Chapter 3

Callie pulled a chair out and took a seat at the kitchen table, watching while Ashton poured two mugs of hot chocolate from the pan on the stove.

"Where are your parents?" She asked.

"Skiing in Vermont," Ashton reported, taking a seat across from her and sliding her mug across the table. Her mug had a Greenville Savings Banks logo on it, his was an old Drumgold's Department Store mug, long defunct in Hillsboro.

"Sorry about….." he said, motioning toward the quilt she was wrapped in absent of clothes.

"You were in rescue mode," Callie said with a shrug of her shoulders. "My first nude scene."

Ashton blushed.

"My phone is in my boot," Callie reported.

"Sounds like a line from Toy Story," Ashton grinned.

"I should text my mother before she calls me," Callie said.

Ashton went into the mudroom, felt around in her boots, and returned with her phone.

"I'll tell her I'm at Diane's," Callie decided.

"Why don't you just tell her the truth – that you're here?" Ashton wondered.

"After ten years the enemy?" She frowned.

"I didn't want to be an enemy," Ashton sighed.

"Now I'd better text Diane to cover me," Callie said, wrinkling up her mouth as she typed.

"Are we still enemies?" Ashton asked.

Callie apparently didn't hear his question because she kept typing. Finally, she placed the phone on the table, took another sip from her hot chocolate mug, and then looked at Ashton.

"I wanted to be a figure skater," Callie revealed. "From the time I was eight."

"You would have been a good one," Ashton said.

"But my mother said I could be a figure skater or a pianist but I couldn't be both."

"So, you chose pianist," Ashton said.

"No, they chose pianist," Callie grumbled.

"Well, you're a good one," Ashton told her.

"So aren't you," Callie remarked.

It was the first time she had ever complimented him.

"My parents have never understood me," Callie revealed. "But I wasn't about to complain or make waves at eight."

"You're almost eighteen now."

"Yeah, too old to start trying to be a figure skater," she sighed.

"All this time I thought the piano is what you loved," Ashton commented.

"I like it well enough," she said.

"People admire you for it," Ashton pointed out.

"I got good at performing," Callie said. "Even in the play last year. How hard was it to do little else but kiss Leroy Burrows? All I had to do was walk on stage and smile and I was a hit."

"You sang that lovely song," Ashton reminded her.

"Oh, you saw the play?"

"I would've killed to been Leroy Burrows," Ashton said.

She gave him a deadpanned look. "My parents were musically obsessed so all that stuff was implanted in my subconscious growing up," Callie said. "All I heard was classical and Broadway musicals and pop rock and anything with a piano in it."

"And they dragged you to piano lessons," Ashton realized.

"It helped that I was a natural at it," she said. "By the time I was ten I was better than most fifteen year olds. My parents were enthusiastic and encouraged and I didn't want to let them down so I nurtured my skills and matured as a pianist because my parents believed in me and they had a dream so I seized the opportunity."

"Was it your dream too?" Ashton asked.

"I liked that I mattered," Callie replied. "I worked hard to please."

"You pleased well."

"You know how it feels when you captivate an audience," she said. "Mesmerize them."

"It's like a high," Ashton smiled knowingly.

"I guess music is a family value in my family," Callie remarked. "But sometimes it felt like a façade. That I'd rather be out on the ice. I tried to stay focused on my music but I needed something to keep me driven and I realized that was you."

"Me?" Ashton asked innocently.

"You're the only one in these parts to rival me talent wise," Callie admitted. "I figured I needed to knock you down and keep you there in order for me to stay shining."

She stared at him, knowing she had just confessed a sin.

"That was wrong of me," she said quietly.

"Don't worry about it," Ashton replied.

"You don't have to be so forgiving," she said.

"Why not?" He asked cheerfully. "Forgiveness is a high too."

Callie smiled. "Being forgiven doesn't feel so bad either."

"So why aren't you going to Julliard or the Boston Conservatory at Berklee?" Ashton asked.

Callie laughed, rolling her eyes. "I'm not that good."

"Sure you are," Ashton said earnestly.

"BU is good enough," She decided. "What about you?" She asked with interest. "I heard you were looking at Yale School of Music?"

"UMASS is good enough for me," he replied. "They offered a scholarship. I don't see music as a career anyway."

"What would you like to do?"

"Not sure yet," Ashton replied. "Let me get you some more hot chocolate," he said, getting up from the table with her mug to refresh it with the hot beverage on the stove. "You don't feel feverish or chilled or anything, do you?" He asked with concern as he stood at the counter.

"I'm fine," she said. "I think the dryer went off."

Ashton placed her mug in front of her and went into the laundry room, opening the dryer door and feeling her clothes. "They're dry," he announced, returning to the kitchen. "I guess you can go now if you want."

"We can talk some more," she said, taking a sip from her mug.

Ashton took his seat at the table and studied her. "There were times when I'd close my eyes when you played and it felt like I was being carried away by the music."

"I'd be much more successful if I had embraced you instead of pushing you away," Callie remarked. "But false pride gets a person every time."

"Don't give up on your music," he pleaded.

"Don't give up on me," she countered.

"I never have."

"I feel foolish for being such a narcissistic patronizing bitch," Callie confessed.

"It doesn't matter now," Ashton insisted.

"The truth is, I was insecure," Callie admitted.

He had the urge to hug her but decided not to. "You're going to be okay," he said.

"Sometimes, I'm not quite so sure," Callie responded.

There was a long pause between them.

"You know how bad we feel when we blow a note during a performance?" Ashton finally asked.

"Yeah," she said.

"Well, life is like that," Ashton philosophized. "We screw up, live through it, and then move on to the next performance because it's not supposed to be about our ego, it's supposed to be about our soul."

"We're supposed to be troopers?" Callie asked lightly.

"We keep going," Ashton reasoned.

She gazed at Ashton. "I want to fix things between us, make us new," she said.

Ashton nodded in understanding. "I'd like that."

"Okay," Callie said with relief as she stood, tossing the quilt off her shoulders and starting for the laundry room.

Ashton followed and got the clothes out of the dryer for her. When he turned around, she had removed the robe and was standing before him naked.

"My second nude scene," Callie smiled. She leaned in and gave him a kiss. "How's that, Leroy?"

"That's music to my lips," he replied happily.

She took the clothes from his hands and began to dress. Ashton said nothing as he watched and when she was fully attired, she went back to her chair, sat, and put her boots on. She glanced up at him and smiled. "We're not enemies anymore," she let him know.

"You certainly know how to break the ice," Ashton grinned. "I think we can make beautiful music together."

"The only problem I have now is what I'm supposed to call you now," Callie said as she stood. "I think I'll go with Jethro."

"Jethro?" Ashton asked with confusion.

"Don't you ever watch NCIS?" She smirked. "Leroy Jethro Gibbs." She stepped up to him and kissed him again. "Thank you for pulling my ass out of the freezing ice water, Jethro," she said. "Can we keep that part of the musical just between us?" She asked.

"Of course," he promised. "Your nude scenes are safe with me."

She smiled and headed for the back door. "I'm the Ice Breaker," she laughed as she exited their little unexpected surprise stage of life.