Episode #516

- When Bill learned of Matt and Sarah’s plans to divorce, he became concerned that he should no longer go into business with Matt.
- Lauren investigated Sabrina’s past for Courtney. She tried to coax information about a discrepancy out of Sabrina, to no avail.
- Seth informed Alex that his parents would be visiting and asked Alex to join them for dinner.


As the project meeting finally lets out, a solid hour and a half later than expected, its participants scatter to the winds. Soon the office is clearing out, as people gather their belongings and head for the parking garage. Josh Taylor returns to his cubicle for a final sweep through his e-mail before the day is over, and that is when Lauren Brooks makes her move.

“Do you have a minute?” she asks, sliding up to the opening of the cubicle.

Josh turns back and stares at her, dumbfounded. “For what?”

“I need to talk to you.” She waits to see if he is going to bolt or decry her, and when he does neither, she continues, “It’s important. Can you keep a secret?”

“You obviously haven’t thought so in the past, based on certain decisions you’ve made.”

Okay, point for Josh.

“You’ll probably never understand how sorry I am for keeping that from you,” she says. With each day that passes, it seems more and more foolish not to have told him about her cancer scare; then again, hindsight is 20/20, and at the time, Josh had done little to inspire confidence about how he might handle a delicate situation. “But this has nothing to do with that. Or us.”


“It’s about Sabrina.”

That is enough to propel Josh to his feet. “Whoa, whoa. Not up for discussion.”

“Just listen. I said it’s not about us. It’s--something different.”

Josh’s quiet is tentative.

“You know her better than anyone else I know,” she says. “What do you know about her?”

“Like what?”

“Where she’s from, what she did before she got hired at the ice arena…”

“Why do you care?” A sarcastic smirk twists his lips. “You can try and pass it off however you want, but it’s pretty obvious what’s going on here.”

She folds her arms in front of her. “Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah. You’re jealous.”

“I am not jealous. That is so far from what this is about--”

Lauren clams up as Amanda, one of the executive’s assistants, approaches with an oversized handbag. Amanda eyes them, no doubt wondering why they have suddenly gone quiet.

“Goodnight, guys,” Amanda says with a flighty little wave.

“’Night, Amanda,” they both say, contorting their faces into polite smiles. They wait until Amanda turns the corner for the elevator before they speak again.

“You’re so jealous,” Josh says.

“Shut up.”

“Then why are you grilling me about Sabrina? Do you really want to know about her? Let’s see: she doesn’t make me jump through hoops, she’s basically a nympho--”

“Great. I’m very happy for you,” Lauren snaps. She would rather not hear any of the details. “This is not about me. It’s--for Courtney.”


“She has reason to be suspicious of Sabrina. And you’re the only person close enough to her to help us out.”


Seth Ashby leads the way into the restaurant. As he and Alex Marshall maneuver through the dining room, Alex scans the area for Seth’s parents. He met them years ago, as a college freshman, but their images have been reduced to generic ‘parents’ in his head.

Upon spotting them, Seth cuts a sharp left, and Alex sees them. Stephen and Kristen Ashby have almost the same exact shade of sandy blond hair, and their preppy sweaters strike Alex as being akin to uniforms. They are younger than he expected, probably in their early-to-mid fifties.

“Mom, Dad,” Seth says as his parents rise at the sight of him. He gives his mother a hug and his father a handshake. “You remember Alex, my roommate from freshman year.”

“Of course,” Mrs. Ashby gushes, taking Alex’s hand. Her smile is so wide and her enthusiasm so effortless that Alex wonders if she has any recollection of him at all.

“It’s a pleasure to see you again,” Alex greets them, and after a handshake with Mr. Ashby, they all sit down.

“We got a bottle of the Silver Oak,” Mr. Ashby says, holding up a bottle of red wine that Alex does not doubt is expensive. “Would either of you like some?”

Seth accepts the offer, and Alex, not wanting to seem rude, does the same. Mr. Ashby swiftly pours each of them a glass, and Alex takes cues from Seth as far as breathing in its scent and tasting it. He nods approvingly and thanks the Ashbys.

“Have you spoken to Miriam recently?” Mrs. Ashby asks.

The question falls onto the dinner table with all the subtlety of a dead body plummeting from the rafters.

Seth scowls at his mother. “No. Miriam and I… we’re finished. Especially after the way she behaved when she came to King’s Bay last year.”

“You can hardly blame her,” his mother continues. “Her parents paid for that beautiful wedding, and you abandoned her at the last minute? You’re lucky she ever spoke to you again.”

Alex sees the color drain from Seth’s face at being confronted with this memory. He knows that it is not one of Seth’s proudest moments, and Alex feels guilty just for having been present when it took place. Still, entering into a marriage with Miriam would have been even worse for Seth in the long run.

“Do we have to talk about this?” Seth asks, his jaw clenched tightly.

Mr. Ashby intercedes. “No. We don’t.” He throws a sharp look at his wife, who appears unaffected by the criticism. Seth and Alex awkwardly bury their faces in their menus.

“How is work going?” Mr. Ashby asks.

“The arena’s doing very well,” Seth says. “Jason--he’s actually a good friend of Alex’s--is really passionate about making it the best facility in the Northwest. You guys should come see it before you head home.”

“Are you really happy working at an ice rink?” Mrs. Ashby asks.

“It’s not like I’m taking out the garbage there. I’m handling all the financial aspects of a state-of-the-art sports complex.” Seth pauses to sip his wine and, from what Alex can gather, allow his point to sink in, but he cannot resist going in for one more shot: “And even if I were taking out the garbage, and doing that made me happy, you should be okay with that.”

“I worry about you,” his mother says, almost pleading. For what, Alex is not sure.

“Your mother means no harm,” Mr. Ashby says. “We do worry. The way you uprooted your entire life--leaving Miriam, leaving your job with her father--it was all so abrupt.”

Seth accepts that silently. Alex feels exceedingly out of place here and wonders if there is some way he can excuse himself and vanish without seeming rude.

“Alex is an author,” Seth tells his parents. “His first novel was a big success, and his second is being published this year.”

Mrs. Ashby’s smile settles into something more genuine. “That’s very impressive. What kind of novels do you write?”

Alex can feel the shift in Seth beside him. If his mother gets a look at Alex’s first book, she would have to be an idiot not to realize that it is about her son. From what Alex can tell, Seth is not ready to share their relationship with his parents, and definitely not in that way.

“My first one was a character drama,” he says, “about a relationship, but this new one is going in more of a crime or mystery direction. It’s taken a lot of work with my publisher to figure out how to make the story work, but we’re finally getting there.”

He glances at Seth and sees relief pass over his face at Alex’s skillful maneuvering.

“Congratulations,” Mrs. Ashby says. “Seth, it sounds like you could take a lesson or two from Alex on how to get your life in order.”

Alex exchanges a look with Seth. “Not exactly.”

Seth’s mother dismisses the comment with a wave of her hand. “Don’t be so humble. Being a published novelist is a terrific accomplishment.” She addresses her son: “We’re happy to have you with us, Alex, but really, what grown man feels compelled to bring a friend to dinner with his family?”

“Kristen,” her husband scolds.

“No,” Seth interrupts, casting a sharp look at his parents and then at Alex. “There’s a reason I brought Alex tonight.”


As the sun recedes lower and lower behind the horizon, the October sky takes on a deep blue color. It makes the world feel quieter, sleepier, for which Sarah Gray is grateful as she steps out of her car and proceeds toward the pier.

She has deliberately avoided this place for a long time. It used to be such a familiar, comfortable place, the spot where her father achieved his dreams by opening a restaurant. Their family often gathered here, and even when Sarah was not on the greatest of terms with them, this place represented the best possibilities for what the Fisher family could be. She even got ready for her wedding, held down on the beach, inside the restaurant--and, despite Sarah having been locked in the walk-in freezer by Jennie Burkle, the day turned out a success, and it will always remain one of her happiest memories.

Even if her marriage to Matt is now on death’s door.

It was another wedding day entirely when this place’s meaning changed for her, though. For all of them. When Nick Moriani interrupted Claire and Ryan’s wedding and blew the restaurant to pieces, he changed all of their lives irreversibly.

Sarah does not even know why she is here now. She still does not want to be here; the fact that the building has been neatly demolished does not erase the memories of rushing to deactivate the bomb, only to be blown to hell. She wishes that she could be thankful that she does not remember the aftermath of the blast, but somehow it feels even worse that the next thing she can recall is waking up in the hospital to the news that her baby was gone.

She pulls her wraparound sweater closer to her body as careful steps bring her closer to the spot where her father’s restaurant once stood. I should have worn a coat, she thinks, though the fact that another winter is approaching depresses her. It will be the second since the blast, since her baby was lost, since her marriage was normal.

But maybe that was already in motion long before the blast. In the aftermath of something so traumatic, it has been easy to rewrite history and pretend as though things were perfect until tragedy tore her family apart. Her therapy sessions, however, have forced her to begin acknowledging the truth: that the seed was planted long before the explosion. She and Matt never agreed on the timing of having a second child. Sarah was ready to accept the addition to their family, and of course she would have loved the child, but was its timing as ideal as it seemed to be for Matt? Not at all.

Maybe she could have wanted it more. Maybe that would have changed things, not tempted fate--


She turns with a start. The familiar voice is matched an instant later by a familiar face: that of Graham Colville.

“What are you doing here?” she asks, instinctively pulling the sweater even tighter around her body.

“I could ask the same of you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She has been willing to believe the best about Graham, but this is too weird, too coincidental. “I told you, I can’t get involved right now. I thought I made that clear. You need to stop following me--”

“Following you? You can’t very well turn up on my land and accuse me of following you.”

“Your land?” Sarah looks again at the leveled building, its remains neat and contained. She knew Bill had sold the land, but she has never thought about…

“This is the land I’m developing,” Graham says. “Or, I should say, the space. A café and two shops are going on this pier.”

Now Sarah feels like an idiot. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to accuse you of--this land used to belong to my father. He owned a restaurant here, until--”

“Your father is Bill Fisher?” As she nods, Graham emits a low, controlled laugh. “I’ll never cease to be amazed by the ways in which the world reminds us how small it is.”

“I’m really sorry for snapping at you like a lunatic,” she says, her face burning.

“Apology accepted. Are you all right?” He studies her carefully, and his brow furrows with concern.

“Yeah. Well… I guess. It’s a long story.”

“Does it have something to do with the disaster that destroyed your father’s restaurant? I read articles about how horrible it was. I never had any idea you were involved, though.”

“Like I said, long story.”

The evening breeze flutters through Graham’s dark brown hair. “If you’d like to talk about it rather than wandering an almost-deserted pier, I’d be happy to listen. I have a photographer coming in a few minutes to take nighttime photographs of the space, but once we’re through…”

“I’d like that,” Sarah says, suddenly grateful to have company in this haunted place.


With Tim out to a business dinner and Travis at a friend’s house, Bill and Paula Fisher have the house to themselves for the evening. They prepare a simple dinner and watch the news while they eat, exchanging the occasional bit of dialogue about the nation’s financial crisis and the government’s efforts to tamp it.

“This entire situation makes me really nervous,” Bill says as he sets down his fork, “about buying real estate for a new restaurant right now.”

Paula finishes chewing before she responds. “You have the money from the insurance company. It isn’t as if you’ll be entering into something you can’t afford.”

“I know. Still, it’s an unsettling time.” He sighs and acknowledges to himself that there is more to it than the national crisis. “I still don’t know what to do about Matt, either.”

“Have you spoken to Sarah about it yet?”

“I asked her what her feelings were,” Bill says. “She said that it didn’t bother her and that I should do whatever I want, but…”

“That sounds very Sarah.”

“Precisely. Trying to act like it doesn’t bother her.” Bill takes another bite of his food and focuses on the talking heads on CNN for a few seconds. “On one hand, Matt is a business partner. He’s someone I want to be in business with. He’s put his career on hold for a long time while we plan this restaurant. It doesn’t seem fair to cut him out now.”

“But on the other hand, he became your business partner because he was in a relationship with Sarah,” Paula says. “If that relationship is over, then our loyalties lie with our daughter, don’t you think?”

Bill does not hesitate in agreeing with a nod. “We’ve given Sarah enough reasons to doubt us over the years. I don’t want to do anything else to fuel those insecurities, especially when she’s going through a divorce.”

“I agree completely. And yet, Matt is our granddaughter’s father, and he has to provide for her, so in a way, we also have an obligation to him.”

Bill has been turning the scenario over in his head ever since Matt told him that he had filed for divorce, but it has not become any clearer. He has come to regard Matt almost as a son--in much the same way that he and Paula consider Claire to be part of the family, even after her divorce from Tim and her split from Ryan--and wants to do right by him.

“I have to show Sarah that she is our priority in this situation,” he resolves aloud. “It’s our responsibility as parents.”


Despite the declaration, Bill still does not know how he is going to cut Matt out of this project entirely. He thought that he could change his son-in-law’s mind about the divorce, but after talking to Matt and Sarah, he is much less certain of that. Maybe they will work things out, but in the meantime, he has to do what is best for his immediate family.


Josh quietly absorbs Lauren’s explanation. As soon as she spits it out, Lauren fears that she has said too much--that Josh is going to share it all with Sabrina, and then, if they are right, Sabrina will take it out on both of them, and if they are wrong, they will have offended an innocent, if slightly irrational, woman.

“Suspicious of what?” Josh asks.

“She’s been really… hostile with Courtney. First, like, trying really hard to talk her into having an abortion, and then flat-out taunting her about how she should quit her job to raise Sophie because there’s no way she can balance both.”

“So you’re suspicious of her politics.”

“She’s acted really weird with Courtney, okay? And she’s completely different with Jason. Like she’s trying to play them against each other. Courtney just sounds nuts when she tries to talk to Jason about it.”

Josh contemplates that for a few seconds, then throws up his hands. “I don’t need to get in the middle of this. All I know is that she likes to fu--”

“Good for you,” Lauren cuts him off. “But you don’t know anything? She must have said something about where she’s from, what she did before this, anything at all. Booty calls have lots of awkward small talk, right?”

For some reason, that elicits a grin from Josh. “I guess. Yeah.”

Lauren takes advantage of the opening. “I made some calls about her résumé. Everything checks out except for her last job. There’s, like, no trace of it ever having existed. I even tried to ask her about it, but she said the company closed down and she couldn’t even get in touch with them.”

“So? Isn’t that possible?”

“Yeah, but… it’s weird. This woman from Iowa randomly winds up in King’s Bay, and the only job she’s ever had in this state doesn’t check out? It’s kind of convenient.”

“What are you even getting at? That she puffed up her résumé to get the job at the rink? That’s that idiot Jason’s fault for not checking it out better. And it seems like she’s working out well there, anyway.”

“Yeah. Except for basically threatening Courtney whenever they’re alone together.”

Josh shakes his head. “This is messed-up.”

“I know. Believe me, I didn’t want to come to you with this, but I didn’t think I had another choice.” His body language does little to assure her of his discretion. “Josh, please just keep this to yourself. If you tell Sabrina…”

“I won’t. Not yet, anyway.”

The ease with which he agrees strikes Lauren as uncharacteristic, though he has surprised her in similar ways before. “Thanks.”

“I’ll try to talk to her,” he says. “No promises, though.”

“Fine. I appreciate it.”

With that resolved, they stand awkwardly wedged into the cubicle together. Lauren can think of so many words to fill the space, but none of them seem appropriate or even natural now.

“I’ve gotta finish up these e-mails and head home,” Josh says.

“Yeah. I, uh, I’ve got to get going, too.” She steps out of the cubicle. “Thanks again.”

“Don’t thank me yet,” he says as he settles back in at his computer.


Seth’s declaration hangs over the table. Alex finds himself holding his breath in anticipation of what Seth is about to--finally--do, and his own body goes weak with nervousness by proxy.

But the moment lasts too long. Seth struggles with connecting his brain to his mouth, and, as if the opportunity were an actual bird flying over them that paused to consider whether it should land, it now passes by and disappears.

Alex can remember having had many such false starts during his own coming out. Jason grilled him so many times--and Jason, of all people, had pretty solid evidence--and still, Alex could never make any of the words work. He delayed so many times that he never even got around to telling his mother before she was killed by that animal Stan Lincoln. And so, operating off instinct, Alex takes control of the conversation from Seth.

“I actually insisted that Seth bring me tonight,” he says.

Seth turns to him with surprise.

“He didn’t know if he could face both of you,” Alex continues, “in light of all the changes he’s made in his life recently. He was nervous about disappointing you. I told him that, if it would make things easier for him, I’d come with him, just so he felt like he had the support.”

The Ashbys exchange a look. “That’s… very considerate of you,” Mr. Ashby finally says.

“He’s working very hard to build a life for himself,” Alex says. “A life that will make him happy. All he needs to know is that his parents support him in that.”

Mr. Ashby looks exclusively to his son now. “Of course you have our support, in the end. We’re concerned about you. That’s all. The way your whole life seemed to change overnight…”

“It wasn’t overnight,” Seth says. “It just seemed like that once I finally acted on it. Once it built up and built up to the point that I thought I was going to explode.” He glances from one parent to the other. “All I need to know is that you guys are okay with me doing my thing and not staying on the same exact path that you always expected me to.”

While Mr. Ashby nods, his wife’s reaction is less saccharine.

“Don’t try and present yourself as some maverick for rebelling against expectations,” Mrs. Ashby says. “This is how people squander their potential away, Seth. Take some time to find yourself, and all of a sudden, the most critical years of your career--your life--are gone. You can never recover those.”

Alex would like to think that this woman has her son’s best intentions at heart, but he has trouble believing that, given the tone with which these words spew out of her mouth.

“Is it about a girl?” she asks pointedly.

“No, Mom. It’s not.” Seth fidgets in his seat, and Alex can feel that bird return to circle overhead. It has space for clearance.

Again Alex holds his breath. Seth raises his eyes up and to the side, just enough so that Alex can catch them. He tries to urge him onward silently, the visual equivalent of squeezing his elbow or shoulder to let him know he can do this.

“There’s no girl,” Seth says. “That’s not what this is about.”

And Alex senses that bird flying off once again, a lost opportunity flapping its wings away into the night.

“What about you, Alex?” Mrs. Ashby asks, her tone pleasant and probably one hundred percent fake.

“What about me?”

“You seem to have your life together. Are you seeing anyone? Perhaps she has a friend you could set up with Seth.”

Alex doesn’t know what comes over him. He is suddenly so angry at being put on the spot like this, forced to give fake answers to stupid questions just because Seth can’t ever be honest with anyone. The compassion about having struggled with his coming out is gone, with such abruptness that it stuns Alex; he was a kid then, in his early twenties, and Seth is a full-grown adult with a life of his own.

“No,” Alex says, unable to resist a pointed stare at Seth. “There’s no one in my life. No one important, anyway.”


Should Alex give up on Seth?
Does Bill also have an obligation to Matt?
Will Josh be able to help Lauren and Courtney?
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