The next day was Thanksgiving---which was supposed to be a time of giving thanks and showing glory, but as for the MacKenzies, that was not the way things were. Alessandra and Penelope were working together all that morning setting up the tables and putting out the meals that Alessandra and Betty Jane have prepared, and just one more thing was needed in order to make it all complete---the turkey. Both Alessandra and Quincy's parents are coming over for dinner tonight---along with Quincy's younger brother, Jacob, and his wife and their two children. Basically, it would be a full house.
Quincy said to Alessandra, "Allie, I know that you really hate my guts and all, but just for the sake of our parents, can we please, please, please just try to act like one big, happy family? You know, pretend?"
"Quincy, you and I have been 'pretending' for years, so just forget it," said Alessandra.
"Oh, come on, Allie," he begged. "Please, can't we try being a little nicer to each other until the holiday's over, and then we can go down to the court and do our thing?"
"No, Quincy," she said sharply. "You don't care about me? Fine; I think it's time that our parents learned the truth and see what's really going on, and who you really are. They deserve to know, and I intend to show them that."
"If you two ruin my final Thanksgiving before college, I may never speak to you guys ever again, just so we're clear," Joanna said.
"Yeah, me too," Zeke said.
"You're in eighth grade, Zeke. Toughen up," Quincy said as he took a bite out of an apple.
Alessandra scoffed. "Yeah, that's what you tell our fourteen-year-old son who is at risk of getting expelled from school---toughen up. 'Cause when the going gets tough, the tough get even tougher. Right, Quincy?"
"Joanna and I are going shopping at midnight," Zeke said happily. He knew that they weren't really allowed to go Black Friday shopping; they just wanted to do anything to avoid the constant arguments.
"Not even in a million years," Alessandra said cynically.
"This time, I agree with your mother," Quincy said, and Alessandra realized that that was one of the first few times that Quincy ever took her side on anything. "It gets dangerous out there that late at night, and people tend to get all aggressive and such."
"On second thought, you two go out and have as much fun as possible." Alessandra decided to play the Quincy game. "But be sure that you're back by 6:00 a.m."
"Okay, then," Joanna said dubiously. Zeke just shrugged.
Before the arrival of the family members, Alessandra went in private to dial Dr. Ellen Rogers' number she had found in the Directory book. After she dialed, she waited for what seemed like a minute or two for the ringing to stop, until a woman's voice on the other line said, "I'm sorry, but the person you contacted is unavailable at the moment. Please leave a message, and someone will get back to you shortly."
Oh, great, Alessandra thought to herself. Maybe Dr. Rogers was out of town, but who knew? This was the first time she was contacting a marriage counselor. Reluctantly, she decided to leave a message. "Hello, Dr. Rogers, this is Alessandra MacKenzie speaking. I am calling on behalf of my husband and I that we schedule an appointment to meet with you because we clearly have a lot of problems we need to discuss with you. If I ever hear back from you again, please call me back at 555-520-0600. Thank you very much, and I really hope to hear back from you."
Just then, Penelope walked by, holding the vacuum to clean up the living room before the guests arrived. She smiled and said, "Who was that you were talking to just now?"
"Uh......no one?" Alessandra replied.
"Oh, come on, Allie. I know these things. Are you calling up your friends and telling them what a son of a bitch Quincy is?"
Alessandra laughed. "No, Penelope. Actually, I was calling Dr. Rogers. Dr. Ellen Rogers, that is. She's supposedly the best marriage counselor ever. Joanna suggested that Quincy and I see a marriage counselor, and two of my friends, Mary-Anne and Laura, recommended her to me. I called her, and she didn't answer."
"Oh, I think she's stepped out of town for the holiday," Penelope said. "You should hear from her sometime next week."
"I hope so," Alessandra said. "Another week of hell, and I may just shoot myself."
"Don't do it in front of the children," Penelope said jokingly, and they both laughed.
Pretty soon, all the grown-ups started arriving at 5:00. The first to arrive were Alessandra's parents. She opened the door for her mother and father, and Alexandra said to her, "Happy Thanksgiving to all," as she gave Alessandra a hug.
"You too, Mom," Alessandra said. "Kids, give Grandma and Grandpa a hug," she said to Joanna and Zeke, who got up and gave their grandparents a hug.
Quincy shook hands with the Sampsons, and Alexandra said to him, "So, you were the one who's been giving my precious little treasure a hard time, aren't you?"
As much as Alessandra appreciated her mother having her back, at the same time, she didn't want her mother to embarrass her. She and Quincy had decided to go along with the plan to act friendly with each other until the day was over. "Mother, please---" she started.
"Uh, I don't know?" Quincy answered uneasily.
"You should be ashamed of yourself, young man," Paul said to Quincy.
"Uh, who wants to watch a movie while we wait for Quincy's family to arrive?" Alessandra suggested, trying to distract the tensions that would soon arrive.
"Good idea, Allie," Penelope said, also going along with it.
They watched a movie for ten minutes until Quincy's family arrived. Alessandra got up and opened the door Ned, Barbara Jane, and Jacob MacKenzie, and Jacob's wife, Dolores, and their two children, Victoria and Daniel. "Hello, Happy Thanksgiving," Alessandra said, greeting them.
"Thank you, Alessandra," Barbara Jane said to Alessandra, giving her a small, affectionate kiss on the cheek. Victoria and Daniel, who were twins, looked around Zeke's age, maybe even a few years younger, but they were still very young.
Daniel said to Zeke, "Hey, do you mind showing me your room?"
"Oh, yeah. Come on, let's go." Zeke took his cousin's hand as they went up to his room, now leaving Joanna alone with Victoria. Victoria was shy, quiet, and a little reserved, and she hardly ever said more than a single word.
"So, what grade are you in?" Joanna asked her.
"Seventh," replied Victoria. She always answered in incomplete sentences or one-word answers.
"Are you excited to be on break now?"
"Pretty much. Yeah."
"Wanna come with me down to the basement?" Joanna asked.
"Sure, why not?" Joanna took her cousin's hand as they went down to the basement, which left Alessandra, Quincy, Penelope, and their parents in the living room together.
"Anything is better than watching a boring movie as a forced family togetherness," Victoria said, and Joanna realized that that was the first time Victoria had ever said more than one word in a long sentence. She probably wasn't that shy, after all.
"I feel you," said Joanna with a chuckle. "If you and Daniel lived here with me and Zeke, trust me, you'd know exactly what we're going through right now."
"Jo-Jo, when two grown-ups who supposedly love each other very much fight so much, do you think it's because they don't love each other anymore?" Victoria asked. She was curious for a young child.
"You see, Vicky, I really don't know," Joanna said. "I'm not much of a grown-up myself, even though I will be shortly, so I don't really understand them as much. They say they love each other, but I think the only problem they have is learning to trust each other."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," Victoria said. "That must feel awful, having to grow up in that kind of household. At least my mom and dad love each other."
"You're a lucky one, and so is Uncle Jacob."
"Yeah, I guess I am." Victoria smiled.
Upstairs in Zeke's room, Zeke and Daniel were having quite the similar conversation. Daniel said, "So, you've been getting into a lot of trouble at school lately?"
"Yeah, and I think my grades are dropping down the toilet too, come to think of it," replied Zeke. "I just can't help it, though. They're so wrapped up in their own little problems, they don't realize they have children whom they're supposed to be encouraging to do their best. Mom has never told me lately to do my very best. All she ever says is, stay out of trouble, and that's it."
"Wow, you should be lucky that my mom and dad always encourage me and Vicky," Daniel said. "No offense, cousin."
"But even though I'm a grade younger than you, I realize how difficult middle school can be. You just gotta hang in there, and just go with the flow of things. That's what Dad tells Vicky and me."
"He tells me to pick fights with other kids, that's all he ever says," Zeke said.
"That's awful. Grown-ups don't do violence."
"I'm with you, Danny," Zeke said in agreement.
Unfortunately, that Thanksgiving turned out to be the worst, and it was no surprise at all, either. Alessandra and Quincy realized that they could not go on pretending that everything was rosy between them, and so far, there was no happy ending. Barbara Jane MacKenzie said to Joanna, "Joanna, what are your plans for the future, sweetie?"
"Well, Grandma," replied Joanna, "I want to go to college, of course, but I'm still having a hard time deciding whether I want to go to state or local."
"That's okay, honey," said Ned MacKenzie to her, ruffling her hair affectionately. "You'll have all the time in the world to decide that."
"I think she deserves to go to state," Quincy said, just for the hell of it. Alessandra knew that she and Quincy always had a disagreement over this topic---which colleges the kids would eventually attend. Quincy wanted the kids to go to state so they could visit whenever they could, while Alessandra wanted them to go to local so they could be a little closer to home. Of course, it was vice versa every now and then, but Alessandra and Quincy always loved to contradict each other.
"Well, I think our daughter is old enough to make her own decisions, and we should support her," Alessandra said to him.
Quincy scoffed. "Yeah, like having her decide to help you prepare the Thanksgiving meals was Joanna making her own decisions, huh?" There was a trace of sarcasm in his voice.
The tensions were gradually arising, and everyone else could sense it. Zeke and Joanna couldn't have felt more humiliated, but then again, it was no surprise because everyone knew that Quincy and Alessandra couldn't get along very well.
"She agreed to help me, Quincy, until you poisoned her mind by allowing her to go to a party behind my back," Alessandra retorted.
"Allie sweetheart, can you please pass the gravy?" Alexandra said to her, doing her best in contributing to putting an end to the dispute.
"Sure, Mother." Alessandra handed her mother the bottle of gravy.
"Okay, I apologize for that," Quincy said, "but you should also learn to take a joke, you know? Why on Earth would I offer a beer to Joanna's boyfriend? Of course I know he's underage!"
The four adults gasped, very shocked to hear that. Alessandra then snapped, "I don't know, Quincy. You tell me."
"Okay, this is ridiculous," Quincy said. "Don't you realize that we're fighting right in front of our entire family?"
"Wow, you sure are very observant," Alessandra said cynically. "Really, because for a minute there, I thought we were on a talk show discussing marital issues!"
Finally, Joanna decided to speak up. "All right, that is enough! Jesus, you two are such living nightmares, even living in this house is becoming a nightmare for me and Zeke. Right, Zeke?" Zeke nodded in agreement. "Really, fighting on Thanksgiving Day? You know, this was supposed to be such a great moment for me, especially since I'm going to college next year, and it's too bad I have to spend my last holidays in this house getting all caught up in World War III right here. I really thought we were destined to create the perfect family memories, something that our future children will reflect, but you guys are making it impossible. When I turn eighteen, I'm definitely moving out, and I'm taking Zeke with me because I cannot stand another minute of any of this. Also, I'm starring in the Christmas play, and I don't need anyone or anything to ruin that for me!" She was the first person to be excused from the dining room. She ran all the way up to her room and slammed shut the door.
"When I get expelled, what do you think that'll look like on my permanent record?" Zeke asked Alessandra and Quincy. "What'll schools like Harvard or Yale think? That I'm a no-good failure at life? This is preposterous, and this is not how I want to spend my holidays." He also went up to his room and isolated himself as well.
Victoria and Daniel were just speechless, but then again, they were very young---too young to understand family drama. Dolores said to Victoria and Daniel, "Kids, just be grateful that we raise you two in a more comfortable and friendly home environment. This is exactly what I feared, Jacob. The holidays are ruined."
"They can't be ruined, not with the pie that I've helped Allie made," Penelope said, trying to enlighten up the mood.
"I think we are good for now, Penelope," Barbara Jane said. "We could skip dessert, and have it any other time. Isn't that right, Ned?"
"Yeah," said Ned, awkwardly.
"Congratulations, Allie, you just ruined Thanksgiving," Quincy said accusingly.
"How on Earth did I ruin it? By refusing to play along with the fact that we're living 'happily ever after'?"
"That's precisely how you ruined Thanksgiving."
An hour later, the four adults were getting ready to leave. Alessandra thanked them all for coming, especially her parents for coming over as well. "I'm very sorry you two had to witness that," she said to them apologetically. "We're just not happy together."
"Sweetie, we understand," said her mother, hugging her.
"It's not your fault, Allie," Paul said. "Well, anyway, happy Thanksgiving and good night." Then they started leaving.
"You showed your true colors in front of our whole family," Alessandra said to Quincy, "and you've made our children ashamed of us. You know what? First thing tomorrow, we're going down to the court and we're settling this once and for all."
"Don't forget to pack your stuff, just in case you want to be the one to leave," said Quincy sardonically.
"Actually, if anyone needs to go, it's you. And I'll be taking the kids with me, and not only that; I'll also file a restraining order against you so you can't get anywhere near me or my children."
"That's right, Quincy. They're not your children anymore; they're mine for now. And I'm gonna make sure that Joanna gets into a very good college, and Zeke stays in school and maintains his grades and acts like a gentleman, and won't have to go to summer school."
"Keep dreaming, Allie," said Quincy. "Keep dreaming."
And thus, Thanksgiving night was ruined. It had been the worst Thanksgiving of 1994, and Alessandra couldn't remember the last time they had a worse holiday celebration.