(2018-12-13) All Apologies, Part 1
Under the guise of a promised guitar lesson, Calvin invites Wren over and unloads his deepest shame. Wren gets answers to questions she didn't know she had.

For the sake of sanity, Calvin sends a car to Wren for her second guitar lesson. The first was in the store, after hours, in one of the classrooms. It was cut short when Calvin was called away for a family emergency. Minor car accident, a delay in picking up his father from chemo. Typical family chaos. Cal promised to make it up to her and it seems to start with the car. A luxury black sedan with heated leather seats and a ride so smooth, she might be floating.

It's only good sense to pick her up as Calvin lives on the edge of Starkweather Ranch, far past the ranch's main gate. His paved driveway is set off the road in a way that one can't really see it unless they know to look. A short ways down is a tall locked gate to match the tall, foreboding fencing. A keen eye will notice multiple small cameras, included two in the trees. The gate unlocks with a heavy clunk and swings opens to more winding pavement in the forest. Finally, the trees give way to a clearing and in that clearing is more than Calvin's 'modest cabin in the woods'.

Calvin lives in a stunning luxury 2-story log home. There is a three car garage, a paved, snow-free front drive (It's heated!). There are huge windows in the front, revealing rustic sitting rooms. The front porch is massive with luxe seating and swings. With the sun setting, the home is lit up, bright, warm and inviting.

The double doors in the front open and Calvin peers out. He grins and steps out onto the porch to wait for Wren. He's dressed in his usual sort. Plaid. Jeans. His feet are bare but he's at home. His posture is tight. Arms crossed, shoulders in. Or he's just cold.


Oh, Wren will have not held a thing against Calvin for things exploding. Prior to that the man will have found her to be rather… chipper… and for the second installment of 'Wren Learns How To Play Guitar' she will arrive in a similar mood. Something must have happened in her simple life to warrant this light in her eyes, as of late. But it's not all due to shifts in her personal life… she's happy to arrive here, too. Sure, a bit nervous; not only was it a Big Deal to Wren to be picked up in a vehicle other than her cranky old truck, but to take the lesson in Calvin's home?


If there's anything making Wren nervous, it's putting forth a good, respectful appearance. The door to the sedan opens up to produce a girl who is utterly, absolutely spellbound. Dark eyes take in everything: that three car garage alone is the size of if not BIGGER than her grandparents' cozy home! Finally her head pivots upon a slender stalk of neck to look upon the impressive log homestead and for a few seconds, standing there with her guitar case slung over her back (wallet, keys and books kept in the front pouch) Wren can only marvel. When the door opens and Calvin greets her, she is broken out of her trance.

She's wearing tight black and red plaid leggings and a slightly oversized black tunic-style winter coat. Hair pulled up and back into a ponytail, cinched with a red ribbon. Eyes fill her face. "Y-your house is amazing..!" Is all she can chirp out. "Oh my goodness!"


Calvin laughs. "Thanks. It took a while to design and build. It's more house than I need now but, eh." He waves her in and steps aside for Wren to enter the foyer. The double staircase draws the eye right away with its solid build of wood and stone. Above are massive skylights that show the darkening skies and the beginnings of stars. This far out, he must be able to see the whole milky way through them. Calvin takes her coat and hangs it in a small coatroom to the side of the entryway. "When I started designing this house, I expected people would be around, like, all the time. When it was finished, it wound up being just me here. Come on this way, the music room's just down this hall. Oh. Bathrooms. Two down here." He points them out. One by the music room, another by the kitchen. A glimpse of that is enough. One can see the granite countertops, dark wood and glass stovetop from the foyer. "I have minibars all over with water and snacks. Another leftover from another time." Now, the music room.

From the front, this should be a sitting room. But no, this is the room behind it. This is where the magic happens. It's huge, to begin with, floor to ceiling windows that look out into the backyard. Along the other walls are glass cases with Calvin's awards. The Grammys. The Emmy. The Oscar has it's own special case, complete with lighting and a plaque. The rest of the wall space is for the gold and platinum records that he's amassed. While the room is mostly open carpeted space and some of the plushest couches and chairs you'll ever sit in, the main event in decor is the black antique grand piano. A few other instruments sit in the open center space. A drum kit and various guitars on stands. Calvin circles the room, closing the curtains before taking a seat on one of the sofas. He doesn't call for Wren to join him right away. People usually like to look around first.


The girl blushes as her coat is taken and if Calvin even gives the garment a onceover, at the collar where one might find the tag and size of said coat, it can be seen: Men's medium. Second hand. Not even a ladies' coat! Somehow though the bulky thing suits her and the shirt beneath is perhaps the 'newest' thing that Wren owns: a pretty black peasantry-style blouse, long sleeve, that suits the tights. Black and red are her colors. Her green eyes lift to look at the skylight, darkened at this hour, and even then her artist's eye finds plenty to admire. A little twitching of the corners of her lips into a shy smile. "It's amazing.. it's the biggest cozy house that I've ever seen." Blink, she looks at Calvin. "I mean.. sure, you could fit a crowd in here… but the way you have it set up, even if you're by yourself.. it's still comforting. If.. that… makes sense."

Now she's rambling. Nervous Wren does that. It's just so nice here and she is not used to this nice. She looks and listens attentively as she gets the quick tour on their way to the music room, taking care to keep the guitar case close to her body.

In allowing Wren to look at her leisure, as she stands in profile and gawps at the awards, for a split second she resembles Celia to a T. Something about the shape of her profile. "Fwhoa—" She exhales, wrenching herself away from the accolades to pad over toward the gorgeous antique piano. She looks, does not touch.

".. incredible." The girl breathes. She has so many questions.. so many.. but wouldn't they be too personal? Wren looks up, "I never would have dreamed of even standing in front of something like this."


Calvin stands, looking flushed. That moment when she looked like Celia did something to him. His expression seems a little down as he walks up behind Wren. "You can touch it. It's…it belonged to Grandma Starkweather. Music goes way back. Her mother taught her. She married up into the Starkweather family and bought this piano, second hand. She would teach my mother to play and then, then I was ready, she sat down and taught me. Every song I've written has begun on this instrument." He sighs. "So, go ahead. Sit." He pauses and his eyes go soft. "Please?"


And poor Wren is none-the-wiser! Did she notice the sort of.. shift in Calvin? Maybe it's just due to reflecting upon the importance of this beautiful piano. Wren seems to enjoy the backstory and looks touched by the time Calvin encourages her to sit down. "That is so brilliant… to be able to trace the music so far back. I really.. honestly can't see a scrap of musical talent in the family that I know of." She even mentions her mother, "I don't think mom's ability to play the spoons after a glass of wine counts." She tries to stir humor into what is still a very hard topic for her. So close to Christmas. She's still counting the months since they planted Celia.

Ahem. Wren looks surprised, "A-are you sure?" THe soft look in the musician's eyes decides her and Wren very carefully folds herself down to seat herself upon the bench in front of the piano. Though she flusters briefly, "U-unless you meant a sofa?" She glances toward her guitar case briefly, remembering the 'something else' that she brought along for Calvin, for Christmas. For his kindness. But that can wait.


"Bench. Scoot." Calvin gives her a gentle bump and sits beside her. It's a wide bench, surely meant for two anyway. "Spoons count." He smiles and winks. He reaches out to the keys and pauses. He lets out a little breath and starts to play Debussy's Clair de Lune. "This…is the first classical song I heard and wanted to learn. I'd played other classical pieces and a lot of music in church but I heard this and I begged my mom to teach me. She pulled down one of her many music books and told me to teach myself. A test, you see. She didn't even watch me practice. No corrections from her. If I got flustered and left, she didn't fuss. Didn't have to. I always went back. It was just me and Dex the day I aced it. He was sitting where you are now." He exhales. Christmas is hard for him too. "The lights. Shit, Dex, how'd you let me forget?" He mutters. "Anyway…Dex liked those fat colored fairy lights. He put them everywhere. Including the piano. It should have lights by now but…I've been busy." He swallows and he finishes the song. "There won't be a lesson tonight, Wren."


It's nice to just sit there, even if Wren doesn't reach out to touch the keys. She indeed scoots to allow for Calvin to join her and she's used to him enough, by now, to not be flustered or shy. He trusted her enough to take up a guitar and that was enough to solidify Wren's own comfort level in-turn. So politely, she sits, she listens.. and watches. She's just so good at sitting still and upright; a natural poise. That didn't come from Celia, who was dynamic and always in motion, a bit of a fidgetter. Wren blinks once, twice; the third time a bit harder at being told whose spot she is sitting in right now. A tiny little furrow to her brow, "I think he'll forgive you that. You have a lot going on." She tries to offer helpfully.

Wren smiles again but doesn't interject much more.. she is a good listener, beyond others her age. Dark eyes flit downwards to watch Calvin's fingers move across the ivory. The song ends and with it, Wren is informed of the plans changing. "Oh..? U-uhm.. it's fine—" But he sprung to bring her out here; made all that effort. Why? The question shows in Wren's eyes briefly but there is mostly concern. "I-is everything ok? With your family?"


"Yeah. Yeah. Um…" Calvin sits there for a moment, eyes away. Calvin has the stillness. At work, when he thinks no one is watching and he's just flipping through a book or swiping around on his phone. And here, at the piano. Of course, all of that goes out the window on stage. But in these quiet moments, Calvin has a similar poise. He takes a deep breath. "In the fall…" He begins, trails off and shakes his head. Now, he turns, straddling the bench to face her full on. "In the fall of 1998, I had just finished a tour. I end all the US legs in Denver. Make a big deal about coming home." He pauses and mutters. "Don't get sidetracked, Cal." Beat. "After the shows, I came home. Here. I needed the break and intended to stay through the holidays before going back to Austin, which was home base."

"I met Celia when she waited on my table. I had been drinking and I wasn't…the most polite patron ever. I was twenty-three and she was pretty and I was using every line I could think of on her. Short of mentioning my success because it was kinda obvious." He takes a moment to take another deep breath. His speech picks up a little speed now. "I tipped very well and snuck my number between the bills. She found me in the parking lot to give it back. Oh, man, did I like that. I asked her out right then, promising her I wouldn't drink and I would act like a gentleman. She took me up on it. We had a few weeks of fun. We had chemistry but…I was still kinda wild and she was too hometown for my fancy ass. We broke amicably. Two or three days later…she told me she was pregnant." And Calvin stops there, looking at Wren, forcing himself to look at her face.


She's expecting to hear about how his folks are doing, or something along those lines. Things DID kinda blow up for Calvin for a bit! But then he's seated upright and straight, just like Wren as she watches him. Even then she doesn't make the connection; how could she?

Then Calvin begins his tale. Something in Wren's guts.. deep down in the subconscious part of her, maybe that portion of brain matter that scientists claim humans haven't even tapped into yet… it's hard to explain. It's like a part of her that has always been looking, wondering and searching… even though Wren herself never bothered… it's being answered.

She is now listening to a tale that her mother had never told her. When Celia fell pregnant and raised her daughter, she never dated again. Oh, there were prospects; she was right pretty. But she just never.. did. Wren never asked questions. But now the questions she thought she never needed the answers to — for her mother told her that she and her birth father had an 'agreement'; an understanding — … are being answered.

Her lips form a moue of astonishment.. drop into a quavering line for a half-second… she musters herself, her expression is as calm as a lake at nightfall. But her eyes are huge.. she's watching Calvin's face now. To her credit Wren doesn't look away even as her guts and her brain and everything in between scream at her. A realization. "S-so you.. you're my.." She asks, her voice dry. Her skin, already fair, gets a touch paler but it's the pure shock of it all.


"So…" Calvin decides to continue the story. He can't let it stay inside anymore. "I flip my shit. I didn't want kids, like ever. I always used protection. Always. But condoms fail." He shrugs slightly. "I told her she had to get an abortion. I'd pay for it. I'd gone back to Austin early but Dex was still in town. He would go with her to the clinic. It would be fine, I said. I begged." Calvin can't look at Wren anymore. His blue eyes fix on the piano bench. "Celia…I can see her now. She was a strong woman. She didn't argue with me. She told me very plainly that she was keeping her child and that if I wanted nothing to do with it, that was fine with her. I didn't believe her and flailed a bit more but she kept assuring me that it would be fine. My lawyer drew up some paperwork to relieve me of financial obligations. His idea. He didn't want her suing me if I really hit the big time. I'd just been nom'd for the Best New Artist Grammy. We mailed it. She signed it and sent it back." He pauses again and swallows. "When she gave birth, I heard she didn't name anyone on the birth certificate. I was relieved and…went on about my life as if I—" His voice cracks, his careful poise dissolves. "…As if I didn't have a little girl named Sasha Wren back in Calaveras. B-B-Because…as far as I was concerned and as much as I cared? I didn't. But..Dex…oh, christ, Dex didn't forget. He allowed me to forget but he never did."

"So, to answer your question, Wren. Yeah. It's me. I'm…I'm your sperm donor."


To Be Continued….

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