Episode #469

- Travis met a girl about his age who was looking for directions, and he was smitten. The girl turned out to be Elly, Danielle’s goddaughter, and she was in King’s Bay to see Danielle.
- Tim and Claire were distraught after Travis skipped his first therapy session.
- Paula and Bill clashed over her continued concern over Ryan, even after he tried to frame Tim for Nick’s murder.
- While they were having sex, Josh felt a lump in Lauren’s breast. Mortified, she rushed out, insisting that she had made a mistake by thinking they could ever be together.


As she climbs the steps up to her parents’ porch, Sarah Gray practices her smile. It feels awkward to stretch her lips into a shape that has been so foreign to her lately, but she knows that the effort is worth it to avoid the looks and the questions that are sure to arise otherwise.

She presses the doorbell and waits, with Matt and Tori behind her. The sooner someone lets them in, the better; she imagines being able to melt into the larger gathering, no longer having to be alone with her husband and daughter. Everyday life of late has become a pressure cooker, with unspoken questions and answers pressing in tightly around them, and any opportunity to alleviate that heavy weight is welcome.

Jason answers the door and lets them into the house. Sarah greets him with a hug and kiss. She sees Travis and Samantha on the couch, watching television… Bill setting out glasses in the dining room… Tim pouring himself a drink. Not as big a crowd as she’d hoped to see.

“Where is everyone?” she asks Jason.

“Molly and Brent are coming over a little later with the boys,” Jason explains. “Brent’s dad is in town, so they’re doing Thanksgiving at their place first.”

“And why can’t they all just come here?” Sarah teases.

“I’m sure it has nothing to do with the possibility of me punching Josh again,” Jason says, cringing at the memory even as they share a little laugh over it.

She wastes no time in moving on to greet Tim and Bill. She keeps one eye on Tori, who settles in as usual with her cousins, and is grateful to see Jason absorb the burden of talking to Matt.

Burden. The word stings her insides as soon as it flashes through her mind. She doesn’t want to think of him that way. He isn’t a burden. Or he shouldn’t be. But the way things have been lately…

“Where’s Mom?” she asks Bill.

“She had to run to the store,” he says. “I offered to go, but she insisted. I don’t know what gets into her sometimes.”


The engine continues to run, even though the car has not moved in at least fifteen minutes. Paula Fisher sits behind the steering wheel, watching the building’s entrance and attempting to work up the courage to go inside.

Courage? Would she be a courageous woman for going in there, or a stupid one? The same doubts that have kept her from doing this for so long rise up to take center stage, and the nerve that drove her from her family’s home on Thanksgiving is nowhere to be found.

She wants to see Ryan. He is her son, and in spite of the awful mistakes he has made, she needs to know that he is all right. She has rattled around sleeplessly in bed too many nights, wondering how he is coping with the seeming destruction of his entire life. She has to know.

Her hand moves to shut off the car, but before she can, guilt seizes her. Ryan is her family, but so are the people whom she left behind at the house. They think that she is at the grocery store, picking up a last-minute item for their holiday meal. If any of them--especially Bill and Tim, she is sure--knew where she really was…

There will be other days, she tries to tell herself as she puts the car in drive. She can’t do this today. It feels like an even greater betrayal of the people she loves, greater than having brought this catastrophe upon them in the first place.

She is about to remove her foot from the brake when the front door of the building swings open.

At first she does not recognize him. A heavy shadow of beard covers his face, and in place of his usual clean, sophisticated look is a sloppily put-together outfit of jeans, sweatshirt, and jacket. A cap is pulled down over his eyes. She has never seen him wear a hat, as far as she can recall.

She does not fully believe that it is him until he crosses to the Lexus that she knows is Ryan’s car. He climbs in and, a moment later, pulls away from the curb. Paula watches the car move down the street and away from her.

Only now does she realize that the car is still in drive, her foot touching the brake, ready to let it go. Without making the conscious decision to do so, she lifts her foot from the brake and applies it to the gas. Her car moves down the street, in the same direction as Ryan’s, unsure of where she is headed but convinced that she needs to go there.


“You don’t think this is too much turkey, do you?” Lauren Brooks asks.

“It’s fine,” Trevor replies from his spot at the counter, where he is slicing and dicing potatoes.

Lauren continues peering through the oven door. “I just don’t want it to go to waste.”

“It won’t. We can eat it for, like, a week.”

“I guess.” She turns off the oven light. “Crap, I should’ve started the stuffing already.”

Trevor stops chopping and looks squarely at her. “What’s with you? Calm down. It’s a holiday.”

His stare feels like an accusation, and Lauren wonders if he has any idea. He can’t, obviously. There is no way. The only two people who know what happened in that bedroom are her and Josh--and she isn’t even sure if Josh noticed, considering the way he tried to push forward.

“I get jumpy when I’m cooking a big meal,” she says.

“Well, it’s not like anyone is going to be around to criticize it besides us.”

As much as she isn’t in the mood to deal with other people lately, Lauren wishes that she were preparing a meal for more people than just her and her brother. It would give her a lot more to worry about, a lot more to occupy her mind. She could use the distraction.

“I wish Mom and Dad were going to be back in time,” she says as she assembles the materials she needs to make the stuffing.

“They’ll be back in time for Christmas. You know they’ll be driving us nuts three days after they get here, so enjoy the quiet while you can.”

Lauren laughs, but it feels forced and insincere. She wonders if Trevor picks up on that.

“Maybe next year we’ll have people to spend the holidays with,” Trevor muses as he resumes slicing.


Next year seems like such a distant possibility to her now. The instant that Josh’s hand grazed over that thing--that lump--the whole future took on a different coloring. At first she wanted to ignore it, but she has been unable to resist finding it and touching it again and again. It feels wrong to the touch, like some foreign object inserted into her body, and the only thing scarier than knowing it’s there is finding out exactly what it is.

“You sure you’re okay?” Trevor asks, out of nowhere. She glances up to see him watching her.

She wants to tell him about the doctor’s appointment that she made. The urge is sudden and overwhelming. Her lips part…

But before she can say anything, some instinct takes a hold of her. The same instinct that drove her from Josh’s bedroom when he felt the lump. If she acknowledges its presence, if she says out loud how worried she is about this, then it becomes real. Right now, it can all be dealt with. She’ll go to the doctor, they’ll do some tests, and she will find out that there is nothing wrong. Everything will be fine. It has to be fine.

“I went to Josh’s the other night,” she says at last.

Trevor leans in, intrigued. “And?”

“And… nothing. I went over, thinking I could give him another chance, but it didn’t work. I guess it’s had me in a bad mood. It was like ripping a wound back open.”

“Sorry,” he says. “But you’ll find someone. Someone better. You deserve it.”

She manages another strained smile before focusing on the stuffing.


Danielle Taylor hangs up the phone in the kitchen and, leaving her father and brother to set up for dessert, moves to the family room. Elly Vanderbilt sits on the couch, her legs tucked under her as she watches television.

“You’re sure you didn’t want to talk to your parents?” Danielle asks, trying to be gentle. “It is Thanksgiving.”

“And I have lots to be thankful for. Like finding out my parents have been lying to me my whole life.”

Danielle has no idea how to respond to that, just as she has had no clue how to proceed ever since Elly turned up at the house several nights ago. She wishes that she could be more help to the girl who knows Danielle as her godmother, but she feels responsible for setting the entire mess in motion. If she hadn’t called Melanie and proposed that they tell Elly the truth, then Melanie and her husband might not have been discussing Elly’s adoption, and Elly wouldn’t have overheard…

“I know this has to be a huge shock for you,” Danielle says, “but your parents love you. This doesn’t change that.”

“Maybe not, but it changes everything else.”

“Honey, I know it feels that way, but it doesn’t. Not really.”

“I’m not who I thought I was. My parents aren’t actually my parents. That makes everything seem kinda weird, you know?”

Danielle nods along. She can see the pain in Elly’s eyes, those same big brown eyes that have been her most distinguishing feature since the day she was born. Since the day Danielle forced herself to give her daughter to her best friends.

“I want to find them,” Elly says.


“My parents. My real ones. I need to know what they’re like.”

Something twists inside Danielle, and the pain goes from purely emotional to physical, as well. She wishes that Elly could know the truth. She wishes that she didn’t have to lie about this. But it is the deal that she made with her friends, for her daughter’s own good, and it would be selfish to throw the girl’s reality into even further disarray.

“One thing at a time,” she says, petting Elly’s vibrant brown hair.

Elly looks up at her. “I don’t know what to do next.”

“You keep living your life. It’s been great having you here, it’s my pleasure, but… you can’t stay here forever.”

“I know. But I can’t go back home, not yet.”

“What about school? You can’t keep missing days.”

“Do you think I spent, like, twenty hours on a train just so I could turn around and act like nothing happened?” Elly asks.

“Of course not. And I’m thrilled to spend some time with you. Molly and Brent are happy to have you stay here. But you can’t run away forever.”

“It’s a little soon to be talking about forever, don’t you think?” Elly says, and out of nowhere, her mouth curls into a grin.

Danielle can see that this is going nowhere right now. Elly is here, her parents know that she is safe, and it is a holiday.

“Are you ready for some pie?” Danielle asks.

“Yeah. I think so.”

“Then come on, before Josh demolishes both of them.”

She leads the way back to the kitchen, and Elly falls into step behind her. No, this cannot go on forever, but just for tonight, she might as well enjoy having her daughter here… even if she is the only one who knows it.


“This show is so dumb,” Samantha says, but Travis and Tori are too focused on the episode of The Hills playing on TV to pay much attention to her.

“It’s awesome,” Tori counters, without removing her eyes from the show.

Samantha shakes her head. “It’s so fake! It’s like someone wrote all this stuff for them to say.”

“Whatever,” Travis says, shrugging. “That Audrina girl is hot.”

Samantha sits back and attempts to watch the show. As much as she thinks it’s totally set up, she has to admit that it can be entertaining.

“And their lives are awesome,” Travis says, out of nowhere. “They have money, they have cool jobs, they get to do whatever they want…”

“Yeah, because MTV sets everything up!” Samantha says. “That’s not how life really is.”

“It could be.”

The show goes to commercials, and Tori springs to her feet. “I’m gonna go get a diet Coke,” she says before bounding out of the room.

Samantha watches Travis. She is glad to see her brother acting normally, for once. He even seems like he’s having an okay time. Suddenly, however, Travis turns and sees her staring.

“What?” he asks, like he is ready to defend himself. Before she can respond, he adds, “It’s not that stupid. Life could be that way. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we didn’t have to depend on anyone?”

Ah. Now Sam sees what this is about.

“Like our parents?” she asks.


“Why? What’s wrong with them?”

Travis laughs, but it isn’t a laugh of amusement; there is something bitter and kind of harsh about it.

“What’s wrong with them?” he says. “They can’t make a decision! They’re always changing their minds, and then we have to deal with it. It’s retarded.”

She doesn’t want to be too critical, since it is rare that he even has a conversation with her at all these days, but she can’t resist digging a little more. She thinks she has an idea of what he has been thinking lately.

“Maybe there’s a way to do that,” she says. “Learning how to do what you want but not, you know, hate your mom and dad.”

Travis makes no effort to hide his skepticism.

“The thing you skipped out on,” Samantha explains. “Going to that doctor.”

“Did Dad tell you to say that?”

“No! I’m being serious. Maybe it can be your thing, not theirs.”

She can see that Travis wants to argue, but he doesn’t. Instead he leans back and looks up at the ceiling. Samantha can tell that he is considering what she has said.

Tori returns with her soda, and The Hills comes back from commercials. Samantha decides to be quiet and let them enjoy the show. If she has done even a little to stop all the fighting that has been going on lately, then this is a great holiday.


Paula lets her car linger outside the parking lot as Ryan parks his car, gets out, and goes inside the place, which, judging by the signs in the dingy windows, is a bar. Then she pulls in and parks at the edge of the lot.

This is one of those neighborhoods that she has read about being “trendy” or “up-and-coming,” but from what she can tell, those are simply code words for “seedy.” It is certainly not the kind of area that she would ever come on her own, and she cannot imagine that Ryan has spent much time in places like this, either.

Then again, she barely knows the man. And he was involved in some very illegal things when he was working with Nick.

The thought depresses her so much that she forgets to shut off the car. When she realizes that the engine is still running, she turns it off immediately, as if she is racing against a clock.

Taking a deep breath, she exits the car. She is not exactly sure what she is doing, but she has come this far, and she has to see what kind of life her son is leading now. Trying to suppress her jitters, she heads straight for the bar’s entrance.


Should Paula continue to worry about Ryan?
What should Danielle do about Elly?
Has Samantha convinced Travis to give therapy a shot?
Will Lauren continue to hide her problems from everyone?
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