“I am so disappointed in you. So ashamed! Galen told me that you should not be left alone and I should have listened to him! I should have hired a babysitter. You have no idea how ANGRY I am right now, Calvin.”
“I’m sorry, mom.”
“That is not good enough! I trusted you! You broke that trust and I don’t think I will EVER be able to trust you again. Do you understand?”
“I don’t think you do. I don’t think you know how foolish you were!”
I just stood by watching as Penny went off on Calvin like I had never seen before. Usually I am the disciplinarian, especially with Calvin. But when we walked inside she broke up the party, dragged any stragglers out of the house and stormed into Calvin’s bedroom, where he quickly decided to take shelter immediately after we we got home.
“You are grounded. I don’t even know for how long. Until I’m not angry anymore. Until I can trust you again, and believe me I don’t think that will be for a very long time.”
Calvin had nothing to respond with, he simply hung his head. He knew he was was in the wrong. He knew this time it wasn’t me being unfair toward him, because this time it was Penny who was angry. This time his punishment came not from me but from his mother.
I gave Penny some space, I had never seen her like this before, but I got the impression that this wasn’t one of those time when you try to calm someone down. When she finally came out of the bedroom for dinner she had taken a long bath and was eerily calm. I wasn’t sure if I should bring up what happened and risk making her angry all over again, but she took the reigns.
“I’m so disappointed. You were right, Galen. You were right all along.”
I felt a pang of regret at those last words. What have I been saying all along?
“I don’t know why I thought he wouldn’t mess this up. Ever since he’s been seeing Wolfgang again he’s been reckless and terrible. Just like you always said.”
That one hit me in the gut. For year I thought that I had been a good-enough for Calvin. That anything I held against him for who his father was or for not being my son was hidden enough that no one knew it but me. But clearly that wasn’t true. And if Penny knew, how must Calvin feel?
I listened to Penny talk out her feeling, but I didn’t want to respond. I was ashamed but also afraid. Afraid that somehow I would just contribute to the idea that Calvin was a disappointment.
The next day I heard something coming from inside Calvin’s room. I stood by the door and realized that he was playing on my old keyboard again. I opened the door quietly and just stood in the doorway for a while and listened. He was surprisingly good. He had always lingered around and watched me as I practiced on the piano, but he had never asked me for lessons. Never came up to me and asked me how things worked. He just would stand and watch. And listen.
And now that’s what I did. As I listened to him carefully play a song that I had just been playing the other day, as I practiced for my next show. When he finished I walked further into the room and clapped for him.
“Oh,” Calvin blushed. “I didn’t know you were here.”
“You’re pretty good.”
“Well, I’m not an expert like you.”
“I wasn’t always an expert. In fact I had hardly ever played the piano before I was randomly offered my first job here in Windenburg. You have a better head start than I do.”
Calvin smirked at that. And after that it as if the floodgates had been opened.
We started talking about our favorite piano pieces, and from there the conversation shifted. Not only did we talk about music, school, his siblings, and girls. But we got onto the topic of the party. And what had really happened.
“I know I shouldn’t have invited her over. But if it means anything I never intended to have a party. I never intended to steal your wine. I just wanted to spend time with Harley because Teresa and Viv made me so mad.”
“What you did was still wrong. But I understand. You’re a young man. Everyone when they’re your age will make stupid decisions like this. That doesn’t make it right. But I get it.”
“Why doesn’t Mom get it?”
“She’s angry. You disappointed her. You embarrassed her.” I said sheepishly. “I didn’t trust you to watch the girls by yourself, but she insisted that you could be trusted. Especially with the girls, you wouldn’t let anything happen. And then, we came home and she felt as if you had proved her wrong”
“But she wasn’t wrong! The girls were fine, even when they started the fire in the kitchen, I made sure they were safe.”
“And maybe you should tell that part to your mother. And I also think you should apologize.”
“I did-” he started.
“Really apologize. Not just in the moment after you got caught, but tell her you’re sorry. Show her you regret what you did.”
When Penny got home from work that evening, Calvin asked if I would talk to Penny for him. I told him that it wasn’t my place but I would tell her that he had something to say. After I said those initial words I left them alone.
As they talked I went inside and thought about how this would be a new beginning. Something between Calvin and me finally seemed to click. We talked like adults, and there were no feelings of anger, or resentment. We enjoyed our conversation and we connected. I was surprised at how mature he was, and I knew that Penny too would be happy to see how maturely Calvin was handling the situation.
But I was wrong. She wasn’t happy, she was even more angry. She blamed me for trying to turn her into the bad guy here. To take the backseat and and seize the opportunity to be a friend and let her be the mean parent.
I couldn’t believe it. I thought she’d be so happy that Calvin was stepping up, was being mature and seeing that he was wrong and apologizing with no promise of anything in return. And I thought she’d be happy to see Calvin and I bonding. For the first time. Ever. But, no.
The flame that had been quenched the day before had engulfed her again. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t take it.
I didn’t know what else to do, so I yelled back “I can’t believe this! I need to leave!” And I left.
Instantly I knew where I was going. Back to the campground.
I wanted to capture those fleeting feelings that I had felt just a few days earlier when Penny and I were here together.
I went to find Kennedy again, the peculiar hermit woman who had contributed to the wonder of the last trip.
But I was only distracted and nothing she said stuck, and the feelings of melancholy deepened.
For the first time in years, the woods had failed me. They had always been where I was happiest. Where I was able to put aside all other problems and connect with myself. But this time it did nothing. And I didn’t know why.
It wasn’t until I approached the same bench overlooking the water where Penny and I watched the sunrise only days before that I realized that it wasn’t the woods anymore that had the ability to make me feel that way. It was Penny.
I rushed back home and wanted to tell her how sorry I was. I thought you’d be happy and your reaction took me by total surprise. That was why I was angry. That was why I left. I love you. I love you so much.
But before any of these words could come pouring out, Penny met me and stopped me.
“I’m pregnant,” she said.