Episode #382

Previously ...
- Matt gathered his and Sarah's loved ones for a special dinner, during which he proposed marriage to Sarah. She joyfully accepted.
- Throughout the dinner, Tim eyed Claire and Ryan with concern, while Claire agreed to accompany Ryan on a walk later.
- Brian informed Diane that he plans to propose to Kelsey.
- On the heels of his reunion with Trevor, Alex had further reason to celebrate: his book was finally being published.


The night has been a whirlwind for Alex Marshall, and the adrenaline pumping through his being shows no indication of relenting anytime soon. Hearing himself presented to this room full of important people ... doing his best not to stumble over his tongue when asked to say a few words ... seeing his book not only in print, but in the hands of very interested people ... all of it seems like something out of a dream.

While he has always considered himself good with names and faces, he fears that his brain is about to reach critical mass for the evening. Some familiar faces are in order. He manages to extricate himself from Diane and swiftly locates his friends, who are clustered together in a comfortable bubble of their own. Alex is relieved to join them.

"So you do still have time for the little people," Lauren Brooks teases as Alex joins her, her brother, Jason Fisher, and Courtney Chase.

"I'm contractually obligated to be seen with non-publishing people for at least three and a half minutes tonight," Alex says.

Jason glances around the room. "This is pretty swanky, dude. Who are all these people?"

Alex shrugs. "Damned if I know. Vision took care of the whole thing and basically told me to show up."

"Hey, if there's free champagne, it works for me," Courtney says, holding up her half-full flute. The group joins her in laughter.

"Speaking of champagne," Jason says, "what do you guys say about a toast to our pal, the published author?" The others murmur their agreement, so Jason continues: "To Alex--may this be the first in a long, long line of books and the beginning of an amazing career. We're proud of you, buddy."

"Cheers!" they say in unison before clinking their glasses together and drinking in Alex's honor.

Alex feels his face and neck grow warm with embarrassment--par for the course tonight, it seems--as he says, "I couldn't have gotten this far without you guys. I have to thank all of you for supporting me ... and putting up with me."

"I'll drink to that!" Trevor says, and amidst a flurry of laughs, they all follow suit.

Alex feels a hand on the small of his back, and he can feel that it belongs to Trevor. The touch lingers for only an instant, but it is enough for Alex to absorb the emotion behind it.

"I'm so, so proud of you," Trevor whispers, his lips just millimeters from Alex's ear.


The fading sun has taken the July heat with it, and as Claire Fisher strolls along King's Bay's waterfront district, the slightest of shivers seizes her body.

"Here, take my jacket," Ryan Moriani says, apparently having recognized the involuntary shudder almost before Claire herself did. She attempts to protest, but Ryan persists, so she takes the blazer.

"That is better," she admits after a few seconds with the jacket over her shoulders. "Thanks."

"I don't need you freezing to death on me." They walk a few more steps in silence before Ryan adds, "Especially when I have so little time with you these days."

Claire concentrates on her feet as they fall in rhythm over the cobbled pavement. "I'm sorry that I've basically cut myself off the last few weeks--"

"Don't be. You're doing what you need to do." Ryan's calmness surprises her, and she wonders why that is. He is such a fiery, impulsive person that, no matter how many times he reveals this gentler, slower side, she is always taken aback ... in a good way.

When she doesn't respond, Ryan assumes the burden of conversation.

"It's good to see Sarah so happy, isn't it?" he asks, though it is more a statement of fact than a question for debate.

"She's been through a lot--not that some of it wasn't her own fault. She deserves a little peace and quiet."

"So do you."

She senses Ryan stop walking and does the same. When she brings herself to look at him, she finds him staring at her, as if he has a thousand things to say but cannot decide where to begin.

"What is it?" she finally asks in an attempt to cut the tension.

Ryan sighs. "It's nothing."

He averts his eyes, then exhales again--more heavily this time. "I should get going soon. I've got a meeting really early."

The restaurant, where both of their cars are packed, is only a block away now, so Claire removes the jacket from her shoulders and hands it back to him. He accepts it wordlessly. He begins walking again, but she hangs back.

"Aren't you coming?" he asks.

"Go ahead. I'm going to enjoy it out here for a little while longer."

Ryan hesitates but finally goes. She watches him walk away, and when there is a good amount of distance between them, she calls out his name. He turns immediately.

"Thank you for being so patient!" she shouts.

He accepts her thanks with a gracious nod and, jacket in hand, returns to his car. Claire stares out at the bay, hoping against hope that the answer might be out there somewhere and she just hasn't noticed it yet.


The evening, Diane Bishop can now say with confidence, is a success. Barring any last-minute instances of someone driving an SUV through the window or some equally implausible catastrophe, the party has gone off without a hitch. For the first time all night, Diane allows herself to step away from the crowd and take in the scene without concern.

Her attention wanders over the various pockets of people huddled together. She finds it fascinating to observe who congregates with whom at these functions. Most of the groups are made up of people from similar places: publishing people; members of the press; representatives of bookstores. Here and there, the groups mix and mingle, and Diane delights in noting the awkwardness in these out-of-the-ordinary interactions.

One cluster in particular catches her eye. She recognizes them all as Vision employees and their corresponding dates--including Brian and that ridiculous girlfriend of his.

She'd look more at home at a student council meeting than at a soiree like this, Diane thinks as she examines Kelsey Barker. Sure, her dress is tasteful, her hair and makeup understated ... but she's nothing more than cute.

The sound of her name rattles Diane from thought.

"Diane," Alex says, coming up alongside her, "I have a quick question."

"Anything for the man of the hour."

"Can you tell me who that guy is?" He points discreetly toward a silver-haired gentleman waiting by the bar. "I remember being introduced to him, but he just cornered me and I had no clue who he was. I had to fake my way through the whole conversation."

"Then you do stand a chance of making it in this industry," she says with a smile. "Cliff Tenney. Barnes and Noble. A very good face to remember."

Thanking her, Alex starts to leave but pauses. "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah. Yeah, of course. I'm just exhausted." She drags her focus away from Brian and Kelsey. "Go enjoy yourself."

He slips back into the crowd. Diane's attention is once again caught by a loud laugh from the Vision circle. She doesn't see a ring on Kelsey's finger, but it is only a matter of time, the way Brian made it sound.

Let him have his child bride, Diane tells herself. It isn't even worth her energy to worry about--energy that she could put toward much more productive ends ... like Tim Fisher.


Sarah Fisher allows her head to sink backward into the pillow. It has been a long day, full of excitement--some of which she didn't even see coming--and the softness of her bed is quite inviting. With the lights dimmed and a Coldplay CD humming softly in the air, she stares at the ceiling for what must be several minutes, though she is too lost in thought to notice the passage of time.

Only when Matt Gray enters the room does her attention stray from the wanderings of her mind back into reality.

"She's out like a light," Matt says. "All the excitement really knocked her out, I think."

"She's not the only one!"

Matt pulls his white t-shirt over his head and deposits it on the floor; Sarah decides not to mention it. Not tonight--everything is too perfect. The mattress shifts as Matt climbs onto it and stretches out alongside Sarah.

When you try your best, but you don't succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse ...

"We actually made it," he says after a long moment of quiet. "Can you believe it?"

"I'm trying. I've got to say, the rock is helping a little bit." She holds up her hand and examines the clear, Asscher-cut diamond. "Definitely helping."

"Glad you like it." Matt rolls onto his side to face her. "Thank you, Sarah."

"Shouldn't I be the one thanking you? Tonight was amazing, Matt. It was everything I've ever dreamed of a marriage proposal being."

"You really had no idea I was gonna propose?"

She shakes her head, wondering why she didn't catch the signs but also grateful that it came as such a surprise. "I guess I was too caught up in everything that was going on."

He reaches across to her, and the touch of his hand against her bare shoulder ignites a current in her body.

When the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

"I don't want to waste a lot of time," she says. "I want to get married as soon as we can."

Matt holds up his palms, as if to show that he will offer no argument. "We've wasted enough time. The sooner you can be my wife, the better."

Sarah rolls onto her side, and their lips join together as if sealing the pact. She feels both of Matt's hands on her body now, and as his weight settles over her, she wonders how she ever faced the world without him in her life.

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you ...


"It's been really good seeing you," Kelsey says. "Give me a call so we can do lunch."

Jason agrees, and his former skating partner exits the party with Brian. A moment later, Courtney appears at Jason's side.

"Did Kelsey leave?" she asks.

"Yeah, she has to work early tomorrow."

"Dammit. I barely got to talk to her all night." Courtney checks her watch. "It is getting late, though. I probably need to get going, too."

"When do you want to practice tomorrow?" Jason asks. "I have to give lessons at 8:00 and 8:30 ..."

"Let's do 9, then. I have to be at the restaurant at 1, so that'll give me time to run home and get ready."

Jason completes the thought for her: "Without getting up at the ass-crack of dawn."


Near the dessert table, Lauren debates between a walnut brownie and a piece of carrot cake. Either way, it will be her last indulgence for the night--though that is also what she told herself before the last cookie she had.

She settles on the brownie and sets it on her plate. As she takes her first bite, she scans the room for Jason. She manages only a step in his direction before her body stiffens with indecision.

"Does that worry you at all?" her brother's voice asks from behind her.

She feigns ignorance. "Does what worry me?"

"Jason and Courtney, getting all chummy again."

"No! Don't be--that's stupid." She gulps down another chunk of the brownie. "If anything, I'm glad we're all getting along again."

"Long as you're okay with it," Trevor says, now lingering over the desserts himself.

"I'm fine with it," Lauren assures him, but as she continues to watch the two chat, she decides that another cookie might be in order, after all.


Is Lauren as comfortable as she claims to be?
Can Diane bear to watch Brian marry Kelsey?
Can Claire finally come to a decision?
Come on over to the Footprints Forum to talk about it!

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This scene contained lyrics from the Coldplay track "Fix You," from the group's 2005 album X&Y. Click here for information on purchasing this album.