Episode #407

Previously ...
- Trevor received a call from a mysterious man who asked him for money. Shaken, he hung up and didn't tell Alex about it.
- Lauren chose not to answer a call from Jason, as communication between them became even more strained.
- Despite some shaky moments beforehand, Jason and Courtney took the ice for their test and skated a confident program.


Lauren Brooks waits hopefully for the familiar display to appear on her phone's screen, but all she gets is the taunting flash of a battery graphic with a large X over it. Then the screen goes blank. She clutches the phone, unwilling to admit defeat by sticking it back in her purse.

"What's wrong with you?" Josh Taylor asks as he pokes his head around the wall of her cubicle.

She holds up the phone. "Technology fails me once again."

"Dead battery?"


"Maybe I'm going out on a limb here, but I bet you can survive half a workday without a cell phone."

"You give me way too much credit," Lauren says through a sigh. She opens a few of the desk's drawers, to no effect. "I thought I had a spare charger here, but I guess not."

As she finally gives up on the dead phone, Josh slips fully into her cubicle. He half-sits on the bare end of her wraparound desk.

"Did you hear the gossip?" he asks in an excited whisper.

"No! What?"

"Apparently--" Josh glances around cautiously and leans closer. "--the boss is leaving his wife for his secretary."

Genuine shock strikes Lauren. "Byron's leaving Susan?"

"For Shelley. I guess he's been staying with her and her kid for a few weeks."

"Wow. That's huge," she says, mimicking Josh's hushed wonder. "I wonder if Susan will leave the company."

"Should be nuts around here."

Once the news sinks in, Lauren finds it difficult to conceal her amusement. "I didn't realize you were so into gossip, Josh."

He stands up straight. "Good to know I've still got a few surprises left in me."


On the ice, the test session is still in progress. But in the arena's lobby, at least for one group, the day's work is through and the celebrating has begun. Parents, friends, and acquaintances gather around Jason Fisher and Courtney Chase to offer congratulations for passing their Senior Pairs test.

"You must be so proud," says one skating mother to Paula, who has an arm around Jason. He recognizes the woman from seeing her in the bleachers all the time, but he can't remember which young skater's mother she is--that is, until she hijacks the conversation and starts in on her daughter's testing progress and how she will surely pass her own Senior tests within a few years.

It's all an exciting blur to Jason, who moves in a sort of haze from person to person, accepting congratulations and doing his best to be humble even though he feels nowhere close to it right now.

Finally Sandy pulls them all together, without outside intrusion: Jason, his parents, Courtney, her parents, and Alex, who came to support his friends today.

"I just want you guys to know how proud of you I am," their coach says, "and I don't only mean Jason and Courtney. You all--" She points to each of the parents. "--have put in a lot of time and dedication to make this happen."

"And money!" Don adds, earning a laugh from the group.

They all thank Sandy for her hard work in getting Jason and Courtney this far, and then Jason pulls Bill and Paula ever-so-slightly to the side.

"I need to thank you guys officially," he tells them. "Thank you for letting me do this, and for driving me to the rink at 5 a.m. all those years, and for making sure that I never gave up just because it would've been the easy thing to do."

And as he shares a hug with his parents, he locks eyes with Courtney, standing a few feet away, and he knows that there is one more set of thanks that he needs to offer.


Resisting the urge to check the clock every twenty seconds or, worse yet, wait out in the lobby for her lunch date, Lauren forces herself to stay focused on her computer monitor. She does not feel like writing an e-mail right now, but if she gets it sent out, she can go to lunch without it hanging over her.

She is just getting into the swing of it when she feels a presence lingering behind her.

She spins her chair around. "Hey," she says to her brother. "Let me finish this up before we go."

Her fingers click away at the keyboard. She knows that she could make this sound a lot better, but she just wants it done before they go to lunch. She is almost done when a loud ringing emanates from Trevor's body.

"Sorry!" he says, scrambling to quiet his phone. He stops the ringing but does not answer the call.

"You can take that in here if you want," Lauren says. "It's an office, not a church."

"Nah. It's not anything I need to answer."

As she finishes up the e-mail, she says, "At least we know yours works. My battery died a little while ago."

She sends the e-mail and stands up, putting on her coat. Instinctively she picks up her own phone, but since there is no need to bring it, she leaves it on the desk.

"Let's go eat," she says, ushering Trevor toward the elevator. "I've been waiting all day for this."


Jason excuses himself and moves toward Courtney. She looks the way he has seen her so many times over the years: hair still pulled up tightly, in performance mode; her favorite black zip-up sweatshirt thrown over her skating dress; the loose ends of her tights hanging out over her running shoes. For an instant, dozens of similar images flash through his head, collected from all the years and events that they've experienced together.

"Can you believe this?" she asks, in a tone that suggests she certainly can't.

"I'm working on it," Jason says. He sits down on a nearby bench, realizing that this is the first time since they stepped off the ice that they are actually alone together.

Courtney sits beside him. "Is this how you thought it would be?"

Jason laughs. "Not even close. I had it in my head that it'd be a little more magical, you know? Like, when we finished, even the judges would bust out in applause. It pretty much feels like a normal test session."

"Yeah, except there isn't another test to set our sights on right away," she says. "That's the weirdest part to me."

"Yeah." They drift into an easy silence as they each ponder all the practices and all the turmoil that got them to this point.

"I guess I can focus on my glamorous lifestyle of being a waitress who still lives with her parents," Courtney says, a hint of humor covering up the helplessness at the core of her words.

"You should totally start teaching. It's a good way to stay involved."

"Yeah, I should talk to Sandy about that."

She doesn't sound entirely confident about that, so Jason says, "Meanwhile, I now have no excuse not to focus on the absolute mess that is my life."

"The Lauren thing?"

"She hasn't even answered my calls. I don't know what happened. I can understand why she was mad at me, but... this has turned into a major separation. I don't even know if we're a couple anymore."

Silence lingers over them for a long moment before Courtney says, suddenly, "So find out."

"That's what I've been trying to do for weeks," he says.

"No, I mean, stop with this leaving-it-up-to-her stuff. Tell her to meet up with you if she wants to work on this. If she doesn't want to go, then that's that. At least you'd be ripping off the Band-aid all at once instead of slowly tearing it off."

He recoils, as if he's just been punched in the stomach. "You make it sound so pleasant."

"Won't it be better to know, once and for all?" she asks. He knows that she is right.


In his own cubicle, Josh holds the phone to his ear. His feet are propped up on the desk as he listens to the ringing on the other end of the line.

Finally it clicks over to voicemail. He hangs up without leaving a message; he left one yesterday, and it did no good. He pauses for a few seconds before calling a different number.

"Hey, Dad," he says when Bob picks up on the other end. "Listen, have you heard from Danielle lately?"

"We've been in touch," his father says. "Why do you ask?"

Josh lets his feet fall to the floor. "Brent and I were talking about her the other day, so I left her a message, but she hasn't called me back yet. I was starting to get worried."

"Don't worry. Everything's fine. She's just busy with traveling, that's all."

Something about his father's dismissive tone strikes Josh as very off, but he cannot formulate his thoughts sufficiently to address the issue. Instead he ends the call quickly and then wanders across the office, hoping to use Lauren as a sounding board to articulate some of his disjointed thoughts.

He reaches her cubicle just as Celia, the receptionist, comes at it from the other direction.

"I guess Lauren's not here," Josh observes as he spots the empty cubicle.

"She left for lunch a little while ago with her brother," Celia says. She holds up a blue slip of paper. "There was a call for her at the front desk."

"Her cell battery died," Josh says, feeling some inexplicable need to make an excuse for Lauren in her absence.

"Believe me, I'm used to fielding personal calls. I've got to run back to the front desk, though. Someone just delivered an enormous orange crate, and now I have to figure out what to do with it."

Celia leaves the slip of paper on Lauren's desk, and Josh lingers behind, waiting until the receptionist is gone to fulfill his curiosity.

What he finds on the note strikes him as embarrassingly candid to have dictated to a receptionist over the phone:

Windmills, 6:00. If you want to work on this, be there. Last chance.

He already knows who left the message before he even looks at the "From:" field. It's Jason. What an ass, Josh thinks, leaving her an ultimatum like this. He should be groveling for forgiveness after the way he acted.

Josh scans the note another time and then, without fully understanding why he does it, picks up the slip of paper and puts it into his pocket.


Will Lauren still get Jason's message?
What is Josh up to?
What's going on with Danielle?
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