Allie was having mixed emotions for the week---outrage and shock at the thought of Ms. Hazel's marriage and retirement, as well as delight about the upcoming school dance, her birthday, and graduation, and even more shock about the discovery of the man and his motives. Allie woke up in a groggy mood the next morning, and it was a rainy Monday. She could not bear to face Ms. Hazel after learning that she was leaving her for good and never coming back. For the rest of that week, Allie had been giving Ms. Hazel the cold shoulder, deliberately ignoring her presence as Ms. Hazel walked past her, waving hello to her and feeling eager to strike up a friendly conversation with her. Betty Jane and Quincy noticed this, and they did not like Allie's behavior at all.
One day after school, Quincy met up with Allie at her front porch. She was reading her book, and Quincy came up to her and said, "You know, I think you're being quite a real jerk to Ms. Hazel."
Allie looked up from her book and said, "Excuse me?"
"You heard me, Allie. This is ridiculous, and it's so unlike you to behave this way. You're almost fourteen years old, and you're throwing a temper tantrum over your favorite dance teacher for having a life---having the life that you'll dream of having someday. Everyone grows up and gets married, Allie. There's nothing you can do to put an end to it, but Ms. Hazel was always your friend who'd stood by you, and this is the way you treat her just because she's leaving."
"If you were on the Dance Team with me and Betty Jane, you'd understand how close Ms. Hazel and I really were," Allie snapped. One thing Allie disliked was being told when she was wrong, but then again, she never knew when she was wrong nor did she admit to being wrong at first.
"But now that she's leaving, she's not your friend anymore? Do you even hear yourself, Allie?"
"Why are you taking her side? You were so nice to me last week, and all of a sudden, you think I'm an awful person."
"No, Allie, I don't think you're an awful person and I'm not taking any sides. I'm just saying, this is so unlike you to behave so childishly. It's great and all to have a favorite teacher, but throwing a fit about it isn't helping anything. It won't stop her from leaving, you know. Ms. Hazel is a grown woman, just so you know."
"Yeah, I realize that," Allie said cynically.
"So what in the world's your problem? Acting like she no longer exists."
"Well, she won't exist in my life anymore, now that she's gone off and made her own life."
"That's not true! You know, just think of her as your old friends from Boston. You still write to them, don't you?"
"Yes, I do, and what's your point?"
"You can write to her as many times as you can while she's out in Las Vegas."
Allie sighed and said, "You don't understand, Quincy. When I came here from Boston, I was the one who was doing the leaving. Back in Boston, I didn't really have a teacher I could consider my favorite, but when I came here for the first time, I've finally found someone whom I could relate to, and that is Ms. Hazel. I haven't really joined the Dance Team since three years now, and now that she's leaving---I don't know how that feels for me. It doesn't feel very good."
Quincy thought about that for a moment and then said, "I understand how you feel, Allie. It's not such a swell feeling to have someone you're really close to leave you. But Ms. Hazel is still your friend, you know. She will always be, no matter what. Tomorrow, you need to apologize to her."
"Because it's the night of the dance, smart one. You need to apologize to her, otherwise you'll get in huge trouble. And when you're ready to act your age, you know where to find me." Quincy then took off without saying another word.
Allie groaned with frustration, then angrily threw her book onto the ground.
The next day was Friday, and everyone was talking about the upcoming dance tonight. Allie knew she had to apologize to Ms. Hazel, and just when she was going up to do just that, Ms. Hazel had asked her to meet with her in the gym after school was over. Which Allie did.
"Hello, Ms. Hazel," Allie said, not sounding too excited.
"Alessandra, I think it's time we've had a talk," Ms. Hazel said. They both sat on the floor across from each other.
"Alessandra, I am not too fond of the way you've been treating me this whole week, pretending as if I didn't exist," Ms. Hazel said. "Do you suppose it has something to do with my getting married?"
Allie knew she couldn't lie to Ms. Hazel. Ms. Hazel was her only friend, and she couldn't bear the chance to lose her for no reason. "Yes, Ms. Hazel," she replied. "I feel that it's rather sudden, you know."
Ms. Hazel smiled and said, "I understand how you feel. I have been seeing this man for six years---make that six summers." She chuckled, and Allie was feeling a little better as well as she thought of the time she and Quincy had met a few summers ago. "Allie, you know that you are my favorite Dance Team student, and I love my job as the Dance Team instructor. But you need to understand that we all have our own lives, and just because I am not here anymore, it doesn't mean I don't exist in your life anymore. I still do, and I always will. I'll always come here to visit you guys whenever I can. But this is my choice, my life, and I will definitely miss you. I know you will miss me too, won't you?"
"I will miss you very much, Ms. Hazel," Allie said with a smile.
"I know you will. And I will be here to watch all of you graduate. I'm not getting married until after the week school is over, so I'll definitely be here to watch you graduate, Allie."
Allie grinned. "Gee whiz, will you really?"
"Now don't get your hopes up too high; you'd best be on your best behavior, you know," Ms. Hazel said with a chuckle.
"I'm sorry for my rude, distant behavior," Allie apologized.
"That's okay, Allie. I understand how you feel. We'll always keep in contact somehow."
"I'm gonna write to you every day," Allie said, "and that's a promise."
"And I look forward to writing you back."
"I write to my friends from Boston a lot, and they're always very glad to hear from me."
"I'm certain that they are. You just pretend that I am your friend from Boston, and you write to me whenever you can."
"I promise, Ms. Hazel," Allie said, and they both shared a hug.
"By the way, how is your mother doing?" asked Ms. Hazel. "Just out of curiosity."
"She's doing just peachy keen," Allie said. "We don't often talk about that man anymore. We still don't know who he is."
"Well, as long as your mother is doing all right, then that's what truly matters," Ms. Hazel said as she affectionately patted Allie's head.
That night at the dance, Allie attempted to help Ms. Hazel create as many fun memories as possible before she was leaving for good. She and Ms. Hazel were having their own girl-bonding moments together, although she had come with Quincy, and she promised Quincy that she would treat Ms. Hazel with a little more respect. Allie offered to pour a drink of lemonade for Ms. Hazel, which she did, and a flattered Ms. Hazel said, "Oh, thank you so much, Alessandra. You didn't need to do this, but thanks anyway."
"I wanted to do it," Allie said. "I want you to be happy."
"Thanks, dear." Ms. Hazel gave her a hug. Then Allie went off to join Quincy and Betty Jane sitting at the table, eating some food.
"I see you two have already made up," Quincy said to Allie.
"You're right, Quincy; I wasn't really on my best behavior, huh?"
"No, you weren't," Betty Jane and Quincy said at the same time.
Allie laughed and said, "Well, I don't need you two to rub it in my face."
"Ms. Hazel was amazing," Betty Jane said. "The best dance teacher we've ever had. God knows who would ever take her place."
"There will never be another Ms. Hazel," Allie said with a whimsical sigh. "Never ever."
"At least you've got me for now," Quincy said to Allie. "I'm not going anywhere."
Allie gave him a hug and said softly, "I don't want you to leave me. Ever."
The discovery of the man was eventually made---and at a worse time too---on Allie's fourteenth birthday, and a week before the eighth grade graduation. Since the man lived in the same neighborhood, Paul was reading all about the man's recent crime in the local newspapers. He was arrested for shoplifting at the grocery store, along with his wife as the accomplice. Paul read the article and eventually made the realization that this man seemed somewhat familiar, and then suddenly, it hit him.
Alexandra came into the living room, holding a tray of two mugs of coffee, one for herself and one for Paul. She got up and put the two plates of roast beef sandwiches and napkins on the tray, and returned to the living room. "What are you reading about?" she asked Paul.
"Read this entire article," said Paul. "The face should ring a bell to you."
Alexandra didn't even read the whole article but glanced at the man's picture on the front cover to make the sudden discovery that this particular man was the one who had threatened her at the mall that one time. She gasped. "Paul.........it's him! He's the one!"
"What are you talking about, sweetie? Was he the one who---" He knew what she was going to say. "He was the one who had.........?"
"Yes, he had forced himself upon me and slapped me, threatening me not to tell anybody. It's him, Paul, it's him!"
Paul skimmed through the newspaper article and said, "Well, he obviously lives around the corner, in case you wanted to know that."
Alexandra gasped, flabbergasted. "What? He lives in our neighborhood?!"
"Yes, 'Mark Hudson' lives around here," Paul said, putting air quotes around Mark Hudson to imply that the man was using a fake alias. "Don't you remember John Alvatraz, Alex? He has a history of using many fake aliases, Mark Hudson being one of them. I mean........"
Alexandra was starting to think now. "Wait a minute. John Alvatraz, Reverend Franklin Alvatraz---John Alvatraz is the brother of Reverend Frank Alvatraz! That's it!" she exclaimed. "Reverend Frank was the man who had married us, Paul. And this is John, his younger brother. He's had a history of crimes and mental issues. Remember what Reverend Frank had told us when we met him for the first time?"
"Oh, that's right," said Paul. "He said that when he and John were very, very young, they had been molested by their housekeeper. Their father, Victor Alvatraz, the wealthiest billionaire in the state, had committed suicide when he found out he'd gone bankrupt, and that was when Reverend Frank was about thirteen or fourteen---somewhere around Allie's age. And John had been nine years old at that time, so their mother Alice hired them a housekeeper who would care for them. She was willing to give her boys away to the hands of another complete stranger."
"It was none other than........Blanche Stewart," Alexandra put in. "The most evil woman in the history of the world. She molested the boys, and encouraged other neighbors to take part in torturing them and doing other horrible things. Long story short, I think they both tried to escape her. She was eventually convicted of child abuse and molestation. I am still curious to know if she's still alive now."
"I doubt it, sweetie. Nobody's ever said nothing about her in years. Anyway, I think Reverend Frank and John's past has caused them to act a little mentally unstable. Especially John---he's had about twenty aliases over the years. And that trauma that he faced from childhood was perhaps the reason why he came onto you, Alex, and threatened you out of your life. The man is nuts, and he still needs psychological help. He needs a mental institution instead of a prison."
"Well, we'll let the judges be the judge of that," Alexandra said with a smile. "Today is Allie's birthday; she's a big one-four, and that's worth celebrating."
"You're right." Paul wrapped his arm around his wife. "Need we tell her that we already know who this man is?"
Alexandra shook her head. "Nah, there's no need to spoil her childhood anymore. I think we should let her continue to be young, innocent, and naive." They both chuckled.
And of course, they did not tell Allie any information about the man but allowed her to celebrate her fourteenth birthday in peace and pleasure with the invitation of her friends and such. The best part of that day was when Allie received a birthday card from Ms. Hazel in the mail, the card which read: "Happy 14th birthday, Alessandra. I will miss you with all my heart when I am gone. Love, Hazel." Allie practically cried with joy as she gave her mother a hug. Allie had a lot of fun on her birthday, but another special event worth crying for was the eighth grade graduation. It was a bittersweet moment for all the students at Fort Chester Middle School, and Allie and her classmates were officially known as the Class of 1961.
After the graduation, everyone met in the cafeteria for refreshments as usual, and the best part was that Ms. Hazel had been there just as promised. Allie ran up to Ms. Hazel and gave her a long, warm hug. "Thank you for being here, Ms. Hazel," Allie said as tears ran down her eyes. "Thank you for standing by me all through these times. And thank you so much for that birthday card that you sent me."
"You're very welcome, Allie," Ms. Hazel said softly, hugging her as well. "I couldn't have asked for anything much better."
"I wish you tons of good luck at your wedding and your new life in Las Vegas."
"Aw, that's the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me, Alessandra. And I wish you tons of good luck in high school. You know, I definitely see a lot of potential in you and Quincy."
"You really think Quincy and I will go steady someday?" Allie asked, smiling.
"Of course, dear. I do believe in true love at first sight, after all. You and Quincy certainly have a chance with each other. But you'll never know unless you try."
"You're right," Allie smirked.
"And you'll always remember those dance shoes I gave you for Christmas, won't you?"
"Of course, Ms. Hazel. I promise you I'll never give up on anything at all."
"Wonderful. And you can always write to me whenever you can, whenever you have any problems."
"I promise," Allie said with a smile. Then she winked and said again, "I promise."