Pretty soon, everyone arrived at church---Alessandra, Quincy, the kids, Penelope, Laura, Mary-Anne, and Betty Jane with their husbands Lucas, Jack, and George Powell, and Quincy's friends, Peter, Jerry, and Spike. They were all one big, happy family who had come to watch Joanna's choir rehearsal. The church was slowly filling up with many people and family members who had come to watch the recital practice. Tomorrow was Christmas, the biggest day for the recital. Alessandra took her camera out of her purse, eager to take photos of her little girl in the show choir. Even Dennis, Joanna's boyfriend, was in the crowd with his family, and he gave her a little thumbs-up as if wishing her good luck. Joanna blew a kiss out to him in response.
"Doesn't she just look stunning?" Quincy said to Alessandra.
"She certainly does," Alessandra said, smiling so much that tears were running down her face. Her children were growing up right in front of her very eyes. She could not believe it, that little Joanna whom she'd spent mother-daughter quality time with when she was little, she would soon be going off to college, and here she was in show choir. Time really flew by fast.
"Aw, babe, don't cry," Quincy said to her in a whisper. "She's still here."
"At least for now," Alessandra said, trying to control her tears.
Thirty minutes later, the choir practice began. Since it was only practice, no one was acting all dramatically or creating an uproar, because the big show was tomorrow and it was Christmas Day. Then it would be a greater deal. Joanna and the other choir members sung in perfect harmony, feeling very confident and well-adjusted for tomorrow. After the show practice was over, everyone gave a round of applause. The choir members held each other's hands and gave a bow as everyone applauded again.
Alessandra came up to Joanna, gave her a hug, and said, "Congratulations, honey. You did very great today."
"Thanks, Mom," said Joanna. "I'm a little nervous about tomorrow, though."
"Well, we all have faith in you, sweetie," Alessandra said. "You'll do very well in the play tomorrow."
"Okay, but as long as none of you try embarrassing me in the crowd," Joanna said with a chuckle.
"We promise we won't, sis," Zeke said.
"So, will we all meet again tomorrow?" Betty Jane asked Alessandra.
"Yes," said Alessandra. "I believe the show starts at 12:00---isn't that right, Joanna?"
"1:00, actually," said Joanna. "The choir is at 1:00 tomorrow, and after that is the play, which ends at 2:00."
"We'll be there right on time, sweetie," Laura said to her.
Alessandra awakened to a Christmas morning the following day. In fact, it was a miracle that she had recovered in time for the holidays. She and Penelope had worked together last evening to prepare the turkey and the other meals for dinner and dessert tonight, also one way to re-create Thanksgiving to make up for the suckish one they've had. She tapped Quincy gently to wake him up. "Baby, wake up," she whispered in his ear.
Quincy turned to his right, in the direction of Alessandra, and mumbled sleepily. Alessandra tapped him lightly again. "Baby, it's Christmas. Wake up," she said in a whisper.
Quincy slowly opened his eyes and gave a yawn. "What time is it?" he asked sleepily.
"It's 10:01. We have to get to church in three hours to watch Joanna's performances, but I think we need to drop her off early so they could rehearse one last time."
"I hate doing morning stuff," Quincy groaned, then went back to sleep.
"So do I, dear. Merry Christmas," Alessandra said.
Quincy got up again, and he was in a sensual mood. He kissed Alessandra many times on her arms, gently lifted her up, and said, "Merry Christmas to you.........angel." She laughed as she gave him a kiss.
Joanna, on the other hand, was getting dressed up for rehearsals. She knew they needed a lot more time to practice before the huge performance. Penelope had offered to drive Joanna to church for her rehearsals, and while Joanna was practicing with the other members, the MacKenzies were expecting all their guests. Alessandra had invited her parents and her friends over. Laura, Betty Jane, and Mary-Anne also invited their families, as well did Quincy and his friends and their families. He also invited Jacob and his family, and their parents as well. It was going to be a full house, and fortunately, there was going to be plenty of food and gifts for everybody. Alessandra wanted to make this holiday a very special moment not only for herself, but also for the kids. Joanna would have something positive to reflect back on when she was older, and Zeke was sure to do better in school, now that he finally had a positive family life. Alessandra was hoping that this holiday would be a much better one than Thanksgiving was, and re-create this Thanksgiving to perfection. When it came to holidays, it mattered that everyone was happy.
Eventually came the time of Joanna's performance. Alessandra's parents were the first ones to arrive, who came to watch Joanna's performance. Betty Jane, Laura, and Mary-Anne also arrived with their husbands and children. Everyone gathered together in the seats while waiting patiently for the show's beginning. Alessandra was sitting between Quincy and her mother, her camera wrapped around her neck, ready to snap pictures of her lovely daughter at any given moment.
"You look beautiful today, my dear," Alexandra said to her.
"Thanks, Mother," Alessandra said as she gave her mother a kiss on the cheek. "Aren't you excited to see your granddaughter do something creative?"
"I've watched you do creativity all through your life, Allie honey," Alexandra said. "I'm sure Paul and I wouldn't mind sitting through an hour of your daughter's God-given talent."
"Show's starting any minute now," Quincy said as the lights in the church dimmed to indicate the beginning of showtime.
The choir director, Ms. Landon, spoke into the microphone and said, "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you. On this gorgeous afternoon, Grace Temple is proud to present you with our Christmas choir, and following that would be our Christmas play. So sit tight, and enjoy the show, and let's give it up for our faithful choir members!" Everyone gave a round of applause.
The choir lined up together in a single file. Joanna, being that she was a tall girl, was towering over most of the other members, even the older ones. She seemed rather confident, and her family was out there, watching her do her best. She could see that Dennis was also in the audience with his family. He gave her a wink and thumbs-up to wish her good luck, and she gave him back a thumbs-up. The choir began singing Christmas carols, and Alessandra watched with awe and delight as memories came running back to her---memories of the Dance Team in middle school and high school, the glee club in high school, the play in middle school---and Quincy had been with her every step of the way. She was also a choir girl of her own church, and you'd wonder where Joanna had gotten that from. Those sweet old memories never became old.
After the choir was over, everyone gave an applause. Now it was time for the play, which wasn't too long, of course; it was only a skit, and Joanna was the star of the show. The skit was a little funny and entertaining, but also remained true to its holiday theme. After the show was over, all the choir members held each other's hands and gave a bow, marking their remarkable performance as everyone applauded even louder. Everyone was giving each other hugs, giving out merry Christmas greetings, and Alessandra and Quincy each took turns taking a million pictures of Joanna, looking just as stunning as ever.
"You did very amazing, honey," Alessandra said, giving her a hug. Zeke gave her a high-five.
"You're very talented just like your mother," Quincy said.
"Aw, thanks," Joanna said, blushing.
"Excuse me while I go use the restroom quickly," Alessandra said.
"Take your time, honey," Quincy said. "We'll wait for you."
Alessandra carried her purse and went off to the restroom. She and another woman were the only ones in there---another woman who seemed to recognize her, for some reason. The lady came out of a stall to wash her hands at the same time as Alessandra when she cleared her throat and said, "Well, I can see that you haven't changed much in years."
"Excuse me?" said Alessandra.
"I can tell that you think you're so special and unique just because you have a child prodigy who thinks she's the star of the whole universe," said the woman condescendingly.
Alessandra became offended. "Excuse me, but I'll have you know that I have two very ambitious children who have accomplished so many great things in their lives, unlike you. What have you done with your life, other than ragging on me, a random and complete stranger? Oh, that's right---nothing!"
"Wow, it's the first time that you've ever stood up to me," said the woman.
"What are you talking about?"
"You mean you don't remember me at all? From middle school?" Alessandra did not remember many people from middle school, and she certainly hadn't seen or heard from them in a long time now.
"I went to Fort Chester Middle School," Alessandra said. "Where did you go?"
"So did I. I was only a grade older than you. Don't you remember, Allie? I was the one who'd pushed you off the swings at recess."
And then it suddenly came to her mind---this woman was Esmeralda from middle school! "No way, is that really you, Esmeralda?" Alessandra was surprised to learn that for the first time. "Wow, I almost didn't recognize you at first."
"It's okay," said Esmeralda. "It's been what, nearly thirty years now. Surprisingly, I still remember you."
"And counting," Alessandra added. "Anyway, it's great to see you again.........I think?"
"Yeah, about that playground incident---I just wanna say, I'm very sorry for pushing you off the swings. The truth is, Allie, I was never much of a people person, and I guess I always wanted to make people think I was really special---you know, worth their time. I never had that with Mary Beth. I envy you, Allie. You were always this girl who was artistically talented, and you had it all. And I had nothing at all."
"Of course you're special in your own way," Alessandra said to her. "You just never realized it. I know that you've been sent to boarding school and Catholic school, and you probably hated it, but my mother always tells me one thing---never look back on the past. You learn to move on with yourself. I didn't like the pain you've put me through, but I'm doing the right thing by forgiving you. What do you think?"
Esmeralda pondered for awhile, then said, "I suppose you're right, Allie. I apologize for my snarky remarks I've made about your children."
"Apology accepted," Alessandra said as she and Esmeralda hugged. "And Merry Christmas, Esme."
"You too, Allie," said Esmeralda. They each took one last look at themselves in the mirror, then giggled and held hands as they left the bathroom, acting like old, long-lost friends.
Back at the MacKenzies' house, it was a true Christmas celebration. The entire family and friends were there altogether, exchanging presents, sharing stories, laughing, and getting into the Christmas spirit. It was a full house. The star had not yet been put up on the tree; that moment would be saved for later, when Alessandra and Quincy were about to share their mistletoe kiss.
The younger children were playing outside in the snow, and Victoria and Daniel were outside building a snowman with them. Zeke said to Joanna, "Are you having the best Christmas ever?"
"Totally," she replied, grinning. "And what about you, little bro?"
"This is the happiest that we'll ever be, even in a million years," said Zeke.
"You're right about that."
After the pleasant unwrapping of presents, it was dinner time. At approximately 6:00, Penelope announced that dinner was ready. Jacob went outside to inform all the kids that dinner was ready, and they all came running in. Since there wasn't any more room in the kitchen, some people had to eat in the living room, but it was still a family dinner nonetheless.
Alexandra said, "Wow, this is very amazing, a turkey dinner. Allie, you and Penelope really went all out! I'm impressed."
"Well, Mom," said Alessandra, "we only did this to make up for the lousy Thanksgiving we've had. The kids deserve to be happy, and so do we all."
"She's right," said Quincy.
"I personally don't mind," Paul said with a laugh. "Besides, what's a holiday without good food?" Everyone else then laughed.
The rest of that evening was an enjoyable feast. Penelope had made her most famous coconut cream pie for dessert, and everyone had plenty to eat and plenty to talk about, one of which did not include Alessandra and Quincy's separation. For now, it was the holidays, and everyone deserved to be happy. Alessandra eventually got her chance to hang the star up on the tree, and Quincy gave her a little lift for assistance, and the tree couldn't have looked more glamorous. They even kissed underneath the mistletoe. They shared a kiss so passionate, it brought back many pleasant memories for Alessandra---memories from their teenage years, and how time flew them right by.
"Merry Christmas, Allie," Quincy said softly.
"Merry Christmas to you," she said with a grin, then they shared a hug.
"No matter what happens, we'll always continue loving the kids, won't we?" Quincy said.
"Of course, Quincy. They're everything to us. We can't lose that." And they never lost anything.
From that moment on, everything was rosy for the MacKenzies---until the 30th arrived. Quincy had finally decided that he was going to leave and move in with his brother Jacob and their children, Victoria and Daniel, while Alessandra remained at home with Zeke, Joanna and Penelope. He thought of that decision and told Alessandra all about it that morning.
"Are you sure this is what you want?" Alessandra asked.
"Yes, Allie, I'm sure," Quincy said. "And you're right---I can always come visit you guys whenever I can."
"I know." Alessandra didn't look too happy.
"Well, what's the matter, sweetie? We've talked about this for a long time. You wanted me to leave."
"I know, it's just---tomorrow is New Years Eve, and I want you to stay with me," Alessandra said. "Please, Quincy? Please stay until New Year's Day, and then you can leave. We need to spend the holidays together as a family, and that means we need you."
"Are you sure?" he asked with a smile.
"Yes, Quince, I'm sure. Please stay for today and tomorrow."
"Okay, if you insist."
"Yay." Alessandra gave him a kiss, and they both laughed.
New Years Eve was fun because Quincy had been there, and it couldn't have been a greater moment. After New Years Day, Quincy had packed up all his belongings and was ready to leave. It was a bittersweet, touching good-bye, but Alessandra knew she could learn to stay strong for her husband. The kids would be just fine, and Quincy would always come to visit them whenever he could. Alessandra had eventually gotten her script completed and published, and she made a lot of money. She also found the time to apologize to Zeke's principal, Ms. Kessler, for her childish behavior that one time, and Ms. Kessler forgave her. She'd also hired a tutor for Zeke in math and science in hopes of improving his grades and ending eighth grade successfully, and as time went by, Zeke was improving well in school and getting along better with the other students. Joanna had decided to go to Forrester after all, and study drama and music. Penelope was still working her hardest around the house, and Alessandra insisted that she give herself a break every once in a while and spend quality time with the kids. Quincy had visited the children on most of the weekends, and he and Alessandra communicated frequently. Alessandra even wrote to him sometimes, just like she used to do when she was younger---writing letters to people she still cared about. He wrote back to her too. But the best part of all was when Quincy showed up to each of the kids' graduations from school---Zeke, middle school, and Joanna, high school. Alessandra was very happy because she knew that she and Quincy had gone through many adventures together, starting from childhood, blossoming into adolescence, and even now at this moment in their lives, it had been the major milestone of a lifetime. And the greatest moment of all, in 1995, was that it was the 30th class reunion of Fort Chester High School---a major milestone of a lifetime.