Allie had an average day at school that day---not the best or the worst, but fortunately for her, everyone learned to leave her alone and stopped making fun of her, all thanks to Quincy. She was supposed to stay after school for the Art Club, but she had better things to do, such as clearing her mind and telling Quincy and Betty Jane all about her problem. After school, the two of them met at her backyard while Allie quickly ran inside to get Miss Cuddles the therapy bear from her room. Then she ran outside, and sat on the grass with Quincy and Betty Jane. They were all facing each other.
"What is that?" Quincy asked Allie, pointing to Miss Cuddles.
"Oh, this is Miss Cuddles," said Allie. "She's a therapy bear. My therapist, Dr. MacNeill, gave her to me yesterday when my mother and I went down to speak with her."
"Oh, she's cute," Betty Jane said. "Do you mind if I hold her for some time?"
"Of course." Allie gave the teddy bear to Betty Jane, who eventually gave it to Quincy, and so on and so forth.
"Allie, you know you can tell us anything," Quincy said. "Don't be afraid. We promise we won't tell any other person at all."
"You're right," said Allie, "and my mother has been threatened that she can't tell anybody, but we're gonna someday find out who this man is, and I'm gonna need to know why he would do this to me and my family."
"What man?" asked Betty Jane.
Allie took a deep breath as she began telling about her traumatic experience. After she finished, she said, "And that's why I wish to find out who the man is. My mother claims to have seen him before, but I don't even know who he is. He sounds like bad news, and he is nothing but trouble."
"Oh, Allie, we are so sorry," Quincy said, greatly shocked.
"Yeah, that's awful," Betty Jane said, also shocked.
"Now we understand why you chose to keep your mouth shut, and I gotta admit, you did do the right thing after all," Quincy said.
"I'm sorry if I felt like I was ignoring you two," Allie apologized. "I thought it would help keep my mother safe, but it's only hurting me even more."
"I understand, Allie," Betty Jane said. "I'm sorry for being too hard on you." She gave her a hug.
"It's okay, Betty Jane," Allie said, hugging her back. "What's important is that we're all safe, and nobody's gonna get hurt again."
"Let's hope not," said Quincy. "You're still very young, Allie. Life is so much more than just all this. We need to have fun too."
"You're right, Quincy," said Allie with a smile. "Which is why I've changed my mind about the school dance. I am going, after all."
"All right," Betty Jane exclaimed with joy as she and Allie gave a high-five. "Now there's the spirit!"
"Wait a minute. You didn't wanna go to the dance at first?" Quincy asked.
Allie shook her head. "Not after witnessing what my mother had gone through. But she says I have to remain strong just for her, and I promise I won't let her down."
"You need to come to this dance, Allie," Betty Jane said, "otherwise you'll just be missing out on your seventh grade experience."
"Yeah, we're upperclassmen now, and next year we'll be graduating from eighth grade and going on to high school and stuff," Quincy said. "Time really flies fast, Allie. You'd better make the most of it before it's all gone."
Allie chuckled and said, "Definitely. I will definitely have fun with my two closest friends." Then the three of them formed a group hug.
And from that moment on, everything was pleasant for Allie. She and Alexandra had gone to visit Dr. MacNeill every weekend for an hour, and Allie found therapy to be quite helpful to getting her life back together again. While she was determined to figure out who this mysterious man was and why he was after her and her family, she was also enjoying her life as well. She began telling each of her teachers about her traumatic experience, which was the reason for her declining grades, and they understood and sympathized with her. She also told Mrs. Crawford about the traumatic experience, and Mrs. Crawford decided to cut her some slack for now. Allie was now confident and happy again, knowing that no mysterious stranger could ever take away her joy or her love for living and learning. One day, she even wrote about the traumatic experience to Gladys, Peggy Ann, and Mary Louise, and the three girls replied back, saying how flabbergasted they were and how sorry they felt for her. As time went on, everyone began to forget about Allie's moments of silence. No one ridiculed her anymore, and she gained even more friends along the way, a few of whom she'd shared the story of the experience, and she was still the most well-liked student at Fort Chester Middle School. Allie was now a happy and confident person again, and she had one person to thank for that---Quincy. He had encouraged her to never be afraid, and urged her to break her silence. He was always there for her, even at her downfall. But she also had one other person to thank---herself. She had remained strong and resilient, just like her mother. And she was certain that there was no stranger who could haunt the life out of her or her family.
Allie's birthday coincided with the school dance. It fell on the Saturday after the night of the school dance, which meant that she could invite anybody to her house for a celebration. That Friday night at the dance, she was having the time of her life she never thought she would have, had she not decided to go to the dance at all. Everyone was having such a blast, mostly Allie, only because she came with Quincy, and he was having a blast as well. Allie went up to the table of refreshments to grab a few refreshments and a beverage when she bumped into someone, and when she looked up, she saw none other than Ms. Hazel.
"Why, hello, Allie! Long time, no see," Ms. Hazel said, giving Allie a hug. It had been quite a long time since Allie had seen Ms. Hazel since she no longer took part in the Dance Team.
"Hello, Ms. Hazel," Allie said with a grin. "Don't you love my new dance shoes?" She was wearing those dance shoes Ms. Hazel had given her one Christmas.
"Oh, I see you're wearing my gift. Lucky you," Ms. Hazel said, caressing her hair.
"I love these shoes, Ms. Hazel."
"I know you would love them," said Ms. Hazel. "How's everything going for you?"
"Everything's peachy keen," replied Allie.
"That's good to hear. Are you enjoying yourself tonight?"
"I haven't had this much fun in such a long time," Allie replied.
"Yes, I can tell. I heard about your little.......incident in the family," Ms. Hazel said. "You know, Betty Jane told me earlier this week about you know, whatever happened with your mother."
"She did?" Allie was surprised that Betty Jane would tell Ms. Hazel about the family incident. She didn't really expect that, but then again, she knew that Betty Jane realized how close she and Ms. Hazel were.
"Allie, I have every right to know," Ms. Hazel said. "You told all the other teachers, but you never really told me. Did you forget, or something?"
"I suppose so," Allie said, suddenly remembering that she had forgotten to inform Ms. Hazel.
"Well, that's all right, dear," said Ms. Hazel. "I'm very sorry about that. I hope your mother is okay, though."
"She's keen," replied Allie. "She's doing fine. She is the strongest, bravest woman I know."
"Of course. She's your mother after all, you know," said Ms. Hazel. "Anyway, tell her I still ask about her and I wish her the best of luck."
"Will do, Ms. Hazel."
"Wonderful, Alessandra. Now you go on ahead and enjoy yourself tonight."
"I will," Allie said as she filled her plate with the refreshments. She was about to leave, but then decided to let Ms. Hazel know about her special day tomorrow. "Oh, and another thing, Ms. Hazel."
"What is it, Allie?"
"Tomorrow is my birthday," Allie said brightly.
Ms. Hazel gasped. "Oh, happy early birthday!"
"Thanks, I'm turning thirteen." Allie grinned. "I'm officially a teenager now!"
Ms. Hazel laughed and patted her head. "You sure are, Allie. You better enjoy it while it lasts."
"I certainly will." Allie then poured herself a cup of lemonade and then went down to her table and feast on her food.
It had been the best night of their lives at the dance, but tomorrow was an even greater day. Allie woke up that Saturday morning, feeling like an official teenager. She received a lot of birthday praises and kudos from family, relatives, friends, and even Gladys, Peggy Ann, and Mary Louise. Well, actually, Gladys had written her a birthday letter on behalf of Peggy Ann and Mary Louise.
Alexandra and Paul surprised their daughter that morning by coming to her room, holding a birthday cake and singing Happy Birthday to her. Paul blew the party horn and said, "Guess who's a big one-three now!"
"Oh, Daddy," Allie laughed, blushing with embarrassment. "You know that means I'm not a little girl anymore!"
"We know, sweetie," Paul said, giving her a hug. "But you've grown up so fast, it feels just like yesterday you were learning to say, 'I love you.'"
"Happy birthday, sweetie," Alexandra said, giving Allie a kiss on the cheek.
"Are you having a huge party tonight?" Paul asked.
"Yes, in fact, I'm making it a pool party, and anyone who is anybody is invited," Allie said. She had planned for this day for a long time---her first birthday party as a teenager would be a pool party with many of her friends invited. She loved to swim, and she couldn't think of a better way to spend her thirteenth birthday than being in the water, free from life, free from everything.
Unfortunately, there had been a change in plans. The weather called for a 50% chance of rain, and the party was supposed to be a pool party with a barbecue, just the way Allie had been planning it for years, but now that the day had come, and it was likely to rain, there was no use having the pool party anymore. It began to drizzle when Quincy, Betty Jane, and a few other kids from school began showing up at the Sampsons' house. Alexandra glanced out the window and said, "Oh, my. I guess we can cancel the pool party, huh?"
"What, it's raining?" Allie gasped as she glanced outside.
"Ah, it's just drizzle. No big deal," Paul said.
"No big deal?" Allie repeated. "Why do you say that, Daddy? You knew I wanted to have this pool party, and now it's all rained out!"
"We're very sorry, sweetheart," Alexandra said softly. "We'll find a way to make it up to you someday."
"Happy birthday, Allie," Betty Jane said, giving her a hug.
"Thanks, Betty Jane."
"We each brought you some presents," Quincy said to her.
"Oh, am I flattered," Allie said. "I can't wait to open them later tonight."
More people started showing up, and most people even brought their swimming suits with them, thinking that they would actually have the chance to swim in the water. The pool party may have been canceled, but at least there was no way they could cancel an indoor barbecue. Paul had bought the grill yesterday, and he was assisting Alexandra in the kitchen, preparing the hamburger patties and hot dog sausages, and other fruits, vegetables, and many other meals.
A few of the kids were playing outside in Allie's backyard until it began raining more heavily, and there was the sound of thunder rumbling, definitely calling in for a storm. Paul glanced outside and said, "Uh-oh."
"Allie, please go tell those kids to come inside immediately," Alexandra said.
"Okay," Allie said and ran outside without even bringing her umbrella. She went to the backyard and said to the other kids, "Come on, guys, let's go back inside now, quickly. The rain's pouring down even harder." They all went back inside together.
Mary Beth came up to Allie and said, "I thought you said that we were gonna have a pool party. I brought my swimsuit over for nothing."
"Well, it was supposed to be a pool party," Allie said, "but I didn't know it would rain."
"That's okay; happy birthday anyway, Allie."
"Thanks, Mary Beth."
Everyone still managed to have fun, despite that it was raining outside. They all played fun games and indoor activities. The barbecue was very fun, and that was seemingly the best part of the party, the food. Everyone sang happy birthday to Allie, and most people gave her gifts and presents. Allie received presents from people she didn't really expect to give her anything, especially from the other kids who used to taunt her for not speaking in over a month. Well, that was ancient history now, because Allie was a changed person now. She wouldn't let the words of some stranger frighten her. The man may have threatened her mother, but he did not scare Allie one bit.
Allie also received a check of $100 from her grandmother, which came in the mail today. Her grandmother, on Paul's side, that is. Alexandra saw that, and said to Allie, "Well, aren't you the lucky one? Your father's mother gives you a check of $100."
"I feel special already," Allie said with a smile.
"Well, you deserved it, honey," Paul said.
Eventually, the party was over. Allie thanked all her friends and classmates for coming over to her party and for giving her their presents, especially the ones she didn't like so much. The last person to leave was Quincy, and Allie hugged him for a really, really long time, almost as if she refused to let him go. He said, "Whoa, I got a special hug from you. What was that for?"
"Everything," she replied. "You made me find my voice when I thought I lost it. You made me speak up, and you stood up for me when the others were making fun of me. I just wanted to thank you in a special way."
"Oh, geez." Quincy blushed, flattered. "You know, I try." He shrugged.
"That's the greatest thing anyone's ever done for me," she said. "You and Betty Jane, you both made me find my voice and you inspired me to never be scared anymore. This deserves a hug."
"What about a smooch?" he asked, winking.
Allie laughed and rolled her eyes. "Don't push it."
"Why not? It's your thirteenth birthday; at least let it be memorable."
"Okay, if you insist," Allie said, and she and Quincy were then caught in a loving kiss. The one that marked the beginning of her life, because thirteen years was a milestone worth celebrating.