Ice Breaker

Their mothers thought it was a shame that Ashton and Callie didn't get along. Both were musical whiz kids who grew up on the same street, were taught by the same music and piano teachers, and the two played in the school band together.

But for whatever reason, the young protégés never became friends.

"You can't be friends with your competition," was Callie's original attitude but over the years it became more than that. While Ashton remained a music geek, Callie grew into a music diva. She was clearly talented in her skills – a lovely voice for Chorus, an accomplished pianist and keyboard artist – but she let her abilities go to her head and she became a prima donna within the Greenville High School music circles.

Ashton avoided such drama and he focused on his piano skills while also branching out to become pretty good on the drums while picking up the guitar and learning to play that well too, which made him a multi-dimensional talent to the school band depending on what Director Paige Landers developed for various presentations.

Callie grew to resent Ashton's triple-threat and she went out of her way to ridicule, demean and insult him. She purposely mispronounced his nickname 'Ash' as 'Ass' although she did it in a subtle way when adults were around. When it was just kids present, Callie was more likely to call him 'Ass wipe' and 'Ass Face' – to his face.

Callie's natural beauty did not escape Ashton's notice but he knew there was no point in trying to engage his nemesis. He secretly admired her from afar but he mostly avoided her and, when they were stuck in the band room together for practices and meetings, he ignored her insults.

Callie had a full oval face with a noticeable pug nose and dark intense eyes that often seemed to cut right through people. She wore her blond hair long and she dressed like she was on her way to a fashion show. She was unabashed in her self-promotion and she ruled the school musical ranks.

Ashton was well aware that she was the beautiful one which allowed most people to excuse her stuck-up persona while Ashton was typecast as the geek who could play music but lacked the personality and charisma to compete with Callie.

"At least you have character," Ashton's bandmate and pal, the trumpet playing Darryl Detson encouraged, no big fan of Callie Myers.

The two were seated in the band room waiting for rehearsal to start, watching Callie hold court with her friends in front of the room. "I bet she spends half her day standing in front of her mirror and that she has two million selfies on her phone," Darryl observed. He looked like he walked out of the 1960s with his long frizzy hair and wire rimmed glasses.

Ashton wasn't about to argue with Darryl but he also knew that Callie was striking in her looks, her beauty frozen in no matter how many selfies she took. Although Ashton enjoyed success as a musician, not much was made of it because his presence was diminished with Callie sharing the same stage.

Ashton's invisibility in Callie's eyes made him an almost tragic figure and it left him vulnerable to the more appealing and popular Callie.

"Don't you care that you're a nobody with her around?" Darryl complained.

"Not really," Ashton admitted.

"You're a sadist," Darryl accused.

"Probably," Ashton agreed, remaining patient with his friend whose constant criticism of Callie could be annoying.

Darryl was always letting Ashton know what he thought about her which grew tiresome sometimes.

"You're too nice," Darryl complained. "Why do you always give her a break?"

"Not everything has to be about me," Ashton reasoned.

"Nothing is about you!" Darryl groaned.

"Yes, I'm a study in the mundane," Ashton joked.

"She's a study in being a spoiled bitch," Darryl concluded.

Darryl was talented on the trumpet but his overconfidence combined with his lack of discipline caused mistakes that the musically astute could detect which prevented Darryl from shining.

"Darryl likes to blow his own horn," Band Leader Ms. Landers confided to Ashton once. "But he's not serious in his pursuits."

While Ms. Landers was ecstatic about Callie's abilities, the teacher was equally as supportive and encouraging regarding Ashton's efforts and he never felt slighted in her treatment of him. He liked her teaching style and he appreciated her expertise, counsel, and mentoring.

Ashton never took his own talent for granted and one thing he had in common with Callie was that they were both disciplined and worked hard at their craft. Cassie was like nobody else Ashton knew. He could sit watching her play the piano listening to the sounds that came from her fingertips for as long as time existed.

He knew she was special. While most noticed her attractive features, Ashton noticed her hands – with their long fingers that helped her play the piano, seemingly effortlessly. It was almost as if her musical understanding was inherent – a gift from God.

Callie was as tall as Ashton but she loomed over him in presence and stature. She stood out because of her attitude and style. She wasn't overconfident like Darryl, but she was secure in her abilities and, as far as Ashton could tell, she had no fear about being on stage.

"Hey, Ass face, what are you looking at?"

Ashton was pulled out of his thoughts by Callie's voice. She was still standing in front of the room but now she was staring at him staring at her.

"I'm looking at destiny," Ashton replied.

"Oh, Jesus," Darryl grumbled from the chair next to him.

Callie laughed at Ashton's response. "Too bad your destiny is playing for deaf people in nursing homes," she said before returning her attention to her friends.

Ashton was never bothered by Callie's insults. He'd be more offended if she completely ignored him so he took her swipes and affronts as perverted signs of affection and unconscious symptoms of jealousy, envy and interest. He knew that she knew that he was good at his music and he decided that her distain was her abstract way of complimenting him.

Still, their inability to socialize and be friendly toward one another caused resentment between their neighborly parents who formed a rivalry regarding their kids, each suspecting the other's child of being responsible for the perceived slights and conflicts. As a result, the two families didn't interact, even at school concerts and other performances even though they lived two houses away from each other.

Ashton wasn't exactly a stalker but he did keep taps on Callie's whereabouts around school and even around town. If he saw her walking in the hall at school, he'd follow her – it started off as his way of revenge – purposely making her uncomfortable with his presence knowing that she was bothered by his very existence given his musical competition.

He usually got a response from her too (much to his delight). "Get lost, Ass wipe," Callie would bark when she became aware of him tagging along behind her.

But then it got so if Ashton spotted Callie downtown shopping with friends, he would follow her there too which seemed kind of pointless knowing she'd never invite him to join her and her friends.

"You're in the wrong part of town, Ass face," she'd tell him.

If he saw Callie's car parked in front of a business, he'd stop and innocently shop in the store just to keep an eye on her.

"You're in the wrong store, Ass Lilley," she'd say when she noticed him.

And, if he happened to see Callie outside her house on Potter Pond Lane, Ashton might venture out of his house to take a walk or sit on his front porch steps.

"Go back inside, Ass wipe," Callie would tell him most times.

Greenville's Potter Pond Lane was a short dead end street in one of the nicer neighborhoods, relatively newer homes in a wooden section that was once part of the Potter family farm a generation ago. Potter Pond remained and was down a small ravine behind a group of the houses, occupied by the Myers and Lilley families among others. Ashton wasn't an outdoors person so he didn't go down there much but sometimes he saw Callie traipsing that way on occasion, sometimes with a guy or with her friends.

There were a few occasions when Ashton followed Callie down to the pond (at a safe distance). He realized that his pretend little game had turned into a compulsive activity but he couldn't help himself. He had become borderline obsessed with Callie, the only person at Greenville High School who interested him, not just because of her musical talents but because of the person she was.

Maybe he should propose a truce. Maybe he could quit music program so Callie wouldn't feel threatened or whatever it was that caused her to resent him so. But his parents would pitch a fit if he gave up on music over a girl so Ashton kept his mouth shut and he continued to admire Callie from the other side of the piano.