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Monday, March 14, 2016

A History Of Friendship - PART EIGHT


“Jughead!”  Archie exclaimed.  “Wait up!”
   Jughead was practically running down Pickins Road, with Archie running right behind him.
   “Jughead!  Slow down!”  Archie yelled.
   “You're gonna have to keep up with me!”  Jughead said.
   “Jughead, considering the fact that you're known for taking naps that last eleven hours at a time, the very fact that you're running so fast that I can't keep up with you speaks volumes!”  Archie said.
   “I can't help it, Arch.”  Jughead said.  “When I think of how Clay and Johnny bullied poor Wembley, and how his most prized possession bit the dust because of those two insensitive jerks...”
   “I know.”  Archie said.  “I you're feeling.”
   “Archie, I appreciate the thought, but I'm not sure you know exactly what's going through my head right now.”  Jughead said.  “Right now, Wembley's out there somewhere completely devastated and alone, and he feels as though he has been let down.”
   “But, that isn't your fault!”  Archie said.  “You had nothing to do with this!  You've been nothing but a friend to Wembley.”
   “And, yet, I'm the one who practically convinced him to use that jewelry box for his project!”  Jughead moaned.  “Why didn't I keep my mouth shut?”
   “Jughead, look at me.”  Archie said.  “Be honest.  Could you have possibly foreseen this happening?  Honestly.”
   Jughead sighed.  “No.”
   “Then stop beating yourself up about this.”  Archie said.  “We just have to find Wembley.  And, seeing as how we're just a couple of blocks away from Pickins Park, you must think that he's nearby.”
   “It's just a hunch.”  Jughead said.  “But, it's all I have.  Come on.”
   Archie followed Jughead down Pickins Road where Jughead motioned Archie to turn the corner onto Walnut Street.  From there, Jughead pointed towards the direction of Pop's Chocklit Shop.
   “Jughead.”  Archie said.  “I hardly think that this is the time for you to satisfy your hunger with one of Pop's cheeseburger specials.”
   “No, just hear me out.”  Jughead said.  “Remember where we first met Wembley?”
   “Well, you first met Wembley outside of the gym...” Archie said.
   “No...I mean, where did we have our first conversation?”  Jughead asked.
   Archie nodded.  “Pop's.”
   Jughead headed towards the front door of Pop's.  “Ah, but do you know specifically?”
   Archie looked confused.  “It was a booth, right?”
   Jughead started to open the door.  “I may have only known Wembley for a week, but one thing I've always noticed about him is that he likes familiar places.  His bedroom at home.  The fact that he sits in the same spot every day in the cafeteria...”
   And, as Jughead and Archie entered Pop's, Jughead glanced over towards the booth right next to the gumball machine and breathed a sigh of relief.
   “...and apparently he loves that booth too.”
   Sure enough, sitting in the booth next to the gumball machine was Wembley Morris, whose face was buried in his hands.
   “”  Archie stammered.
   “I told was a hunch.”  Jughead said.  “Archie, why don't you go over to the counter and order us three lime fizzes?”
   Archie nodded.  “If you need me...”
   “I'll let you know.”  Jughead said.
   “Good luck, buddy.”  Archie said.
   Archie walked towards the soda fountain counter in Pop's, while Jughead approached the booth where Wembley was.
   “You know, you should try the lime fizz.”  Jughead said to Wembley.  “It's very...fizzy.”
   Wembley looked up at Jughead, his eyes still wet from crying and his cheeks red and blotchy.  “I know what you're trying to do, and it's not going to work.  I'm still leaving Riverdale High, and you aren't changing my mind.”
   Jughead sat down beside Wembley.  “Well, at least you're still talking to me.”
   Wembley sat there silently.
   “Or, maybe not.”  Jughead said. 
   Wembley frowned.  “Look, Jughead, I don't blame you for what happened today, but no matter what, it doesn't change things.  My mother's jewelry box is gone, and there's nothing you can do about it.”
   “Maybe not about the box.”  Jughead said.  “But, would you like to know what happened after you left the school?”
   “What?”  Wembley asked.  “Did everyone else laugh at me too about what happened?”
   “NO!”  Jughead gasped.  “Quite the opposite actually.  They were all very upset over it.”
   “I bet Clay and Johnny laughed it up though.”  Wembley sighed. 
   “Yes, until they got in trouble for it by Mr. Weatherbee.”  Jughead said.  “Turns out that Reggie was so angry over what Clay and Johnny did to your mom's jewelry box that he squealed on them.”  
   “Oh, great!”  Wembley moaned.  “Now Clay and Johnny are going to really make things miserable for me!”
   “Actually, if I know Mr. Weatherbee quite well, I guarantee you that Clay and Johnny will never hurt you or any other student at Riverdale High again.”  Jughead said.
   “That's what you promised me the last time!”  Wembley cried.  “You lied to me!”
   “No!”  Jughead yelled.  “I had no idea that Clay and Johnny could be so cruel!  Nobody did!”
   “I did...”  Wembley said.  “...and now I don't have my mom's jewelry box.”
   “What happened was horrible.”  Jughead said.  “But, you have to trust me when I say that Mr. Weatherbee and all of us at Riverdale High won't ever let this happen again.”
   “You don't know that!”  Jughead said.
   “Jughead, just leave me alone!”  Wembley snapped.  “You don't know what it's like to be teased on a day to day basis!  You don't!”
   “Oh, I bet I could relate to you more than you realize.”  Jughead said.
   “I need to go.”  Wembley said, getting up.
   “Wembley, wait!”  Jughead said.
   “Just leave it, Jughead!”  Wembley screamed.  “How would you know how I feel?”
   As Wembley started to head towards the front door, Jughead stood up and shouted “BECAUSE THE SAME THING HAPPENED TO ME!”
   Wembley froze and slowly turned around and stared at Jughead.  
   And, Archie who was still at the counter stared at Jughead.  “What?”
   Jughead sighed.  “Wembley, you are not the only one who was bullied.”
   Wembley looked confused.   “ were bullied too?  When?”
   Jughead sighed.  “It happened when I was younger.  When I was six years old.  I had just moved to Riverdale, and I had left all of my old friends behind.  I wasn't very happy because I was starting over in a new town.”
   Archie listened intently as Wembley sat back down at the booth where Jughead was.  “Sounds kind of like me when I first moved to Riverdale.”
   Jughead continued.  “Anyways.  I was in a rather bad mood my first couple of weeks in town.  I didn't know anyone, so I didn't really talk with anyone.  I just kept thinking about my old friends, and how I would never make new friends.  My first week at Riverdale Elementary School was really rough.  All the bigger kids used to push me down.  They called me names like 'Platypus Beak' or 'Pencil Nose'.  When they found out that my real name was Forsythe, this gave them more of an excuse to make fun of me.  This happened to me for days.  I didn't know what to do.  I went home crying every day.”
   “Sounds awful.”  Wembley said.
   “It was.”  Jughead said.  “I mean, it was bad enough not having any friends in Riverdale when I was a kid.  To have kids in the place you moved to bully you and tease you because you were the new kid made me even more homesick.”
   “But, you're like one of the more popular guys in Riverdale High now.”  Wembley said.  “How did you get over it?”
   Jughead sighed.  “Well, when we first moved in, we couldn't take all of our stuff right away, so it took a couple of weeks for it all to arrive at our new house.  Once it arrived, we were moving in all of our stuff, and I noticed this kid walking up the street.  He introduced himself to my parents and he saw me and asked me how I was.  My parents insisted that I go with this kid while he showed me around town, and while I wasn't up to it at first, things got better.”
   Archie listened intently, as Wembley asked.  “What happened?”
   “Well, this kid insisted on trying to cheer me up, and he kept calling me Forsythe, because that's how my parents introduced me to him.  And, I insisted – quite rudely too – that the only way he would ever be my friend is if he called me by my nickname back in my old town.”
   Wembley cracked a tiny smile.  “Jughead...”
   “We had so much fun that day.”  Jughead said.  “We caught frogs around Pickins Park.  We swam in the old pond.  We went fishing along Carson's Creek...unfortunately that perilous pike remained elusive, but we had fun trying to catch him.  Oh, what else...oh, we met little Betty Cooper who baked me a pie, and in the end, my family invited him over for dinner.  It was truly the best day of my whole life, and it was the first page to a wonderful friendship.”
   “So, who was this kid?”  Wembley asked.  “Is he still in town?”
   Jughead then turned towards Archie, who was smiling broadly as he collected three lime fizzes from Pop Tate.  “Well, of course he is.  In fact, I can introduce him to you right now.  Archie, introduce yourself.”
   Archie smiled.  “Hi!”
   Wembley looked stunned.  “You and Archie have been friends that long?  I don't even know if I've had a friendship last ten months, let alone ten years!”
   “Eleven years.”  Jughead corrected.  “But, ever since Archie and I became friends, I found that the bullying I went through didn't hurt me as much.  Instead of wasting time being upset and sad, I focused my feelings on my friendship with Archie.  Eventually, I started to make more friends, and by third grade, I felt like I could finally call Riverdale my home.”
   “Well, that is a very inspiring story, but the damage is still done.”  Wembley said.  “Truth is, I don't know if I can get over this.”
   “You can.”  Jughead said.
   “But, Jughead, don't you get it?”  Wembley said.  “Clay and Johnny took everything away!  They destroyed my mom's jewelry box, and they made me afraid to go to school!”
   “But, don't you see?”  Jughead said.  “They didn't take everything away!”
   Wembley began to shed a tear.  “What do you mean?”
   Jughead took a deep breath.  “Wembley, you still have friends.  Archie.  Betty.  Veronica.  Even Reggie stood up for you.”
   “He's right.”  Archie said.
   “And, most importantly, you have me.”  Jughead said.  “You want to know something?  Part of the reason why I started to feel better about this town and myself was because someone cared enough about me to want to be my friend.  Archie showed me that he wanted to be my friend, and that helped me a lot in dealing with things.  Wembley, you are smart, you're caring, you'  And, you're my friend.”
   Wembley smiled.  “I am?”
   “Of course.”  Jughead said.  “Now, I can't promise you that everything will be one hundred per cent better, wait...WHEN you go back to Riverdale High.  What I can promise you is that you will have friends who you can go to whenever you want.  What I can promise you is that your friends will never let anyone else hurt you again.  What I can promise you is that the teachers of Riverdale High won't let anyone else bully you again.  And, I promise you that you can trust everything I say to be the truth.  The choice is yours whether you want to stay at Riverdale High or not, but if you decide to stay, we'll all do our best to make sure that you're welcomed the right way the second time around.  Just please give all of us a second chance to make this up to you.”
   Wembley looked touched by Jughead's words.  “Thank you...Jughead...Archie...”
   At that moment, a middle-aged woman entered Pop's.  “Wembley!!!”
   Wembley immediately recognized the woman.  “Aunt Glynis!”
   Wembley ran towards the woman and hugged her tightly.  “What in the world happened?”
   “How did you know where I was?”  Wembley asked.
   “You can thank these two boys over there.”  Glynis said, looking at Jughead and Archie. “You certainly have made some wonderful friends.”
   Jughead and Archie smiled at each other as Wembley began to cry.  “Mom's jewelry's gone!  Some kids broke it...I'm...I'm so sorry!”
   “Shhhhh.”  Glynis said, comforting Wembley.  “It's all okay.  It's going to be okay.  Mr. Weatherbee called me up earlier.  I'll fill you in on what happened when we get home.”
   “So, you aren't mad that I left school early?”  Wembley asked.
   “Of course not.”  Glynis said.  “I understand.  Why don't we talk about this at home?”
   “Okay.”  Wembley said.
   Glynis looked up at Archie and Jughead.  “Thank you boys...for everything.”
   As Glynis and Wembley left Pop's, Jughead sat down, visibly exhausted.  “I sure hope that I got through to him.”
   “Well, whether or not you did is yet to be seen.”  Archie said.  “But, what you said really got to me.  I had no idea you were bullied when you first moved to town.  I mean, I know we had our scuffles as kids with the Southside Serpents, and Fangs Fogarty...but we faced them together.  I had no idea you had to go through that alone.”
   “Now you see why Wembley really struck a chord with me.”  Jughead said.  “I really had to help him.  I wanted to make him see that while it may take time, as long as he has someone to confide in, it would make him feel better about himself.  After did the same for me all those years ago.  You're my best friend, Arch.”
   Archie shook Jughead's hand.  “Right back at you, Archie.”
   “So...”  Jughead said.  “...should we drink these lime fizzes?”
   Archie laughed.  “Why don't I buy you a burger?”
   “Even better!”  Jughead said, laughing.
   “I'll be right back.”  Archie said, as he headed back to the counter.
   Jughead leaned back in the booth, and sighed.  “Wembley, I have a feeling that things are going to be better for just have to let us in...”

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