“Soooo,” Veronica drawled, dropping on her back on the porch swing, a bottle of Smirnoff Ice in her hand, her head falling into Betty’s lap. “What do you want our wedding to be like?”
Veronica was drunk. And Betty was pretty sure she’d heard the word ‘our’ in there. “Our wedding?”
Veronica looked startled, like she’d been caught out, and then she narrowed her eyes and laughed purposefully. “Your wedding. To,” she wrinkled her nose. “Archie, or whoever you thought about.”
Betty sighed. “You know it was Archie.”
“He doesn’t deserve you. Manslut.”
That . . . wasn’t untrue. After she’d found out about his thing with the false Ms. Grundy she hadn’t been able to see him in the same way. “I guess I don’t really know anymore. Archie was kind of like a ken doll, good to pose in place. But also I knew him—or thought I did—well enough to predict what he’d want. It would be important to me what the other person wanted.”
Veronica tried to prop herself up to look Betty in the face, but the position was wrong. The swing swung and she yelped, and Betty grabbed her before she fell. Veronica smiled at her, with an expression Betty might have classed as ‘lovesick’ if it wasn’t one of Veronica’s basic three expressions: Lovesick, Bored, and Evil.
“What do you want? If they love you, they’ll care about that too.”
Betty smiled. Veronica was sometimes her favorite person in the world. Other times she was just out there, so it was hit or miss, really. “Um, well, I don’t want my mom there.”
Veronica nodded seriously. “We should elope.”
“Only I want my mom there, not my dad though. We still need witnesses, so I’ll have my mom, and you can bring Kevin. Is Kevin good?”
Betty laughed a little. “Sure. Kevin’s great to bring as a witness to our gay marriage.” Veronica was hilariously drunk. But it was nice, when she wasn’t fully in control of herself, to know that she still cared about Betty—maybe a little more than friends usually did. But Betty kind of got it. She didn’t trust it, but something low and deep inside said the same thing that Veronica said much louder, and to everyone in school. They were going to be best friends forever.
“Good, that’s settled. Now, dresses. Strapless or spaghetti straps for you. I want to see your beautiful shoulders babe.”
Veronica started thumbing through her phone and showed Betty various dresses. Lazy, on the porch swing, they drank and Veronica pinned things to her new Pinterest board.
“So,” Veronica said. “It has come to my attention that I was very drunk last night. Mainly because I don’t remember any of it. Except . . . your lap?”
Betty laughed, feeling the flush coming out on her cheeks despite herself. “Um, well, you decided that we should plan our wedding.”
Veronica’s face was a picture—mostly horror. Betty wrapped her arms around herself and laughed, awkwardly, but kind of pleased. “A little presumptuous, don’t you think?”
“Mhm?” Veronica squeaked.
“Asking me to pick a dress and a witness when you haven’t even gotten down on one knee?” Betty shook her head. “Silly girl.”
Clearly relieved that this wasn’t bothering Betty, Veronica started to laugh. “I’m so sorry. I am a terrible pre-fiancée. Will you ever forgive me?”
Betty shrugged, letting her tight grip on herself loosen up. “Depends on what your proposal will be like.”
A fierce expression came across Veronica’s face. “Just you wait.” She strode off toward the school building, and Betty chased after her.
“Wait! Wait! Your mom works hard. Please don’t spend any money on this! It doesn’t need to be a thing!”
Veronica spun, one eyebrow quirked in a way Betty wasn’t sure if she should read as evil or crazy. “Oh? A challenge? No money? You play hard to get, Betty Cooper.”
Then she strode off again, and Betty was left biting her lower lip and trying not to smile too hard. What an impossible girl Veronica was. Betty kind of loved it.
“I don’t understand.” Betty’s voice caught in her throat and she tried to force down the tears. “Why— You, you’re so much better than everyone here. You’re good, even if it’s not easy, you’re so beautiful. You could have anyone as a friend. But you picked me, and you know now, you’ve seen it. You know just how crazy I am, just how much of a mess. Why are you still here?”
Veronica knelt next to her chair, holding both her hands firmly in her own. “Betty—“
“No, I don’t understand! Why are you here with me? Why aren’t you afraid?”
She looked up, finally catching sight of Veronica’s face, those gorgeous eyes, always perfectly winged, the softness, the sympathy in her mouth. “Because I know you.”
Betty’s eyebrow quirked, as if that made no sense.
Veronica squeezed her hands again, and offered a odd, weak sort of smile. “Betty Cooper,” she said. “From the moment I saw you, I knew that you were the girl I wanted to be best friends with. You looked pretty and smart and strong. And the more I learn about you, the more I know just how strong you are. And obviously smart, and you’re prettier every day to me. Even when you’re snotty like this, and you haven’t used waterproof mascara.”
Betty snorted through her tears. Only Veronica.
“So, Betty Cooper. I love you, and that doesn’t mean I love the girl who I could imagine you were if you weren’t the girl who takes those pills, and it doesn’t mean I have savior issues and want to fix you and make you perfect, like an asshole in a teen movie who can’t deal with a girl in glasses. I just want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
Betty let out a breath. The earnestness, the sweetness, the self-censure and effort to understand, they were Veronica 100%. It was so strange, to have a friend like that. To have a friend she didn’t feel like she had to be someone else for.
“So,” Veronica offered her impish smile with her earnest eyes. “Will you marry me, Betty Cooper? And make me the happiest woman alive?”
And of course she remembered their joke right now. Betty laughed, because she couldn’t help it, because it was Veronica, and Veronica was perfect. She leaned in and pressed her lips to Veronica’s cheek. Soft, like silk, and slightly chilled from the night air. “Fine, you’ve convinced me.”
Veronica narrowed her eyes. “I’m expecting a gleeful ‘Yes!’.”
Betty stroked her thumbs across Veronica’s forehead, her fingers sliding into her hair. She leaned forward and bumped their foreheads together. “I love you too, Veronica Lodge LaLuz, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you by my side. So, yes. Yes.”
Veronica’s eyes welled, and then she was shutting them, and then her lips were pressed against Betty’s. Betty softened for her, needing to. Why was it that she’d kissed Veronica more than any boy in this town? Unclear. But Veronica was definitely the best kisser. Just the right amount of soft and firm, chaste, but open, offering more but not demanding it. Betty probably could have kissed her for days.
“No one has ever made me feel as safe as you,” Betty murmured into her shoulder, having slipped off her chair and fallen into hugging her best friend.
“Aww, honey. Don’t make me cry. I’m gonna change our Facebook statuses right now, okay?” Veronica tugged Betty’s phone out of her back pocket.
Veronica flashed her the phone with a grin. Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge are now Engaged! it read.
Betty sighed and dropped her head on Veronica’s shoulder. “Please don’t link our wedding Pinterest board. As a certified crazy person, I have the right to say that this is starting to get a bit nuts.”
“Whatever, you love me.” The impish grin was back.
Betty huffed out an annoyed laugh. “Fine. I do.”
Archie was the first to give her the weird look. “Um, congratulations?”
Betty blinked at him, confused. “Huh?”
“You and Veronica?”
“Oh.” Betty put her hand to her head and groaned. “Don’t worry about it. It’s just a Veronica thing.”
Jughead, appearing creepily from nowhere as usual, peered over his notebook and raised an eyebrow. “It’s true. Straight girls get married on Facebook all the time. A curious behavior, really. The Pinterest wedding board is new though.”
“Gah,” Betty pulled out her phone to find the site. “Dammit. I told her not to link it.”
Archie gave his weird look to Jughead. Jughead shrugged.
The next weird look came from Kevin. “Honey,” he said, with his sweet smile. “Is there something you’re not telling me. Because either my darling Bi-ronica got her hooks into you at last, or you have done the Straightest Thing Known to Man. Only men don’t do it. So the Straightest Thing Known to Woman then.”
Betty sighed. “It’s a joke. It’s not a big deal.” It sounded like a lie as she said it, and one that made her feel really guilty. “Well . . .”
“Kind of a big deal?”
“Kind of not a joke?”
Betty chewed her lower lip for a moment, and then gave in. “It started as a joke. Or, well, I don’t know. Veronica was drunk and started interrogating me about my dream wedding. Well, our dream wedding, it sort of turned into. And the Pinterest board just sort of happened. We were drunk, and there were pretty pictures.”
“I’m getting the idea.” He was smiling at her in a kind and too-knowing way.
“So, I just teased Veronica about it a little when she was sober again. And, well, told her she had to propose properly, but without spending any money, because,” Betty rolled her eyes. “That girl.”
“I know,” Kevin said. “I was there for the roses and New York cupcakes and hers and hers mani-pedi debacle. The problem mainly has to do with you, I think.”
“You make her want to pull out all the stops.”
“Yeah, well. She did it. I mean, it was just a way of lightening up a kind of emotional moment. She found out about my diagnosis, and she was just . . . she was so sweet. Obviously it didn’t surprise her, because I’d stopped taking my pills since the week before I met her and I was cycling hardcore. But she accepted me in a way I’ve never felt accepted before.”
“She’s kind of a sweetheart, unexpectedly, eh?”
Betty drifted, thinking about all of the times Veronica gave her that sweet smile, looked out for her, took care of her. “She is. And, so, it got kind of heavy. She kept using my full name and telling me how much she loved me. So when she asked me to marry her, it was a relief. You know, back to the old banter, not treating me like I need delicate handling.”
“I suppose you said yes,” Kevin said, a wry eyebrow arched curiously.
Betty shrugged, wrapping her arms around herself. “Of course.”
“Has she gotten you a ring yet?”
“Kevin!” Betty smacked him, and then flushed, because just the other day Veronica had given her a gorgeous agate ring that had belonged to her grandmother, and would not take no for an answer. She’d even slipped it on Betty’s ring finger—to see if it fit, she said—and beat off all of Betty’s protests with ‘nothing too good for my gorgeous fiancée.’ “Okay, fine.” She showed him the ring, now on a chain around her neck, which Veronica had also given her, ‘just in case you want to wear it without attracting too much attention.’
“Honey,” Kevin said, after being suitably admiring of the agate. “I love Veronica, and I love you, and I’m rooting hard for you two to be endgame. But you probably need to talk before Veronica leads you smiling and skipping into a chapel and you guys come out as Cooper-Lodges on Facebook and you still think it’s just something straight girls do.”
“But we are straight girls. So . . . if we do it, then it is something straight girls do.”
Kevin rubbed his forehead. “Oh honey. Please just talk to Veronica.”
The third weird look was from Veronica’s mom. Betty kind of loved Hermione. She was nothing like her own mom, and liked to dish with them, and would give up all the good gossip about Betty’s parents and Archie's dad back in the old days. She also hated Betty’s mom, so they had that in common.
“I was just wondering,” Hermione said. “How much does Alice know about this?”
This what? Betty then realized that Hermione’s eyes were on the agate, hanging outside her shirt. Ah, the fake engagement. “Oh god, nothing. She still hates Veronica. She’d die. Don’t worry, she’s not on Facebook, and my privacy settings are really high.”
“Well, that’s good I guess,” Hermione said, giving her a soft smile and a bit of a squeeze. She shook her head. “That silly girl. I just asked her whether I was being a good parent to allow you two closed-door sleepovers, and she went all out. ‘It’s fine now, Mami. We’re engaged.’” Hermione snorted.
Betty laughed too, but the phrase ‘closed-door sleepovers’ lingered in her gut. Sure, they whispered secrets to each other late at night, and Veronica liked to kiss her goodnight in a way that had gotten rather longer and more lingering the more often they did it. But it wasn’t anything that anyone would be bothered with Hermione walking in on.
“You know, even if the door is closed, it’s never locked. You can always come in.”
That got her a really weird look. “That’s all right, chica. I think I’ll stick to knocking.”
Betty thought she might ought to take Kevin’s advice and talk to Veronica. It wasn’t like she didn’t talk to Veronica all the time, but whenever they talked about the engagement, Veronica’s voice got all high and teasing and flirty, and Betty couldn’t help but try to match her, and just enjoy the game of it all. And everything was fine. If Veronica did try to take her to Vegas, like Kevin seemed to be suggesting, she’d notice. And, anyway, Veronica couldn’t afford it.
It was at another of Riverdale’s silly town parties where the shit hit the fan. Betty had been standing with Veronica, drinking punch and arguing over One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, when Josie came over, her band having already played. “So I hear congratulations is in order,” she said, with the tone of voice that suggested more ‘wtf is wrong with these losers’ than ‘congrats’.
“Yup,” Veronica said, and looped an arm around Betty’s shoulders, lifting up on her toes to kiss her cheek. “Betty and I are forever-girls, so we figured we’d make it official.”
“Sure,” Josie said, both amused and sarcastic.
But Betty didn’t care about her, because to her horror, her mom was storming toward her, in a way that suggested that things were much worse than her mother just being reminded of her persistent friendship with Veronica Lodge.
“What on God’s Flaming Earth is this, Betty?” she shrilled, and then lurched forward, grasping the ring on the necklace that had slipped out of her shirt. “What is this?” She jerked at it, the metal chain cutting into Betty’s skin.
“Mom!” Betty protested.
“You always were a disappointment, but I never expected this! I warned you about that bitch, I told you that she would try to get her dirty hands on you. And you don’t even resist her blandishments! My own daughter. Not only a lesbian, but a lesbian with a Lodge.”
“Mom!” Betty was ready to protest, to explain that it was really just a joke. She’d always been good at finding the path of least resistance, saying the one thing that her mom would find annoying but accept. But she glanced back, looking at Veronica’s face, at the surprise and hurt in it. And suddenly she felt angry. “No. You know what? You have always been wrong about Veronica. She has been nothing but good to me. And I love her. You need to chill out about her, because she’s mine.” Betty jerked the ring out of her mom’s hands, not caring about the way the chain cut into her fingers. “I know we’re young, I know you don’t think this is something I can know, because you don’t think I know anything about myself. But we’re forever. We’re real.”
Her mother slapped her. “Don’t bother coming home tonight.”
“That’s fine,” Betty snapped. “I was already planning on staying with my fiancée.”
When Alice stormed away, Betty turned, trying to control her breath, trying to count to ten, like her therapist taught her to do, and just found Veronica, staring at her, looking like she’d been dropped into the middle of a strange forest, and every path led into darkness. Her mouth seemed to be trying to make the shape for ‘wh—’ but unsuccessfully, and Betty cupped both her arms and backed her out of the room into the hall and onto the stairs.
The door clicked shut, and there was only silence around them.
“Why’d you do that?” Veronica’s voice had never sounded so small. She drew up her knees, wrapping her arms around them. “Why did you let her think it was real?”
Betty stared at her, at the hurt and confusion and softness that had opened her up, left her gaping. She needed to put her arms around Veronica, seal her back up as best she could. She always wanted that, to touch her, be close to her, love her. Veronica was the toughest person she’d ever met, but she could see how hard-fought it was. She reached out, letting her fingers brush over Veronica’s wrist. Veronica flinched, as if it were too much, as if she couldn’t bear it, not unless—
“Because there is nothing about us that isn’t real.”
There was a hitch in Veronica’s breath, and Betty couldn’t believe she hadn’t seen this vulnerability before. Kevin had seen it. Kevin had wanted her to talk to Veronica properly from the outset. Straight girls get married on Facebook all the time because it doesn’t mean anything, because they can’t even get their head around the idea that it could mean something. But queer girls?
Betty felt a pressure, like a clotting bandage, filling her chest. She swallowed hard. Because she hadn’t thought about it, she’d fought to not think about it, to not let the gentle kissing slide easily into more intimate touching, into mouthing against her neck and marking her, into pinning Veronica down beneath her and peeling off her night clothes to get her hands on bare skin. She’d thought about forever with this girl, but she hadn’t thought about what it would be like specifically. Had it been phone calls and lunch dates between separate lives, a space carefully laid out for nameless faceless boys? Or had it been just Veronica, dragging her to bed when she was up working too late, Veronica, always having her back at parties, Veronica fighting for control of the Netflix queue and falling asleep on her shoulder before her pick was ten minutes in, but still protesting, even asleep, when Betty tried to change it.
“I think—” Betty gulped, because she knew this now. She knew. “I think I’m in love with you.”
Veronica’s lips parted. No sound emerged.
“And I’ve been so oblivious. But, like, maybe on purpose? Because I kind of self-doubt a lot, and you’ve been so perfect, and I couldn’t ask you for more than being perfect, could I? And if making a joke about it hurt you, I’m so sorry. But it isn’t a joke, it’s never been a joke. I mean, the first thing I told you was that I didn’t want my horrible mom to be there. And I don’t. But I do want you to be there. I want you to be mine forever, and, oh god, I can’t believe I told your mom she could just come in without knocking, because I’m going to have to rescind that invitation, because I love your mom, and I do not want her to have to see us naked—”
A hand was pressing over her mouth. Veronica was leaning close, something far more like her usual wicked smirk on her face, but her eyes were so warm. “Are you saying you love me in a gay way?”
Betty couldn’t help but grin against her hand. She nodded. “Yeah.”
Veronica’s smile brightened so much it hurt to look at. Betty wanted to kiss it. “I . . . may have loved you in a gay way since we met,” Veronica said. “A bi-way.”
Betty nodded. “Sorry it took me forever to figure that out, and to figure me out.”
“Honestly, I wouldn’t change a single thing. I wouldn’t risk anything that might not get me you.”
Betty thought she might die of diabetic overload from the sweetness. She reached out, cupping both sides of Veronica’s face. “Can I kiss you now?”
“Please,” Veronica said, the happiness streaming from the word. “And feel free to touch my boobs. You’re always brushing against them by accident and there’s only so much indirect stimulation a girl can take. I need groping.”
Betty snorted and leaned in and took her mouth. Veronica met her halfway, like she always had.
When Archie found them on his way to the bathroom, they were all tangled up on the stairs, still kissing. Which would have all been normal, because they were always kissing, except, well, Betty was straddling Veronica’s lap and had her hand up Veronica’s shirt and Veronica was making little moan-y gasping noises between lip-locks, and it was all a bit much.
Archie ran out of there like his pants were on fire, and then was really frustrated that he couldn’t pee until his hard-on went down.
“You’ve downgraded,” Kevin said, glancing up from his phone to eye Betty who was sitting across the outdoor lunch table from him, eating yogurt and glancing around, waiting for someone to join them. No guesses who.
“In a relationship but not engaged? Should I be sad?”
Betty bit her lip and fiddled with the chain that she still wore around her neck. “No.”
Veronica arrived and dropped into the seat beside her, tapping Betty’s chin to draw her into position for a chaste kiss. “Hey, babe.”
“Hey.” Betty went a little pink and they tangled their fingers together in a disgustingly cute way.
Kevin blinked. It kinda looked like Betty was glowing.
“Seriously?” He started to laugh. “Oh man, just don’t knock her up until you’re actually married, okay? This town has enough drama already.”
“Don’t worry, Kevin,” Veronica drawled, putting an arm around Betty’s shoulder and drawing her close. “We’re doing things in the right order this time. No need for excessive outwards signs of intimacy, cuz now I can just rock her world.”
Kevin snorted, and then leaned forward, ready to dish. “So, Ronnie, you’ve got to tell me. Is she a tiger? I always kinda thought that when she finally got laid she’d be a total rowrrr.”
Veronica matched his position and grinned just as saucily. “You have no idea.” She started twisting around, tugging down the back of her shirt, and Betty squeaked in protest.
“Oh my god, you guys, I’m right here.” She tugged up the collar of Veronica’s shirt and held it firmly to the back of her neck, but not before Kevin had caught a glimpse of raised scratches crossing Veronica’s back.
Kevin whistled admiringly.
Betty turned bright red.
“That’s my girl,” Kevin said, as Veronica pulled her in and wrapped her up, letting Betty hide her face in her shoulder. “I always knew you had it in you.”
He shook his head as Veronica purred at her girl and stroked her hair and drank his coke, relieved. He finally had his posse of gays, and thank god the straight-girl nonsense had just turned out to be denial.