"The Bean makes me hungry."
"Everything makes you hungry. Talking on the phone makes you hungry. Petting the dog makes you hungry. Sleeping makes you hungry. You being un-hungry is something the world has yet to witness."
"Un-hungry is not a word, Shiloh..."
Shiloh North, sister to Matthew, girlfriend to Colton, and partner in crime to Sam, turned to her boyfriend, who leaned against a trash can like he didn't care about the millions of germs collecting on the back of his jeans and hands, and glared at him. "Don't interrupt my moment."
Colton hunched over against the cold December wind and tried to smile back at her. The cold, however, had other ideas. The smile quickly morphed into a grimace. "Okay, okay. I've just never heard it in a sentence before."
A huff of steam exploded from her sigh, and she turned back to the Bean. "Just don't go turning into Matt on me, okay?" She was too far away to see her reflection, and she wondered why they chose the trash cans as their meeting place--Millenium Park was almost completely deserted, oddly enough. They could've taken the opportunity to get a little closer to the strange piece of art...but then again, that's probably why they didn't. She couldn't see her brother wanting to be a stereotypical tourist and taking pictures by the Bean with his girlfriend. It was hard enough to get him to Chicago to visit her.
"Is there a reason why you're not smiling today? Like, at all?" Colt walked over to her side while she ignored him. "Did I say something wrong?"
"No." That came out a little too quickly. Shiloh winced. Colt knew something was up. She could tell by the way he'd stopped cracking jokes halfway through their date, how he'd stuck to safe topics like food and the weather and lame tv shows that she didn't even watch, and how he never took his eyes off her, except for when she looked his way. He was worried.
Was that supposed to make her feel good? Most of her girl friends reported warm and fuzzy feelings after their special guy looked after them or got worried about them. Not Shiloh. It made her empty inside, like her stomach was suddenly a vacuum and it sucked all emotion out of her being. She felt nothing.
Her phone buzzed in her pocket,and she thanked her stars that her brother was at least good at timing. "They're here," she said, without even getting her phone out. Matt wouldn't text her unless he was bleeding and dying, or that he was in the immediate vicinity. She knew him like clockwork.
"Really?" Colt blocked the dying sun from his vision with one hand, squinting like that would help at all. Shiloh watched him, the emptiness increasing. Knowing Colt like clockwork...the idea terrified her.
And intrigued her at the same time.
"There they are." She pointed, and Colt's face smoothed with a smile as he saw two dark figures approaching: one with his hand shoved deep into his pockets, and the other waving ecstatically. She felt a smile spread across her face and a flicker of something more inside of her. Sam was here, and she was pulling a bag behind her. She chuckled. So the stubborn girl had defeated the stubborn boy and was coming home with them for the weekend.
Shiloh found it hilarious that her brother spent 99% of his time at home moping because he missed Sam, and yet he was terrified of spending quality time with her. She didn't understand it at all. If you liked someone, shouldn't you want to spend more time with them? Not constantly freak out about messing up?
When she was with Colt, she didn't feel that panic that Matt described. She just felt...normal.
She shook her head and ran towards her potentially (most likely) future sister-in-law and her awkward bother of a brother. She'd missed them both in the three hours they'd been separated in the mad town of Chicago. Mainly because those three hours had been complete and utter torture without their presence.
Colt had suggest going to Wal-Mart. To Wal-Mart.
She didn't understand him either.
"Shiloh!" Sam dropped her bag and wrapped the other girl in a tenacious hug. "I've missed you so much!"
"It's been less than four hours since you last saw her," griped Matthew, who stooped to pick up the fallen bag.
Shiloh wriggled her eyebrows at him over Sam's shoulder. "You're just jealous that she's hugging me and not you."
He gave her the Eyes of Death, much to her amusement. Those didn't work on her any more. He was losing his touch.
The two girls pulled apart, but Sam still held onto her by her arms, jumping up and down like a hyper puppy. "So, are you up for a roommate over the weekend? I don't think Matt or I feel quite like driving to Perimont Village, if you're okay with that." Her words ran together, and she began to wonder just how much caffeine she'd consumed over their date. Even her fingertips felt jittery. Colt, ever the slow one, caught up to them. He gave Sam a short wave before bending over to catch his breath. Shiloh tried her hardest to keep her face blank, but the smallest bit of disdain slipped out. Sam's eyes flicked between the two of them, then at Matt. She'd noticed.
What she'd noticed, however, Shiloh had no clue.
"So how's college life?" Colt asked after straightening up. His flannel shirt was half-untucked, and the way the tail hung loose over his belt like a fallen flag made her want to grit her teeth. But that was nothing out of the ordinary. Colt's shirts came untucked every day. She was surprised he even bothered to keep them tucked. Why was that one detail so terribly annoying that was beginning to give her a headache? It had never done that before.
Or maybe it had, and she'd just never noticed it.
Sam shrugged, stepping back to put an arm around Matt, who stiffened like a bristly pine tree. "Okay, I guess. Miss Linds tho. You?"
He returned the shrug. "Not looking forward to next semester, but hey, that's life."
It was weird, but some little part of Shiloh twinged with jealousy at the easiness of their conversation. Sam didn't look bored at all. Colt's posture with relaxed and yet interested. The twinge came again, stronger this time. She opened her mouth before she knew what she wanted to say--she just knew she had to say something. "Listen to the smarties, being so cool about college and stuff." She winked at Matt. "Don't you feel left out?"
He raised his eyebrows at her, like he couldn't believe what had just left her mouth. She couldn't either; it had been unbelievably petty. "Don't lump me in with you, kiddo. I at least know what I want to do with my life."
Sam elbowed him in the ribs, and he flinched like she'd kissed him in public or something. Both Colt and Shiloh covered their smiles quickly. Matt was unbelievably embarrassed about skinship between him and Sam. It was almost cute to watch. His face turned red as she did it again. "Lighten up, old man," she said, smirking at him evilly--Sam was perfectly aware of how this treatment made him feel. "Your sister's still in high school; she's allowed to still be figuring herself out."
Colt glanced at Shiloh out of the corner of his eye. He thought she wouldn't noticed.
"So." Shiloh laced her fingers together and popped her knuckles loudly. The tension within her didn't lessen. "Are we ready to go? Mom wants us back by supper, especially if we're bringing Sam back." She winked at her. "I'm beginning to think she likes you more than she does me."
"Sam doesn't bring home letters from her teachers," said the very very stupid boy standing by Shiloh, without thinking about his words at all.
She slowly turned her head his direction. Were her veins popping out? Could Matt and Sam see her jugular vein pumping angrily? Because it sure felt like they could. Anger and embarrassment sent sonic booms throughout her entire body, and for a second, Shiloh wished she really did have lasers for eyes so she could incinerate her boyfriend on the spot. Colt swallowed like he knew exactly what she was thinking--and probably thought he desired it too. At least, she hoped he did. That might lessen the anger a fraction. But only a fraction.
Matt and Sam watched this entire exchange wordlessly--Sam with a worried expression, Matt with "I'm bored and you both are drama queens" stamped across his face. A quick breeze with teeth buried in its rush stung Shiloh's reddened cheeks. The quiet bustle of the park ebbed and flowed in the distance. Finally, after taking a deep breath and forcing herself to cool down, Shiloh turned away from Colt (who still stood frozen with his head bowed slightly) and smiled at Sam. "Shall we head to the car?"
Sam snapped back to life, her worried expression sliding away. "One really quick thing." She pulled a camera out of her back pocket. "It's my first time coming here, and I really want to take a picture with you all." Her eyes sparkled with excitement, and Shiloh found herself smiling back. Sam had that way about her; once she got excited about something, it wasn't longer before you were excited too.
Matthew groaned and crossed his arms in defense against the attack of the camera. "Out of the four months you've been living in Chicago, you never once had the time to come here?"
She nudged him again. "Hey, college isn't easy for everyone, brainy boy. Quit being fussy, and let's take a picture." She grabbed his hand and ran closer to the Bean, laughing at his dragging heels.
Colt and Shiloh didn't exchange pointed looks and followed them a little more slowly, with less laughter and hesitant smiles.
When they finally got to where Sam stopped, Matt was grinning and holding Sam's hand and Shiloh doubted he was even aware of what he was doing. It was kind of adorable, but a steady buzz of unhappiness made her look away and up at the silvery curve of the Bean against the darkening sky.
"Come on, guys, closer!" Sam's bossy side came out as she shoved them tighter together, then squeezed in beside Matthew and held her camera out at a distance. "Smile!"
Group selfies were overrated and pointless, but still Shiloh found herself smiling as she waited for her friend to take the picture. This felt good. This felt normal. The flicker of warmth that had been so evidently absent over the day turned back on for a single moment.
And then Colt put his arm around her shoulder and it all vanished in a flash.
Now Shiloh was the one impersonating a stiff pine tree.
And she wasn’t happy about it.
*to be continued*