Pretty soon, Alessandra and Zeke arrived at church to pick Joanna up from rehearsals for the play and the choir. Joanna said good-bye to the other kids, who were around her age---even somewhat younger---and grabbed her jacket and purse and went outside to the car. Alessandra said to her, "Hi, honey. How was practice?"
"It was really good," replied Joanna. She was completely unaware of the rising tension between Zeke and Alessandra. She greeted Zeke and said, "Hey, little bro, how was your day today?"
"Great. Just great," Zeke replied, not really meaning it.
The rest of the ride home was silent, but Alessandra turned on the radio in hopes of tuning out the tensions. As soon as they got home, Zeke went straight up to his room, slammed shut the door, and decided to isolate himself once again. Alessandra called out to him, "Ezekiel MacKenzie, don't you go around slamming doors in this house, you hear me?!"
"Ah, save your breath, Allie," Quincy said, who was in the living room reading a book.
"You don't understand," she said to him in a lowered voice. "He got suspended from school, all thanks to me."
"He what?" Quincy gasped.
"Shh!" Alessandra quieted him. "It's true. What happened was......"
Joanna knocked on Zeke's door. She wanted to know what was going on. "Zeke, open up, it's me," she said.
"Go away!" he shouted.
"Come on, Zeke, just unlock the door. I really want to talk to you." She banged on the door harder.
Reluctantly, Zeke got up and opened the door for her. "Hey," he said with a sigh.
"Zeke, what's going on?"
"I got suspended from school, all right?"
"What?" Joanna was shocked.
"Yes, for one week. All thanks to Mom, that is. She had a meeting with Ms. Kessler to talk about my grades, and all of a sudden, Mom started throwing a temper tantrum like a spoiled child and started cursing at Ms. Kessler. Can you believe her! Cursing at an older woman, even when she tells me and you not to use foul words. She's such a hypocrite---an even bigger hypocrite than Dad, that is. I think I'd be better off in foster care."
"Oh, Zeke, I'm so, so sorry," Joanna said, giving him a hug. "On the plus side, at least you get an earlier vacation." She smiled.
"Yeah, at least I get an early vacation." He smiled, and they chuckled.
"I don't think you'll be better off in foster care," Joanna said. "We just need to keep hoping for the best to happen. We'll get through this together, just you and me."
"And in a few months, you'll be leaving for college, Joanna. I don't know how I'm supposed to get through this on my own."
"Well, at least you'll have Penelope. She's like Mom, in a way. Don't you think?"
Zeke smiled, thinking about their housemaid. "Yeah. Also, she's a much better cook than Mom. Like 1000 times better." They chuckled again. "Don't tell Mom I said that."
"I agree with you," said Joanna.
They sat on the bed in silence, still unable to get over the fact that after Christmas, things would dramatically change for them. All those pleasant memories that they would create on Christmas would soon go down the drain. There was no turning back now. "So, after Christmas......that's it, huh?" Zeke said.
"What's it?" asked Joanna.
"You know, good-bye, Dad. He'll be out living on the streets, and Mom's gonna start acting like she doesn't give a damn. Oh, I just used a foul word---she should ground me for all eternity," he added mockingly.
"That will not happen," said Joanna, although she was also not sure.
"And how do you know that?"
"Because I have my instincts, Zeke. Mom is not that type of person. She may contradict herself sometimes, but she's not that type of person who enjoys watching others live on the streets and such. I know she's a lot more thoughtful than that."
"I suppose you're right," Zeke said.
Downstairs, Alessandra and Quincy were having another one of their moments, as usual. Quincy said, "I can't believe that you caused our son to get suspended from school for one week before the holiday break."
Alessandra scoffed. "This is all my fault? Hey, at least I'm not the one coaching him to become a wrestler in school, nearly risking his expulsion, Quincy!"
"You just had to curse at the principal, didn't you? You're such a potty-mouth, Allie."
"And you could say the same thing for yourself! I was only defending Zeke's honor."
"How, by acting so self-righteous? You know, everything isn't all about you, Allie. Sorry to disappoint you, but it's not your world. It's our world."
"All right. If you think that you're so much better than me at handling conferences with the kids' teachers, then why don't you go on the next parent-teacher conference? Oh, wait, that's right---the kids will be with me instead!"
"Don't get your hopes up too high, Allie," Quincy said sardonically.
"You may gain full custody of the kids, but don't you forget that I am their father, and---"
"Are you, Quincy? Are you really their father?" Alessandra interrupted.
"Well, genetics don't lie, you know. Genetics are science, and science never lies."
"Fuck science! All I'm saying is that a real father would never teach their children to act like homicidal terrorists out in public!"
"Well, I always thought that a real father was the one who stands by his children and knows what's best for them. The father is the head of the household, Allie, and as a father, I believe I have my right to visit my children whenever I want."
"No, you don't, Quincy. Don't you know how restraining orders work?"
"I do too, you smart-ass. And that restraining order was BS! I never even agreed to it. You went behind my back on purpose to file a restraining order against me, just so you can teach me a lesson about letting Joanna go off to a party without your approval. Is that it?"
"You're darned well right about that, Quincy." Alessandra smirked.
"Ha! I knew it!"
"Sorry to say, but you have no visitation rights at all. And that is an order." Alessandra sounded a little threatening when she said that. She really meant business.
But Quincy was furious, and he would not stand for this, no matter what. "I've done the right thing by standing my ground, but you know what, Allie? You can just go screw yourself. Someday, you're gonna regret this, and I just know it." He stormed out of the door. He wanted to go for some fresh air for a little while in order to try to cool down.
Pretty soon, it was the week of Christmas, and all the houses in the neighborhood have been decorated with Christmas wreaths, garlands, and many other things. Basically, it was supposed to be a joyful holiday, but no one in the MacKenzie family was happy. As if Alessandra's nightmare wouldn't last, she once received a phone call from her boss at work.
Penelope answered the ringing phone. "Hello?"
A woman's voice on the other line said, "Hello, this is Nicole Martin speaking." Ms. Martin was Alessandra's boss.
"Hello, Miss Martin," said Penelope. "This is Penelope speaking, Alessandra's housemaid."
"Hello, Penelope. Um, is Mrs. MacKenzie around? I would like to speak with her for just a minute."
"Yes, she's around," Penelope said. Then she called out to Alessandra, who was in the bathroom. "Allie, you have a phone call!"
"Just a minute, Penny!" Alessandra called back. Then she eventually came downstairs and took the phone and said, "Hello?"
"Hi, Alessandra. This is Nicole speaking."
"Hi, Nicole. What's up?"
"Allie, you are aware that you haven't submitted a single draft of the screenplay yet, right?"
"Yes, I am very well aware of that."
"Allie, this movie may make its highest amount of money yet, if you would just do your work and continue writing. Do you have writer's block or something?"
"No, Nicole, I don't."
"Any distractions of some kind or something?"
"Uh, I tend to stray away from distractions."
"Then please, Allie, I'm begging you to focus on writing. Next month, please try to submit any draft to me so I can critique it. Time is money, and the more time wasted, the more at risk you are for getting fired. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Nicole." Alessandra suddenly felt overwhelmed.
"Okay, well, it was nice having this talk with you. You have all of next month to keep writing, writing, and writing. Otherwise, have a very merry Christmas."
"You too, Nicole," Alessandra said as she hung up. Then she sighed again.
"Work issues?" Penelope smiled.
The evening of Friday, December 23, 1994 was the night that would go down in history as an unforgettable night. It all started when Alessandra wanted to put the star up on the Christmas tree, which was the last thing it needed after it was beautifully decorated with the ornaments, lights, and wreaths. A lot of presents were set underneath the tree. As everyone was preparing for the festivities of the holiday, an unexpected fate had to befall Alessandra at the most unexpected moment of her life. She wanted to climb up the ladder to put the star on the tree, but unfortunately, the ladder was a little shaky, due to Quincy's accidental forgetfulness to go get it repaired.
Penelope offered to help. "Do you need any help with that, Allie?" she asked.
"No, thank you, Penelope," replied Alessandra. "I think I'll be fine. Besides, I want to have my chance to put up the star this year."
Alessandra noticed that the ladder felt a tad wobbly, but chose not to complain about it. After all, it was nearly the holiday, and nothing could be worse enough to ruin about a wobbly ladder than complaining. Quincy came into the kitchen, holding a mug of coffee, and said, "I really hope to see how the beautiful the star would---" He saw Allie on top of the ladder and said, "Wait a minute, Allie, I never even had the chance to get the ladder repaired yet!"
"What?" she gasped, shocked.
"I'm sorry; I was supposed to have gotten it fixed a long time, but---"
"How could you!" she cried.
The ladder started moving now, and Zeke and Joanna cried out, "Mom, be careful, the ladder's moving!"
"Wait, I just need to put this star up quickly," Alessandra said, and just as she was about to put the star on the tree, the ladder tilted over, and Alessandra fell down onto the living room floor very hard, practically bumping her head. She screamed in fear and pain, and everyone was just shocked speechless and panicky.
"Oh, no!" cried out Joanna. "Mom, are you all right?!"
"Allie, Allie, please wake up!" Penelope said, slapping Alessandra in order to wake her up. Unfortunately, Alessandra was in very critical injury, from her head up to the bruise of her legs. She had a critical brain injury, and she had lost her consciousness.
"Oh, Jesus freaking Christ," Quincy groaned. "What have I done now?"
"Dad, don't worry; it's not your fault, okay?" Zeke said to his father. "It was just an accident. The ladder was just broken, that's all."
"Yeah, but the thing is, I forgot to get the ladder repaired," Quincy said. "I've been really busy with work, going around and such. She's been pestering me to get it fixed for a long time, and surprise, surprise, I forget to get it fixed."
"Please don't blame yourself, Dad, okay?" Joanna said, tears now running down her face. "Zeke and I still love you, don't we?" Zeke nodded in response as tears also ran down his face.
"Penelope, can't you please dial the ambulance?" Joanna said.
"Okay, I'll dial the ambulance right now," Penelope said. "In the meanwhile, someone should try to get her an ice pack. It seems like she has a very serious pain in her head."
"I'll go get the ice pack," Quincy volunteered.
"Good job, Quincy," said Penelope, patting him on the back. "You always know the right thing to do." While Zeke and Quincy went to get the ice pack, Penelope was dialing the ambulance, while Joanna disposed of the broken ladder by going down to the garage and putting the broken pieces there. Quincy returned with the ice pack, put it on Alessandra's forehead, and started praying quietly to himself. Oh, Lord, please make things right between us MacKenzies, he thought.
In less than ten minutes arrived the ambulance. Penelope opened the door for the ambulance drivers, and the two men worked together to carefully place Alessandra on the bed. Quincy then ordered the kids to grab their jackets so they could visit Alessandra at the hospital. "Kids, go put on your jackets, and Joanna, you get your purse," Quincy said. "We're going to the hospital right now to check up on your mother's condition."
"Since when do you care about whatever happens to Mom?" Zeke said cynically.
"Yeah, Dad," said Joanna, also cynically.
Quincy slapped himself on the head in frustration. "Look, there's no time for any of this hostility, all right? I love your mother very much, and God forbid if something really, really awful were to happen to her, I would take full responsibility for it. I may not have agreed with her choice to hold you two hostage, but I still care about her, and I want her to feel better in time for the holidays. We will all get through this together. Please believe me, Zeke, Joanna. We'll all get through this together." He sounded very sincere.
"Oh, my God, you really do love her," Joanna said excitedly.
"That's wonderful," Zeke grinned.
"I couldn't have married a much better woman," Quincy said in agreement. "Now come on, grab your jackets, your purses, and let's go down to the hospital and figure out what her condition is, whether she'll make it or not."
Pretty soon, they all were in the car, driving after the ambulance to the emergency room. Here was Alessandra lying down in her deep state of unconsciousness, her mind away from reality, and in her mind, she was slowly traveling back in time through an more innocent period of her lifetime.........