The next morning, Alessandra and Quincy were in court, ready to settle their decision to part their separate ways. The judge was asking them a couple of questions, most of which Alessandra answered. The judge asked, "Okay, so which one of you wants to gain full custody of your two children?"
"I will," Alessandra replied before Quincy even had the chance to say something. "They're going to be my responsibility from now on." She glared at Quincy, and he just acted like he didn't give a damn anymore.
The judge took note of that. "Got it. And Mrs. MacKenzie, you say that you would also like to file a restraining order against your husband, is that right?"
"Yes, Judge," Alessandra replied.
"Wise choice," said the judge as he also wrote that down.
He was about to ask another question when Quincy decided to speak up. "Excuse me, Judge, but don't I have a say in any of this at all?"
"No, you don't," Alessandra said condescendingly.
"I wasn't talking to you," Quincy snapped.
"Well, you are now."
"No, you don't, Mr. MacKenzie," said the judge. "You two agreed to this, therefore the divorce is being settled as of this very moment. Along with the restraining order, that is." He grinned. "I swear, you two sound just like an old married couple; I think you'd be better off away from each other." He began laughing as he took down some more notes, and gave them some paper documents. "Now all I need you to do is sign these papers, and the divorce will be finalized by December 30th."
Alessandra and Quincy each signed the papers, and the judge took them after they were signed. "I thank you two for your time, and please make sure you are back on the 30th of next month," said the judge.
"Thank you, Judge," Alessandra said as she grabbed her purse. "And we will see you on December 30th." Then she and Quincy began leaving.
In the car ride, Quincy was riling Alessandra up. "We never really talked about settling for a restraining order before," Quincy protested. "Why do you insist on being so secretive with me?"
"Just like how you made Joanna go off to that party secretively, Quincy," retorted Alessandra. "God forbid I would have said no. Did you ever stop to think about that? Oh, wait, that's right, you don't even seem to use your head much at all!"
"Great, now we're still getting at each other's throats, even after we've agreed to sign the papers."
"Well, you started it first, Quincy. I didn't want to have this conversation with you until you brought it up. In fact, I don't feel like I'm in the mood to have any kind of discussion with you, as long as I'm alive."
"At least there's one thing we can agree on," he scoffed. "And the only time you'll ever say something to me is just so you can pester me to get this done, get that done, get the goddamned ladder repaired, and all that other junk."
"You were supposed to have gotten the goddamned ladder repaired six months ago," Alessandra said.
"So? What's the freaking deal?"
"The freaking deal, Quincy, is that maybe one of us needs to use the ladder for something useful around the house, and maybe we don't want the ladder to shake on us while we're on it. That's what the freaking deal is."
"Well, I'll do it on my own time. When I know that something needs to be done, I'll have it done on my own time, not through a million constant reminders, all right? Now please, just get off my back for once."
And from that moment on, that's how things were between Alessandra and Quincy. Sometime during the following week, Alessandra had heard from Dr. Ellen Rogers. She had been out grocery shopping, and when the phone rang, Joanna and Zeke were in the living room, watching television. They weren't allowed to answer the phone for any strangers, but Quincy was also out, spending time with his friends, so Penelope was the one in charge of the children.
"Answer it," Joanna said to Zeke as she munched on a bowl of popcorn. "It might be Mom."
"Okay," Zeke said, and went to answer it. "Hello?" He found out they were wrong.
"Hello, is this Alessandra MacKenzie?" said a woman's voice. It was Dr. Rogers herself.
"No, may I know who is speaking?" Zeke asked.
"Yes. This is Dr. Ellen Rogers. I'm a marriage counselor, and I received a call from Alessandra MacKenzie a week ago. May I know whom I am talking to?"
"Yes, this is her son, Ezekiel MacKenzie," Zeke replied. "Unfortunately, my mom's not home at the moment, and I'm not really supposed to be answering the phone for other strangers when my mom isn't around."
Dr. Rogers chuckled and said, "You sound very young, don't you?"
"Yes, I'm only fourteen," Zeke said with a proud grin.
"That's good. Okay, when your mother gets back, please tell her that a woman named Ellen Rogers called for her, and that she should call back my number so we can talk. Got it?"
"Yes, Ms. Rogers."
"Thank you very much, young man. Good-bye."
"Good-bye." Zeke then hung up.
"Who the hell was that?" Joanna asked him.
"My last sentence gave it away---it wasn't Mom."
"So, who was it?"
"A woman named Ellen Rogers. She claims to be some kind of marriage counselor or something."
"Yeah. So, here's the thing---I was the one who suggested to Mom that she and Dad go see a marriage counselor." Joanna grinned.
Zeke gasped with surprise. "No way, did you really?"
"Yeah. Apparently, she doesn't want Dad to know about it, so I think she went behind his back and dialed Rogers' number." She giggled. "Pretty sneaky, don't you think?"
"Geez, sis, I love the way you think," Zeke said. "I think they should go see a therapist. At least now we'll have less problems to worry about."
"Don't forget they went to court today to sign the papers," Joanna said. "I think they said the divorce will be finalized on December 30th."
"That's practically a month from now."
"Yeah. A month to deal with more hell and torture."
"Just between you and me, I'm really glad you're going off to college," Zeke said. "I mean, I know I'll miss you, but at least you won't have to deal with severe migraines from listening to their constant shouting, you know what I mean? You'll have it much easier, while I'll have something hellish to walk into when I get home from school each day."
Joanna gave Zeke an affectionate pat on the shoulder. "Don't worry about it, kid. You have four years to get through high school, and then you'll be out of this house in no time. And besides, I don't think I'll have it much easier either. I'll probably have a roommate who's very much a pest." They both chuckled. "Yeah, the possibilities are endless. But the good part is, you can always call me or write to me at any time. I'll always be there to listen to you, little bro."
"I'm glad. When grown-ups aren't around to listen to you, at least you have some of your friends. And I have you too, Jo-Jo."
Penelope then came into the living room, putting the bowl of fruit salad on the table. "I hear that Ellen Rogers is the best therapist in town," she said to the children. "In fact, so great that maybe from this moment onward, you won't have to hear a single peep out of your mother or father."
"Don't keep your hopes up too high, Penelope," Joanna said with a sigh. "There's probably going to be more problems than ever before."
"Thanksgiving was freaking ruined, for God's sake!" Zeke said.
"I know it was, and I'm sorry you both had to witness that," Penelope said. "Someday we'll try to make it up---one way or another, that is."
"Unfortunately, there may never be a someday," Joanna said contemptuously.
An hour later, Alessandra arrived back from the grocery store, and Penelope got up to give her a hand with the groceries. "Hello, kids," Alessandra said as she began organizing all the items she had bought. "How are you doing?"
"We're doing fine," Zeke and Joanna replied.
"Did anyone call?"
"As a matter of fact, Mom, someone did call," Zeke said.
"Did you answer the phone?"
"Yeah, I did. It was some woman who goes by the name of Ellen Rogers, and she said she wanted to speak to you."
"Ellen Rogers....." Alessandra thought for a moment until she came to the realization that it was actually Dr. Rogers. To Zeke, she said, "And you spoke with her? Why would you do that?"
"Gee, I don't know, Mom. Instincts, maybe?"
"I thought I told you that you weren't supposed to answer the phone for any other strangers, unless it's from me or your father. Speaking of which, if he were around, he'd have you answer the phone, even for a serial killer or something."
"Mom---" Joanna started.
"It's okay, Allie," Penelope said. "At least he did you a favor."
"I guess so," said Alessandra with a sigh. "I might as well just call her back."
"I'll take care of the groceries from here, and you call Dr. Rogers," Penelope said.
"Thanks, Penelope." Alessandra went to the living room, grabbed the phone, and dialed Dr. Rogers' number. She asked Zeke and Joanna to excuse her while she made the phone call. They left, and went up to their rooms.
A moment later, a voice on the other line said, "Hello? Dr. Rogers speaking."
"Dr. Rogers? Hello, it's me, Alessandra MacKenzie," Alessandra said.
"Hi, Alessandra. I received your message from last week. I apologize for not getting back to you immediately; I was out of town for the holidays."
"That's okay, Ellen---sorry if I called you by your first name."
"It's okay," Dr. Rogers said with a chuckle. "I'm always on a first-name basis with my patients. It builds the relationship."
"I agree," Alessandra said, also chuckling.
"So, is this your first time contacting a therapist?" asked Dr. Rogers.
"Pretty much, yeah. My husband and I are really going through a lot of hell right now, and I am thinking about getting a divorce, but then I suggested that we sort of meet with you for an appointment, like, let's say once a week. How does that sound?"
"That sounds just perfect, Alessandra," said Dr. Rogers. "We could meet tomorrow at 12:00 p.m. Does that sound okay with you?"
"It's perfect, Ellen. Thank you very much for your time."
"No problem, Alessandra. I appreciate you for calling me. I hope to see you tomorrow."
"You too, Ellen," Alessandra said as she hung up. She started grinning, suddenly feeling like she was at the top of the world.
"Let me guess. It was a success, huh?" Penelope said, giving her a wink.
"You bet, Penny. Now all I have to do is just lure Quincy over." She smiled deviously.
"Ooh, time for another moment of Allie's clever thinking," Penelope said lightheartedly, and they both laughed.
The next day, Alessandra and Quincy were going over to meet Dr. Rogers for their first-time visit. Quincy still had no clue about any of this, but Alessandra was doing a fairly decent job leading him on. Quincy chuckled and said, "Okay, seriously, Allie, where are we going at 12:00 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon like this?"
"I told you, it's a surprise, and if I told you now, it'll spoil the whole fun."
"Fun? What fun?"
"You'll see." Alessandra smirked. Pretty soon, they reached the front of Dr. Rogers' office building. She then got out of the car, but Quincy was still sitting there, confused. "Well, come on," she said to him, grinning.
"Where are we?" he asked.
"I'll tell you when we get inside," Alessandra said.
"No, I'm not coming out until you tell me where we are."
"Oh, Quincy, you're just being childish again."
"No, I'm not. Allie, please tell me."
"I will not tell you anything, Quincy MacKenzie. Now please do as I say and come out of this car right now, or else there's going to be more problems."
"Fine," said Quincy reluctantly as he got out of the car. He and Alessandra held hands as they entered the building.
Alessandra said to the receptionist at the front, "Hello, we made an appointment to meet with Dr. Ellen Rogers."
"We?" Quincy asked.
"Dr. Ellen Rogers." The receptionist wrote down the name, gave Alessandra a small card that had Dr. Rogers' name, address, phone number, and many other details. "Here you go, and her room number is 514, up on the fifth floor."
"Thank you very much," Alessandra said.
"Wait a second. What's going on here?" Quincy asked. Just then, he started putting two and two together as they went into the elevator. "Allie, what's up?"
"Okay, okay, you've caught me now," Alessandra said. "I went behind your back to call Dr. Ellen Rogers and ask her to schedule an appointment for us to meet with her so we can deal with all our issues."
Quincy was now enraged. "How could you do this to me, Allie?"
"Just like how you went behind my back and allowed Joanna to go off to that party!"
Quincy then took a deep breath, trying to simmer down. "Okay, we can't fight about it anymore, now that we're here. But I'm really pissed that you would do this to me."
"Oh, so it's wrong when I do it, but when you do it, that makes it okay? I don't think so, Quincy. It always has to be your way or no way at all, doesn't it? Now please shut up so we can make a really good impression on Ellen, and she can help us out."
"You should be referring to her as Doctor Rogers."
"Ellen and I are friends now, Quincy," Alessandra said, slightly smugly. "Deal with it."
"Friends?" He scoffed. "Since when?"
Pretty soon, they got out of the elevator and were now on the fifth floor. They walked over to Dr. Rogers' room number, which was Room 514. Alessandra knocked on the door.
"Geez, knock a little louder, why don't you?" muttered Quincy sardonically. Alessandra then stepped on his foot to get him to shut up.
The door opened, and there was Dr. Rogers. "Hello, you must be Alessandra MacKenzie," she said. "I am Ellen Rogers. You two, come on in, and we'll have our discussion immediately."
"Hello again, Ellen," Alessandra said, shaking her hand. Quincy also shook hands with Dr. Rogers.