Episode #324

Previously ...
- Sarah rushed into Diane's apartment in the middle of the night, proclaiming that she'd done something to ruin her life.
- Earlier that evening, everyone turned out for Objection's debut fashion show. Molly tried to focus on her work and tried to rebuff Brent's insistence that they can still be together. Josh had a plan to help out his older brother.
- After Dylan and Trevor finally came face-to-face, Alex had to assure Dylan that Trevor is no threat to their relationship.
- Matt told Bill and Paula that he had an important question to ask them regarding Sarah.

8:58 PM

The crowd moves into the rows and rows of seats that have been set up around the stage and runway. On one side of the runway, the Fishers have staked out a line of seats. Jason and Lauren sit at one end of the row-within-a-row, holding hands as they wait for the show to begin. Beside them are Ryan and Claire, making a quick call home to the babysitter to make sure that Travis and Victoria are doing all right.

And then there is one empty seat, Bill, another empty seat, and Matt. Paula and Sarah have excused themselves for a last-minute restroom break, the last chance they will have until the show is over.

Bill leans across the seat that will soon be his daughter's.

"You're really going to do it tonight?" he asks.

Matt nods, unable to keep the excitement off his face. "Yeah. I wanted to talk to you guys before I did it, but this seems like the perfect night, with everyone dressed up and all."

"It is perfect. It will be perfect. Do you think Sarah has any idea?"

"She shouldn't. She has no reason to." Matt pauses, gets lost in thought for a moment. She has to have thought about it, at least. It's been hard for him not to, considering the way things have been developing lately. Since he got out of the hospital, they've been together almost constantly. They alternate nights at their apartments, have dinner together with Victoria every night that Matt isn't working, spend the weekends on little family outings.

Family. The word rises in his mind and refuses to subside. Sarah and Victoria really are his family.

"This is the right thing to do," Bill says, a wide smile on his face. He gives Matt a pat on the arm. "And now we change the subject," he adds, tipping his head toward the end of the row.

Matt looks and sees Sarah and Paula approaching. The women settle in and take their seats, and Matt cannot help but examine Sarah, see if she might even have a clue. She can't.

He can't wait until the show is over.

The lights ease from an auditorium's glow to a romantic gray. The background music that has been playing over the speaker system fades, and the audience's roar recedes with it. The hush lasts long enough for new music to begin, much louder than before--a playful tango.

The curtains part, and a row of five models appear on stage. In the shadows, they execute Spanish-flavored choreography, moving sharply to the music.

An instant later, the tango transforms with a blast into a driving rock tune, crisp lights brighten the stage, and the models start determinedly down the runway.

9:22 PM

The same Shakira song that opened the show plays again as the models file onto the stage. They line the runway, each clad in the last outfit that he or she displayed, and the audience's applause rises to an appreciate thunder. The models turn, pose, face different directions.

Finally the music begins to fade, and the line retreats backstage. As the models disappear, a woman steps out from backstage, microphone in hand. She is older than the models who have paraded up and down the runway for the last twenty minutes, and her long, formal dress and impressive jewelry stand in stark contrast to the fashions that Objection has shown off tonight.

"First of all, I'd like to thank you all for being with us tonight," Camille Lemieux says into the microphone. "This is a very exciting night for myself and for the entire Objection Designs team, and we greatly appreciate your support and your enthusiasm."

Her thanks garner another round of applause from the audience.

"Now I'd like to take this opportunity to acknowledge some of the people involved in making this show happen. If you could, I think our models deserve another hand for their wonderful performances tonight."

The audience obliges.

"However, they wouldn't have looked nearly so stunning," Camille pauses, shifts the microphone to her other hand, "without the hard work of our design team. I'd like to introduce you to the designers who created the fashions you've seen tonight."

She introduces herself as five other individuals, four women and a man, join her onstage. She gives their names and pauses so the audience can show its appreciation. And when she comes to the final name--"Molly Fisher!"--a certain portion of the audience claps harder and whistles louder than it has at any other point tonight.

Molly smiles and waves appreciatively. She looks to Camille, waiting for the older woman to speak again, and tries to figure out why she isn't.

Camille has to nod past Molly to make her turn and look.

As Molly turns, there is Brent, coming up onto the stage, approaching her, a dozen red roses in his arms.

A rush of terror fills Molly's veins. Her first instinct is to glance at her family. It takes her a moment to find them in the sea of faces and clapping hands, but when she catches a glimpse of Paula's face, she somehow knows that this is okay.

Brent simultaneously passes the roses into Molly's arms and pulls her closer for a kiss on the lips.

"No more screwing around," he whispers when their faces are just fractions of an inch apart. "This is right. You know it, and all these people know it."

He takes her hand and stands by her side, giving Camille an appreciative nod before she goes on speaking. Molly relaxes her hand in Brent's and tries to convince herself that all her resistance over the last few months--the last several years, really--is no longer necessary.

They are together, and there is nothing wrong or dirty about that. And as much as she feels that she should tell him otherwise, she won't. Not tonight. Not ever.

9:34 PM

"I'd say we're off to a pretty good start, eh, Miss Brooks?" Josh Taylor says as he approaches Lauren and Jason.

Lauren grins over the rim of her champagne glass. "Absolutely, yeah. I think tonight did a hell of a job selling this line."

"Definitely." Josh's eyes scan from the young blonde woman to the man by her side. He extends a hand. "Josh Taylor."

"Jason Fisher." The two young men shake.

"He's Brent's brother," Lauren tells Jason. "He's working at Willis on the ad campaign for Objection."

"Oh yeah, I remember you mentioning that."

"I take it you're the guy I've been hearing about," Josh says, maintaining a smile despite some internal itch of annoyance. He found Lauren charming when they started working together on the Objection campaign, and that hasn't dimmed in the time since.

Jason sips his champagne. "That'd be me. Well--" He throws Lauren a joking, wary glance. "I hope it's me, anyhow."

Lauren makes a face at him. "Keep telling yourself that, buddy."

Lifting an eyebrow at Josh, Jason points to Lauren. "Would you listen to this one?"

"She's some piece of work, huh?"

Before Lauren can retaliate, her brother comes clamoring out from backstage, spots her, and hurries over.

She and Trevor hug.

"Nice work, mister," she says.

"Congratulations, Trevor," Josh adds. "You did really well."

Lauren nods emphatically. "You looked hot up there."

"I'm gonna take that as a compliment," Trevor says, "and pretend you're not my sister for a minute."

She looks to Jason. "See? Boys everywhere."

Jason leans in a little closer, speaking in a more private voice. "Hey, I hate to break up Incest Fest 2004, but your date's on her way over, Trevor."

Josh notices the discomfort that settles over the group as a dark-haired young woman comes up to Trevor.

"You did great up there," she says. She offers Josh a smile but doesn't even acknowledge Lauren and Jason.

"Thanks," Trevor says. "You're having fun?"

"Yeah, totally! I've been hanging out with Dylan and Alex. Dylan had some entertaining commentary on the clothes you guys were wearing."

"Don't let Camille Lemieux hear, if it's anything bad!"

"He was quiet, don't worry."

The young woman turns and seems to notice Josh for the first time. "I'm Courtney," she says, extending her hand to him.

Slowly Josh accepts it and shakes. "Josh. It's nice to meet you."

She's a very good-looking girl, that much is immediately clear. She wears a pink dress that looks brighter than it is because of her tan. Her raven hair is clipped up behind her head, stray pieces flying stylishly in all directions. But what Josh finds most intriguing is the way that she so pointedly keeps her eyes from even wandering toward Lauren and Jason.

"Listen, I'm gonna get back to Dylan and Alex," Courtney says to Trevor, "but once you get all changed and stuff, come find me. It'd be nice to dance with my date at least once tonight."

"I can do that," Trevor says with a laugh.

Josh stands back and observes; once Courtney leaves, Lauren and Jason seem to relax again. There is obviously some hostility there, but if there is bad blood between Courtney and his sister, why did Trevor bring her tonight?

I've got a lot to learn, Josh thinks, sipping idly on his champagne.

9:39 PM

Bill and Paula stand with their backs to the party as they crowd their daughter into a corner of the hall, trying to keep this conversation as private as possible.

"They really have no class," Sarah fumes. "Either of them."

"You have got to stop doing this," Paula says. Each word gains in firmness. "This is not healthy, Sarah."

"No, it's not! You'd think my own sister would have some regard for that."

"We know this is difficult for you," Bill says, "but you can't keep blaming Molly for it."

Paula nods in agreement. "She and Brent have tried to handle this as delicately as they could."

"Delicately? Is that what you call lying to my face and having an affair behind my back?"

Bill can see how much this situation is hurting her, and part of him wants nothing more than to agree with her, tell her she has every right to be angry, console her as she copes with the situation. But an even larger part--maybe the romantic buried deep inside--cannot help but believe that after all this time, Molly and Brent are supposed to be together, and there's nothing any of them can do to fight that.

He reaches out a hand and places it on his daughter's shoulder, but she swats it away.

"I can't believe the two of you are taking her side now," Sarah says. Her stare burns hard into Bill's and then into Paula's, shooting rays of disappointment that almost crack him. Almost.

Bill forces himself to assume a stronger tone now. "You and Molly aren't kids anymore. No one's saying that you shouldn't be sorry your marriage to Brent didn't work out, or even that you have to be thrilled that he and Molly are together. But this has gone on long enough, Sarah. Maybe it's time to admit that you and Brent make a mistake getting married and that he and Molly are supposed to be together."

It comes out sounding a lot harsher than he intended, and immediately a fire sparks in Sarah's face.

"So that's it? I'm the one keeping the star-crossed lovers apart?" Sarah shakes her head in disgust. "I'm not buying that."

"Keep your voice down," Paula warns.

A wild grin breaks across Sarah's face. "I don't care if people hear me! If Molly wants to go public with their little affair, then she can deal with the consequences of people knowing the whole story!"

"Lower your voice, Sarah," Paula says, holding her teeth together tightly.

Bill is about to order her to leave the party when, thankfully, the one person who might be able to talk some sense into Sarah comes up to them.

"Matt," Bill says, "maybe you can take Sarah outside for a few minutes ..."

He can see that Matt understands exactly what is going on.

"Let's just go outside," he says, holding out a hand for her, "get some fresh air, get out of here for a little bit."

After a moment of hesitation, Sarah takes his hand. Matt leads her toward the doors.

"This can't go on," Paula says, leaning her head on her husband's shoulder.

9:42 PM

At first, Katherine Moriani barely notices her husband moving away from her side. She continues her conversation with a circle of friends and acquaintances who have also invested in Objection and come to witness its launch tonight.

"He's living in Seattle," she explains, responding to a question about her son, "working with an architecture firm. He's doing very well." Truth be told, her contact with Andrew has remained limited, but since his phone call during the holidays, they have at least maintained some kind of communication.

One of the other ladies begins talking about how her daughter was also living in Seattle, but her husband received a job offer in Oklahoma or Indiana or someplace, so they moved. Katherine's attention to the story fades and her listening goes on autopilot, however, as she follows Nick with her peripheral vision.

She has no problem with him leaving her side or mingling with others while they are out. But not her.

Just a few feet away, Nick stands engaged in conversation with Camille. Katherine strains to hear what they are saying, but she cannot drown out the people around her enough.

With a smile, she excuses herself and moves to her husband's side.

"Oh, hello," Camille says as soon as Katherine appears.

Mounting a pleasant expression on her face, Katherine returns the greeting.

"I was just telling Camille how much we enjoyed the show," Nick says.

"Oh, yes! I thought it was very interesting. Very cutting-edge."

"We can only hope the buyers think the same thing," Camille says. "I have to thank you both again for having faith in me and in this company. I really think we're doing something special here."

Katherine holds her lips together tightly and nods. Nick and Camille resume talking, and Katherine keeps a close eye on them. She doesn't like to think of herself as a jealous woman, but seeing her husband so chummy with an ex-lover is a bit unsettling.

Especially an ex-lover like Camille Lemieux. Katherine half-expected her to turn up tonight in some of the fashions that the models were wearing. Luckily she had more sense than that, but only barely.

If she weren't so rich, it would be a lot easier for Nick to see her for the tacky bitch that she is.

Katherine is contemplating ways to pull Nick away from the conversation when his phone rings. He apologizes and reaches into his pocket.

He glances at the screen before answering. "Nick Moriani."

Katherine watches his face, primarily to keep from having to focus on Camille, and she can see the change in his demeanor. He covers quickly, though, and ends the phone conversation in a hurry.

"Who was that?" Katherine asks, though she has learned that he will rarely answer that question in a straightforward manner.

"A business partner." Nick looks around, then at the two women. "You'll both have to excuse me. I need to find my son."

"It was a pleasure seeing you," Camille says. Nick barely acknowledges her as he slips away.

9:46 PM

The pleasantly warm June night comes as a welcome relief from the increasing heat of the hall. Matt removes his tuxedo jacket and places it over Sarah's bare shoulders.

"You can't keep doing this to yourself," he says, keeping his voice as calm and even as possible.

"I'm not the one doing anything!" Sarah exclaims.

He places his arms around her and pulls her to him. Her back settles against him.

"I know seeing them together makes you crazy, but if you keep reacting like this, it's never gonna get any easier."

"Hey, I showed up tonight to support Molly. I was being nice and normal and acting like a good sister. And then Brent had to go up there and put on that little show--"

"Sarah, they're together. They're in love."

"That's bullshit. They're--"

"No, it's not." He pulls her closer, trying to let her know that even though he might disagree, he still sympathizes with her. "Look at it this way: What if I'd gotten caught up in some quickie marriage to Molly, and then you and I met and we realized that it was the real deal? Would we have to try and ignore that forever just because--"

She cuts him off with a grunt. "It's not the same thing."

"It is the same thing. You don't need Brent. You don't need to let it bother you so much. Let them be together--who cares? We've got each other, and Victoria ... We have our own life."

He expects her to fire back with another angry rebuttal, but instead she lets out a deep sigh. He holds her and listens to her breathing, tries to match his with hers, to get her to calm down.

"Let go of that stuff," he says. "Let's focus on the future."

He leaves one of his hands on her abdomen, but the other moves inside the coat that she is now wearing, toward the inner pocket. This is the right time.

But before he can reach the pocket and the box inside it, Sarah turns and steps back, away from him.

"I've got an idea," she says.

He stares at her, confused, trying to move temporarily out of the mode into which he was shifting. Better to let her speak, say what she wants to say.

"You're right, the future is the right thing to focus on," she says, her face lighting up.


"No, hang on. Matt, I do want to be with you. And it's time for us to move forward." She takes hold of his hands. "Let's go get married. Tonight."


Should Sarah and Matt elope?
Is the path finally clear for Molly and Brent to be together?
What got Nick into such a panic?
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