betty stood and chewed on her thumbnail and after a few moments gave in, “Okay, Fine. But I’m not interested in starting a relationship right now. The whole point of this Parisian adventure was to focus on my writing, spend time with you, explore France and maybe work in a little self-care here and there.”
“Orgasms are absolutely a form of self-care,” Veronica said resolutely.
Betty’s whole body blushed, “Oh my god, Veronica.”
“Look, I’m not saying you have to go off and get off on your first date with this guy. But, you deserve to be happy girl, and sometimes that means getting some. And I say this with love, but stimulating intellectual conversation does not count as foreplay,” Betty gave her friend a disapproving look, “Okay fine, perhaps for you it can.”
Betty looked at the tight-fitting dress her friend was wearing, “And who are you having a stimulating intellectual conversation with this evening?” she gave Veronica a knowing look.
“No one, thank you very much,” she replied indignantly, “But if you must know I’m going with Fangs and Kevin to a show at a café in Montmartre. The band playing is the one performing at the gala and Fangs wants to hear them one last time before the actual event. I came to see if you wanted to go with us, but you already have plans,” she said with a suggestive wiggle of her eyebrows.
“You’re really too much sometimes."
“Of course, but you love me! Now, let’s pick out something that will knock this friend off his feet!”
With that, she grabbed Betty’s hand and pulled her towards the closet.
An hour later, Betty was sitting at a small table outside cafe des beaux arts that faced the hustle and bustle of the Statue Republique square. She was dressed in a black midi length sundress that was adorned with delicate flowers. And much to Veronica’s displeasure, not 4-inch heels but her favorite light pink suede mules that matched the motorcycle jacket that hung on the chair behind her.
The whole way over to the cafe she had been trying to tame the butterflies fluttering around in her stomach. She could see Jughead across the street waiting for the light to change to green before he made his way across. Their eyes met and he offered her small wave accompanied by an adorable lopsided smile and she felt something bloom in her chest.
“Hey there,” he greeted.
“Hi,” she let out a small breath she didn’t realize she was holding in.
“May I join you?” he gestured to the seat across from her.
“Of course!” she offered.
The waiter came out and they placed their drink orders, two Americanos. Ironic, Betty thought. They fell into an easy conversation and talked anything and everything. They had a shared love of books, writing, art and old movies. It was nice to finally meet someone with the same sense of shared nostalgia. Betty always felt like an old soul and sometimes felt as if she were born in the wrong decade. It goes without saying that there weren’t many people named Betty running around in 2018 who were under the age of 75.
They had had begun talking about the things they missed from home, and found themselves in a heated debate, “We have great pizza in California, thank you very much” she said with mock indignation.
“I can’t believe you think pizza in California is actual pizza.”
“It absolutely is! Just because it’s not up to your standards. I take it you have strong opinions on the quality of bagels outside the five boroughs, as well?”
“Eating is my favorite past time Betty, so yes I have many opinions.”
She let out a little huff, “Fine, I concede. But, I’ll have you know that being from California means I am the forward most authority on fish tacos.”
“Well, then I guess I’ll just have to go to California one day and have you take me on a tour de cuisine.”
“I see your French is improving,” she tells him with a grin, “So tell me more about working at the museum.”
“It’s really been a special experience. I spend most of my time sorting through pictures from collectors and identifying their origins among other things. Recently, I’ve been assisting in selecting pictures for a new installation which has been really interesting, which means I basically get to sit around and admire other photographers work all day.”
“You must have a good eye for it then. Have you always wanted to be a photographer?”
“Thanks, I’d like to think so,” he gave her earnest smile like he was almost uncomfortable with receiving the compliment, “As for always wanting to be a photographer, no. I started shooting photography back in high school for my school newspaper and just sort of fell into it. I studied literature as an undergraduate and decided to try my hand at photography in grad school. They had a couple of elective courses in museum studies, and one thing led to another and there I was working at The Met. When I wasn’t working there, I’d shoot engagements for money, but I’d tried to get out of the city every now and then to shoot.”
“I would have loved to have you on the newspaper at my school. The only semi-decent photographer in the entire school was this guy named Dilton Doiley, and let’s just say he was sometimes a little too overzealous when it he was assigned any assignment that involved a women’s sports team” she gave a little shudder.
He shook his head, “See that’s what I hate about the industry. Photography is about creating a relationship between the photographer the subject; and learning not to abuse it. There’s a lot of trust that goes into it,” he added with reverence. Sensing that the moment had gotten serious he added with a chuckle, “Also I was a sarcastic loner weirdo in high school so I’m not so sure I would have been great company. Actually, my sister still tells me I’m a sarcastic loner weirdo which is why I’m still shocked you said yes to this date.”
Betty’s eyes widened slightly at his admission and she could see the heat bloom on his neck, “I mean that you said yes for coffee.”
“Right, for coffee,” and in an attempt to make him feel better, “And about you being the sarcastic loner weirdo? I wasn’t much better. My mom made sure I did every extracurricular you could think of so I barely had time for friends; I was a loner weirdo by default. The newspaper got you into it, but what made you continue stay with it?” she asked.
He seemed to mull over his answer before he finally spoke, “It helped me stay afloat.”
Betty gave him a curious look.
Jughead was ambivalent to continue, but he did after a quiet moment, “My parents...they didn’t always get along. Sometimes, I would just need to get away and one day I took my camera and starting shooting around town. And when it got especially bad, I’d take my sister to distract and that’s how I crafted shooting portraits. It’s healing, you know?” he added quietly as he stared into his now empty cup.
“I do,” she placed her on hand on his forearm without thinking. He looked down at her hand and she quickly pulled her hand away, “Maybe one day you could teach me more about photography?”
Something of a sparkle lit his eyes, “Absolutely. I’d love that.”
“I’ve been looking for a friend to explore the city with a little more. I love Veronica, but she seems to only want to explore the Champs-Élysées” she let out a small laugh. Betty and Veronica existed blissfully in their shared space and friendship, though they were vastly different in many respects when it came to interests.
“It’s the same thing with Archie. Though in his case, he’s usually more interested in exploring les filles” he added with a little flair to his French.
Betty laughed, “Maybe we should introduce them, they might be a good match. I can’t complain too much though, Veronica is the whole reason I even have the opportunity to live here. I was so unhappy in LA, and she whisked me off to Paris and here I am.”
“I know what you mean,” he says quietly, almost as if to himself before he shakes his head and moves on, “So, you mentioned that you’re working on a novel. What genre?”
“What inspired that?”
“Well it’s a little strange but there was a murder in my hometown when I was in high school. The body of an heir to a maple syrup empire was found floating in the river with a gun shot in his head. Turns out it was his father who killed him. It was all for him not wanting to take over the family business which, incidentally, was a cover for drug ring.”
“That’s really intense, and definitely a little In Cold Blood.”
“It is. When I was growing up I loved the Nancy Drew books and would spend most of my reading those and then pretending to solve crimes around my neighborhood. And when this awful thing happened in real life, it was so unsettling. My parents own the local paper so I got to seem them break the news of the murder first and everything that unfolded from there. It made me want to learn to more about true crime and mystery, and I guess where my love of journalism and writing began. Nothing that bad was ever supposed to happen in a happy little town. But it did, and it vastly changed the atmosphere of everything around it,” Betty had realized her tangent, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry. You probably think I’m some creepy murderino. I’m not, I swear!
In an effort to mollify her Jughead let out a little chuckle, “Betty, you’re good. You’re talking to someone who can quote nearly every Tarantino and Kubrick movie ever made and religiously listens to My Favorite Murder. Plus, I think it’s great when people are passionate about something; creepy or not,” he adds with a teasing smile.
“Gee, thanks,” she playfully rolled her eyes, “I guess I just found comfort in books growing up. Like you and photography, they became places where I could escape. I love the classics too, but I’ll read anything I can get my hands on to be honest. Even when I was in college, I’d go to the library to do homework obviously, but I often stayed because I felt at home surrounded by books.”
Betty never ever dumbed herself down for men when they were getting to know her, but she had never before felt so comfortable openly sharing her love of literature and writing with someone, “I’ve just always loved to read, and I guess writing just came along with it,” she added with a small shrug, “Because if you don’t have time for reading--”
“You don’t have time for writing. Stephen King, right?”
Betty was impressed, “Right.”
He raised his hand to his heart playfully, “Stephen King and Nancy Drew; a woman after my own heart.”
She smiled up at him through her lashes as she took another sip of her drink.
“I think like most writers, crafting my versions of reality allows me to create a world that I want to see or provide commentary on things around me,” she added slowly, “You know, when I tell most men that I’m a writer, they usually tell me how surprised they are because I don’t look like a writer.”
He regarded her a moment before commenting quietly, “That’s because they couldn’t see there’s so much more to you than that.”
When the waiter came to deliver the check Jughead grabbed the bill before she could protest, “Thank you,” she nods.
“You’re welcome,” and he smiles again.
He finished paying the bill as she started to gather bag and shrug her jacket on. They headed in the general direction of the nearest metro station. Betty felt herself purposefully walking a little slower than normal and couldn’t but wonder if Jughead was doing the same. He was tall, so she assumed his usual stride would be faster than their current pace.
They fell into a comfortable silence as they walked. She noted that it wasn’t awkward, either. She enjoyed his company and how after their conversations she felt as if she’d know Jughead much longer than a few weeks.
Jughead was the one to break the silence between them, “In an effort to explore the city more, would you maybe want to go with me to one of my favorite spots before you head home? It’s on the way to the metro stop but I’d understand if you have to head home now--”
“I don’t,” she offered him a warm smile was met with one in return.
They continued along the Quai de Conti in comfortable silence. As they walked, she hazarded a glance at the man beside her. The view of his profile gave her an opportunity to appreciate his jawline, sharp yet delicate, and the cluster of small moles that created a constellation across his olive skin. He is beautiful, she thought to herself. A sweep of dark, wavy hair fell onto his forehead, unable to be contained by the crown shaped beanie on his head. She liked that Jughead was completely original, and seemed unbothered by being different. Betty let her distracted gaze last a second too long and was met with inquisitive eyes.
“What?” he smirked.
“What?” she echoed.
“You look distracted, “ he asked with a slightly amused look on his face.
She cleared her throat, “Well, I was just wondering two things.”
“One, tell me about the crown,” she pointed to the beanie on his head.
He tugged on the beanie as if to make sure it was still there, “It was uh….a gift from my mom.” He suddenly looked a little uncomfortable and Betty wanted to shove her entire foot down her throat.
But before she could offer an apology he continued, “She gave it to me for my tenth birthday, and I remember that winter being really cold so it was a perfect gift. It was a little big at the time, but I finally grew into it I guess,” he gave her a tight grin.” He swallowed, suddenly looking nervous.
Betty wanted to inquire more, but he uneasy look on his face stopped her. He had been so open about himself that afternoon, but she had noticed he would tense whenever the topic of family came up. She gave him a reassuring smile, “I like it. It’s unique and functional. Just tell me you’re not hiding Voldemort under there?”
His eyebrows raised in amusement, “So she’s a Potterhead. I’m going to table that fact for now and we’ll come back to it because I want know your opinions on everything. What was that was the second thing you were wondering?”
“Hm?” Betty had to shake herself from his gaze, “Oh. I was wondering if you were going to give me a hint as to where you’re taking me. I mean, this is only the second time I’m meeting you and you could be a serial killer.”
“If I am, at least you’ll have more material for book” he quipped.
She gently nudged her elbow into his side, “Very funny.”
“I promise I’m not leading you to an untimely death, but a magical place. Add an endless supply of cheeseburgers and you’ve got my version of heaven, Betts”
She felt something in chest flutter when he said her name like that: Betts.
As they crossed the street, they came upon Shakespeare and Company. The bookstore had originally opened its doors in 1919 in 6th arrondissement by an American, Sylvia Beach. It quickly became a place for the meetings of intellectuals, and in 1941 had been shut down during the German occupation of France. The store that stood in front of them now was reopened in this new location in 1956 as Le Mistral and renamed in 1964 to Shakespeare and Company in honor of Sylvia.
Betty’s eyes lit up and her smile grew wide and she looked up at Jughead.
“Shall we?” he gestured his hand for them to enter.
Immediately Betty was overwhelmed by the books lining the small store and their distinct smell; warm and dusty. It was one of her favorite smells and reminded her of home, and the library she frequented when she was younger. She let out a contented sigh, “Jug, this place is incredible,” and started off down one of the rows and quickly saw that there were multiple rooms with smaller alcoves and twisting turns. Everywhere she looked there were books, some in French, in English and other languages she couldn’t recognize right away; some books shiny and new and others covered battered leather.
She turned back to Jughead to see that he had followed her and thought she his eyes darken slightly as he commented, “It’s definitely special.”
They wandered the store together in silence for the better part of an hour before they found themselves in one of the far-off rooms filled to the brim with novels. It was small, and at the end of the room there was a small alcove with pillows atop a bench seat.
She skimmed the titles and pulled out a copy of Beloved, flipping through the pages she knew so well. Jughead looked over her, “Have you read it?” she asked as he shook his head no, “The summer before my senior year of high school I had the opportunity to intern with a small publishing company in San Francisco,” as she sat down and scooted in between the pillows.
Jughead put the book in his hand back on the shelf, took his messenger bag off and joined her, “You must have been really excited.”
“I was. It was the opportunity of a lifetime too because Toni Morrison, who is my literary hero, was speaking at an event the company was hosting at the end of summer and I was supposed to attend.”
“The weekend before my internship was supposed to end, my parents came up to visit me. At the time, I knew I didn’t want to study journalism, but hadn't told them yet. I really wanted to study English literature. My mom spent the entire weekend complaining about how glad she was that I was ending the internship soon and could focus on senior year and my college applications. Onto the next thing like always. The night before they were supposed to leave my mom and got into a huge fight. Growing up, it was never just a singular thing we would fight about, every argument inevitably led to her pointing out everything else that was seemingly wrong with me,” she blew out a slow, small breath, “That fight was the culmination of a lot of things my parents and I disagreed on. At the time, I wasn’t so great at managing my anxiety and I let the guilt of disappointing them get to me. I ended up making myself sick over it and had to finish the rest of my internship through correspondence,” she added with a sad smile.
So far she had only emailed them each week to let them know she was alive and had sent her father a few postcards.
She had her eyes focused on the book in her hands, unsure of the expression that she might meet when she finally looked at him. She felt his hand touch her shoulder lightly, “You’re not a disappointment Betty,” he said quietly, “I don’t much about your parents, but it sounds like they have a problem with letting go and letting you live your life.”
“You have no idea,” she let out a small acrimonious laugh, “My relationship with my parents is complicated.”
“I’m familiar with complicated parental relations” He didn’t offer more information, and she didn’t ask.
“But, Betty we’re not our parents. I may not know yours, but what I do know there is no way they could be anything but proud of you. You’re smart, accomplished, and determined. And from what I can tell, a total book nerd, which might I add is incredibly attractive,” he added clearly trying to lift her spirits.
She looked up at him and offered him a grin.
“Also…,” Suddenly, the blue in his eyes intensified, all traces of amusement gone.
“What?” she asked as she saw his gaze dropped to her lips and back up to her eyes as his hand moved from her shoulder to lightly caress the side of her neck. Betty involuntarily licked her bottom lip as her gaze met his and--
“Oh! Excusez-moi, nous fermons bientôt alors s'il vous plaît faites votre chemin à l'avant du magasin!” The two sprang a part when they were interrupted by a small man wearing rimmed glasses and carrying an armful of books.
Betty quickly tried to regain her thoughts, “Uh...D'accord, merci.” He nodded and quickly shuffled off towards the front of the store.
“He said they’re closing soon so we--” her eyes not meeting his.
“Right, we should get going then,” cutting her off softly.
She carefully put the book back on the shelf and grabbed her bag as Jughead guided her out of the small alcove and towards the entrance. He had placed his hand on the small of her back as he guided them out of the store and in between the precarious stacks of books. Once outside, his hand drops back to his side, and he shoves it deep into his pocket.
He quietly cleared his throat, “I had a nice time today.”
“I did too. It’s really great to have a new friend in the city,” she added with an expertly crafted Cooper everything’s alright smile.
Betty found that sometimes her mouth decided to work without first consulting her brain.
She pretended to not hear the disappointment in his voice when he quietly replied, “Totally,” as he rubbed the back of his neck fiercely, “How about I give you my number if you want to get another coffee with a friend at some point?”
“That’s great, good idea,” she nodded quickly and handed him her phone. He tapped away on the screen and handed it back to her.
“Well, I should be going. Thanks for the great afternoon. I’ll...uh see you soon?”
He gives her the smallest of smiles. It reaches his eyes too-only just, “See you soon. Goodnight, Betts.”
“Night, Jug.” She hurried off across the street and out of sight.
“What the hell?!” She muttered to herself the entire way home. Betty had never so grateful to come home to an empty apartment because there was no way she would have survived a Veronica Lodge inquisition. When she reached her room, she closed the door behind her and slid down the wall dejectedly.
She had almost let Jughead kiss her. She had wanted him to kiss her. Betty pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes to will the tears away as she softly banged her head against the door. How could she have let this happen? Betty had always been one to lead with her emotions, and after the afternoon she had just had she was certain it was easy to get swept up in Jughead. He was smart and witty, and she even found his moments of social awkwardness endearing.
She didn’t believe in love at first sight, but planning. Her whole life she was taught to plan for everything, and if you didn’t have a plan there would be no way you would succeed.
Jughead Jones was not in her plan. Her plan was to move to Paris for herself, to finish a draft of her novel, and finally feel like she was living her own life. She had desperately longed to be her own person and most importantly to rid herself of the crushing guilt when it came to her parents and doing anything they hadn’t planned out for her.
A small voice in the back of her mind kept asking, but could that also mean falling in love?
“Oh my god, no. Betty, no!”
She tells herself that she resigned to not seeing him again, it what’s best for them both. Neither of them were going to stay in Paris for forever, and they would eventually go their separate ways.
Still, she couldn’t quite quell the disappointment in her heart.
à suivre (to be continued…)
As always, thank you so much for reading!
Can't wait to share what happens when JB, Archie, Veronica, Kevin, and Fangs put their heads together. What are friends for, right?
Jughead Jones took the job opportunity of a lifetime, hoping to rekindle his love of photography.
Betty Cooper wanted to be the person that she wants to be and not what others expect of her.
A story of art, love, passion, and courage in the city of light.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
"Passing seasons, empty bottles of wine; m y ancient kingdom came crashing down without you"
The story of Jughead Jones’ first kiss is something that still follows him around to this day; mostly because Archie loves to retell it to others whenever he’s in a state of intoxication.
Archie undoubtedly ends up doubled over in laughter telling everyone, “When we were eight, Jug ran, like literally ran away from Ethel Muggs when she kissed him on the cheek.”
It’s not like Jughead doesn’t like women, he does. He’s been out on dates, been intimate with a few women, and he hasn’t ran away from a girl since Ethel. An almost kiss with Betty Cooper made him want to run, it made him want to run straight to her and kiss her like there was no tomorrow. Instead he found himself sitting in a dingy metro car trying to understand where he had gone wrong; along with some thoughts on how to enact revenge on a certain intruding bookstore employee.
When he first met Betty she told him that she wasn’t looking for anything more than a friend, so he supposes he only has himself to blame. He mentally steeled himself before they met and even gave himself a little pep talk on the way over to meet her for coffee, but the minute she smiled at him from across the street he knew he was done for.
Betty Cooper is not beautiful, she is stunning. Many times during their afternoon together he marvelled at the way her eyes lit up when she got excited, or felt impassioned. For as stunning as she is on the outside, she is even more so on the inside. There is something so inherently alluring about her personality too; she’s incredibly bright, kind, intelligent, witty and beguiling. Unlike others, she actually listens during a conversation, instead of worrying about what she’ll say next. Everything about her was elegant, and she radiated sunshine.
Whenever the universe decided to throw something good at him, it was almost always accompanied by something significantly less spectacular. Guess the opportunity to live and work in one of the world’s most beautiful cities was enough of a gift from the universe, he thought bitterly.
He hopped off the metro and walked the short distance to his apartment from the station. He stood outside for a moment and let his head hit the front door with resounding thud. “Why? Why did I do this to myself? I am such an idiot,” he said with a groan. The front opened quickly and he had to catch himself from falling onto the floor.
“Oof. Thanks, JB,” as he he stumbled in.
“You’re welcome,” she said happily as she closed the door behind him. “Also, why are you standing in the hallway having a self-deprecating meltdown?”
“I take it the date didn’t go well?” Archie asked from his perch on the couch.
“Date? What date? You had a date, Jug?” she asked with a tone of incredulity.
He rolled his eyes at her as he took off his bag and put it on the kitchen table and sat down, “Don’t sound so surprised,” he sighed, “It was going really up until the point where it wasn’t anymore.”
Archie joined him at the table, “What does that mean?
“Okay, can someone please tell me what’s going on?” JB asked with her hands on her hips.
“Jug saw this girl in the museum, and punked out before he could say anything to her. So, he sort of waited around for her to come back and then ran into her while picking up flowers for you.”
“You make it sound like sound like I stalked her.”
“Well, I mean you did? Not like, creepy stalked, but you did check several times a day to see if she was around.”
Jughead let out a groan and pulled his beanie down over his eyes.
“Okay, let me get this straight. You saw this random girl and asked her out when you first met her?”
“Yes,” he said as he laid forehead on the table.
JB was quiet for a moment, “Who are you and what have you done with my brother? You never ask out girls. You’ve had like, a girlfriend.”
“I’m well aware of my dating history, thanks.” He lifted his head to look at her, “I don’t know what it was about her. She was just...different. I saw her in the museum one day when I was walking back from lunch and couldn’t stop thinking about her. What are the chances I’d run into her like I did? I just, you know, went with it.”
“So, what happened today?”
What was he going to say? Well, I tried to tell myself we could be friends but she’s just so goddamn beautiful and perfect and I’m pretty sure I’m in love with her already. And just as we were about to kiss some obnoxious French guy decided to interrupt us.
He decided to keep it aloof, “I invited her to get coffee, when she made it very clear she was just interested in being friends. We got coffee, went to Shakespeare & Company and then she went home.”
“That’s it?” JB asked with a raised eyebrow.
She scoffed, “Then why do you like someone just told you Pop’s was going out of business?”
“Don’t joke about that!” Jughead said alarmed.
Archie intervened, “She’s not wrong, Jug. Still, JB we don’t even talk about that happening, you know that.”
With a roll of her eyes, “Yeah, okay whatever. If it was just meeting up as friends I don’t see what the problem was….oh. You meant to ask her out as a date date not a friend date?”
He shook his head at himself, “I knew going in that she’s not looking for anything. But, shit. There's just something about her that’s so different than anyone I’ve ever met. She’s….perfect.” Even he was surprised by his admission. In his defense, the woman is an inspiring mystery writer, for heaven’s sake.
“So what are you going to do now?”
Jughead sat back and stared at the ceiling. “Nothing.”
“I gave her my phone number. With the way she rushed off, she probably wants nothing to do with me.”
“You don’t know that,” said JB.
“Yeah, I do. The universe is a cruel and never wants me to have nice things.”
“Oh, stop being so dramatic.” Jughead glared at her, “What? You don’t know what she was thinking. Maybe she’s into you too and just got scared.”
Jughead was too busy entertaining his pity party of one to have that thought come across his mind. Could it be wishful thinking that she wanted to be friends because she was scared of something more? He could never be so lucky. “Let’s just drop it. It was one date. And hey, I guess I’ve filled my quota for meeting new people for the year so I guess something good came out this after all,” he added with a sardonic quip as he stood up and headed into his room.
As soon as he was out of ear shot, JB turned to Archie, “Okay. What the hell? I have never seen him like this over a girl.”
“It’s kind of like invasion of the body snatchers but they didn’t want the sarcasm and left it behind,” Archie replied as he stared at Jughead’s door. “When he told me he had met someone and was going out, I figured it was just some random girl. He was excited, but I figured maybe he was trying to make a new friend. You’re right though, this is weird even for him.”
They were both quiet for a moment before JB spoke softly, “I worry sometimes he thinks he doesn’t deserve that kind of happy.”
“It’s no secret Jug is a little moody and brooding.”
JB scoffed, “Yeah, well, being an open emotional book is not a familial trait for us, you know that.”
“That’s why I pushed him to make this move. I wanted him to get outside his comfort zone. Feel more inspired, you know? He hadn’t been shooting much of anything before we left and hasn’t much since we got here.”
JB looked thoughtfully at her pseudo brother. For whatever Archie Andrews lacked in book smarts, he made up for in heart. “What are we going to do, Arch?”
“I don’t know, JB. But for now. Let’s just hope she calls him.”
“Veronica. I can’t wear this.”
“And why not?”
“Because it requires not wearing a bra.”
Veronica raised a manicured eyebrow at her best friend in the mirror. “So?”
“I can’t do that.”
“Yes, you can. Besides, let’s be real, you’re a total smokeshow Betty Cooper,” Kevin replied from his spot one the ornate sofa behind them.
Betty was standing on a tailor’s box in the dressing room of boutique that catered to only the chicest of Parisian clients, with the price tags to match.
“Can I at least try on an option that allows me to wear a strapless bra?” she pleaded.
Veronica sighed dramatically, “Fine. Colette, can you bring out the next rack of gowns, please?”
“Oui, Ms. Lodge,” replied the french woman standing behind Veronica.
Betty got down from the box and went into the small changing room and pulled the curtain closed as she pulled on the next gown Veronica handed her.
Veronica and Kevin had threatened her into joining them after work, insisting that she find something to wear to the upcoming gala; something that Betty was now dreading.
It had been a week since her date with Jughead. A week since she almost let him kiss her in the small alcove of the most beautiful bookstore she’d ever been in. And a week since she’d run off after that almost kiss and a week since he had given her his phone number and she had not called him.
The first nights after their date she had been restless. Betty figured she at least owed him an explanation as to why she’d run off and why she hadn’t called him, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it.
Hey Jughead, I’m so sorry I ran off like I did
Jughead, I had a really nice time with you
I’m sorry, Jug
Countless messages crafted and then deleted. Betty tried to convince herself that what she was feeling for him was fleeting. They were not destined to be in the same place with one another forever. Why invest yourself into something that wasn’t meant to last? It would be fun at first, but would only end up being complicated when one of them moved back to the States, and complicated was not on the menu for Betty. She would never admit it to anyone but herself either, but the immense electricity she felt between the two of them frightened her.
The whole situation distracted her from getting any writing done and it had made her downright cranky. Something that Veronica so lovingly pointed out when they arrived at the dress shop and handed her a glass of champagne and made the comment, “We both need you to drink this.”
She begrudgingly tried on dress after dress, disagreeing with Kevin and Veronica on nearly everything. The latest was a one shouldered gown in a deep aquamarine, and while it was beautiful, it wasn’t Betty’s color.
Colette eyed Betty in the current gown and put up a finger as if to signal her to wait, “Un instant s'il vous plaît,” as she flitted out of the dressing room and off somewhere in the store.
“I don’t even want to go this thing anymore,” she said making eye contact with Veronica in the mirror.
“Yes, you do. You know you do. I’m not going to let you miss out on this opportunity because of un garçon.”
Kevin’s ears perked up, “What garçon? Ooh! Is the hot mystery museum man?”
“Yes! They had a romantic date that ended in the most charming bookstore and when he went in to kiss her--”
“We got interrupted by a store clerk and that was it. The moment passed,” Betty said resolutely and glared at Veronica with her hands on her hips.
Veronica let out a small snort, “So tell me again why he gave you his phone number if the moment had passed?”
“Have we called him yet?” Kevin asked.
“No, she’s been too afraid.”
Just as Betty opened her mouth to defend herself, Colette came back into the room. She was dressed impeccably well, an air of ease that every woman outside of France hoped to possess. “Madame, I have another option for you. This is from our vintage collection,” she held up the garment bag and gestured towards the changing area.
Betty follow her into the dressing room opened the garment bag to find the most beautiful ivory silk dress.
“It’s stunning, Colette.”
“Oui, it’s from Christian Dior’s special collection. His family donated many of his designs into our care and this is one from the late 40s, I believe. Permet de l'essayer, oui?”
She helped Betty step out of the the aquamarine dress and into the new one. Colette zipped up the back of the dress and Betty turned around and her reflection even surprised herself. The floor length gown billowed out at her feet, and hung tastefully to every curve. The front neckline a v shape with delicate buttons along the chest. The back was open, except for two small straps that went over her shoulders and held up the front of the dress. The silk was the softest thing Betty had ever felt.
“Wow,” as she stared at her reflection in the mirror.
“Etourdissant,” she heard Colette comment quietly, “Shall we show them, non?” She opened the curtain and Betty stepped out on the the small tailors platform and faced Veronica and Kevin who were deep in conversation.
Betty was met with a mix of Veronica and Kevin’s,“Holy shit” and “Um, excuse me? You cannot just snatch my wig like that!”
She turned to look at herself in the mirror again. She was confident in her body, but it had taken a long time for her to get to where she was now. With a mother who constantly made comments about her weight in the masked form of encouragement, Betty had had many instances where she would be overly critical of her outward appearance. She’d always had curves, and over the years she had learned to embrace them. Those stubborn ten pounds that refused to leave her waist at one time made her uncomfortable but now she knew they just made her soft, and real.
“This dress is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever worn,” she said with awe. Betty had also noticed that there was no price tag on the dress which could only mean one thing.
“Betty, before you think that thought, let me stop you,” Veronica came up behind her in the mirror and put her hand up, “There is no way I am letting you wear anything but this.”
“Veronica--,” Betty protested.
“Consider it an early birthday gift, and okay maybe Christmas too,” her friend laughed lightly. Veronica personality was small and mighty, but there was no denying she had a huge heart to match it.
“Thank you, V.”
She hugged Betty from behind and gave her a huge smile, “You’re welcome!”
Kevin came up behind them and joined the hug, “Okay, now let’s shop for shoes! Onto Biondini!”
Veronica laughed and Betty let out a groan.
The days leading up to the gala were hectic and crazy for both Betty and Jughead. Jughead had been working late nights helping with the installation and making sure the curation was just so. Betty found herself scouring the french flower markets with Edith bright and early every morning in order to collect all the blooms they would need for the event.
With both of their friends occupied, Archie and Veronica took advantage of some alone time and ended up back at Betty and Veronica’s apartment after dinner for an aperitif.
Veronica handed Archie a drink as she snuggled up to him on the love seat lounge chair on their balcony, “So, Archiekins. Tell me more about your life here in Paris. You said you moved with your best friend?”
Veronica thought back to the night she met Archie. It was the same night that Betty and Jughead had their date. She had gone with Kevin and Fangs to see the band that was playing the gala. They grabbed drinks and headed to small table near the stage, and when the house lights dimmed she made eye contact with the most gorgeous gingered haired man playing guitar. If she were being honest, Veronica had always had a soft spot for musicians.
He took a sip of liquor before answering, “I did, it ‘s us and his little sister. Though to be fare, she’s like my sister too.”
Veronica offered him an inquisitive quirk of her eyebrow.
“Jug and I have been best friends since we were both in diapers. Our parents grew up together too,” he continued hesitantly, “Things got difficult for Jug and JB’s family and their mom ended up leaving them.”
“That must have been really difficult for them,” she placated quietly.
“It was, and it was even harder on their dad. FP had always had a bit of drinking problem. Unfortunately, one day it all caught up to him. He got sent a away and my dad offered to take them in. At the time, I knew it was a sad situation but I was just so excited to have my best friend live with me,” he added with a innocent sparkle to his eyes.
Oh, this boy, Veronica mused to herself, “That was so kind of your dad, I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been for him too. To see his best friend’s family fall apart, only to be there to pick up the pieces.”
“My dad is the greatest guy on the planet,” he said easily. “Jug and I are going in together to get him a ticket to come visit for Thanksgiving, maybe even Christmas too.”
“That’s real sweet, Archie. I’m sure he’ll be so excited to see you three,” she offered him a smile and stopped herself before took a sip of her drink, “Jug? Is that really his name? Who names their kid Jug?”
He turned to set his drink down on the small table next to them, “It’s short for Jughead. And JB is actually JellyBean. Both of which are nicknames, but let me tell you, the real thing is much worse.”
“Is that so, Archibald?” she teased.
“Hey!” he reached over to try and tickle her.
Veronica let out a squeal and just as Archie had pinned her down playfully, she pushed him off and sat up quickly, “Wait. Jughead? As in Jughead Jones?”
“This wouldn’t happen to be the Jughead Jones who is a photographer? And works at the Musee d’Orsay, is it?”
There was no way the universe was conspiring this much to get two people together. “Archie, Jughead went on a date with best friend and roommate, Betty.”
Archie eyes widened at the revelation, “Holy shit. Betty Cooper?”
“The very same.”
“She must be something special because I’ve never seen him act like this over a girl. He told me he saw her once in the museum, then decided to keep looking for her for weeks. He was so excited that he finally ran into her again in that flower shop. I swear I hadn’t seem as happy as he was right before that date.It’s been a long time for, Jug,” he added seriously, “Part of the reason he took this job was to get back some inspiration for photography. JB and I hoped that he’d maybe find someone or something that made him feel less lonely. Jug is the greatest friend I could ask for, but he kind isolates himself and doesn’t let people in easily.”
Veronica thought about Betty, and her desire to stay on track with her own ambitions while here, “How’s he doing now?”
“Betty, too.” A mischievous grin took over Veronica's face, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“That I’d like to continue that tickle fight and see where this goes?” he pulled her into his arms.
She patted his cheek playfully, “Well, yes. We’ll get back to that in moment Archiekins, don’t you worry. But, no. Obviously fate is conspiring to bring these two together, I think that they might just need a push to get there.”
Archie starred for a moment before he answered hesitantly, “I don’t know Ronnie. I would hate to push him into someone that would end up hurting him. He’s been through a lot and doesn’t trust easily.”
“Betty too. The Cooper family facade was really just that, a facade. I think she’s just a little lost right now. Jughead is afraid of getting hurt and Betty is afraid of...well being truly happy I think. She’s the smartest person I know, but sometimes that big brain of hers gets in the way.”
The two sat in silence for a moment before Archie jokingly said, “We should just put them in a room together and see what happens.”
The proverbial light bulb went off in her head and she grabbed both sides of Archie’s face, “Archiekins, you are so smart!” she kissed him quickly. “ I know just what room to get them into.”
She leaned in to press another kiss to his lips, “What was that one for?” he asked.
“Because the adorable goofy grin on your face was just too hard to resist.”
The next day, Veronica, Archie, Kevin, and JB were seated around a small table outside of Le Sancerre.
Kevin had met her in the hallway to walk over the cafe together and given her a questioning look when he he saw her outfit, head to toe in black complete with over exaggerated dark sunglasses. The only explanation she gave him was that a covert operation calls for a outfit to blend in. He joked with her as he linked his arm through hers, “Alright, Tiffany Case, let’s go.”
“Thank you all for meeting. I’ve been percolating on a idea on how to get our two love birds together. Two romantic meet cutes in a museum and floral shop are just too swoon worthy to pass up, it’s destiny,” she added with a flourish.
JB raised a pierced eyebrow at Veronica, “Do you really think this is going to work? Jug is going to know something is up. Also, Archie is terrible at keeping secrets.”
“Hey!” he protested.
“What? You are,” JB reasoned with a small shrug.
Veronica looked at Archie with a sly grin, “I like her moxie, Archiekins,” she turned back to JB, “They’re both preoccupied with work right now, so we’re going to take advantage of that. Since the gala is in two days, Archie will only have to keep his mouth shut for 48 hours which is totally doable. Now, Fangs has secured a ticket for you JB. ”
Kevin added quickly, “He also sends along his regards, but he was too busy this afternoon to attend this little get together. He’s on board too. We’ll just tell Jughead that you and I met in a painting class and Veronica is Archie’s date.”
JB asked skeptically, “So what’s the plan to actually get them together?”
Veronica cleared her throat for dramatic effect, “Fangs will already be there. Archie and Jughead have to be there early to set up, they’ll go together, Kevin will escort you, and then Betty and I will arrive fashionably late.”
The table was silent.
“So, that’s the grand plan?” JB asked sarcastically.
“Please tell me Jughead is not this sarcastic too?” Veronica quipped.
“Oh, he’s worse,” JB commented.
“Lovely. But yes, JB. I haven’t gotten to the grand finale. The theme of the event is romance, right?”
They all nod.
“Well, we’re going to make them two halves of whole. They just don’t know it yet,” Veronica gave them a wicked grin.
à suivre (to be continued…)
This chapter is a bit shorter than the others, but there's so much more to come!
As always, thank you so much for reading. Lots of love and hugs to you. Find me over on Tumblr @bettsc.
You know that fickle little muse who visits you from time to time, and puts a damper on all of your creativity?
Let's just say that she spent some extended time with me in between this chapter and the last. I kicked that lady to the curb, and am feeling much better.
Many hugs and kisses to the illustrious Squids for beta-ing this chapter for me. You're a gem, darling.
If you're out there and still interested in the story of these two, thank you so much.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Past lives couldn't ever come between us; sometimes the dreamers finally wake up"
“Jug, you look fine. Stop fussing.”
Jughead looks over at Archie and smirks. “I guess it’s better than wearing a bow tie.”
Wearing a full suit is still not something that Jughead is used to. Over the years, he’s come to find that those in the museum field are often on the more creative spectrum of fashion, and he tends to lean toward the casual end of business casual.
Archie narrows his eyes at his friend as they headed into the museum to drop off Archie’s guitar and equipment. “I told you already, it’s part of the act. Josie is all about that retro chic.”
He can’t resist the opportunity to tease his friend once more. “Sure thing, Gene Kelly.”
The main hall of the Musee d’Orsay is grand and covered with a glass paneled ceiling that tonight lets the moonlight shine in and onto the event below. Twinkling lights had been strung across the upper balcony, their illuminated reflection giving a dreamlike atmosphere to the entire space.
Proceeds from the gala and exhibit debut were expected to raise millions of Euros for the museum and it’s education program. The museum education program is something near and dear to Jughead, and he holds the opinion that an education gives someone endless power to shape and mold a better life for themself. He felt it when he graduated from high school, college and finally his master's program; and again when JB had received her own scholarship to NYU.
Over the years, he has come to appreciate the importance of educating the public about the arts: museums, literature, theatre, and photography. The exhibit and accompanying gala event are flawless and more than enough to inspire future donors to the museum and program.
The exhibit on display for the gala is centered around the theme of romance and love in Paris and spans the entirety of the first floor of the museum and flows into some of the smaller galleries off the main floor. For weeks, Jughead had been pouring over images for the collection, each giving a glimpse of romance throughout the city of light. Some of the standing art work had been put in storage or moved for the gala to make room for photographs in the collection to be hung in a myriad of patterns across the walls.
Though he would be loath to admit it to anyone, especially to JB, who would tease him endlessly about his emo-aesthetic, Jughead’s favorite part of the exhibit were the photographs captured in black and white; the contrast of the shades and time-honored feel of everything.
He’s an old soul, so sue him.
It’s the grandiosity of the event itself tied with the romantic elements that leave Jughead’s chest aching slightly.
He’d been trying, and failing, all week to keep his thoughts from wandering too far in the direction of a certain girl with a perky blonde ponytail. It had surprised him, how in such a short amount of time with her, she could have affected him so much. And where had the confident bravado during their date come from? More often than not, women tend to skip over him, and he’s never really felt a connection to anyone like had with Betty.
It’s not that he hadn’t tried, it’s just that outside of JB and Archie, Jughead finds he prefers solitude. He’s always enjoyed things like reading, writing and photography that create opportunities for isolation and escapism, and if he were truly being honest with himself, have molded him into the introvert he is.
Despite his skew toward those introvert tendencies, it seems that Betty has grabbed and yanked him hard in the other direction. He put the ball in Betty’s metaphorical court. and if she wanted to see him again should would.
He leaves Archie to set up his gear and wanders around the event. He sees one couple admiring the darkened silhouettes of two lovers on the lawn before the tour Eiffel and takes out the small film camera he’d brought and starts to snap away. Something like pride blooms in his chest at the work around him, the feeling of being involved with something so beautiful and important. Jughead can’t shake the feeling that he’s having a bit of an out of body experience as he continues wandering through the gala and overhears the high praise coming from guests. That is--the praise he understand in English because let’s face it, his French is still most definitely toujours très mauvais.
His thoughts are interrupted when a waiter appears in front of him offering some kind of delicious smelling appetizer. Oh yes, free food. He’d be lying if he said he was also very, very excited about the free food at the event.
“Excusez-moi Monsieur, voulez-vous quelque escargot?”
Jughead knew enough French to know what escargot was, so he proceeds to take one of the small snails from the silver platter and pop it into his mouth. Surprised at how not-snail-like they are, he takes three more and stuffs them into his mouth--if you cover anything in enough butter and garlic, it’ll be delicious.
With an upturned nose, the waiter hands him a napkin and is off with a snobbish huff before Jughead can even mutter a merci.
He turns to see JB standing behind him and he smiles sheepishly. “In my defense, I did use a napkin,” which he uses to wipe off the corner of his mouth off. He takes note of JB’s dress; she’s been in Paris for all of a month and was already light years ahead of him in the style department.
This is the precise reason that JB had insisted that she accompany him to pick up his suit earlier in the week. He went with her providing roughly the same enthusiasm as a root canal appointment and after a few hours, finally settled on a fitted black suit and tie. Their main argument that afternoon had arose from the floral print button up shirt she thrust into his hands to try on. The pattern was subtle with muted blues and greys, but florals were not really in the Jughead Jones palate; he was much more of a plaid guy.
JB had insisted that it would highlight the blue of his eyes--to which he had protested that he was not trying to impress anyone so it didn’t matter whether or not it brought out the blue. He was met with a raised eyebrow and gentle smack to the arm. Jughead had acquiesced but only before he added a pair of black suspenders to his ensemble.
(Another thing he would be loathe to admit--she was right about the blue and his eyes.)
JB smiles and shakes her head at him. “I want to introduce you to someone,” she gestures to the man standing next to her and says, “Kevin, this is my brother Jughead. Kevin and I met in that pinot and painting class I told you about.”
Jughead offers his hand to him and notes that he doesn’t look like JB’s type. To be fair, JB has had a variety of types over the years. Besides the standard conversation of if he hurts you, Archie and I break his face, he has actively stayed out of his little sister’s dalliances.
Kevin offers him an exuberant, “Enchante!” and stage whispers, “JB you didn’t tell me your brother was a modern day James Dean.”
Oh, Jughead thinks. Maybe Kevin isn’t her type after all.
JB makes a face at him. “Kev, gross. Though, I have to admit that you do clean up well, big brother. Whoever picked out your suit has great taste,” she winks at him and straightens his tie. “Kevin is Fang’s partner.”
“Oh, right. Fangs has mentioned you a few times, it’s nice to finally meet you.” He finds himself actually meaning it for once. Fangs had been one of the first people that Jughead had met when he started working at the museum, and he had instantly taken a liking to him. He’s quiet and pensive and comfortable with silence between two friends. And as it turns out, a huge Tarantino fan.
“And I have heard so much about you, Jughead.” He loops Jughead and JB’s arms through his and exclaims, “Come. Let’s go get some of that free champagne!”
They head towards the bar and Kevin hands Jughead and JB both a flute of champagne. He eyes JB, and they have a silent sibling conversation between the two of them. Jughead knows that JB feels the same way when it comes to alcohol or social drinking-- their family history with it is not something either of them share openly with others. They both make exceptions to imbibe if it’s a very special occassion and he figures tonight is, so a glass or two is just fine.
She takes a sip of her champagne, and points to a flower arrangement on a nearby table. “Kev, these are gorgeous. Did Fang’s team design these, too?”
There are so many details in the space that Jughead had failed to look closely at, the various blooms around them being one. Large vases of flowers in stunning reds, pinks and whites lay atop the cocktail tables, alongside the bar front and around the space. Beautiful garlands hang around the walls and blend seamlessly with the photographs. Jughead was particularly impressed with the way the florist was able to intertwine soft blooms of reds, whites, and pinks with harsher, darker foliage. The contrast in colors, light and dark, compliment the collection of pictures so well. His thoughts immediately drift towards Betty and how he wished she were here to see everything.
“No, I don’t think he did. Fangs worked with some adorable little floral shop over on Île Saint-Louis.”
The swig of champagne he’d just taken gets stuck in Jughead’s throat and he coughs as he sets the flute down on a table.
Kevin doesn’t comment, but raises an inquisitive eyebrow at him. “Here comes Fangs now, he’ll remember the name. Fangs, honey! Over here!” He waves his boyfriend over from where he had been talking to one of his event staff.
“Hey everyone,” he offers Kevin a peck and JB a side hug then nods to Jughead. “Jughead, nice to see you again. The exhibit really came together.”
He shrugs. “Thanks, man. I just picked out some photos, you did everything else.” Fangs offers him a gracious smile.
“Honey, JB and I were wondering what was the name of that adorable little floral shop you had design the flowers?”
“Au Nom De La Rose.”
Jughead feels his heart start to beat a little harder in his chest. Of course the beautiful blooms in all of their romantic glory were from Betty’s designs. He’s only vaguely aware of the conversation going on around him as he steels himself from the image his brain was creates of her as she toils away at the arrangements, pushing back the one piece of her ponytail that keeps falling into her beautiful face--
“Uh, Earth to Jughead?”
He’s met with three sets of curious eyes. “I’m sorry, what?”
JB gives him a strange look and says slowly, “I was just saying, it’d be cool if you showed us around, considering you helped design the exhibit.”
He clears his throat, “Right, yeah. Good idea. Shall we?” He gestures for them to lead the way towards the start of the exhibit.
They wander through the main hall as Jughead offers commentary on how and why the particular photographs on display were chosen.
“We wanted to create a photographic interpretation of love, in particular in Paris. Different locations, people, ages, ethnicities, decades; all the ways it encompasses the human spirit and creates connection. Romance is something that is talked about in every song and book, and it manifests itself in so many unique ways, so there was a lot of opportunity to be creative when it came time to curate the collection. We also incorporated photographs inspired by famous couples and characters.” A little more quietly to himself he comments, “We wanted to represent love, and the magical power it has to outlast the toughest of circumstances.”
He feels his a lump start to form in his throat at the sentiment and is thankful that the other three are seemingly engaged in some other conversation about one of the photos.
Soon, Archie finds their group and bounds up to them. “I have a few minutes before we go on, but I wanted to come say hey. I’m supposed to meet Veronica here.”
Jughead is too distracted to notice that Archie doesn’t introduce himself to Kevin or Fangs, not finding it strange that his friend already knows them.
What piques his interest is the mention of Veronica, though he doesn’t suppose it’s strange that Archie would have invited her considering she was all he had been talking about lately. Each new girl in Archie’s life had brought upon the same uttering of words to him: Dude. She’s the love of my life, I just know it.
Bless his wandering heart, but as soon as something new and shiny came along, Archie would find himself distracted. The result was either the occasional angry girl--and one time an angry girl’s boyfriend--at their apartment door to which Jughead had to fend off or him picking Archie up outside some club in Tribeca.
What’s the phrase? Through thick and thin.
Something had seemed different when Archie spoke of Veronica. Even when his friend had offered up too many intimate details about their whirlwind weekend to Alsace, Jughead had been struck by the reverence in which Archie spoke of her: It feels different with her man.
He sees Archie’s eyes light up when a petite raven hair women strides up to their group; Archie’s beacon of orange hair standing out even in a crowd. Her dark green gown is reminiscent of royalty and luxury and looks very, very expensive. He is not one bit surprised that the green of her gown compliments the green of Archie’s bow tie. Her features are beautiful but fierce and striking. Jughead muses silently that she might be the type of girl--that if Archie were to ever screw this up--they’d most likely find his body with cement shoes at the bottom of the river.
“Everyone, this is Veronica Lodge. Veronica, this is everyone.”
“Enchante to all. It’s so nice to meet all of Archie’s friends finally.” She offers a manicured hand out to everyone in the group.
“Babe, where’s your roommate? I thought she was coming too.”
It’s then that it hits Jughead like a punch to the gut; This is that Veronica Lodge.
Betty’s Veronica Lodge.
She gives a nonchalant wave of her hand. “Oh, she’ll be along in a moment, she stopped off to check on a few things. Mumbled something about wilting dahlias before running off.”
Keep it together.
Kevin must sense something is off with him when he feels an elbow nudge into his side bringing him out of his internal spiral. He looks up at Kevin and is immediately unnerved by his gaze and the way one side of his lips are quirking upwards. “Jughead here was just telling us all about the exhibit. The department he works in designed the whole thing. He’s such a romantic.”
How Kevin could possibly know that about Jughead, considering they’d met not thirty minutes ago, is beyond him.
Archie swings his arm across his friend’s shoulders. “That’s our Jughead. He’s a regular ol’ Romeo.”
Jughead snorts and tries to deflect. “Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs.” Archie gives him a confused look. “Romeo and Juliet, lover boy.”
“See? Right there, always quoting romantic stuff.” He removes his arm and gives Jughead an encouraging pat on the back. “Anyways, I should probably get ready for our set. I’ll see you all afterwards!” He offers Veronica a kiss on the cheek as he departs.
The lights dim and the band takes the stage, the room is now only illuminated by the twinkle lights strung above them and the those shining on the band.
The first notes of an upbeat jazz song begin to ring throughout the museum. The singer was a woman name Josie McCoy, who had a hauntingly beautiful voice reminiscent of Josephine Baker. When Archie had told him that he’d joined a pop-jazz group, Jughead was surprised. His friend’s music taste tended to lean more towards Van Halen, but as he watched Archie on stage he appreciated how far he had come from carefully plucking out the notes to ‘Time of Your Life” inside Fred’s garage when they were ten.
Jughead tries to keep his attention on the performance, but finds his eyes wandering around the room searching for a glimpse of bright blonde hair. He spent the last week pushing down the anxious feelings; feelings that were bubbling back to the surface at an alarming rate. The radio silence from her he endured he thought was a sure sign that she wanted nothing to do with him again.
He catches a glimpse of Veronica as she sways to the music and feels like he’s interrupting a private between her and Archie when he sees them make eye contact as he plays. He feels the intensity radiating between the two of them and at that moment, the ache in his chest stings a little more.
They stand and listen as the band plays the last song of the set. Josie takes a bow and makes an announcement. “Thanks so much folks, we’ll be back soon after a little break. Pour l'instant, applaudissements!” Soft recorded vocals in French fill the air in the band’s absence.
Kevin, JB, and Fangs seem engrossed in their own conversation and Jughead realizes that this might be his only chance to ask Veronica about Betty without the prying ears of his sister and squinty eyes of Kevin.
Veronica is typing away on her phone and he has to clear his throat lightly to get her attention. “So, Veronica. Archie mentioned that you moved to Paris with your roommate. Is she...uh the same roommate that’s here tonight?”
She looks up and raises a perfectly manicured eyebrow at him. “Yes, she is.” Her tone was not unfriendly or dismissive, but there was something about it that made him uneasy.
He rubs his hand at the back of his neck. “I don’t know if Archie told you this, but we’ve met. Her and I-- I mean.” He exhales and add more confidently, “I think I’ve met her before.”
She puts her phone back in her clutch and regards him closely for a moment before a grin breaks out across her face. “Yes, Betty mentioned the illustrious Jughead Jones.”
His palms start to sweat, and feels like his tie is becoming increasingly tighter.
Veronica proceeds to give him an appraising once over. “Her very own mysterious museum man so it seems. It’s nice to at last put a face to the name. I love this whole young Leonardo DiCaprio look you have going on, and I must say it’s working for you.” She gestures up and down his frame.
He touches his hair self-consciously. “Uh, Thanks, I think.”
She hums her response. “Betty may have noted the same thing about you when I pestered her for details about your date last week. Seems she was quite smitten with you; for the record the bookstore was a nice touch.”
His head snaps up and before he can reply, Veronica’s eyes focus on something behind him and there’s a sly grin on her face. “Ah, here we are Romeo. Seek happy nights to happy days.”
Jughead Jones has had the wind knocked out of him twice in his 27 years of life--both times at the hand of Archie Andrews. Now, as he turns to follow Veronica’s line of sight, it happens a third time courtesy of one Betty Cooper.
She is a vision and several heads turn as she makes her way over to them; walking or floating Jughead isn’t sure.
He marvels at the way her dress falls flawlessly around her curves, looking incredibly soft. The delicate ivory color of the dress highlights her sun kissed skin all the more. Her golden hair falls in soft waves over one shoulder, contained on the other side by a clip that resembles an angel’s wing. A change he realizes, from the ponytail that seems so irrevocably Betty.
“Better close that mouth Romeo, you might catch a fly,” Veronica whispers behind him.
He would have liked to, really, but as he and Betty make eye contact, his brain goes haywire at the heart-stopping smile she gives him.
She finally reaches their small group. “Hi everyone, I’m sorry for not coming over sooner.”
Veronica moves to stand at her friend’s side. “That’s quite alright, B. We hope everything is well in floral land. They look marvelous, by the way. Everyone, this is my best gal pal and forever friend, Betty Cooper. Kevin and Fangs, you know already.” Veronica grins wickedly at him and his face reddens, “And I do believe you know Jughead already, but I don’t think you’ve met his sister, JB.”
A blush forms high on Betty’s cheekbones. “Right, it’s so great to finally meet you, JB. I’ve heard so much about you.” She offers a hand to JB before finally turning to him and smiles shyly. “Hey, Jug. It’s good to see you again.”
His name, her lips, her voice. He responds with a resounding, “Hi.”
Real Smooth, Jones.
Kevin giggles quietly and JB looks between the two of them as if she’s putting a puzzle together. “How do you two know each other again?”
Jughead really, really doesn’t like the teasing tone of JB’s voice.
He rocks back and forth on his heels lightly. “Betty helped me pick out the flowers I brought to the airport for you. She works at the floral shop that designed the arrangements for tonight.”
“Ohhhh” she says slowly. “This is that Betty. You’re the gorgeous mystery girl he took the famous bookstore, right?”
If only the Earth would open up and swallow him whole.
Betty lets out a shaky laugh. “Right, we did go together, Shakespeare and Company. He told me that you’re here spending the semester studying art history. Hopefully you’ll have some time to visit it while you’re in Paris.”
“That’s the plan!” JB looks at him with calculating smile. “You know, Jug also told me that you are a writer. This whole part-time writer, part-time florist thing is kind of cool.”
“Aspiring writer,” she corrects politely. “But yes, I spend most of my days working in Edith’s shop or writing.”
“That’s cool. What genre?”
“Right now I’m working on a true crime slash murder mystery piece.”
JB gives her an impressed look. “No wonder Jughead likes you so much.”
Kevin snorts, Fangs look away, Veronica takes a swing of her champagne, and Jughead nearly half shouts, “Hey JB, why don’t you help me go get everyone a refill on their drinks?”
She looks far too pleased with herself. “Sure thing, if you’ll excuse us.”
They grab the glasses from the group and find an empty high-top table and set them down.
“Seriously, JB. Are you trying to embarrass me?” He pinches the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefingers. “Please for the love of God tell me you’re not choosing this as the night to get back at me for eating the last of your Nutella earlier this week. I already apologized and bought you a new jar. It’s been a stressful week and I came home, and it was just sitting there on the counter--”
“No, I’m not,” she interrupts and points a finger at him. “However, I’m expecting at least one more jar in repayment, by the way. I also think that based on how this girl made you feel after one date, you should try and let her know how much you actually like her. Did you forget that you spent weeks looking for her? You’re going to throw it away, just like that?”
“Jesus, is there anything that Archie didn’t tell you?”
“You know that he is terrible at keeping secrets, it’s not my fault you haven’t figured that out yet.”
“This is not your decision to make JB, or something for you to meddle in. Besides, I already told you, I gave her the open to call me back and she didn’t which most likely means she just wants to be friends. I--we can be friends, it’s fine. I’m fine.” He says gesturing to himself.
“Considering you haven’t been able to wipe the drool off of your chin since she walked over here, I don’t think that’s going to be so easy for you, Jug. That girl over there, is a clear ten. Hell, let’s be honest she’s a total twelve tonight. Now, you, on a good day are four.” He scowls and she raises her hands in defense. “I’m only kidding. You’re the smartest person I know, a crazy talented photographer and you, despite the sarcastic and brooding exterior, are actually a cinnamon roll.” He laughs and she places her hand on his shoulder. “What I’m trying to say is, you should let yourself have something beautiful. You deserve it.”
He looks at her and back over at Betty; her head is thrown back in laughter at something Kevin says, the faint timber of it sends a tingling sensation up his neck.
JB is looking at him when he meets her eyes again. “I’ve never seen you act like this around a girl and I have to say watching you go all heart eyes around her is pretty entertaining.”
Jughead rolls his eyes at her and gathers up the empty champagne flutes. “Come on, help me the get drinks.”
By the time they return to the group, the band has started to play their second set. For a moment, he panics when he no longer sees Betty in the group. It must register on his face because Veronica assures him, “Don’t worry Romeo, she went off to the petites dames room.”
Embarrassed he’d been so transparent, he responds, “I wasn’t looking for her, I was looking for Archie.”
Veronica gives him a look along the lines of Uh-huh sure.
The band is performing some French song Jughead doesn’t recognize, and he starts to notice a few people have now moved inward and towards the dance floor; spinning around slowly in time with the music.
Veronica grabs Fang’s hand. “Dance with me?”
Kevin follows suit and gives a side glance to JB. “Our turn! Let’s go show those two how to waltz properly.” He grabs JB and spins her around with exaggerated fanfare, leaving Jughead standing by himself.
He watches them for awhile and is startled when Betty sidles up next to him. “And then there were two,” she laughs quietly.
Over Kevin’s shoulder he makes eye contact with JB. Thankfully Betty is looking the other direction as JB tilts her head at Betty and mouths,“Do it!”
He clears his throat and she turns to face him. “Would you like to dance, Betty?”
There is an expression on her face that he can’t place but she ducks her head and draws her lower lip in and says quietly. “I’d love to.”
He leads them further out onto the floor, the song shifts into something slower and softer. He’s face to face with her and again he’s struck by just how beautiful she is. He realizes he’s been staring at her a moment too long before he tentatively places a hand around her waist and holds the other in his. There is a faint smell of jasmine as she places her other arm on his shoulder. He’d been right about her dress; the silky material he feels only a fraction softer than the warm bare skin of her back.
They sway together for the rest of the song and, as it shifts into another, he feels Betty lay her head on his shoulder.
Feeling eyes on him, Jughead looks up to see Veronica staring at him with a devilish smile wide across her face. He sees her eyes shift over to JB and Kevin, whose smiles mirror hers.
He keeps Betty’s back to them as his own eyes flit back and forth between the other two couples dancing and looks up at the stage to see Archie, staring at him with a shit-eating grin on his face. It hits him like a train.
They had planned this.
They had planned this whole damn thing.
Frankly, he is not the least bit upset about it.
Jughead gives a nod to Archie who winks in response, then looks back at the other two couples, hoping that the gratitude in his eyes is apparent. He would certainly have a conversation about this with JB and Archie later, but for now he is more concentrated on having the literal embodiment of an angel in his arms.
Jughead shifts his head down to whisper to Betty conspiratorially. “You know, if I didn’t know any better I’d say that our friends are in cahoots.” He can’t be sure, but he thinks he feels a shiver run down her back at his words.
She pulls back to look at him with curious eyes and he gestures with his chin to their friends. Jughead watches as she knits her eyebrows together and puts the pieces together, the corner of her mouth upturning. “You know, you might be onto something there, Jones.”
He chuckles softly and they resume their dancing.
“Can’t say that I’m mad about it.”
She says so quietly that it isn’t until she gently rests her head on his chest that he’s sure she’s said it. His grip tightens and he realizes now that she is here, he in’t sure he could ever let her go; the moment feels suspended in time. He wonders idly, if she feels it too.
“You look radiant tonight, Betts.”
He hears her faint intake of breath and it takes a moment before she finally looks at him, the iridescent green irises of her eyes searching his. “Thank you, Jug.” He lets go of her hand to push back the hair from her shoulder and swallows, his adam apple bobbing. “Betts, I’m--”
The room erupts in applause and they both realize that the song has ended.
He is not about to let another moment between the two of them slip away. “Would you like to see my favorite part of the exhibit?”
Something flashes in her eyes. “Yes, please.”
Jughead places a hand on the small of her back to guide them as they meander out of the crowd, shifting at one point to grab her hand to lead them over to the grand staircase. He’s surprised when he feels Betty’s fingers intertwine with his.
Behind them, Archie joins his group of friends and offers JB a fist bump as they watch the pair ascend the stairs together.
As Betty and Jughead make their way up the second floor, they garner a few looks and he’s not surprised. Betty is easily the most beautiful person in the room, and he feels like luckiest bastard in the world to have her on his arm.
They’re met by a friendly face at the top of the stairs, guarding one section of the hall from guests.
Antoine greets them excitedly. “Bonjour Monsieur Jones, ravi de vous voir ce soir!"
“Bonjour, Antoine. Comment allez vous?” Betty raises an surprised eyebrow at him and he whispers in her ear. “I’ve been practicing.”
She smirks. “Impressive.”
“Ça va.” And eyes land on Betty. “Who is this beautiful lady?”
“Antoine this is Betty Cooper.”
He gives Jughead a knowing smile, and answers in heavy accent. “My goodness, Monsieur Jones; you are one lucky man this evening. It’s pleasure to meet you, Betty.”
Betty glances up at him and he answers honestly, “I am.” She blushes, and the rosy hue becomes his new favorite color. “Is it alright if I show Betty upstairs?”
The guard nods. “Yes, but of course.”
“Merci, Antoine.” He gestures for Betty to lead the way, “Après vous, mademoiselle.”
They follow a small the pathway which leads them to a wide balcony. On one side, sits the grand hall of the museum, the other the famed clock that faces the river Seine. Betty rushes up to the clock face and marvels at the view outside. He watches her, her eyes passing over the cars below and the scene in front of her. She turns and not for the first time this evening does he have urge to kiss her.
He stops himself from doing something impulsive by grabbing her hand. “Ready to see my favorite part?”
She nods and he leads her over to the other side of the balcony that overlooks the main hall. As she looks on at the event below, he notes the way Betty’s face is illuminated by the moonlight outside and twinkle lights in front of them.
Betty sighs as she looks below them, placing a hand on his bicep. “Jug, this is incredible, you must be so proud.”
Heat blooms on the back of his neck and he rubs it away. “Thanks, it’s pretty cool to know I was apart of something that’s going to help the museum so much.”
“I walked through and saw the portraits collections, they’re all so wonderful. I love how they’re all captured in black and white.”
An idea strikes him and he pulls out the camera from his pocket. “Do you maybe want to add yours?”
Betty gives him an unconvinced look, “I’m quite sure my portrait isn’t museum worthy.”
“Believe me, it is.”
He realizes the truth in his statement, and hopes she does, too.
Jughead’s not sure she’s convinced, but she relents. “If you say so. Tell me where to stand, Mr. DeMille,” she teases.
He looks around, and though the lighting isn’t ideal, there is a spot on the far balcony and that is cascaded with light from the moon and the event below.
“Over here.” He guides her and turns her to face the light. He lifts up the camera. “A little to the left and--right there!”
He takes a few shots and then looks down to adjust something and he himself saying “Beautiful.” When he looks up Betty is staring at him with a strange look.
“What’s wrong?” he asks cautiously.
“Nothing! I just--I just noticed that you weren’t wearing your hat tonight, that’s all.”
Jughead puts the camera back in his pocket and blushes. “Well it was either not wear it or face the wrath of JB so,” he shrugs.
“I know how much you love it, so this must be a big deal.” She looks down at her hands. “But if JB had anything to do with your look tonight, I’d trust her advice from now on.”
Betty looks up at him and the brightness in her eyes hits him square in the chest. She bites her lip again, and he slowly closes the distance until he’s standing just in front of her.
Before he can lose his nerve he tells her truthfully, “Betty, I’m so sorry if I made you uncomfortable the other day. It’s just that--” He takes a deep breath and exhales shakily. “From the moment I saw you in the museum all those weeks ago, I couldn’t get the vision of you out of my head. When I found you in the flower shop, it felt like the universe finally aligned.” He shakes his head. “God, I know how cheesy that sounds but you can’t tell me you didn’t feel the same thing I did last week...that I’m feeling right now.”
Jughead can hear his own heartbeat over the music playing below them. She doesn’t respond right away, but looks at him intently. The intensity of the moment becomes too much, and he tears his gaze from her.
“You know what, I’m sorry I brought it up and probably made you uncomfortable...again.” He runs a hand through his hair as he turns to take a step away from her.
He stops when she places her hand on his arm. “Jug, don’t go.” Betty takes a deep breath and speaks quietly, not quite meeting his eyes. “I told myself that I couldn’t be with someone while I’m here. I moved for me, to work and write, you know? Being with someone...with you, it wasn’t part of the plan.”
Jughead’s brain catches her use of past tense, and his heart sinks.
Her voice is breathy when she speaks again. “But I felt it--I feel it, too.”
Betty closes the distance between them and gently places a hand on his cheek. He searches her eyes for a silent confirmation, and then leans down and presses his lips to hers.
Her lips are soft, like roses petals, against his and when they break he takes a steadying breath. “Betty,” he doesn’t speak so much as breathes her name.
Her eyes are bright when they open, and something like hope flutters in his chest.
à suivre (to be continued…)
As always, thank you so much for reading!
A huge hug and thank you to the incredible kawaiikitsune13 for their incredible beta-ing!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Past lives couldn't ever hold me down , lost love is sweeter when it's finally found"
If years of being dressed up and dragged out to parties by Veronica Lodge had taught Betty anything: the more glasses of champagne you have, the less your feet will hurt. The two champagne glasses’ effects have since started to wane, but Betty doesn’t focus on the dull ache in the balls of her feet. Instead, all she feels are the butterflies that have been fluttering fiercely in her stomach since Jughead pressed his lips to hers.
Betty’s heart feels lighter than she can ever remember, and it’s the warmth of his hand in hers as they descend the stairs of the museum and out in the street that keeps her tethered to the ground.
They had put the puzzle pieces together, realizing that their well intended friends had conspired the whole time to get them alone at the event. She’ll be having some words with Veronica later, but right now, she’s fairly certain nothing could shake the elation running through her veins.
The cool autumn air feels good on the persistent flush on Betty’s cheeks. Jughead, too, seems to have a perpetual grin on his face.
“You look awfully happy.”
Jughead gives their intertwined fingers a soft squeeze. “Well, if you must know I just had the most incredible evening, and it ended with what I’m certain was best first kiss I’ll ever have.”
Betty quirks an eyebrow at him playfully, “Really?”
“Yes,” he says resolutely. He stops her, the soft glow of lights on the Pont Royal highlighting the smattering of moles gracing his cheek as his hand wrapped gently around the back of her neck. “I’m also trying to figure how to initiate the best second kiss I’ll ever have.”
“I think there’s a strong possibility that you don’t have to do much.”
The way he’s looking at her tugs at something low in her stomach; it’s more than just a fondness or lust. He’s looking at her like she is so much more.
His lips are soft against hers and she pulls him just a bit closer, as they stand over the Pont Royal. Betty feels like she’s in a haze, but the spell is broken when she steps wrong and nearly rolls her ankle.
“Ohmygod,” she laughs as Jughead catches her.
He helps steady her and looks down at her feet. “Guess I didn’t factor in your shoes when suggesting a romantic stroll through the streets of Paris.”
She tries not to wince. “That makes two of us.”
“Let me hail a cab.”
“No, Jug. We can keep walking,” protesting as she grabs his hand, “I’m fine, really--”
“Your feet will thank you tomorrow and then you’ll thank me,” he grins cheekily as he steps out to hail a cab. When one pulls up, he opens the door and she gathers her dress gingerly so it doesn’t catch.
Betty feels a pang of disappointment over how quickly they arrive at her apartment. Jughead gets out first to help her exit the car in the most graceful way possible due to her formal floor-length dress. She had spied their scheming friends seemingly absorbed in the band’s second set of the evening when they had left the gala, so she knows there will not be any nosey roommates or neighbors to deal with upstairs.
The heat from his hand on her lower back as they walk down the narrow hallway makes Betty almost dizzy. They reach her door, and she turns to face him; suddenly very aware of how close they are in this small space. The grey and blue flecks of color in his eyes were all the more dazzling in this lighting.
“Thank you for coming, Betts. I’m really glad I could share tonight with you,” he says, his smile bordering on shy.
“I’m so glad I did. Everything was so beautiful, Jug. We are all so proud of you.” She places her hand on his bicep for emphasis. “To be fair though, Veronica forcing me into an evening gown so she can drag me to a party is nothing new.”
He chuckles lowly and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. “Yeah, well if we’re being honest I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to go to work.”
Jughead leans in to kiss her; it’s soft and languid. The wide heat of his hand on her lower back and the lingering sweet taste of champagne as his tongue gently slides between her lips has her heart rate pounding furiously in her chest. She lets him in, and it’s the soft massage of her tongue on his that makes him groan quietly. Both of her hands find their way to the cheeky suspenders he has on under his suit coat and she tugs backward towards her front door where their bodies collide. She almost protests when she feels him break away, but then his tongue is leaving a delicious tingle in its wake as he trails down her jaw and neck. He’s beanie-less, so Betty lets her fingers slip into the dark locks and is pleased to find that they are as soft as she’d imagined.
“You can stay,” she breathes out in between kisses as he moves his mouth away from the gentle slope of her collarbones to her swollen lips. “Stay with me.”
He pulls back slightly to look at her, his eyes searching hers; she hopes that he can see how much she wants this, wants him.
Worried that she may have said the wrong thing, Betty calms when he leans in to bring his lips to her forehead and Betty can feel a similar hammering rhythm in his chest. “You have no idea how badly I want to, but I want you to be sure of us...whatever this is.”
“No, you’re right.” Exhaling through her nose slowly, trying to calm her own heartbeat, “I don’t want to rush into anything either.” One hand on his chest and the other still holding onto his suspenders, she gives it a playful tug, “I hope we can continue this evening’s conversation soon, though?”
“Most definitely,” he chuckles. “Spend Saturday with me? We could cross a few items off on your Paris to-do list.”
“Sounds perfect,” a smile breaks out across her face to match his.
“Then it’s date. A real date this time, no more sitcom miscommunication for us.” Betty laughs at that as he lifts her hand to gently place a kiss on her knuckles, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”
Betty groans, “Not you too with the Romeo and Juliet references. May I remind you how that story ends?”
“I just couldn’t help myself, Juliet.” There’s a small quirk to his lips that she finds both increasingly endearing and attractive. He leaves her with a lingering kiss on her cheek and walks backwards to call for the elevator. With a ding, the door slides open and he steps inside, “Night, Betts.”
“Goodnight, Jug,” she says softly.
When the door closes, she lets herself inside and heads straight for their balcony. The cool autumn air feels good on her heated body and the cold concrete amazing on her aching feet. The city is laid out before her, a vast landscape of twinkling lights and buildings.
This new feeling of elation is sending Betty for a loop. The most terrifying part is that she likes it; not ready to let her feet up off the edge. The rush too sweet to let go of amd she thinks that she could get used to the blissful momentum of free fall and vulnerability. There’s a hope inside her that wherever he leads her will be somewhere wonderful.
Jughead had always been a self proclaimed night owl; staying up late to enjoy the quiet hours, reading, editing photos, or watching the same Hitchcock movies alone because Archie -who refused to- wasn’t there to complain. It’s only within the last few years that he’s had to adhere to a more normal sleep schedule for work purposes, so he saves his late night musings for the weekends.
The Saturday he’s set to meet Betty for their date has him up well before eight in the morning, a miracle in itself. After dressing, he takes one last look in the bathroom mirror before heading out; the bright eyed and bushy tailed reflection staring back at him is something he hasn’t seen in a long time.
They decided to meet at the museum and he would be lying if he said he wasn’t just a bit disappointed she didn’t want him to pick her up at her apartment. He decides last minute to grab his camera and as he’s leaving, he's bombarded by an overly excited JB bouncing on her heels demanding to know what he has planned. Archie, just back from a morning run, teases him about being up so early while he blends up one of his post-workout concoctions in their tiny kitchen.
Jughead manages to escape and thinks perhaps Betty had wanted to save him from a Veronica Lodge inquisition by meeting him at the museum instead.
So smart, this girl.
There’s a small delay on the Metro which makes him a few minutes late, but gives him a few extra moments to get his heartbeat under control and go over his plans for their day. There was an undeniable something blossoming between the two of them and he was excited to spend the day exploring whatever it was.
Jughead bounds up the station steps and searches for her in the courtyard, in front of the museum. His eyes roam across the vast space already filled with tourists; her blonde tresses catching his attention almost immediately. Green eyes meet his and he can’t help but smile helplessly at her. Betty may not be dressed as she was for the gala, but she’s still beautiful all the same. She looks more relaxed too, he notes, in a simple checkered blazer and jeans.
“Hi!” she says brightly. There’s a bit of an awkward shuffle between them as his mind flashes back to after the gala when he had her pressed up against her front door and he feels his face warm at the memory. She assuages any concern by embracing him in a hug first and leaving a kiss on the corner of his mouth.
“Betty Cooper. You’re a sight for sore eyes,” he says as he adjusts his beanie. “I’m sorry you had to wait.”
“Oh, it’s fine. I’m sure you are very aware how fun people-watching at museums can be.” She gives him a shy smile, “Look, I wanted you to know it’s not that I didn’t want you to pick me up this morning. I just thought our first date would be a less awkward if it didn’t begin with a classic Veronica Lodge interrogation.”
He feels the worry ease away from his mind and smiles widely, “Maybe we can save that for our second date...or maybe the third.” Betty laughs, and he thinks he’d like to be the cause of that sound more often. “Shall we get the day started then?” he goofily confirms as he offers her his hand.
She takes it and intertwines their fingers, and he fails to hide the silly grin that takes over his face when she does.
The Louvre just opened for the day and the queues were already starting to fill up, but they’re able to bypass the queue quickly and get inside. One of the perks of being employed at a museum in the city of Paris, is that any employee of a national museum has special access to all other neighboring museums for free. A perk that Jughead intends to use to the fullest extent while he’s living here.
“So are you still a little mad at me for not sharing today’s itinerary with you?” he asks as she grabs a museum guide in English and they head inside. They had exchanged texts deciding when and where to meet the day before.
“All you told me was to wear a comfortable pair of shoes because there would be walking involved. Not a great hint,” she quips, but the corners of her mouth are resisting a full-blown grin.
“That was a great hint and I thought it would be a great way to flex your investigative muscles for your writing.”
“Well thank you for thinking of me and my writing, but this is Paris. People walk everywhere here, therefore I maintain my stance that it was a terrible hint.”
“Touché. I’m still not going to divulge all of the plans for today though; there has to be a little mystery.”
“I will say that as far as first dates go, you’re setting the bar pretty high by starting the day at the Louvre.”
For someone who has spent most of their time in elective solitude and in very few relationships, he tries not to preen at her praise, so instead he just smiles at her, “Come on, we’ve got lots of walking to do.”
All of the beautiful things around them, and he still finds her to be the most interesting thing in the room.
They walk amongst the throngs of tourists, his hand in hers and spend the better part of the early afternoon wandering from room to room. They stop every so often to contemplate one or more works. She shares more about her life in Los Angeles with Veronica and then he discusses what it was like living with Archie in New York. He likes that he’s getting to know more about her, but also enjoys the ease he feels at the comfortable silence between them.
Betty is alarmingly gorgeous, and the more time he spends with her, he realizes that trait extends to her mind as well. She’s funny and clever, and it’s a nice balance to his admittedly acerbic attitude. They sit back to back on a small bench inside one of the galleries, and he can feel her body vibrate with laughter as he offers commentary and backstory on the various tourists they come across. He finds himself easily carried away with the affection he feels for her and he idly wonders if the sweeping feeling he gets in his stomach will dissipate anytime soon. As the day wears on, he finds himself unable to control the need to touch her; which much to his pleasure Betty reciprocates by reaching for his hand first, more often than not.
They stand side by side gazing at one of his favorite paintings, La Liberté guidant le peuple.
Jughead muses quietly to himself, “This is one of my favorite paintings in the museum.”
“Please tell me it’s not because the Coldplay album?” she teases.
“You wound me and my musical tastes, Cooper. And by the way, no it’s not.” He continues, “Did you know that Delacroix actually based most of the barricade using sketches that he’d prepared over ten years prior for an entirely different painting? That’s some dedication to your craft.”
Betty quirks an eyebrow in question.
“The perks of having a sister who studies art history,” he explains.
“Ah...I see. So, do you use your borrowed knowledge of art history on the all of the girls you date?” Her tone is light, but he can tell she’s genuine in her curiosity.
“You’d be the first, actually.” He can see the blush in her cheeks rise. “There was this one time though, when I was in grad school, a girl asked me out only because I worked at The Met. She thought I could get her into the Met Gala.”
She quietly gasps and covers her mouth with her hands, “No! Did you?”
Jughead snorts, “No way. I wasn’t allowed anywhere near the building during the event. The minute she found that out the date was over before it began.”
Betty offers him a consoling smile, “I’m sorry. Some people can be so awful.”
Shrugging slightly, “It’s okay. I was a reclusive and moody little shit during undergrad and grad, so I should have known something was off. Archie tried to cheer me up by taking me out after she called it off, but that just ended up with him playing the guitar shirtless on the stage of a small comedy club in Chelsea.”
Betty begins giggling uncontrollably at that, and it earns them a few stares from a museum guard in the corner. He wraps an arm around her and guides them quickly into then next gallery before they get kicked out. Jughead finds himself trying to hide his laughter too; it’s the rare kind that starts in your belly and travels through your whole body.
After their giggles subside; Betty strikes up their conversation again. “I’d imagine that you get asked this often, but as a photographer, what sort of things inspire you?”
As he turns to answer her, he sees that her eyes are the bright shade of green he’d noticed the other day when she spoke so passionately about her own writing and it something stirs in him. His mind quickly flashes to other, more intimate moments, that he’d like to see the same look in her eyes again.
Clearing his throat, “There are so many memories or moments that words sometimes just cannot articulate where I think photography can.”
“What’s been your favorite project or shoot?”
“One I did in high school, actually. It was just before everything went to hell with my dad, and I just needed to get out of the house. JB had been over at a friend’s and so I just grabbed my camera and got outside. I took hundreds of shots of that day. Everything from leaves to bugs to some of the older dilapidated buildings on the south side of town. I think it’s when my love of escapism began. Instead of worrying over the things behind me, I could look through the lens of a camera and capture moments of perfection.”
He’s not quite able to meet her eyes as he tells the story, and when he finally does she’s looking at him not with sympathy; but a gaze filled with quiet wonderment.
Jughead huffs a small laugh, “I don’t think I’ve told anyone that story in a very long time.”
He shrugs, “I haven't always been the most social of creatures. Archie’s been my best friend since we were five, and I had a small gang of others I was close to throughout high school and college. Guess it’s a little cliché for something like photography or art to help you through a rough time.”
She looks at him, not with empathy but a looking of kindred understanding, “Not at all. Art is beautiful, your photography is beautiful. If it can be a place of escape for when things in the real world are too ugly, then it’s not a cliché at all.”
At all once his chest feels like it’s been pried open be her delicate hands, but instead of discomfort there is only a warm sensation. There’s something about being around Betty that makes him feel comfortable; like he can share his thoughts, sardonic as they might be, and they’d be met with wit and compassion.
She bumps his shoulder slightly with hers, “Plus the whole rebel without a cause but with a heart of gold is just my type.”
Betty feels like her mind is reeling and her heart flutters happily after the morning she’s spent with Jughead in the Louvre. She would have gladly stayed there all day, but he had more plans for the day and promised to bring her back.
They leave the museum and he steers her towards a kiosk a few blocks away with bikes-for-rent.
Betty jokes about his confidence in her ability to ride a bike and panic strikes his features. She laughs and feels bad for making him worry but proceeds to share that she was the proud owner of a Beach Cruiser back in Los Angeles.
Together they ride down along the path that lines the Seine and over towards the 7th arrondissement. Betty follows along just behind Jughead, his tall frame perched on the bike with his camera slung around the back of his torso.
The ride is easy enough, so she lets her thoughts wander back to the conversation they shared that morning; his natural inclination to be a bit reclusive had surprised her. From the moment she met him he seemed charming, albeit a little quirky if the points on his beloved grey beanie were any indication. He spoke with immense conviction when she asked about his photography and bestowed an intense curiosity in return when he was asking about her writing.
For the first time in a long time, Betty feels seen and heard. He listened when she spoke and challenged her in a playful way. He asked thoughtful questions about her interests and her life before moving Paris. The anxiety she felt over whether or not this could be a purely physical attraction melted away as the day wore on; it left her feeling relieved that he was just as interested in her mind as her body.
She may have shared just how interested she was in him physically with Veronica the night before, over a few glasses of wine on their balcony but that was neither here nor there at the moment.
Before Betty realizes it, Jughead has come to a stop in front of her. She yelps as she just barely hits the brakes on her bike to stop herself from running straight into his.
“Whoa, there! Are you okay?” he asks as he reaches out to catch the front of her bike before it tips.
“Yes, sorry,” she replies only mildly embarrassed that she’d been too busy wrapped up in her thoughts about him to remember how to ride a bike.
He grins, “And she tells me she knows how to ride a bike.”
Betty feels her face warm and playfully pokes his side, “Hey!”
He throws his hands up in surrender, “Ow! Okay, okay, I’m sorry. Let’s get you back on solid ground, we can walk the rest of the way from here.”
They walk another block and stop off at a deli. Inside, Betty’s nostrils fill with the delicious smell of freshly baked bread and sweets. Jughead leaves her to look around while he picks something up at the back of the store. Betty makes a mental note to return to the little store to pick up some of the artisan mustards and jams for her weekly wine and cheese nights with Veronica. She’s busy deciding on what cheese would go best with a lavender honey when Jughead returns.
“Ready to go?” He’s carrying something that looks suspiciously like a picnic basket.
“Absolutely. Where to next?”
“Après vous,” he gestured dramatically as he holds the door open for her.
Betty laughs and grabs his hand as he leads her over a few blocks and through a small grove of trees. It’s when she steps out of the trees onto a small flower lined path that she realizes where he intends to eat their lunch.
“Jug,” she looks up to see him smiling sheepishly at her.
“You didn’t exactly share your Paris to-do list with me yet, but I thought this might be something on it.”
He’s not just planned lunch, but a picnic on the vast expanse of lawn on the south side of the Eiffel tower. She’s suddenly overcome with affection for him and his thoughtfulness and without hesitation, she places her hands of the side of his face and pulls him in for a kiss. When they part, she still feels the tingle of his lips on hers and smiles at the adorably surprised look on his face.
Her thumb rubs lightly over one beauty marks on his cheek, “Thank you, Jughead. For today, and for planning all of this.”
“You’re welcome.” And there it is again, that same look he had in the bookstore, at the gala and after; the one that makes her feel like she’s so much more. He leans in to kiss her this time and just as their lips touch, his stomach lets out a loud growling noise.
“Whoops,” he laughs. “Frankly, it’s kind of miracle I made it this long without eating. JB teases me about only taking the job here so that I could eat my way through the city.”
“Was she wrong?”
His face reddens slightly, “Not entirely.”
They take their basket and spread out the blanket provided and dig in. There’s an assortment of fancy cheeses, charcuterie, berries and some of the heavenly bread she smelled earlier in the shop.
“This is quite an impressive picnic,” she says as she pulls out a small bottle of sparkling wine and pours them each some into the provided cups and hands Jughead one.
He raises his glass to hers, and the earnest look in eyes makes her face feel warm.
“This is really good, way sweeter than I expected. And it’s pink,” he comments.
“You sound surprised. Have you never had rosé before?” Betty thinks back to one night in college where she and Veronica had burst through their apartment door only to shout, ‘Yes way, rosé!’. That year for Christmas Betty had gifted Veronica with a satin sleeping mask with the same phrase on it.
“I’ve had champagne and beer a few times, but never been one for drinking more than one or two drinks at a time.” He clears his throat and hesitates, “Uh...unhealthy relationships with alcohol run in the family and all that.”
Betty suddenly panics, “Jug, I’m so sorry! I shouldn’t have offered it--”
He cuts her off gently, “Betts, it’s okay, really. I wanted to try it. I’m not saying I don’t drink but I am careful. I do for special occasions though.”
Catching onto his specific word choice, she raises an eyebrow questionably. “So, this counts as a special occasion?”
Jughead raises his glass to hers again, “I’d say it’s a very special one.”
The rest of the afternoon is spent snacking on the treats in the basket, with more stories of their respective lives before moving to Paris; Betty about her writing and dreams of becoming a famous crime novelist, his desire to travel the world and take pictures. He takes a few photos of her trying to look like she’s holding up the Eiffel Tower and they both laugh at her inability to do so. The stories he shares about growing up with Archie and moving in with his dad are further proof that although he has a few people in his inner circle, there is no doubt that he loves them fiercely.
It’s that fierceness that has Betty feeling like she’s further in free fall with this wonderful man.
The sun begins to set, the cool autumn air sweeping around them, so they decide to pack up the remnants of their lunch.
“I wouldn’t want Veronica to send a search party after me,” Jughead jokes.
“Considering our dear friends were cunning enough to come up with an elaborate plan to get us together at the gala, I’m pretty sure she’d okay with you stealing me for the day. Did you ever say anything to JB and Archie?”
“Oh, we had a conversation.” He picks up the picnic basket and grabs her hand with the other. “Neither of them is repentant at all. Archie is like an affable golden retriever and JB is my little sister, so it’s hard to stay mad for any period of time. What about Veronica?”
“I’ve learned over the years never to stop Veronica Lodge when she’s on a mission. She’s a great friend, the best, and she just wants me to be happy.”
Betty stops walking to turn to him and is struck by the pure adoration in his eyes. “Very.” she says in earnest.
Jughead lifts their intertwined hands and places a soft kiss on her knuckles that she feels down to her toes, “Me too.”
à suivre (to be continued…)
I'm so sorry for the length of time in between updates, but c'est la vie. If you're still reading or just reading for the first time, I hope you know how much it means to me!