She glanced around the room with childlike wonder. She did not know where she was, but there was just something about this place that seemed quite unfamiliar to her---or maybe it was familiar to her; she did not know. She glanced down at her dress, which she was wearing. She didn't know how she got into the dress; she always thought she was wearing her nightgown the whole time. When she looked into the mirror, she was amazed by what she saw---herself! But she was not the Alessandra MacKenzie we knew now; she was Alessandra Sampson at this time, with the one exception that she was a child, around ten or eleven years of age. Her hair was styled into a pigtail, tied with a pink hair ribbon, and she was wearing a frilly light blue dress, her knee-high socks, and saddle shoes. She looked just like all the other girls her age, with one other exception---she was really beautiful.
It took her more than a minute to realize that she was in the comfort of her own bedroom in her childhood home in Boston. She loved her room very much; her room was the only place where she could isolate herself from the world and write in her diary, and being that she was the only child of Paul and Alexandra Sampson, she did not have to worry about anybody snooping around in her room, trying to read her diary or anything.
Just then, there was a knock on her door. "Allie, you better hurry up and get ready," said her mother's voice. "You certainly don't wish to be late to school on your last day, do you?"
"No, Mother," Allie replied. That's when it suddenly hit her that it was her last day of fourth grade. It was early June in 1957, and she was finishing the fourth grade. She was very excited to finish fourth grade and enjoy her summer, but she was disappointed to realize that she had to move to Maryland next month because she was starting middle school at a private school in Maryland, and her parents wanted her to attend a cheaper school. But Allie was reluctant to move; she'd loved it here in Massachusetts, and she never wanted to leave. She thought she was going to have the worst summer of her life.
During breakfast time, Allie was barely touching her meal of toast, scrambled eggs, ham slices, bacon, sausage and a nice warm cup of hot chocolate tea. Paul was reading the newspaper while eating his breakfast, and Alexandra said to Allie with a smile, "Now I understand how you must feel about moving, Alessandra. But trust us, sweetie---it's only for our own good, and yours as well."
Allie only scowled, not really saying anything. She was not much of a talker when she was a child. Or maybe it's because the adult Alessandra was still confused about where she was, considering that she was still blacked out cold.
"Trust me, sweetie, you'll be meeting a lot of interesting boys in Fort Chester," Paul said, trying to humor up the situation. He laughed to himself as Alexandra gave him a playful nudge on the shoulder.
"Oh, you comedian," she said to her husband. "Allie, we think that today would be your chance of saying good-bye to all your friends."
"I don't care about any stupid boys," Allie remarked.
"See? Now you've made her feel worse," Alexandra said to her husband. He cleared his throat, pretending that he had something to say. "Allie honey, you are going to be just fine."
"But what about Gladys and the other girls?" she asked. Gladys van Horn, Mary Louise, and Peggy Ann were her three closest friends whom she would miss very much.
"Well, you could always write letters to them," said Alexandra. "That's what we do nowadays---letter-writing. Writing lots of 'em."
"And you could make newer friends in Fort Chester," said her father. "That's a good thing, ain't it?"
"How am I supposed to do that?" she muttered.
"Allie, I know it's very difficult at first, but you'll learn to love it eventually," said her mother. "Maryland is going to be just like your old home, and we know you will love it there. So please try to put on a smile and make a good impression on your last day of school. Can you do that?"
Allie thought about it for a moment, then said, "Okay, I'll try. I promise."
"Good girl." Alexandra gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Now hurry up and eat your breakfast, or else you will be late."
Pretty soon, Allie was finished with her breakfast. She grabbed her lunch bag, kissed her mother good-bye, and began walking off to school. She lived in the suburban neighborhood, right near her friends Gladys, Mary Louise, and Peggy Ann. Gladys lived right next door to her, and as she was walking, Gladys came running up to her. "Hey, Allie, wait up for me," she said.
"Hi, Gladys." Allie tried her best to remain happy.
"Can you believe that we're finished with fourth grade already?" Gladys said excitedly. "After that, we'll be in fifth grade, and after that, we'll be starting middle school! Isn't that real swell, Allie?"
"Yeah, real swell indeed," replied Allie.
"What's the matter? Aren't you excited that it's the last day of school?"
"Yeah, of course I'm excited," Allie said. "It's just that......." She sighed. "You know that I'm leaving for Maryland this summer, right? You and Peggy Ann and Mary Louise?"
"Oh, yeah." Gladys also hated thinking about Allie's going away. "We're really gonna miss you, Allie."
"I'm gonna miss you guys too," Allie said sadly. "I promise I'll write to each of you every single day."
"I wish there was something we could do, like give you a present or throw you a going-away party or something."
"Ah, there's no need to go that far, Gladys," said Allie. "After all, I'm not leaving until the first of July. At least I know where I'll spend the Fourth of July." She smiled a small smile.
"Who knew that the summer of '56 would be the last and final Fourth of July I would spend with you?" Gladys asked.
Allie shrugged as the two of them walked to school, where they met up with Peggy Ann and Mary Louise. Allie waved to the two girls. "Hey, Peggy Ann. Hey, Mary Louise."
"Hey, Allie," Peggy Ann and Mary Louise said, waving to her.
"Are we ready to make our last day of fourth grade count?" Mary Louise said excitedly. Then the four of them put their hands together, one on top of the other, and said in unison, "One, two, three, class of '57, here we come!"
For the rest of that day, Allie's friends have been secretly planning a surprise going-away party for her. Everyone at Clarence R. Edwards Middle School knew about Allie's going away to Maryland since the beginning of the school year, and now that the time had come, Allie found herself dreading what was coming next. So each person contributed to buying a special going-away gift for Allie, and even as sneaky as throwing her a good-bye party that was taking place tonight at Gladys' house. Everyone also bought refreshments and drinks, and went very big with the party planning. Allie didn't find it one bit suspicious whenever everyone was glancing at her and whispering among each other, hoping that she would show up to the party. In fact, she wasn't even aware of anything at all.
That day after school, Gladys, Mary Louise, and Peggy Ann met up with each other, huddled together, as if they were planning something else. Gladys said to them in a whisper, "Now, all we have to do is get her to come over to my house tonight at 7:00. Boy, will she be in for a big surprise!"
"Yeah," said Mary Louise and Peggy Ann in agreement.
"But how can we tell that she will show up?" asked Mary Louise. "If she doesn't, then that means our surprise will be spoiled, and that really blows!"
"Not on my watch, Mary Louise," said Gladys with certainty. "Just so you know, I am very good at talking my way into getting anything, and anything at all." She smirked.
"Ohhhh........sure you are," Peggy Ann said, and the three of them giggled.
"I mean it," said Gladys. "I don't want poor, dear Allie to be missing out on anything. It's just......."
Just then, Allie came up to them in the midst of the conversation. "Me missing out on what?" she asked.
The three of them became awkwardly silent as Gladys pretended to clear her throat and said, "Um.......I meant that we would surely miss you, poor, dear Allie, while you are long gone and enjoying yourself in your new life in Maryland."
"Yeah," said Mary Louise and Peggy Ann in agreement. "That's exactly what we were talking about."
"Wow, I'm gonna miss you three as well," Allie said as she held out her arms, forming a group hug with her friends.
"You look pretty, Allie," Mary Louise said.
"Thank you, Mary Louise."
"You really do," said Gladys. "Which is why I want to give you a make-over tonight at my house. 7:00 p.m."
Allie looked stumped. "You want to give me a make-over, Gladys? I thought you weren't into make-up and all that other feminine stuff."
"Nonsense, Allie," said Gladys, scoffing. Mary Louise and Peggy Ann scoffed as well. "This is the 20th century. So, what do you say? Wanna come over to my house tonight?"
Allie thought about it for quite a long time. "Well, if it's anything to get my mind off my big move to Maryland......I suppose I should come."
The three girls almost shrieked with joy, but did their very best to contain it. "Great!" Gladys said, giving Allie a quick hug. "So, we're looking forward to seeing you tonight, right?"
"We?" asked Allie.
Gladys cleared her throat again. "Sorry, I have the unusual habit of referring to myself as 'we.' I meant to say I am looking forward to seeing you tonight." She grinned.
"You too, Gladys," said Allie. "Well, I'll see you all later."
"Bye, Allie." The three girls waved to her as Allie was leaving. When Allie was completely gone, Gladys, Mary Louise and Peggy Ann started shrieking with joy, high-fiving and hugging each other.
"She's coming over tonight!" squealed Gladys.
Everyone else applauded, excited as well. Gladys announced, "So, don't forget, everyone. My house tonight at 7:30."
"Yeah," said everyone in agreement, making the promise that the majority of them would attend the party.
For the rest of that day until the time of the party, Allie had been isolating herself in her room, reading a book and writing in her diary. In her diary, she wrote: "Friday, June 7, 1957: The day I finished fourth grade......." And from there, she began telling a story.
Just then, there was a knock on her door. "Sweetie, open up," said her mother.
Allie sighed as she got up and opened the door for her mother. Alexandra said to her, "Sweetie, you never let your father and me know how your last day of school went."
"It was just swell, Mama," replied Allie.
"Yes, really. Surprisingly, none of the other kids, other than Gladys and Mary Louise and Peggy Ann, seemed to notice that I'm leaving in a month. It's almost as if they don't really care. No one's going to miss me, Ma."
Her mother caressed her hair. "Now don't you say that, sweetie. Of course they'll miss you."
"Really? 'Cause it seems like they won't even notice that I'm gone." Allie sighed, now feeling hopeless. "I hate my life right now."
"Aw, don't say that, Allie. I'm pretty sure everyone will miss you. You've been such a very good girl in school, all the teachers will miss you too."
"You're always right, Mama," Allie said with a smile.
Just then, the doorbell rang. "I got it!" Paul called from the living room. He got up and answered the door for Gladys. "Why, Gladys, what a very unexpected but pleasant visit," he said, shaking her hand.
"Hello, Mr. Sampson," Gladys said. "I wonder if Allie is around."
"Oh, she's around all right," Paul said as he took a puff out of a cigarette. Then he called out, "Allie, Gladys is here to see you!"
"Coming," Allie called back. She ran to the living room, her mother walking behind her. She nudged her husband and said, "Oh, don't you go around taking puffs in front of the little girl, Paul."
"Little girl?" said Gladys. "I'm not so little anymore. Right, Allie?"
"Right," said Allie.
"How do you do, Gladys?" Alexandra said, shaking hands with Gladys.
"Just fine, Mrs. Sampson. Um, Allie and I are going over to my house for a little while, if that's all right with you," said Gladys.
"That's very nice, Gladys, but unfortunately, I don't think Allie is in the right mood right now," said Alexandra, as Allie ran off to her room again to let out all her sadness.
"Just between you and me, Mr. and Mrs. Sampson, I am throwing a going-away party for Allie," Gladys said in a lowered voice. "We all know that she's going away for a very long time, so we've thrown her this party in hopes that she'll miss us."
Paul and Alexandra seemed captivated. "Wow, good idea, Gladys," said Alexandra. She called out to Allie, "Come on out, Allie dear. Do it for your good friend Gladys."
Reluctantly, Allie ran back to the living room. Gladys took Allie's hand and said, "Come on, I don't want you to miss out."
"Miss out? On what?" asked Allie.
"Have fun, girls," Paul said, he and his wife waving to the girls as they were making their way out.
"Good-bye, Allie," Alexandra said, waving to Allie. She winked at her daughter. Allie blew a kiss out to her mother. She and Gladys slowly entered Gladys' house, and Gladys opened the door. The living room was dark and quiet.
"What's going on here, Gladys?" Allie asked. "Why's it so dark?"
Allie turned on the lights, and just then, everyone popped out at once and screamed, "SURPRISE!" Allie was shocked speechless.
"Allie, don't you get it?" Gladys said. "I have helped organize this going-away party for you and invited every single student from school. We all know that you're going away in a month or so, and we just wanna say, we're really going to miss you."
"Yeah," said Peggy Ann. "You didn't think we didn't really notice, did you?"
"But---" Allie started to say something, but couldn't make out the words. She was awestruck and delighted that all her classmates would remember her by, but at the same time, she felt tearful and emotional. "Oh, is this the best, swellest surprise ever! Boy, am I really gonna miss all of you guys!" she said as more tears ran down her face. They were mostly happy tears, of course.
She formed a group hug with Gladys, Mary Louise, and Peggy Ann. "Thank you so much," she said softly.
"Don't mention it, Allie," said Mary Louise. "After all, anything at all for a friend." She winked, and then that's when everyone started having the night of their lives. Allie really enjoyed her going-away party, but still could not believe that her friends, classmates, and even teachers have gone through all this trouble just to surprise her before she left. She felt eternally blessed and grateful. That same exact feeling she had felt when she married Quincy MacKenzie for the first time, many years later.......