Episode #470

- After a blowout with Matt over the loss of their unborn child, Sarah struggled with her desire to run away from her marriage.
- Brian appealed to Diane to give him a chance at being more than a friend, but she shut him down.
- Paula slipped away from her family’s Thanksgiving gathering in order to go see Ryan. She spotted him, in a disheveled state, leaving his apartment building, and she followed him to a seedy bar.


The darkness inside the bar is a shock to Paula Fisher’s eyes. It is still afternoon, but only a few slivers of natural light creep through the small windows that sit high on the walls. A handful of weak lightbulbs are in evidence but do little to brighten the establishment.

Paula eases the door closed behind her, as though she fears detection. Stealth proves unnecessary: there is a surprisingly dense crowd inside the bar, even on Thanksgiving. She has never given much thought to the idea of people spending holidays in a places like this, but something inside her aches at the sight of lonely people clustered at the bar, beers in hand, on a day when so many people are with their loved ones.

She sees the patrons noticing her--first glances and then outright stares. It is only a matter of time until Ryan, wherever he is, spots her, too. Her heart thumps loudly inside her chest, and she wonders once again if it was a mistake to follow him here.

No. She has to see him. She has to know that he is all right.

“Help you with something?”

The question, barked over the din of chatter and television, reaches out and grabs her. With a start, Paula turns to find that the voice belongs to a male bartender, a heavy man in his forties or fifties with a thick, graying mustache sitting atop his lip.

Paula tries to relax as she moves to the bar. Her eyes never stop scanning the place for her son.

“I’m looking for someone,” she says. “I saw him come in here a few minutes ago.”

The bartender regards her with wary silence.

“My son,” she hastens to add. “Ryan Moriani. Dark hair, about six feet tall. He has a baseball cap on…”

“In the back,” the bartender finally says, tipping his head toward a doorway covered by a ragged old curtain.

“It’s okay if I go in there?”

The man shrugs. “Do whatever you want. Get you anything to drink?”

Paula briefly considers it--her nerves could use the help--but politely declines. She moves to the doorway, aware of the people still watching her.

Her hand settles on the dingy red curtain and, after a moment’s hesitation, moves it a few inches out of the way. She peers through and finds a room that, impossibly, is even darker than the bar’s main area.

It takes several more seconds for her to spot Ryan. He sits around a table with two men and two women, all of whom appear quite at home in a place like this. The table is covered in poker chips and playing cards.

She does not know what to make of this. There is nothing inherently wrong with Ryan playing a game of poker… but in a place like this? On Thanksgiving? Though she cannot pinpoint why, it feels as though she is intruding on something private, something that he would not want her to see.

Her fingers tighten on the curtain as she watches the almost motionless and yet painfully intense game of poker taking place. She does not know the game very well, but she can approximate what is going on when the players set down their cards and collect or surrender their chips. From the looks of the stack in front of him, Ryan is already at quite a deficit.

She prepares to speak up. What should she say? Can she drag him away from his game like this? Realizing that her hesitance is just another excuse to delay what she came here to do, she resolves to make her presence known at the end of this hand.

But when Ryan slaps down his cards and shoves most of his remaining chips toward another player, Paula freezes.

“Goddammit,” he mutters, barely concealing what Paula knows is a much greater, much deeper frustration.

This is not the time, she decides. It is as though a switch has been flipped inside her: she does not want him to know that she has seen him this way. She needs time to think about how to approach him, what she will say…

Having made her decision, she turns to leave. But as she pulls her hand from the curtain, it moves against the metal bar on which it hangs--and it makes just enough noise to get the attention of all the poker players.

Without meaning to, Paula pauses and looks back at them. Ryan’s gaze falls upon her, and she knows that there is no turning back now.



“Oh, God. What have you done?” Diane Bishop asks.

Brian Hamilton pushes past her and maneuvers his way to the kitchen counter, where he deposits the grocery bags he has brought with him.

“What the hell is all that?” she asks.

“Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce… When you said Sam would be spending the day with the Fishers, I knew you’d wind up sitting around like this. Happy Thanksgiving!”

“Do I look like I’m in the mood for a happy Thanksgiving?”

She stands at the still-open door in a state in which Brian has rarely seen her: oversized t-shirt, leggings, and no makeup.

“Wow,” he says, unable to conceal his amusement. It is actually refreshing to see her without her usual armor, and he wonders if it will allow him greater access than she is normally willing to grant.

“They’re my lazy-day clothes,” she says defensively.

“I didn’t even know you had lazy days.” Brian sets about unpacking the groceries. “Are you going to shut the door, or what? It’s freezing out there.”

Looking pained to do so, she closes the door. For a moment, he wonders if he has crossed a line by invading her space, but she quickly joins him at the counter.

“So what, you’re going to cook all this crap?” she asks. “Isn’t that going to take forever?”

“Don’t give me too much credit. It’s all prepared.” He opens the containers of food, and the enticing aromas rise to fill the air around them.

“I guess it won’t kill me to try some of it,” Diane says, moving to retrieve plates from the cupboard. She glances back at him. “Do I have to thank you?”

Brian shakes his head. “Wouldn’t want to make you uncomfortable.”

She hands him a plate, and they begin serving the food. There is an ease about the whole thing, a comfort that Brian was not sure he would find here tonight. Coming here was a bold move, a risk, and he is pleased that it has paid off.

“You deserve to have a nice holiday,” he says, “and someone to share it with.”

“Don’t make me puke before I get a few glasses of wine in me.”

“No, I’m serious.” He sets down his plate and reaches out to touch her cheek. “I’m not just fooling around with all this. You shouldn’t have to spend holidays alone. You have too much to offer.”

With a start, Diane pulls away from him and sets down her plate. “You need to go.”

Rejection smacks Brian in the face. He takes an involuntary step back from Diane.

“Pack it all up,” she says, turning away from the food. “Get out of here.”

“What is with you?” he asks, unable to muster the energy to play it cool.

“What’s with you? I didn’t ask you to bring this stuff over,” she fires back. “You came over thinking--what, that I’m going to spread my legs because you brought some yams?”

Hearing it in such frank terms sends another wave of embarrassment through Brian. “Do you have to be so crass about everything? What is wrong with trying to do something nice for a friend?”

“Do you talk to all your friends the way you were just talking to me? Wait, Katherine Moriani doesn’t count.”

He doesn’t know what to say. He certainly doesn’t want anything to do with this food now. He grabs his keys and breaks for the door.

“You are not leaving all this crap here,” Diane says.

“Throw it away if you want. I don’t care.”

He opens the door but cannot resist turning back to her. “You can only push people away for so long. Who’s next, Samantha? Are you just going to keep going until you wake up one day and you’re a miserable old lady no one wants to be around?”

He can see the change come over her. He wouldn’t exactly label it relaxing--but something gives. Transforms.

“Is this making you feel better?” she challenges.

He wishes he could say that it is, but that would be an enormous lie.

“You are so impossible,” he says instead.

Diane folds her arms. “So?”

“So what?”

“Take off your clothes.”


“You heard me. Shut the damn door. And don’t make me regret this,” she says as she disappears back into the bedroom.

Dumbfounded and too confused to try and figure out what is going on, Brian slams the door and strips right there on the spot.


While Paula is out, the rest of the family sits at home, awaiting her return and doing what they can to finish dinner. The teenagers have taken over the living room, where they watch television and play with little Caleb and Christian. The adults mingle in the dining room and kitchen… except for Sarah, who has planted herself on one of the living room couches, where she quietly watches Tori and her cousins.

Tim notices his sister sitting there, removed from the rest of the gathering, and makes his way over to her.

“Happy Thanksgiving,” he says, standing over her.

Sarah looks up, apparently startled by his presence. “Yeah. You, too.”

“How have you been?” he asks. He is aware of how clunky a transition it is, but there is really no smooth way of getting into this.

“Do you want me to lie?” she counters.

Tim settles beside her on the couch. Cradling his drink between his hands, he chooses his words with great care.

“How are things between you and Matt?” he asks.

Sarah looks across the house, toward the far end of the dining room, where Matt is talking with Bill and Jason. “How do things look?”

“Like you haven’t spent more than two seconds near him the entire time you’ve been here?”

“Now just multiply that by… twenty four or so hours a day.”

“Sarah…” He checks to make sure that the kids aren’t listening to them. “I can’t even begin to imagine how you’re feeling, given what happened with the baby. But I do know that you have a family that loves you--a husband who’d kill to be with you and a daughter who needs you.”

A defensive note creeps into her voice as she answers, “You think I don’t know that?”

“Of course you do. But…” He wants to say this without sounding like he’s accusing her of something or trivializing her problems. “I lost everything once. I almost lost it all again, when I thought I was going to prison. I’ll never get that time back.”

“That’s what no one understands!” she says, dangerously close to raising her voice. She reins it in and continues: “It’s like all those things have been taken away from me. Like I have no control over getting them back.”

Tim does not quite understand. He wants to, so that he can help her, but all he sees is a woman lashing out at a husband and, by extension, a daughter who are both here and willing to have her.

“When you thought you were going to jail,” Sarah says, “with Claire getting engaged to Ryan and everyone thinking you’d gone nuts and killed Nick--didn’t you feel like it was all out of your hands, like you had no control no matter what you tried?”

“Yeah,” he admits.

“That’s how this is. It’s not that I don’t want things to feel differently. But it feels like it’s all out of my control. Something has changed--I don’t know what, something inside me--since we lost the baby. I can’t help it.”

Tim nods along, trying to understand. He thinks that he gets it.

Sliding an arm around his sister and doing everything he can to avoid sounding judgmental, he says, “That’s the thing, though. I never stopped trying to find a way. Even when things were at their worst, I had to keep trying. Because once you give up on yourself, there’s no reason for anyone else to keep caring.”

He feels like he should get up and leave her to think about that, but instead of he pulls her closer, reminding her that, if she is willing to try and overcome this, there are people here to help her.


Ryan is already halfway out of his seat as he asks, “Paula? What are you doing here?”

She has to face him now; she has no other choice.

“I needed to see you,” she says.

“Let’s go outside,” Ryan says. He motions to the other players at the table. “I’m going to sit this one out.”

He leads the way back through the bar and outside. The Thanksgiving air is chilly, and Paula folds her arms against her body.

“How did you find me?” he asks.

“I had to see you,” she says again. Her insides churn at the thought of admitting that she staked out his building and then followed him here.

“So you tailed me here? Have you been following me?”

“No. I went to your building earlier and saw you leaving. I had to know how you were spending your holiday.”

His gaze falls downward. “This is--I’m just passing the time.”

“Did I suggest otherwise?”

She takes in the sight of him, up close now. His eyes are red and bleary; his facial hair is unkempt, the result of laziness rather than a style choice.

“How are you doing?” she asks. It sounds like such a stupid question, but she has to ask.

“I’m alive, so that’s good. Or not.” He stares off at some point in the distance, through the grayness of the day. “I didn’t expect to see you. I especially didn’t think you would come after me.”

“It’s Thanksgiving. I had to.”

“I am so sorry,” he says, and the rest tumbles out like water from a hose that has just been untwisted: “What I did was so unbelievably stupid. I panicked. I know it’s no excuse, but if you’re willing to give me another chance…”

“Ryan.” She wants to touch him, somehow, but she fears that the contact will leave her powerless to say and do what she knows she must. “I wanted to see you. To talk to you. But another chance… I can’t do that to my family.”

It is a deadlock between them: Paula waits for some reaction, and Ryan refuses to grant her the relief.

“You should go,” he says at last.

She knows that he is right, but she cannot resist a few final words. “Live your life, Ryan. You’ve made mistakes, and you might not be able to regain our trust, but you can build a new life.”

“What’s the point?” He opens the door to the bar. “I hope you and your family have a nice Thanksgiving.”

Before she can respond, he disappears back inside the bar. The door closes in her face. She shouldn’t have expected anything more, she supposes, but all she has accomplished is to make herself feel even worse.


Half an hour and an abrupt trip to the grocery store later, Paula returns to her family’s home.

“I was starting to get worried,” Bill says, greeting her at the door with a kiss.

She brushes off his concern with a wave of the hand. “I’m sorry that it took a while. I know I shouldn’t have kept you all waiting, but I’m here now.”

She removes her coat and hands Bill the paper grocery bag.

“We were running low on butter,” she says. “I didn’t want to risk running out!”

She greets her grandkids, one by one, and then moves on to her own children. She sees them all with a clarity that she has lacked of late.

There is Jason, finally an adult and running his own business.

Molly is attempting to balance a demanding career and motherhood. She and Brent seem happy, and Brent is using a set of crutches to move around on his prosthetic leg. Paula hopes that things between them have smoothed out.

Tim is here with his two children, but without Claire or Diane. Paula knows that he is stronger than any of them gave him credit for, but after all that he has been through, she wishes that he had someone to lean on.

And then there is Sarah, sitting by herself, trying to appear, if not happy, at least pleasant. Paula can only imagine the pain of actually having lost a child, and she prays that somehow, some way, Sarah will be able to find peace.

These are her children. She needed to see Ryan today, but perhaps she has done all that she could for him. She took him into her family, she fought for him, and in the end, all he did was divide them. The thought sickens her, but maybe it is best that she have nothing more to do with him.

These are her children. This is her family. This is where she belongs. And so she finishes greeting them and returns to the kitchen, thankful to have them and looking forward to sharing this special day with them.


Are the Fishers finally through with Ryan?
Will Brian get what he wants from Diane?
Can Sarah find a way to move past her pain?
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