Episode #466

- Tim and Claire decided to have Travis see a therapist.
- Lauren broke off her relationship with Josh after learning that he went behind her back and hooked prospective clients up with drugs in order to land the account.
- In the wake of losing her baby, Sarah remained distant from her family, friends, and Matt.
- Matt expressed to Bill his desperation to get through to Sarah. Bill advised him not to let things fester between them for too long.


The autumn sky is already dim behind a curtain of clouds, and though it is only late afternoon, the first streaks of the night’s navy blue have begun to show themselves. For Travis Fisher, it has already been a long day in school, and now he has to deal with this.

His father pulls the car up to the curb in front of the medical building, but Travis makes no move to exit the vehicle.

“Do you want me to go in with you? Just to get you settled?” Tim asks.

“No.” Travis fiddles with his seatbelt but does not unfasten it. “I wanted to hang out at Landon’s before the party.”

“You’ll see him at the party.”

“Yeah, but I’m gonna show up late, and everyone will already be hanging out and stuff.”

Travis sees that his argument isn’t making much of an impact on his father.

“This isn’t a punishment,” Tim says. “I want to make sure you know that. Seeing a doctor will be good for you--for all of us.”

“Then why aren’t you and Mom going?”

“Because this is for you. So you can talk to someone about whatever you want without worrying what we think.”

Travis remains quiet and glances at the building’s entry. It looks like a normal doctor’s office… and it’ll probably be just as boring.

“Travis. Come on,” Tim says, unbuckling the seatbelt for him. “This was our deal. You see the therapist, you talk for a little while, and you get to go to this Halloween party.”

He sees the way that Tim looks at him, like he’s crazy, like he might shatter into a million pieces if he gets touched the wrong way. He wishes they would understand that he’s not nuts. He’s just sick of everything always changing and everything always going wrong. He was getting used to the idea of his mom marrying Ryan and his dad being with Diane, and then that whole thing happened, and now he has to get used to things being a totally different way.

“Fine,” he finally says, sick of the way that Tim is still looking at him. He picks up his backpack and hops out of the car.

“I’ll go pick up Samantha from band practice, and we’ll be here when you’re done.”

“Great.” Travis shuts the door. When Tim doesn’t drive off immediately, Travis turns and walks toward the building. He can feel his dad watching him and wishes that he would go away and let him do this on his own.

The inside of the building looks like exactly what the outside promised: a regular doctor’s office, with the gray carpet and the chairs and those weird kids’ toys with the wooden shapes on a bunch of twisted wires that always remind him of rollercoasters. He goes up to the desk and starts to tell the receptionist his name, but when she looks up from her paperwork, he sees that she is much hotter than he expected and freezes.

“Uh, Fisher. Travis Fisher,” he manages.

Flashing an enormous smile at him, she locates his file. “Your mom already took care of all the paperwork. Just have a seat, and Dr. Arcaro will be with you in a minute.”

He thanks her and moves to a seat. The only other person in the waiting area is a guy maybe two or three years older than him, a lumpy guy with acne and a haircut that is way too close to a bowl cut.

“You’re new,” the guy says.

“Yeah.” Travis searches his face for some hint of where this is going. Why do people have to talk at times like this? Just shut up and read a magazine and don’t look at anyone else; it’s way less awkward that way.

“Who are you seeing, Arcaro? I used to go to him, but it wasn’t working out anymore, so I switched to Hauser. I’ve been with him for almost a year and a half now.”

Travis has no idea why this guy is telling him this. It’s almost like a badge of honor that he has been coming here for so long.

“A year and a half? How long do you have to do this for?” he asks.

“However long they say you need to. Maybe forever if they think you’re screwed up enough.”

The guy looks down at his hands and starts--or resumes, Travis guesses--picking at his fingernails. Their edges are torn up and shredded, like they’ve been bitten down and now he’s trying to pick them back to being normal, even if it all it’s accomplishing is to make them look worse.

“Pete, Dr. Hauser is ready for you,” the hot receptionist says. The lumpy kid stands and follows her back down a hallway.

Travis watches the lumpy silhouette and the receptionist’s hotter-than-expected butt disappear, and then he is all alone in the waiting room. He glances down at the carpet and sees remnants of Lumpy’s fingernails.

“Sick,” he mutters, and then, without even knowing why, he rises from his seat. A glance down the hallway confirms that the receptionist is still out of sight, and before she returns, Travis bolts from the waiting area and the building.


Matt Gray sits on the sofa, half-watching ESPN while he observes his wife helping their daughter get dressed for a Halloween party.

“Hold still,” Sarah warns as she uses a safety pin to fasten the strange skirt wrapped around Tori’s waist.

Tori barely resists the urge to squirm, and once the skirt is set in place, Sarah declares, “There. Done.”

Slipping on a pair of gigantic sunglasses, Tori turns to Matt and sucks in her cheeks. “What do you think?”

“You look… am I supposed to say you look great?” he asks.

“You’re supposed to say I look posh,” Tori says. “Get it? Victoria Beckham?” It doesn’t ring a bell for Matt until she adds, “David Beckham’s wife. Fee is dressing up as Becks.”

Tori poses and preens for them, all the while focusing on her own reflection in the sliding glass door.

“When do we have to leave?” she asks Sarah.

“Fifteen, twenty minutes. Posh wouldn’t be the first one to arrive at a party, would she?”

With a laugh, Tori agrees and heads for her bedroom, no doubt to check herself out some more. ESPN plays on in the background, but Matt’s focus now lies squarely upon Sarah.

“You did a great job with her costume,” he says. It isn’t just flattery--seeing her work on this costume with Tori has reminded him of how vibrant Sarah usually is. He has so seldom seen that side of her in recent months.

“Thanks.” She quietly gathers up the various pins and clips and other items that have been involved in the process.

“Listen…” Matt watches her, waits for her to stop and actually focus on him, but it doesn’t appear to be happening. “Maybe once Tori’s at the party, we can sit down and talk… or I’ll talk, you listen, if you want.”

She glances up at him and makes the briefest of eye contact. It is the only indication that she has even heard him.

“It’s just, I feel like we could use the time alone,” he continues. “To talk, or at least…”

Tori wanders back into the room, and from the expression of relief on Sarah’s face, one might think a jug of ice-cold water had appeared to her in a barren desert.

“Let me fix your hair,” Sarah says, rushing over to Tori. She sets about unclipping and reclipping a section of the platinum-blond wig.

“Sarah,” Matt says, desperate for, at the least, a look of acknowledgement. But all she does is continue adjusting Tori’s wig.

This is how it has been for months. He talks, she ignores. He enters a room, she ducks out. This is more than a phase--it has become their lives. And he cannot do it any longer.

“Sarah!” he repeats, more firmly, and this time, it is enough to get her attention. He allows it to hang in the air for a moment.

“The wig looks fine. It looks great,” he says. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

He is prepared for her to avoid this some more, maybe by coming up with some other problem with Tori’s costume or by suggesting that they leave early to avoid traffic. To his surprise, she quickly finishes pinning the wig. She looks directly at him. Something has changed.

“Give me a minute, and then we’ll get you to this party,” she tells Tori, and then she makes her way into the master bedroom. Matt follows, unsure what has just happened.


“Trick or treat!”

Lauren Brooks smiles down at the little pumpkin and little Elvis at her front door. They can’t be older than four or five years old, and they might be the cutest ones she has seen tonight. She holds out the basket of candy, and the kids grab handfuls and shove it into their own buckets.

“Don’t be greedy!” one of their mothers yells out from a few feet back.

The kids mumble thanks to her and rush off to the next house. Lauren closes the door and checks out the candy left in the basket. She decides that it is time for a refill, but before she can take care of that, the doorbell rings again.

What greets her this time is not a little anything. It is the first trick-or-treater of the night who is at her own eye level--or, more accurately, a few inches above it. A vampire, no less.

“Trick or treat!” Josh Taylor shouts, holding out a pillowcase.

Lauren has no idea how to react to him. Finally she settles for confused annoyance. “What are you doing?”

“You know, just enjoying Halloween, like everyone else.”

He really has gone all-out on his costume: the black cape, the fangs, the fake blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. She would be impressed if she weren’t so irritated by the sight of him.

“Josh, I don’t know what you expect, but…”

“I just want to see you. Talk.”

“You see me every day at work.”

“Yeah, I see you looking at the ceiling every time I get near you,” he says. “And I get to talk to you. I say things like, ‘Here’s the mock-up,’ and you say things like… well, nothing. It’s a pretty fulfilling arrangement, I’ve gotta say.”

“I’m not doing this right now,” she says, gazing past him and through the dim light, where she can make out legitimate trick-or-treaters roaming the street.

“Why, so you can sit here alone and hand out candy to little brats?” Apparently not dense enough to miss her annoyance, he quickly corrects himself: “Little wonders. Little angels.”

“I enjoy doing this. It’s relaxing. And the kids are cute.”

“So you’re just going to sit back and watch while everyone else lives their lives? Listen, I know I screwed up. I shouldn’t have gone behind your back. It was a judgment call--a bad one. But that time we were together… it was one of the best times of my life.”

He looks right at her with those icy blue eyes, and she remembers the first time that she saw them, across the conference table at Willis. She knew then, even though she did not want to admit it, that she was attracted to him. And she still feels it now; there is no point in denying that.

“There are ways to make this work,” Josh says, moving in closer. Lauren feels his breath against her cheek, and the heat from his body is both familiar and exciting. Just being this close to him gives her a rush that she has never felt before.

His mouth hovers over her lips, but just when she is ready to pull him in and kiss him, he changes course and moves to her neck. The plastic fangs tickle her skin, and she lets out an involuntary giggle.

“I vant to suck your blood,” he says in a really bad vampire accent, whatever that is.

She is ready to give in. Even this little contact with him has her crazy. And then some words come floating back to her, words spoken in her own voice: I think we have to be hard on them, or we’ll always be settling for less than we deserve. Words she said to Trevor about their respective relationships with Josh and Alex. Words that she nearly forgot until this very moment.

“I can’t,” she says suddenly, backing away from Josh.

He seems startled for only a fraction of a second before the cocksure grin returns. “What you’re supposed to say is, ‘And I vant to suck your--’”


He moves toward her again, and this time, she puts out her hands to push him backward. She feels as though she just snapped out a trance, like she needs to maintain her distance from him in order to avoid being hypnotized again.

“I just can’t,” she says, and she closes the door on him before he can get in another word. She remains by the door, wondering if he is still on the other side of it, knowing that this is the closest she can allow herself to get to him if she wants to stand her ground.


Evening has overtaken the sky, and Tim drives through the murky darkness on his way to pick up Travis. Samantha sits in the passenger seat, chattering away.

“…so I said that Lord of the Flies kind of reminds me of Lost, except with kids, and Mrs. Trager thought I could maybe write my paper on that.”

“Cool,” Tim says, though what he is really thinking is that it sounds like an ambitious paper for a ninth-grader, but if any kid can pull it off, it is Samantha. “Do you think that the people who came up with Lost were inspired by Lord of the Flies?”

“They had to be. Maybe I can find some articles about where they came up with the idea and see if they say anything about it.”

Tim smiles as she continues her verbal brainstorm. It amazes him that there can be such extremes--Travis will barely speak to him, and Samantha will talk for hours without stopping to take a breath.

The ringing of his cell phone cuts her off mid-word.

“It’s Claire,” Sam says, picking up the phone and handing it to him.

“Hey,” Tim answers the call. “What’s going on?”

“It’s Travis. Is he with you?”

“No, he’s at his appointment. Sam and I are on the way to pick him up.”

“He’s not there.” The line goes quiet, as if Claire expects him to offer up some explanation. When he does not, she continues, “Dr. Arcaro called me. Travis missed his appointment.”

“I dropped him off. I watched him walk into the building.”

“He must not have stayed for long, then.”

Tim does not know what to say. He thought giving Travis the space to go in himself would be good for him… maybe it was too much to expect him to do this on his own.

“So we have no idea where he is,” Tim says.

“I’ve got a good idea,” Claire says. “I’m going to call Landon’s now.”

“Call me back, and I’ll meet you there.”

Tim ends the call. He moves into the left lane and waits to make a U-turn.

“What’s wrong with Travis?” Samantha asks.

Tim wishes that he had a concrete answer for that question.


“Thanks, Mrs. Hunt,” Travis says as he and Landon hop out of the car. They say a quick goodbye to Landon’s mom and then off she drives, leaving them outside the house where they can already hear the party coming to life.

Travis moves toward the front door. “You ready to do this?” he asks, though he already knows what the answer is going to be.

Or he thinks he does. Landon surprises him by hanging back.

“What the hell’s up with you?” he demands, like he has been holding the question in since Travis showed up at his house--maybe for much longer than that--and only now is able to force it out.

“I don’t know. I’m not the one stalling on going inside.”

“Dude. You have some random doctor’s appointment on Halloween, and then you walk like half-an-hour to my house from there. That’s not normal.”

“I didn’t feel like getting a ride from my parents,” Travis says, trying to play it off with a casual shrug. He can feel the heat behind his cheeks and the knot twisting in his chest. He doesn’t want to talk about this. He doesn’t want Landon asking about it.

Hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans, Landon looks him over and shakes his head.

“You’re weird lately,” he declares before walking past Travis and up to the house.

Travis catches up with him as they ring the bell and wait for an answer. He can hear some of their friends inside, kids with nothing better to worry about than who’s going to show up tonight and who gets control of the iPod. He wants to feel like that.

When the door opens and their friend lets them into the house, Travis pauses and takes a look back at the street. Dark has fallen, and he can see young kids and their parents trick-or-treating, carefree with their costumes and candy.

“Dude, you coming?” Landon asks.

With a nod, Travis focuses back on his friends and hurries into the house. He relishes the sound of the door closing behind them, closing everything else out.


Matt follows Sarah into their bedroom. When she spins around, she is no longer the glazed-over imposter who has been living his wife’s life for months; she is the Sarah that he met years ago--only now, her aggression is directed at him.

“You do not raise your voice to me, especially not in front of Tori,” she says, her voice a low growl filtered through clamped teeth.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to--” He doesn’t know how to do this now. They are being more honest and open than they have been since Sarah lost the baby, but what does he want to say?

“You’re being pushy,” she says. “Stop it. It’s how you were about trying to get pregnant, too.”

The accusation drives into his gut. He knows that he pushed her to have a second child, and maybe he was a little domineering about it, but they only got pregnant after Sarah agreed that she wanted it, as well.

“I thought we put that behind us,” he says.

“Behind us? Really? Have you seen me the last few months?” She strikes out a hand, as though she is going to smack him for real, but she pulls it back before it makes contact.

“About getting pregnant, I meant,” he scrambles, trying to figure out how he has become the bad guy so quickly. “And I don’t want to be pushy now. I’m not trying to. But I need to talk to you. I need you back.”

For the first time since they came into this room, he sees her soften. He sees hints not only of that wounded, spiteful woman he met in New York years ago, but also the more mature version he finally married in the hospital chapel. That seems like an eternity ago. Just like someone seeing a ghost from the past, he cannot resist reaching out for her hand.

But when he touches her, the contact is stunted, awkward. Her hand lies in his uncertainly.

“I’m sorry if I pushed you,” he says, “and I’m sorry about what you’ve been going through. I’m sorry I can’t feel exactly the same way you do and understand what you’re dealing with. But I lost a child that night, too. That was my kid, too.”

He can see the stone wall flying up again, closing him out, and he speaks quickly to tear it down.

“We can do this together. I need to know how you feel, that’s all. I need you to stop shutting me out. Maybe it’ll be easier this way, once we just do it.”

He squeezes her hand and looks for signs of life. He’s going to get through to her. He has to.

“It’s not the same,” she finally says, almost eerily quiet. “I don’t know what’s changed, exactly, but everything feels different now. From the moment I woke up in that hospital bed…”

“I know.” He doesn’t, not really, but he knows what pain he feels, and if they can experience it together, then maybe they can get through this.

“…it’s just different. Every time I look at you, it’s… different.” She slides her hand out of his.

“It doesn’t have to be,” he says, pleading.

“It does. It is. I don’t know why, but it is. All I can think about is that baby, and how if I’d been awake, I would have fought for it. I wouldn’t have let them terminate it.”

“They had to. To save you. You would’ve died, and the baby--it was too weak already.”

She glances away--that same distant, avoiding glance that has been her lifeblood for months. “Maybe. But you were the one who told them to do it, and I…”

“You can’t blame me for this.”

She nods, but that glaze never leaves her eyes and face. It is like an acknowledgement that, while what Matt says might be truth, it is ultimately irrelevant.

“I didn’t want them to end the pregnancy,” he says, feeling like he is scaling a mountain with no top, “but I had to. I couldn’t lose both of you. Neither could Tori.”

“You could’ve tried.”

“I did try!”

Her eyes focus on his, hard and accusing. She doesn’t say it, but Matt knows what she is thinking: Not hard enough.

“I had no choice! Sarah, this is not my fault. You can’t blame me for this.” No response. Nothing. Desperate, he fires off the next round without even thinking: “I’m not the one who went looking for a bomb! You didn't seem so worried about the baby then!”

Immediately he wishes he could take it back. It came out all wrong--too harsh, too blameful, even if deep down, he believes it more than he would like to admit.

“I was trying to save all of you!” she shouts, for the first time raising her voice above a rumbling whisper.

“And I was trying to save you.”

“Yeah, well, some good that did.”

She blows past him, on her way out of the room, and Matt turns to follow her. Only then does either of them see Tori, standing in the doorway, taking this all in. They both freeze.

“Go get your things,” Sarah says. “Let’s get you to that party.”

Tori stares at them, unblinking. “I don’t want to go.”

“Tori, come on,” Sarah urges.

“I’m not going.” Tori pulls off the wig and runs to her room. When the door slams closed, Sarah fires a stern look at Matt, a look with an unmistakable message: Nice work.

Matt sits on the edge of the bed as his wife leaves the room, unconvinced that there is any point chasing after her. And they stay like that for hours, the three of them: alone in separate rooms, with no words or contact between them--only walls.


Can Sarah and Matt get through this?
How should Tim and Claire deal with Travis?
Should Lauren have resisted Josh’s advances?
Discuss this episode in the Footprints Forum!

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