Pretty soon, the whole week flew by right in the blink of an eye, as Allie stayed after school each day to practice with the Dance Team. Rehearsals were getting more and more intense by each passing moment as the show was coming up next week. This week, all the members were trying out their costumes for the performance. Because it was a Christmas holiday-themed type of performance, the girls were to wear green dresses, and the boys were to wear a red shirt with a pair of black slacks---and of course, some dance shoes as well, so as to complement with the Christmas colors.
On Monday afternoon, after classes were over, the Dance team members were trying on their dance costumes. All the girls were in the locker room, trying on their dance costumes. Ms. Hazel was also with them, providing assistance when needed. Allie was struggling to put on her dress, and Ms. Hazel came over and said, "Would you like a hand there, Alessandra?"
"Yes, please," Allie said as Ms. Hazel helped her put on her dress. It felt a little tight on her. Perhaps Ms. Hazel had inadvertently ordered the wrong size for her. She was a Size 7.
"Oh, my," Ms. Hazel said. "I must have ordered the wrong size for you. What size do you wear?"
"Seven," Allie replied.
"I'm sorry, Allie. Can you please forgive me? I was doing all this in the spur of the moment; I kept thinking that the show was this week instead of next week. I've been really busy after school lately, you know."
"It's okay, Ms. Hazel," Allie said with a smile.
"Can the rest of you ladies fit into your costumes just fine?" Ms. Hazel asked the rest of the girls.
"Yes, Ms. Hazel," every girl replied, except for Allie.
"Okay, perfect," said Ms. Hazel. To Allie, she said, "Here's what I'll do. I'm going to return this dress back to the store and then try to order a newer one in your size this time. It may take a little while, but please learn to bear with me, okay, Allie?"
"Okay, Ms. Hazel." Allie nodded.
"Good girl." Ms. Hazel patted her on the head.
During that week of intense dance rehearsals after school, Ms. Hazel's order of Allie's dance costume was already delivered to her doorstep, which she would give to Allie when she saw her. Allie had been seeing and hearing less and less of Esmeralda, which was a huge relief to her. One day, she was reading outside by the pool of her backyard when she saw Quincy next door coming up to her. He sat down next to her on the grass and said, "Hey, how's it going with you?"
"Fine," she replied.
"Is that a good book?" he said, trying to keep the conversation flowing.
"Yeah, I find the character of Nancy Drew to be quite fascinating," Allie said.
He smiled and said, "So do I. What a coincidence, huh?" He chuckled, and so did she.
After another moment of silence, Quincy said, "So, I hear that the big show is coming up next week."
Allie groaned as she put the book down. "Don't remind me, Quincy. I have been rehearsing pretty much every single day, and I feel very sick to my stomach."
"Ah, relax. You're probably just nervous."
"I am nervous."
"What for? I'll tell you what for! Performing in front of everybody---everybody, Quincy! You, my parents, a couple of friends, the whole school, all the grown-ups, Esmeralda. It's gonna be one spooky night for me!"
"Oh, come on, you're just exaggerating. And besides, why are you bringing up Esmeralda? She hasn't even done a single thing to you in a week now."
Allie sighed. "Yeah, I guess you're right. But she really hurt me, Quincy. I can't expect to face her if she's in the audience, going to make me feel bad about myself and mess me up. I don't wanna quit, but just thinking about her makes me feel tempted to quit."
Quincy hated seeing Allie feel so down, and he certainly didn't like the fact that she was going to quit. "You shouldn't really care what other people think," he said. "You should follow your own heart and do what you want to do. You gotta have faith in yourself, Allie. I know you can do this. And I'm not just saying that only because I'm your friend and I'm trying to cheer you up. I'm saying it because I mean it. I have a lot of faith in you, and you should definitely have some faith in yourself as well, otherwise you'll never get anything accomplished if you don't think you can do it."
Allie was awestruck by his words of encouragement. "Wow, Quincy, that was.........just wow," she said.
"You know you can do it, Allie. You've been doing all that hard work practicing every single day this week. It's too late to back out right now. If I were you, I'd just keep going, and I won't let anything stop me."
"I guess you're strong in that way," Allie said, smiling.
Quincy shrugged, a little modest now. "Ah, well, I'm just trying to be nice. That's what friends do, you know."
"I know," Allie said. Suddenly, she felt this urge to come up to him and give him a great, big hug. Which she did. "Thank you, Quincy," she said softly as he hugged her back. Just then, she did the most unexpected thing that she never thought she would do---she kissed him! Allie gave Quincy a friendly kiss on the cheek, and even she couldn't believe she had just done that. Quincy, on the other hand, didn't even seem to mind. But Allie was shocked that she had just kissed Quincy. What was she feeling ashamed about? She knew that Quincy was crazy about her. Was she not crazy for him too?
"Whoa.......what was that for?" Quincy asked. He was amazed.
"I---I'm sorry, did I frighten you?" Allie asked, feeling unnecessarily ashamed of herself for kissing him.
"No, no, of course you didn't! Don't be silly, Allie. I really liked it."
"You did?" She smiled again.
"Yes, I do." He held her hand as he made eye contact with her. "I really do, Allie. You're a very amazing girl. How do you like it here in the state so far?"
It was the first time in forever that someone actually asked Allie how she was adapting to her new environment. Quincy was literally the first person to ever ask her about that. "I love it," she replied, staring at him affectionately, almost as if she were developing her own set of crush on him.
"Do many boys back home ever encourage you to do anything that you set your mind to?"
"No, not really much I know of."
"Well, then I guess that makes me the first guy in your life to make you feel good." Quincy smirked.
Allie giggled. "Well, technically, my daddy is the very first guy to encourage me, but I guess he wouldn't really count as a boy."
Quincy also laughed. "I love having these chances to talk to you, Allie. It's great to have a friend to talk to, don't you think?"
"It sure is, Quincy. It sure is." She was still staring at him in that way, as if she had just discovered that he existed in the same world as she did, breathed the same air, belonged in one universe together. That was a feeling that she had yet to understand, being that she was still very young. She had never felt this way before, never in her whole life, but right now could be just the beginning of something new to come.
That Saturday, Ms. Hazel had personally come over to the Sampsons' house to hand Allie her box of her new dance costume in it, this time in her correct size. Allie tried the dress and shoes on, and they fit her just perfectly. Alexandra decided to go a little overboard by taking a zillion photos of Allie in her new dance costume. Ms. Hazel said to Alexandra, "She looks very beautiful, doesn't she?"
"She sure does," said Alexandra, grinning. "Paul, what do you think?"
Paul got up and touched Allie's dress, as if he were trying to feel that it was her perfect size, and said, "Lovely. Just gorgeous, Ms. Hazel."
"Remember, Allie, practice is every day after school next week from Monday through Thursday, and our final rehearsal is Friday morning at 10:00 a.m.," Ms. Hazel reminded Allie once again. "Please be on time, especially for the dress rehearsal. Tardiness will not count."
"Yes, Ms. Hazel," Allie said.
Alexandra chuckled and said, "She's very devoted to this, isn't she?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, Mrs. Sampson, your daughter is the most devoted person on our team," Ms. Hazel said. "You've raised a talented genius right here, you two."
"Ah, she gets it from her old man," Paul said with a little laugh. "Which, if you're wondering, is me."
Alexandra and Ms. Hazel chuckled as well, and Ms. Hazel said, "Well, I must get going now."
"Good-bye, Hazel," Alexandra said, opening the door for Ms. Hazel.
"Good-bye, Ms. Hazel," Allie said as she waved to Ms. Hazel.
The following week, dance rehearsals were 1000 times more intense than that of the previous week. At this time, every member was using what they had learned in Dance class for the past few months and were putting it into action. Allie was quickly grasping the concept of each step, as well as learning more as the time went by. It was a lot of hard work---all those strenuous movements, and hoping that one person did not literally "break a leg" or even yet a bone, and suddenly, it was the 19th, which was the day before the performance.
Allie was in her room that evening after dinner, talking to Betty Jane on the phone. They were mostly talking about the upcoming performance tomorrow. Betty Jane said, "Well, this is it, Allie. Tomorrow morning is our last and final chance, so let's give it all we've got." She also sounded a little nervous.
Allie couldn't have been more anxious. "Yeah, or at least try to."
"Allie, I know you're scared---so am I, but as Quincy said, you can do it. You can't accomplish anything if you don't have faith in yourself."
"I really think Quincy cares about me," Allie said, smiling a little as she started thinking about Quincy. Her mind also drifted to that Friday afternoon when they were sitting by her pool, and they hugged, and she suddenly kissed him for no apparent reason. If she didn't know any better, Allie was developing her first experience with puppy love. "He just brings out the best in me."
"Do you really like him too, Allie?" Betty Jane asked, suddenly intrigued.
The truth was, Allie didn't know how she felt about him. "I don't really know, actually," she said. "We are very good friends, and he's always really nice to me. Did you know that during the summer, when I met him for the first time at the park on the Fourth of July, I was playing jump-rope with the other girls and suddenly, I fell down on my knees. Then Quincy comes from nowhere, puts some ointment and bandages on my knees, and he even tied my shoelaces for me! Can you believe that, Betty Jane? He tied my shoelaces for me!" Allie was so excited to share this story of hers with someone else for once. "And we talked a little bit after that. He was pretty swell."
"Wow," said Betty Jane, now really awed. "He sounds like such a gentleman, doesn't he?"
"Yeah, unlike all the boys back in Boston who couldn't even care less if I got hit by a truck or a train or something."
"You know, I have a pretty good feeling about the two of you," Betty Jane said hopefully.
"Do you really suppose he'll ask me to go steady with him someday?" asked Allie.
Betty Jane shrugged. "I have no clue, Allie, but you can always find out for yourself." She smirked, and Allie just giggled.
That night, Allie had gotten a considerable amount of sleep in order to be fully prepped up for tomorrow, which was the biggest day of her life. When she woke up the next morning, she was in an ecstatic mood, unable to contain her joy for her big night. At the breakfast table, Alexandra said to her, "Your father and I cannot wait to see your little performance tonight, Allie."
"I'm so excited, I can hardly eat," Allie said with a grin.
"You have a leg to break tonight, dear," Paul said, patting her on the back, which was his own way of wishing her good luck.
"Well, you need to eat a little quicker than that, dear," said Alexandra. "You have your final dress rehearsal at 10:00, and Ms. Hazel doesn't want any of you to be tardy."
"I won't be tardy," Allie said. "I'm always on time."
Eventually, Allie arrived to school, and at 10:00 she and the other dance members started making their way to the gym room to get into costume and have the final rehearsal before tonight. Everyone was talking excitedly among themselves about the big night while changing into costume. Betty Jane said to Allie, "Are you ready?"
"As ready as a butterfly eager to soar its wings and fly," Allie replied.
"One minor thing just bothers me, though," Mary Beth said to them.
"And what's that, Mary Beth?" asked Betty Jane.
"I wonder just what Esmeralda would think of the three of us now, you know, being together on the dance team and showing her off onstage that we're much better and talented than she will ever be."
The three of them laughed. Allie said, "I couldn't give a dead rat what she thinks of me."
"Me either," Betty Jane said in agreement.
"Neither do I," said Mary Beth with a giggle. "But did you know that she's been begging me all of last week to give her another chance? No, more like pestering, that is. She even called me about a jazillion times this week!"
"Jazillion?" said Suzy Ann to Mary Beth. "Is that even a real number, Mary Beth?"
Mary Beth shrugged. "I don't know. But something about that girl just spells creepy."
"Word," said Allie and Betty Jane in agreement.
"No fooling?" Allie asked Mary Beth.
"No fooling. I've always pushed her away, even ignoring her, or even just flat-out saying no to her ugly face."
Betty Jane gave Mary Beth a high-five. "Good job. You deserve better."
"Thanks, you guys," Mary Beth said.
"Yeah, you don't need any kinds of distraction while you're getting ready for the Dance Team performance," Allie said. "As long as we're concentrating on the performance, then we won't have anyone standing in our way."
"You're right, Allie," said Angel. Then she exclaimed, "Now let's put our hands together and show some school spirit!"
All the girls gathered together, put each of their hands on top of another, and exclaimed, "1, 2, 3, let's go, Fort Chester Middle School Dance Team!" Then they cheered and applauded for themselves.