Episode #533

- Danielle told Ryan that Elly asked her some very pointed questions about her parentage--questions that were spurred by Travis.
- After drinking at the office with Diane, Ryan took a cab home, only to find Danielle waiting for him. She was not pleased to learn that he had been drinking.
- Alex was surprised by Seth’s request that they have a threesome with a woman but found himself agreeing to the plan.


Rain clatters against the sidewalks and streets outside, providing an uninterrupted wall of background sound. Lauren Brooks is grateful for it, because without the rain’s steady soundtrack, the stilted conversation in the art gallery might be too awkward for her to bear.

As she balances a plate of hors d’oeuvres and a glass of red wine, Lauren says to Alex Marshall beside her, “Thanks for coming with me. I don’t think I could’ve handled this alone.”

Alex turns his head away from a painting that reminds Lauren of one of those 3-D pictures she used to stare at as a child, trying to see what was hidden amidst the blobs of color. “Thanks for inviting me,” he says. “It’s good to get out of the house, do new things…”

“Even if I have no idea what half this stuff is supposed to be.”

“Neither do I. The key is to act like you get it.” He returns his attention to the painting, nods slowly, and then abandons it. “See?”

“Really convincing,” Lauren says with the smallest laugh she can manage. She realizes she has been speaking in a half-whisper the whole time they have been here; this place is way too quiet for her liking. If she hadn’t promised Shonda from work that she would help fill up the place for Shonda’s brother’s show, Lauren would be out of here already.

“How are you liking living on your own?” she asks Alex. It has been a long time since the two of them spent time alone together, but with Courtney out of commission thanks to the baby, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to make an effort in her renewed friendship with Alex.

“It’s kind of weird, but… it’s nice to have my own space. I miss having Jason in and out all the time, just those little conversations in passing. But having Courtney and the baby there all the time these past few months--remembering that helps me appreciate the peace and quiet.”

“They said you were spending a lot of time at Seth’s…”

Alex stops his strolling and looks at her, as if she has accused him of a nefarious deed that he thought he might get away with. Lauren feels the need to jump in and clarify:

“I don’t want this to be awkward. You and Trevor were good together, but it didn’t work out. If we’re going to be friends, we should be able to talk about everything, even if it’s…”

“…the guy I started dating as soon as Trevor left town.” Alex winces at how harsh that sounds. “I was spending a lot of time over there. But we decided to cool things down. I just think--no, I know--Seth isn’t ready for the kind of relationship I assumed we’d fall into.”

Lauren can hear the unspoken conclusion to the statement: The kind of relationship Trevor and I had.

“But you’re still seeing him, right?” she asks, hoping to expedite the departure of this latest bit of awkwardness.

“We have dinner, we do things on the weekends, we hang out… it’s just a lot looser. I think it suits where Seth is in his life right now.”

“Well, that’s good. As long as you’re happy and comfortable with it.”

“Yeah.” The word is heavy, not at all the easy confirmation that she expected.

Are you happy and comfortable with it?”

His right shoulder rises in a half-shrug. “I guess. Yeah. It’s just… we have different expectations for what this is. What we want out of each other. We’re still figuring that out.”

“Just be sure that it’s on your terms, too, not just his.”

“At some point, though, don’t you need to make concessions for the other person? There has to be some give-and-take, even if it’s not your ideal.”

“Of course. But only you can judge when it’s the right concession to make.” She can tell that there is a specific issue burdening Alex, but she doesn’t want to pry too much.

A painting a few feet away catches Lauren’s eye. It depicts a man sitting on the curb of an otherwise empty city street. She takes a sip of her wine and prods Alex. “See, I don’t understand what makes this ‘art.’ It’s nice, but like… what’s so special, you know?”

Alex studies the painting for a long moment. “I don’t know. Something about the loneliness of the modern world…”

“I guess.” Lauren steps backward, ready to find something else to discuss, and starts to turn. “I’m sure Shonda’s brother is really nice, but--”

As she turns, she slams into a wall. Only it isn’t a wall--it’s a person. A man, she realizes as she tracks up to find his face. His very handsome face.

A face that is now scowling, because her red wine is all over his white dress shirt.


The pen hovers mere millimeters from the sheet of paper.

She used to do this all the time. Without thinking. Without hesitation. In fact, she did it with great vigor and excitement. How did that turn into this?

Danielle Taylor draws a deep breath as she re-reads the names on the sign-up sheet for an upcoming Open Mic Night. She recognizes none of the acts. It has been so long since she played here--played in front of people at all.

The new song is good. Of that much, she is certain. Fairly certain. She feels it is, anyway. Maybe others will disagree. Maybe she will get up there, and they’ll laugh at the former success story: Open Mic performer who had a brief flash of pop music success, only to turn into a drunk and wind up back on this little platform of a stage in King’s Bay.

She is still mulling it over when a figure catches the corner of her eye. She is surprised that she recognizes the woman, or that her subconscious was so attuned to her presence. But there she is, ordering at the counter: Diane Bishop.

The angry thoughts that have been circulating in Danielle’s mind suddenly become real possibilities. One more glance at the sign-up sheet, and she sets down the pen, all too happy to get away from it.

“Diane,” she says as she approaches the coffee bar, where the other woman now waits for her drink. Diane’s eyes narrow at her and then relax with recognition.

Danielle introduces herself anyway. “Danielle Taylor. Brent’s sister--”

“I know.” Diane studies her carefully, trying to size up the intent of this approach.

Already Danielle suspects that she is going to sound crazy, but she has to get these words out of her head and into the world. “I don’t know if he’s told you, but I’ve been seeing Ryan Moriani, and--”

“He told me.” The statement has a bite to it, the implication of something deeper. Did Ryan tell this woman about Danielle’s troubles? She banishes the thought as quickly as it appears; she cannot assume the worst time after time. It’s ridiculous.

“I was surprised that Ryan took a cab home from the office the other night,” Danielle says. “It was the right thing to do, of course, but the fact that he had to do it at all…”

“We had a few glasses of wine after a very stressful meeting.”

“Which, for most people, is not a problem. But Ryan--I’m sure you’ve been around him and the Fishers enough to notice what happens when he drinks. His impulse control goes out the window. He has too much. He--”

Diane folds her arms. “Are you blaming this on me?”

“No. Of course not,” Danielle says, though she realizes that is, at least in part, what she is doing. “I just thought you should be aware that this is kind of an issue with Ryan, and I’d appreciate it if in the future--”

“Oh, this is good.” A sneer spreads over Diane’s lips. “How does Ryan feel about you running around town playing his Mommy?”


Travis Fisher brushes snow off the ice and into the ever-growing pile beside the rink. He takes deliberate steps over the fresh ice surface, still wet and glistening from the Zamboni’s recent circuit. Hockey players, having completed their evening practice, straggle out of the dressing room and toward the rink’s exit. So, when he hears footsteps approaching, Travis doesn’t even look up. Not until he hears his name.


The voice is familiar but so out-of-place that he can’t pinpoint it at first. It dawns on him just as he glances up to see Ryan Moriani standing a few feet away from him.

It has been a long time since Travis saw his uncle. He cannot even remember the last time they crossed paths. There are so many things he has imagined saying to Ryan--railing at him for what he did to Travis’s father, for putting their whole family in danger the way he did, for making

But all that comes out is: “Jason’s not here. He, uh, he doesn’t usually come in on weekends.”

“I’m not here to see Jason,” Ryan says. “I came to speak with you.”

Travis freezes mid-movement, the broom hovering over the slush on the otherwise clean ice surface. “Why?”

Hands stuffed into the pockets of his coat, Ryan advances on Travis. “I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but I’ve been spending time with Danielle Taylor. We’ve become close.”


“It’s about Elly. You and I--we need to have a conversation about Elly and Danielle.”


Lauren halts, her now-empty wine glass in mid-air, her mouth partly open with apologies that have yet to manifest themselves.

The first words that do burst out are not exactly an apology: “I’m an idiot.”

The man whose shirt is now decorated with her Merlot takes a step backward, his mouth gaping open. He is incredibly handsome; a day or two worth of scruff lines his jaw and cheeks. So of course she had to go and empty a wine glass all over him.

“I’m so sorry,” she finally manages. “Is there anything I can--”

“I doubt it.” The man looks down at his shirt.

“I’ll pay you for it,” she says. “I mean, obviously. I’m so sorry.”

Alex hands the guy a cluster of napkins, but after a few cursory dabs, Lauren’s victim gives up. “It’s ruined,” he says.

All Lauren wants at this moment is to run from the room, to disappear from sight. She is sure that the shirt is absurdly expensive, but the hit to her checkbook accounts for only a fraction of her despair. Mostly she is embarrassed at having made a fool of herself.

The man seems to be at a loss as he gazes at the stained shirt. At last he glances up at Lauren. “Your friend is right,” he says. “The isolation of the modern world.”

It takes Lauren a few seconds to realize that he is talking about the painting.

“How do you know?” she asks, as a horrible thought occurs to her. “Oh my God. Are you Shonda’s brother?” If she spilled wine on the artist holding this show--

“No. A fellow artist.” He stands awkwardly, keeping his wine-soaked sleeve from touching his torso. “Look at the storefronts behind him. Look at how modern they are. Those weren’t selected at random.”

Lauren evaluates the painting again. She sees Alex doing the same.

“I guess,” she says, not fully convinced that this was the artist’s intent. “It’s a very nice painting--”

“It isn’t supposed to be nice. It’s supposed to provoke thought and conversation.” The man apparently takes her silence as disagreement. “And if a viewer isn’t capable of engaging with the painting on that level, is it really the artist’s fault?”

“Doesn’t the artist have a responsibility to make the work accessible?” Alex jumps in, for which Lauren is endlessly grateful.

The man nods. “You could argue that. Perhaps you could offer your friend here a lesson. I need to take care of this shirt.” He shakes his head in annoyance. “I have a meeting early in the morning. This is not something I want to deal with tonight.”

Lauren fumbles with her purse. “Here. Take my card. Call me about the shirt. I really am sorry.”

The wine-stained man takes the card and offers his own. “I’ll be in touch.”

Lauren cringes as the man makes his exit, pausing to show his Lauren-inflicted damage to several people.

“Let’s get out of here,” she says to Alex. “I have an early meeting, too, with Objection Designs. And I don’t need all these people staring at me all night.”

“It was an accident. It happens,” Alex offers.

She slips the man’s card into her purse, but not before pausing to take in the information on it: Philip Ragan, Photographer.


It sounds like a threat to Danielle. None of the words themselves are threatening, but Diane’s inflection is straight-up suggestion and implication.

“I’m sure Ryan wouldn’t be thrilled that I’m saying this to you,” Danielle says, “but I’m doing it anyway. I just want you to know that his drinking concerns me. As someone who has a lot of money riding on him and this book, you might want to do everything you can to keep him in good shape.”

“Thanks for the tip.”

The way Diane looks back at her, as if ready to laugh in her face, makes Danielle’s stomach twist with embarrassment. She is sure that she crossed a line in talking to Diane about Ryan’s drinking, and yet she could not help herself.

“This doesn’t mean I don’t trust Ryan,” she hastens to add. “I do. I just want what’s best for him.”

The barista calls Diane’s drink. She takes it from the bar, takes a test sip, and then sets it back down. “I asked for three shots,” she says.

“I’m sure I put three in there,” the barista says.

“If there are three shots of espresso in this, I’ve got three legs.”

The young man goes about fixing the drink, and Diane refocuses on Danielle. “Ryan is a big boy. I’m sure he can look out for himself. And while I appreciate the business advice, believe me: a drunken author is hardly the biggest problem I’ve ever faced.”

Danielle doesn’t even know why she bothered. It isn’t as if Diane has a history of caring about others when it doesn’t directly benefit her, and even then, her track record is dicey.

The barista hands Diane the corrected drink, and after she sips it to make sure it is to her liking, she looks to Danielle once more. “Let me offer you a word of advice,” Diane says. “I know Ryan has this whole lost-soul thing going, but at the end of the day, you’re only going to make things worse by interfering.”

Danielle knows that responding would be pointless, and besides, Diane is already headed for the door. She watches her go and wishes that she could take back the confrontation. If anything, it will probably motivate Diane to offer Ryan a few more drinks out of spite.

Frustration knots within her, tightening her chest and stomach. She feels like she wants to scream--an all-too-familiar sensation, the prelude to craving a drink. Helplessness.

Determined to do something, anything, to push the feeling back down, she returns to the sign-up sheet and jots down her name on the schedule for Open Mic Night.


Travis’s body tightens. He wonders if he did something wrong--if Elly said something to Danielle about him--

“That’s so not any of your business,” he snaps at his uncle. He resumes sweeping the ice, focused and furious. Within seconds, he has pushed most of the remaining snow and slush into the rinkside pile.

“It isn’t bad,” Ryan persists. “You aren’t--you aren’t in trouble, nothing like that.”

“Good. Because you don’t have the right to ‘get me in trouble’ or whatever, anyway.”

A dark cloud passes over Ryan’s face. “I know.”

Travis sets the broom aside and pulls the heavy Zamboni doors closed. A pair of hockey players trudge by, making loud conversation. Travis is grateful for the way that they fill the silence between him and Ryan.

“Elly was asking Danielle questions,” Ryan says. “About her adoption, and her parents… She said that you suggested she ask Danielle about it.”

It sounds a lot like an accusation to Travis. “Yeah. So? Danielle is her godmother. She’s, like, best friends with Elly’s parents. She’s gotta know something.”

Ryan’s mouth opens, but instead of words emerging, all he does is shrug. “I suppose. But it’s a sensitive issue. Danielle doesn’t have any information that she can give Elly--”

“So Elly isn’t allowed to ask? It’s her life.”

“Yes, it is. But, like I said--it’s sensitive. You have no idea what you’re getting yourself involved in.”

Travis can’t believe the nerve of this asshole. He has every idea what he’s getting involved in, and if he could help it, he wouldn’t have anything to do with it. But it’s a big deal for Elly, and like it or not, he knows things that he can’t tell her… but he can’t un-know them, either.

“Believe me, I get it,” Travis says as he latches the Zamboni doors.

“I don’t think you do. These are people’s lives. There were major decisions made years ago that have nothing to do with you.”

Something about Ryan’s tone--the certainty of it, the seriousness--catches Travis’s attention. This isn’t some vague warning. It’s like…

Travis turns back. “Do you know something?”

Ryan’s pause tells him a lot. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I know that I care about Danielle, and that she cares about Elly, and if you also care about Elly, you should respect the situation.”

“I think wanting her to know the truth about who she is is respecting her.”

“Travis, you have no idea what you’re getting into here.”

There it is again. That certainty.

“Seriously, drop it. You have no idea what I know,” Travis says.

This time, when Ryan pauses, there is something different about it. Shock. Intrigue. As if he wants to know…

“What do you think you know?” Ryan asks.

Travis clams up. The question is so direct that he doesn’t know how to respond. “Nothing,” he says quickly, before moving to the supply closet even though he has no real reason to do so.


The way Ryan says his name--that says it all. Ryan knows something, he is sure of it. Maybe not exactly what he knows, or maybe… Danielle could have told him.

“For everyone’s sake, whatever you think you know, please keep it to yourself,” Ryan says. He takes a few steps backward, his eyes still trained on his nephew. “Please.”

All Travis can do is nod as he watches Ryan leave the rink.


Will their shared knowledge bond Travis and Ryan?
Was Danielle wrong to confront Diane?
What will happen when Lauren and Philip meet again?
Discuss this episode with us in the Footprints Forum!

Next Episode