Chapter 1: Welcome To New York
“Arch, will you please move?” Betty scolded half-heartedly as she tried to plump the cushions that he was sitting on. He looked around her, his red hair falling into his eyes, his video game too intense to brush it away. His fingers were a blur on the controller. “Archie?”
“Mmm?” he hummed, not really listening.
“Move!” she smacked him with the cushion in her hands.
“Hey!” he yelped, dropping his controller to defend himself from his roommate’s attack. “You just had to ask,” he muttered. Betty just raised her eyebrows at him. “Why are you cleaning anyway?”
“My new roommate is arriving in the morning,” she replied, she had started dusting Archie now. He batted her away.
“Yeah, I know that. But he’s a guy, he won’t care about mess.”
“But I do, and I want to make a good impression.”
“Just put on a short skirt.” That earned him a smack. “Hey, hey! I’m sorry,” he laughed.
“Good thing you’re getting rid of me then,” he teased, tugging on her ponytail.
Betty frowned. Archie had been her roommate for two years — and her next-door neighbour for her entire life before then — and the idea of spending her last year in college living with a stranger felt almost unfair. She kept reassuring herself that she would just be studying all year, but the loss of her childhood best friend hurt more than she liked to admit. Of course, when Archie announced he was moving in with Veronica, Betty never really thought it would actually happen. Which is why she was so late in advertising for a roommate. Archie was a ladies man, a free spirit, the last guy to move in with a girl he had only been dating for a couple of months. But Veronica had her hooks in deep and Archie followed her around like a puppy. No one really knew what to make of it. Betty was pleased that the strong-minded Latina seemed to have straightened her best friend out a bit, but she was equally concerned that everything was happening a bit fast.
“You can always move back, you know... If things don’t work out between you and Veronica.”
“What about the new guy? You can’t just throw him out on the street,” he teased.
“You can sleep on the couch, idiot!”
He tugged on her ponytail again, grinning at her impishly. People often got the wrong impression about her and Archie, not believing that Archie Andrews, notable player, hadn’t managed to sleep with his roommate, but it wasn’t like that between them. It never had been. There was a time, when they were teenagers, that Betty thought something might come of it, but they had started dating other people and the window of opportunity had quickly closed. Archie had comforted her when her high-school boyfriend had dumped her for another girl, and Betty had always been around to help him figure out the complex workings of the female brain. There had been another moment, when they started college, that Archie seemed to look at his friend for the first time. But she had been hung up on a summer romance, a guy that she would never see again, and — for the first time in his life — Archie had found himself to be second best.
They had always been best friends, in the most platonic sense of the word. Archie was like the older brother she never had, and by this point anything romantic between them would feel like incest. Their friends weren’t convinced however, which made things considerably awkward whenever Archie had a girlfriend as they often viewed Betty as a threat. Veronica was the worst in that category. Betty suspected that was the main reason Archie was moving out, although Archie didn’t know that.
“Cup of tea?”
Nothing slowed the inevitable like tea.
Betty grabbed a couple of teabags from the almost-empty pot and put the kettle on, making a mental note to buy more. One of the few things she knew about her new roommate was that he was British, and the British like their tea. She lent against the counter as she watched the steam slowly curl from the kettle and wondered what it would be like to live more than a hundred feet away from her best friend for the first time in her life. Veronica’s extravagant apartment — which was owned by her wealthy parents — was located on the other side of campus, a twenty minute walk from Betty’s shabby flat.
Archie restarted his game and was firing on the enemy from the safety of the couch when Betty brought out the mugs into the tiny living room. She knew that Veronica had sent him over to fetch the rest of his stuff three hours ago. The rest of his stuff being a couple of plates and his Xbox console.
“When are you going to pack that thing?” Betty asked, nodding towards Archie’s Xbox and blowing on her tea, making the dark liquid ripple.
“I’m not.” He paused the game and threw the controller carelessly onto the other end of the couch.
“Ronnie doesn’t want the guys coming over to play Halo,” he shrugged.
“You’re giving up your Xbox?” Betty asked in astonishment. Usually she couldn’t get Archie to give up his Xbox for five minutes so he could perform necessary tasks like shower, and eat. Veronica must have superpowers, she decided. “What are you going to do? Sell it?”
“Naw, I’m going to leave it here.”
“So you and the guys can come and play Halo in my apartment because your girlfriend won’t let you?”
Archie grinned. “Exactly.”
“Wow Arch, that plan is foolproof. Really,” Betty’s tone dripped with sarcasm. Archie frowned. “Ever thought that maybe Veronica wants to spend time with you? Rather than you, the guys, and Halo?”
“And maybe I don’t want to host your lads get-together?”
“Awh Betty, I-” Archie was about to back-track and apologise when he noticed Betty smiling behind her cup of tea. She started giggling. “Hey, you almost had me,” he protested, sticking his tongue out at her like they used to do when they were kids.
“Of course you can come over here, whenever you want,” she smiled. “I’m not going to let you stop Halo night when I’m just starting to get good.”
“I wouldn’t say good…”
Betty smacked his arm playfully. “I’m better than Reggie!”
“Yeah, at least you don’t accidently blow yourself up,” he sniggered. “Maybe we can recruit the new guy.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Betty replied. She watched him play his video game until her tea went cold, she took another sip and grimaced, discarding her mug on the coffee table. “Arch?”
“Mmm?” he glanced up briefly before his brown eyes flashed back to the screen.
“Can you give me a hand with the boxes?” she nodded towards the pile of boxes that her new roommate had forwarded ahead. She wanted to move them into his room before he arrived in the morning, and Archie was much more suited to the heavy lifting.
“Sure.” He put the controller down immediately and jumped up like a loyal puppy. Betty smiled at his enthusiasm. “The ones by the door?” She nodded. “Where do you want me to put them?”
“Your old room.”
He picked up the first box like it weighed nothing. Betty picked up the second with a little more difficulty. “Forsythe Pendleton Jones III?” he snorted at the name on the label. “I didn’t know a member of the British royal family was moving in.”
“Stop it,” Betty scolded, although she was smiling slightly.
“Maybe he’s a lord,” Archie joked. “Or maybe you’ve got really lucky and he’s a duke.”
“Or maybe it’s just a family name,” she corrected.
“Duchess Elizabeth Cooper, sounds fancy.” Archie wiggled his eyebrows at her suggestively.
“Shut up Arch,” she laughed. “Even if he’s the heir to the British throne, I’m not going to sleep with my roommate.”
“After all the times you made me watch The Prince and I?”
“He’s not a member of the British monarchy!” Betty laughed as she nudged open the bedroom door with her shoulder. The room was striped bare, it looked almost lonely without Archie’s suggestive posters on the walls and dirty laundry all over the floor. Betty almost missed it.
“You know anything else about this guy?” Archie had a protective tone in his voice. Betty raised her eyebrows at him.
“He’s from London, studying photography at Birmingham Uni, and he’s doing a year out here.”
“Is that all you know?”
“Oh yeah, I almost forgot. He’s a serial killer who has a preference for young blonde students who live alone.”
“Funny.” Archie rolled his eyes. Betty grinned at him.
“So, when are you going to pack up the rest of your things? Seems to me like you’re stalling.”
Archie didn’t even try to deny it. “One more game of Halo?”
“Fine. One more game. And then you’re moving out.”
An hour later, Betty had finally convinced Archie to pack up the rest of his things after she received a couple of texts from Veronica demanding to know how much longer he was going to be. He had stuffed his china plates, bowls, and mugs into a cardboard box, which Betty had promptly unpacked and repacked with the important tool of bubble wrap while he searched the rest of the apartment for stray items.
“You can always come and grab anything you’ve missed,” Betty assured him. She knew he was delaying the inevitable. He picked up his last box of stuff. Betty opened the front door. “It’s not like you’re moving out of state.”
“Yeah I know,” he nodded. “This is going to be weird, us not living together.” He said it like the thought had only just occurred to him and, knowing Archie, it probably had.
“What am I going to do without you, Coops?” he joked. Archie never stayed sad for long.
Betty grinned at him. “Learn how to cook?”
“Naa, that’s what microwaves are for.” Betty rolled her eyes and poked his rock-hard stomach.
“Your metabolism won’t stay perfect forever Archibald Andrews, mark my words.” Archie just laughed.
“You coming to Juke’s tonight?”
“I don’t know, I still have a lot to do before my roommate arrives.”
“This place is spotless!” Archie protested. “Please come out, drinks are on me.”
“By that you mean drinks are on Veronica,” Betty pointed out.
“Free drinks Betty! You should spend some more time with Ronnie, she wants to get to know you better.” Betty just raised her eyebrows. Veronica didn’t want to get to know her, she wanted to assess whether she was a serious threat. “Please?”
“Ugh fine, I’ll have one drink!”
Three beers later, Betty really wanted to go home. Veronica Lodge sat across the booth from her, twisting the stem of her wine glass, making the red liquid swish dangerously as she pretended to ‘get to know’ the blonde girl in front of her. Veronica was stunning, all dark features and flawless makeup. She was the kind of woman whose portrait should hang in the National Gallery (it hung over her father’s study instead) and she made all other women feel self-conscious just by being within fifty feet of her. Betty shrank further in her seat.
“Me and Reg are going to play darts,” Archie announced as he brought another glass of red wine for his ice queen. Reggie was already practising on the other side of the bar. “Wanna join Coops?”
Veronica cut in before she could answer. “I don’t think so Archikins, Betty and I are going to spend some quality girl time together.” She smiled sweetly at him and he smiled back like a loyal puppy, kissing her on the cheek before disappearing off in Reggie’s direction. Betty cursed him silently. She had only met Veronica a few times but she did not want to be alone with her. She suspected it was like swimming with sharks.
“So, Betty,” the brunette began. Betty flinched internally. “Archie tells me you don’t date.”
“Uhhh no, I like to focus on my work, and my blog,” she confessed, taking a long gulp of her beer.
“Well I know for a fact that Reggie is into you,” she said matter-of-factly. Betty grimaced. Reggie had asked her out a couple of times but she wasn’t interested.
“I only think of him as a friend,” she shrugged, not liking where this conversation was going.
“Is that the only reason?” she pressed.
“Mmmhmm.” Betty took another gulp.
“Interesting, because I was talking to Archikins about setting you up with a guy I know and he said that you didn’t date because you’re still hung up on some guy you met in Europe?” Betty choked on her beer, Veronica smirked triumphantly, knowing that she had hit the jackpot. Betty silently cursed Archie again for not being able to keep his mouth shut.
“That happened a long time ago,” she muttered, wiping her mouth on a napkin.
“Well isn’t it time to get back out there?” Veronica urged. “I promise you that Mr. Europe isn’t waiting for you to magically turn up, and waiting around for him is more pathetic than romantic.” Secretly, Veronica suspected that there was no such guy. After hearing the story from Archie, it seemed too good to be true, like something out of a fairytale. It was a little too convenient that they would never see each other again, and that Betty didn’t have him on any of her social media (Veronica had checked) and she concluded that Betty made it up to cover for her unrequited crush on Archie.
“It’s very kind of you to think of me Veronica,” Betty said through gritted teeth, remembering her promise to Archie that she would try and get along with her. “But I’m too busy to date.”
“Whatever you say,” she replied, eying the other girl critically.
That was the last straw for Betty. She loved Archie, but there was only so much grilling she could take on his behalf. “I think I’m going to head home, it’s getting late. Say goodnight to Archie for me will you?”
“Of course hun,” Veronica smiled sweetly.
With that, Betty left. It had just begun to rain heavily outside, a clear sign that summer was edging into autumn, and she let the cool drops trickle down her face and soak her hair as she walked the one block to her apartment. She couldn’t help but let Veronica’s words get to her. Perhaps she was pathetic. It wasn’t that she was hung up on the guy from her travels, just that no other man had ever compared, so why bother? She definitely didn’t make it all up to hide a nonexistent crush on Archie Andrews.
Betty hung up her coat and kicked off her shoes by the front door before grabbing a glass of water from the kitchen to chase some aspirin. She probably hadn’t drunk enough for a hangover, but she wanted to be sure anyway. Her clock gleamed in the darkness of her room, taunting her with the late hour, and she peeled off her damp clothes in favour of her comfiest sweats before curling up under the covers. Her newly-washed sheets smelled like rose petals and felt cool to the touch, lulling her to sleep in no time at all. Betty Cooper slept peacefully, oblivious to the fact that she was going to wake up to the biggest surprise of her life.
Jughead Jones yawned loudly. At five in the morning, there was nothing more he wanted than to climb back into bed and sleep until the middle of the day like his usual Sunday. There was a young mother trying desperately to calm a screaming baby behind him, and two children ducking under the security barriers in front, their parents attempting to keep them under control. A few grumpy travellers were flashing them dirty looks, and tutting. The line shuffled along, everyone in it bleary-eyed before the heavenly and slightly shit cup of coffee waiting for them at Starbucks on the other side of the security gate. The line moved again, everyone shuffling along obediently. Everyone thinks that British people love to queue, but that’s far from the truth. They just hate people who cut in line, and nobody wants to be that person.
Jughead checked his watch, the line hadn’t moved much in the last ten minutes and he couldn’t afford to miss his flight. He cursed himself silently, he knew he shouldn’t have spent that extra half an hour in bed. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and sent his new roommate, Elizabeth, a quick email to let her know that he was (hopefully) about to board his plane, forgetting that it was the middle of the night in New York. After another ten minutes, the line began to move along again. By the time he reached the front he only had half an hour until his flight. Jughead laid his leather satchel in the grey security tray, carefully placed his belt, wallet, and loose change in another, and quickly rushed through security. He snatched up his belongings and began to jog through the duty free shopping area, dodging around families, couples, and businessmen.
He reached his gate with a couple of minutes to spare. The woman at the desk looked at him irritably as he handed over his passport and boarding pass, the final passengers already neatly boarded on the plane.
“Good morning,” the flight attendant smiled politely at him. He showed her his boarding pass and she directed him to his seat.
“Sorry,” he muttered to the people he had to squeeze past to get to his seat. One had her headphones in and the other had his nose in a book. A good sign. The last thing he wanted to do was deflect conversation for eight hours. He fastened his seatbelt, plugged in his headphones, and closed his eyes. Jughead had what his father claimed to be a superpower — he could sleep anywhere, anytime. Once the plane had taken off, he nodded off pretty quickly.
Jughead woke up a few hours later to a tap on the shoulder. The same flight attendant was smiling politely at him, she was pushing a trolley.
“Chicken or vegetarian?”
“Uhh chicken,” he mumbled. She passed him a tray. “Thanks.” He peeled off the foil and screwed up his nose at the plastic-like smell of the pre-made meal. His stomach growled regardless, and he tucked into what was supposed to be roast chicken with all the trimmings. He was yet to find anyone who actually liked airplane food, but he hadn’t been subjected to it since he had flown to Greece over two years ago.
The attendant took his tray away and he stretched awkwardly in the limited space. His neck ached and he was beginning to feel a little claustrophobic. He looked out of the window, but all he could see were fluffy white clouds, he suspected that they were somewhere over the Atlantic. He checked his watch, only a couple of hours to go until they landed in New York. He turned on his television and began flicking through the available films. He turned it off, not fancying either a chick flick or a Marvel movie, and pulled out a book instead. He went through phases of reading, only a certain book could grab is attention and he frequently had several novels on the go at once, and discarded unfinished ones like sweet wrappers if they weren’t gripping enough. It drove his sister nuts. He always made a point of finishing any book she bought for him though, and Station Eleven was one such book. She was well versed in his weakness for dystopian fiction and had sent him off with a healthy collection of pessimistic texts predicting the downfall of climate, capitalism, and civilisation. Unfortunately for Jughead, the superbug that wiped out most of the world’s population in Station Eleven began on a plane. The man next to him coughed lightly, Jughead shrank away and raised his book a little higher.
A couple of hours later the Pilot cleared his voice over the intercom. “We’re approaching JFK Airport. Please remain in your seats and ensure your tables are stowed, shutters are up, and seatbelts are fastened until the the seatbelt sign has disappeared.”
Jughead stuffed his book back in his bag and slipped it under the seat in front of him. The clouds had disappeared now, and he could see the city spread out below in the morning light. Jughead had never been outside of Europe before, and he couldn’t help the excitement that bubbled up inside him. He raised his camera to the window and snapped a shot, his first photograph of his New York portfolio. The plane started to descend and he lent back in his seat and closed his eyes.
The aircraft jolted, the wheels slammed against the runway. When the woman next to Jughead gasped and gripped the armrest, he just kept his eyes closed and waited for the plane to stop.
“The local time is 9:12am. Thank you for choosing British Airways today, we hope you enjoyed your flight and look forward to flying with you again.”
Once outside and with his feet planted firmly on solid ground, Jughead took a deep breath of fresh air. It tasted like heaven compared to the stale oxygen of the aircraft. He moved with the rest of the passengers into the airport, following the arrivals signs all the way to passport control. He queued again, submitting his fingerprints reluctantly at the machine, and presented his passport at the desk. It was 11am by the time he was loading both his suitcases into the boot of a cab.
Betty breathed in deep gasps as she slowed down to a walk, her lungs welcoming the comforting burn of crisp air. It was a cool morning, but not cold enough to need a jacket, and Betty was flushed from her jog. She could feel tendrils of her blonde hair sticking to her sweaty skin where it had escaped her ponytail and she poured the remainder of her water over her head. She loved to run in Central Park, it reminded her of home. Back in Riverdale, she would lose hours running next to Sweetwater River, or hiking through the neighboring forests. She was always desperate to escape the four walls of the perfect family home where she felt suffocated and controlled. It’s funny how she now felt at peace in the city that never sleeps.
The Hamilton soundtrack blasted in her ears as she climbed the stairs to her apartment. She hummed along, mouthing the words to her favourite song as she hung up her keys and grabbed a glass of water from the kitchen. She admired the tidiness of the apartment, the faint scent of bleach giving her an overriding sense of calm. She wondered how quickly it would get messy again with another guy moving in. She would have to implement a cleaning rota.
She was pulled out of her own head by the sound of her phone vibrating on the counter and felt an undeniable flash of irritation when she saw her mother’s caller ID on the screen. Mom would like to FaceTime. Betty accepted with a grimace, quickly switching to a smile when her mother’s face appeared on the screen. Well, half her face.
“Good morning, Elizabeth.”
“Hi Mom.” Betty carefully propped up her phone against the microwave and set about making herself some breakfast. “Hold the iPad a bit further away Mom, I can only see your forehead.”
Alice adjusted her camera. “Is that better?”
“Yeah,” Betty lied.
“Has Forsythe arrived yet?” Betty rolled her eyes out of her mother’s view. Alice was always straight to the point.
“No, he’s not supposed to arrive for another hour or so.”
“I hope you’re going to clean yourself up before then.”
Betty gritted her teeth. “Of course.”
“Don’t mumble, Elizabeth.”
“What are you having for breakfast?”
“You know that’s full of sugar,” Alice scolded. Betty didn’t reply, she just kept pouring the cereal into her bowl. Alice pursed her lips. “I thought you were starting to have a boiled egg and toast for breakfast, it’s much more filling.”
“I’m out of eggs and I haven’t gone shopping yet,” Betty mumbled.
“You haven’t gone shopping? What is this boy going to eat when he gets there?”
“He can go the grocery store himself,” Betty replied indignantly.
“That’s not very hospitable,” Alice reminded her. “Why don’t you make a lasagna?”
“I’m not his mother,” Betty shot back. “Anyway, he might be vegetarian.”
“Have you at least bought some English Breakfast tea bags?”
“Yes, although I’m sure the British drink different types of tea,” she muttered.
“Don’t be cheeky Elizabeth,” Alice snapped, her voice becoming slightly shriller at her daughter’s indigence.
“How’s Dad?” Betty asked, desperate to change the subject.
“Oh he’s fine, off working on something in the garage,” Alice shrugged. Betty’s parents tended to get on better when they were in different parts of the house.
“Tell him I said hi.”
Alice nodded. “How’s Archie doing with moving in with that Victoria girl?”
“Mom, you know her name is Veronica.” Alice rolled her eyes. “He seems happy.”
“Give it a month and he’ll be begging to move back in with you.” Alice had been not-so-secretly plotting to get Archie and Betty together since they were in diapers.
“Perhaps,” Betty shrugged. “But he seems to have really fallen for her.”
“Give it a month,” Alice said again. Betty didn’t bother arguing.
Alice spent a good fifteen minutes updating her daughter on the latest events in Riverdale while Betty nodded and dropped in the occasional mmhmm. There had been a drugs-raid on Southside High (the school on the wrong side of town), the mayor had been re-elected for what was probably the tenth time, and the local diner had started serving a new flavour of pie. All front-page news in Riverdale and Alice would know, she published the town’s only newspaper.
Betty eventually managed to get rid of her mother by promising to call the following day with reassurance that her new roommate hadn’t murdered her in her sleep. She jumped in the shower, dried herself off, and opted for a pair of jeans and a nice shirt over her preferred Sunday sweats. As much as she hated obeying her mother, she did need to make a good impression.
She wandered into the living room, not quite used to the silence. On a typical Sunday Archie would be playing on his XBox, probably with Reggie and a couple of the other boys, and Betty would be half-an-article deep in a new post for her blog. Now, she didn’t know what to do with herself. She plopped down on the couch and switched on the television, skimming through the channels as she waited nervously for the doorbell to ring.
Jughead admired the city as his taxi weaved in and out of traffic. Even on a Sunday, New York was anything but lazy with its bright billboards and the blare of car horns. He was no stranger to big cities, he’d lived in two of England’s biggest cities, but there was something different about The Big Apple. While London oozed with history, New York felt brand new. London was illogical and twisted, like a squiggle on a child’s painting, whereas New York was grid-like and ordered. Jughead wondered what the oldest building in the city was. A church? A house? Or some run-down old bar? Regardless, it was probably no older than his family home.
The car pulled up outside a block of run-down looking apartments. Jughead fumbled with the unfamiliar notes in his wallet, instantly missing the conveniently colour-coded pound notes from back home, and handed the driver his fee in twenties.
“Need a hand with your bags, sir?” The cab driver asked in a typically grizzly New York accent, so different to what Jughead was used to back home. Jughead almost laughed, he had never been called sir in his life.
“I’ve got it from here, thank you.”
Jughead dragged his two suitcases onto the pavement and pressed the buzzer for apartment 4C.
“Hello?” The voice crackled, the intercom distorting it slightly as it made connection.
“It’s Ju - Forsythe,” Jughead said into the speaker, physically flinching at the use of his real name.
“Come on up,” Elizabeth’s voice chimed through the intercom as the front door clicked open. She was clearly expecting him; that was a good sign.
The out of order sign on the lift seemed to gloat as he pulled his suitcases towards the stairs and prepared to carry them up three flights. There was something oddly familiar about Elizabeth’s voice that Jughead couldn’t quite put his finger on, but he simply put it down to being severely jet-lagged.
She was already waiting for him at apartment door when he reached the third floor. He glanced up, briefly registering her warm smile and blonde ponytail before he turned his attention back to his suitcases.
“Let me help you with those,” she offered, taking a few steps out of the doorway. She took one of the bags from him, their fingers brushing, and Jughead felt the same sense of deja-vu.
He looked up, properly this time, and his thanks got caught in his throat. Her face was only inches from his, her green eyes trained on him with the same look of surprise that he felt. He knew those eyes, at one time better than anyone else’s.
“Betty?” Her name sounded almost wrong coming from his lips, he hadn’t uttered it aloud for over two years. He drank in her appearance; soft blonde waves tied neatly in a ponytail, pale cheeks that were quickly blushing pink, and a pastel blue shirt.
He blinked, wondering if he needed to pinch himself, but there was no mistake. He was standing in front of Betty Cooper who, for one summer, had been the love of his life.
Chapter 2: Ios
Flash back two years when Jughead and Betty first meet each other in Greece. Sparks fly, their journey begins.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Ios, Greece, two years ago…
It was hot. Blistering. The kind of heat where everything seemed to go in slow motion, leaving you feeling sluggish and useless. It was midday, the sun high in the sky, and most of the vacationers that dotted the beach were relaxing under huge beach umbrellas. Most of them weren’t brave enough to risk the threat of extreme sunburn, and those who were would regret it tomorrow. But the view made up for any discomfort-- it was like a postcard, picture-perfect and absolutely to die for. At least, Betty thought so anyway. The sand was a brilliant gold and the turquoise sea lapped gently at the shore, barely a gust of breeze to ruffle the huge colorful umbrellas that, from a distance, looked like multi-colored freckles. It was probably one of the only places Betty had visited that looked exactly like the photographs in the guide book, untouched by time and climate. It was hard to imagine it raining in Ios, it was like a little pocket of paradise.
“Oh my god! I love this place!” A girl screeched behind Betty, clinking cocktail glasses with one of her friends who proceeded to whoop in response.
Betty winced. That was the only thing wrong with Ios -- it was the designated ‘party island’ and was filled with alcoholic students sipping on cocktails from dawn until dusk. Betty Cooper didn’t party, not on her own anyway, and her peace and quiet was constantly interrupted with whoops, drunken cheers and invitations to take part in wet t-shirt competitions. One guy even asked her if he could touch her boob as part of his challenge to grope as many European girls as possible. She had just rolled her eyes and pointed out, in her sweet American girl-next-door accent, that she wasn’t European and no, he could not touch her tit.
In hindsight, Betty never would have visited Ios, it wasn’t on her initial list of Greek Islands and if she’d had her way she would have gone to Naxos instead. As one of the smaller islands, there wasn’t much in the way of sightseeing and on her first day (despite the jet lag) she had already visited Homer’s grave and explored the little shops and stalls down by the old port. Yesterday, she took the bus into the center of the island and spent a couple hours looking around the practically deserted Archeological Museum. The only other person disrupting her solitude had been a guy who had kept more or less to himself as he examined the displays, occasionally snapping the odd picture. They shared a shy smile but she didn’t attempt to start a conversation. But now there was nothing else to do but lie on the beach. Not that she minded, the weather was perfect for it, but she always preferred to stay busy, not wanting to waste precious time. Tomorrow she would catch a ferry to Santorini and be back on track.
Pulling out her headphones, Betty attempted to ignore the chatter around her and focused once again on her book. The binding was tattered from constant re-reading with a combination of highlighter and pencil lines swirled on the page, marking and commenting on her favourite passages. She never went on vacation without a copy of Romeo and Juliet and she would probably read it another ten times before she flew back to the States. Lying alone on the beach wasn’t exactly what she had imagined she would be doing on her tour around Europe, but she was trying not to think about that as she lost herself in Shakespeare’s fair Verona.
Jughead decided he wasn’t impressed with Ios. All his photographs of the beautiful view were ruined by the beach-goers and drunken students. There wasn’t enough sites to interest him for more than a couple of days maximum. Those sites were deserted more or less as most of the holiday-makers opted to lie on the sand in a booze coma instead, but Jughead preferred it that way. There was only one other person in the Archeological Museum when he had roamed the empty halls yesterday. She was an uncommonly pretty girl, seemingly around his age. Her blonde hair had been swept up into a high ponytail and her baby-blue sundress seemed to attract all the light of the dim building as she paused in front of every display to read the descriptions. He itched to pick up his camera and snap a photograph. Capture the way she looked so peaceful and engrossed in the exhibition, but he stopped himself. Instead, he just smiled at her awkwardly and then quickly looked away when she smiled back. He hadn’t seen her since and he couldn’t help his faint sense of disappointment. He wished he had taken that photo.
Shaking the memory of her out of his head, Jughead wondered where to go next. Flipping through his dad’s ancient Guide to Greek Island Hopping , attempting to keep the aged pages from falling out, he waited for an island to grab his attention. Perhaps not the most efficient way of planning a holiday, but it worked for him. The idea of not knowing where he was going next filled him with excitement. All he needed was a couple of hundred pounds in his account for his flight back to London by the end of August. Other than that, he could go wherever he wanted as long as it was within his budget. The idea had filled his mother and his little sister with horror, both of them convinced that he would find himself stranded somewhere. His father had just shrugged off their concerns, he had done exactly the same thing back in the day.
Jughead thought that the book would be hugely outdated as his parents hadn’t used it since the early nineties, but nothing much seemed to have changed in Greece. Naxos had looked almost identical to the old photographs his dad had shown him from twenty-five years ago when he had met Jughead’s mum, a story FP Jones never failed to bring up at family gatherings and social events. Jughead had dinner at the same taverna his mother worked at for a summer during her mid-twenties when she’d had an early mid-life crisis and given up her well-paid city job to travel. The owner, now in his early seventies, even remembered her and had insisted that Jughead eat for free.
The beach was beginning to clear now that the sun was going down, with the young crowd heading back to their tents. The bus that transports them to the nightclubs on the other side of the island had a limited schedule so they had to be ready. Jughead gulped down the rest of his beer, left a couple of euros on the table, and headed down towards the sand with his camera, determined to get a decent picture of Ios’ beautiful coastline without too many tourists ruining the shots. The sand was still hot beneath his feet as he dumped his bag on the nearest lounger, walking along the shoreline. He snapped a couple of photographs before he noticed someone swimming out in the crystal clear water, just a flicker of blonde hair against the gentle turquoise waves as they popped up from under the water and disappeared again. He raised his camera just as she emerged from the waves again like a mermaid, a peaceful smile on her face as she ran her hands through her wet hair, releasing it from its high ponytail and letting the wet tendrils cling to her neck and shoulders. His finger pressed down on the button and the camera flashed.
She turned around and caught his eye, almost like she could sense his interest, and he realised that she was the same girl he had seen in the museum the day before. She looked at him with brief recognition, her gaze moving down to the camera in his hands and he blushed with embarrassment, realising that he had been caught red-handed. She swam towards the shore until she got close enough for him to see the amusement in her green eyes. A million dollar smile playing on her lips as she walked up the sandy bank towards him, making his heart race. Her bikini was baby blue, just like the sundress she had been wearing the day before, and Jughead couldn’t help but notice how the material clung to her skin. He averted his eyes, focusing instead on her face as he couldn't seem to be able to look away from her completely. She was in front of him now and he could smell the sea off her skin.
“Hi.” She smiled sweetly at him.
“I didn’t mean to ruin your shot,” she nodded towards the camera in his hand. “You’ve probably been waiting all day for people to clear out of the way.”
“Yeah,” he replied, scratching the back of his neck awkwardly. “Not that you ruined it! Because you didn’t… err... I mean… I wasn’t taking a picture of you.” Jughead cringed at his own awkwardness.
“Okay,” she laughed. “Can I see it?”
“Sure.” He held out his camera out to her, the screen lighting up her sea green eyes in the quickly fading light. “I’ll delete it, if you want.”
“No! It’s beautiful.” Jughead couldn’t help but agree. “The setting, I mean.” She blushed and clicked for the next photo, and the next one. “You’re really talented, I wish I could take photos like these.”
“Oh thanks,” he shrugged. “The lighting helped a lot, I guess.” He had never been able to take a compliment.
“No really, these are amazing! Are you a professional?”
“No way,” he scoffed. “Well not yet anyway.”
“Can I have a copy of this? I could give you my email or something and you could send it to me?” Jughead just nodded, surprised that this girl was making conversation with him rather than accusing him of being a creep. “I’m thinking about starting a travel blog, but I’m honestly awful at photography and I need pictures of my trip for context and just for the aesthetic of the whole thing.” Jughead got the sense that once this girl got going she could talk for England, or America. “I’m Betty, by the way. Betty Cooper.”
“Jughead Jones,” he held out his hand and she shook it with an amused smile.
“Were you at the Archeological Museum yesterday?”
“Yeah, I’m flattered you noticed me through the crowd of people,” he replied, his tone dripping with sarcasm. To his surprise, Betty cracked up.
“Ios isn’t exactly for cultured people,” she giggled. Jughead grinned in agreement. “Have you had dinner yet, Jughead?”
“Nope,” he lied.
“Want to join me?”
Betty was surprised at her own confidence. If someone had told her a couple of months ago that she would be sitting across the table from a guy she had just met sharing a plate of calamari and a carafe of white wine, she would have laughed in their face. In fact, she would have still laughed in their face yesterday. But there was something about Jughead… he was interesting. She got the impression that he wanted to get more out of travelling than just an opportunity to party and lie on the beach. The sun had gone down now and the little sea-side restaurant was practically empty, just a couple of other people sitting at the bar and a waiter hanging around the tables waiting to be called over.
“So you’re telling me that you have no idea where you’re going next?”
“Nope,” he grinned. “As long as I have a couple of hundred quid to book a flight home, then I’m just making it up as I go along.”
“Are you insane?”
“Probably,” he smirked.
“Honestly, the idea of that gives me so much anxiety.”
“And I suppose your trip is meticulously planned?” He had another sip of his wine, his blue eyes never leaving her face. He was handsome, in a James Dean, mysterious kind of way. All dark features and high cheekbones, except his bright blue eyes which regarded her with undivided attention. He didn’t have the same sense of arrogance or self-entitlement as most attractive guys that Betty had come across before, it was like he didn’t know how handsome he was.
Betty realised with a blush that she had been staring at him and hadn’t answered his question. “Of course,” she shot back quickly.
“Don’t you find that boring?”
“I think the word you’re looking for is sensible,” she giggled. “Or normal even.”
“So where are you going next?”
“Santorini. After that, I’m getting a ferry back to the mainland where I’m doing a tour of the major sights for three days and then I’ve got an overnight coach to Budapest.”
“A few cities in Italy. I mean, I’ve got to go to Venice! Then Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Paris, Madrid, and then I’m flying back to the States.”
“Not London?” He seemed surprised.
“Not on this trip.”
“And you’re doing the whole trip on your own? You’re not meeting up with any friends on the way?”
“Nope, it’s just me.”
“Stupid? Believe me, I know.” Her mother had begged her not to go, convinced that her youngest daughter would end up murdered and left in a ditch somewhere, but after everything that had happened, Betty had to get out of Riverdale.
“No. I was going to say brave.” They shared a smile before Jughead continued. “So whereabouts in the U.S are you from?”
“Nowhere you would have heard of. I live in a small town in New York called Riverdale. Nothing much ever happens there and it’s a everyone-knows-everyone atmosphere. I’m heading off to NYU in September though so I’ll finally be free.” She sipped her wine thoughtfully. “What about you?”
“Born and bred in London. I’m currently on my year out before I go to Birmingham Uni in September to do photography.”
“So you are going to be a professional photographer!”
Jughead couldn’t help but smile at her enthusiasm. “That’s the plan.”
“What kind of photography are you interested in? Working with models or more scenic stuff?”
“I’ve done a lot of political photography recently, exposing the poorer parts of London that everyone tries to ignore.”
“That’s awesome, I’m sure your work is amazing.”
The waiter came over to clear their plates, asking if they wanted anything else but they declined, both conscious of their holiday budgets. They split the bill and walked back along the sea-front towards the hotels and hostels that looked over the bay. Neither of them said much, but the quiet was comfortable. Jughead pulled a box of cigarettes from his back pocket.
“You want one?”
“You don’t mind if I..?”
“Not at all.”
He lit up and Betty watched the smoke curl into the air and get carried away by the light evening breeze. She felt so free out here, away from the claustrophobia of home and in a place where no one knew her. No one pitied her. People looked at her as a human being and not the girl whose high school boyfriend dumped her for another girl, leaving her to go on their planned vacation of a lifetime all alone. Back in Riverdale, everyone was wondering what was wrong with her, but out here she could be whoever she wanted to be. She stopped outside her hotel and Jughead looked at her with raised eyebrows.
“You know, the campsite’s back there, right?”
“Yep, this is me.” She shrugged, embarrassed.
“You’re joking! Are you rich or something?”
“Uh, not at all.” Jughead just stared blankly at her. “I was supposed to come here with a friend of mine, who is rich, but something came up.”
“Something came up?” Betty could tell that he wasn’t buying it.
“Yep. Anyway, everything was already paid for so I came on my own.”
“Huh… okay. Are you sure you didn’t win the lottery, Betty?” he joked. Betty just smiled and rolled her eyes, but she was relieved that he wasn’t pressing the subject, she didn’t want to burden the poor guy with all her emotional baggage.
“Alright, your majesty,” he teased, bowing mockingly in front of her.
“Hey!” She smacked his arm playfully, both of them laughing.
“So this is me, I guess,” she said, a slight edge of disappointment present in her voice.
Jughead took another drag on his cigarette and Betty watched the smoke curl away again. “Well, have a great trip Betty.”
“You too Jughead, wherever you end up.” She disappeared into the hotel and rushed up the stairs, not allowing herself to look back at the boy still standing on the sidewalk, watching her go with regret in his eyes.
She couldn’t get rid of the butterflies in her stomach as she let the hot water wash away the accumulated sand and salt, watching the little grains collect around the drain. This was the part she usually dreaded, coming back to an empty hotel room with nothing to distract her from her own thoughts, but today had taken an unexpected turn in the shape of a British accent and bright blue eyes. Normally she would warn herself to be careful, remind herself that it’s too soon, worry what people would think, but now that she was on the other side of the world she could just have fun without the scrutiny. She would probably never see him again, but that was okay because, for the first time since she’d got on the plane, she didn’t feel so oppressively alone.
When Jughead closed his eyes, her green ones stared back at him. He couldn’t get her out of his head and he wasn’t sure he wanted to. He looked at the photograph he had taken of her on his camera again. It was perfect, one of his best shots, with the red sunset illuminating her against the dark sea, wet hair clinging to her skin and droplets of water falling back into the sea like rain drops. A modern-day Aphrodite emerging from the waves. He wondered if this was what other artists meant when they talked about finding their muse. He was certain that any photograph of Betty Cooper would be considered a masterpiece. She was so vibrant, enthusiastic -- something that Jughead sometimes felt like he missed in his cynical outlook on life -- and he was slightly dumbfounded that she laughed at his sarcastic jokes. There was something about her though, a sadness, or underlying nervousness perhaps. She had been pretty vague about the circumstances surrounding her travelling alone and he didn’t want to push her. It was none of his business anyway, although he couldn’t understand why anyone would ditch her because ‘something came up.’ Not that he would ever find out, he probably would never see her again. She was off to Santorini tomorrow and he was off to… well… somewhere.
Jughead switched on his torch and began to flick through his father’s book. His tent was cooler now that it was late and since the campsite was more or less empty as all the residents were at the nightclubs, he could plan his next destination in peace. He’d decided to leave Ios tomorrow, there was nothing left for him to see and there was no point wasting a day on the beach when he could be exploring somewhere new. He skimmed through the pages, ignoring Paros, Milos, Mykonos, waiting for somewhere to grab his attention. He turned the page, a smile forming on his lips as he found his next stop. All he needed was a ferry ticket and then he could figure out the rest when he arrived.
Betty dumped her backpack with the rest of the baggage on the car deck and climbed the stairs towards the ship’s deck. She wanted to watch the island disappear over the turquoise horizon, the wind streaming through her hair as she sped off towards Santorini. She lent against the balcony, feeling the vibration of the engine hum through the boat as it got ready to break away from the shoreline, the water churning violently by the port beneath her.
A figure shouted from below, a man waving a ticket as he jogged down the port towards the ferry. Betty watched him with a vague sense of familiarity, unable to see him properly under his dark sunglasses and grey beanie, an odd accessory considering the climate. His black backpack was tattered, with a tent strapped on the top, and a camera hung from around his neck. It bounced precariously against his chest as he stepped over the gap between the port and the boat, the swirling water danced beneath him, waiting for an opportunity to drag him into the depths as the spray licked his feet. He looked up briefly before he disappeared below deck and grinned up at her. Betty gasped.
“Oh my god,” she mumbled excitedly, turning around to rush back downstairs, but he was already there, standing in the doorway.
“Hello.” He was slightly out of breath and he pushed his sunglasses onto his head, his bright blue eyes fixed on her.
“Are you following me, Jones?” she asked, a smile playing on her lips.
He cocked his head to one side and smirked at her. “Something like that.”
So I've finally got around to updating this fic. Chapter 3 is already in the works so there won't be such a long wait. Please leave kudos/comments to motivate my lazy ass. Follow me on tumblr @bughead-is-riverdale