"the only real thing todd," betty had said, curled up against him staring at their interlaced fingers, "is this."
that whole summer is a dream to todd - sometimes he feels like he imagined it, too stoned to realize this was not real. that she effectively was not real. he had known who she was before that made up summer, he knew her parents had a property along the beach recommended by the johnstons, another famous family. knew her face more from the trash magazines tallulah read than ever seeing her around cape coral. that was now reduced to just the magazines. tallulah had originally tried to hide them if she or evan was on the cover, rare but not impossible. but harder still if they were mentioned somewhere in the glossy pages and it became counterproductive. it was understood, though they had never actually spoken about it that she would 'accidentally' leave the magazine somewhere - kitchen counter, coffee table in the hall, etc. he would take it, read it, and place it back. the stupid thing was, she was still in his phone. in his speedial. he could just bravely call her, or cowardly text. instead of resorting to information that wasn't necessarily true. he had learned from betty that fiction was far more interesting than the fact of most celebrities sensationalized lives. so magazine writers wrote whatever the hell they wanted, found a supporting picture normally taken completely out of context and slapped it together. interviews were manipulated, and most weren't truthful to begin with. coached by consultants to hit buzzwords, to control that oh so carefully cultivated image. "the only real thing todd," betty had said, curled up against him staring at their interlaced fingers, "is this." what a lie that was. that whole conversation was before though. not even before they broke up - that's skipping too far ahead. just before todd ended up in a magazine because of her. the shot, at least the one they ran the most is them on the beach, hugging. it shows off their height difference quite nicely, but that's not why every rag picked it up. todd is staring directly into the camera, like he knew the picture was being taken. todd didn't, still doesn't know how the paparazzi pulled it off. he couldn't bring himself to read the article - didn't want to see: pictured above, todd sheridan, 22. reduced to a name and his age, which by the way, why did that matter? why would anyone possibly care about that? but evidently people did. they really did. enough to dig up his history, find out about his mom, and even interviewed people he had not spoken with since grade school. that did not compare to when his dealer stepped forward. that caused a shitstorm. because betty whyte was the 'golden girl' by connection of her name to betty white. and her mother had liked that, pushed so that betty would be considered a good girl, who didn't go clubbing til 5 am, exposing herself on red carpets. which betty had been happy to comply with because she had never wanted to be in the spotlight, didn't hunger after it like her mother had. the only blip was her relationship with evan johnston, portrayed like romeo and juliet as after all, their mothers had been in a feud since they had broken into hollywood at the same time however many years ago. initially that's what it was. they wanted to piss off their parents. they reacted oppositely to what betty and evan had expected, they were delighted at a new angle to garner publicity. in sound bites they discussed their disapproval, all manufactured lies because they both saw the same thing - dollar signs, and a new thing to market. so the paparazzi ran with it, and that's when betty and evan realized they had more than just a supposed love/hate relationship to go on. they both shied away from the spotlight they were born into. from that they discovered similar taste in books, movies, and how to spend a friday night. they were homebodies and the paparazzi more or less moved on from them, attention span similar to a gnat. but when they did make public appearances, they were rebranded from romeo and juliet to the golden boy and girl. they were vanilla in comparison to almost any other celebrity couple (not that betty or evan considered themselves celebrities) and in that lay the interest. the public could relate to boring betty and evan. so when she appeared on a cover, not with evan but with local todd sheridan, 22, who turned out to have a dealer, suddenly betty was not so golden. an affair, cheating on her long time dependable boyfriend with a stoner townie? and thus the covers catalogued their relationship - secretly together, evan flying in from new york, and of course, the third and final betty flying back to new york. she had tears and excuses and apologies before she left, but todd elected to hear none of them. he was hurt, and angry, and most of all stoned for the first time in several months, a neat little fact his dealer had omitted when he gave his tell all information to anyone who would listen. and pay.
so that takes us back to the beginning, of todd staring at pictures of betty looking so damn happy, and like he had meant nothing at all. maybe he hadn't. maybe all he was good for was .. nothing. then suddenly he was someone he made fun of, hooked on tabloids, needing his new fix. the internet made it worse, so many more results. he just stuck to the magazines. stuck to betty whyte, 23. betty whyte, 24. and up it climbed until betty white, 29. and then it became betty johnston, 29. it wasn't all todd did, stare at pictures of betty and wonder what could have been. or wonder what evan had that he lacked. the tabloids, for a little while there liked doing comparisons of the two of them. but that was, god, seven years ago now? he should move on. well. he had. sort of. the longest another girl had lasted was five months. his sisters were concerned, but said nothing for fear of todd snapping that he was over it, and maybe just maybe talullah this was real life not a fairytale and maybe there really truly wasn't someone for everybody and thus no one for him.
the whytes still have a property in cape coral, but betty never comes down. he's not sure if that makes him mad, or sad, or glad, or some combination thereof. just like how todd still loves her and hates her at the same time. so he tries not to think about her at all, and a lot of the time that works. as he's not obsessed. he has a life, a job, friends, and she made her decision and it simply wasn't him. todd does of course, eventually meet a girl, who understands but pretends not to know why her reads the tabloids, flicking through idly unless her name or face appears. the girl gets it, and loves him and eventually he loves her back - the best way he can considering a part of his heart will always belong to betty. somewhere deep down he knows, or chooses to believe, it's the same for her. and as tallulah helpfully said one day backed up by several examples in case he wanted to fight her on it, sometimes when you love someone you have to let them go.