“Hey, uh, I’m going to borrow you later tonight.” Veronica Lodge would have jumped at Reggie Mantle’s deep voice catching her attention amidst the clatter and laughter of students if she hadn’t seen him coming to look for her, in the hallway, of all places.
She had kind of been looking for him, too, as he had been absent for two days. Not that anyone was counting.
“If it’s okay with you?” he added, as though afraid to disrespect her.
She still didn’t turn around to face him, and continued stowing binders and notes into her locker. “What are we doing? And don’t hand me a vague ‘you’ll see’ again. I love surprises. I’m just—” she turned around to look him squarely in the eye “—not in the mood for them today.”
“I thought that was our thing,” he chuckled. Nervously, she noted. “Okay, fine. I’m taking you to one of my favorite spots in Riverdale. It’s a really cool art gallery and I think, based on what I see on TV, anyway, it has a New York vibe to it.”
Of course, her friends knew nothing about what New York was like, but Veronica was still interested to know what this date—and, again, was it a date?—or rather, what this museum had in store for her.
“Reggie, you try to impress girls with art now?” she teased, folding her arms over her chest.
“I impress girls,” he responded, crossing his arms over his chest as well. The movement drew Veronica’s gaze to his biceps straining against his jacket. “At least, I hope this will impress you.”
Veronica raised an eyebrow. She loved Reggie’s endless supply of confidence but when he switched from being self-assured to self-conscious, something he seemed to do only with her, she ached for the story behind it. She wanted to reach out to him, to be comforting, to listen, it somehow just seemed too soon.
The bell rang and Reggie adjusted his backpack over his shoulder. “So, I’ll pick you up at…?”
“Seven,” Veronica decided for both of them.
“I’ll see you later,” he grinned. Veronica shook her head and the warmth off her cheeks at how cliché the whole situation seemed.
Five hours later, she found herself in a situation that was the complete opposite of cliché. Reggie turned out to be quite the conversationalist, especially where art was concerned, and he loved to ask her questions about the MoMA and her opinions on the paintings they had been looking at. She was doubtful of joining him at an art gallery; she was worried he’d say nothing for an hour and she would simply wander off and look at the art pieces herself. But ever since he took her ice skating, and they had more weekend breakfasts after that, she found Reggie easy to talk to, for some reason.
Eventually, they found an abstract painting with vivid tangerine and gold strokes set against an obscene amount of bright blue, and they stood appraising it for ten minutes. That is if appraising meant they made up a game of who could make a smarter interpretation of the art piece.
“It’s Archie in the ocean! His hair is the only thing you can see,” Reggie offered, grinning at her, and they looked at each other for a few moments before they burst out laughing.
“Oh, my God, okay, I’m waving my white flag,” Veronica said, wiping a tear from her eye. “You win.”
Reggie shrugged, smiling, and Veronica gently whacked his arm. She walked towards a painting of a monochromatic city skyline, and he followed, his hands tucked into the pockets of his jeans. “How are you the only person in Riverdale who knows about this?” she asked.
“I’m the only one with taste?” he suggested. Veronica rolled her eyes, ignoring how incredibly attractive Reggie looked in that moment, smiling at her like that. His eyes were like hers, a warm brown, and he always looked at her like she was the only thing in the room.
“I didn’t think a place like this would exist in Riverdale.”
“Fair enough. I think only the people who really care know about this place. No one really has that much business to do here. My mom buys a lot of paintings here, and I used to tag along. Now I visit this place a lot on my own. It’s peaceful.”
Veronica looked at him as he talked, and watched his calm expression, one she knew all too well. He was nonchalant but there was a hint of wistful sadness beneath it. It was the exact same expression she had whenever she remembered her life in New York, when her parents were still together, and the world was still hers. She needed to know his story. She wanted to know.
“Your mom’s too busy to visit?” She looked at him but he was looking at the tallest building in the painting. “You don’t have to answer that.”
“Yeah, she is. It’s fine,” he said, more to the painting than to her. “This is why I try to get out of the house a lot. It gets too quiet sometimes.”
“I know what you mean.” She was talking to the painting now, too. She looked at the tiny lit up windows and thought about New York, and how the city, with all its bright lights, consistent and comforting noises, made her feel lonely, too, sometimes. But the loneliness got worse here, in this tiny town, where she felt equally homesick and happy with friends who weren’t necessarily better, but were all clean slates and fresh starts. What made her lonelier, what made her ache more, for some reason, was her desire to be a fresh start for each one of them. Reggie, especially, who seemed to need it the most.
In that very moment, anyway.
“If you ever feel like it’s too quiet, Reggie, let me know,” she found herself saying, turning around, and they held each other’s gaze for awhile. “I’m always good company.”
Ok so today was our first practice for Cross Country, so I hang out w my friends and Trev (SirKitticus) when the teacher starts talking about uniforms and such, and how some schools have spandex suits to help you go faster, and how some people wear swim trunks and stuff, AND THIS MOTHER FKER LAUGHS AND PULLS UP THE CUFF OF HIS SHORTS SO WE CAN SEE THE SWIM SUIT HE’S BEEN WEARING ALL DAY
HE DIDN’T EVEN WEAR IT FOR CROSS COUNTRY, HE JUST DID
and THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is why Trevor is a real life Haruka Nanase