Episode #552

- Frustrated over her continued separation from Brent, Molly lashed out at Claire and even blamed her for Brent’s obsession with the Clayton investigation.
- Matt came to Ryan’s book launch party to see Danielle. He showed her the USB drive, but when Diane showed up and came after him, Matt gave it to the A-V tech for safekeeping.
- After Matt confronted Diane about the video of Danielle singing, Diane had second thoughts about her revenge scheme.
- The A-V tech at the party mixed up the drives and played the video of Danielle for the entire crowd, including Elly.



She’s learning the hard way
That you can’t give away a piece of yourself
And never wonder where it went...

The crowd assembled in the Champlain ballroom watches in confusion as the grainy cell phone video, enhanced with subtitles, plays on the projection screen at the head of the room. For most of them, it means nothing, and they wonder what this has to do with Ryan Moriani’s newly published book. But for one attendee, the video is mesmerizing.

No matter how hard Elly Vanderbilt tries, she cannot keep herself from listening, from reading along with the lyrics and soaking them up.

“What is this?” Travis Fisher, standing beside her, asks.

Elly is too focused to answer him. She manages to read one more line--Nine months would be the end of it, she thought--before the video suddenly cuts out.

“We’re very sorry about that,” Diane Bishop announces as she steps out from behind the screen. “There was a mix-up with the files. We’ll have the correct video ready in a minute.”

“That was weird,” Travis says as the lights come up.

“Yeah.” Elly’s head is too overrun with thoughts to process any of them into speech. She searches the room for Danielle and finds her standing near the screen with Ryan. She is already looking right at Elly--but diverts her gaze as soon as Elly spots her.

“What’s wrong?” Travis asks.


The floor feels unsteady beneath her feet. Thoughts fire off at random inside her head, colliding and exploding and linking up with one another. She wishes that she could stop the connections from being made, but they’re too obvious to stop.

“Did you read the words?” she says.

Travis shrugs. “Kinda. Seemed like a Jewel song or something.”

“Did it seem like it was... about anything?” Maybe she is imagining it. Reading into it because of her own circumstances.

“No...” Travis furrows his brow, studying her harder. “Why? Did you think it was?”

She doesn’t even know how to begin explaining it. Sure, the thought has crossed her mind, in that What if? sort of way, but it’s so... it’s crazy.

“That stuff about nine months,” Elly says. “That had to be about a baby, right?”

“I guess.”

“And giving something up, and...” She glances at Danielle again, only to find that she is still being watched. “Sorry. This is nuts. Right?”

“You think Danielle’s song,” Travis says tentatively, stopping and starting like a rickety old truck, “is about giving up a baby?”

“Yeah.” She can’t even tell if the idea sounds stupid or insane now. “Is that crazy?”

“You don’t think it was just a baby.”

Shaking her head is easier than answering with words. Maybe she can just forget about this, put it out of her head and--

Danielle is coming over. Elly doesn’t know what she is supposed to do. Ask her about it? Pretend like everything is normal?

“That was pretty weird,” Danielle says to both of them.

Travis nods along. “Yeah.”

Elly cannot muster any response besides to stare at her. This woman has always been one thing to her: a godmother, a friend. But is it possible...?

“Elly, what’s wrong?” Danielle asks.

And in that moment, she knows. She can just feel it. The question is so obviously an attempt to find out if Elly has figured it out, that it confirms everything.

Elly’s entire body clenches up. “I can’t believe you would do this to me,” she says as her feet carry her out of the ballroom.



Molly Taylor hurries downstairs to answer the door. Christian and Caleb bound in from the living room and beat her to it.

“Is that him?” Caleb asks.

“It should be,” Molly says as she opens the door. Sure enough, there is Brent. As he squats down to hug his sons, Molly reflects on how strange it is that he has to ring the doorbell at his own home.

“It’s so good to see you guys,” Brent tells the twins. Molly looks on, and one of the thousand twinges of guilt she feels every day rocks her body. Is she being cruel by keeping the boys away from their daddy? Is she making a mistake?

“Their bags are just about packed,” she says, hanging back awkwardly. “Let me run upstairs and finish.”

Brent rises to his full height and closes the door. “I’ll come with you. I need to talk to you.” To Caleb and Christian, he says: “We’ll be down in a minute, okay? You guys put your shoes on.”

The walk upstairs is deathly silent. They are not yet capable of making small talk, not when there are so many enormous issues hanging over them. Every step is filled with unspoken questions about how long this arrangement is going to last, what the future will bring, and if they even have a future as a couple.

Once they enter the twins’ room, Brent finally speaks. “Heard your dad’s new restaurant is great. I’ll have to stop in sometime soon.”

“You should. It’s really nice,” Molly says as she looks for the blue zip-up sweatshirt that Caleb is constantly misplacing.

The flow of conversation dies right there. Molly can feel Brent watching her. She focuses doubly hard on finding that sweatshirt.

“I also heard you had a little confrontation at the opening,” he says at last.

She decides not to respond. She knows exactly what he is referring to, and she is not going to lie about it. She lost control of her emotions. She would probably do it again if put in the same circumstances, even if she regrets it now. The entire situation is simply too charged.

“You can blame me all you want for this,” he says, “but going after Claire? Not okay.”

That’s what you finally show some emotion over? Claire?” Molly can hardly believe that this is reality. “Your wife kicks you out of the house, you only see your sons a few times a week... no big deal. But someone makes Claire uncomfortable, and you won’t stand for it? Please.”

“This is not about Claire,” Brent says.

Molly doesn’t know what comes over her, but she cannot resist: “Are you sure about that?”



Danielle’s instincts tell her to chase after Elly, to stop her and explain why she did this and try to make it all right. And that is precisely why she doesn’t follow the girl. Her instincts have gotten her nowhere; they have led her to make bad decisions, to hurt others and mess up her own life. So she stands there as Elly runs out.

Travis observes Danielle and seems to notice her reluctance to follow Elly. “I’ll go check on her,” he says before dashing out. Danielle mutters her thanks as he goes.

If her head is spinning, her stomach is in overdrive, churning like a turbo-charged washing machine. Her hands would be numb if not for the tingling that renders them useless. She has no idea how this could have happened, or why she was stupid enough to sing that song in public in the first place.

Before she knows it, Matt Gray is standing in front of her.

“I don’t know what that was all about, but I’m really sorry,” he says, and she can tell from his tortured expression that he means it. “I just wanted to give that thing to you. I never thought--”

“You don’t have to apologize. This is not your fault.”

Ryan Moriani comes up behind her and rests his hands on her shoulders. “Where did that video come from?”

All Danielle can do is shake her head. Ryan’s touch is as much a comfort as she could hope for right now.

“You brought that here?” he asks Matt, the threat of accusation looming large.

“He was trying to help,” Danielle says. She has more questions than she could possibly organize, so she just starts spitting them out at Matt: “Diane made that video? How did you get it?”

“It got mixed up in Tori’s stuff. Diane... I don’t know what she was doing. But I figured it wasn’t something good.” He quietly studies her for a moment. “Guess I was right.”

“I didn’t even know she was there that night. And how would she have known...”

All at once, the hands on her upper arms feel cold, repulsive. She doesn’t want to believe it, but it is too convenient. Too probable. She shakes off Ryan’s touch.

“What’s wrong?” he says.

“You told her. You told Diane.”

“That you were singing at Open Mic Night? I might have--”

“About Elly.” She can barely stand the sight of him. “You told her about Elly!”

“I did not.”

“Do you remember every second of your little drinking party with her?” She knows that she sounds irrational, that her voice is too loud for the setting, but she cannot help it. Not after what just happened. “Can you be positive that you didn’t say something to her?”

Ryan sputters, but no definitive words emerge.

“Get away from me,” she says, but she is the one to move away. As the lights dim and the real video comes up on the screen, Danielle takes one last look at Ryan and rushes out of the party.



Elly stands outside the hotel’s front doors. She has no idea where to go or what to do now. She wonders how quickly she can book a flight and go home to her parents. There are so many questions that she wants to ask Danielle, but how could she be sure that any of the answers were true?

She doesn’t know how long she is standing out there--maybe thirty seconds, maybe five minutes--before Travis hurries outside and joins her. He leans against the hotel’s concrete exterior and says nothing for a long time.

“You really think that’s what it means?” he finally asks.

“Yeah.” She takes a deep breath in a futile attempt to gather her thoughts. “I mean, it’s so obvious, isn’t it? I should’ve figured it out sooner.”

Travis doesn’t seem to know how to respond to that. “I’m sorry,” he says instead.

“It makes so much sense,” Elly says. “She kept telling me not to worry about who my biological parents were.”

“Maybe she wanted to tell you.”

“Then why didn’t she? Instead of lying to me all this time.”

Travis’s shoulders rise and fall in a confused shrug. She can tell that he wants to be helpful but has no idea how. Elly doesn’t blame him; she doesn’t know what she would say if she were in his position.

“Why couldn’t she just have told me?” she wonders aloud, not really expecting an answer. “She knows how important this is to me.”

“Maybe you should call your parents.”

“Yeah.” The thought occurred to her as she was running outside, but it feels wrong. Maybe she is scared that they will lie to her, too. Or that they will confirm what she is almost certain is true.

Behind her, the hotel doors open again. She has no intention of turning to see who it is, until she hears the voice say her name.


She doesn’t turn around.

“Please, just listen to me,” Danielle says. “Hear me out.”



Molly doesn’t know where that came from. She has never believed that the root of this issue between her and Brent is Claire herself--but in that moment, it feels so good to stick it to Brent, to accuse him of doing something wrong instead of acting like this is simply a difference of opinion that will pass in time. She is angry, and she is tired of pretending otherwise.

“Don’t you dare,” Brent says, his jaw tight and his eyes wide.

Molly tries her best to catch herself. “I’m sorry that I was rude to Claire. But you can’t deny that she is egging you on. You really would have kept this investigation going for so long if she weren’t involved?”

“Yes! Because it’s important to me.”

She doesn’t even know how to reply to that without sounding like a selfish shrew. Clearly it is important to him, because he has chosen it over her and their children.

“What am I supposed to do?” she asks, her thoughts spilling out of her mouth now. “Sit back and pass the time while our lives fall apart?”

“I don’t know how many more times we can have this conversation.”

“So what, then? We should stop trying?” She rummages through a pile of crap on the floor of the boys’ closet and finally locates the elusive blue sweatshirt.

He lets out a loud, frustrated sigh and throws up his hands for effect. “No! But this thing is going to end sooner or later. We’re so close. And once it’s over, we’ll have our lives back.”

“Will we?”

“Are you determined to have this end badly?”

She doesn’t even know how he can ask that. He is the one who has insisted upon pursuing this mission, even after Claire got shot, even after their son wound up in the hospital because of it. And now he tries to make it her fault?

She shoves the sweatshirt into the bag and zips it up. “Here,” she says, forcing it into his hands. “Have fun with the boys.”

Brent takes the bag and leaves the room. Molly sinks onto one of the beds, too overwhelmed even to head downstairs and see the boys off for the night. She has no idea how they wound up in this place... and even less of an idea how they can get out of it.



As the actual Vision Publishing video plays, Tim and Cassandra move over to where Ryan and Matt are standing.

“What was that all about?” Tim whispers to Matt. “Why are you even here?”

“Long story. And I don’t even know most of it,” Matt says.

“It was Diane,” Ryan interjects. “She made that video to--I don’t know--screw with Danielle.”

Cassandra’s confusion is evident. “It was just a video of her singing. And she’s pretty good.”

“There was something in the words,” Matt says. “About that girl.”

“Elly?” Tim asks.

The introductory video concludes, and Diane once again steps in front of the screen with a microphone. “Thank you for being here with us tonight,” she says, “to celebrate the publication of The Son by Ryan Moriani with Cassandra Ward.” The audience applauds politely, and Ryan and Cassandra each raise a hand to reveal their whereabouts in the room.

“We at Vision are tremendously proud of this book,” Diane continues. Ryan listens and wishes that he could be fully present in this moment, soak it up and appreciate the work he has done over the last year. But in light of what just happened with Danielle, he is lucky that he can even pay attention to what Diane is saying. He hates the idea of Danielle being in so much pain and hopes that she is outside, working things out with Elly, right now.

He cannot even think about the fact that she was so quick to assume that he is the one who told Diane.

The crowd applauds again, and Ryan realizes that Diane has finished speaking. So much for paying attention.

“And now, Ryan, if you’d like to say a few words,” she says via microphone. Robotically, Ryan makes his way to the head of the room. As he takes the mic from her, he covers it with his hand and leans in, plastering a smile on his face the whole time.

“If there weren’t so many witnesses around, I would kill you for what you just did,” he tells her before taking the mic to address the crowd.



Elly cannot bring herself to turn around, but she doesn’t run away, either.

“I’m gonna go inside,” Travis says. “Do you wanna--”

“Go,” she says, grabbing his hand in passing. “And thank you.”

“No problem,” he mutters as he moves past her and back inside the hotel. And then it is just the two of them: goddaughter and godmother, or...

“Why didn’t you just tell me?” Elly asks.

“It wasn’t my place.” Danielle sighs heavily. “I know that sounds like a copout, and I’m sorry. But when I gave you to your parents... they became your parents. Not me. And it was their decision not to have you know.”

Elly has to admit, grudgingly, that that makes a little bit of sense. Even if she doesn’t like it, it makes sense. Except--

“But after I found out I was adopted,” she says. “Why not then? That was my parents’ screw-up, that I found out.”

“It still wasn’t--”

“I asked you flat-out if you knew anything, and you lied to me!” Elly spins around, her whole body so tight with rage that she would do anything she could to expel it. “You could have told me. I could have kept it from them. I thought we were friends.”

“We are friends.”

“Friends don’t lie to each other like this.”

Danielle’s mouth opens, but no words come. Elly stares at her, examines her, trying to see the resemblance and pinpoint any more telltale signs that she should have picked up on long ago. This woman is her mother. She doesn’t even know how to blend that with the reality she has known for seventeen years.

More words fire out of Elly: “You sang a song in front of all those people, and you couldn’t tell me?”

“I’m sorry,” Danielle says. “That’s all I can say. I’m sorry you had to find out this way, and I’m sorry if you feel like I betrayed you.”

Elly doesn’t know what to do with that, so she just keeps going. “Where did that video even come from? Why did it get played tonight?”

“I don’t know. Someone recorded it, and the files got mixed up-- I never, ever wanted you to find out this way. I should have known you’d figure it out. You’re such a smart girl. I’m so proud of who you’ve grown up to be...” Danielle’s words dissolve behind tears.

Fighting tears of her own, Elly storms past her and whips open the heavy front door of the hotel. “I’m going to find Travis,” she says.

“Please be safe,” Danielle says. “I know you’re angry at me, but--”

Elly enters the hotel and lets the door close behind her, blocking out whatever else Danielle might be saying.


Can Elly forgive Danielle for her lie?
Was Danielle wrong to lash out at Ryan?
Can Molly and Brent resolve their differences?
Come discuss this episode in the Footprints Forum!

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