"So, tell me, what brings you two here today?" Dr. Rogers said to Alessandra and Quincy.
They both started talking over each other about their problems with each other. Quincy started off by saying, "I wasn't actually the one who planned to have this meeting with you; it was all on Allie, just so you know."
"Why don't you tell Ellen about the way you mistreat me?" Alessandra challenged him.
"Maybe I will, maybe I won't; I just don't want you to get offended," he retorted.
"Okay, okay, let's settle down for a minute," Dr. Rogers said calmly. "Let's learn to take a deep breath first. Breathe in, then out. We'll go one at a time. Alessandra, let's start with you."
"Hold on a minute," said Quincy. "Why does she get to go first?"
"Why don't you keep your mouth shut and let me do all the talking, okay?" Alessandra said to him snappily. She turned to Dr. Rogers and said, "Anyway, Ellen, this is exactly the type of hell that I face every single day of my entire life. It's the same old stuff, and nothing ever changes."
"I see," Dr. Rogers said. "You two sound like you contradict each other a lot."
"As a matter of fact, we do," said Quincy.
"Shut up, and let me do all the talking," Alessandra said to him sharply. "Yes, Ellen, we tend to sort of contradict each other. I tell the kids one thing, and he tells them another thing. He enjoys making me look like the bad guy."
"I do not," Quincy said.
"Yes, you do, Quincy. You let the kids do whatever I tell them not to do, and you let them believe that violence is the answer to everything. Well, sorry to burst that little bubble of yours where you live, but that is not how the real world works! Now if you would just---" Quincy cut her off, and they started bickering in front of Dr. Rogers.
"Okay, silence." Dr. Rogers silenced them. "Wow, these problems are a lot more serious than I've imagined. A lot of my patients even consider divorce."
"That would be us, in this case," Quincy said, and Alessandra glared at him.
"And I know that you think divorce sounds like the best choice right now, but even though I don't really recommend that you both part your own ways on such a sour note, maybe it's time you two take a break from each other and really consider what you really want," said Dr. Rogers. "You know, just give each other some personal space for a while, and that's pretty much all I can advise you. So, if you have any other questions or concerns, or you'd like to see me individually, you can feel free to call me and come over for an appointment at any time you desire."
"Thank you so much, Ellen," Alessandra said.
Dr. Rogers shook hands with both of them as they were getting ready to leave. "Enjoy your day, you two," she said. They waved good-bye to her, and Alessandra grabbed her purse as she and Quincy started leaving.
They got inside the car, and Quincy said to her, "So, what do you wanna do?"
"About what? About what your friend said, of course. Can't we at least give each other some space before you decide to run off with the children so soon and hold them hostage?"
Alessandra stared at him with surprise. "Hold the kids hostage?"
"You know that's not what I meant to say, Jesus, Allie!"
"I know, I know." She took a deep breath, trying to calm down. "Look, I don't know what to do now, Quincy. You do whatever you want, and I'll do whatever I want."
"But I feel that you're making a rather hasty decision on the divorce," Quincy said. "I mean, what're we gonna do for Christmas? New Year's Eve? Think about the kids, Allie."
"I thought this is what you agreed to," Alessandra said to him.
"I was only going along with it, duh. I didn't even know you truly meant it, and I also didn't even know that it'll be finalized on the 30th, which is in what---about three, four weeks away."
"Well, Quincy, this is what I want, all right? If you don't like it, that's too bad. Maybe you'll think twice before you go around acting like you really care about me or the kids, when in reality, all you ever really care about is yourself."
"Do you, for real, think that?"
"That that's whom I really care about---me, myself, and I? What about you? What about the kids?"
"You've thrown wild temper tantrums at me over the past 20 years for no apparent reason at all, Quincy, and you make the kids believe that being violent is the best way to go on about life."
"I'm merely teaching them to be assertive!"
"There's a difference between being assertive and being aggressive."
"I couldn't give a thousand fucks about your opinion, Allie. And you need to learn to accept that we each have our own way of bringing up the kids. If you don't like my way, then you may as well just run off your own way, all right?"
"No, it's not my way or your way," she snapped. "It's our way, remember? We are in this together."
"No, not anymore we're not. If you leave with the kids right away, you're going to regret it all the days of your life, Alessandra Sampson-MacKenzie."
"Oh, so now you're threatening me, huh? What are you gonna do about it---throw me across the living room wall and beat me to my death? I'm not afraid of you, Quincy. Just remember that. The children may be, but I'm not. Clearly, you're not that same sweet little boy to whom I moved next door that summer. You've changed---a lot."
"And you could say the same thing for yourself. You're just demanding and controlling."
"I'm tired of pretending, Quincy," she said. "And I am positive that I am making the right choice. To you, it may seem hasty, but to me, it sounds just right. Maybe for once, you need to learn to use your mind for something useful. Oh, wait," she added condescendingly, "that time may never come." They eventually arrived home, and Alessandra took her purse and opened the car door and slammed it shut behind her and started walking off into the house. Quincy also slammed shut the car door.
Zeke glanced through the window, and said to Joanna, "It seems like they're have a car door-slamming contest."
"Great," groaned Joanna. "Just what we needed."
Penelope opened the door for Alessandra and Quincy before they even had the chance to ring the doorbell or knock on the door. "Hello, how was your counseling session?" she asked them with a smile.
"Great. Just peachy keen," Quincy replied, not really meaning it, of course.
"What he said," Alessandra muttered.
"Why don't we share with the kids?" Penelope said.
"Good idea, Penelope," Alessandra said. "Zeke, Joanna, I think it's time we all had a talk."
"Uh, what's this all about?" Joanna asked.
Everyone sat down on the couches. Penelope was sitting between Alessandra and Quincy, and Joanna and Zeke were sitting across them. Alessandra let in a deep breath before she could begin her speech. "So, now you know that the divorce won't be finalized until the 30th, which means we still have a long way to go, and we can still celebrate Christmas together as a family---or at least attempt to, if you know what I mean. But in the meantime, Ellen---Dr. Rogers---suggested that your father and I give each other some distance for some time, you know, just to really think before we do anything. And I have also filed for a restraining order against your father, which of course won't be finalized yet until the 30th, so that means that I will gain full custody of you two, and Quincy here is not to be seen fifteen feet near you or me. So, if anyone has to pack and leave, it'll be your father right here. Okay, Quincy?" she said to him, glaring at him.
"Not okay," he said.
"Well, too bad. I made the choice, and we're sticking with it. You're packing your things, and you're going. Is that clear?"
"Then where the hell am I supposed to live?" snapped Quincy.
"You could try living on the streets, practicing for your thug life," said Alessandra cynically, "because apparently, that's just all you have to live for. Isn't that right?"
"This is unbelievable," Zeke said, shaking his head.
"I agree with Zeke," Joanna said.
"See? I told you that they'd be better off with me instead." Quincy smiled haughtily.
"Don't count on it," Alessandra said cynically.
"Sorry to break it to you, Dad, but we don't accept that either," Joanna said. Zeke shook his head in agreement. "I can't live like this---not during my senior year of high school." She looked downcast now.
"I'm very sorry, baby," Alessandra said to her gently. She came to give Joanna a hug. "I'm sorry things are turning out like this."
"No, you're not," said Joanna as a tear slowly ran down her face. "Just like Dad, you're also making it worse and harder for yourself. You don't have to keep fighting anymore."
"Well, your father is the type of person who always talks the talk, but never walks the walk. You should know that by now."
"Just stop it already, please!" This was an outburst from Zeke. "If you two are really gonna split up, then what's going to happen with our future? Where will I start high school? What about all my friends from school? What about my grades at school? You know, I'm just this close to getting kicked out of school---this close! You think I can focus on my academics in a hostile family environment such as this? Well, think again!" Tears were also running down his face.
"Oh, dear child, please don't cry," Penelope said to Zeke, soothing him as she gave him a hug.
"We really are very sorry, kids," Quincy said softly. "But unfortunately, your mother and I have no choice. We must do what we must do."
"But it doesn't have to be this way, Daddy," Joanna said as she blew her nose.
"There ought to be an alternative way to get something worked out," Zeke said, more tears running down his face. "Isn't there?"
Alessandra thought long and hard for a moment, trying to come up with some reasonable answers. But unfortunately, she couldn't come up with anything. This was the final decision, and that was it. After the 30th, things would definitely change a lot---for the worse, that is. Suddenly, she said, "Well......we could try getting through one more holiday together as a family. Christmas, yes. New Years Eve? Not a chance. I think it sounds just reasonable." She smiled a small smile.
"And then just that like, poof---everything's done and over with?" said Joanna.
Alessandra nodded. "I'm very sorry, baby."
"Well, sis, nice knowing you," Zeke said. "Not-so-happy new year in advance to you. Now please wake me up when any day proceeding January 1, 1995 is completely over." He continued sobbing uncontrollably, as did Joanna.
"You too, Zeke," she sniffed as they gave each other a hug, holding on to each other for dear life.
"Penelope, if I ever get expelled from school, then I expect you to agree to home-school me for the rest of my life, where I would never get a chance to see any of my friends again," Zeke said.
"Oh, now please don't talk like that, dear Ezekiel," she said gently.
"Listen up here," said Quincy. "I agree with your mother. I can't promise you that your mother and I will ever start getting along better, or even if we will actually work things out well, but I know that we can promise you one thing---we can make you happy, and we will try being a little nicer to each other for the holiday. So please, give us another chance."
Zeke and Joanna considered that for a long time. Just then, Zeke said, "You promise that you would try getting along with each other just for once, just for Christmas?"
"We promise, Zeke," Alessandra said, still smiling. "It's the least we can do."
"But you know that it means that you should pretend to care about each other, right?" said Joanna. "Key word: Pretend."
Quincy chuckled and said, "We know, Jo-Jo honey."
"Are you sure you're very good at pretending?" Zeke asked. "You really ruined Thanksgiving with your classic middle-school play act. And even I would know---I'm in middle school!"
Alessandra laughed and said, "Anything, Zeke. We'll do anything to keep you and Joanna happy. Only because I don't want to regret anything when I get older someday. What about you, Quincy? Will you do anything to keep our children happy?"
"Anything at all," replied Quincy.
"Great. Now that's something you both agree on," Joanna said happily.
So Alessandra and Quincy had come to an agreement---to try getting along better with each other for Christmas until the 30th comes, which was the infamous day that would change the course of all things. They needed to make the kids happy, and what better way to do it than pulling off the fairy-tale facade even more.