Episode #316

Previously ...
- In Whistler, Jason and Lauren got lost on their way to the lodge. They attempted to retrace their path, but the car died. The pair decided to walk toward some lights in the distance, hoping to find help. Lauren screamed, and Jason turned to watch her falling in the darkness.
- Courtney and Dylan flew to Atlanta for the National Championships. Despite Courtney's insistence to the contrary, Dylan worried about Alex's lack of interest in their relationship.
- Upon finding the pictures of Molly and Brent together in her e-mail, Sarah rushed out of the apartment in a frenzy. Matt saw the photos on the computer screen and worried about what Sarah was going to do.
- Sarah went to Molly's, where she slapped her sister and berated her for being so tasteless. Molly insisted that her relationship with Brent is much more than just a fling, but Sarah was unconvinced. She tried to leave in disgust, but her SUV collided with a vehicle speeding into the parking lot -- which she recognized as Matt's truck!


The small chandelier hanging above the table casts a pale glow over the otherwise dark kitchen. Paula Fisher and Ryan Moriani sit beneath the light, eating the salmon and pasta dish that Paula prepared for dinner.

"I don't know how much longer I can live like this," Paula says. She sets down her fork on the side of her plate; the meal has become secondary to the conversation by this point.

Diagonally across from her, Ryan shakes his head. "I wish you didn't have to deal with this."

"I would rather have to work through this than not have known at all. Maybe this isn't ideal, but it's much better than never having known who my son was or what happened to him." She hopes that Ryan believes her. She finds it painful to watch him blame himself for the upheaval that his parentage has caused in Paula's family and, specifically, in her marriage.

"I really do appreciate this opportunity," Ryan says. "The opportunity to get to know you and to spend time with you like this. You've made a lot more of an effort than I ever expected."

"This is what I wanted. Whether or not Bill or Jason or anyone else approves, I needed to find you. I needed--I need--to know you."

She catches the nervous glance that Ryan throws in the direction of the living room. He has been doing it all night, any time there is any sort of creak or sound that could potentially be an unlocking door. She doesn't particularly blame him; even though she knows that Bill and Claire are both scheduled to work late, it seems possible that this just might be the night that one or both of them manages to come home early.

"I just wish he could accept it," Ryan says. Paula notices that he does not refer to Bill by name, and he hasn't done so all evening. He probably has no idea what to call him, given the awkward situation.

"That's what is so difficult. When he was genuinely angry and stayed at the hotel for a few days, that was almost better. I knew there had to be a breaking point where he'd make a decision one way or the other. But now ..."

She hates to consider the possibility, let alone voice it, but she does so nonetheless. It is the first opportunity she's had to discuss this in-depth with anyone, and that is a tremendous relief.

"Now it's as if he's resigned to the situation," she says. "He's not happy about it, but we don't argue, really. We go about our everyday, normal lives, but there's something different about it. And it feels like something that we could never do anything about, if we chose not to. We'll just have this wall between us forever."

She sees that Ryan is contemplating a response, but before he gets the chance to offer one, the telephone interrupts. Paula crosses the kitchen to answer it.

"Hello?" she asks.

"Mom. Are you busy?"

Molly's voice is sharp with panic, and it sends an immediate wave of it shooting through Paula.

"No--Molly, what's wrong?"

"There was an accident," Molly says hurriedly. "A car accident."

"Are you all right?"

"I'm fine. Mom, it wasn't me. Sarah was at my apartment, and as she was leaving, she hit another car."

"Oh God! Is she--"

"Sarah's okay, yeah." There is a pause on the other end of the line, and it sounds distinctly ominous to Paula. "But the truck she hit--it was Matt's. He and Victoria are both in the hospital."


Lauren Brooks's scream pierces the cold night air. Jason Fisher turns just in time to see Lauren slipping out of sight, down into the darkness somewhere.

He rushes toward her but slows down as he realizes that he has no idea what sort of ground might be beneath his feet.

"Lauren!" he cries out. He's not even sure where to direct his shout.

As he gets closer, he sees that the side of the road falls off suddenly. Just before he can peek over and see what kind of drop it is, he hears Lauren's voice.

"I'm retarded!"

Her joking tone is the last thing he expects to hear, and his panic immediately cracks into a laugh. Lauren's head peeks out over the edge of the road.

"I'm an idiot," she says, pulling herself back up toward him. He grabs hold of her hands and helps her the rest of the way before he speaks.

"I thought you fell off a cliff or something."

"You're not getting rid of me that easily." She begins to stand and winces.

"You hurt yourself?" he asks.

"Just a little," she says, but she isn't putting any weight on her left foot. She attempts to take a step forward and immediately recoils.

"Oh yeah, looks great to me," Jason says. He grabs hold of her arm. "Here, sit down."

He helps her to the ground and can tell that she is relieved not to be standing. He starts prodding at her ankle as gently as he can.

"Tell me where it hurts."

It takes only a second for her to respond: "Ow! I mean--there."

"I think you just turned it." He doesn't feel anything that seems to be a horribly mangled bone, so he hopes that he is right.

Lauren seems to consider that for a moment and then tries to stand again.

"What are you doing?" he asks.

"Gotta get to hobbling. Come on."

Jason rises slowly. "You can't walk like that."

"So that leaves us with what options, exactly? Both of us sit out here all night waiting for someone to drive by and help us, or you go ahead and leave me in the middle of the woods? I'm not really a big fan of either of those."

Though he doesn't want her to walk on her ankle, he sees her point. "Are you sure you're okay?"

"Just give me some help," she says. "I'll live."

"I bet that piggyback ride doesn't sound so bad now, huh?" he says, only half-joking.

"Until your back breaks halfway, yeah."

"It's not like you're that heavy--"

"I'll walk. Come on." She slides an arm over his shoulders, and Jason places his around her waist.

Jason casts one last uncertain look at her before they start walking, a four-legged creature hobbling unevenly toward the lights in the distance.


Paula hurries out of the elevator as soon as the doors open onto the third floor, and Ryan follows closely behind her. It takes only a second before he spots the other Fishers in the waiting room: Bill, seated, an open magazine slung over his knee though he appears to have no interest in it; Sarah, a seat away from her father, leaning forward and clutching her hands together tightly; and Molly, standing several feet away from them, apparently between shifts of pacing back and forth.

There are few other individuals in the waiting area, Ryan notices as he follows Paula over to the family.

"Oh, Sarah," Paula says as soon as she reaches her daughter. Sarah rises quickly from her seat to embrace her mother.

Ryan tips his head toward Sarah in a sort of reverent greeting, and she offers a halfhearted smile in return.

"Have we heard anything yet?" Paula asks.

"They're still being checked out," Bill says. Ryan cannot help but eye the man curiously; he is here, doing his duty as husband, father, and grandfather, and yet he seems to believe that his family has been tainted terribly, perhaps beyond redemption. All sorts of thoughts about duty versus desire fill Ryan's head, but he brushes them aside for the time being and takes a tentative step toward Sarah.

"How're you holding up?" he asks, hoping that it is the right question.

Thankfully, she doesn't seem to take offense. On the contrary, she seems quite appreciative. "Best that I can," she says. "I just wish someone would hurry up and let me know what's going on." She shoots a sideways glance toward the swinging doors that Ryan knows must lead back to a maze of rooms and cubicles and operating tables and God knows what else.

Paula asks a few more questions, which Sarah and Bill take turns answering. As Ryan listens, he sees Molly out of the corner of his eye, standing far off from the rest of them. He debates for a moment before slipping off to speak with her.

"Are you doing all right?" he asks.

"I'm fine," she says. "It's Victoria and Matt that I'm worried about."

"Yeah, it is." Ryan is surprised by how worried he is about the little girl--his niece--whom he has only met a handful of times.

"I just feel like this could've been avoided. I know I wasn't driving the car, but ..."

Ryan is about to ask what she means, but suddenly the doors swing open and all five of their heads pivot toward the entrance. Much to Ryan's surprise, Claire stands there, looking somber in her nurse's uniform. Even the sight of her here, now, in this situation, moves him immensely; he can only imagine what she must be thinking, having lost her own daughter--in a manner of speaking--not too long ago.

"The doctor said I should come out and speak to you," Claire says, looking at Sarah but addressing the entire family.

They all gather around quickly, and nervous energy buzzes in the air as Claire's lips part.

"First of all," she says, "Victoria is absolutely fine. She has a few bruises, but nothing major. We'll bring her out in a few minutes."

A collective sigh of relief sounds from the group, but it is extremely tentative.

"What about Matt?" Sarah asks. She leans so far forward that it looks to Ryan as if she is trying to butt heads with Claire.

Claire pulls her lips together grimly. "I'm afraid Matt didn't fare quite as well."


Courtney Chase slides her index and middle fingers along the length of her blade, wiping off the ice that has accumulated on it during the practice session. She switches feet and does the same with her other skate before putting the plastic guards over her blades.

Beside her, Dylan Carrington does the same as he tries to catch his breath. The junior pairs practice session that just concluded was certainly a step up from what they are used to at home. They are skating with the best pairs in the country now, so of course the intensity level is higher than usual.

"That wasn't so bad," Courtney says as they walk back toward the bleachers together to retrieve their equipment bags.

"Nah ... especially not once I was able to shake some of my nerves." Dylan keeps his voice low, having been trained since childhood not to show any signs of intimidation or weakness around his competitors. "I just hate these late-night practices."

Courtney nods in agreement and takes a swig from her water bottle.

They remove their skates and do some cool-down stretches as they discuss specific points of the practice session, things to keep in mind during their event tomorrow, and the like. Finally Courtney places her skates in her bag and zips it up.

"You wanna go do something tonight?" Dylan asks as he finishes trying his own skates.

She shakes her head adamantly. "No way. I am beat. I think I'm gonna go back to the hotel, watch TV for a while, and crash."

"You sure? C'mon, it's not every day you have a different city at your disposal to explore--"

"I can explore once the competition's over. I'm way too tired for it now."

Dylan considers pleading some more, but he can tell that she is not going to budge.

"All right," he says, adding a teasing note to his voice, "I'll just have to find some fun without you."

"Be my guest. I'll see you for lunch tomorrow." With a smile, she heads for the exit of the arena.

Dylan finishes drying his skates and places them in his bag. There are a few other skaters still left from the evening's final practice session, and he recognizes several of them. One in particular stands out, though: Leo Randstrom, a skater from California against whom Dylan has been competing for years. He is considering whether or not to approach him when Leo looks up and their eyes meet.

"It's nice to see you, Leo," Dylan says as he strides over. Addressing both Leo and the petite blonde girl sitting beside him, Dylan adds, "You guys look terrific out there."

"Thanks," the pair responds in near-perfect unison.

The girl introduces herself -- Megan is the name that Dylan thinks he hears -- and the three make small talk for a few moments. But Dylan is preoccupied with evaluating Leo, who looks even nicer than Dylan remembered from their last meeting two or three years ago. Dark black hair stands spiked atop his head, and his tight-fitting, athletic top suggests a lean but well-developed torso.

A minute later, Megan or Michelle or whatever excuses herself. Dylan waits only a second before cracking a grin, which Leo easily returns.

"I'd love to catch up," Dylan says. "It's been a long time."

"Yeah. When was the last time? Sectionals in San Jose?"

Dylan nods his head. "That was a good time."

"That it was," Leo says. His deeply tanned face creases as he smiles. "Wanna go get a drink?"

Dylan is about to respond "yes" when his mind flashes to Alex. He's probably sitting at home, at his computer, maybe waiting for Dylan to call.

Of course, Alex could have been here, and Dylan wouldn't have been nearly as bored in all the downtime. If they're going to be together, Alex could at least pretend to care half as much as Dylan does about the relationship. Ugh. Not what he wants to be thinking about tonight. Not going to help him compete well.

Another flash of Leo's smile and the decision is made.

"I'd love to," Dylan says, again eyeing that lycra-covered torso.


The lights in the distance become clearer and clearer as Jason and Lauren make their way back down the road. By the time they reach the main strip -- still linked at the shoulders, Lauren balancing herself against Jason -- they have identified some of the decrepit buildings as a gas station, a convenience store, and a motel.

They approach the shabby-looking motel warily. Jason gets the impression that Lauren is awaiting every step he takes before taking another of her own. Despite both of their reluctance, though, he approaches the entrance, bringing her along with him.

"The Rusty Bucket?" Lauren asks as she eyes the flashing neon sign.

"We've just gotta make some phone calls and wait in the lobby for a little while. It won't be too bad."

Jason opens the rickety front door, briefly wondering what kinds of filth might be inhabiting the doorknob. Lauren follows him inside.

A few feet from the door, a redheaded woman -- who seems like the type to have a shotgun under her chair, Jason decides as soon as he steps inside -- sits behind a desk.

"What can I do ya for?" she asks in a voice that's a little too loud.

"I didn't know we were in Alabama," Lauren whispers to Jason.

He widens his eyes to shush her and clears his throat. "Hi. We, uh, we were wondering if we could use your phone. Our car broke down up the road."

"You need to call a tow truck?"

"Yeah." Jason steps closer to the desk, pulling Lauren by the hand right behind him. "We'd really appreciate it."

"It's gonna be hours before you get a tow truck out here," the woman says.

Jason starts to protest, but he catches himself. "Really?"

"Absolutely! No way are they gonna drive out here in the dark like this." The redhead pauses, and Jason reads her nametag, which identifies her as Rae Hurn. "You guys have any idea where you are?"

"Not really," Jason admits. "We're supposed to be staying at a lodge off Honeycutt--"

"How the heck'd you get all the way out here?" Rae asks. Before either of them can open their mouths, she adds, "You should get yourselves a couple hours of sleep and take care of this in the mornin'."

Jason has more than a suspicion that they're being at least a little manipulated, but the idea of sleep before dealing with this mess is extremely appealing. "Maybe that's a good idea ..."

Lauren shoots him a desperate look.

"We could both use some sleep," he says. He squeezes her hand.

She consents with a sigh. "You're probably right."

Rae's face explodes in a grin. "Lucky for you, we've got some openings!"


Sarah knew this was coming. Oh God. Not Matt.

"Matt suffered several injuries in the accident," Claire says. "The most serious is a punctured lung."

"What does that mean?"

"It isn't life-threatening, but it's serious. He broke three ribs in the accident and basically wound up with a puncture wound in one of his lungs, which means there's air in the chest cavity."

"So what happens now?" Sarah asks, relieved that Matt will live but terrified at all the other possibilities.

"It's being handled as we speak. He'll need to stay in the hospital for a few days," Claire explains.

"But he'll be okay?"

"He should be, yes ..."

There is a hesitance about Claire that sets off an alarm in Sarah's head.

"Can I see him?" she asks. "And Victoria?"

Claire nods. "I can bring you back to see Victoria in a few minutes. We just need to get her settled."

"All right."

Claire slips back through the swinging doors. Sarah folds her arms together and stares at the doors for a moment. She briefly considers rushing through there and trying to find Matt, but that wouldn't get her anywhere, she's pretty sure.

When she turns around, the rest of the family has all managed to find the same facial expression: relief tempered by the appropriate levels of reverence and concern.

Paula steps closer to Sarah. "They're very lucky."

"Yeah," Sarah says.

She catches sight of the expression on Molly's face, and it infuriates her. She shouldn't even be here.

"I hope you're happy," Sarah snaps.

Molly reacts as if it is the most unbelievable concept in the world that Sarah might be angry at her, all innocence and righteous indignation.

"Come on, Sarah," Paula says.

"Yeah," Molly says, coming closer. "It's not like I was driving the car that hit Matt's truck."

"You set this whole thing in motion, though."

"I did not! There is a long way between me being with Brent and you speeding off carelessly in your car! It's not like I directly--"

"You goddamn bitch," Sarah says, stepping forward and reaching her hand out for her sister.

But before it can make contact, another hand grasps her wrist.

"What is this about?" Bill asks, still gripping Sarah's arm.

Sarah stares intently at Molly as she explains. "Your little princess couldn't keep her hands to herself. Of all the men in the world, guess who she's been carrying on with?"

Bill's hold softens as both he and Paula stare at Molly. Sarah feels a strange surge of victory.

"I found out about it tonight," Sarah says. "So I went over to tell Molly that I knew what she and Brent had been up to--"

Paula turns back to Sarah. "Dear, I really don't think that makes the accident Molly's fault."

Sarah stares at Paula disbelievingly and then turns to Bill, who only seems to echo his wife's sentiment. Jerking her hand away from him, Sarah retreats to the corner of the room.

A few moments later, she feels a hand on her shoulder. She turns around to face Ryan.

"Are you all right?" he asks. "I don't really know what's going on, but ..."

"I'll be fine," she says. She eyes Molly, engaged in nervous conversation with Paula and Bill, over Ryan's shoulder. "I really will."


Is Sarah going to attempt revenge on Molly?
Will Matt come through this medical crisis all right?
Will Jason and Lauren make it through the night in the strange motel?
Visit the Footprints Forum to share your thoughts!

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