The next day, Alessandra was still out cold as usual. Quincy gently and carefully carried her, and laid her down on the living room couch. Penelope went to the kitchen to give him an ice pack to place on Alessandra's forehead. "There we go," said Penelope with a small smile. "All cooled up just for her."
"Why, thank you, Penelope," Quincy said. He put his hand on Alessandra's heart, as if he were trying to see if she still had a pulse. Fortunately, she still did.
Zeke and Joanna arrived into the picture. Zeke whispered to Quincy, "How is she doing, Dad?"
"She's doing just fine," Quincy replied. "She still has her heart rate."
Joanna and Zeke each took turns putting their hands on their mother's heart. They were relieved to find out that she was doing just fine.
Since the day Allie got pushed off the swings at recess time by the two mean girls, Esmeralda and Mary Beth, Allie had been scared to death and reluctant of going back to school. She did not want to face those mean girls who just turned her life into a living nightmare on the playground. It was a Monday morning, Allie was buried underneath her covers, refusing to wake up. Alexandra came into her room and said, "Allie sweetie, you've got to get up. You don't want to be late to school on your third week, do you?"
Allie shook her head, without saying a word. Alexandra asked, "Well, why not?"
Allie pointed to her knees with the bandages on them, in reference to the accident on the playground on Friday. "Oh, Allie," said Alexandra. "It probably won't happen again."
"How do you know that?" Allie asked.
"Because sweetie, a mother knows everything." She patted her on the head. "Come on, sweetie, just give it another chance today. Do you promise me?"
Allie thought about it for a while, then said, "Okay, Mama, I promise."
"Good girl. Now you go on and get dressed right now."
A few minutes after Allie was fully dressed up, she started heading off to school, when she made a brief encounter with Quincy next door. He ran up to her, and said, "Hey, Allie. I haven't heard from you all weekend."
"Hey, Quincy," Allie said, suddenly feeling a tad ashamed of herself.
"And you left very early on Friday afternoon before I could talk to you."
"I'm sorry, Quincy."
"Well, I just wanted to say, I'm sorry about the way those two girls pushed you off the swings at recess. Are your knees getting any better?"
"Yeah, I suppose."
"I'm really sorry, Allie. You did not deserve that thing to happen to you."
"I didn't know you cared." Allie gave him a smile. "Thanks for caring, Quincy."
"Of course I do, Allie. What are friends for?" Quincy said. "You're my best friend, and I won't let anyone get away with hurting you."
Allie giggled, feeling flattered. She was fortunate enough to have a friend like Quincy, someone who actually cared for her, and was willing to do anything to make her happy.
And back in reality, Alessandra was smiling so much, she did her very best to suppress her laughter. She was thinking of all the happy memories she and Quincy had once shared, what Quincy used to mean to her, and all that. Zeke, who was in the living room, watching television, noticed this. Penelope came into the living room, carrying a dust cleaner, dusting all the rooms in the house to make it look nice for the holiday tomorrow. Zeke said to her, "She's really living the dream, eh?"
"I suppose she looks rather amused about something," Penelope replied.
Quincy and Joanna also entered the living room, and Quincy asked Penelope, "How's she doing so far?"
"She looks very happy," Penelope replied. "That's kind of unusual."
Joanna then came over by Alessandra, put her hands on her mother's, and said to her in a sotto voce, "I promise to never go off to a party or any other event behind your back without asking for your permission. I promise that I would never do anything to hurt you, Mom." She gave her mother a kiss on the cheek as tears ran down her face.
Zeke also came over and held Alessandra's other hand, tears also running down his face. "I promise that I will start behaving better in school, and not get into anymore fights. You can trust me on that, Mom," he said to her gently.
Joanna and Zeke were then caught in a comforting embrace, doing their best to comfort each other. "We've got to stay strong for her," Zeke said, and Joanna only nodded in agreement.
"God will grant us a miracle, children," Penelope said optimistically. "I just know it."
Allie tried to put on a brave face, doing her best to avoid Esmeralda and Mary Beth as possible. Whenever recess time approached, Allie always tried to hold back from going to the playground, for fear that the same thing would happen again. Through that week, Allie avoided going to the playground, and even tried to skip recess altogether. Even Betty Jane was starting to become a little worried about her, and the other girls were beginning to wonder whether Allie was available or not.
Betty Jane was saying to a few girls, "She's gotta learn to stand up for herself. She's too soft."
One girl, named Suzy Ann, said, "Well, one thing I know for sure---Esmeralda is the creepiest girl in school. She can get anyone and anyone at all to be her little 'sidekick.'"
Another girl, named Angel, said, "If Allie wants to try and stand up to Esmeralda, let's wish her good luck, otherwise she'll have her face and neck broken."
"Not to mention, her butt kicked," added a girl named Carolyn, giggling.
"Well, that is not gonna happen," Betty Jane said. "Wanna know why? 'Cause I am gonna teach Allie how to be assertive." She smirked.
The three other girls giggled. "No fooling, Betty Jane?" asked Suzy Ann.
Betty Jane nodded with assurance. "No fooling. Allie is my best friend, and I know her really well. I just know that she doesn't take trash from anybody. She's a human being who deserves to be treated like one."
The four of them were together in the school gym for after-school Dance Team lessons, along with a few other students. Initially, during the time of its history which originated as early as the late nineteenth-century, the school had a Dance Team that was intended for all girls only, all the way up to the 1940s. Then as the 1950s approached, the Constitution demanded that the school allow both boys and girls to take part in Dance lessons and other activities as well, forcing them to break the gender stereotypes and other kinds of stereotypes. Allie had been urged by Betty Jane from time to time to take part in Dance class.
Earlier that week, Betty Jane was convincing Allie to join the Dance Team. "You've just gotta join the dance team, Allie. You're gonna regret not taking this kind of chance."
"I would love to," Allie said, "but I don't know, Betty Jane. What if Esmeralda and Mary Beth decide to join as well? They're gonna humiliate me more than ever. They're gonna laugh in my face and tell me I'm no good."
"You always think about the worst, don't you? Oh, come on, Allie, don't try taking the fun out of everything!"
"I am not; I'm just........being careful, that's all."
"Allie, please, you need to give things a chance," Betty Jane said, "otherwise you won't get anywhere in life if you don't put yourself out there. Now think about it."
And since then, Allie had been conflicting with herself about joining the Dance Club---should she, and risk running into more trouble with Esmeralda? Or should she not join, and feel that she is missing out on one of the greatest things in life? Eventually, she reached her final decision---join the school dance team, no matter what it takes. Even if it meant running into those two bratty girls again.........
That Friday, Betty Jane and the other kids were waiting for dance lessons to begin by the instructor, Ms. Hazel, when Allie walked right in with confidence. Ms. Hazel said to her, "Hello, welcome to the Fort Chester Dance Team." She shook hands with Allie. "Have I ever seen you around here?"
"No, I don't suppose so," Allie replied. "I'm a new student here. My name is Alessandra Sampson."
"Why, hello, Alessandra," said Ms. Hazel. "Again, I welcome you to the Dance Team. Every year near the end of the school year, we put on a talent show in which we as members of the Dance Team take part and perform an act for the whole school right on stage in the auditorium. It sounds very fun, and I am glad that you have decided to become a part of our team."
"It sure does sound like fun," Allie said, suddenly beginning to wonder what would happen, had she refused to join the dance team. It was another way she could make newer friends, and show Esmeralda and Mary Beth that she wasn't really afraid of them anymore.
"Of course it does, sweetie," Ms. Hazel said to her. "Now come on, join the club, and let's get ready to do some warm-ups!"
After Dance lessons were over, everyone started making their way home. Allie had made quite an average impression today; she wasn't exactly the best dancer, but she wasn't too bad, either. In fact, she had wanted to learn ballet when she was five years old, after watching performances on television or on summer vacation trips to Broadway. And the best part of it all was, surprisingly enough, Allie did not run into Esmeralda or Mary Beth just as she'd feared. She and Betty Jane were walking home now, and Betty Jane said to her, "So, what made you change your mind?"
Allie shrugged. "I don't know, really. Mostly it was because of what you said---I would regret it if I don't try new things."
"Well, Allie, think about it," said Betty Jane. "You love to draw and paint, and drawing and painting are part of Art. Dancing is art, too. Anything that involves you acting creatively is art. Art allows you to express yourself, and so does dancing. So, wouldn't it make sense to conclude that dancing is art?"
Allie chuckled and said, "I never realized that. You're right, Betty Jane."
"See? You can be artistic while dancing." Betty Jane patted her back.
"I suppose that dancing is now my new hobby," Allie said.
"And you've got me to thank for that," Betty Jane said with a wink, becoming a little boastful.
"This is my way of thanking you," Allie said to Betty Jane, then reached out her arms to give her a hug. They hugged for what seemed a long time.
That evening during dinner, Allie was telling her mother all about her fun day at school today, due to the fact that she joined the dance team. "I joined the dance team, Mother," Allie was saying. "And Betty Jane was the one who talked me into it. Isn't she just the keenest thing you've ever heard of?"
"Wow, that's marvelous, sweetie," Alexandra said, giving Allie a hug. "Paul, are you hearing this?" she called out to her husband in the living room. Paul was in the living room, watching television and reading a newspaper, while smoking a pipe. Alexandra, on the other hand, was setting the table up for dinner.
"Yeah, yeah, exciting news. Dance team, wonderful," Paul replied back, making as if he were fully paying attention.
"Daddy, I joined the school dance team for the first time," Allie said, running up to him with excitement. "Betty Jane talked me into it."
"Well, she sure sounds like such a swell girl, that Betty Jane. Don't she?" Paul said with a chuckle.
"She certainly is," replied Allie with a huge grin.
Paul ruffled her hair affectionately, and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "I'm so proud of you, sweetheart. Deciding to do something fun. It's a very good way for you to get involved and make as many new friends as possible."
"You're right, Daddy," she said.
"Keep it up, doll."
And many days went by, as Allie continued to dance---with the Dance Team, and even all by herself in her bedroom, practicing all the moves that she had learned. Allie danced like she had never danced before, and pretty soon, it became a new hobby of hers, other than writing in her diary and taking a dive in her pool alone. Aside from painting, and reading, and writing, she had found a new way to express herself artistically---through dancing. And it was all thanks to Betty Jane.
Pretty soon came December, and every year at Fort Chester Middle School, the Dance Team always put on a performance for the holidays before the holidays arrived. It was a very important show, which was out in two weeks from now. After-school rehearsals were becoming a little more intense as the time was flying by rather quickly. Allie, considering the fact that she was a new-timer, felt a little nervous about learning all these dance moves. She wondered how she was supposed to get any of these moves correctly within just two weeks.
Betty Jane reassured her, saying, "Oh, don't worry about a thing, Allie. All you have to do is just follow my lead, do exactly as I do. That's all there is to it."
"But can't you come practice with me sometime?" Allie asked. "I really think we should learn it together."
Betty Jane thought about it for a minute, then said, "Alright, I'll make a deal to practice with you after school tomorrow." Tomorrow was Friday, and in two weeks from Friday was the Christmas performance.
"Why not today?" Allie asked.
"'Cause I'm busy, that's why. Now, have we a deal or not?"
"Deal," Allie replied.
Ms. Hazel entered the gym room, carrying the radio, and plugged it to the wall, and started off with an announcement. "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen." Everyone said good afternoon to Ms. Hazel. "Now, as you can tell, we have a huge holiday performance coming up in two weeks from tomorrow---the 20th, to be precise. Therefore, we will be meeting every single day after school for this whole week, as well as next week, and every day for the third week---from Monday through Thursday, that is. On Friday morning, we will have our dress rehearsal, our final rehearsal ever before the big event at 9:00 p.m. that evening, so I expect those of us who want to participate in this event to please show up promptly so we can get through all the things we need to get through before the show. If anyone does not wish to participate in this event, you don't have to. But otherwise, I need your full participation and dedication, which means no fooling around, no inappropriate behavior, and try getting along with your fellow teammates, otherwise you will be excluded from the team. Is that clear?"
"Yes, Ms. Hazel," everyone replied.
"All right. Wonderful," said Ms. Hazel. "Now let's begin learning newer steps." She turned on the radio and demonstrated the moves that everyone would learn. "So, you just put your right leg up like this, and your left leg up, and........"
Everyone attempted to follow Ms. Hazel, who was going slowly to show them every move. Betty Jane was imitating Ms. Hazel, and Allie was only imitating Betty Jane, just to follow her lead, that is. But unfortunately, Allie made a huge mistake following Betty Jane's lead, because Betty Jane was no better than Allie; they were both just amateurs. She accidentally kicked the legs of another girl standing in front of her, right next to Betty Jane. "Ow!" the girl cried in pain. "You kicked my leg!" she said, pouting at Allie.
"Oh, I'm so very sorry. Really, I am," Allie apologized.
Ms. Hazel turned off the music. "What is going on back there? Daisy?" she said to the blonde girl, whom Allie kicked.
"Allie kicked me." Daisy tattled.
"She said she was sorry," Betty Jane said, defending Allie.
"Okay, let's all calm down," Ms. Hazel said. "Alessandra?" she said to Allie.
Allie came up to the front. "Yes, Ms. Hazel?"
"Alessandra, you've been really great for the past few weeks, months even. Now can you please try to maintain that goodness until the Christmas show?"
"I will try," Allie said, trying her best to be confident, despite sounding a little hesitant and dubious.
"Keep trying, and if you want to, practice with somebody so you'll learn it quicker and better," Ms. Hazel advised.
Allie nodded to show that she understood. Then she went back to her spot.
"Okay, now let's take it back from the top," Ms. Hazel said, and that's when the most unexpected thing happened. She was about to turn on the radio when someone walked into the gym room, and said, "Excuse me, but I want to try out for the Dance Team."
"Welcome to the club, sweetie," said Ms. Hazel to the person. "Okay, you'll go back there." She pointed to anywhere in the back, and it took Allie three full minutes to realize that the person was none other than Mary Beth---sidekick of the infamous school bully, Esmeralda.