this is us growing up

"Hey." Shiloh sat down next to Colt.

"Hey." He scooted over so she had more room on the North's forever lumpy and avacado green couch.

It was Christmas morning. Correction: Christmas morning/afternoon. On December 25th, Shiloh was never truly certain when the morning stopped and the afternoon began. Considering the fact that Matt was still asleep, mom had just popped a tray of cinnamon rolls in the oven, and she was still in her fuzzy pajama pants, it was still morning. Even Colt had the droopy eyelids and messy hair that came with the lazy atmosphere; his college hoodie wrinkled like he'd slept in it. Apart from the morning bad-breath, he looked kind of adorable.

Which was making this even harder.

Shiloh brought her legs up onto the couch and tucked her cold feet under a pillow, then turned to look him straight on. Courage, Shiloh, courage! she could hear Sam snoring words of encouragement from the other room. Or maybe that was just her imagination.


His eyes were unfocused and sleepy, but they latched onto her the moment he noticed her firm gaze. "Yup?" He didn't sound concerned or worried, just tired. Shiloh almost smiled.

She steeled her face. This wasn't a time to be smiling or laughing. This was serious now.

"So...I hate doing this."

His forehead wrinkled as he frowned. "Doing what?"

"Especially right now. I mean, it's Christmas. I shouldn't be making you think about this today."

"Think about what?"

"But you're leaving to go east to visit family tomorrow and I'm not going to see you until January and I'm afraid I'm going to get cold feet and let it go while I'm gone. So I'm saying it today."

"Saying what?" Colt's mouth lifted at the side in a grin, and he held up a hand, cutting off her flow of words. "I think we're having two different conversations, and mine doesn't have any of the answers that yours does." He took her hand in his and squeezed. "So let's take a deep breath and start over."

Shiloh didn't stop to breathe. She knew if she did she'd end up telling him to just forget it all--she bordered on telling him it was nothing as it was right then. So she had to say, before one second of hesitation destroyed her goal.

"I think we should break up."

He looked up.

What did he expect to see? A teasing face? They'd playfully broken up a hundred times before (about half of them were to annoy Matt), so those words were one he'd heard before. Or maybe he thought he'd misheard and was double-checking the mood to make sure it was him and not her.

Nope. The mood was serious. There was no teasing or flirtation. She meant those words.

"Actually, I know we should break up."

He pulled back, his hand loosening on hers and sliding back into his lap. His tired eyes stayed trained on hers, but now a shade of gray slipped into his blue eyes. He wasn't just tired. He was done.
"Tell me why," he said. He didn't even bother to challenge her words.

Shiloh felt a sinking feeling inside her. This really was happening.

"It isn't the right time. My grades are suffering, you know that. I just don't feel like it's right." These were all the things Sam had listed last night, but when she said them, they suddenly became excuses instead of reasons. Guilt tightened her throat, and she looked away for a quick moment and hoped he didn't notice.

He noticed.

"That all?" He turned his head to the side and frowned. "Doesn't sound like it."

He knew her too well. That was the whole reason behind this. But how could she express that without confusion or worse--offending him? She bit her lip. Words were never her forte. A family curse, according to Matt. But now she had to find the right ones or she could lose a friend.

One of her best friends.

She swallowed, then met his eyes again. "You make me feel empty."

He raised an eyebrow slightly.

"Other girls say they get excited when their boyfriend comes to see them, or when they're on dates, they're happy and can't hold still from excitement. I don't have any of that. When you walk in the front door, my first thought isn't "My boyfriend is here to see me!" It's "Ah, Colt's here to hang out with Matt.""

"So you don't want to date because I'm friends with your brother?"

She shook her head. She was only just getting started. "I don't not want to date. It's not as simple as that. I don't think this relationship is right for me or for you."

He leaned back into the couch and continued to watch her, eyes still blue-grey. "Why?"

"Because you need to find someone besides your best friend's sister--and honestly, someone besides the girls you flirt with because you're bored. They're not worth it, and neither am I." She held up a hand when he started to say something. "No, it's right. I'm not right for you. I was a parachute girlfriend. I had a crush on you as a little kid, but now we're growing up and we need to expand our horizons. I really like you, Colt. I really do. But the more I am around you I realize that I like you as a friend and not as anything more." She shrugged. "Maybe that will change. In a year, in six years, when we're old...I don't know. But right now, at this moment, this is what I've been feeling. And it's what I know is right." She took a deep breath. Tension eased out of her shoulders, and she suddenly felt relaxed, like a load of worry evaporated from her body. This was the right thing. "Take it or leave it."

Colt didn't say anything at first. He just sat and watched her, expressionless. Shiloh swallowed. Mom left the tap dripping when she was in the kitchen, and the incessant noise started to grate. She wanted to blink hurriedly or glance away, but then he'd know she was still nervous and worried and after all her great words she didn't want to seem that silly.

His first movement was slow, like always, but as the smile spread across his face, it just got bigger and faster, until his whole face smiled. She hesitantly smiled back, not sure what to think of it.

"And you say you're not good with words," he finally said, smirking.

If she'd been in the mood to flirt, she would've playfully hit him, but now wasn't that time. She just smiled--this time, a real smile. "Sometimes the right ones find their way out."

He cracked his knuckles noisily, looking up at her askance, like he was unsure what to say now. "I...I've known things weren't right for a long time. But I didn't want to bring it up, in case I was reading you wrong."

"When have you ever read me wrong, Colton Trelawney?"

He smiled. "Never. But still--I wanted to be sure. And now I am."

"And you think?"

He pursed his lips together and sighed heavily, and Shiloh almost laughed at how altogether thoughtful he looked. It was almost picture-worthy. Instead, she sat quietly and waited.

"I think..." he said quietly, not looking at her. "I think I'm proud of you."


"I'm proud of you." He bit his lip, like slight pain would bring the right words to mind. "Not many seventeen year olds would have the maturity to make a decision like that. To make the difference between "I want you to be my friend" and "I want to date you." To have the strength to say that to someone who isn't going to disappear from your life after you break up. That makes me proud of you."

"...thank you? But that really doesn't answer my question." She narrowed her eyes at him. "Are you stalling?"

He laughed. "A bit, yeah. But it's all true. I know I'm proud of you. I'm proud to have dated you. And I'm proud to be your friend."


"It was selfish and immature of me to date you in the first place. We've been dating for what, two years? You were fifteen, I was nineteen? I was stupid then." He grinned. "You're going to say, "Still are," aren't you?"

She just smiled at him and didn't say a word.

He rubbed the back of his neck and looked down at his lap. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm okay. I think you need to move on, and I think I need to get some fresh air. It's not what I want, but it's what I need to do. I realized the other day that, other than Matt, Sam, and you, I don't have any strong friendships. They're all relationships with people like those girls you mentioned. I need to do better. And so do you." He nudged her gently with his big toe. "Don't let the next guy you find be a deadbeat like me, okay?"

She suddenly had the overwhelming urge to hug him, but she restrained herself--barely. "You're not a deadbeat." Her voice barely ranked over a whisper. "You're a great person."

"But not the great person for you." He took her head. Obviously, he didn't have the same hesitations she did. Or maybe he hid them better. "So."


"Is this us...breaking up?"

"I hate that term."

"Me too."

"Maybe...we're not breaking up. We're just moving on. Growing up. Something like that."

Colt nodded, smiling. "Yeah. I like that."

She squeezed his hand a little, swallowing back the little half-hearted lump buried in the pit of her throat. This was the right thing.

"So yeah." Her words fell brittle on the silence. He sighed, looking at the tree lights. They glistened too happily in his glassy eyes, and she looked away, because if Colt felt like crying, she didn't want to see it. Because then she might turn back. She might lose all the ground that she had just made. She would lose it all.

"So this is us," he said, "growing up at last."

"It's kind scary, isn't it?"

He squeezed her hand back. "Yeah, scary. And exciting. And weird. And new. But good. Really good."

{merry christmas, guys! Hope you have a great one! Can't believe we only have one more day of Christmas with The Great's been a fun ride! This last part of Shiloh and Colt's story didn't come onto the page as well as I hoped it would, but hey! no one's perfect. :) }


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