Episode #570

- Shannon’s reign of terror came to an end when she leapt off the roof of the hotel to her death--but not before violently stabbing Courtney.
- Courtney was rushed to the hospital and into surgery, but the doctor warned Jason that her system was severely compromised.
- While Jason and Sophie lay in the hospital bed with her, Courtney passed away.


Saturday bleeds into Sunday. It is well after midnight by the time Jason Fisher staggers out of Courtney’s hospital room. The doctors and nurses fought, even after she flatlined, but Jason had a sense--more than that, a certainty--that Courtney was already gone. He could feel it happen as they lay in that bed together. Afterward, he learned that her heart had stopped, but in that moment, all he knew was that her spirit had left her body, left him and Sophie.

He slows his step as he approaches the waiting area, Sophie in his arms. He doesn’t know what to say to them. “She’s dead” sounds crass. “We lost her”... he isn’t the doctor. His mind conjures and rejects a hundred possibilities in the space of twenty steps.

But they know as soon as they see him. His cheeks are sticky with dried tears, and he feels like no matter how deliberate he makes each step, he is stumbling, feet kicking out to drag his weight along with them.

Helen gasps, and when she tries to force out a “No!” it is a breathy ghost of a word. She doubles over, and Don throws his arms around her, easing her into a chair as she sobs. His face is a mask of stone, ready to shatter at any moment.

Jason’s own mother comes forward and pulls him into an embrace, folding Sophie between them. Jason wants to feel comfort in it, like he did when he was a little boy and he fell off his bike or his older siblings picked on him. But Paula’s hug feels cold. There is nothing she can do, nothing any of them can do. They all come forward, crying, stunned, to offer their condolences--Tim, Molly, Sarah, Alex, Lauren--but nothing any of them say or do can make this any better.

He insists that his parents drop him off at the hotel, where his car waits. He doesn’t want to wake up in the morning and be without it. As he and Sophie get out of the Fishers’ car, Bill says, “Are you sure you don’t want to sleep at our house tonight?”

Jason can’t even consider it. Waking up with all those people around... he can’t do it. He gets out of the car.

“Yeah. But thanks.”

He closes the door and gets into his own car. Out of the corner of his vision, he sees his parents lingering nearby as he straps Sophie into her car seat. He wants to scream at them to go away. He doesn’t need them to watch over his every move. They do not pull out of the parking lot until he starts his car and flips on the lights.

They arrive home to a place that feels emptier than ever before. He tries to ignore it and immediately goes about putting Sophie to bed. She fidgets out of his hold and stands up in her crib, refusing to go to sleep. Poor kid probably has no idea what time it is or what is going on.

Lucky, Jason thinks as he reads her a story that they always read her at bedtime. She doesn’t quite seem convinced, but when he is done, he turns off the light and leaves the room. Maybe she will realize how tired she is.

He stops at the entry to the master bedroom. He remembers waking up this morning, without Courtney beside him. He’ll never--

He cuts off the thought at its knees. No. Don’t start doing that.

He undresses quickly. Never has he been more grateful to be out of clothing. He wonders how he will explain the blood all over his tuxedo to the rental shop. By paying for the damn thing, he figures. He throws it on the floor.

Bed does not seem in the least bit appealing. He turns to the big, cushy chair that Courtney insisted they put in the bedroom, but a sweatshirt and jeans are thrown over its back. Jason moves to pick them up, then stops. They are the clothes she was wearing the night before the wedding.

He leaves her clothes on the chair. Instead he climbs into his side of the bed and stares out the window. He stares for hours, wondering when dark will turn to dawn.

The phone rings before 9 a.m. He is already awake, has been for hours--he managed to doze off sometime after 5, for maybe an hour and a half--but he still resents the shrill ring that pierces the air. He cradles the receiver between his shoulder and ear as he gives Sophie her bottle.

“We’ll bring over food,” Paula offers. “I can make whatever you’d like.”

“I’m not even hungry.”

“You need to eat.”

When she and Molly come over in the early afternoon with laughably excessive amounts of roast chicken, pasta salad, bread, turkey meatloaf, and God knows what else, he dutifully files it all away in the refrigerator. Then he sits in the living room with them and allows them to talk about Courtney while he stares out the window. He waits until what feels like a suitable amount of time has passed, sees that it has actually only been half an hour, and then speaks up: “I think I need to nap.”

His mother and sister leave without protest, but not before offering to take Sophie for the day, or to sit with her while he goes upstairs to lie down. Jason knows that he isn’t actually going to sleep.

“We’ll be fine,” he says. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Later, both Sarah and Tim call and insist upon coming by. He barely manages to keep them at bay. He spends the rest of the day on the couch, flipping between football and bad reality TV, and feeling guilty that he is not playing with Sophie.


He awakens before dawn on Monday. After checking on Sophie, he stumbles into the kitchen, makes coffee, and eats several bites of Paula’s turkey meatloaf right out of the pan. He sits in the dark kitchen with his coffee and wonders if the walls have spread out. Everything about the house seems bigger, emptier.

Around 8:30, he is trying to figure out how the hell he can get out of the house without having to deal with other people. He wonders what the weather is like at the coast. Before he can go online and find out, though, the phone rings.

“Honey, it’s Helen,” his mother-in-law says. “Don and I were wondering how you and Sophie are.”

“We’re fine.” He can’t even be bothered to make it sound convincing. “How are you guys?”

“We’re doing the best we can.” She chokes back what sounds like a sniffle. “We thought we should all sit down and talk about the... the funeral.”

The thought crossed his mind several times yesterday, but in an abstract, Isn’t this what you do when people die? kind of way. He brushed it aside before any of the logistics could bore their way into his brain.

“I don’t know,” he says.

“Don and I looked into a few homes. We have some options to go over with you...”

“You guys handle it. I mean, if you want to. I just--”

“We’ll do it.”

He hangs on the line, unsure of whether it is appropriate to thank her for planning her own child’s funeral. “Do you guys need anything?”

“We’re managing, but we would like to see Sophie soon.”

He promises to bring Sophie by tomorrow, and Helen helpfully offers to go over whatever funeral plans are in place by then. Jason agrees with a grunt and hurriedly ends the call.

That afternoon, he loads Sophie into the car and drives to the arena. He almost doesn’t go inside; the thought of the skaters and coaches seeing him, wondering, asking questions, is overwhelming. Eventually he steels himself sufficiently and goes inside. Heads turn, but no one stops him as he beats a determined path upstairs to the office.

He lets himself into the big, empty office and briefly wonders what he is going to do without Courtney or “Sabrina” around to work. Maybe Seth will be recovered soon. When it starts to feel too much like a problem that he will have to engage with in order to solve, he switches tracks and checks the voicemail.

“I thought I saw you come in,” Sandy James says from the doorway.

“You’re already back at work?” He notes the lack of skates on her feet. “You got shot.”

“I’m all right. And I needed to do something. I can see you had the same thought.”

He looks to the computer monitor and clicks through a few e-mails. “This place isn’t going to run itself.”

Sandy approaches him slowly, her left leg heavy with a slight limp. “I’m so sorry, Jason.”

“It’s fine.”

She observes him silently for a few moments. “If you need anything...”

“It’s fine,” he repeats, forcing himself to smile at her. “We’ll get through it.”

At least she has the courtesy to pretend that she believes him and then see herself out.


The night passes without sleep. Before Sophie wakes up, he takes a long, hot shower and loses track of how long he stands under the hard spray. Thoughts flit through his mind, loosened by the steam and the isolation. How soon will it be before things feel normal again? Can Courtney see me from wherever she is? What am I supposed to do with all the stupid wedding presents?

He drives to the Chases’ house with Sophie. They are thrilled to see their granddaughter, and Jason is grateful that her presence keeps them from grilling him too hard. He notes that they both seem to have aged a decade in the past few days.

“The mortician said we can have an open casket if we’d like,” Helen says once they are seated in the dining room.

No, Jason thinks. No. “Whatever you guys think is best,” he says instead.

She tries to show him a picture of the coffin they chose. Jason feigns looking at it, figuring that will be the quickest way to get this over with.

“We thought it might be nice to show a video,” Don says. “A tribute sort of thing. Maybe clips of Courtney skating.”

“I have tapes if you need them,” Jason says. “I’m sure I could get someone to cut them together.” He doesn’t know why he says it, but he winds up being responsible for the video.

Helen appears lost in thought. Suddenly she announces, “I have a few ideas for songs.” She rattles off a list of names that Jason instantly forgets.

“What do you think of those?” she asks.

“I don’t really care.”


“How are you even doing this?” His hands tremble with frustration, with all the things he has not let himself think or say in the past three days. “How can you sit here and plan her funeral and think of stupid songs to play?” He grabs a bunch of the papers and flings them further down the table, just to give his anxious hands something to do.

“Because we have to,” Don snaps. “Courtney is our daughter. It’s only right to give her a proper--” His voice cracks, stopping him mid-sentence. “She’s your wife. You should be doing the same thing we are.”

“Don’t you dare tell me how to feel.” Jason grabs Sophie and is out of the house in an instant.

On the drive home, he calls the contractor who records and edits competition videos for the arena and asks if he can put together the tribute video overnight. The guy agrees, so Jason hurries home and gathers a bunch of videos of him and Courtney skating.

“Do whatever you think is right,” he says when he drops the videos at the guy’s house. “Just... whatever.”

That night, Helen calls his cell phone. Jason lets it go to voicemail but listens to her message immediately. “This is difficult for all of us,” she says. “We’ll see you at the funeral home tomorrow at noon.”

He deletes the voicemail and wonders what would happen if he didn’t show up tomorrow.


The night before the funeral, he actually sleeps. Perhaps it is his body’s last-ditch effort not to have to deal with the event. Unfortunately, he wakes up a little after 8 a.m. Leaving his phone on the kitchen counter, he takes Sophie for a long walk outside, relishing in the air’s sharp bite and the freedom from obligations, expectations, and even memories. When he sees that Sophie is getting cold, though, he turns back; the sight of the house as they return triggers something painful within him, and he rushes inside, not wanting to deal with all the things this house was supposed to symbolize.

After he showers, he sits on the bed for a long time in his towel. Courtney’s clothes remain on the chair, staring back at him. It isn’t until his phone rings--it is his father, calling to check on him--that he forces himself to get dressed.

The act of dressing in a black suit strikes him as a particularly cruel joke. Days ago, he was putting on a black suit of another sort--the tuxedo that now lies on the floor of his closet, stained with blood. Interesting that, for an event that is supposed to be the polar opposite of a wedding, he is dressed so similarly today.

It takes every ounce of energy within him to trudge over to the funeral home. He holds onto Sophie like a security blanket as he heads inside and fields the words and hugs of various family members and friends.

“How have you been?” Lauren asks. “Okay, stupid question.” He appreciates the self-awareness. They stand in silence for a lengthy moment, knowing that there are no words sufficient to express the way they feel; for Jason, it is the most genuine interaction he has had all week.

His whole body stings with embarrassment when he sees Courtney’s parents. “I’m sorry about yesterday,” he tells them. They nod sympathetically, lips pursed tightly with grief, and embrace him. He feels too cold to hug them back.

When they move into the viewing room, he is assaulted by the cruel irony of this whole thing. If he thought putting on this suit was bad... The chairs are set up in two blocks, forming a center aisle that leads to a podium and the coffin. Organ music pipes softly in the background. He half-expects someone to wheel out a wedding cake. He turns away as soon as he sees that the casket’s lid is open.

Just as he turns his back to it, Tim swoops in front of him. “I’ll go up there with you if you want,” he says.

Jason shakes his head. “Not now.”

From the back of the room, he watches people filter down the aisle, hovering over his wife’s body as they ostensibly pay their respects. When the service begins and he is forced into a front-row seat, he finds an Exit sign in the corner of the room on which he can focus.

“We’ve come together today to mourn the tragic loss of a vital young woman, a daughter, a friend, a mother and wife,” the priest says, and Jason can feel a hundred eyeballs take aim at him. He clutches Sophie tighter.

Lauren stands at the podium to deliver the eulogy. “Courtney and I became friends in high school,” she says, her voice already strained from holding back tears. “I couldn’t believe that she got out of bed at 5 a.m. every single day to go skating, while the rest of us were pulling the covers over our heads until the last possible second.” People laugh, grateful for something even vaguely resembling levity.

“But that determination and commitment--that was Courtney. When Sophie was born, she tackled motherhood with everything she had. She never shied away, she never got overwhelmed. She just did. And that might be what I’ll miss most about Courtney: the way she inspired me to try a little harder, to commit myself fully to anything I wanted.” Lauren pauses, and her sniffle crunches into the microphone. “I’m just so glad that we were able to put our differences aside in the past few years. She’s my best friend, and I’ll never stop missing her.”

She makes it through the rest of the eulogy with a few tears and a lot of pauses. When she steps away from the podium, Jason makes a point of initiating eye contact with her. She said so many things that he is thinking, so many things that Courtney would have loved to hear--and she made it so he didn’t have to get up there and speak.

When a curtain is pulled back to reveal a projection screen, Paula reaches over and takes Jason’s free hand. He tries to find comfort in his mother’s touch, but all he wants to do is bolt. Within seconds, however, an image of Courtney flashes on the screen, accompanied by the notes of a piano ballad, and he is transfixed.

It feels like eons since he saw her last. He has not looked at pictures, and he has tried his best not to imagine her. As the video plays, showing clips of their skating programs interspersed with pictures of Courtney at various stages of her life, something inside him opens up. All he wants to do is see her face. He watches the video closely, already planning to pick up the tapes so that he can watch each of these programs in full. He doesn’t know if he can ever see her enough to fill the gaping space inside him.

“You should go up there before they close the casket,” Tim leans over to say after the video concludes. “She looks beautiful. Like she always did.”

Jason bows his head.

“It might be good for you. You don’t want to remember her the way you last saw her.”

“Will you stop telling me what’s good for me?” Jason springs to his feet, holding Sophie against him. “You know what would be good for me? To have my wife alive!”

Tim reaches for his arm, trying to bring him back to his seat. “Jason, I’m sorry--”

“Whatever.” He storms down the aisle and out of the room. He knows that everyone is watching him, probably shaking their heads sadly and muttering about what a mess he is. He doesn’t care. 

He takes Sophie home and skips the burial. If there’s one thing he doesn’t need to see, it is his wife being lowered into the ground for all eternity.


He spends the next 24 hours dodging phone calls, mostly from his parents and sisters offering to come stay with him for as long as he needs. He does pick up one call, from Tim, long enough to tell his brother that he isn’t mad at him, really, but he just needs space. Tim hesitantly accepts that, giving Jason the chance to cut the call short. When Alex turns up at his door on Thursday afternoon, however, he cannot avoid him quite as easily.

“Just wanted to see how you were doing,” Alex says as he stands awkwardly in the doorway, hands jammed into his pockets.

“Oh, I’m great.” Sarcasm is the closest thing to honesty that Jason can muster.

“Do you want some company?”

“Not really.” But he steps aside anyway and lets Alex in.

While Alex plays with Sophie in the family room, Jason slumps on the couch and watches TV. It would almost be a normal day, if he weren’t glazed over thinking about his recently murdered wife.

“I acted like an asshole yesterday,” he blurts out.

Alex doesn’t confirm or deny it. “No one expects you to feel normal right now.”

“Good. Because I don’t.” He leaves the question unspoken: Do you think I ever will? “I should’ve just believed her.”

“About Sabrina, you mean? You had no way of knowing she was Shannon. I still don’t believe it, and we know it happened.”

“I should have known something was up. I did, even--I just didn’t want to believe it was anything serious. So I acted like it would all work itself out.”

Alex stands up. “You had no way of knowing. Courtney didn’t even know.”

But Courtney knew that “Sabrina” was out to get her, and she tried to tell Jason. “All I did was defend Sabrina--Shannon--and keep her around. This is all my fault.”

“Do not go down that road.” Alex grabs him by the shoulders and tries to force Jason to make eye contact with him. “Blaming yourself... it won’t help.”

“It’s because I took that money,” Jason says. “I should have given it away. But I was stupid and I got all these big ideas about starting a business and buying a house and--it’s what I get for trying to build a life on Shannon’s money.”

“It has nothing to do with that.”

“I should sell the arena.” The idea sounds simultaneously horrible and perfect. “Just be done with it and move on. Give the money to charity. If I did, maybe...”

Alex understands exactly what possibility he isn’t speaking. “Jason. None of that will...” He struggles to get the words out. “None of that will change things.”

Jason turns his head. He doesn’t want to hear that. This whole week hasn’t even felt like his life. He keeps thinking that if he can just make it a little longer, he will wake up, and things will be back to normal.

“It won’t bring Courtney back,” Alex says, as if Jason needed another blow.


Alex’s words take root overnight. At first they are merely vague apparitions, floating in front of Jason as he sinks into sleep. But each time he drifts to the surface of his fitful rest, the thought is there, louder, bolder, firmer. The final time he wakes up, autumn sunlight burning through his eyelids, it is like a weight strapped to his chest: Courtney is gone. It takes him a long time to pull himself out of bed; only once he hears Sophie crying through the baby monitor does he get up, but he has to drag himself every step of the way.

Once Sophie is fed and bathed and dressed, he plants himself on the couch. He tells himself that he will do something soon, maybe go to the office again, catch up on everything he has missed this week. But he lacks even the motivation to take a shower.

Sophie teeters toward him and tries to hand him a block. He takes it, of course, but all he wants to do is throw it across the room.

“Not right now,” he tells her softly, picking her up. She struggles against him until he sets her down and lets her go back to her toys.

He picks up the phone. “Hey. It’s Jason. I was thinking... If you guys want to spend some time with Sophie, I could bring her over. She could even spend the night... Okay. I think she’d like it.” Before he hangs up, he gives himself away: “Thanks.”

Don and Helen are thrilled to see their granddaughter, regardless. They invite him in but seem quite aware that he just wants to be alone now.

The drive home happens in a haze. The radio is on, but he doesn’t hear a single word or advertisement that plays. His insides feel like they are being consumed, like there is a monster growing inside him that started out in the pit of his stomach and is now expanding, expanding, expanding to fill him and then take him over entirely. He wonders if he should drive into a tree. He wonders if he should sell the arena and take Sophie and move somewhere far away, where they can start a new life. He wonders if he should take off and leave Sophie with the Chases, where she’d be better off.

He spends the rest of the day in bed, feeling like a strip of film with a burn in the center, eating its way outward until there is nothing left at all.


On Saturday morning, he wakes up groggy and unrested. His gaze settles on the chair in the bedroom, Courtney’s clothing still slung over it so casually, like she might walk by later to put it away.

“Come back,” he says to no one, as he pulls the pillow around his head.

When the phone screeches and he sees that it is his parents calling, his immediate reflex is to hit Ignore. But part of him is desperate to answer.

“Hey,” he says into the phone.

It is his father. “How are you?”

“I took Sophie to Don and Helen’s, so they can spend some time with her,” he answers mechanically.

“Is there anything you need? Do you want me to come over?”

All at once, Jason wants to tell him everything: how he doesn’t know what he is supposed to do next, how he wants to pretend nothing is different and live his normal life, how he wants to throw it all to the wind and start over somewhere else. How it should be him in that casket instead.

But when it comes time to say the words, he can’t do it. “No. I just... I’ll let you know.”

“Please do.” Bill’s silence is thick with worry, and Jason appreciates it more than his father will probably ever know. “We love you, Jason.”

“I love you guys, too.”

He hangs up wishing that he was able to say that he needs someone to come over and be with him, make him feel like it won’t always feel like this--because today, he does not believe that is true.

Eventually he makes it out of bed. His efforts to scrounge up some food lead to the discovery that the remainder of what Paula and Molly brought over needs to be tossed out. He dumps it all into the garbage can as he realizes how badly the trash needs to be taken out. Steeling himself, he ties up the bag, slips on some shoes, and heads out to the bin in the driveway.

He is closing the lid when an Acura sedan pulls up to the curb. Jason freezes.

“Hey,” Ryan Moriani says as he emerges from the car. He carries a paper grocery bag. “I heard, and I... regardless of what’s happened between us, I knew I needed to come see you. Jason, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Jason stands there motionless in his sweatpants and old Seahawks fleece and hair that he hasn’t bothered to fix in days.

Ryan hands him the groceries. “Just some things I thought you might need. I don’t want to take up your time, but if there’s anything you need...”

He doesn’t have time to stop it. One second, he is taking the paper bag from Ryan, and the next, something is rushing out of him like a flash flood demolishing a dam. He almost chokes on the tears as they come up, through his eyes, through his nose, through his throat.

“Hey. Hey.” Ryan takes the groceries from him and sets them on the ground. And then he does something that, a week ago, would have seemed inconceivable to Jason: he wraps his arms around his younger brother. And Jason lets him.

There are a lot of things that would have seemed inconceivable a week ago.

“What am I gonna do?” he says through his sobs, as much a question as a plea to the universe.

Ryan doesn’t patronize him with an answer. He lets him cry for what might be five full minutes, and once Jason is able to breathe through his tears, Ryan turns him around, picks up the bag of groceries, and leads him inside the house.

They sit on the sofa for a long time, side by side, Jason crying into Ryan’s shoulder, stopping to wipe his face, crying again, laughing at how he can’t stop crying, and then crying some more.

That night, before he goes to bed, he picks up Courtney’s sweatshirt and jeans from the chair in the bedroom, folds them, and places them in the closet.


Where will life lead Jason next?
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