He thinks he might be getting ill
That’s the only conclusion Colin can offer to himself at the sinking feeling that’s been brewing in his gut over the last few days.
Perhaps in his haste to fill himself to near bursting at his mother’s Sunday dinner, something in the bounty he claimed gave him food poisoning.
He chooses to ignore the fact that this feeling has actually been plaguing him much longer than that.
It had started on the evening of Penelope’s birthday party
He cringes at the thought of it. He didn’t know why he had done what he did. So many feelings had overwhelmed him that night, the air of fun with the people he cared for most, the booze that had run through his system, and the light touches here and there by Marina's hands had brought them both such a high that eventually led the two to a heated kiss in the outskirts of his family’s home.
Despite it having been a pleasantly warm summer day, he had never felt colder than hearing Penelope’s soft gasp.
In a half a second he had jumped back, panting heavily as he looked at the shocked gaze of his best friend
He didn’t know what to expect. Would she yell at him with righteous fury, screaming about him defiling her cousin, on her birthday nonetheless?
Would she break down into tears, a guilty voice had questioned in the back of his mind, faintly remembering the offhand comments his brothers would make about Penelope’s clear admiration for him.
Thousands of other thoughts were flying through, each worse than the last as the knot that has started to form within him grew tighter and tighter with each second passed.
Instead, she had looked at him, her soft blue eyes, so normally warm and filled with mirth were hauntingly devoid of anything.
No pain, no fury, no sorrow
Just pure and utter contempt
He could barely hear her remark, his heart stuttering to such a degree that each other word was blocked by the loud thump
He could make out that it was a somewhat joking statement, that he had suddenly hoped would hold a tinge of force, a struggle to appear nonchalant
He didn’t know why he would
He wouldn’t know why that, when she turned around and made her way back through the house, that he felt like he was being left behind in something greater than just approximal distance
Even as he made his way to follow, and found himself right in front of her, nothing more than a table of cake and glowing candles that made the strands of her hair glow brighter than the very flames she was leaning towards, he had never felt further away from her.
He heard the others' voices, the not-so-in synch chants of happy birthday surrounding them, but he ignored it all, looking towards her in the hopes that she would meet his eyes.
He didn’t know what he would say, hell he couldn’t say anything, not right here, not at the moment that was supposed to be another happy memory that he knew must have been tarnished by his foolishness.
Despite it not being his party, his wish was still granted as her eyes snapped up to meet his, the last chords of dear Penelope being stretched out as she pulled in a deep breath that he couldn’t help but mimic.
He choked on his as she let hers out, the blue disappearing behind the traces of smoke
At that moment, Colin Bridgerton knew that something had changed
And he was terrified.