diagnosing the disease

The car trip home was torture.

Matt drove, and he exiled Sam to the back seat with Shiloh, saying that she had had too much caffeine to even sit in the front. At first, Shiloh felt relief at this--having Colt in shotgun meant no awkward silences or sneaky glances at each other when they thought the other was busy looking out the window. But as Sam leaned forward in her seat and chattered with the boys, the sinking, empty feeling returned.

She had nothing to say. Nothing. There were no words pushing their way out of her mouth like usual. All she wanted to was to sit there in peace and quiet and listen to nothing in particular. Definitely not Colton teasing Sam about her pink t-shirt or her almost completely brown hair. Is this how Matty feels all the time? Cold? Silent? Alone? What made it worse was that she felt rude at the same time as all these other emotions flooded her. Not just rude. It was like a spotlight shone down upon, and a flashing billboard broadcasted "Shiloh North is rude and unsociable!" She didn't want to be rude. Heck no. That was Matt's job. She was supposed to be the nice, friendly little sister, who knew how to keep a conversation going and when to change the topic. This...this wasn't right.

But she had nothing to say.

Every now and then, she thought she saw his eyes in the mirror, trying to see her expression. He didn't look worried. He didn't look happy either.

Sam noticed too. If Matt hadn't been driving, she would've been all over him, whispering questions he didn't know the answers to. Why would he? He hadn't noticed the tension  between the two of them, even on the deathly silent trip in.

He'd even cracked a half-hearted joke to break the silence and appease his jitters, asking if Colt had forgotten Shiloh's birthday or something. Neither of them had said a word, and Matt just let it lie.

Sometimes, Shiloh wished her brother wasn't breaking out of his shell as much. It was nicer when he didn't pay attention to anyone--especially to her and Colt.

But every time she thought that, she felt terrible inside, and her mouth tasted like vinegar.

Dinner was torture too.

She had to sit by Colt, who acted like nothing was wrong. He was so good at faking. Too good. How could he sit there eating green beans like there was no tomorrow, while their knees were close enough to touch. Shiloh felt like running from the table every time he brushed up against her accidentally. She couldn't eat, even though her stomach turned in on itself, she was so hungry. Her throat was too tight to swallow.

All the while, Sam watched carefully.

Finally, after a painful movie and late night snack with the parents, Shiloh escaped to her room. Sam was in the shower; the only noise she could hear was her quiet humming and the gentle beat of the water. The lack of commotion, of inane voice soothed her prickly emotions, and the tension bottled up in her muscles and stomach and mind slowly eased away. As she stretched out on her bed, she let her eyes fall shut and wondered if tomorrow would be any better. Would she wake up and all this would just be her stupid imagination? Her feelings would be back in wack?

Tomorrow would be exactly the same.

She knew, because she asked the exact same question every night as she layed there.
Sam cracked the door open, sticking her toweled head through first. "Knock, knock?" She wiggled her eyesbrows asking for permission to enter. Shiloh smiled and sat up.

"Come on in," she said.

"Thanks for letting me sleep here," she replied as she stepped in and then sat down at Shiloh's desk. Her towel turban was beginning to droop, so she unwound it and began tousling her still dripping hair. "I really appreciate it."

"No prob." Shiloh rubbed the underside of her chin, yawning as she did so. "Mom would hardly make you sleep on the couch."

She laughed. "I doubt Matt would even allow that to be an option. Me staying here in the same house is pushing his comfort-zone as it is. I don't know how he survived a whole road trip with me tagging along."

"I dunno, I think it's kinda adorable how embarrassed and awkward he is around you. Shows how much he really cares about you."

Sam let the towel rest in her lap as she looked at her toes steadily. "Yeah, it is adorable, but it also makes things awkward when they should be easy."

"Oh." Shiloh also looked at her toes. "I understand that. It's no fun."

Sam shook herself, like she was shaking off a bad vibe, then tossed the towel away and settled cross-legged on the chair. Her eyes glimmered with a question, and Shiloh suddenly had a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. "So. You and Colt. What's up with all that?"

She tried to play innocent. "What's up with what?"

"Don't play naive and insipid, Shiloh, you know that makes me grit my teeth. I'm asking why you two won't look each other in the eye--or even at each other when the other is looking, now that I think about it--and why you practically bit Colt's head off after he said what he said earlier."

"The remark about me bringing home letters from school?" The blankness started to return; she wanted to fight against it, because this was Sam and she deserved to know, but her words started dying without her knowing how to stop it. "I'm failing in math."

"Really?" Her eyebrows quirked into question marks. "I thought you were the smart one."

"I am. I was," she corrected. "I've had a few other things on my mind recently. My grades have suffered, I guess."

Sam crossed her arms and made eye contact, her lips pursed together in meditation. "One of those things being a Mr. Colton Trelawney."


"You and your brother and your ishes. Never can get a straight answer out of you."

I want to give you a straight answer, she thought. I just don't have the words.

"Are you worried about the future?" Sam asked suddenly, and Shiloh's mouth dropped open.

"Wha--how'd you know?"

She shrugged. "Just a hunch. I felt much the same way back when I lived in Perimont, though I didn't have school to worry about on top of that."

"Why were you worried?"

She looked at the ceiling and cleared her throat. "You won't make fun of me, promise? It seems silly now that I look back at it." Shiloh shook her head; she would never dream of making fun of Sam. She was too scary to even think about that. "I worried we would never be normal. I lived too far away, he hates talking on the phone--and I'm not a fan either--, and our dynamic is just plain weird. I wanted to have a relationship like every other girl, and I was convinced that what Matt and I had didn't fall in those guidelines."

"So what did you do?" Shiloh leaned forward, holding her knees to her chest tightly.

Sam pursed her lips again. "I moved to Chicago."

She narrowed her eyes at her friend. "Seriously? You did that because you got a scholarship, silly."

"Yes, and no. At  first it was  because of the scholarship; afterwards, it became about me and Matt. I could see him more. We started to be more comfortable with each other--not as people, not as friends, but as the something more we were supposed to be. I actually started referring to myself as Matt's girlfriend and not his best-friend. We even became Facebook official after my move."

Shiloh frowned. "Wait, Matt has Facebook?"

Sam rolled her eyes and smiled. "That being said, things are a lot better now. I don't worry half as much, and we're in a much better place now. I'm happy." She shrugged. "I don't know if that's what you're going through, but that's my story."

Suddenly, Shiloh's neck burned with the same awkward feeling she got when around Colt and others in public. She didn't want to talk to Sam about this, and yet...at the same time she felt like she needed to or she was never going to be able to say anything about it again. So she bit the bullet and opened her mouth. "I think...I actually have the opposite problem."


The tangy iron taste of blood blossomed in her mouth, and she quickly stopped biting her lip--the blood wasn't much, but it was enough to set her stomach churning again. "I...I don't worry that we're not normal," she said, picking her words carefully. She wanted to say everything correctly--no doubts or second-guessing herself. This was the result of a month long worry-fest; she was not flubbing it up now. "I worry that we're too normal."

Sam leaned forward, eyes bright and curious. "And why do you say that?" She said that with a practiced tone, and Shiloh wondered how many pick-this conversation-apart talks she'd had with Matt. She sure sounded like she knew what she was doing.

In everything.

"Cat got your tongue?"

Shiloh straightened and shook her head violently, flushing a little. "No...I was just thinking."

"About what?"

"That you guys had it down--somewhat, at least. I know you said you felt strange in the relationship, but on the surface, you guys seemed okay. Except for my brother's sorry excuse for social skills, but anyway." She swallowed. "You had enough distance. Your dates were sporadic enough that they actually felt like dates. You didn't see each other more than once every day--and for that matter, you haven't known each other for over ten years."

Sam cocked her head to the side and stared at Shiloh. "Your parents have all those things and they're a prize-winning couple." Not to mention the fact that they've survived the suicide of one child and the depression of another, Shiloh thought, biting her lip again. "Why are you so worried about this."

"I guess what I'm trying to say is that...it doesn't feel right."

"'Doesn't...feel right? Feel is a very large word, Shiloh."

"I know, I know, but there's just something...."

"Sometimes something can be nothing. Trust me, I know." A sudden smirk sprang to her face as she said, "Did I ever tell you about the one time I thought Matt might be trying to break up with me because he wasn't responding to my texts or calls?"

"No..." Shiloh dragged the word out, frowning a little. Matt, breaking up with Sam? The apocalypse would happen before that did.

She continued to grin, looking down into her lap and chuckling. "I was worked up that I forgot who I was thinking about. Seriously. Matt. Him and not responding to social media go hand in hand. I just forgot that in my worry." She met Shiloh's eyes. "Are you sure you're not forgetting something important about Colt in your worry."

"We act like a married couple, Sam. And we're not. I don't even know..."

"You're worried that this relationship is moving into the comfortable stage too quickly. Is that it?" Sam sighed as Shiloh nodded. "Girl, what I would give to have your problems."

She rubbed her neck sheepishly. "Am I stupid for feeling worried and sick over this?"

"No, not at all. It's a natural female thing to do. Girl likes boy, boy likes girl, girl worries herself into a tizzy about boy, and boy hardly knows because girl is so good at hiding it. Tale as old as time." She unfolded her legs and stretched her arms wide. "But I think you're getting to the breaking point. And that's not good."

"It's not?"

Sam grabbed a piece of paper and a pen off the desk. "Let's catalog your findings. #1. You like Colt."

Shiloh sighed in response.

"#2. Colt likes you."

Another sigh.

"#3. You're worried that there will never be any excitement in your relationship because of your history and comfort with each other."

Shiloh just buried her head in her arms.

"#4. That being said, you're afraid that this relationship isn't the right one for you right now."

"Especially since it's messing with my school."

Sam looked up. "I thought you said the worry was messing with your school."

The sheepish feeling returned. "Um...that and having Colt around 24/7 means homework happens late at night when I have no brain."

"Ah. Gotcha." She held out the paper and examined it carefully. "Okay. So now what are you going to do?"

Shiloh stared at her, not comprehending a single word. "...aren't you going to help me solve this?"

Sam just laughed and handed her the paper. "I helped you figure out your symptoms. Now it's up to you to find the cure."

*to be continued*


  1. I like Sam's methods. :) This is a really good post. I'm not really into romance-y stuff, but I love your posts. They're real, and not mushy, but still adorable. And I've never had a boyfriend, so I don't really know how to write about relationships, but your writing feels like this is what happens in real life.

    By the way, I tagged you. It's in a post called the Tag of Randomness.


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