Episode #482

- Seth worked up the nerve to ask Alex on a date. Alex, hoping to sort out his feelings for Seth and Trevor for good, agreed.
- Miriam, Seth’s former fiancée, came to King’s Bay to tail him.
- Matt and Sarah had another blowup after she refused to make any effort to repair their marriage.
- Travis and Elly planned to keep in touch after she returned to San Francisco. Danielle struggled with leaving her daughter behind but forced herself to honor the adoption arrangement.


January rain falls against the house, tapping a steady beat against the windows. In the first-floor guest bedroom, Danielle Taylor sits on the unmade bed. She clutches a sixteen-year-old piece of paper in her hands and, as she reads it, she tries to let the rain’s rhythm regulate her wild, thumping heartbeat.

Read might be a bit of a misnomer. She has looked over this letter so many times that she could likely recite it by heart, despite not having looked at it since before she entered rehab. Now she sits on the bed where Elly slept for weeks and weeks, and she absorbs this letter that, once upon a time, helped her decide the course of her entire life.

We can’t even take care of ourselves, Dani. We can’t take care of a kid.

Back then, she knew it was true. A child never would have fit into her life. The music world still held too great a lure for her, for both of them, and besides, what they had was never that serious.

She thrusts the letter down on the nightstand. She has to stop doing this to herself. She knew that it would be hard leaving Elly back in San Francisco… but this is horrible. This is how she felt when she handed her baby over to Melanie and Tom all those years ago.

She makes herself stand up and go through the motions of stripping the bed. Whether she likes it or not, Elly has gone home, and now Danielle has to go back to her regular life.

She is carrying the sheets to the laundry room when the doorbell rings. After quickly depositing her cargo on top of the washing machine, she answers the door.

“Travis. Hi,” she says, surprised to see the boy.

His face peeks out from underneath the hood of his sweatshirt. “Hey. I, uh, left my iPod here the other day… I called Aunt Molly about it.”

“Oh! Molly and Brent are out with the kids, but I know she put it in the desk drawer in the kitchen. Let me grab it for you.” She motions for him to come inside. “Here, get out of the rain.”

Danielle disappears into the kitchen. Travis wipes his feet on the mat by the door and then spots one of the basketballs that he bought for the twins, lying in the hallway. He walks over to it and picks it up.

Through an open doorway, he sees the stripped-bare bed in the guest room. This must be where Elly was staying, he realizes. He knows that she is back home in San Francisco, because she added him as a friend on Myspace and left him a comment on his page. Being in this room, where she slept and hung out for weeks, gives him the strange sense of being closer to her, even though all traces of her having been here are gone.

Grow a pair, he admonishes himself mentally. You’re acting like an idiot over some girl you don’t even know. And yet he stays in the room.

When he spots the letter on the nightstand, he is drawn immediately to it. It seems unlikely that Elly left something behind in such a visible spot, and yet… he can’t help himself. He walks over and picks up the letter.


He never expected that he would be nervous.

Alex Marshall has been on plenty of dates. With Trevor, with Dylan, even with Lauren. He has grown comfortable touching a guy’s arm or holding his hand or even planting a little kiss on his cheek in public. Now, however, is different. He sits in a crowded, fancy restaurant. Across the table is Seth Ashby, who, like Alex, is dressed in a button-down shirt and slacks. Judging by the paleness of Seth’s face and the terrible stop-and-start rhythm of the conversation, Seth is faring just as badly as Alex.

“So, uh, how’s the book coming?” Seth asks.

“It’s going well,” Alex says, though he doesn’t know why he said that. It is not going well. He is struggling to find any kind of focus at all with this rewrite. But he feels like he had better not get into that, not when this night is supposed to be about him and Seth.

Seth, however, doesn’t seem to mind. Or is desperate to keep conversation moving. “What’s it about?”

“That’s kind of the problem. It’s about this police detective, a younger guy--he starts investigating a murder and winds up getting involved with this guy who’s kind of a suspect.”

He can see Seth working out a response. It probably only takes two or three seconds, but each of them feels like an excruciating eternity to Alex. Why is this so awkward?! he wants to shout.

“Does that guy wind up being the killer?” Seth asks.

“No, but that’s sort of the problem. My publisher feels that it’s too much about that relationship, so the murder investigation gets lost and… it’s kind of a mess right now.”

Unsure how to respond, Seth picks up the bottle of wine. “More wine?”

“Please,” Alex says. Maybe he can get drunk and ride this out a little easier.

Seth refills Alex’s glass and then his own. They gulp the wine in silence.

“How’s work going?” Alex asks.

“Pretty well,” Seth answers. “A lot less stress than my old job, or at least more relaxed.”

Suddenly Seth is rising from his seat. “I’m going to go use the bathroom.”

Alex nods and holds the wine glass close to his mouth. He is grateful for Seth’s temporary departure. At least it will grant him a few moments of relief from this horrible awkwardness. He wishes that he could put his finger on what’s so strange about this; it feels forced, somehow. Maybe they are trying too hard.

Seth dips out of the main dining area and through the lobby. The men’s room is just on the other side. But he never makes it there.

At first, he thinks he is just seeing things. It makes no sense for her to be here. But his second look is enough to confirm it: Miriam Frost is here, in the lobby of the restaurant where he is having dinner with Alex.


Even though he should be grateful to get in out of the rain, Matt Gray mostly feels a sense of terrible anxiety as he places his key in the apartment’s front door. He saw Sarah’s car parked out front, which means she is here, which means he is going to spend the rest of the night feeling like a stranger in his own home. All the tiptoeing around and cold shoulders are not only devastating--sometimes they are plain exhausting. It has been a long time since he could come home and relax without worry.

When he steps inside, the smell of marinara sauce hits him immediately. There are sounds, too: a pan filling with water, a stovetop burner being lit. He hangs up his coat and peeks around the corner into the small kitchen.

Sarah stands at the stove, preparing dinner. She looks up with a gentle smile.

“Hey,” she says as she adds salt to the pot of water. “How’d it go?”

Matt is utterly confused, but he decides to roll with it. “Not too hot. All the places we looked at were kinda crap.”

“My dad thought so, too?”

“He’s a lot pickier than I am.” Matt pauses, caught up in the sight of Sarah stirring the sauce. It all seems so… normal. Realizing that he’s been quiet for too long, he hurries to add, “I think he was so attached to the old restaurant that he’s having trouble picturing it anywhere else.”

“I guess that makes sense.”

“Yeah. I just wish we’d be able to find a place so we can get started on the restaurant part of this. Real estate’s not really my thing.”

He catches himself cracking a small laugh at his own expense. Immediately he tries to stifle it, but it’s too late. It slips out. He doesn’t know why, but he feels embarrassed, as if he violated some agreement between them about how lighthearted things can get.

And then something amazing happens: Sarah laughs, too.

It is tiny, just a hint, but the effect is unmistakable. Her mouth turns up, and her eyebrows do that slight raise that they always do when she is amused by something. It is something that he hasn’t seen directed at anyone but Tori in a long time.

Matt doesn’t want to ruin whatever is going on here, but he has to know. “I’ve gotta ask… what’s going on here? The dinner--the actual conversation. What’s up? Is Tori having a friend over or something?”

“Tori is at a friend’s house,” Sarah says, glancing up from the sauce. “Tonight is just for you and me.”

He feels like he missed a step or ten. “What do you mean?”

“I need to do this,” she says. “I know things have been awful lately, but I’m going to try. This is for us.”


Seth can tell that Miriam is not surprised to see him. She has that look--the same one he has seen her use on her father when she goes wild with his credit card at Saks. There is a trace of guilt about it, but it is balanced by at least an equal portion of defiance: Yeah, I did it. What are you going to do about it?

He wastes no time redirecting his course across the lobby and toward her. “What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to see you.” Plain as that. Nevermind the fact that this isn’t the city or even the state where she lives.

“I’m… having dinner,” he says. His cheeks burn, and his breathing becomes more constricted. He told her about Alex before he left Portland, but for her to see them together--it still flips his stomach upside-down.

“Yeah. Dinner. I read the book.” Her eyes widen suggestively, but there is no point in stopping at mere suggestion. “What’s next, you’ll let him blow you in the men’s room? Bit of an upgrade from a college house party.”


She grins evilly, daring him to deny any of it. Seth knows exactly which passage of the book she is referring to--nevermind that, he recalls the actual incident clearly, even after a decade.

“Let me guess,” she says, appraising her surroundings with a critical eye. “This is the only nice restaurant in the whole town?”

“Why are you here? To make me feel like crap?”

“Seth. Darling. I really do want to see you.” Her long fingernails graze his cheek. “I miss you.”

The touch is reassuring in its familiarity. Only now is Seth aware of how his nerves have been jumping all night, how he has felt like an awkward teenager trying to imitate the adult dates he has seen on TV. When Miriam touches him, he feels like Seth again.

“I’m going to be in town for a few weeks,” she says. “I thought it might be nice to get out of Portland, and a few of my friends from college live near here…”

Seth can infer the offer that follows from this declaration of facts. He knows what she is after. The only question is:


“I already said, I miss you.” She turns her eyes up at him, and they do that thing they always do, flipping the situation around so that he feels bad for doubting her. “This thing you’re doing here--it’s a phase. He got it into your head at a time when you were very impressionable, and you have to get it out of your system.”

He is trying to figure out how to respond to that when another familiar voice interrupts.

“Seth?” Alex asks, as he takes in this intimate moment between Seth and Miriam.


Travis’s eyes fall first upon the middle of the page. I’ll pay for anything you need me to… You know we can’t do this. I never was one for lying--sorry.

The words perplex him until he finally looks to the top of the page and sees the letter addressed not to Elly, but to “Dani.” His initial instinct is to put it down--he has no business looking at this--but the sense of it being a puzzle to solve is too strong. Danielle was pregnant? He didn’t know that she had a kid--although, based on the scattered words he is busily taking in, she probably doesn’t. There is no date at the top, but the letter looks old and rumpled; this is definitely not something new.

“Found it!”

Danielle’s voice travels down the hall, and Travis scrambles to put the letter back how he found it. He distances himself from the nightstand and bounces the toy basketball off the wall, trying to look as casual as possible.

“Thanks,” he says as soon as Danielle appears. He takes the iPod from her and tries not to notice her looking between him and the letter, now several feet away and apparently untouched.

“Have the twins been playing with these?” he asks, holding up the basketball.

“All over the place,” Danielle says with a strained smile.

“Good.” He tucks the iPod into his pocket. “Thanks for getting this for me.”

“Not a problem at all.”

He moves out of the room and toward the front door. Danielle follows behind him.

“So Elly’s back at home?” he asks, opening the door.

“She is.” Danielle smiles at him as he exits the house. “Keep in touch with her. I think she took a liking to you.”

“Really? Cool.” He can tell that, despite his best efforts, he is doing a crappy job of not appearing too excited by this news. “Thanks again for the iPod.”

Danielle closes the door, and Travis steps back out into the rain. He can’t quite shake that guilty feeling--he shouldn’t have read Danielle’s private letter. He feels even guiltier that he wants to know more: did she have the baby? Who was the guy writing the letter?

Inside the house, Danielle closes the door and then rushes back to the bedroom. When she realized Travis had wandered back here, she panicked that he must have seen the letter. However, when she got into the room, he didn’t seem aware of it. He probably just wanted to see the room where Elly had spent her time here… stupid teenage stuff.

Even so, she rushes to put the letter back in her room, safely tucked away in one of the drawers. Enough, she tells herself. Enough.


As he and Sarah finish their dinner, Matt marvels at what a pleasant surprise this evening has been. The dimmed lights, the single candle burning in the center of the table, and the mere fact that the two of them are sitting together, actually talking and looking one another in the eye, all go a long way toward helping him feel optimistic about the future. Sure, there have been brief moments of awkwardness, like a pump sputtering back to life after months without use, but those feel normal, surmountable. 

“So I’m hanging in this tree,” Sarah says, “trying to hold on however I can so I don’t fall and kill myself, and now I can’t even breathe or move at all. And the guy looks right up at me, directly at me.”

“He didn’t see you, did he?” The story has Matt nervous, even though he assumes that it ends well.

“No, I guess it was too dark. I don’t think I took a breath for a full minute, though. I made myself count to fifty after he got in the car and left, and then I climbed down and got the hell out of there.”

“I don’t know how you do stuff like that.”

Sarah is suddenly quiet. Matt thinks that he sees a shadow of guilt passing over her face. She has been using work as an escape from having to face problems at home; tonight, he would rather not think about those problems at all.

“Let me get that,” he says, seeing that her plate is empty. He carries their dishes to the sink and gives them a quick rinse before putting them into the dishwasher.

Sarah brings the serving dishes over to the sink. “I can take care of these.”

“Don’t worry about them. Let’s go sit inside. We can deal with them later.”

Sarah smiles again, and to Matt, it is the most glorious, welcome sight in the world. This is the woman he married. He can’t resist draping his arms over her shoulders and scooting in a little closer to her.

“Thanks for doing this,” he says. He leans in to kiss her but, before his lips even touch hers, he feels her whole body stiffen.

Instinctively he stops midway and pulls back to look her over. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah,” she says, but her eyes shift back and forth, refusing to settle upon him.

“I thought I could do this,” she says. Her shoulders bunch up, and he takes the cue to separate from her.

“We don’t have to rush.”

She nods--putting on a good show, for sure, but he recognizes that desperate discomfort in her. She appears ready to crawl out of her skin, as she has for months.

He can see the writing on the wall.

“This isn’t going to work, is it?”

“I don’t know,” Sarah says, but it sounds a lot like an admission of defeat. “I’m sorry. Leave the dishes--I’ll do them later.” She retreats to the bedroom.

Matt runs the water in the sink, but it is several minutes before he even picks up one of the serving dishes. He wants to be mad at her for not letting him in, for not trying hard enough. But he saw the change come over her. It was involuntary. Despite all her effort, it still happened. He finds that a lot more terrifying than if she had not tried at all.


Alex does not know what to make of the sight before him. Seth and Miriam certainly look like two people who planned to marry each other--or, rather, still do.

“You remember Miriam,” Seth says, his jaw tight. “Miriam, Alex.”

As much as he does not want to come off like a jealous lover, Alex has no idea how to greet Miriam. Politely? Apologetically? He settles for no greeting at all.

“I thought you were going to use the restroom,” Alex says.

“I was. I just ran into Miriam. She’s--”

“It wasn’t exactly an accident,” Miriam interjects.

Alex remains at an utter loss. This situation defies anything that he could have thought to expect tonight.

“Miriam,” Seth warns her.

“This is too weird,” Alex says. “Thanks for the effort, Seth, but no thanks.” He moves for the door, then pauses long enough to slap some cash into Seth’s hand. “That should cover it.”

“I don’t want your money,” Seth says, trying to shove it back at him. Alex refuses. “Alex, you don’t need to leave.”

Alex looks once more at the two of them standing there. “Yeah. I do.”

He exits the restaurant and steps out into the rainy night. The rain feels heavy tonight, its drops more dense than usual. They splatter on his head, his shoulders, all over him as he scrolls through his cell phone for the number of a cab company.

He is dialing when Seth bursts out the restaurant door.

“Wait,” Seth says.

Alex regards him with contempt and then walks further down the sidewalk.

“Alex!” Seth breaks into a jog to catch up with him. “She followed me here,” he says, falling into step beside Alex. “I didn’t know she was in town until five minutes ago.”

“You sure didn’t waste any time getting comfortable,” Alex says through a mouthful of rain.

“I wasn’t--” Seth grabs at him and gets a handful of Alex’s blazer. “I don’t want Miriam.”

“She seems to think otherwise.”

“I’m sorry it was awkward back there,” Seth says, “at the table. I’m scared, okay? I’ve never done this. I wasted all this time and now I think--everything has to be perfect so I don’t waste any more. But the harder I try, the more I screw it up.”

The rain is coming down as hard as Alex can ever remember it coming. It drills down upon his head, telling him to turn and run as fast as he can. But he sees Seth, standing before him, paying no attention to the driving rain or to anything but Alex, finally saying what Alex has wanted to hear.

Alex is about to say something when he sees Miriam approaching from behind Seth. She shields herself with an umbrella.

“Seth! Stop acting like an idiot!” she calls out.

Seth turns and looks her over--and then, without missing a beat, turns back to Alex and grabs him. Hands on the sides of his face pull Alex in, and before he knows it, Seth’s lips are crushed against his.

“You’re the one I want,” Seth says, pulling back to gauge Alex’s response.

Alex feels himself nodding, and then Seth kisses him again. Alex hears Miriam’s grunt of annoyance, followed by the angry click of high heels retreating back down the sidewalk. With the rain pounding down on them, he and Seth stand there for who-knows-how-long, doing something that it has taken Seth a decade to do.


Can Alex and Seth have a relationship now?
Will Travis figure out Danielle’s whole secret?
Is there any hope for Matt and Sarah?
Come and discuss this episode in the Footprints Forum!

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