Episode #531

- Courtney urged Jason to heed her warnings about Sabrina, but he remained skeptical that there is anything to worry about.
- After a meeting about Ryan’s book, Tim asked Cassandra to have dinner with him.
- Fed up after the same meeting, Diane opened a bottle of wine and asked Ryan to join her. He agreed.


Jason Fisher’s tired eyes stare at his computer monitor. Despite everything that he has tried--coffee, a Red Bull, listening to his iPod loudly, turning the fan directly at his face--he is still losing the battle of wills against his own exhaustion. And he cannot afford that, not tonight.

“Baby keep you up all night?” Seth Ashby asks as he walks over to use the fax machine.

“Try nights,” Jason says. “As in, the last four straight. She just will not stay asleep.”

“Start napping under your desk.”

“Seriously. I might have to.” Jason rubs his eyes. “I’ve gotta wake up. Courtney and I are supposed to go out to dinner tonight.”

“Like a date night?” Sabrina Gage asks from her desk across the room.

“Yeah. We could use a little time to ourselves.” Jason glances at the time on his computer and is distressed to see that the minutes and hours are not passing nearly as quickly as he would like. The sudden, insistent ringing of his cell phone distracts him from fantasies of passing out for twenty minutes.

“And that’s the babysitter now,” he says before answering the call. “Hi, Josie. Yeah, that’s--oh my God. No, of course. Don’t even worry about it.” The reassurances tumble out of his mouth even as his mind goes into troubled overdrive. But what else is he supposed to say?

“That didn’t sound good,” Seth says over the pinging of the fax machine.

Jason slips his phone back into his pocket. “She got into a car wreck. Everything’s okay, but she has to get the car towed and… taking care of a crazy baby is probably not what she needs to do right now.”

“Maybe it’s for the best,” Sabrina says. “With you being so tired and Sophie being so fussy…”

“Yeah.” Even as he murmurs this agreement, though, Jason is thinking hard. He knows how much this night means to Courtney, since they have been planning it for weeks, and she is the one who usually spends all day at home with the baby. He hates to cancel on her now. He would call Don and Helen, but they have plans tonight with his parents, who have had Sophie this afternoon while Courtney takes care of some errands…

“There’s got to be someone else,” Jason says, though no logical possibilities present themselves.

“I can do it.”

Sabrina’s enthusiastic outburst catches Jason by surprise.

“That’s a really nice offer,” he says, “but Sophie can be a real handful…”

“Don’t worry about it. My mom remarried and had two more babies when I was a teenager. I can deal with them.”

It occurs to Jason that Courtney might not elect Sabrina as their babysitter, but she also wouldn’t be crazy about canceling their night out, and it isn’t as if Sabrina has done anything to indicate that she cannot take care of an infant for a few hours. She has never been anything but responsible and on top of things at the office.

“Are you sure?” he asks.

“Absolutely. Happy to do it.”

“All right, then. Thanks.”

As she smiles back at him, Jason hopes that she understands what she has gotten herself into.


As he watches Diane Bishop open a second bottle of wine, Ryan Moriani has the fleeting thought that this is a bad idea. It is getting late, and he is going to have to leave his car here overnight if he drinks anymore, and he is not sure that he should let down his guard around Diane… but the comfortable fuzziness induced by the first few glasses of wine silence those arguments. When Diane pours him another glass, he accepts it and immediately takes a sip.

“I needed this. I cannot believe how annoyed that woman got me,” Diane gripes.

“She’s not that bad,” Ryan counters. He understands why Diane and Cassandra clash, but the degree of conflict between them seems unnecessary.

“You’re only saying that because you need all the friends you can get.”

He tries not to take the jab too seriously, despite the fact that he knows all too well how true it is. “Very funny. And you should be grateful I’m in that position, or you wouldn’t have a big book to promote, would you?”

Instead of firing back with another barb, Diane drinks her wine. He knows that this is as much of a concession as he is going to get out of her.

“And I’ll have you know,” he adds, “that I’m seeing someone these days, so I’m not as desperate for human interaction as you might think.”

“Really? How’d you dupe another woman into thinking that was a good idea?”

Ryan sneers at her. “It’s Danielle Taylor. Brent’s sister. She just… she understands me.”

“That makes me scared for her. Or of her, maybe.”

“She’s a good woman. And she’s been through a lot. The way she handles it all without falling apart…” He realizes that the wine is causing him to wax more poetic about Danielle than he normally would, at least aloud, and forces himself to shut up.

“Here you go again,” Diane says.

He wonders if he has missed something. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Look at you. All moony and stupid over her already. Just like you were over Claire.” She takes a slug of the wine. “Don’t be blinded. It gets you into trouble.”

“I’m not blinded. I’m seeing the good in the situation.”

“What about the fact that her brother lost a leg because of a mess you set in motion? Or that she’s practically part of the family you’re estranged from? Be smart, Ryan. The odds might not be on your side with this one.”

As much as he wants to argue with her, he knows that she has some valid points. Still, he will not focus on the negative. Not after everything that has happened, not after the surprise of having a chance at a new beginning with Danielle. As best he can, he ignores Diane’s words and finishes his wine.


In a booth inside the downtown eatery, Tim Fisher and Cassandra Ward sit back as the waitress delivers their food: a burger and fries for him, and a salad and big bowl of soup for her.

“Sorry we didn’t go someplace nicer,” Tim says, “but I figured it would be impossible to get a table on a Friday night.”

“Do not apologize for that. A nice, casual meal is what I need tonight.”

Tim pours a blob of ketchup onto his plate and tests out one of the fries in it. “My dad used to have a place down on one of the piers--a family restaurant, little bit of everything on the menu. It used to be my go-to place for laidback meals.”

“But it was destroyed in that explosion.” Cassandra meets his gaze as she stirs her soup with the spoon. “I’ve read all about it, remember?”

“Of course. At least that saves me from having to tell such an insane story, which would probably make you think I’m insane…”

She eats a spoonful of the soup, a corn chowder, before speaking again. “What are your father’s plans? Is he hoping to re-open the restaurant?”

“No. I think he feels like he can’t recreate the same place, and to have it in the same location would be too bizarre. He’s in the process of opening a new one, but it’s slow going.”

“I’m sure there are a lot of logistical issues to work out--never mind the fact that something he worked so hard to build was destroyed so suddenly.”

“It’s still hard to believe it’s gone,” Tim agrees. He pauses for a bite of the delicious burger. “What about you? It feels a little uneven for you to know so much about my family and me, but I hardly know anything about you at all.”

She shrugs. “There isn’t much to tell. Born and raised in Texas, stayed there through college, then hightailed it to New York for graduate school. I was lucky enough to pick up staff jobs at several magazines and have actually made a career as a writer, which is no small feat.”

“Is your family still in Texas?”

Her eyes shift to the table. “I have relatives there, yes.”

The response strikes Tim as strange, so much so that he decides not to ask his follow-up question, about whether her parents are still living or not.

“Are you single? Married?” he asks instead, as casually as he can despite what the answer will mean for the type of dinner this is.

“Divorced. For a few years now.” Cassandra practically interrupts herself for another spoonful of chowder. “I’m afraid my life isn’t nearly as interesting as the things I choose to write about.”

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Tim says, and though he means it as reassurance, it only seems to fuel Cassandra’s uneasiness.


By the time he and Courtney are seated at the restaurant, Jason feels as if he has run a marathon. Between the babysitter’s cancellation, making new plans with Sabrina, picking up Sophie and delivering her to the house, and giving Sabrina a crash course in the specifics of caring for Sophie, his exhaustion has multiplied exponentially.

Jason gives the menu a cursory once-over, but then Courtney catches his eye across the table. She is intent upon her menu, unaware of his attention, and somehow, that makes it an even more valuable stolen moment.

“You look beautiful,” he says.

Courtney looks up, surprised. “What?”

“I just haven’t seen you dressed up in a while. You look amazing.” And it is no exaggeration. He knows that she is conscious of the weight she gained during the pregnancy, which is taking time to fade away due to how busy she is with the baby. Tonight she wears a brown dress with a cap sleeve; it is a little more conservative than something pre-pregnancy Courtney would have worn, but she looks no less stunning in it.

“Thanks,” she says, a little embarrassed. “I feel like crap, kind of, but it’s so nice to get dressed like a grown-up and get out of the house.”

“I bet. That’s why it’s important we plan nights like this.”

“Have you decided what to do at work?” she asks. “I promise I won’t be offended if you decide you need to hire someone else. I know you didn’t expect me to be out for this long as it is.”

“Honestly, I think we have things under control. The three of us can handle it, at least for now.”

They both take a few seconds to review their menus.

“A steak sounds so good,” Courtney says. “I should probably eat something lighter, though…”

“Why? Enjoy yourself.”

She gestures at her body. “The baby weight’s not losing itself.”

“It will. Don’t pressure yourself about it too much.”

Courtney shrugs. “I can’t wait to get back on the ice, just to skate around. Maybe when Sophie’s a little older, there’ll be time.”

“There will be.” Looking at her, and at the engagement ring on her finger, fills him with an odd sense of calm, a certainty that things will work themselves out.

Already Courtney appears distracted. “Should we call Josie? Just to check on the baby?”

“I’m sure she’s fine,” he says, and even though he hoped he wouldn’t have to mention it until they got home, he adds, “Josie actually couldn’t make it. She had a car accident--nothing major--”

“She’s okay?”

“Yeah. She’s fine. But obviously she had things to take care of.” His chest tightens in anticipation of the next bit of information: “Sabrina offered to watch Sophie instead.”

Courtney’s eyes bulge. “And you found someone else. Right?”

“It’s no big deal. She’s responsible, and--I didn’t want to cancel our plans.”

“So you left our infant daughter with a crazy woman?” Courtney reaches for her purse and is already halfway out of her chair.

“Court. Hold on. She is not crazy.” He grabs her hand. “I didn’t want you to get all nervous. That’s why I didn’t say anything. Sabrina offered, and she can handle Sophie for a few hours. You need the time out of the house to relax.”

“I can’t relax while I know our daughter’s alone with that lunatic.” She pulls free of him. “Come on. We have to get home.”

“Courtney--” But the protest perishes on his lips, and he knows that he has no choice but to follow her.


With the baby monitor in hand, Shannon Parish moves down the hallway and into the master bedroom. This is her first time visiting Jason’s new house, and the opportunity to explore it undisturbed is too good to pass up.

In the bedroom, she finds a queen-sized bed, neatly made in light and dark blue linens. She runs a hand lightly over the comforter and wonders which side of the bed is Jason’s. If she knew, she would lie in it, just for a moment, just to feel herself in the same space where he rests his body every night. But she has no way of knowing, and accidentally lying in Courtney’s spot is too disgusting to fathom.

Instead she moves to the closet, where Courtney’s clothing takes up far more real estate than Jason’s. Shannon goes to the row of shirts and slacks, passing her hand over them once and then pausing for a closer study. She remembers Jason wearing one particular pale blue shirt to work last week and takes the hanger off the rack.

At first, she simply presses the shirt against her body. Then she lifts it to her face. It smells freshly laundered, but she is sure that she detects a hint of Jason beneath. She holds her face in it for what might be seconds, might be minutes, until a wail cuts through the air.

Startled, Shannon quickly replaces the shirt. She waits, hoping for silence, but Sophie’s cries pour from the monitor soon afterward. Shannon tries to bury her annoyance and goes to check on the baby.

As she expected, nothing is terribly wrong. She checks to see if a diaper change is in order and, once she discovers that it is not, tries to figure out what else could be wrong. Jason assured her that Sophie had been fed and would not need to eat again for the evening. Nothing else looks wrong.

“Shh,” she whispers. It does no good.

She reaches out a tentative hand and rubs the baby’s tummy. The crying eases for a moment, then surges again, louder than before.

“What’s wrong with you?” Shannon asks. She lifts the infant out of the crib and holds her in her arms, but that is no help, either. “Come on. Shh.”

The crying continues, loud and insistent. Shannon sets the baby back in the crib.

“Will you shut up?” she mutters.

And then she sees it: the small pillow sitting on the rocking chair in the corner of the room.

Shannon’s mind churns. The thought is horrifying, but… what if she were to silence this baby? What if she were to take away the one thing that reignited this stupid relationship between Jason and Courtney, a relationship they both got over years ago until Courtney got herself knocked up?

Hardly knowing what has possessed her, Shannon drifts over the carpet and reaches for the pillow.


Will Shannon go through with it?
Will Courtney and Jason arrive home in time?
Is Diane right about Ryan’s prospects with Danielle?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to discuss!

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