Episode #314

Previously ...
- Jason's plan to travel to Whistler, British Columbia, for a skating audition morphed into a weekend getaway with Lauren. When Bill and Paula asked him whether it would be a romantic trip, he was unsure and worried that he and Lauren have different expectations for their relationship.
- After Matt shared with Sarah the full story of his past affair with his sister-in-law and estrangement from his brother, they decided to give a romantic relationship a shot and finally made love for the first time since Victoria's conception.
- Diane secretly took pictures of Molly and Brent together, hoping that she could use the situation to restore Sarah's faith in her and renew their friendship.


"Put that stick down!" Matt Gray calls out. His facial features tighten and he rises halfway from his seat on the picnic table's bench; only when the lengthy, jagged branch falls from a small hand does Matt relax and sit back down.

Sarah Fisher folds her hands on the table in front of her. The afternoon air is chilly, bearing all the marks of winter and no sign that spring is on its way. If nothing else, though, the sun shines down upon the park, reflecting itself in light green highlights across the expansive lawn.

"It's like talking to a puppy," Matt remarks with a grin, his focus still sharply upon Victoria and her friend. They move away from the stick and back toward the tot-sized jungle gym.

"At least she doesn't crap in the living room," Sarah says.

Matt briefly shares a laugh with her before his tone turns more serious. "Yeah, but I worry that she has no concept of safety. She's gonna poke her eye out or something while she's jumping around like a little monkey."

Sarah studies him quietly for a moment. "You really are a worrier."

"I am not! I'm just saying--"

"She's a kid," Sarah says. "This is what they do."

"I know. But don't you always kinda worry about, I dunno, her getting out of your sight for a second too long and getting into some real bad trouble?"

"Yeah, of course." She pauses again, marveling at every new layer that seems to emerge from this man. "You know, Victoria couldn't have asked for a better father than you."

She can tell that he is at a loss for words.

"Seriously, Matt. You are so much more attentive and loving than a lot of fathers. Especially given that you had no intention of having a kid when she came along."

Lowering her voice, she continues, "Knowing that you had a child before--lost a child--it makes sense."

Again, Matt is silent, though she senses that there is more to it than embarrassment this time.

"It's not something you need to be ashamed of," she says. "I understand the situation you and Nicole were in. You did what you felt was best."

"Best for who?" he asks, managing little more than a mumble. He looks at her for a split-second before returning to watching Victoria and her friend more carefully than is necessary.

"You can't punish yourself for that forever."

She worries suddenly that this is about to turn into an argument, or at least a discussion far too intense for the setting.

What comes out of Matt's mouth instead comes as something of a relief: "I don't wanna talk about this."

"All right. Later, when we're alone--"

"Sarah, I mean it. This isn't something we need to get into again."

"Again?" They've hardly discussed it at all; Matt's recounting of his affair with Nicole is about the only time his other child has actually been mentioned. Sarah has expected that, at some point, they'd talk about this, discuss it in more depth, really deal with it.

Matt goes quiet again. He balls his hands together and lifts them in front of his mouth.

"It's something we need to talk about. It's the only way we--you--can really move on," she says.

He blinks his eyes and holds them closed for a long moment. "The best way to do that is to let it go."

Sarah considers protesting again, but it's clear that she isn't going to get anywhere with this now. An argument certainly isn't what she wants. So she allows the silence to fall over them and waits for the right time to launch into a new subject.

Suddenly the winter chill seems much stronger, the day much bleaker.


The USB cable resists at first, but finally it relents and slips into the proper slot. Step one down, Diane Bishop thinks. With any luck, the rest of this will not be any more complicated.

She sets the digital camera down on her desk and turns her attention to her computer monitor. Within an instant, the system detects the new hardware. With occasional glances at the instruction manual sitting to her right, Diane navigates her way through the installation process. At its end, the computer needs to restart, and she sits anxiously in front of the temporarily darkened screen.

"I wish I could be there for the fallout of this," she says aloud, to her empty office.

While she waits for the computer to reboot, she picks up the camera and turns it on. A few button clicks take her to the stored photos, and she cycles through them with glee.

Brent putting the earrings on Molly. Molly reaching out to touch his face. The two of them coming together for a kiss. More kissing. And more.

Even with the distance that stands between Brent's apartment and Brian's, the figures are recognizable. Certainly they will be to the recipient.

The computer returns to life. Hurriedly Diane begins clicking the mouse, saving files to the appropriate place and then opening her e-mail account.

Perfect so far, she thinks as she clicks the 'send' button. And if things go as she's hoping they will ... well, it will just be a matter of time before she has exactly what she wants.


Brent Taylor considers the soggy tuna sandwich in front of him. Hungry as he is, the idea of eating this thing is only slightly more appealing than starvation. He could go out and grab something, but the whole point of packing a lunch was to save time in what he knew would be a busy day.

He is still weighing his options when the phone rings, bringing a quick end to the debate.

"Brent Taylor," he answers, cradling the phone between his ear and shoulder so that he can pick up the sandwich, only to put it back down.

"Brent," says the very familiar voice. "I'm glad I caught you."

"Hey! What's going on?" Concern begins to spread through him as he waits for Danielle to respond. There's something about her tone that has him suddenly on-guard.

"I'm not sure," Danielle says.

Brent waits for her to say more, but she doesn't. "What do you mean?"

She hesitates -- he can practically see her on the other end of the line, gripping the phone hard, staring straight ahead -- before answering in a very roundabout way. "Have you heard from Josh lately?"

"Uh, yeah, a few weeks back. I thought he was calling to ask for money, actually, but I called him back and he didn't seem to care."

"Something weird is going on," she says. "Yesterday he told Dad that he was leaving San Diego."

"Why? For what?"

"We have no idea! He said we'll find out soon. It's just odd, you know?"

"Yeah." Brent runs a hand over his hair. This sort of free-spiritedness has always been a trademark of Josh's personality, but Danielle sounds genuinely concerned. "Do you have any idea where he's headed?"

"Not at all. I guess--well, there isn't much we can do right now. Josh does what Josh wants to do. I just hope that he's all right."

"I hope so, too," Brent says, though he doesn't feel at all confident that's the case.


Endless rows of evergreen trees line the sides of the way. One by one, they fall back behind the car as it winds its way up the road. Lauren Brooks knows that they have been driving along this same stretch for a long time, but it all looks the same; she isn't quite sure that they've actually gone anywhere.

"I think I'm going stir-crazy," she says, turning to watch Jason Fisher drive so that she doesn't have to watch the trees anymore.

"We stopped like forty-five minutes ago! This CD isn't even over yet."

She considers that, but it seems impossible. No way did they stop for coffee less than an hour ago. But the Maroon 5 album is still playing, and she knows they put it in when they got back in the car ...

"You are such a little kid!" Jason says. "No patience whatsoever."

"Whatever. I can be plenty patient." She folds her arms in front of her and looks out the front windshield. More and more snow is beginning to appear alongside the highway, sitting on the trees and piling up on the ground. They have to be getting close to the resort.

Or not.

Jason pauses in thought after looking at the clock. "I think it might be smart to just head straight to the rink. We have no idea how long it's gonna take to get unloaded at the resort, and I don't wanna risk being late ..."

"That sounds fine." Truthfully, she doesn't care much, as long as they get out of the car. And she wouldn't mind the chance to watch his audition, if he is okay with it.

"You're sure this chick isn't going to be as nuts as the last one you tried out with?" she asks half-jokingly.

"Positive. She's got a great track record, and she trains with this coach--Ray Horn--who's pretty well respected coach. I feel good about this."

"And then what? She's just gonna move to King's Bay so you two can skate?"

"I think that's the idea, yeah. There's probably nothing keeping her up here, you know?" He glances at the clock again. "I really hope this works out. I'm getting antsy to start training already."

"You'll do fine," Lauren assures him. "If it works out, great, and if not, there are plenty of other fish in the sea, or penguins in the tundra, or whatever a good analogy for a frozen sport is."

Jason chuckles and keeps driving. She can tell that he is getting nervous about the time and decides to be quiet for a while. Shifting in her seat so that she can continue watching him instead of the trees, she lets the relaxing groove of the music take over her brain and wash away the excruciating slowness of time.


As soon as Sarah opens the door, Matt darts inside with Victoria in his arms. He makes a beeline for the bathroom.

"Put me down!" the little girl yells defiantly.

"No way! The only thing you're touching is the inside of the bathtub!" Sarah says as Matt whisks Victoria down the hall.

A moment later, Sarah hears the bathtub turn on. At least the potential crisis of Victoria spreading her muddiness all over the apartment has been averted.

Sarah grabs a fresh bottle of water from the refrigerator and then moves to her computer. All afternoon, one of her cases has been lingering in the back of her mind; she hopes that the information that she has been awaiting from a source will be in her e-mail inbox by now. There isn't much she can do until she has that info, and her client is becoming quickly dissatisfied with the delays.

She settles into her desk chair and logs into her e-mail. Her eyes scan the list of new messages for the return address she is looking for, but it isn't there.

Dammit, Troy, she thinks, contemplating a quick phone call before she realizes that it is late on the East Coast, and she won't be able to get ahold of him at his office.

With a groan, she clicks her way through the e-mails that are there. She stops on one that has an attachment -- JPEG files. It takes her a moment to recognize the address, but she does.

And then the message:

Thought you deserved to see this. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Hope things are well. - Diane

She thinks of deleting it out of sheer annoyance, but curiosity gets the better of her, so she clicks on the first of the attached photos.

And suddenly, the sounds of Victoria in the bathtub might as well be a million miles away.

At first, she tries to figure out how these could have been put together. It has to be some kind of setup. It has to be ...

But it's not. It makes sense. She was a fool to have thought that Molly and Brent would have stayed away from each other for so long.

She clutches her hand more and more tightly around the wireless mouse until, finally, her fist is wrapped entirely around it and her hand is shaking.

The ball of anger or frustration or embarrassment--maybe all three, maybe those things and a lot more--that has been swelling inside her rises and rises and rises--

--until it explodes out of her hand, sending the mouse flying. She watches it slam against the wall, shatter, and fall to the floor in pieces.


What is Sarah going to do now that she knows the truth?
Will Jason's audition turn out all right?
Does Brent have a problem on his hands with his brother?
Visit the Footprints Forum to share your thoughts!

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