For Better or Worse - Part 3
I’m so sorry this took me so long to write!! The next part will be up much quicker, I promise! (I also attempted to make a photo/aesthetic thing for this but I’ve no clue what I’m doing to be honest haha!) I’ve had really bad writer’s block lately and am not super confident about this, but I hope you enjoy all the same. Things are about to get dramatic! ;)
“I think Archie’s going to propose,” Veronica had declared, her voice bursting with excitement as she perched on the edge of Betty’s bed five and a half years earlier. It had been almost three years since Betty had last seen Jughead and she was only just beginning to feel like her old self again.
“Wow, V,” she replied. “Really?” She was beaming at the sight of seeing her best friend so happy.
“I mean, he hasn’t said anything,” Veronica looked up to the ceiling, “but I just have a feeling. He’s been acting differently lately, as if he’s planning something. He wants to take me to dinner tonight.”
“Ok,” Betty replied, “I need details exactly when and how it happens. Do you promise?”
“I promise,” she cried, letting out a little squeal as she let herself fall backwards onto the soft pastel bed sheets.
Betty remembered that that night had been strange. Veronica hadn’t called or texted like she had promised to; in fact, she had started to feel a little unnerved at the silence that had continued right up until the early hours of the morning. Veronica definitely wouldn’t have kept as quiet as she did if Archie had proposed to her. It would have been all over social media by now; the talk of the town. It wasn’t until she had gotten into bed and turned off her bedside light that her phone finally beeped.
‘I’m outside.’ It read, a short and simple text message from Veronica. Naturally, Betty jumped out of bed in excitement before creeping down the stairs, careful not to wake anyone in the process. It wasn’t until she opened the door that her face completely dropped. Veronica had been crying. Her makeup was smudged and her dark brown eyes were brimming with a familiar melancholic exhaustion.
“V,” Betty whispered, rushing over to grab her friend as she started to sob. “What happened?”
“He ended it,” she cried. “It’s over. He took me out for dinner to tell me, that coward. He did it because he knew I wouldn’t break down in a room full of people.”
Betty was speechless for a few moments, unable to even comprehend how or why this had happened. They had been so happy together for the past five years, practically glued to each other everywhere that they went. It was sickening at times, actually, but in the most endearing way. Betty couldn’t imagine either of them with anyone else; nobody could. Carefully leaving the door ajar, she placed a soft grip on Veronica’s arm and brought her down to the bottom of her driveway where they could talk properly. She pulled her into an embrace again, not really sure of what else to do.
“Did he say why?” she asked eventually, stroking her hair between shushes, and that was when it changed. Something shifted. Something was ignited. Something darker. Veronica’s body completely seized up at the question. She stopped crying quite abruptly, pulling away with a little more force than Betty was expecting.
“You might want to sit down for this one, Betty,” she sneered.
“What?” she replied, growing increasingly concerned with Veronica’s abrupt change in demeanor.
“He’s in love with you,” she blurted, a bitter laugh escaping her mouth as she did so. Betty froze as her hands dropped to her side. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “He couldn’t keep ‘leading me on’. I guess I should’ve seen this coming.”
“V, are you sure-”
“Ever since that day at Southside High when he was staring a hole through you and Jughead. I knew it then. God, it was so obvious,” she gripped her temple as if realising everything that she had been missing, or rather everything that she been trying to repress.
“I don’t know what to say,” Betty admitted, hating herself for focusing more on the mention of Jughead than anything else. Nobody dared to speak about him around her anymore; the sound of his name felt foreign to her now. Just a reminder of a life she had lost. She had remembered that day at Southside High, of course. She was fighting for him with every inch of her being, she was consumed by a longing that she had never felt before, she was willing to risk everything that she had for him. And what good had it done now?
“This isn’t your fault,” Veronica retorted, lowering the volume of her voice. “I don’t want this to break us apart. I don’t, but-“
“Please,” Betty pleaded.
Veronica’s eyes hit the floor as she retreated into herself. “I don’t know if I can be here anymore.”
Betty clenched her fists together in the same way that she had always done. The only way she felt she could cope; a habit that she just couldn’t kick. “I can’t lose you, too,” she whispered, not realising that she was crying until a bitter tear fell into her mouth.
Veronica looked up again, frustrated and drained and dejected. “How can I just pretend that everything’s ok?”
And, with that, Betty fell silent. Because she didn’t know.
Shortly after that night on the driveway, Veronica left Riverdale for the summer, and when she came back something in her had changed. She had kept in touch with Betty like she had promised, meeting up with her for milkshakes at Pop’s every weekend, but it wasn’t the same anymore. There was a distance there that they both felt, and there was nothing Betty could do about it. Time passed and Veronica moved on. She was quite happy now, as far as Betty was aware, but she had never been able to speak to Archie again. Betty thought that her turning up at the wedding would be like a white flag. A sign that they were all ready to put the past behind them. She knew that, if anything, she couldn’t risk sabotaging that.
Confronting a troubled glance from her father, she held onto his extended arm once more and waited. Neither of them said a word this time. Polly was there, none the wiser, as she offered Betty her bouquet and gave her hand an excited squeeze.
“Are you ready?” She asked, beaming in that same pure, beautiful way that Polly Cooper always did.
“Yep,” Betty muttered, smiling back for just a second before looking down at the flowers in her hands. She wanted to throw them across the hall and run. She wanted to scream and fight and cry and feel. Feel something. Feel anything.
The start of the wedding march made her jump. It was much louder than she had expected, causing her entire body to numb. Almost instinctively, she stole a glance at the door at the other end of the hall where she had been just moments earlier. She wasn’t sure exactly what she was looking for, but it wasn’t there.
Upon approaching the open entrance, Betty was uncomfortably aware of hundreds of eyes fixated solely on her. Their gazes were burning through her skin and she hated it. She knew that he would have hated it too, if he was here, which he wasn’t. She was aware of that more than anything else. They began to walk and the eyes turned into smiles, but Betty avoided every single one of them. She didn’t want to look at Archie; she didn’t want to look at anyone. She was scared that she might change her mind while there was still time. She didn’t trust herself, and she had every reason not to.
“You look beautiful,” Archie breathed when she had reached to join him. She looked back up then, meeting the gaze of the boy that she had once wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of her life with. He was looking at her in a way she could never reciprocate. The truth was that she had given all of herself to someone else, and she had never gotten it back.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are gathered here today to witness the coming together of Archie Andrews and Betty Cooper in holy matrimony,” the vicar had begun, his words slowly turning into white noise inside of Betty’s head.
“If any person here knows of a reason why these two may not be joined together, please speak now or forever hold your peace.”
Betty’s whole body halted. She held her breath for what felt like a lifetime during those tiny few seconds, terrified of Jughead bursting through the doors and telling her not to go through with it. Terrified because she knew that she wanted him to. But he didn’t. In fact, there wasn’t a sound at all. Archie reached to grasp Betty’s hands and it made her flinch. Veronica shifted ever so slightly in her seat.
As she stood only moments away from becoming Archie’s wife, she thought back to all of those years ago when Archie had first proposed. He had done it quite impulsively, walking her home after a movie night and getting down on one knee whilst her back was turned. Initially she had told him that she would think about it, retreating into the house and thinking of nothing other than that night in the hospital instead. When she told her parents of Archie’s proposal, she was at a point in her life where she was at her most vulnerable. Life after Jughead and Toby had been hard, she felt as though she was getting older and getting nowhere. Settling down was very much a plausible and sensible option and, as much as she hated to admit it, she knew it.
“I say do it,” she remembered Hal exclaiming as he paced around the dining room table.
“Hal,” Alice had started. She was sat just beside Betty and had barely said a word for a good ten minutes.
“No,” he snapped. “Betty, we were so worried about you after everything that happened. Don’t you think you deserve to be happy again? To feel safe and secure? Archie will give you all of that.”
There was a brief silence, which was rare in the Cooper household. Betty was shocked that Alice was the quietest of them all.
“So, you think I should marry someone that I don’t even love?”
“Betty-“ Alice began, cut off by Hal before she could finish.
“I think you should think about your future,” he replied. “We only want the best for you. I’m sorry, but I was never keen on that Jughead anyway. It was a blessing in disguise when he left town.”
“Hal!” Alice screeched, nothing but fury in her eyes as she abruptly jumped up out of her chair.
Betty gaped in disbelief. “How dare you,” she jeered, her eyes blurred by warm tears as she stood to leave the room, unable to listen to another word that left her father’s mouth. She slammed the door behind her, running out into the cold, crisp air, forgetting to even pick up her coat as she did so. Where had he gone? Where was he now? Why did he leave her?
“Betty,” Alice called, quickening the pace to catch up with her. “Betty, please!”
“What?!” She cried, turning sharply. “You and Dad are suffocating me, Mom. I know I haven’t been myself lately, I know that-“
“You need to do what is right for you,” Alice interjected, beginning to raise her voice. “If that’s not marrying Archie, then that’s up to you, but if you’re putting your life on hold because you’re waiting for Jughead to come back-“
“No,” Betty snapped, something in her screaming and scratching to get out. “I’m not waiting for anything. I’m not an idiot.”
“Then what do you want?”
“I want for everyone to just leave me the hell alone,” she hissed. It started to snow again, only ever so slightly, and Betty was beginning to feel the cold bite into her neck. “If it’s going to make you so happy, then I’ll just do it. Ok?”
Alice wrinkled her face as she shook her head. “What?”
“I’ll marry Archie,” she confirmed, her eyes vacant and nonchalant as she turned on her heel. “Go and tell dad, he’ll probably want to plan the whole thing to his liking anyway.”
Alice grabbed her arm frantically. “Betty, you’re not listening to me-“
“I guess I’ll see you at the wedding,” she spat, pulling herself out of her mother’s grasp. And with that, she walked on, nothing but the crunching of the snow to keep her company. Nobody followed her this time.
“Archie, do you take Betty to be your lawfully wedded wife, to love and to comfort, to have and to hold in sickness and in health, for better or worse, til death do you part?”
Betty was suddenly dragged back to reality faster than she would’ve liked, realising that she was no longer walking through the snow, but instead she was here. At the altar. Drowning.
“I do.” The words left Archie’s mouth as if they were the most natural and easiest thing he had ever said.
“Betty,” she jumped at the sound of her own name. “Do you take Archie to be your lawfully wedded husband, to love and to comfort, to have and to hold in sickness and in health, for better or-“
The silence that followed was a silence unlike any other that had come before it. The word had fallen out of Betty’s mouth with a bitter taste. Archie was still smiling, keeping his hands firmly on hers, but his conduct was beginning to falter.
“Is everything ok?” The vicar whispered, leaning ever so slightly into her. She looked at him and she looked at Archie and she couldn’t help but notice that there was a kind of inexplicable understanding there, as if both of them knew something that they were too afraid to speak of.
“I’m sorry,” she mumbled, closing her eyes and shaking her head. “Yes, yes it is. Of course. Please, carry on.”
Despite Betty’s efforts, the atmosphere in the room had changed and it was impossible not to feel it. The vicar continued to recite the vow that she were to take after a slight hesitation, his voice now somewhat more cautious than it was before. This was it. As soon as she said those two simple words, there was no going back. She was sinking lower and lower out of her own accord, and nobody was reaching in the water to revive her.
Nobody, except one.
“Stop,“ a familiar voice bellowed, the squeak of a chair against the marble floor echoing throughout the entire room. “I’m sorry, but I can’t let you do this.”
Betty dropped Archie’s hands instantaneously, her attention shifting towards something else. Someone else. Everything that followed merged into a blur.
“Betty, I need you to listen to me.”
Alice swallowed, closing her eyes as if re-living a memory that she had never intended to revisit. She opened them again almost instantly, her face pained by an unspoken secret. She started to cry.
“We’ve been lying to you.”