Episode #553

- Thanks to Diane’s video, Danielle’s secret--that Elly is her daughter--was revealed to everyone at the book launch party, including Elly.
- Elly lashed out at Danielle for having lied to her all these years.
- As Seth lie in a coma, word spread of his “accident.” Jason and Courtney immediately suspected Sabrina.



After two hours that feel like fifty, the Champlain Ballroom finally empties out. Danielle Taylor hardly understands how she made it through the entire thing, or why she even tried. But she knows that, if she had left the party, it would have been even worse. At the harshest bottom of her addiction, she learned how dangerous it was to wallow alone. Problems compounded, multiplying and stacking up on top of one another until it seemed as though the only solution was to drown herself in a bottle. And she cannot do that now.

With most of the partygoers gone and the staff beginning to clean up, Danielle approaches Diane Bishop. She would be lying to herself if she didn’t admit that part of why she stuck around was to make Diane uneasy with her presence. It is the least of what that woman deserves.

“Can I talk to you?” Danielle asks as soon as Diane moves away from a pair of well-wishers.

“Talk away,” Diane says, her disinterest evident as she holds a glass of champagne in her immaculately manicured fingers.

“You could at least pretend to care about what happened.”

“I do care. I’m very sorry about it.” Diane throws back a gulp of champagne. “Believe it or not, I did not intend for that to happen.”

“I know you didn’t. What I want to know is, what were you planning?”

“Who says I was planning anything?”

A harsh little laugh scrapes against the back of Danielle’s throat. She doesn’t even know how to talk with someone like this. “You are unbelievable. You’re actually going to deny that this is what you wanted? Matt said you broke into his apartment to get that thing back.”

Diane purses her lips, and her expression morphs from one of detachment to utter condescension. “Please. You sing that song in public and don’t expect people to be curious?”

“Why do you even care?”

“You had something like this coming, the way you go around acting so self-righteous. You did it to Sarah, you did it to me--”

“You wanted revenge on me for having an opinion?”

“That isn’t a biased way of putting it at all,” Diane says, sarcasm pouring from her every word. “I thought you could stand to learn a lesson about minding your own business.”

“Oh my God. You’re insane!” Something swells inside Danielle, a rage that she remembers all too well. It’s awful and overpowering, like a fire scorching her from the inside out. She knows that she should push it down, ignore it, but this woman’s utter lack of regard for the lives she has wrecked tonight--it’s all too much.

Before she knows it, Danielle has snatched the champagne glass from Diane’s hand.

“Just like a drunk,” Diane says, “always looking for an excuse to--”

But she never finishes the sentence, because champagne splashes over her face.



Travis Fisher unlocks the front door of his grandparents’ home with great care. They could be asleep by now, given the time. But when he opens the door, he finds Bill and Paula in the living room, watching TV with the lights turned low.

“How was the party?” Paula asks. “Oh, hi, Elly.”

“Hi,” Elly Vanderbilt says as she follows Travis into the house.

“Do you guys think it would be okay if Elly stayed over tonight?” Travis asks. Knowing what the likely answer will be, he rushes to add, “Something happened tonight at the party, and--she can’t go home.”

Bill sits up with sudden alarm. “Is everything all right?”

“Yeah,” Elly says. “I mean, we’re fine. It was just--it’s complicated.”

“She can stay in Samantha’s room,” Travis says, just to make it clear that this isn’t some ploy to have his girlfriend sleep over. Fooling around is the last thing on his mind tonight, for once.

“I suppose that would be fine,” Paula says. She rises from her seat on the couch. “Is there anything I can do to help? Can I get you kids anything?”

Elly forces a smile. “Thank you, but I think I’d better just get to sleep. I’m sorry for coming in like this--”

“You don’t have to apologize, dear.” Paula’s warmth makes Travis immediately grateful; he knew it would be safe to bring Elly back here. Better than sending her home to face Danielle tonight.

“I have some shorts and a t-shirt you can put on, I guess,” he tells her. They say their goodnights, and as Travis leads Elly up the stairs, he throws his grandpa a look to assure him that he has this under control. Even if he really doesn’t.

“It’s really nice of your grandparents to let me stay,” Elly says as he shows her to Samantha’s room. “This is such a... I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do now.”

“Sleep. Maybe things will, like, clear up in your head by the morning.”

“Maybe.” She doesn’t sound particularly convinced of that. “It still seems like a joke or something.”

“I bet. It’s really weird.”

Elly sits down on the neatly made bed. “Am I overreacting? I feel like I’m being a brat, but I’m so mad, you know?”

He can only imagine. He knows how he has felt when his parents have jerked him around in the past, and that stuff doesn’t even compare to being lied to the way Elly has been. “You kinda should be mad. It’s probably gonna be weird to go home and see your parents now, huh?”

“Yeah,” she says robotically, with an equally mechanical nod. “I don’t even know. I don’t want to see them right now, either.” She lets out a heavy breath, as if trying to expel the night’s trauma from her body. When she looks up at Travis, though, he can tell it hasn’t worked.

“I don’t know what I’m gonna do,” Elly says softly.



Night hangs, dark and foreboding, over King’s Bay as Jason Fisher and Lauren Brooks walk the block, attempting to pinpoint the correct address. Neither of them has ever been to Seth Ashby’s apartment before tonight, and given the circumstances, Jason wishes that he never had any reason at all to come here.

“This one,” Lauren says, double-checking the address on the apartment house against the slip of paper in her hand. They enter the building and both stop at the sight of the staircase. No words need to be exchanged for Jason to understand that Lauren is feeling the same thing he is: disbelief that this is the spot where, 24 hours ago, Seth was brutalized and left for dead.

You would never know it by looking at the place, though. It has been cleaned up and reorganized. Jason half-expected to find blood spattered on the floor and walls.

“The light’s on in there,” Lauren says, pointing to the door of one of the downstairs units.

Jason moves to the door and knocks softly. He can hear a television’s hum from inside the apartment. Without warning, the door flies open, revealing a middle-aged Chinese woman in a pink robe that Jason suspects was once fluffy but is well past its prime.

“Sorry to bother you,” Jason says, pushing his mouth out into a polite smile, “but we’re friends of Seth Ashby, the man who lives in the apartment upstairs--”

“Oh, yeah. The one they found on the floor,” the woman says, showing no evidence of the compassion or sympathy that Jason would expect.

“Uh... yes. Him,” Lauren jumps in. “You’ve probably talked to the police already, but we were wondering--”

“Nope. No one asked me anything yet.” She taps her slipper-clad foot against the floor. “What do you want?”

Jason decided to make this as quick as he possibly can. “We just have a few questions, if you wouldn’t mind, Mrs...”

“Wu. Evelyn.” She eyes the pair of them. “But you can call me Mrs. Wu.”

“All right, Mrs. Wu, did you hear anything last night? We know no one found Seth until this morning, but did you hear him fall?”

“Yelling. A whole mess of yelling.”

“But you didn’t come out to see what it was?” Jason asks.

“Hell, no! Do I look stupid? I’m not trying to get myself shot or something.”

Jason glances around the building. It doesn’t exactly look like the type of place where people are being shot on a regular basis. But maybe she knows better...

“I had a man over, okay?” Mrs. Wu says. “I wasn’t about to miss out on a good time because of some kids yelling and screaming.”

“Well, what did you hear?” Lauren asks.

“Just the yelling. Sounded like something threw something. Couldn’t tell what most of it was. There was a girl.” Mrs. Wu pauses as she explores the memory. “I heard her yell something like, ‘Don’t even think about it!’ But everything else, I couldn’t tell what they were saying.”

“And you heard Seth falling down the stairs?” Jason asks.

“A bunch of crashing, that’s all. Look, we get a lot of young people going in and out of these apartments. I’ve been living here since I got divorced almost fifteen years ago. Practically new kids living upstairs every year. I’m not about to get involved in their messes.”

As much as Jason wishes that she had some more information, or that she had rushed out to see what was going on, he supposes he can understand her reasoning.

“Look, I’m very sorry about your friend,” Mrs. Wu says, “and I hope he’s okay. He never made any trouble before. But I’ve got an appointment in a few minutes, and I have to get dressed.”

“Okay, well, we’re sorry for keeping you,” Lauren says. “Thanks for your help.”

Mrs. Wu winks. “Another man. This E-Harmony has been a real goldmine!”

Unsure how to respond to that, Jason and Lauren both mumble more thanks as Mrs. Wu closes the door and scampers off to get dressed. No one in the other units seems to be awake, so they exit the building.

“That has to have been Sabrina,” Lauren says as they slowly make their way down the sidewalk.

“I know,” Jason admits, though that opens up a whole new set of questions that he finds it impossible to face, let alone answer. “But why would she do that to Seth? And why would she poison Courtney? What’s the point of all this?”

Lauren can only shake her head as they walk through the night.



As Danielle holds the empty glass in her hand, the weight of what she has done settles over her. She knows it was immature and spiteful and unnecessary, but she cannot help deriving a bit of pleasure at the sight of Diane Bishop’s face soaked in champagne.

“You miserable drunken bitch,” Diane sputters. Her hands curl into tight balls.

“Hey! Hey!” Ryan Moriani says as he rushes over to them. He plants his body between the two women.

“I’m sorry,” Danielle says, handing him the glass.

“Get out of my party, now,” Diane says.


“Wait.” Ryan places a hand on her arm. “Can we talk? I know you have a lot to process right now, but--”

“Not now. This is all--” Maybe it isn’t his fault. Maybe he didn’t tell Diane about Elly. But he was the only one who knew the truth. “I have a lot to deal with.”

“And I want to help,” he says. “I did not tell Diane about any of that. I swear to you.”

“He’s telling the truth,” Diane says. “Why he cares, I don’t know, but--”

“Would you shut the hell up?” Ryan snaps at her. “You’ve already caused enough trouble tonight.”

He turns back to Danielle. When she looks into his eyes, she sees the man she has come to trust, come to love, in the last year. She would like nothing more than to have his support during this.

“We’ll talk tomorrow,” she says. There is simply too much going through her head now. “I’m going to go home.”

“I don’t want you to be alone.”

“Molly’s there. I’ll talk with her.”

“Okay,” he says, sighing with resignation. “I’m so sorry about all this.”

“So am I.” Danielle turns to leave, but she cannot resist taking one more look at Diane, with champagne still dripping from her face. It might have been juvenile of her, but it sure as hell felt good.



Because he can’t think of anything else he can do to help Elly, Travis runs to his room and gets those clothes that he promised her. She changes in Samantha’s room and then comes to see him in his bedroom. 

“Thanks again,” she says. “For everything.”

Travis looks at her, in his way-too-big t-shirt and basketball shorts. He cannot help but crack a grin. “I don’t know if you should thank me for making you look like that.”

For the first time in hours, Elly’s face brightens, if only momentarily. “Better than sleeping in a dress... Just no taking pictures, okay?”

“Aww, man.”

Travis pulls the pillows off the bed so that he can turn down the comforter and sheets. He doesn’t even see the point of having to do this every night, but his grandma insists on all the beds being made every morning.

“This is, like, the weirdest night of my life,” Elly says as she leans against his desk.

“Weirder than the time you were mad at your parents, so you got on a bus and showed up here in the middle of a blackout?”

“Okay, that was weird, too. But I met you, right?”

“And you liked me so much at first, too.”

Elly looks embarrassed at the recollection. “We’ve come pretty far, I guess.”

“Yeah.” Travis tosses the pillows back to the head of the bed.

“I don’t think I can go home,” she says. “To my parents, I mean. Not now.”

“See how you feel in the morning.” Selfishly, he would love it if she decided to stick around King’s Bay for a few more weeks, like she had planned, but he doesn’t think that staying with Danielle is what she wants at the moment.

“Yeah...” Even as she speaks the word, she seems to be reconsidering it. “I have an idea.”

“What kind of idea?”

“How do you feel about an adventure?”

He has no idea what that is supposed to mean. “What kind of adventure?”

She moves to the desk chair and turns on his computer. “You’ll see.”


What is Elly up to?
Will Danielle cool toward Ryan in the morning?
What should Jason do about Sabrina?
Come on over to the Footprints Forum to discuss this episode!

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