Episode #323

Previously ...
- Claire and Ryan grew close again as they attempted to figure out the mystery of the cut-up dress.
- Alex confessed to Jason that he had been having doubts about his relationship with Dylan and might be interested in Trevor. However, both Alex and Trevor separately concluded that because of Alex's past with Lauren, nothing could happen between them.
- After their relationship was exposed to Sarah and the rest of the Fishers, Molly felt uncertain about remaining with Brent.
- Matt was released from the hospital. He urged Sarah to forget the past and look toward the future--with him by her side.

SUNDAY, JUNE 13, 2004
1:27 AM

The doorbell pierces the night air once.

Diane Bishop's ears perk up. No one rings her doorbell at this hour. All those damned old ladies who live in the units around hers have long since passed out watching Murder, She Wrote reruns. Unless ...

She scrambles out of bed, pulling her silk robe over herself as she goes, waiting for the next ring, the next level of urgency. Her pace increases. That next ring is sure to sound any instant, waking up Samantha, announcing some disaster in louder and louder tones.

She yanks the door open before whoever it is has the chance to ring again.

"I'm sorry, it's so late," her visitor says from behind a screen of barely suppressed tears. "I hope I didn't wake you up."

"No, I was just watching TV." Diane holds open the door, steps aside, reminds herself not to look too happy about this unexpected arrival. "What's going on?"

Sarah Fisher stands in the condo's living room, looking like some counterfeit Cinderella who has just been chased out of the ball by an angry mob. All the pieces are in place--the light green dress with its long, straight skirt, the dark blonde hair pulled up so carefully and held together by the force of a hundred unseen pins--except for the smile. Dark streaks stain Sarah's face like the marks of tires that have gone skidding unsuccessfully down a stretch of asphalt, only to plummet off the cliff of her jawline.

"This was supposed to be a good night," Sarah says. "I told myself that we were going to have a beautiful night and that I wouldn't let anything else bother me."

"Sarah, what happened?"

Tears clog Sarah's throat and distort her response, fragmenting it awkwardly between gasps and swallows. "I wasn't going to let it bother me. But when I saw them up there--I had to do something. Something important, so that my night wouldn't be ruined."

"Hey, hey," Diane says. She moves closer and rests a comforting arm over Sarah's shoulders. "Back it up a couple of steps."

Sarah's body spasms under Diane's touch, as another gasp produces a fresh current of tears. They stand like that, without words, sobs filling the air, for a time that feels impossibly long to Diane. What is going on? Sarah blows her off, virtually ignores her attempts to repair their friendship, for two months, and then shows up here in the middle of the night having a breakdown?

"What happened?" she asks again. "Where were you?"

"It's over. I screwed everything up."

"Screwed what up?" Some coherence, please, she wants to add, but she restrains her tongue.

"Everything. I--" Another sob chokes Sarah's explanation, and she has to wait until it subsides to speak again. "You were right about them."

Diane resists the urge to ask for details and instead offers a soothing rub on Sarah's shoulder.

"But I really did it this time," Sarah says, finally raising her eyes to meet Diane's. "I ruined the best thing that will ever happen to me."

8:14 PM

"Oh, would you look at this!"

Paula Fisher clasps the sleeve of her husband's tuxedo. The hall opens up before them, the stage and runway directly ahead. Clusters of people fill the room, creating a sea of tuxedos and gowns.

"This is so exciting," Paula says. "Molly must be on cloud nine."

She and Bill step through the doorway and enter the room. Immediately the loud buzz of conversations and music--something upbeat that Paula doesn't recognize--envelopes them. She searches around for a face that she recognizes.

"Mom! Dad!"

She is still searching around for the body to match the voice when Sarah appears in front of them.

"Hi, honey!" Paula greets her daughter with a hug and then steps back to admire her. "You look wonderful."

"Thanks. So do you."

Matt comes up behind Sarah, and their hands join together.

"Hey," he says to the Fishers.

"Someone should take a picture," Bill says to Matt through a grin. "I can't imagine we're going to see you so spiffed up very often."

Matt straightens the front of his tux. "You never know, I'm kinda enjoying it. Maybe I'll start dressing like this every day."

Sarah makes a face at him.

"Are your brother and sister here yet?" Paula asks Sarah.

"I'm sure Molly is around somewhere, but we haven't seen her yet. She's probably backstage getting everything ready."

The ease with which Sarah discusses her sister comes as a pleasant surprise to Paula, and she can tell that Bill is thinking the same thing. No trace of bitterness, no sarcasm, just the facts. It is considerable progress from the venom that Sarah was spewing toward Molly a mere two months ago, when she found out about Molly and Brent's relationship.

"And we were just talking to Jason," Sarah says, searching around for her younger brother. "He and Lauren went to get some food, I think."

Sure enough, Jason and Lauren approach them a moment later, each carrying a small plate of food from the buffet table.

Paula notices Bill and Matt giving the food their compulsory restaurant-chef's once-over and has to laugh. From the way Molly has described Camille Lemieux and this entire operation, she doesn't expect that the food would be anything less than the best.

"Hey, gang," Jason says, giving a little wave with his free hand. "Pretty ritzy, huh?"

"It's beautiful," Paula says. "How are you, Lauren? It's good to see you."

Lauren finishes her bite before speaking. "It's good to see you, too! I'm doing really well. Keeping busy with work--I'm actually working on the ad campaign for Objection, so this is really exciting for me."

"Jason says your brother is modeling in the show."

"Yeah, he's actually one of the models for the print ads, too. So everyone's sort of involved. I'm having a great time working with these people."

"Good, good." Paula studies the whole scene again, more thoroughly this time. "It's really amazing that there are so many people here to see Molly's designs!"

"I could use a drink before this thing starts," Jason says. He bumps Lauren with his arm. "Wanna make a trip to the bar?"

She nods. "Yeah, that sounds good."

"I'll come with you guys," Sarah says. "Matt, do you wanna--"

Matt shakes his head. "No, I'll hang back here. Go ahead."

Bill and Paula decline drinks, and the trio heads for the bar.

"I'm glad they left us alone for a couple minutes," Matt says, leaning in closer toward the Fishers, "because there's something really important I need to ask you guys--about Sarah and me."

8:18 PM

The backstage area is even more hectic than the hall itself. Bodies clad in formalwear and in the fashions that are going to be displayed tonight rush around; every person seems to be in the midst of a personal frenzy.

Brent Taylor tries to focus on something, anything. He needs to find Molly, but he thinks that he might be lucky to find even his own head in this madhouse.

He strolls through the area, narrowly avoiding several run-ins with people who don't even seem to notice him. No sign of Molly.

He stops a young woman dressed in what appears to be the type of outfit Molly has been designing for months and months.

"Excuse me, do you know where I could find Molly Fisher?"

The girl doesn't even blink. She just points a longer finger toward an open doorway and then walks off. Brent wonders if she even realized she was speaking to another human being. Nevertheless, he heads for the door that the girl pointed out.

He steps cautiously into the room and is immediately swept into a whirlwind of voices, hands, fabric, hairspray. It only takes him a moment to spot Molly, toward the back of the room. She has her hands on her hips and stands back as she examines the outfit on a tall, slender male model.

"Something's bugging me about the way the shirt is falling over the pants," Brent hears her say as he gets closer to her. She examines the model for a few more seconds, then says, "Try tucking the front of the shirt behind the belt buckle."

The model obliges. Molly adjusts the fabric just a little, though to Brent's eye, it looks exactly the same. But the change seems to please Molly, and she sends the model off to continue getting ready.

"Molly," he says as soon as she is alone.

She turns quickly, as if prepared to deal with another crisis, and exhales sharply when she sees Brent.

"What are you doing back here?" she asks. She doesn't sound upset, just stressed.

"I needed to see you."

"Brent, I'm ... I'm really busy right now. It's nuts here."

"I know, I know. But Molly--I wanted you to know that I'm here, and I'm so proud of you. I know you weren't comfortable with us coming here together--"

He can see her softening, but when she speaks, her voice is insistent.

"I can't do this, not tonight."

"Then what about the last couple of weeks?" he asks, sounding more aggressive than he intended. "You've been avoiding me. After everything we've been through--why now?"

"It's too uncomfortable," she says. Her eyes dart around, on the lookout for the next catastrophe, and Brent knows that his time with her is limited. "Being with you, dealing with my family ... It's too much."

He holds one of her hands between both of his. "You've wanted this for so long, Mol. And now we have the chance, and you're running away?"

"We don't have the chance. Not really."

Before he can manage a response, Molly holds up a hand. "I have to go deal with some stuff before the show starts. We can--we'll talk later, okay?"

All Brent can do is shrug his shoulders. Molly gives him one last pained look and walks off, getting lost in the sea of people.

He exits the room and finds his way out of the backstage area. As soon as he walks out into the main hall, he hears his name.

"Hey, bro," Josh says as he hurries over. "What were you doing back there?"

"Trying to talk to Molly. How are you?"

"Fine. Good." Josh takes a long sip of his champagne. "Why, what's going on with Molly?"

"Good question," Brent says, not even sure of the answer himself. "Ever since Sarah found out about Molly and me being together--it's like something changed. Things have been horrible with us. She didn't even want to come together tonight."

"You manage to get through to her at all?"

"Not really. She's too busy. This is, I mean, it's pandemonium back there. But this is supposed to be such a big night for her, and I know--I know--that it's hard for her feeling like she has to stay away from me like this."

Josh's eyes light up. "So? Take control, bro."

"What am I supposed to do, throw her over my shoulder and carry her back to my cave?"

"Could work," Josh says with a laugh, "although I have something a little smoother in mind."

8:26 PM

Alex Marshall straightens his tuxedo in the bathroom mirror. While he is sure that it looks fine, it doesn't seem quite right to him. This is one of the few times he has ever worn a tux, and he isn't entirely comfortable in it.

He convinces himself that he looks acceptable enough and exits the bathroom. He sets out for the place where he left Dylan, but as he passes by the bar, another familiar face comes into view.

"Alex!" Trevor Brooks calls out. "What are you doing here?"

"Jason's sister asked if I wanted to come, so I thought it would be kind of a fun thing," Alex says. "You getting nervous?"

"Little bit, yeah." Trevor holds up the cup of water in his hand. "I'm trying to time this so I don't have a sudden bladder malfunction right before I have to go out on the runway."

"I'm guessing that you're not dressed for the show yet ..."

Trevor glances down at his jeans and plain t-shirt. "Yeah, not quite. But I like the tux. It looks good."

"Thanks." Alex looks down at his sleeve, flicks away a tiny piece of lint. "I, uh, I sent a copy of the manuscript out to a couple of agents yesterday."

"Hey, congratulations!"

"We'll see if anyone bites. It's a long shot, but I'm trying to have some faith."

Trevor opens his mouth to respond, but his focus gets pulled somewhere Alex's shoulder. "So there's my date," he says loudly.

Alex turns. His mind goes into overdrive as he tries to figure out why Dylan and Courtney are walking toward them.

"Hey!" Alex says as Courtney gives him a hug. "I didn't know you were gonna be here!"

"You should probably keep in better touch with me, then, huh?" Courtney gives a light punch in the arm. "Actually, I wasn't coming until two days ago. Trevor came into the restaurant while I was working, and we got to talking, and he asked if I wanted to be his date tonight."

Alex gives Trevor a confused look, and Trevor's expression says that he'll explain later.

"I should probably get backstage again," Trevor says. "They have to jam me into some clothes and make my hair all crazy. You know."

"Oh yeah, you poor models! Well, go ahead. Good luck," Courtney says.

Alex gives Trevor a quick tap on the shoulder. "Yeah, good luck up there."

Trevor thanks them and disappears backstage.

"It's good to see you," Alex says to Courtney. "And I see you and Dylan didn't waste any time finding each other."

Dylan leans in a little closer and lowers his voice. "Hey, it's good to know someone here. Besides, a girl that looks like this ..."

Courtney laughs. "Because that's obviously what you're interested in."

Dylan shrugs. "So, Alex, that's the Trevor you were working on your book with? You should've told me he was, you know, really hot."

"I can't believe he's modeling in the show," Courtney says. "That's so exciting."

Dylan throws an arm around Alex. "I might have to start getting jealous now."

"Don't worry about it," Alex says. "You've got nothing to worry about."

"That's what I like to hear," Dylan says, pulling Alex a little tighter against him.

8:51 PM

On the other side of the hall, couples sway together to the smooth sound of the Norah Jones song coming from the speakers. Ryan Moriani's hands rest on Claire Fisher's hips as he takes in the scene, the song, and the fact that they are here together.

"I'm so glad you agreed to be my date tonight," he says, dipping his head to bring his mouth closer to her ear.

"So am I." Two of her fingers brush the back of his neck, though he isn't sure if it is intentional or an accident. "Thank you for not pressuring me about it."

"I know you need time." If there is one thing that Ryan has learned recently, it's that patience pays, especially when it comes to Claire. The harder he pushed her about their relationship, the further away from him she moved. But after the incident with the torn dress, they had to talk; they had to spend time together. And suddenly, Claire must felt the same irresistible pull Ryan felt. Since then, she has gradually become more comfortable with her feelings for him, and they have been slowly working to rebuild the relationship they had.

Now if only they could figure out who stole the damn dress and cut it up.

But he isn't going to think about that tonight, and he isn't going to mention it. Not when he's here, dancing and celebrating with the beautiful woman in his arms. He steps back just an inch to get a better look at her. He has studied her so much tonight that he probably has her image memorized, but he cannot help looking again: the light red dress, the dark hair lifted up to leave her shoulders bare, the soft lips that match the dress perfectly.

"And thank you for letting me be here with you tonight," he says, breathing in the scent of her hair, of her.

The song ends, and instead of another song following it, a deep male voice comes over the speaker system: "If everyone would please find their seats, the show will be beginning in just a few minutes. Thank you!"

Almost immediately, the crowd starts moving, away from the dance floor, away from the buffet table and bar, toward the seating that is set up around the stage and runway.

"Guess it's time to find the others," Ryan says. He takes Claire by the hand and leads her in the general direction of the seats.

Claire squeezes his hand as they walk. "I can't wait to see how this turns out!"


What is in store during the fashion show?
Can Josh help his brother win Molly back?
And what does Matt want to ask the Fishers?
Visit the Footprints Forum to share your thoughts and see what others have to say!

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