"B-Buffy, we don't have to follow him," said Joss.
"Well, are you going to deny that you ratted them out?"
"Hey, look at that, a Summerdale police car!"
They watched the as the car, lights flashing, pulled into the cemetery. Betty and Angelo ducked, struggling to re-fasten their clothes, and ran between tombstones. The policeman's flashlight beam fell on them. Angelo pushed Betty ahead of him.
"Now!" Angelo walked slowly toward the policeman, hands up. Betty tried to follow. He spun on her.
He seized her by the shoulders. "Betty, please!" he begged, "Go home now! I might need your help later!"
"Check that out," said Buffy, "A real hero. No way he'd ever accept her help with this. He wants her to stay out of trouble. Right, Joss? He'd give himself up for her in a nanosecond. In fact, he just did,"
Betty crept slowly away in the darkness. The policeman put cuffs on Angelo and shoved him into the back of the police car. The car sped away.
Joss sat on the curb. "I loved her,"
"Loved?" sneered Buffy.
"I did! I would have done anything-"
"-To get in her pants," interrupted Buffy.
"That's not fair! I loved her! I hated people making fun of her! I wanted them to respect her! Nobody saw her the same way I did! They didn't know-" Joss put his face in his hands.
"This is SO moving," said Buffy. She held the flashlight aloft, ready to take them to another scene, thought better of it, and brought it down on the top of Joss' head. He cringed and clutched his head, moaning. She waved the flashlight in an arc. They stood in the school hallway again.
"So...now the young lovers are forbidden by everybody to see each other," said Buffy. "Betty's grounded for life and Angelo's family wants him to leave town as soon as he receives sentence and pays up. Except, the lovers are about to get an evil go-between,"
"Betty!" young Joss ran up behind her. She didn't turn to him.
"Hey, Joss," There were shadows under her eyes.
"How-how ya doin'?"
"I'm OK," she smiled blankly.
"You-you look tired,"
"It was a long night,"
"So...would you re-think the prom? I'd really like to take you,"
"I won't be going to the prom, Joss. I'm grounded. Probably forever,"
Betty glanced around the hallway. She sighed. She took Joss by the arm and pulled him into an alcove at the back of the hallway.
"You know-I mean, everybody knows about Angelo,"
"Well, my Mom found out, too. And we had this big fight last night and I went out anyway, and I didn't get back till really late, and so I'm grounded,"
"Where did you go?"
"Did you see him?"
"Joss, that's really none of your business,"
Joss looked at his sneakers. "I'm sorry. But I know you like him. It's too bad,"
She sighed and closed her eyes. "If I could just find out how he is, if he's OK," Tears seeped down her cheeks.
"Well...I could," said Joss.
Betty opened her eyes. "You-you could?"
"Would you?" Her tears were flowing now, "Because it would mean everything to me, if I just could know that he's OK, or if he needs me, because I'd do anything," she dissolved in sobs and leaned her head on his shoulder. Young Joss shook.
"I'll find out for you, Betty,"
Buffy and Joss stood inside an immaculate butcher shop. The counters were freshly scrubbed, the meat in the case gleamed moist and red. A tall older gentleman talked to customers in a warm, quiet voice. He greeted young Joss.
"Hello, young man,"
"Hi. I'm looking for Angelo?"
The man peered over the counter at him.
"What do you need? I can help you,"
"Oh, well, he-uh-he helped me with this thing one time," stuttered young Joss, "And I wanted to ask him-"
The man stared at Joss, then disappeared. He returned.
"Through that door," he pointed. Buffy and Joss followed young Joss through the door in the back of the shop. Angelo stood at a large wooden table in the cold room, holding an enormous meat cleaver. He wore a white apron smeared with blood. His arms were red to the elbow. A stack of chops was on the table, and half a side of beef.
"Hi" said young Joss.
"Hi," said Angelo, doubtfully. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, umm, I know a friend,"
"I know Betty,"
Angelo's eyes narrowed and his mouth twitched.
"So, I can help you,"
"What can you help me with?"
"She wants to know how you are,"
"You talk to her?"
"Yeah, I see her in school. She wants to know if you're OK,"
Angelo snapped his wrist and the knife bit into the wood. He turned to an enameled sink and scrubbed his hands and arms. He turned, wiping them on a towel.
"Who are you?"
"Joss, tell her something for me, then."
"Tell her I don't want to see her, ever again. Will you do that?"
"Sure," Joss shuffled, "Is that all?"
"But she's really worried about you,"
"Tell her not to,"
Joss made eye contact with Angelo.
"That won't work," he said, "She'll probably try to come and see you. Maybe you should write her a note or something. Maybe she won't believe me,"
Angelo stood with the towel in his hands staring at Joss. "Maybe not," he said quietly.
"He had a bad feeling about you, didn't he, Joss? But Betty trusted you, so he had to. Too bad," said Buffy. They watched Angelo neatly cut a piece of white butcher paper off the roll and fish in his pocket for a pen.
"Angelo writes a note," said Buffy, as they watched Angelo writing, "And Joss delivers it. Of course, Joss has the foresight to read it, and every other note that goes from Angelo to Betty, from Betty to Angelo. Let's read a couple," Buffy swung the flashlight and suddenly they were in Betty's room. Betty laid on her stomach on the flowered bedspread and opened the letter.
I cannot see you again. It's wrong. You are too young. Please don't try to see me or contact me. It's over. I'm sorry.
Betty opened a small box and pulled out an envelope and a piece of stationery, both decorated with mushrooms, and began writing.
I love you and I will never stop loving you. I know I got you in trouble and I will never forgive myself for that. But you mean everything to me, everything. I will never be happy without you. You said that you would wait a year and I thought you meant it. In a year I will be out of school and I can do what I want and all I want is you. I believed you when you said you loved me and I still believe it. They can ground me and they can punish me but they can't stop me loving you. Nothing can.
All my love,
"During this time you were a busy guy," said Buffy, "You had to get Betty's letters, sneak them into the kitchen at your house and steam the envelopes open, seal them up again with just the right amount of glue, let them dry, and then get them to Angelo through the back door of the butcher shop. Then you had to wait for Angelo to write his notes, and you delivered those to Betty at school in different books. Betty thought you were a saint. Remember, Joss?"
Buffy nudged Joss under the ribcage with the flashlight, causing him to quickly flinch away from her, "And all the time you had this plan. You let them get right to the point of hope, didn't you? Just like you let me have the ring, and you let me hear him tell me that he loved me. And you let me have one night. ONE night Joss, just one, to know what it was really like, to know what it felts like to be happier than I'd ever been, just one time, and then the curse thing, out of the blue. Why, Joss?"
"I-I-storyline," gasped Joss, trying vainly to explain between thrusts of the flashlight, "-Age difference-censors-family show- UGH!" Joss lay on the ground, holding his stomach, nearly weeping.
"Oh!" Buffy turned suddenly, and it was a different day in Betty's room, "Here's the reply. Watch how this thing escalates,"
Please understand how it has to be. It's wrong for us to be
together. It has endangered my family and is the wrong thing for you. I love you. With all my heart. But it's wrong and we've got to stop. I'm leaving soon, I'm going back East to work for my Uncle and you must forget about me. Stay in school and grow up like other girls.
They watched Betty weeping and writing.
"Have you ever had a night like that, Joss?" asked Buffy, "Have you ever felt so close to somebody that it almost made you pass out, so happy that you didn't care if the world blew up, so shattered from one person's touch that you knew you'd never be the same again, ever?"
You said you would wait a year. All I ask is a year. If I don't
come and see you after a year, or if it's not the same, then you can forget
about me, but I will never forget about you, there will never be anyone else
like you and for the rest of my life I will miss you and ache for you. One
year, please wait one year. Then if I don't come you can forget about me.
I'll never love anyone the way I love you, you know it's true. It's worth a
year, Angelo, because when you really love somebody it doesn't stop. I won't
stop loving you. They can't make me and you can't make me. I love you.
All my love,
"See," said Buffy, "All the grownups play it down, love at that age. They don't want to lose control of their kids. They don't want them to grow up. They don't want them to be too happy, because it would remind them how happy they aren't. You know what gets me the worst?" Buffy turned to Joss and he cowered, "You know! You know how real it is! Why do all your characters have to be doomed? Why do I have to be the Slayer and doomed to miss him for the rest of my life? Is that your idea of romance, Joss? Blanche Dubois was a tragic character! I'm young, I'm pretty! Why do I have to be tragic?" Buffy thrust a graceful side-kick at Joss and his feet went out from under him. He watched from the floor as Betty unfolded another piece of butcher paper.
It's wrong for us to do this. I never should have been with
you. I care about you more than anything, but being with you was the worst
thing we could have done. It's hurting people around us. We can't have
anything that's solid, all we have are words, and over time words don't mean
as much. You have so much life to live, you need to make the big decisions
later, not now. You are too young. In a different world we could have had
something. And you know I'll always miss you, I'll miss you forever. But you are young and need to grow up. But I love you. Know that. That's why I'm leaving. I want the best for you, I want you to have happiness. Please don't write me again.
"Here comes the clincher, the golden moment," said Buffy, "This is probably where you decided to draw the line on her happiness. Right here,"
Love doesn't happen every day. Not like us, not the real kind, the kind that changes your life forever. You know me like no one else ever will. I love you like no one else ever will. It's worth a year. I'm asking you for one more letter when you get back East. You can send it to Joss and he'll give it to me. One more. Go, and if you don't miss me, don't write to me and I won't write you ever again. But I'll love you and miss you forever. If you write to me, I'll come out to be with you in one year.
Nobody else will ever love you like I do and you know it. This is my last letter unless you change your mind, and you might, because you know I love you, and that's worth everything. Nothing matters more than love.
All my love,
"One letter," said Buffy, "All her happiness, her real happiness, hinges on one letter. And guess who it's addressed to,"