She goes slowly
She knows that with any vice, any addiction, trying to leave it all behind from the get-go will bring about more harm than good
Besides, she doesn’t think she could ever completely give up loving Colin
And she doesn’t want to
Even though she knew he wouldn’t reciprocate her feelings, she did know the value their friendship still held, for both of them.
Their time together offered a reprieve for both of them, from the utter neglect of her family to the overwhelming chaos of his own. They had met somewhere in this strange middle and forged a bond they were both so unaware that they needed.
She was never going to give that up
So, she started slowly
It begins with distance
She doesn’t outright avoid him, doesn’t make excuses to run when he enters the same room, she decided to be more subtle.
She starts small when she’s over the Bridgerton house a few weeks after the promise to herself. She was invited over to watch a movie with Eloise and Collin. Some horror movie that the two were excited for, more so to see the reaction from Penelope who wasn’t much of a fan of the genre.
She’s sitting out the couch, Eloise reclining back in the plush armchair at her side as Colins prepping snacks in the kitchen. Always insistent on making them even when the extent of which is pressing buttons of the microwave and grabbing ice from the freezer
On that day Benedict is over, wanting to spend time with his family as opposed to another night alone in his apartment. He’s seated far away, sitting by Eloise on the floor.
Colin had always claimed the right side while she took the left, a habit they had fallen into that they never felt the need to voice.
She thought about offering her spot to Benedict, maybe sitting on the floor, but in her mind, that felt like a too obvious dismal.
So when she heard the ding of the microwave she knew she was running out of options.
She looked over again at Benedict, whose gaze seemed a bit unfocused as he watched the menu screen, and then she had an idea
“Benedict” she started as the older boy looked over from his spot on the floor.
“You had your first art showing the other day, right”? She asked. Remembering the excitement he had when telling the rest of his siblings about it a few weeks back, and the disappointment that followed after. Too many of them have already made plans and promising to come to the next one.
As if a switch were flipped, his eyes snapped into focus, and she was temporarily stunned at how blinding the smile he flashed at her was.
“You remembered”? he asked, seeming to vibrate with joy at the fact she would bring it up
“Of course, I did,” she said, smile small but genuine. “I would’ve loved to see it”. At that he shot up, nearly throwing himself onto the spot beside her as he began to pull out his phone
“but I knew since it was the first one, they wanted to limit more to close friends and family”
At that he paused, fingers stilling as the photo’s app opened, before continuing to scroll through the albums
“You are family Penelope,” he said, looking up to her face. The excitement still plain to see, but smile having softened.
“In fact, right now you are my most favorite of the lot” he proclaimed loud enough for Colin to hear in the kitchen, all the while glaring at Eloise who held her hands up in surrender
Soon she was bent over the phone with Benedict, listening intently as he slid from photo to photo. Talking about each piece, the excitement he had felt that was nearly outweighed by nerves as stranger after stranger appraised his work
She was quite engaged in his rant about the old man who had complained about “the complete abstract bullshit these kids are painting nowadays” when a loud cough drew both their attentions
Before them was Colin. One hand holding onto the large bowl of popcorn, the other pointed accusingly at his brother
“Excuse me”, he stated” “but that’s my seat”
“Oh sorry” Benedict started. Starting to get up from his spot off the couch.
She could see the smile on Colin's face starting to form. Until it was quickly wiped away when Benedict ripped out the cushion, turning it over and over while humming to himself
“Why would you look at that,” he said, placing the cushion back onto the couch, and himself onto said cushion “your name appears to be missing dear brother” he retorted, before spreading his arms out, one resting over shoulders. “and besides, he declared happily, the smug grin he sent to Colin morphing into a smile as he looked to Penelope. “I’m in the middle of showing Pen a truly insulting portrait one of the other artists painted of their dad’s new girlfriend”. She snorted at that, cheeks flushing at the proud look he wore at making her laugh.
“Yea but” Colin began again, looking more frustrated than the situation really called for, grip tightening at the bowl still in his hands. “I always sit next to Pen”. His gaze moving to hers.
She froze for a second, before giving him her full attention, hoping her face looked as relaxed as possible
“I’m sorry Colin, she began, starting to make her own way up from the couch, “if you want you can sit here”
She was stopped by the resounding no that came from both Bridgerton boys, and she looked to both in confusion.
“No, it’s okay Pen” Colin muttered sliding down to rest against the front of the couch. “That’s always been your spot”, he continued more gently as he turned to look at her, before handing her the bowl in his hands. ‘You like the rest because it helps crack your back when your soar from sitting too long”
Her heart stuttered for a second. She had only mentioned that once, on the first movie night they had when she wrestled Eloise to claim the cushion as her own”. Friends remember things like that she told herself, beaming down at him, gently taking the bowl from his hands. Suddenly, feeling a new bout of confidence, ran her free one gently through his hair as a show of thanks, before settling back. His eyes widened slightly, she could see him swallow, the rise and fall of his Adam's apple before a shy “your welcome” was let out, body now northward to the now playing movie.
“Interesting” she heard Benedict hum next to her, and at her quizzical gaze, he sent back an exaggerated wink that had her giggling.
Soon she became engrossed in the film, juggling between gasps and cringes from the gore to soft laughter at the commentary Benedict was whispering into her ear
Her eyes never strayed down to where the 3rd eldest brother sat, whose back was tensed tighter and tighter at every soft sound she let out
When she asked Colin if the film had lived up to his expectations, he shrugged, eyes fixated on the near-empty bowl in his grasp
“Maybe he’d know if he was watching the bloody thing”, she heard Eloise mummer before a harsh kick met her ankle
She chooses to ignore the comment, continuing to finish her talk with Benedict.
“It’s nothing its nothing” her mind whispered
She was sure of it.