11. Skeptics and True Believers

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A/N: Sorry if this chapter's not as good. It's been a VERY hard weekend and I'm posting this chapter to help me get back to my normal routine. I may edit it later as it serves the purpose I need it to, but I'm not sure it's my 100% best work. 

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              "Allyson," My Uncle Hiram stopped me one morning a few weeks later, "I need you to take this to an office in Southside. The address is on the first envelope. Do it after school tomorrow, and please- go alone. No Jughead, no Sweetie-"

"Sweet Pea," I corrected him, picking up the sealed envelope and sizing it up in my hands. It was thick and very much sealed. I looked up questioningly, "What's this? And why am I taking it to Ghoulie territory? Even stepping foot there alone is enough to get me killed... if I'm lucky."

"It's just some paperwork for some property I'm trying to acquire. If I were you, if you cared about your cousin, your uncle and your "friend"," he looked at me with a smirk, "I would keep this little errand to yourself. The envelopes need to stay sealed, and you'll need to take them straight away after school. Also, why don't you see if your little friend can come to dinner- tonight?" Uncle Hiram leaned back in his chair with that smirk still on his face. I turned on my heel after shoving the envelope into my backpack and exited his study with a frown on my face.

I sat at lunch hours later, still debating whether or not to open the envelope and seeing what I was delivering and to who. In the back of my mind, I knew the secrecy meant it was something major...and the delivery to a Ghoulie hangout spot had me concerned about the actual contents. I was snapped out of my stupor when Sweet Pea thunked down next to me and pulled me closer to him, "Babe?"

"Huh?" I looked up and over at him and tried to smile convincingly. I didn't want him asking me what was wrong, and I wanted even less to think about lying to him. Clearly, my charade wasn't fooling him.

"We're all going to the quarry after school," Pea looked over at Toni and Fangs as they sat down across from us and then back at me, "You in?"

"I have an errand I have to run after school, but I can meet you there after I'm done with that. Also," I frowned, "Remember how I told you Uncle Hiram was going to request your presence for dinner, and no was not an option for any reason?"

Sweet Pea nodded but didn't lose the worried expression on his face as he studied mine, searching for any signs of why his girlfriend was clearly distracted and definitely not ok. I knew there would probably be some questioning later, but I was counting on having time to figure out something I could say to keep Sweet Pea satisfied without telling him the truth.

"Well... that's tonight. Dinner starts at six, so we need to be at your place so I can help you find something to wear that won't give that snob any more ammunition against you than he has because of your address," I squeezed his hand under the table and gave a reassuring smile, "I want for him to see that the Southside is just fine without his help."

Sweet Pea nodded as he stuck a fry in his mouth and squeezed my leg with his free hand. As Toni and Fangs changed the subject, Pea kept his hand on my leg. We both engaged in the conversation, and even I had to laugh when the topic turned to Sweet Pea trying out for the basketball team and how shocked he was when he actually made the team.

"I was only trying out to have a chance to knock Reggie Mantle down a few pegs. I never in a million years thought the coach would say, 'You've got defensive potential there, son,'" Sweet Pea defended with his hands up. I smiled at him and it was my turn to squeeze his leg. He'd never admit it to any of the other Serpents, but he was so excited about the spot on the team, and I was so proud of him for accepting it.

After lunch, I got up and tried to escape quickly as I knew Sweet Pea would have questions for me when we were alone, and he walked with me to every one of my classes, even though it made him late for his. I forgot, however, that my boyfriend has longer legs than I do and can charge like a bull when he is after something. I got maybe five feet away before Sweets caught up to me and gently grabbed my shoulder.

"Ok. It's just us now. What's going on with you? You barely ate, and you've been weird all day long," Sweet Pea looked down at me as he slid his arm around my waist and pulled me closer to him, "We're in this together, right? Talk to me, Cat."

"It's just more bullshit with Uncle Hiram. He hasn't been trying to press me for information as often, and that's making me wonder where he's going for his info, or if he knows I've been giving him a steady stream of bullshit," I looked up at Pea and bit my lip, praying that the half-truth would suffice. I hated having to keep anything from him- especially considering my mission this afternoon.

"Well," Pea smiled as he put his finger under my chin and gently brought my face up, "You know as well as I do that you've got Serpent protection. If he wants to try to hurt you, he's gonna have a hell of a fight on his hands. And as long as I'm breathing, who or whatever he sends after you is going to have to go through me first."

"That's what I'm scared of, though," I got on my toes and gave Sweet Pea a quick kiss, "If you got hurt-or worse- to protect me...," my voice broke as I trailed off. Before I could finish my statement, Sweets leaned down and gave me a long, hard kiss, causing my knees to buckle as my train of thought derailed.

"Don't worry about that. Nothing will happen to me, Cat. You're stuck with me," he smiled down at me, then looked up when the bell rang and frowned as he started walking me to my class with his hand in mine.

After Sweet Pea gave me the usual tight hug and kiss he always gave me when we had to part ways I turned and walked into my classroom, feeling the knot in my stomach get tighter as I thought about the errand I had to run in only another hour and how I wished I could have told him how scared I really was.

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