Episode #571

- Matt distanced himself from the Fisher family after his divorce from Sarah, especially after she began bringing Graham to family functions.
- The chasm in Molly and Brent’s marriage grew wider after he became convinced that Philip’s mother, Loretta Ragan, was Nick Moriani’s mysterious associate.
- In the aftermath of Courtney’s death, Jason withdrew from his family and struggled to face his grief. He finally broke down when his estranged half-brother, Ryan, came to see him.


Seasonal gray blankets King’s Bay, as it has on so many Thanksgivings in the past. In one home in the town’s oldest residential district, the sky outside is a fitting match for the emotional clouds hanging over each of the family members.

Paula Fisher stands at her familiar post in front of the stove, putting the finishing touches on the mashed potatoes. It is a scene out of so many prior holidays. Her family fills her and her husband’s home, the enticing aroma of a holiday meal wafts through the air, and yet, it feels utterly alien to Paula. Wrong, even. In light of Courtney’s recent death--murder--it seems unthinkable to do anything that resembles celebrating.

“Mom,” Molly Taylor says from beside her. Paula hears her and drags herself from her daze, but before she realizes what is going on, Molly repeats it with more urgency. “Mom!” The younger woman reaches over and removes the pot from the stove. “The potatoes are done. They were about to burn.”

“Thank you,” Paula says, exasperated, trying to get her bearings. She steps in to deal with the potatoes and is relieved to see that they are all right. “I’m sorry. I was distracted.”

“Thinking about how weird this feels?”

“Weird is a big understatement. Jason said he was coming, though. I think it will be good for him, to be around everyone.” Her youngest son has by and large avoided the rest of the family since his new wife’s death; despite their efforts to visit him, sit with him, bring him food, and help with his infant daughter, he has dodged their calls or insisted that he was too busy catching up at the office.

“He’s needed space,” Molly says, though she does not seem too convinced that it has been the best idea, either. “It’ll take time for him to...” She trails off, unsure how this is supposed to end up for Jason.

“I just wish he’d let us help.” Sitting back and not doing much for her son at a time like this has been even harder than facing the reality of Courtney’s death and what lies ahead for Jason and Sophie, but aside from making sure that the two of them are okay and functioning, there is nothing the family can do to rush the grieving process along.

Still, it will be wonderful to see Jason today. Maybe he will finally be willing to share his grief, which is the first step on the long, long road to healing.

Paula removes the crescent rolls from the tray where they have been cooling and piles them into a serving basket. She carries it out to the dining room, passing her other daughter on the way. Sarah talks with her date, Graham Colville, and Diane Bishop, who must have arrived while Paula was in the kitchen.

“Diane, how have you been?” Paula asks. Her granddaughter’s mother has never exactly been a close member of the family, but now more than ever, Paula appreciates the fact that Samantha can share the holidays with both her mother and father.

“I’m fine,” Diane says. “I’m sorry to hear about Courtney. It’s horrible.”

“It’s been a big shock.”

“I still can’t believe Shannon was under Jason and Courtney’s noses for so long, and they had no idea,” Sarah says. “It’s scary. Makes you think about letting strangers into your life...”

Paula sets the basket of rolls down on the table and looks up at the sound of the front door opening. Bill, Tim, and Cassandra play with Molly’s twins on the living room floor, and as the door opens, glance up to see Jason entering, with Sophie in his arms.

“Happy Thanksgiving,” he says, very aware of all the eyes focused upon him.

Tim and Bill rise to their feet. “It’s good to see you,” Tim says, hugging his brother.

Bill moves to close the door. “It’s freezing out there,” he says, but he pauses with his hand on the doorknob.

“I kind of brought someone with me,” Jason tells the others. “I hope no one minds.”

“Of course not!” Paula says, though she has no idea who it might be. And then someone she never expected to have in her home today steps through the door: her oldest son, Ryan.


Across town, in a warmly furnished two-bedroom apartment, a different type of Thanksgiving altogether is getting underway. Claire Fisher stands at the kitchen counter, slicing the turkey breast that she roasted for her holiday-for-one meal. She is retrieving a single plate from the cupboard when there is a knock at the door.

She is not expecting anyone, but she suspects it might be one of the neighbors, coming by to borrow a last-minute item for their Thanksgiving preparations. Before answering the door, she peeks through the peephole and is surprised that it is not one of the people she recognizes from passing in the hallways and elevators.

“This is a surprise,” she says as she opens the door to Brent Taylor. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah. I was... I remembered you said you were going to lay low and stay home this year, and I just came across something I knew you’d want to see, so... I figured I would take a chance.”

She steps aside. “Come in.”

He hesitates. “I’m not interrupting, am I?”

“Brent, come on.” She gestures for him to enter the apartment, and after another moment of reluctance, he does. “What’s this thing that you thought I needed to see?”

He pulls an envelope from his jacket and hands her a photograph. One of the faces immediately becomes clear, scaring her even from the dull, photocopied page: the face of Nick Moriani.

“Who’s this woman he’s with?” she asks, although she already has a fairly good idea.

“Loretta Ragan. It’s a picture from a charity auction in 1995.”

Claire studies the woman’s face. She appears so... normal. Like any other wealthy society wife whose life revolves around formal dinners and tennis tournaments. This is the woman who has caused them so much torment?

“I ran a search for Loretta Ragan, just to see,” Brent says. “When the records said there was a photo of her and Nick Moriani...”

“It doesn’t prove anything, but it certainly is a step in the right direction.” She hands him the photo. “Do you have plans for dinner? Where are the boys?”

“Molly took them to Bill and Paula’s. Why aren’t you there?”

“Paula asked if I’d like to go, but it seemed right to let it just be the family this year. Especially after what happened to Courtney...” They fall silent, the recent tragedy weighing over both of them. Claire witnesses illness, death, and even violence on a daily basis at work, but she is unsure if she will ever shake the image of Courtney, bloody and brutalized, as Claire worked to halt the bleeding until the ambulance arrived.

“What are your plans for dinner?” she asks, slightly disturbed by the leap from bloody murder to eating but eager to change the subject nonetheless.

“Nothing much. Danielle and Josh flew down to San Diego to see our father, but with work, I couldn’t go. I wanted to be able to see the twins, too.”

Claire decides that it is best not to ask about Molly. “You’re welcome to stay,” she says instead. “I have more than enough food. I couldn’t possibly eat it all by myself.”

“I couldn’t. I don’t want to ruin your plans. I should’ve just called about the photo--”

“Brent. Please. You knew I’d be interested to see it.” She returns to the kitchen and pulls an extra plate from the cupboard. “Now you’re going to stay and eat with me. Okay?”

A smile plays at the edges of his mouth. “If you insist.”


None of the Fishers say anything or even move in the seconds that follow Ryan’s entrance. Paula’s mind spins, trying to decide upon an appropriate response. Seldom does a day pass when she does not think about the son with whom she shared so few years, and those thoughts have only increased in the wake of Courtney’s death. Still, the things he did to Tim--they remain unforgivable.

“This should be awkward,” Paula hears Diane mutter in the background.

Bill takes a step toward Ryan. “Ryan. Happy Thanksgiving.”

“Happy Thanksgiving,” Ryan says, sounding rather surprised himself.

Quite aware of the awkwardness, Jason sets Sophie down and explains, “Ryan came by the house to see how I was doing. I--I thought it would be a good idea if he joined us.”

“We would have come over,” Tim cuts in. “When I called, you said--”

Jason holds up a hand. “I know. It was just... a matter of timing.” He busies himself with removing Sophie’s coat and then his own.

“I’m so glad you came,” Paula says, moving toward Jason. She hugs him harder than she even intended to; once she has her arms around him, she does not want to let him go, does not want him to suffer alone anymore. He hugs her back, which she takes as an encouraging sign.

Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Molly approach Ryan. As they settle into conversation, the tone for the encounter is set: it is a time to accept, a time to be cordial and appreciative and together.

“You could have told us you were bringing him,” Paula says quietly to Jason.

“I thought it would create a lot more drama that way.”

Tim steps up and takes the coats from Jason. “I guess if I can deal with him at Vision, I can deal with him here.”

“It just feels important, okay?” Jason looks from Paula to Tim and back again. Neither of them argues with him.

“How are you?” she asks instead.

“I’m here.”

He bends down to scoop up Sophie, and Tim goes to hang the coats. Sarah comes over to talk with her younger brother and play with her niece, and Paula excuses herself to check on the rest of the food. It might not be the Thanksgiving that she anticipated, but now more than ever, the last thing any of them need to do is take their time with each other for granted.


“All ready to eat?” Matt Gray asks as he sets the platter of turkey on the kitchen table.

“You made so much food,” Tori marvels, her gaze sweeping over the turkey, mashed potatoes, candied yams, green beans, cranberry sauce, and baked mac-and-cheese that cover the table.

Matt shrugs. “It’s fun for me. Happy Thanksgiving, kiddo.”

Tori takes a seat at the table. “Happy Thanksgiving, Dad.”

As his daughter transfers a few slices of turkey to her plate, Matt stands back and appreciates the scene. A few years ago, this is not where he expected his life would lead... but in spite of all the upheaval and the disappointment, he still has a lot to be thankful for. He has a happy, healthy daughter, a job that he truly enjoys, and a good home. That’s more than too many other people can say they have.

“Why didn’t we go to Grandma and Grandpa’s?” Tori asks as she reaches for the cranberry sauce.

“I dunno.” There isn’t one definitive explanation; it just felt like time to cut that cord. He is glad to have stayed on good terms with Bill and Paula since his divorce from Sarah, but the fact remains that he is no longer their son-in-law. With Sarah bringing Graham Colville to family get-togethers now, the time seems right for Matt to make his own plans. “You don’t mind spending the day with just me, do you?”

She rolls her eyes, but a faint smile gives her away.

“Have some of the mac-and-cheese,” Matt says, picking up the dish to serve her some.

Tori looks at him as if he just suggested that she throw a child out a tenth-story window. “I already have mashed potatoes and these other things.”


“I don’t need more carbs, Dad.”

He doesn’t even know how to respond to that. Seconds ago, he was happily reflecting on how nice it is to spend a quiet holiday with his little girl, and now he has to be reminded that she is becoming more of a teenager every day.

“I don’t think you need to worry about carbs,” Matt says.

Tori doesn’t seem to believe him, but she doesn’t argue back, either. He is quickly learning that, when dealing with a teenage girl, that counts as a victory. He fills his plate, aware that he made too much food, but he doesn’t want Tori to feel that she missed out on anything because it’s just the two of them for Thanksgiving this year.

“Do you think you’ll ever get married again?” she asks out of nowhere.

With his fork halfway to his mouth, Matt freezes. “Um... I don’t know. That depends.”

“On what?”

“On whether I meet someone I’d wanna marry, for starters.” He quickly shoves the bite of food into his mouth and focuses very hard on chewing.

“I think you should,” Tori says thoughtfully.

He smiles and finishes chewing. “I’ll keep that in mind.” He turns his attention back to his food and tries to think of a new topic to switch to, but he can feel Tori watching him intently, like she’s waiting for him to crack and reveal something.


“This is delicious, Mr. and Mrs. Fisher,” Cassandra says as she sets her fork down on her plate.

“There’s plenty more,” Bill says, gesturing at the half-emptied serving platters that cover the center of the table.

Cassandra holds up her palms in submission, though. “I don’t think I could eat another bite.”

“I can!” Travis says, grabbing the bowl of mashed potatoes and then the gravy.

Paula sits quietly in her seat at one end of the table, drinking in the holiday scene. It is a quieter Thanksgiving celebration than they normally have, without the music playing, the happy sharing of cocktails beforehand, or the lively spirit infusing the gathering. She thought it might be inappropriate to do more than eat a normal meal, but now, with the family assembled around the table, she realizes that there is cause for celebration: in honor of the fact that they have the opportunity to be together and spend time with each other, something that could be stolen from them at any time.

“How is everything?” she asks Jason, who is seated across from her. He has been quiet for most of the meal, piping up only when asked a direct question.

“It’s good. Thanks.” He manages a grateful smile and returns to eating his food at a much slower pace than he normally would.

At least he’s eating, she thinks. One day at a time. She remembers the anguish that haunted her every minute after Tim was presumed dead, and she wishes that there were something she could to take that pain away from Jason now.

Travis pulls out his cell phone and holds it in his lap, no doubt text-messaging Elly or another friend. Tim notices and tells him, “No texting at the dinner table.”

Travis doesn’t exactly acknowledge the order. Instead he finishes what he is doing, puts the phone away, and then asks, “Can I go to Landon’s later?”

“Let your mom know,” Tim says. Travis pulls out his phone. “Call her after we’re done eating.”

Paula glances over at Ryan, who has been even quieter than Jason throughout the meal. She truly wondered if she would ever see him in this house again, let alone partaking in a dinner at this table.

“Where’s Danielle?” Sarah asks Ryan. Diane makes a faint snorting noise at the mention of Danielle Taylor.

He seems surprised to have a question directed at him. “She went to see her father in San Diego.”

“Josh went, too,” Molly adds.

Paula observes the small talk. None of it is particularly revelatory, but it is important merely by virtue of existing. Her heart goes out to Don and Helen, whom she invited but who opted to have a quiet meal at home with Alex, instead. In this moment, Paula is thankful simply to be able to have her children all under one roof, no matter what has transpired among them in the past.


Brent finishes the last bite of stuffing on his plate. “That was great. Thanks.”

“It came from a box,” Claire says with a grin and a shrug. “Don’t be too impressed.”

“I’m serious. Thanks for inviting me in. I would’ve just gone back to Josh’s and eaten whatever was in the fridge.”

“Well, thanks for joining me. It’s always nice to be with someone on a holiday, no matter what solo plans you might make.”

“Agreed.” Brent picks up his half-full glass of merlot. “How about a toast?”


“To good friends,” he says, holding the glass aloft.

Claire follows suit and lifts her own. “You’ve been a great friend to me, too. Thanks.” They clink glasses and sip their wine.

“I’m serious,” Brent says, staring at the wine contemplatively. “These days, it seems like no one understands me most of the time. With Molly, it’s like... we’re speaking different languages.”

“It will work out. The quicker we get to the bottom of this situation with Loretta, the quicker you can get back to your real life.”

His hazy eyes betray his lack of confidence in that. “I hope so.”

“For what it’s worth, I appreciate you bringing that photo over. Tying Loretta Ragan to Nick is a big step.”

“I know.” His gaze rises to meet hers, and Claire sees much more than simple gratitude in it. She wonders how it came to this point--how she and Brent, once so close to the Fishers, wound up spending Thanksgiving alone but together. She considers the time when she met him, years ago, when he first began dating Sarah, and how she never would have predicted that she would be closer with him than with any of Tim’s family.

All at once, she realizes that she has drifted into thought and left him hanging. “To the future,” she says, lifting her wine again. Brent clinks his glass against hers, and they drink once more.


Dark comes very early at this time of year, and it makes the night feel much further along than it actually is. After dessert and coffee, everyone begins to gather their coats and say their goodbyes.

“Thank you for having me,” Cassandra tells Paula and Bill. They give her farewell hugs and then turn to Tim.

“Dinner was great,” he says. He gives Paula a kiss on the cheek. “Travis! Come on.”

He comes rushing in, cell phone in hand. “Mom says I can go. Can you drop me off?”

Tim nods. “I thought she might want you to come home for dessert.”

“Nah,” Travis says, shaking his head. “She said Uncle Brent is there, anyway.”

The oddness of that fact occurs to Paula, even though she knows that Brent and Claire have been working together on this never-ending investigation. But when Molly steps out from behind Bill, where she has been talking quietly with Jason, Paula realizes that it is more than just “odd.”

“Brent is at your mom’s?” Molly asks Travis. He nods. “He had dinner there?”

“I guess.”

Bill places a hand on Molly’s shoulder. “Later,” he tells her.

Tim, Cassandra, and Travis finish saying their goodbyes and head down the front steps into the dark. When they are near the bottom, Paula hears a yelp.

“Ow!” Cassandra says, followed by plenty of muttering.

“Is everything okay?” Paula calls down.

“I just twisted my ankle a little, that’s all.”

“Let’s get you into the car,” Tim says, putting his arm around Cassandra’s shoulders to help her along.

When Paula turns back, she finds Jason and Ryan with their coats on, ready to leave. Jason carries Sophie in his arms.

Paula notices Bill shaking Ryan’s hand. She says to Jason, “It was so nice to see you. Please, please let us know if you need anything. I’ll call you in the morning.”

“Okay, Mom.” He says it with the tone of a teenager being reminded to eat breakfast before school, and for a moment, Paula sees the Jason that she knows so well. It gives her hope for what is to come.

“We love you,” she says, kissing him on the forehead. “Don’t you ever, ever forget that. Please call if you need anything at all.” She says her goodbyes to Sophie, and Jason steps out onto the porch.

And then she finds herself face-to-face with Ryan.

“Thank you for letting me join you all for dinner,” he says. “It meant a lot.”

Paula looks into his face, the face of a man she simultaneously knows so well and does not know at all. “I’m very glad you came.”

He follows Jason out of the house and down the stairs. It takes another half-hour or so for the rest to trickle out--first Diane and Samantha, then a worked-up Molly with the twins, and finally Sarah and Graham. Bill does a final once-over of the dining room table and then announces that he is headed up to bed.

“I’ll be up in a few minutes,” Paula says. She waits until he disappears up the stairs, and then she crosses to the bookshelf that stands in the entryway. Her hand hesitates for a moment, and then it picks up the book that every other member of her family has read, the book that she has avoided so staunchly that she has refused even to glance at its spine for months, out of fear that she might pick it up and find herself unable to stand her ground. Because tonight, standing her ground seems like the least important thing in the world.


Is the time right for Ryan to rejoin the Fisher family?
What will Molly do after learning about Brent and Claire?
Is Matt ready to move on from Sarah?
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