Episode #541

- Lauren was surprised when Objection photographer Philip Ragan asked her on a date, but she accepted his offer.
- Sarah decided it was necessary to investigate Graham’s background. She called Jason after receiving a shocking fax about Graham’s connection to King’s Bay...
- Alex was stunned when his biological father--Graham Colville--showed up at his front door.


When Alex Marshall was 17, he was in a car accident. He was driving normally, more or less safely--probably playing his music a little too loud--when the car in front of him suddenly jerked to the left, revealing a lineup of stopped traffic. Alex slammed on his brakes, but all that did was slow him down as he rammed into the car in front of him. Thankfully, no one was hurt... but that has not deadened the memory in Alex’s mind, of his tires squealing, his foot pressing hard against the brake, the colors and shapes rushing at him faster than he could process.

That is how it feels when the man at his front door speaks.

“It’s me. Graham... your father.”

The information rushes up at Alex, coming faster and more forcefully than he could possibly respond to it. He stares at the face, trying to recognize the man he has met only a handful of times in his life, but he realizes that he knows this man from somewhere else.

“You were at Christmas dinner,” Alex says. “With Sarah Fisher.”

Graham nods solemnly. “I didn’t know that you were going to be there. You have no idea how difficult it was for me not to approach you and tell you who I was.”

The facts are coming at Alex too fast for him to make sense of them. His father is here? His father has been in King’s Bay for months and is dating Jason’s sister and was at the same Christmas dinner as Alex?

“Why would that have been so bad?” Alex asks, hacking his way through the thicket of words and ideas and images in his head.

“It was hardly the right setting,” Graham says. “I had already been in King’s Bay for a few months, and I was trying to discern the best way to approach you...”

“Why are you even here?”

“A business opportunity arose for me. I suspected you were living here. When your book was released, I happened to see an article... I’m very proud of you.”

“Thanks.” The word sounds ridiculous, inserted as it is into this parody of a father-son relationship.

“I’m sorry it took me so long to contact you,” Graham says. “I wanted it to be right, but I’ve come to realize that there will never be a right time.”

Alex finds it impossible to contain the hurt, bratty 15-year-old inside himself. “Whose fault is that?”

Graham swallows the insult but does not flinch, does not back away. “I was sorry to hear about your mother.”

“You’re about seven years too late on that one, but thank you. I’m sure my mom would be thrilled to know that the man who abandoned us decided to turn up at my door when it became convenient for him.”

“Alex, let’s be adult about this.”

The unflagging evenness of Graham’s voice drives Alex mad. This man is too calm, too collected, given the circumstances. Though maybe that is the kind of disposition necessary to ignore your child for a few decades.

“I am sorry for everything,” Graham says. “I’d like to talk to you. That’s all. Can I please come in?”


“So Alex has met him, then?”

Sarah Fisher paces over the beige carpet in her bare feet, struggling to wrap her head around the news that she has just revealed to her brother: that the man she is dating happens to be Jason’s best friend’s father.

“Yeah. But a long time ago. Like, when he was a little kid.” Jason Fisher sits on the couch and tracks his sister’s pacing with his eyes.

“I don’t understand why he wouldn’t just tell me,” Sarah says. “It’s not as if having a child is some scandal that he would need to hide.”

Jason takes a deep breath, and then a grin forms on his face. “I can’t believe you’re dating someone old enough to be Alex’s dad.”

Sarah’s face stretches out in exaggerated horror. “I know! I know.”

In her head, she replays all the signs of the past few months: the baby photos among Graham’s belongings; his carefully worded denials that he has “never been a parent”--which she now understands more clearly; Graham parking at the complex where Alex now lives, in the apartment he once shared with Jason. There is no way she could have put any of that together, of course, but in hindsight, she wishes that she had known exactly from which angle to analyze each of the “clues.”

“They were both at Christmas,” she says abruptly, snapping out of her thoughts. “Do you think they didn’t recognize each other?”

“I’m pretty sure Alex didn’t recognize Graham,” Jason says. “He never said anything.”

“Or acted weird?”

“No. He was pretty normal.”

“Who does Alex consider his dad, then?” Sarah asks. “Courtney’s father?”

He hesitates, implying a less straightforward answer. “Now, yeah, Don is like his dad. But it’s different. As a kid, he really didn’t have one. Don left Alex’s mom after he found out Alex wasn’t his son. They didn’t see each other until Alex came here to find his mom, however many years later that was.”

“And what has he told you about his dad--Graham?”

“Not much. Like I said, he hasn’t seen him in so long. I’m not surprised he didn’t recognize him at Christmas, especially without any context. Alex’s dad was never around when he was a kid, I know that much. Just a birthday or Christmas card here or there.”

Sarah picks up the remote control and turns it in her hand, over and over again. “Now here’s the real question,” she says. “Do we tell them that we know?”


“What do you think of Noland’s work?”

Philip Ragan posits the question and then sits back in his chair, a glass of sparkling water in his hand.

Across the table, Lauren Brooks smiles as she gathers her thoughts. She doesn’t know why she feels so put on the spot, under pressure to give an impressive answer; all he has asked is her opinion on one of the many artists she studied in college. Still, she has to dig into her memory to recall Noland’s work with enough specificity to answer.

“I’m a big fan of shaped canvases, actually,” she says. “There’s something that catches you off-guard and makes you think... Looking at work like that always helps me freshen up my perspective on working with ads.” She looks to Philip, even as his eyes drift past her shoulder. A second later, they return to her.

“I would imagine it’s easy to feel constricted by the same general format and the typical layout patterns.”

There is something about his voice that hints at condescension, perhaps for the “machine” of advertising. At any rate, Lauren chooses to ignore it. Their conversation has been surprisingly fluid and stimulating. She appreciates the challenge of having to reach back to her art studies--something she has increasingly neglected due to the demands of her work.

“Sometimes restrictions really motivate me,” she says. “If I know I have to work in a certain space or with a certain color palette or image or theme, I start thinking of ways to turn it on its head.”

Philip nods, apparently appreciating this perspective. Lauren takes it as a compliment... until his gaze once again moves past her. It seems there is something more interesting somewhere beyond her left shoulder.

Trying her best to be subtle, Lauren turns and immediately sees the hostess of the restaurant, a tall woman with impossibly long legs, poured into a shape-hugging black dress.

Philip sets down his water. “If you’ll excuse me a moment...”

Lauren does her best to appear nonchalant, nodding as he departs. As soon as he is gone, however, she swings her head again. Sure enough, Philip walks right over to the hostess. Lauren watches with confusion as he leans in and whispers something to her. The woman turns to him, her face alive with interest. Philip takes the pen from the stand in front of them and jots something down for her. The hostess tears off the slip of paper, and Philip turns on his heels.

Is he kidding? Lauren thinks. She resists the urge to text Courtney and tries to appear unconcerned as Philip returns to the table.

“Where were we?” he says casually.

“We were talking about the shaped canvas,” she says, “and not feeling limited by--”

“Oh, that’s right. I actually went through a period when I wanted the subjects of all my photos to be on the edge of the frame, sometimes hardly in it at all. It was interesting to see where people’s eyes went and how they processed it.”

The conversation that moments ago seemed stimulating now proves annoying to Lauren, especially when she notices Philip glancing toward the hostess’s stand once more. He didn’t seriously just give that woman his number, did he?

“I’m sorry,” she says. “When you got up a minute ago--”

“Don’t worry about it.” He picks up his water.

His insouciance puts her over the edge. “Don’t worry about it? We’re on a date. Did you really get up from the table to give that woman your number?”

Philip laughs. “I’m sorry. What?”

“You stood up in the middle of our conversation, walked over there, and wrote down your number for the hostess. I saw it.”

She barely gets the words out before the hostess appears at their table. Lauren is considering whether to let the woman have it when she sees--

“The 1986 Krug Clos du Mesnil you requested,” the hostess says, presenting the bottle. “My apologies for the delay.”

She pops the bottle’s cork and pours a taste for Philip. The whole time, he watches Lauren carefully, never allowing the self-satisfied smirk to fall off his face.

“That’s terrific. Thank you,” he tells the hostess, and she pours glasses for both of them before departing.

“Wow, I am an idiot,” Lauren says. “I don’t even know what would make me jump to a conclusion like that--”

“Because you’d like to believe the worst about me? Because somewhere in your subconscious, you want this to be a bad date?”

She would like to deny it, but maybe he is right. Maybe she is still so raw from everything with Josh that she merely liked the idea of going on a date but wanted it to go poorly so she would have an excuse not to go on any more.

“I’m so sorry,” she says. “I shouldn’t have assumed...”

“Of all the things people have assumed about me, it’s among the funniest. Can you imagine how much nerve that would take?”

She shakes her head at her ridiculous behavior, though the burning of embarrassment in her cheeks does not yet fade.

“Here, try the champagne,” Philip says, gesturing for her to take her glass. “It’s fairly rare. Almost more like a Burgundy than a Champagne. You should be surprised.”

She picks up the glass. “I barely know what that means, but I’ll take your word for it.”

“Good.” He smiles, this time with no hint of the smirk. “Here’s to being, as you so eloquently put it, idiots.”

As they toast and drink, Lauren feels the bubbles tickle her mouth and tries to relax. Maybe this really will be a good date, after all.


Graham’s request is harmless enough. He wants to come in, sit on the couch, talk for a little while. Perhaps begin to hash out the issues between him and Alex.

But for Alex, the man might as well be asking for a kidney donation. Alex doesn’t even know why he feels this way. He long ago made peace with his father’s absence from his life. He has learned to be self-sufficient, more or less. He has wonderful people to rely on: Jason, Courtney, Don, Helen.

“I think it’d be better if you didn’t,” Alex says.

Again, Graham takes the response in stride, infuriating stride. “I hope you’ll change your mind,” he says, handing Alex a business card. “I’ll be in town. Please reach out to me when you feel the time is right.”

Alex takes the stylish card. This man, with the impeccably cut suit, sophisticated speech, and sleek business card, is not at all like the man he remembers from his youth, the man who had an affair with Alex’s mother. He always imagined that, if Graham did come back into his life, it would be like dealing with Stan, his mother’s fiancé at the time of her death.

“Your writing is excellent, by the way,” Graham says. “I was very impressed by your book.”

“Uh, thank you.” It occurs to Alex that there is something implied in the compliment: clearly Graham knows about his sexuality and is okay with it. He always imagined having to come out to his father, and given their nonexistent relationship, he never thought it would be worth the emotional energy and the potential drama.

“I hope there’s another on the way.”

“There is. Very soon.” Alex’s hand grips the edge of the door.

Finally, Graham takes the hint. “I’ve taken up enough of your time. But please, contact me when you’re ready. I’m going to be in King’s Bay for some time.”

Nodding, more to appease him than to make any promises, Alex closes the door. This is still too much for him to process. After all these years, his father is in the same town as him and, for whatever reason, seems to want a relationship with him.


“Why wouldn’t we tell them?” Jason says.

Sarah stops pacing, as if to study her brother for cracks in his head or any other obvious causes of insanity. “Why wouldn’t we? I can’t just tell Graham, ‘Hey, sorry, I ran a background check on you and found out this enormous thing. What are you going to do about it?’”

“Then why’d you run a background check on him?”

She had a feeling it would come to this. It is what happened when she looked into Matt’s past and found out about his brother: she knew something about his life that she could not easily bring up to him. But she found a way to use the knowledge to help him, and eventually, it brought Matt and Jake back together. Maybe the same is possible now.

“For safety,” she says. “I didn’t expect to find out something like this. This is a personal issue.”

“You can’t drop this on me and expect me to hide it from Alex.” Jason springs up from the couch so that they are closer to eye level.

The conviction in his voice worries Sarah--like there is no other option for him but to tell Alex.

“Let me do it,” she says. “I just need a little time to figure out how to bring it up. The right way.”

“What am I supposed to tell Alex?”

“Nothing. Don’t say anything.”

Jason’s lips flatten into a tight line. “I don’t like this.”

“You think I do?”

Looking at Jason now, she regrets telling him. Yes, she needed to share the shock with someone, and he is a much better option than Diane, who has a professional relationship with Alex and never met a piece of gossip she didn’t want to use to her advantage. She should have called Jason and found a way to ask for details about Alex’s relationship--or lack thereof--with his father, without giving the whole thing away.

“Promise me you won’t say anything,” she says. “Not yet.”

Jason seems suspended in time, his mouth half-open, hand held awkwardly in front of him.


“Fine. For now.”

“That’s all I’m asking.”

And the two of them stand there, an uneasy alliance, drowned in silence as thick and impossible to navigate as honey.


Will Jason keep his promise to Sarah?
Will Alex tell him first?
What approach should Sarah take with Graham?
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