Alessandra MacKenzie was in her office at the filmmaking studio, writing a new screenplay when her secretary came into her office and announced that she had a phone call. "Mrs. MacKenzie, you have a phone call," said her secretary, Peggy.
Alessandra answered the phone, thinking it was from Quincy again. "Hello, what do you want?" she replied with lack of enthusiasm.
"Mrs. MacKenzie, I'm sorry to bother you at this time," said a woman's voice, "but this is Ms. Kessler, the principal of your son Ezekiel."
"Nice to meet you, Ms. Kessler," said Alessandra. "How are you doing?"
"I'm fine, thank you. Now I would like to speak to you, concerning your son Ezekiel."
Alessandra sighed. "Oh, no, did Zeke get into much trouble again?"
"I'm afraid so, Mrs. MacKenzie. This has been approximately the third time Ezekiel has gotten into confrontation with another student. Now I understand that he really is a sweet kid at heart, but the only problem is, I have a hard time believing that.........so maybe if you would just have another talk with him, then that would be better. Otherwise, I'm afraid that I must have him expelled. Is that clear, Mrs. MacKenzie?"
Alessandra didn't know what to say for a moment. Surely, she knew that she had been the cause of her son's mischievous behavior in school lately. Zeke was only in the eighth grade, and eighth graders hardly ever got into trouble. But the major problem facing the MacKenzie family was domestic abuse. Alessandra and her husband Quincy were constantly at odds; Quincy was more abusive, physically and emotionally. He had violent temper problems, and Alessandra always blamed him for their children's misfortune. Just like right now---she blamed Quincy for teaching their son to act violently in public, rather than acting like a mature gentleman. She did not believe in violence, not one bit.
"Yes, Ms. Kessler," Alessandra replied. "Uh, thank you for contacting me. I will surely deal with it when I get home this minute."
"Thank you, Mrs. MacKenzie," said Ms. Kessler. "I appreciate that very much." Then she hung up.
Alessandra sighed, suddenly wishing that she were in hell right now. It was a minute to 3:00, the time that Zeke and Joanna were dismissed from school. She had to go pick up Zeke now, because it was Friday, and Zeke never had baseball practice on Fridays. She said good-bye to all her employees and went off into her car and began driving to Fort Chester Middle School, where Zeke attended. The school was precisely nine blocks from Joanna's school, Fort Chester High School. Those were the two same schools that Alessandra and Quincy had attended, where they both met for the first time---well, not exactly at school, but more like during the summer, actually. Alessandra had been the new girl in town after moving into Maryland from her birth place, Boston, MA, and she had moved right next door to the MacKenzies where she and Quincy had become neighbors for the first time. It seemed like rather a long time ago, but it was only during the summer of 1957. They became the closest of friends, eventually they became more than that---and now look at where they were now.
Ah, sweet childhood memories. Alessandra sighed with nostalgia as she thought of all those memories of when she and Quincy actually meant something to each other. Now here she was, a 47-year-old living in the mid-1990s in Maryland, with an abusive husband and two normal children who could be good if they wanted to, but were brought up in acts of violence by Quincy MacKenzie.
Eventually, she arrived at the front of the school, with other kids waiting for their rides home as well. She rolled down the window and called out to her son, "Zeke, it's me! Come on in!" She waved to him as well.
"See you, Chester. See you, Lester," Zeke said, greeting his friends before he started running to the car. "Hello, Mom," he said, smiling sweetly.
"Ezekiel MacKenzie, I am so disappointed in you," she said.
"Well, geez, Mom. Can't we start off with a proper greeting first?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. Hello, Ezekiel MacKenzie, I am rather disappointed in you. Your principal called me to say that this is the third fight you've been in. You really need to get a better control of yourself, honey. She's going to expel you if you don't start acting right."
"I'm sorry, Mom, really I am," said Zeke. "But you see, it wasn't entirely my fault. Chester and Lester's cousin, Dick Goodall, completely humiliated me in front of Sondra, my crush, during Art class. I was trying to paint a picture of a rose for her, but then Goodall comes from nowhere and starts messing up my picture and such. I had to get my comeuppance."
"How, by shoving him in front of the whole classroom?!"
"Well, yeah.......and also spreading a rumor that Goodall is an orphan."
"Oh, Zeke, Zeke, Zeke," Alessandra said, shaking her head. "Zeke sweetie, someday you'll learn that violence is never the answer."
"Really, 'cause Dad always says it is."
"So, if your father tells you to use violence as a way to get your own way in life, will you really listen to him?" Zeke noticed a hint of cynicism in his mother's voice. "From now on, I don't want to hear this, 'Daddy said so,' nonsense coming from you or Joanna. Is that clear?"
"No buts, Ezekiel. I really mean it." Alessandra was strict now. "If you argue with me one more time, I'm afraid that I will ground you for one week. No TV, no playing with friends, nothing. Do you follow me now?"
"Yes, Mom," Zeke replied.
"Okay, good boy." And the rest of the ride home was silent. Unfortunately, home wasn't the most pacifying place to be at the moment because Quincy was there, and whenever Quincy was around, trouble would start. Quincy was in the living room, reading a newspaper while watching a sports channel on television. Their house maid, Penelope, was doing Joanna's hair.
"Hi, honey, how was work today?" Quincy said to her in a sort of friendly way.
"Don't give me that," she said, disgusted with him. "You know, you're the reason why our son is at risk of being expelled from school."
Quincy scoffed. "Me? Do you hear yourself, Allie? Why don't you learn to listen to yourself before blaming other people for your own actions?"
"My actions? Well, excuse me that I don't bring up my children to act like.......like homicidal monsters whenever they are out in public, and have other people look down on them! Excuse me for bringing them up to act like respectable young adults. You know, Quincy, I get paid twice as much as you do, I have to get to work every single goddamned day just to think of new ideas for movie scripts, write something down on paper---curse that stupid, goddamned typewriter you gave me last Christmas---and I have to drop the kids to and from school every single day, while you just sit down on your lazy ass watching some stupid-ass sports channels and reading stupid-ass news in the newspapers that nobody could give two fucks about! And you're telling me that I have to listen to myself? If anyone needs to learn to listen to themselves, that would be you!"
"I thought that the typewriter would make your life a lot easier." Quincy was also raising his voice. "I'm sorry that my so-called present gave you such a hard time."
Alessandra shook her head. "This is not just about the present, Quincy. The thing is, I don't know whether or not that all the things you do for me are just because you love me. In fact, I don't think you do at all."
Quincy wanted to say something, when Penelope came into the living room, showing them Joanna's braided hairstyle. Joanna was going out tomorrow night for a pre-holiday party, and she wanted to look her best. "Well, hello, you two lovebirds," Penelope said with a smile. "What do you think of Jo-Jo's new hairstyle now?"
"Charming," Quincy muttered without looking up.
"You didn't even look," Alessandra said to him. To her daughter, she said, "That looks just lovely, dear. What's the occasion?"
"Oh, I forgot to tell you, Mom," said Joanna. "Uh, our school does a pre-Christmas party every single year, only this time, it's a huge important event for all the seniors, which I am, of course. And it's tomorrow evening at 7:00, so I was wondering if it's okay with you that I go?"
"But I thought you promised me that you would help me and Penelope set up for Thanksgiving," Alessandra said. "We've planned this a long, long time ago, sweetie. I don't know. You should ask your father."
"Oh, I already asked him, and he said yes," Joanna said with a grin. Alessandra then turned to glare at her husband.
"Oh, is that so?" asked Alessandra cynically.
"Yeah, I predicted that you would say no, so.........yeah, I just sort of went along with it," Quincy said with a casual shrug. And this was one of the reasons why Alessandra hated Quincy now---they always contradicted each other, when it came to their children. Whenever Zeke or Joanna would ask Alessandra something, and if she said yes, then Quincy would say no to them. And if she said no to the kids, then Quincy would say yes to them. He just liked making her feel bad; that's one way he was emotionally abusive toward her.
"But you know that Joanna was supposed to help us set up for Thanksgiving." Alessandra's level of patience had been gone for a very, very long time now. "Don't you take the holidays seriously anymore?"
"Allie, the kids are growing up; they don't need to help you set up for all the holidays every freaking goddamned year," said Quincy.
"So, you just decide to let our daughter go to a party behind my back without consideration for whether or not I would approve?"
"Allie, please; you're giving me quite a headache right here. Just stop talking for one minute."
Alessandra was just irritated with him, and Penelope said calmly, "Okay, okay, I'll settle this dispute once and for all." She laughed. "You two sound just like myself and my husband when we've been married for 25 years. Unfortunately, Samuel is now dead." She sighed with nostalgic as she began thinking about him. "Okay, anyway, we can let Joanna go to the party, and I will help you set up for Thanksgiving, Allie."
"Oh, that's very nice of you, Penelope," said Alessandra, "but I feel that---you know, at your age, that you're doing a little much more than we expect you to do. I don't want you to feel overwhelmed, you know. Because when Christmas comes, it'll be Christmas tree shopping, gift shopping........you know, all that other stuff. I don't want you to feel too overwhelmed. I can just ask my friends to come over and help me out, you know, as a grown-up female bonding time."
"Oh, your friends, huh?" Quincy said with cynicism.
"Shut up, Quincy. So, what do you think, Penny?" Alessandra said to the maid.
Penelope thought about it awhile, and said, "Okay, if you insist. Whenever you need me, just let me know." She smiled.
"Thanks, Penelope," said Alessandra. To Joanna, she said, "Your hair looks lovely, honey. Go to this party, and call us whenever you are finished."
"Thanks, Mom," said Joanna. She was in the twelfth grade now. She went up to her room, only to have met with Zeke.
"Are they still fighting?" Zeke whispered.
Joanna nodded. "Yeah, unfortunately." The children always noticed whenever their parents had one of their little issues, and they knew it would spell trouble for their whole lives. Alessandra was always saying how she wished she and Quincy would split up, but then it never really happened. They just weren't happy together, and the children were also unhappy. The holidays would turn out to be worse this year, it seemed.
"Great," groaned Zeke. "They're gonna spoil Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year's Eve. Pretty much, all the holidays."
"It seems like Mom and Dad are never happy together," Joanna said. "Never, ever."
"Well, what are we supposed to do about it?"
Joanna thought for a little while, then shrugged. "I don't know. Nothing, I guess? But this Christmas will be the last one that I'll ever spend with you guys before I go off to college, and whatever happens, I don't want their constant bickering to ruin that for me. After all, when I get old someday, I don't want to look back and tell my future children that my last Christmas celebration I had at age seventeen was full of drama, drama, and oh, so much more drama. I mean, don't you want to have something to tell your kids someday?" she said to Zeke. "You know, something cheerful and memorable to remember from this family?"
"Yeah, I guess so," replied Zeke. "By the way, are you serious about going to this Christmas party tomorrow evening?"
"Of course. Dennis Viscenzio sent out invitations, and I just happened to be the first one he sent." She smiled proudly. Dennis was her steady boyfriend---they have been dating since freshman year. "And besides, I really do not want to help Mom setting up dinner for Thanksgiving," she lowered her voice this time. "Just between you and me, I'm using the party as an excuse to avoid the ongoing tensions and such."
"Yeah, I get what you mean," said Zeke. "I don't blame you, though. Their constant screaming gives me migraines---fevers, maybe. Ugh. If I were you, I'd want to hang out with Chester and Lester every single day. Except I can't stand their cousin, Dick. What a snob he is."
"He got you into trouble again today?"
"Yup. In Art class. You do not wanna know."
Surprisingly, Zeke and Joanna had a pretty good relationship with each other, despite their rivalry, which occurred a few times as usual. After all, when they didn't have their mother or father, at least all they had was each other. And Penelope, who was definitely part of the family as well.