‘Trust me. She always skips the Sunday trip to Grandma’s even when she’s not hungover.’ Veronica Sawyer shimmied open the back door to Heather Chandler's house, then motioned for JD to follow her inside. ‘We just need to find out where she keeps her cups, and then-’
‘Fill one with drain cleaner?’ JD’s suggestion was met with a glare, and he chuckled, before holding his hands up in mock surrender. ‘I’m sorry, but you can’t tell me it isn’t tempting.’
‘It isn’t.’ Veronica made sure her tone left no room for argument, and she fought the urge to roll her eyes. She’d suggested JD stay at his house that morning instead of coming with her, but he’d made up some bullshit about her needing protection from Heather. She’d been too tired to try very hard at convincing him otherwise, especially when she felt she owed him for essentially breaking into his house the night before.
He sidled up next to her and cast a disdainful glance over the kitchen. ‘You know, I think I might hate the bitch’s house as much as I hate her.’
'Don't call her that,' said Veronica with a slight groan. She pulled open a cupboard, but only found plates and bowls inside it. 'Bitch is a highly inflammatory term, especially when a guy says it about a girl.’ She inhaled. ‘ Besides, she's not half as bad as you make her out to be.'
'Then why were you in such a state last night, hm?' JD crept up behind her and wrapped his arms around her stomach. 'You were pretty scared of what she would do to you.'
'As you should be,' came a sharp voice from the hallway.
Veronica stiffened and, at the same time as JD, turned to see who had spoken. 'Heather,' she began, her voice trembling,'I-'
'Save it,' Chandler snarled, stepping inside. She was wearing a bright red nightgown and had her curled hair draped over one shoulder in a ponytail. Her features twisted into a display of disgust as her eyes landed on JD's arms, still wrapped around Veronica. 'What the fuck are you two doing in my kitchen?'
‘I figured you'd be pretty hungover, so I was planning on making you a Prairie Oyster,’ Veronica said, slurring her words slightly in her hurry to say them. She gestured at the cupboards above her head. ‘I just couldn’t find your mugs.’
Chandler’s expression softened a little, but it turned sour once more when JD rested his chin on Veronica’s shoulder. ‘That doesn’t explain Jesse James,’ she drawled, before staring pointedly at the mug rack beside the kitchen sink. Six brightly coloured cups hung on the steel netting. ‘Were you really that scared of me that you needed a bodyguard?’
Veronica shook JD off her shoulder, her cheeks growing red.
He scoffed and stepped away from her. ‘You know what, Heather? You don’t deserve her hangover cure, or her apology. Come on, Veronica.’ He grabbed Veronica’s wrist, only to be met with a shake of her head.
‘I have to stay,’ she said, admittedly a little relieved at the thought of talking to Heather alone. She knew the Demon Queen and she knew how she worked; apologising without witnesses would be a lot easier, especially since she would probably be forced to grovel on her knees. Literally. ‘But you should go.’
‘Yeah, I agree.’ Heather stepped towards JD, somehow able to look menacing even in pyjamas.
He tightened his grip on Veronica’s arm, but, when Heather noticed and glared at him, he let go of her. ‘Fine. See you Veronica.’ He stormed out of the back door, slamming it behind him.
Veronica watched him go, absentmindedly rubbing her wrist. It wasn't so much that he’d hurt her when holding it, just that it hadn’t been the most pleasant sensation. ‘Sorry about that,’ she murmured, finally daring to look at Heather once again. ‘I didn’t mean for him to come here.’
Heather’s eyes lingered on Veronica’s wrist, before she tore them away. ‘Just don’t make the same mistake again.’ She stalked over to her fridge and flung the door open, bypassing the eggs because like hell would she ever drink a Prairie Oyster. ‘You really thought making me a hangover cure would fix what you did last night?’ she asked, a slight sneer on her face. She grabbed a bottle of water and shut the fridge door. Then, after a pause, she opened it again and took one for Veronica too. ‘I should drag you out of here by your hair; you ruined a pair of perfectly good Louboutins.’
Veronica grimaced, the memory of puke splattered on red heels not a nice one. ‘I really am sorry, Heather. If there’s anything I can do to make it up to you, I-’
Heather sighed and handed her one of the waters. ‘If you’re that desperate, fine. Come to my room and we’ll talk in there. I don’t want to face my mom if she comes back early.’ She led the way upstairs, her nightgown trailing on the floor, and Veronica exhaled in relief; she was being given a chance. That was something.
‘Whoa, there’s a lot of red,’ Veronica commented as she followed Heather into her bedroom. Her observation earnt her a raised eyebrow in response.
‘What, did you expect green? I’m not Heather.’ Heather clambered into her bed and propped her back against the headboard, pulling the duvet over her legs. ‘I’d invite you to sit on here but…’ She looked Veronica up and down, taking note of her falling down socks and blouse with the buttons incorrectly done up. ‘But you’re a mess and I can still smell puke on you.’
Veronica resisted the urge to comment on Heather’s bedhead and smudged leftover make-up; even if she wasn’t desperate to gain Heather’s favour, she would have struggled to find either thing anything other than endearing. That was the thing about Heather Chandler; anything that would be a flaw on someone else was instantly desirable on her. A look that screamed hangover-chic included.
‘Veronica? Are you even listening?’ Veronica looked over to Heather, just in time to be hit in the shoulder with a cushion she threw. ‘I said you can sit at my desk instead. You look weird standing there.’
Nodding, Veronica pulled out a chair from under the desk and sat looking at Heather. She tried to ignore the wisps of hair that had escaped her scrunchie and were resting delicately on her cheeks. ‘Okay, so what I wanted to say was-’
‘Why were you with that freak?’ Heather’s interruption was sharp, but Veronica couldn’t help but think it was more curious than condescending. ‘Are you friends? Or were you actually just too scared to face me on your own?’
Veronica pressed her lips into a tight smile. ‘It’s a long story.’
‘Do I look like I’m going anywhere?’
Veronica stared down into her lap, pulling her skirt down in an attempt to cover more of her thighs. Now that the alcohol was almost completely out of her system, she could assess exactly what she’d done the night before, and she hated that new ability. ‘I stayed over at his house last night,’ she said simply, her voice barely over a whisper. ‘After the party I was walking home and I saw him in his bedroom window.’
Heather took a swig of water. ‘You slept over at the house of a guy you barely know?’
‘Like you’ve never done the same.’ Veronica clamped her hand over her mouth after she spoke, her eyes widening as she realised that was not how you apologise to Heather Chandler. ‘I’m so sorry.’
Heather smirked. ‘The difference is, Sawyer, that I usually have… dabblings with the guys I stay over with.’ She smoothed out the duvet she was sitting underneath, running her hands over the soft pink cotton. ‘What did you two get up to? A game of Scrabble?’
Veronica’s cheeks flushed. ‘No, actually. We didn’t play Scrabble.’
‘What, you fucked?’ Heather laughed, the sound filling the bedroom. Then, when Veronica didn’t reply, she made eye contact with her. ‘You seriously want me to believe that?’
‘What?’ Veronica frowned. ‘Why wouldn’t you?’
Heather cocked her head to the side. ‘Uptight virgin Veronica Sawyer and brooding loner Jason Dean. What a pathetic pair.’ She pursed her lips, as if trying not to smile, but then her expression turned serious. ‘Wait, after the party you went to his house and you… last night?’
‘Yeah.’ Veronica groaned and rested her elbows on Heather’s desk, then cradled her head in her hands. ‘Oh God, I…’ She paused, remembering the way she had strode so confidently towards JD. How she had straddled him and ripped open her shirt and… she groaned again. She had been far too forceful; it looked like Heather wasn’t the only person she needed to apologise to.
‘Veronica.’ Heather’s voice was soft now, and she leaned forward on the bed, looking at her with wide, concerned eyes. ‘Veronica, you were unbelievably drunk last night.’
Well, duh. ‘Don’t remind me.’
‘No, I don’t think you’re getting it.’ Heather threw off her blanket and shuffled towards the end of her bed, closer to Veronica. ‘Was he sober?’
‘Yeah; he’d just been drinking Irn Bru.’ She rolled her eyes. ‘God, he probably thought I was a complete mess going in there post-puke and throwing myself at him.’
Heather straightened up, narrowing her eyes. ‘Did he refuse you? Push you away? Tell you to sleep? Offer to take you home?’
Veronica frowned, taken aback by the influx of questions. ‘I didn’t really give him the chance to do any of that.’ Her chest tightened slightly. ‘I think I came on really strong. I… I should go and apologise. Check he’s okay.’
‘He looked fine to me,’ Heather snapped. There was a pause, then she quieted her voice again. ‘Veronica… what about consent?’
In outrage, Veronica’s head shot up. ‘He consented. Enthusiastically, I might add. I would have backed off if I thought, even for a second, that he wanted me to.’
Heather sighed exasperatedly. ‘It’s not him I’m thinking of, you pillowcase.’ Her eyes grew heavy as she spoke, but she tried to keep returning Veronica’s gaze. ‘If you were drunk, you couldn’t consent.’
‘No…’ Veronica shook her head. ‘No, I initiated it. It was all me.’ She thought back to climbing up the side of his house, to struggling with his window lock only to snap it off. To wanting nothing more than JD in that moment. She knew she should tell Heather all of that, should explain how she had been the one in control of the situation, but she wasn’t sure if the relief of getting it off her chest would be worth the potential ridicule. ‘I definitely consented.’
Heather bristled. ‘Did you use protection at least?’ she asked. Her voice broke slightly as she did so, though Veronica couldn’t figure out why.
‘Yeah, I’m on the pill.’ She ran her fingers through her hair. ‘Look, Heather. I shouldn’t have done it. And right after I’ve figured out how to make up for puke-gate with you, I’ll go over to his house and apologise.’
‘You will not. ’ Heather’s eyes flashed and she swung her legs off the bed. She suddenly looked a lot less hungover and a lot more angry. Even angrier than she had been last night, Veronica thought. ‘You are not going back to the house of that... That creep. ’ She spat out that last word and stalked over to her wardrobe.
‘I don’t understand, what’s wrong?’ Veronica watched Heather walk, her bare feet sinking into the thick plush carpet that looked softer than any surface in Veronica's own house. 'I know being seen with him could have damaged my reputation as much as what happened at the party, but nobody knows except you and him. And it’s not like he’ll tell anyone about it; he’s got nobody to tell.’
Heather didn’t respond; instead she took a neatly folded red towel from the top shelf of her wardrobe and another, smaller one, from beside it. She took them to Veronica and dropped them on her lap. ‘I don’t think sober people should have sex with drunk people.’ She folded her arms across her chest and looked directly at Veronica. ‘Do you?’
Heather held out a finger in front of Veronica’s mouth, silencing her. ‘Especially when a drunk person is so intoxicated they’ve just said things they would never say in their right mind and they have just been vomiting their guts up.’ Tears welled up in her eyes, but she turned away before Veronica could comment on them. ‘But anyway, you can have a shower if you want. Get that puke and his… get it off you.’ She paused. ‘And there’s a new packet of toothbrushes in the bathroom so you can use one of those. I can make you a hot chocolate?’
Veronica stared at Heather’s back, at her slightly trembling legs. She couldn’t have refused even if she’d wanted to. And, as much as she felt like she should argue the point of JD’s innocence, she resisted. ‘Yes, please. I’d like that.’
Heather stood on her tiptoes on the kitchen floor, trying to reach the tin at the back of the highest cupboard. After jumping slightly, she managed to grab it and curl her fingers around it. With a triumphant grin, she pulled it out and placed it on the counter. Inside, there were hot chocolate sachets, as well as a selection of toppings for the drink.
From the rack, she took two mugs: one red, one blue, and she emptied a sachet into each. Just as she was preparing the milk, the front door opened.
‘Heather?’ The grating voice of her mother carried down the hall and Heather winced. She shoved the blue mug inside one of the cupboards. ‘Heather, are you awake yet?’
She cleared her throat. ‘Hi, Mom. Yeah, I’m in the kitchen.’
A tall woman, with hair even redder than Heather’s and cut into a blunt bob, stood in the doorway. She wrinkled her nose at the tin on the counter. ‘What the hell are you doing?’
Heather followed her gaze. ‘Making hot chocolate. I thought it would help with…’ She wracked her brain, trying to remember the excuse she’d used to get out of seeing her grandmother. ‘My headache.’
‘Hm.’ Her mom tapped her nails on the counter, making Heather wince with every round of drumming. ‘Your grandma’s doing well. Not that you care.’
‘I do ca-’
‘Save it.' She glared at the mascara clumped under Heather’s eyes. ‘Looking at the state of you, though, it’s a good job you didn’t go. No wonder your father couldn't stand living in the same house as you anymore.’ She marched over to the kitchen calendar and scribbled something on that day’s date.
Heather squeezed her eyes shut, willing herself to avoid saying something she knew she would regret, all whilst hoping her mother didn’t go upstairs and hear the shower running.
‘I have an open house in an hour so I’m going to the office to pick up some more paperwork. Sort yourself out for lunch.’ Without even a backwards glance at her daughter, Mrs Chandler grabbed a ringbinder from the kitchen table and swept back out of the house.
‘Thank fuck for that,’ Heather whispered.
Veronica wrapped Heather’s towel tighter around herself as she stood behind the bedroom door, the one place she knew she’d be out of sight if Heather’s mother were to come in. She’d heard them talking downstairs and could infer that her being spotted would not go down well at all. She was starting to shiver, though, but the idea of getting back into her vomit-stained clothes after cleaning herself with Heather’s gorgeous-smelling toiletries wasn’t appealing.
Just as she was debating grabbing her underwear at least, the door creaked open.
‘Veronica?’ Heather whispered. She stepped inside, holding two steaming mugs of hot chocolate in the same hand. They were both topped with whipped cream, mini marshmallows and brightly coloured sprinkles, as well as adorned with a chocolate flake. She transferred one mug into her spare hand and closed the door with her hip, jumping slightly when she caught sight of Veronica.
‘For fuck’s sake, you pillowcase!’ she exclaimed, nearly spilling both of the drinks. ‘What are you doing?’
‘I was hiding from your mom!’ Veronica protested, though she couldn’t help but smile at Heather’s wide eyes. ‘I wouldn’t purposely risk you spilling those; they look delicious.’
‘Hmph.’ Heather turned her back to her, before walking to her bed and placing the mugs on her nightstand. ‘I usually stick to one or two toppings, but I figured after the night we both had yesterday, we deserved them all.’
Veronica hoped she was doing a good job of hiding her surprise on the outside, because she sure as hell wasn’t on the inside. Heather Chandler feeling sorry for someone and making them a comforting drink was unheard of. Especially when that person had puked on her less than 24 hours ago.
‘I’ll just grab you some underwear and clothes. You can’t put yours back on.’ Heather returned to her wardrobe, only to emerge with a red polka dot dress and pair of panties. She handed them to Veronica.
‘You’re letting me wear red?’ Veronica smiled at the dress, wondering if Heather chose it to match the polka dot sleeves on her blazer. It was the reason Veronica had chosen that one, after all. ‘And here was me thinking Heather Chandler didn’t share.’
Heather scowled, but it was half-hearted. She climbed back into her bed. ‘You’ll look cute in it. Just don’t tell anyone.’ She wriggled so her back was completely on the mattress, and she pulled her blanket over her head. ‘Now, here’s your privacy so you can get changed. But be quick so I can get my hot chocolate on.’
Veronica had to resist the urge to giggle at Heather Chandler- the same Heather Chandler who had threatened to completely ruin Veronica’s reputation last night -snuggling under a blanket with only a few tendrils of hair visible. Maybe it was just due to seeing her at home, where she didn’t put up the same defences she did around their peers, but Veronica couldn’t help but feel there were sides to Heather she’d never seen before. She dropped the towel and stepped into the panties, welcoming the change from the boxers she usually wore. Looking down as she twisted from side to side, she decided she really, really liked how she looked in Heather’s underwear.
‘It’s hot in heeeerreeee,’ Heather moaned, distracting her. She flailed her arms above her head. That time, Veronica couldn’t hold back a chuckle. ‘Don’t laugh at me, Sawyer!’ She sat up and flung the duvet off, her features set in a frown, only to gasp when she caught sight of an almost-naked Veronica. She looked away immediately, covering her eyes. ‘Fuck, I didn’t think. Sorry.’
Veronica gulped. She stared at Heather, then at the dress that had been chosen for her. Though she knew she should want to grab it and pull it on as quickly as possible, she didn’t. She just stood there. ‘It’s okay, really.’ Her words were true, but she wasn’t quite sure why. For some reason, Heather seeing her in nothing but underwear just… didn’t seem like a bad thing. ‘Don’t apologise.’
‘What are you talking about? I just saw you… I just saw your tits, for one thing.’ Heather nursed her head with her hand. She wasn't one to apologise, but even she knew that she had crossed a boundary, despite doing so accidentally. ‘I’m really sorry, Sawyer.’
‘No, Heather, I mean it.’ Veronica stepped forward, forgetting the dress completely. She dug her teeth into her lips, trying to tell herself that turning back might be a more sensible option. But something drew her to Heather. ‘I don’t mind you looking. Unless you don’t want to.’
Heather dropped her hands to her lap. ‘You want me to see you naked? If this is your way of apologising for the puke you know, you do not ever-’
‘Don’t be a pillowcase.’
‘Excuse me?’ That made Heather turn around, though her voice got quieter as soon as she saw Veronica again. ‘What… what did you just call me?’
Veronica smiled, and crossed her arms over her chest, hiding her breasts from view. Heather’s eyes followed the movement. ‘What, you can dish it out but can’t take it?’
‘Veronica, you…’ Heather tried to pull her gaze up to Veronica’s eyes, but she couldn’t. ‘You must still have some alcohol…’
‘On the contrary.’ Veronica walked even further towards Heather, stopping directly in front of her. She looked down with a grin. ‘I feel pretty sober.’ She let her eyes trail to the slight cleavage Chandler had on display, then she whipped her head around. With one arm still covering her chest, she picked up the blue mug of hot chocolate and returned to the other side of the bed. ‘Thanks for the drink.’
Heather watched, frowning, but she didn’t say anything. She picked up her own mug and pulled the duvet back over her legs. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words escaped her lips.
Veronica scrambled into bed beside her, still shirtless. ‘This is excellent hot chocolate, by the way,’ she said, sipping at it. The cream and chocolate flake had mostly melted, making the drink even sweeter than it was originally. ‘You have a talent.’ When she got no reply, she saw that Heather was staring fixedly at her own mug. Veronica pulled her side of the duvet up to cover her chest. ‘Look, I’m sorry if I creeped you out, Heather,’ she murmured. ‘I just wasn’t embarrassed by you seeing me like that and I wanted to figure out why.’
‘You didn’t creep me out.’
‘I liked…’ Heather swallowed. She put her mug back on the bedside table and looked up at Veronica. Her voice was thick. ‘I liked seeing you like that.’
Veronica placed her mug on the floor and turned onto her side, the duvet still covering all but her head and collarbone.
Heather turned onto her side too, her cheeks turning a light pink as she faced Veronica. ‘It just means you have a pretty figure,’ she mumbled. ‘That’s all.’
‘It’s okay if that’s not all.’ Veronica barely even paused to consider what she was saying. She had hardly seen Heather as anything but a convenient friend before that day. Just another popular girl, but one that could help make high school more bearable. But now she was lying naked in her bed, desperate to hear what she was going to say. ‘Is there anything else?’
‘What do you want to hear, Sawyer? That I wouldn’t mind seeing you like that again? That I wouldn’t mind even… No.’
‘Even?’ Veronica edged closer to her, lowering her voice. ‘Wouldn’t mind even what?’
Heather’s breath caught in her throat. ‘Wouldn’t mind you… seeing me like that.’ She looked up, with a look Veronica had never seen in her eyes before. Could that be fear ?
‘If you tell anyone I said that…’ Heather trailed off, the worry in her expression being replaced with a look of sadness. She turned her face away and looked up at the rose coloured chandelier hanging from her ceiling.
‘I won’t tell anyone, I promise,’ Veronica said. She reached out a hand and began to fiddle with the shoulder of Heather’s dressing gown, causing Heather to look at her once again. ‘But I wouldn’t mind seeing you like that either.’
In one of the Westerburg bathroom cubicles a week later, Heather Duke was bending over a toilet and puking up her breakfast. In front of the mirror outside, Heather Chandler was fixing Veronica’s hair. Well, at least, that’s what she claimed she was doing.
‘I’m starting to think you just want an excuse to give me a head massage,’ Veronica commented, closing her eyes so she could focus on the feeling of Heather’s nails running along her scalp. ‘You haven’t actually told me what hairstyles you’re trying out.’
Heather curled her hand around a tuft of hair and gave a light tug. ‘Shut up, Sawyer.’ She ducked her head slightly so, if Veronica were to open her eyes, she wouldn’t see her reflection smiling. ‘You’re loving this.’
The sound of heaving drowned out Veronica’s reply, and caused her to whip her head around.
Chandler grunted in protest. ‘I can’t do any hairstyling if you won’t keep still.’
‘Seriously?’ Veronica stepped away from her and lowered her voice. ‘She’s still puking. We’ve been in here for five minutes; I don’t think she could possibly have anything left. And you’re concerned about my hair?’
Heather sighed, then whispered her reply. ‘I’ve told her this isn’t healthy and I’ve told her it’s fucking disgusting. She chooses not to listen. What else do you want me to do?’
Before Veronica could give her a list of everything she could possibly do, the toilet in the stall flushed and a red-eyed, sniffing Heather Duke shuffled out.
‘Sorry I took so long,’ she mumbled, washing her hands. Her knuckles were even more red and scratched then they had been that morning, with light teeth marks scattered on her ring and index finger.
Veronica gazed at them sadly. ‘It’s fine, Heather. But you do know there is nothing wrong with keeping your breakfast down, right?’
‘I…’ Duke heaved and ran back into the stall, only just making it in time for another round of coughing and spluttering.
Wincing, Veronica returned to Chandler’s side. ‘That’s really not good.’
Heather found her hand and interlaced her fingers with Veronica’s. Her eyes were downcast. ‘I know. And I know I should be trying to help her get better. I’m just not sure how.’
Veronica looked at her, at the way Heather’s eyes lingered on the open cubicle down and at her downturned lips. She never realised Chandler actually gave a fuck. ‘You really mean that?’
‘Of course; she’s one of my best friends. It’s just high school, you know? We all have our own shit to deal with.’
‘I guess.’ Veronica nodded in agreement, then stole a glance at the bathroom doorway. There was nobody in the corridor outside, and Heather Duke hadn’t emerged from her cubicle again yet. She planted a quick kiss on Chandler’s cheek, resulting in her emitting a flustered squeak.
‘We’re in school!’ she whispered, lightly pushing Veronica away. She couldn’t help but smile, though.
‘And you're adorable when you're flustered. Are there any more facts you wanted to share?’
‘What the fuck did you just say?’ croaked Heather Duke, before flushing the toilet once again. She stepped out into the bathroom with a frown. ‘Did you just call Heather Chandler adorable?’ She returned to the sink but, when nobody replied to her, looked back at Heather and Veronica and their linked hands. They stared at her with wide, caught out eyes. ‘Wait, you seriously did?’
‘Heather-’ Chandler began.
'Are you two actually… are you like an item?' Duke asked. She crossed her arms in front of her chest, raising an eyebrow at Veronica.
She tightened her grip on Chandler’s hand. ‘Maybe.’
Duke squinted and looked between the two of them. ‘What, really? Since last weekend? Is puking in front of someone the way to start a relationship now?’
Chandler looked down at Duke, adopting the most patronising look she could muster. ‘Well if it is, then you must be dating... what, six people? The two of us included? I guess bulimia is the new video dating.’
Veronica elbowed her in her side, causing Chandler to yelp and let go of her hand. She glared at her, but Veronica was too busy looking at Heather Duke. ‘Heather,’ she began, ‘we’re not quite sure what this is. But I assume we can count on you to help keep it a secret whilst we figure it out? We all know Ohio isn’t exactly the most accepting state there is.’
Duke shuffled in her position. Then, she began to wash her hands again, flinching as hot water stung her cuts. ‘I’m not going to out you two as dykes if that’s what you’re implying.’
‘Dykes?’ All three of them turned to see Courtney from the yearbook standing in the bathroom doorway, her eyebrows furrowed. ‘Who’s a dyke?’
There was a minute pause, then, ‘None of your business,’ growled Chandler, stalking over to the now-cowering brunette. Even if Courtney wasn’t already much shorter than Chandler, she would have shrunk under the vicious look being aimed towards her. ‘And if you eavesdrop on one of our conversations again, you’ll be the one accused of being a carpet-muncher. Kay?'
Courtney scampered out, her head bowed, and Chandler spun around to face the others.
Duke shook her head at her. ‘You can’t just threaten people with being called gay, Heather. It isn’t a bad thing to be. Surely you know that with this whole…’ She gestured at Veronica.
‘I… of course I know that.' She crossed her arms in front of her chest. 'But if Courtney’s so concerned with maintaining her own pathetic excuse for a reputation, she won’t be able to tear mine apart.’
Veronica snorted. ‘I mean, you do have a point.’
‘But you’re still a bitch.’ Duke turned from facing Chandler to frown at Veronica. ‘I really don’t get what you see in her, but I hope you two are enjoying yourselves.’
‘Fuck off, you love me,’ said Chandler, causing Duke to smile.
‘Evidently I’m not the only one who does.’
‘They’re dating. They have been for about a month, actually.’ Heather Duke surveyed McNamara’s face as she took in the news. Chandler and Veronica looked anywhere but at her.
‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ McNamara asked, her voice even quieter than usual.
Veronica sighed. ‘I’m sorry, Heather. We just didn’t want to tell anyone until we were sure of what we were going to do. It all happened so quickly.’ She snuggled closer to Chandler, grateful for the fact they were home alone in Chandler’s house and thus didn’t have to worry about anyone walking in on them. Not that she ever really worried anyway, but Heather did.
‘You really can’t tell anyone,’ Chandler mumbled. Her hands started to shake, and Veronica reached her fingers out to hold them still. ‘Seriously, it’s-’
‘Heather, of course I’d never tell anyone.’ McNamara said. ‘Did you really think that low of me?’
Chandler shook her head. ‘No, of course not.’ She hid her face in Veronica’s hair.
‘You’ll be okay, guys,’ Duke said eventually. ‘Nobody would dare fuck with you if they found out anyway. And we’ll make sure of that if we need to.’
‘What kind of dumb fuck locks her own keys in her car?’ Chandler ran her fingers through her soaked hair, tangling the already matted ginger locks even more. ‘My mother’s going to kill me if she has to pay for someone to come out.’ She banged a fist against her rain-covered Porsche, just as the sky turned yellow with a bright flash of lightning.
‘Heather, there’s no use standing here!’ Veronica called from the other side of the car. She held her blazer over the top of her head, trying to shelter from the raindrops and prevent her hair from suffering the same fate as Heather’s. They had gone out for a meal after school to celebrate being together for two months, but upon returning to the car, had realised they had no way of getting back inside it. ‘You’re going to get a cold!’
Heather had left her signature red blazer on the car’s back seat when they’d gone to eat, leaving the top of her body covered in only a white blouse that the rain was steadily making more and more transparent. Veronica tried not to let her eyes wander to Heather’s chest, despite how tightly the shirt was clinging around that area.
‘We should go back inside the restaurant until-’ A loud rumble of thunder drowned out the rest of Veronica’s words, and Heather groaned.
‘No, there has to be something we can-’ Her eyes lit up. ‘Check your door!’
‘The back door on your side!’ Heather grinned and pointed over the top of the car, as if to make sure Veronica knew what she wanted her to do. ‘I opened it to put my blazer there so it wasn’t creased!’
Veronica rolled her eyes. ‘And you don’t think you locked it?’
‘Veronica!’ Heather screeched, rain dripping down the back of her neck. Her knee-high socks were unbearably damp against her legs, and her falling tears were mixing with the water already running down her face. ‘Please, now!’
‘Okay.’ Veronica did as she was told, unable to hide her surprise when she found the door hadn’t been shut properly. She pulled it open and flashed Heather a bright grin. ‘You’re a genius, Heather!’ She leaned into the car and opened the driver’s door, then the passenger’s. She then made sure to close the back one before sitting in the front.
‘Oh my god, that was so close.’ Heather sank into the driver’s seat, not even bothering to close her door and stop the rain from soaking the car’s interior. ‘I’ll never moan about the dodgy seals on those back doors again.’
‘I highly doubt that.’ Veronica smirked, and leaned across Heather to shut the door for her. As she did so, her arm brushed against Heather’s chest and her soaked shirt. The contact made Heather's back arch. 'Oh?' she questioned.
Heather presented her with a middle finger. 'I just wasn't expecting to feel you there,' she murmured.
Despite having spent plenty of hours making out together, and having seen each other wearing absolutely no clothing at all, neither Heather or Veronica had initiated any sort of sexual contact before. That thought was running through Heather's mind as she looked down the side of her seat for her keys.
'Did you like it though?' asked Veronica. Her words made Heather stiffen.
'I…' Heather's hair dripped down her already damp back, making her shirt cling even more tightly to her body. She tried to focus on that and not what Veronica was saying. 'Maybe.'
'I think definitely.' Veronica turned in her seat so she was directly facing Heather. Every window, including the windscreen, was covered in raindrops, providing the two of them with more privacy than they'd had all evening. That fact, somehow, made her brave. 'And I liked it too.' She reached her hand out and rested it on Heather's shoulder, smiling as it made her breathing hitch. 'You want me to do it again?'
Heather's eyes widened. She abandoned her search for the keys, and focused completely on Veronica. On patient, gentle, Veronica, whose hand she could barely even feel on her shoulder because her grip was so light. She looked down at her chest, at the red bra that she was so obviously wearing, and at the stomach flesh that was almost completely on display. She looked like a mess, but, for some reason, she didn't care.
'Heather?' Veronica moved her hand to Heather's own and squeezed it tightly.
Heather jumped, only just realising she had forgotten to reply.
'Are you alright? Did I go too far?' Veronica's eyebrows were creased into a frown. 'I didn't mean to be so forward.'
Heather looked at her girlfriend's wide brown eyes, then at their interlinked fingers. She had been too nervous to initiate sex with Veronica whenever they had flirted before; she was scared that JD might have ruined the experience for her. But her not so subtle stares aimed towards Heather's body, and her lingering contact with her chest, suggested otherwise.
'You call that forward?' She hesitated, then shook Veronica's hand off her own. Maintaining eye contact with her, she started to unbutton her blouse, her fingers shivering only slightly at the feeling of cold material.
Veronica gulped. 'Heather, we're in a parking lot. I was just…' She stopped talking when Heather shrugged her shirt completely off, discarding it behind her. She couldn't hold back a moan at the sight of Heather's exposed stomach.
'Just what? Teasing me?' Heather let out a small chuckle, then rested her arm on her window, locking the doors with her elbow. 'Because the thing is, I like to be the one doing the teasing.' She leaned forward, stopping only when her face was an inch from Veronica's own. 'Do you want me to show you?'
Veronica's answer came in the form of pulling Heather into a kiss, then slipping her tongue inside her mouth.
After their first time resulted in gear-stick shaped bruises and a lot of accidental horn pressing, Heather and Veronica made a pact to never have sex in a car again. That was why, after celebrating three months of dating with a picnic, they had retired to Veronica's bedroom and exhausted themselves in there instead.
'That was perfect,' said Veronica, lying on her side and trying her best to stay awake. She was facing Heather, whose eyes were closed, and she couldn't help but smile at how content she looked. 'Thank you, Heather.'
'No, thank you ,' Heather mumbled back, her eyes still closed. 'You know, if we ever live together, it's gonna be real hard to not just fuck constantly.'
Veronica's face flushed. It was the first time Heather had ever mentioned them having their own house, and, even though she knew it was too early to really entertain such an idea, she couldn't help but feel thrilled Heather had thought about it too.
'You think?' She couldn't hide the fact she was smiling from her words, something which caused Heather to pry open an eye.
'I'm pretty sure I know.' She took in Veronica's adorable look of excitement, then closed her eyes again. 'But having sex all day sounds like fun to me.'
Veronica laughed. 'I agree, but that might make it hard to pay the bills; we'll have to have jobs you know.' She sleepily reached out a hand, and started to half-heartedly wind a lock of Heather's hair around her finger.
'Oh yeah? And what job will you have?'
'I'm hoping to work in Murphy's. You know, the tattoo parlour two roads from school?'
‘You want to work there?’ Heather asked, her eyebrows raised. She opened her eyes, and Veronica stopped stroking her hair.
'Yeah?' Veronica's smile faded. She searched Heather’s face to try and decipher how she was feeling, reflexively putting her defenses up. ‘What? Do you have a prob-’
‘Work in that tattoo parlour…' Heather shook her head slightly, but then smiled. 'Ronnie, you could run it.’
Veronica clamped her lips together, hoping that would prevent a stupidly large grin from erupting on her face. ‘Oh, Heather. You really think so?’
‘I know so.’
She couldn’t hold her beam back any longer, and when it appeared it was accompanied with a small squeal. ‘I really appreciate that. And what are you planning to do when school’s over? Find a whole new group of people who fear you?’
Heather rolled her eyes. ‘That’s not quite my plan. My mother wants me to be a realtor like her but…’ she shuffled in her position on the bed. ‘I want to do something I love.’
Veronica smirked.‘You mean like you just did?’ Heather looked at her blankly. ‘You did me…?’
Heather’s mouth fell open and the colour drained from her face. ‘I-’
‘I’m sorry,’ said Veronica immediately, internally cringing at what she’d just said. She looked away, her mouth turning dry. ‘I’m not trying to pressure you into saying anything.’ She nuzzled closer to Heather, curling her head into the crook of her neck. ‘It’s still early days. You just do me very well.’
Heather let out a small huff of laughter and wriggled in closer herself. She planted a kiss on Veronica’s head. ‘Well what I meant was like… say dancing. I’ve had lessons since I was three and I can dance circles around anyone in Ohio. But my mom would never say it was a viable career.’
‘You love dancing?’ If Veronica hadn’t been so comfortable, and so damn tired, she’d have moved away then, just to show Heather how bewildered she was. Out of all the hobbies she expected her girlfriend to have, dancing was not one of them.
‘I do,’ Heather said, her voice muffled as she burrowed into Veronica’s hair. ‘Where do you think I go after school every Thursday night? That’s when I have practice.’
Veronica let out a small hum, mentally noting that she should ask Heather to show her one of her routines one day. ‘I think you’d make an excellent professional dancer,’ she said, before stifling a yawn. ‘You really really should do what you love.’ When Heather didn’t reply, Veronica gave into temptation and let her eyes drift shut. She was just falling asleep when-
‘Then I should definitely do you again.’
It was 11.45pm at Ram Sweeney's New Year's Eve party, and the somewhat intoxicated Heathers were standing together in his living room. They were surveying their drunk classmates, who were all crowded around the dance mat hooked up to the TV.
'I really wanna join them,' confessed Veronica, longing evident in her voice. She looked up at Chandler with a pleading expression. 'Can I? Please?'
Chandler, tipsy on gin and lemonade, rolled her eyes. 'Just make sure you win, 'Ronica. We have a reputation to uphold.' She took Veronica's drink for her, alternating between sipping it and her own, as her girlfriend challenged Courtney to a dance-off.
'She's too drunk to even put up a decent fight,' remarked McNamara, standing on her tiptoes in front of Ram's piano. He had placed a number of refreshments in bowls along the top of it, and McNamara took a handful from two of them. 'It'll be a miracle if she keeps herself upright, let alone her rep as one of the cool kids.'
Duke chuckled. 'Sweetie, that's not very nice.'
Chandler winced at hearing a pet name fall from Duke's lips. Her and McNamara had been dating for a month, having cited Chandler's own relationship with Veronica as something that made them brave enough to try going out together, but Chandler was still having a hard time acknowledging it. She was happy for them both, of course, she was just scared that her friends dating meant her and Veronica were even more likely to be exposed for doing the same. That fear was always especially prevalent when Duke addressed McNamara so affectionately.
As if picking up on Chandler's worry, Duke spoke again. 'Sorry, I shouldn't call you sweetie here,' she whispered to McNamara. Well, Chandler was pretty sure she was trying to whisper. But, unfortunately, drunk Heather Duke had very little volume control.
McNamara thrust a bowl towards her, not even seeming to notice what Duke had been saying. 'Heather! These are incredible.'
Chandler sighed, waiting for Duke to refuse the bowl, but she took it graciously. Then, she removed a pretzel from inside it and took a bite out of it.
'Do you want some of these, Heather?' she then asked, holding out the bowl to Chandler. 'Heather's right; they are really good.' She put another one into her mouth.
Dubiously, Chandler took a pretzel for herself. 'Heather, since when do you eat at parties?' she asked lowly. She brought it up to her mouth and nibbled. In fairness, it was alright as far as crappy party food goes.
Duke smiled ruefully and placed the bowl back down on the top of the piano. 'I suppose since I stopped thinking I would have to throw the food back up.' She looked up through half-lidded eyes, about to say more when McNamara skipped up behind her.
'Didn't you know, Heather? This is Heather's third consecutive week without puking’. She wrapped an arm around Duke's waist. 'And I'm so proud.' McNamare kissed her on her cheek, giggling when it rendered her speechless.
'Heather!' hissed Chader, glaring around at the others in the room, then at McNamara. 'Don't kiss her here; someone might see you.'
Duke muttered something to McNamara, who shrugged and joined Veronica at the dance mat.
Chandler opened her mouth to ask what exactly her and McNamara had been playing at with that PDA, but something about the way Duke so absentmindedly ate another pretzel made her change her mind. She sighed. 'Being with Heather has really helped your eating habits, huh?'
'Yeah.' Duke gave the bowl one last look, then turned away from it. 'I still slip up sometimes, but I'm doing much better than I ever thought I'd be.' The two of them watched McNamara and Veronica bicker over who should have the next turn, and shared a small laugh. 'It's not just Heather I have to thank, though.'
'It's not?' Chandler waited for the inevitable praise of Veronica she knew was sure to come. She wasn't bitter; Veronica had helped her improve her own life too, mainly by constantly reassuring her that she didn't have to listen to what her mother said simply because she was the parent who had stayed. In fact, Heather was grateful that her and Heather had such a positive influence in their lives.
'I should thank you too.'
That response almost made Chandler drop hers and Veronica's drink. 'I'm sorry?'
Duke smiled. 'I knew you wouldn't see it. It's just... the way you've showed that you don't have to sleep with guys to be popular anymore, something I knew you hated, made me realise that I don't need to make myself sick to be popular either.' Though some of her words were slurring together, something that wasn't helped by the way she kept pausing to take more sips of her drink, everything she said hit Chandler like a stone. 'So what if my stomach isn't as flat as Courtney's? I'm one of Westerburg's eagles, and she's a bluebird in a Halloween costume trying to be scary.'
'I like the analogy.' Chandler downed the rest of her drink and grinned. 'And I'm so glad you're getting better, Heather.' The more she thought about what Duke had said, though, the more uneasy she started to feel; she wasn't dating Veronica to be an inspiration to anyone. It was just supposed to be a bit of fun, something that was just between her and Veronica. She squirmed uncomfortably, then, as their classmates started to file out of the patio doors in order to watch Kurt and Ram release fireworks in the garden, she finished Veronica's drink too.
And at midnight, when Veronica pulled her close for a New Year's kiss, she focused on how the alcohol made her lips tingle, instead of how their relationship being recognised so casually by someone other than Veronica made her stomach churn. She was so busy tangling her fingers in brunette locks and moaning loud enough to drown out her worries, that she didn't even check to see if anybody was watching them through the patio doors.
‘Happy six month-iversary,’ whispered Veronica with a smile as she came up behind Heather Chandler.
Heather jumped, almost slamming her locker door shut in the process. ‘God, Ronnie, I should buy you a bell to celebrate. At least then you’d stop being able to scare me like that.’ She turned around and met Veronica’s smile with one of her own, though her eyebrows remained set in a deep frown. She looked up and down the empty hallway before replying with, ‘Happy six months, my sweet.’
Veronica brushed a strand of hair out of Heather's eyes, earning a small contented sigh in response. 'It really is happy; you know that flat we talked about renting together after graduation?' she spoke cautiously, opening her messenger bag and rooting inside it as she did so. 'The one on the same road as Murphy's?'
Heather nodded. 'Of course.' She surveyed the hallway once again, making sure nobody was around to listen. 'You think I don't constantly daydream about living with the person I love?'
'Heather!' Veronica grinned bashfully. 'God, I love you saying that word to me.' She removed a piece of paper from her bag, then handed it to Chandler. It showed a photograph of Murphy's tattoo parlour, more specifically, the flat above it. 'Well that one hasn't come up for rent, but this one.' She tapped the picture. 'It's for sale.'
Heather pursed her lips approvingly as she read the property's key information. 'Two bedrooms, an open plan kitchen, a vast reduction in price due to the work it needs.' She groaned. 'Ew I sound like my mother.' She read the rest of the information on the sheet before shrugging. 'It's great, Ronnie, but we can't afford a place together. And we've only been together for-'
'I know that, but my dad has been wanting a project for a long time. He wants a property to flip, and I'm trying to convince him this is the perfect choice!' The pitch of Veronica's voice grew higher, and she wiggled her shoulders excitedly. 'If we have any luck, we'll be able to rent it off him when he's finished, especially if I help him fix it all up.'
Chandler looked back at the piece of paper in her hand, at the flat she could so easily imagine living in alongside Veronica. Then, she caught sight of a name on the sheet and she let out a moan. 'But my mother's the realtor.'
'That's the best part! Surely she can help my dad make sure he's getting a good deal?'
Heather pursed her lips together, trying to figure out exactly how to tell Veronica that asking her mother for a favour was at the top of the list of things she did not want to do.
'I know she can be a dick, but wouldn't she be happy to see you taking an interest in her job? Especially as she wants you to be a realtor too.' Veronica's tone was becoming less and less chipper the more she spoke, most likely due to the sorrowful expression on Heather's face. 'Or is there really no way you can approach her about it?'
'I'm sorry, Ronnie.' Heather took one last look at the page, then offered it back to Veronica.
She shook her head and motioned for Heather to keep it. 'It's okay. I'll just convince him that this deal is great on my own.' Veronica smiled. 'We're getting our flat one way or another.' After a second's pause, she leaned forward and planted a kiss on Heather's lips.
Heather knew she should push her away; they were in school for fuck's sake and literally anybody could walk along and see them, but their lips just fit so perfectly together, and Veronica had the most amazing way of sucking on her lower lip and making her forget about her mother and the fact they were in Westerburg and-
'Jesus fucking Christ.' Hearing someone speak over at the end of the corridor, Heather and Veronica sprung apart. The voice, they realised simultaneously, belonged to Courtney, who stood watching them with a disgusted expression on her face.
'Courtney…' Veronica began, her voice as pathetic as Chandler felt.
'Don't 'Courtney' me. I knew when I saw you kissing at New Year's you'd slip up again.' She placed her hands on her hips and walked towards them. 'Are the school's lovesick lesbians really too horny to wait until they get home to start mauling each other?'
'Fuck you, Courtney.' Heather scowled. 'You have no idea what you saw.'
Courtney scoffed; as much as Heather hated to admit it, she hadn't kept the tremble from her voice or the fear from her expression, and the Demon Queen was a lot less intimidating when she was so obviously scared.
Veronica cleared her throat. 'Listen, bitch. Even if you… even if you told people what you think you just saw, they wouldn't believe you; you haven't got any proof.'
'Oh, I don't need any.' Courtney advanced towards Heather, her teeth bared into a grin. 'Do you think this school isn't desperate for some dirt on Heather Chandler?' With a mock sympathetic expression, and some traces of her grin still evident, she started to circle around Heather. 'Do you really think they would let such a delicious rumour go unspread?' She leant towards her ear and whispered, 'All it takes is one person calling you a dyke. And that's it. This persona you've spent four years creating? It starts to crumble.' She withdrew again, and clasped her hands together in front of herself. With a satisfied smile, she continued, 'This is going to fucking ruin you.' Sending Veronica a small wave, she sauntered down the hallway, leaving Heather with tears spilling from her eyes as quickly as they appeared there.
‘You know, if your relationship was a baby, it would most likely be born this month.’ Heather McNamara took a pot of salad from the canteen refrigerator and handed it to Heather Duke. Then she took another for herself.
Heather Chandler frowned at her. ‘Heather, what the fuck are you talking about?’
Veronica giggled and picked up a sandwich. ‘We’ve been together for nine months, silly. So, until now, our relationship has just been developing. This month it turns into a being that’s able to survive on its own.’
‘Well, so long as you keep feeding it,’ added Duke.
Chandler's expression grew more and more bewildered. ‘You’re all so fucking strange.’ She handed over the money for her own lunch, unable to stop a fond smile from emerging on her face.
It had been three months since Courtney had seen her and Veronica kiss in the hallway, and, save from a few whispered remarks that were immediately extinguished with pointed glares, no real gossip about the pair had spread around Westerburg. Veronica had been right; nobody believed Courtney's testimony, instead assuming she was making a last minute attempt to be popular before graduation.
Maybe that was the reason Chandler let her anger get the better of her that day. Maybe that was why, when Courtney accidentally barrelled into her and almost made her drop her food, Chandler grabbed her by the wrist and twisted her lips into a smirk.
‘Oh, you better apologise for that,' she hissed. Holding her lunch in one arm, she dragged Courtney out of view of the kitchen staff, her nails digging into the hideous garment Courtney probably tried to call a sweater. ‘You don’t get to bump into me like that. Have you forgotten who I am?’ She dropped Courtney’s arm and raised an expectant eyebrow.
‘I…’ Courtney turned her gaze towards the floor and her (equally hideous, Chandler noted) shoes. 'I'm…'
Veronica hurried to Chandler’s side, having noticed a good portion of students in the canteen were now staring at her and Courtney ‘What’s going on here?’
Courtney looked back up, a defiant look in her eye. A tug at the corner of her lips suggested she had been waiting for Veronica to join them. ‘Nothing.’
‘Excuse me?’ Chandler asked. Veronica placed a hand on her waist, but she didn’t even notice. Courtney did, though, and she ever so slightly smiled at it. ‘Courtney the cunt thinks she can just barrel into me with her man-shoulders and get away with it.’
‘And Heather Chandler thinks she can be a dyke and get away with it.’ Courtney’s words received a low whistle from the onlookers in the dining hall, and prompted Duke and McNamara to flock to Chandler’s other side.
Courtney addressed the cafeteria, her voice smooth and confident. ‘Heather threatened to spread a rumour about me being gay just so she could cover her own lesbian ass, but looking at the way Veronica Sawyer clings onto her so desperately, I think we all know the truth now.’ She looked Chandler up and down with a sneer. ‘Have fun riding out your social suicide.’ Courtney turned on her heel and flounced out of the door, leaving the room in an uncharacteristic silence.
‘Heather,’ murmured Veronica, pulling her closer to herself.
Chandler looked down at Veronica’s hand as if it was made of fire, and pushed it off herself. She looked from Veronica’s concerned expression to McNamara’s terrified one, to Duke's pitying one, and her head reeled.
Being gay, and being unable to hide that fact, had stripped her of her ability to seem untouchable. Had made an ex-bulimic pity her. Pity Heather Chandler , and had made a canteen full of students who used to worship her witness her downfall.
She thrust her lunch towards Veronica and ran out of the hall, her heels clattering against the floorboards.
As the three Heathers walked down the school hallway a week later, they noted with anger that their peers barely even tried to stay out of their way. None of their classmates made contact with them, of course, but they brazenly passed by them instead of flattening themselves against the lockers like usual.
Veronica, who had been taking a book from her own locker, saw the Heathers approaching and hurried over. She didn't even notice the glare she received from a boy she used to tutor in junior year. 'Hey guys.' She slid her spare hand into the back pocket of Chandler's jeans, squeezing ever so gently. 'Where are we going to skip Gym today?'
'The back field!' said McNamara, though her voice was almost drowned out by Chandler's snarling of Veronica's name.
'Veronica! What are you doing?' Chandler asked, pulling Veronica's hand out of her pocket. She glanced nervously around the corridor, swallowing thickly when she saw several freshmen snicker at their exchange. 'You can't touch me like that.'
'People already know, Heather,' said Veronica, though she did withdraw her hand and clasp the book against her chest. 'You should stop caring about what they think.'
Chandler looked back at the freshman, whose eyes were still on them. She increased her pace. 'I have stopped caring about what they think.'
When the Heathers and Veronica drew closer to their usual spot beneath the bleachers, they were all equally disgusted to find Kurt and Ram already there. Judging by the smell and clouds of smoke surrounding them, they'd decided to skip their own Gym class to get high.
‘Yo, it's the Heathers!' called Kurt, causing Ram to splutter on the joint he'd just put in his mouth. He approached McNamara, his arms spread. 'Have you come to keep us company, ladies?' He waggled his eyebrows.
'Grow up,' Duke spat, glaring at them. She grabbed Chandler's arm. 'Let's go, Heather.' Her, Mac, and Veronica all turned to leave, but Chandler just shook Duke off. 'What are you-'
'You look like you're having plenty of fun without us for company,' cooed Chandler. She looked through the gaps in the bleachers. Their Gym class were standing together, huddled in a particularly miserable looking circle despite the light June wind being optimal exercise weather. If any of them were to look over, she realised, they could easily see who they were. Could easily see Heather Chandler hanging around with the most desirable boys in Westerburg. 'But we would love to join you.'
'Heather?' That was Veronica, her voice laced with confusion as Chandler stepped towards Kurt. The others followed her, McNamara coughing as the smell of cannabis got even stronger.
'Is that so?' Kurt smirked in a way that looked more like he needed to pass gas than anything else, and he gestured for Ram to walk over to him. 'I thought you didn't care about keeping the school's most popular dudes happy anymore.' He laughed. 'You know, since you became a dyke and all.'
Chandler winced at his words, and Veronica, picking up on her movement despite it being almost invisible, placed a hand on her shoulder.
'It doesn't matter what Heather is; she's still got you two and the rest of this school wrapped around her finger.'
'You think?' Ram snorted, then passed his joint to Kurt. 'Does scissoring make chicks stupid or something? You four haven't had control of the school since Courtney's little outing in the cafeteria.'
'Excuse me?' asked Duke, an eyebrow raised. She drew herself up to her full height, though she still wasn't anywhere near as tall as either boy. 'I think you'll find that we're still at the top of the food chain.'
Kurt exhaled a cloud of smoke in her face. 'I think you'll find that being around you will damage our rep.' He nodded to Kurt. 'Let's leave the lesbos to whatever it is they get up to under here.' They sidled away, still puffing on their joint, leaving Duke and McNamara coughing, Veronica seething, and Chandler lost for words.
A few weeks and many more social rejections later, it was the day before the senior class of Westerburg were due to graduate.
The Heathers and Veronica had clung to a few last perks of popularity in the midst of their social downfall, however, Chandler reflected proudly; though they didn't get invited to any more parties, they were still somewhat feared by the lower years, and the teachers still steered clear of even attempting to reprimand them for any misbehaviour. That, and the way she had fallen harder for Veronica than she could have ever imagined, made Heather Chandler's last few days at the school more bearable than she could have hoped for. In just 24 hours, she knew she and her girlfriend would never have to see the smarmy faces of their homophobic peers again, and she could go right back to instilling fear in the people that became part of her life. Without the influence of popular kids spreading gossip, she also knew that any geeks who had dared stop worshipping her during schooltime would go right back to fearing her if they met again in the real world. In the Westerburg parking lot that afternoon, those thoughts made her smile as she unlocked her Porsche.
She had five minutes until she needed to be in class for her last lesson of the day, and thus the her last lesson of the school year, and she'd left her textbook in the glove compartment. She was just unlocking the car door in order to retrieve it when she heard a voice behind her.
'Excuse me. Heather?'
She turned around to see who was addressing her. 'What?'
She was met with the sight of a bespectacled boy, about two inches smaller than her, who was wearing an orange jumper paired with navy jeans. His greasy hair fell to his shoulders, and he ran his fingers through it as he spoke.
'I just wanted to say thank you,' he said, with his teeth full of braces that made him spit slightly as she spoke.
Heather recoiled. Just a few short months ago, a nerd so repulsive would never have looked her in the eye, let alone addressed her so informally, and she would have torn into him had she not been so taken aback by his boldness. 'Excuse me?'
'Thank you for coming out as gay,' he elaborated, shoving his glasses further up his nose with the back of his hand. The glass in the lenses grew misty almost immediately. As if he had read Heather's mind, he continued, 'Ever since I first saw you, I've been too scared to talk to you. But now you're approachable; you're one of us.' He pointed to a rainbow badge pinned to his jumper. 'Now, if I see you in the grocery store, or at a high school reunion, I'll be able to talk to you. To say how you being out helped me be myself.' He lowered his head. 'Thanks for letting me graduate without being scared of you anymore.'
Heather inhaled slowly, her mind racing with a hundred different versions of what the fuck, and the nerd, realising he wasn't going to receive a reply, shuffled away with his hands still in his hair. Heather watched him go, her eyes downcast.
‘Hey, have either of you seen Heather?’ asked Veronica, popping up between Heather McNamara and Heather Duke. The two were sitting beside each other on the otherwise empty bleachers and going through Duke’s valedictorian speech, making sure she’d included everything she wanted to say. Veronica had appeared on the row behind them without them even noticing.
‘Not today,’ replied McNamara, blowing her cap’s tassel out of her eyes. ‘Why aren’t you wearing your gown yet?’
Veronica looked at the bundled-up fabric in her arms. ‘I wanted to show Heather my outfit first. I bought it with my mom last night.’ She held her arms out to the side so Duke and McNamara could see the turquoise skater dress that was adorned with red flowers. On her feet, she wore matching turquoise ballet pumps. ‘She didn’t answer the phone this morning when I rang to suggest meeting up, and I want to see her before we sit down.’ She shuffled from one foot to the other.
‘You can wait with us, but I’m sure she’ll show up soon.’ Duke smiled, and patted the space on the bench beside her. Veronica took the hint and sat down. ‘Enough people in this school are still scared of her to ensure she won't miss her last chance of being feared and adored all at once.'
'Definitely not,' agreed McNamara, giggling. She rested her head on Duke's shoulder, then gasped slightly. 'Oh, wait a second!' She withdrew a letter from the inner pocket of her gown, then held it out. On the front it read 'Veronica', in Chandler's unmistakable cursive. 'She did give me this before she went to dancing last night, though. She said she forgot to give it to you yesterday, but if you ask me she was too nervous of being seen as sappy.' She waved the envelope in front of Veronica's face. 'It's going to be a love letter about your life after graduation! I just know it!'
Veronica took it, grinning. 'Oh, it'll be so hard not teasing the all mighty Heather Chandler about writing something so cheesy.' Using the tiny amount of nails she had on her fingers, she gently prised the envelope open and withdrew the paper inside. She instantly recognised it as the sheet she had given Chandler four months previously, adorned with the picture of the flat above Murphy's that was still for sale even now. Veronica couldn't even understand herself how she felt knowing Heather had kept the piece of paper all that time.
'Am I allowed to read it?' asked Duke mischievously. She rested her chin on Veronica's shoulder. 'I'm always up for helping tease Heather.'
'Maybe,' said Veronica, her eyes shining. 'Just let me read it first.' She turned the letter over to see Chandler's writing, and held it out of Duke's eyeline. The smile on her face began to wilt as soon as she started to read.
'Is everything alright?' asked McNamara with a frown. She shared a worried glance with Duke. 'Veronica?'
Veronica nodded, then shook her head. The hand holding the piece of paper began to tremble. 'What time did she give you this, Heather?' she asked, her voice wavering.
'Just after Math, so around 3pm? She wrote it in the lesson I'm pretty sure. Right before she started complaining about how our last ever lesson had been Math, and how we shouldn't have to be taught the day before we leave sc-' She clamped a hand over her mouth and groaned. 'Sorry, I'm rambling. About 3pm, why?'
'Just…' A lone tear dripped down Veronica's face, and her heart grew heavy in her chest. The more she looked at the looped handwriting, the more her vision began to blur. She passed the letter to Duke, her breaths heavy.
Confused, Duke read the letter aloud.
'Ronnie, I'm so sorry to do this, and I'm so sorry to do it today. I wish I could see any other option for us, but I can't. Please believe me when I tell you I've tried.' Heather Duke paused to take a breath, her eyes flickering between the letter and Veronica.
'Thank you for everything you've done for me over the past ten months. You've turned me into a gentler person, which, I begrudgingly admit, is definitely a good thing. But I'm not gentle enough for you, Ronnie. You deserve a love like Heather and Heather have, and I can't give you that.
'And that's why you won't see me at graduation tomorrow. I'm going to stay with my dad in LA, and my flight leaves first thing in the morning. You told me I could be a dancer, and I suppose I'll get to see if you're right.
'Whatever you do, whether you stay in Ohio or move to one of the many universities that will want you, I know you'll excel. Because that's what you do, Veronica, and you do it better than anyone I've ever known.
'Again, I'm sorry to leave you like this, and I'm sorry this letter is so rambly. Fuck. Is rambly even a word? You would never write a phrase as elementary as that. And that is why you deserve flowing, poetic, prose, not the blatherings of a tear-stained teenager who is too scared to give you a real goodbye. You deserve much more than I could ever give you, both in person and on paper. And as much as it breaks my heart to know I can't give it to you, I hope you get it, Ronnie.