Episode #572

- Josh accompanied Lauren to Iowa to investigate Sabrina Gage’s family, and Lauren was reminded of how good they once were together. Later, Lauren delivered a heartfelt eulogy at Courtney’s funeral.
- Molly was surprised to learn that Brent and Claire spent Thanksgiving together.
- Cassandra twisted her ankle leaving Thanksgiving dinner at the Fishers’.
- During a visit from Ryan, Jason broke through his grief and was ready to open up to his family’s support. He shocked his family by bringing Ryan to Thanksgiving dinner, and they accepted the unexpected guest.
- After everyone went home, Paula pulled Ryan’s book from the shelf and finally allowed herself to read it.


The rain falls in hard, horizontal lines. Even from the dry safety of her car, Paula Fisher can hear the streams colliding with the pavement, exploding one after the other like a never-ending procession of firecrackers. Paula stares through the windshield at the house in front of her.

You want to do this, she reminds herself. You came here for a reason. She knows that it is true, and yet, this still feels wrong somehow, as if she is betraying herself or, worse, her family by coming here.

The rain continues to pelt the car and the pavement, pounding out what begins to sound like a catchy little rhythm. She closes her eyes and soaks up the unconventional percussion. You will regret driving away from here, something inside her whispers. She knows that it is true. Without opening her eyes, she reaches for the door handle and throws the door open.

She hardly slept on Thanksgiving night, after the guests left and she pulled Ryan’s book from the shelf. She spent months avoiding it, even after the rest of the family read it; she was scared to see what he had written, scared that she might feel overpowering sympathy for him.

But after Jason brought him to Thanksgiving dinner--after all that they have been through, since Courtney’s brutal murder--something inside Paula changed. She was happy to have her eldest son at the family’s holiday celebration, even if she did not quite know what to say to him. And after everyone went home, she devoured every word of his book, desperate to understand.

Now, as she closes the car door and uses one arm to shield her head from the driving rain, she approaches his home.

She hurries to the front door, the clicks of her flat shoes against the pavement drowned out by the pounding of the rain. Once on the covered porch, she shakes off what water she can and lifts her finger to the doorbell.

But she does not push it.

She thinks again of Tim. The man she raised since the time he was a baby. The man who has suffered so much because of Ryan and his adoptive father. Tim is the reason she forced herself to cut Ryan out of her life. Even after he made his peace with the situation--even after he forced himself to work with Ryan at Vision Publishing, thanks to that book--Paula refused to cave. Tim is certainly old enough to make his own decisions, and she is proud that he is not the sort of man to wallow in hatred, but she is his mother. And mothers stand up for their children, no matter what. She had no choice but to draw a line in the sand and stick to her side of it.

Now she is here, however, at Ryan’s front door, ready to... she doesn’t even know what. Her finger hovers over the doorbell, ready to push it but also ready to pull back and retreat toward the car.

Before she can make a decision, the door decides for her. It opens from the inside, and there Ryan stands, watching her. There is no turning back now.


Tim Fisher peeks through the curtains at the indecipherable soup of gray and water that King’s Bay has become. “Looks like a nasty storm out there,” he says.

“You’d better wear this,” Cassandra Ward says, turning from the closet with his heavy North Face winter coat. Tim starts across the room to take it from her, but she moves toward him--and the unevenness of her steps is apparent.

“You’re still limping?” He hurries the rest of the way to grab the coat and keep her from walking another step.

Cassandra tries to brush off his concern with a wave of her hand. “It’s getting better.” She seats herself on the upholstered bench that stands between the entry and sitting areas.

“Let me take a look at that,” Tim says. He sets his coat aside and kneels down, but when he reaches for Cassandra’s leg, she pulls back.

“It’s fine, I promise.”

“Cassandra. Come on.” He takes the leg again and rolls up her pant leg. Her ankle looks like a purple balloon, a cartoonishly inflated version of her other leg.

“You need to get this looked at.” He tries his hardest not to sound like he is lecturing her, but her refusal to see a doctor after she twisted her ankle on Thanksgiving was bad enough. Now, days later, the swelling is even worse and she can hardly walk.

“I’ll put some ice on it today. It will go down. It’s just healing.”

He looks up at her quizzically. “Why are you so opposed to this?”

She remains quiet.

“I’ll drive you to the doctor,” he says. “I can go to work late today. I told Jason I would stop by this morning, anyway... We can stop at the Urgent Care--”

“I said no!”

The sheer force of her outburst takes him by surprise. Slowly he stands, picking up the coat as he does.

“I’m sorry,” she says almost immediately. “It’s not...” Her gaze wanders over the carpet’s repeating print of beige diamonds.

“What’s wrong?” he asks cautiously.

Several seconds of silence hum between them before she answers. “I don’t have insurance right now. All right? And I am not paying out of pocket for some doctor to tell me to put ice on it and use crutches for a few days.”

The confession is certainly not what Tim expected to hear. It’s so... practical.

“Sorry for pushing you,” he says. “You really don’t have insurance?”

“It’s kind of expensive to pay for independent coverage. I let my plan lapse a few months back. I need to re-activate it, but...” She lets the end of the sentence fall into the ether.

Tim knows better than to press about money. Instead, he offers a warm smile. “How about I pick up an Ace bandage on my way over tonight? I can wrap it up for you. That might help.”

She nods gratefully. “Thanks. And I promise, I’ll put ice on it.”

“Good.” He slips on his coat, grabs his briefcase, and gives her a kiss. “I’ll see you later, then.”

As he exits the suite and heads for the elevator, though, the issue continues to nag at him. He knows what Cassandra was paid for her work on Ryan’s book, and he knows how hot her writing career has been in the past year. The news that she isn’t able to pay for even a small coverage plan surprises him, and he wonders how exactly she is spending her money.

“None of your business,” he mutters to himself as he steps into the elevator.


“Do you ever get used to this rain?” a familiar voice asks from the doorway of Molly Taylor’s office.

She glances up from her desk and sees Philip Ragan standing there, in a casual, striped button-down shirt and gray slacks. He holds a raincoat over his left arm.

“If you live here long enough, you stop noticing it,” Molly says, gesturing for him to come into the office. “How was your Thanksgiving?”

“Very nice. My mother had some family friends over, as usual. How was yours? How is everyone doing?”

“It was quiet, but nice to be with family. No one was much in the mood for celebrating this year.”

“I can hardly blame them. I’m so sorry about Courtney. How is your brother doing?”

“Getting by, I suppose.” Molly wishes there were something more that she could do for Jason, but she knows that only time and support will help him cope with such a shocking loss. “All we can do is be there for him.”

Philip lays his coat over the back of one of the guest chairs. “And how about you?”

“What about me?”

“How are you? I recall things were a little tense at the wedding...”

“Tense is the new status quo, I think.” She sighs in the misdirected hope that it might expel some of the stress from her body. “Brent came over to see the boys on Thanksgiving morning, and he took them all day Saturday, so at least they had time with him.”

Leveling a knowing stare on her, Philip completes the thought: “But you didn’t.”

“I don’t even think we could spend time together these days. Every time we do more than say hello or talk about the kids’ schedules, it turns into an argument.”

She turns around in her chair and watches the rain pummel the city outside. It bounces off the buildings and cars, creating an echo that she can hear even through her office window. The scene makes her want to hurl up in bed and not get out until the sun emerges... whenever that might be.

“I’m sorry to unload all this on you,” she says. Her voice sounds a little absent even to her own ears, as she is unable to pry her eyes off the rainfall outside.

“Please. I’ve listened to this much of it. I might as well go along for the rest of the ride.” She can hear the smirk in his voice.

“The worst part is, I invited him to come to my parents’ on Thanksgiving, and he didn’t think it was a good idea. He said he would just spend the day alone, which I thought was sort of sad, but he insisted.”


“But then I found out that he went over to Claire’s for dinner. I don’t even know what to make of that.” She turns the chair back around so that she is facing him. “I don’t know what to think anymore. I’ve been thinking of this whole thing as a big pothole in the road, but now it feels like...”

Philip waits silently for her to articulate the rest.

“It feels like it might be the end of the road,” she finally says.

The severity of that statement spreads itself over the room, like water from a leaky faucet that cannot be turned off.

Philip is the one to break the silence. “You know what I think? Times like these have a way of bringing our true feelings to the surface. Things that might be too painful or difficult to say or do in normal times--tragedies draw them out.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

“Did you really tell me all of this so that I could lie and tell you everything is fine?” he counters.


Lauren Brooks thought that the long Thanksgiving weekend might be just the salve she needed. She hoped that, after several days of staying at home with her parents, she might start to feel better, and that she could return to work with some modicum of normalcy. As it turns out, the weekend did help--but it would need to be ten times as long to help to the degree that she needs. All she can think about is Courtney: how she will never confide in her best friend again, how many things they will never have the chance to share, how Sophie will grow up not even remembering her mother.

She does her best to keep to herself, making phone calls when necessary but otherwise communicating via e-mail. Thankfully she has no meetings scheduled today. She is hunched over her desk when she becomes aware of someone lingering at the entry to her cubicle.

“Just wanted to see how you were doing,” Josh Taylor says.

Lauren turns slowly. “Thanks. I’m fine, I guess.”

“Fine, huh?” He offers a sympathetic smile, the kind of expression rarely seen anywhere near his face. “I wanted to tell you--you did a really great job with the eulogy. It was perfect.”

“Thanks. All I can think about is other stuff I should have mentioned...”

“That’s ‘cause she was your best friend. You can’t explain everything that was important in a few minutes. But you really did a great job talking about why she was so special.”

Lauren studies him with confusion. “Are you sure you aren’t on something?”

“Shut up. I can be nice... when I have to.”

“You don’t have to.”

“Then I want to.” He folds his arms and leans his weight against the side of the cubicle. “I just want to make sure you’re okay. I’m sure everyone is worried about Jason and the baby and Court’s parents, but it’s a huge deal for you, too.”

“Thanks, Josh. It’s funny, for all the stuff I feel like I should’ve put in the eulogy... I keep thinking about how much time we lost, too. We barely even talked for a few years. If we had just made up...”

“You can’t play that game. You’ll make yourself crazy.”

“How do I keep myself from doing it?”

The question seems to surprise him; he definitely doesn’t have an answer at the ready. “Think about the good times, I guess,” he says after a pause. “When someone’s really important to you, that stuff always rises to the top. It outweighs the bad stuff, kind of makes it irrelevant.”

“Yeah. It does.” Lauren finds herself nodding along with his words, playing them over in her head, and when she comes to, she realizes that she has been staring directly into Josh’s eyes for much longer than she is supposed to--and he is staring right back into hers.


A pile of unfolded laundry covers the couch. Toys litter the living room floor. A stack of dishes rises out of the sink. As Tim follows his brother through the house that, mere months ago, was new and immaculate, he observes the signs that the house is overtaking Jason’s present capabilities.

“I have to fold that stuff this morning,” Jason says, gesturing--with a hint of embarrassment, Tim thinks--to the clothes on the couch.

“If you need any help, I can do some of this with you. Any time.” Tim sees Jason’s face wrinkle at the suggestion. “Or we can hire a maid service, if you’d rather.”

Jason holds up both of his palms in defense. “I’ve got it. Seriously. You remember what it was like when Travis and Samantha were little, don’t you?”

“Yeah. Of course.”

Tim stoops down to greet Sophie in her playpen. She gurgles and sputters half-words at the sight of her uncle. As she examines his watch, Tim talks to Jason over his shoulder.

“All I mean is, it can be a bit much for two people, let alone one,” he says. “I’m more than happy to help. We all are.”

“Thanks.” Jason picks up a stuffed dog from the floor and tosses it into a nearby toy bin. “But, like, I’m going to have to do this alone. You know? So I might as well get used to it.”

“Stop saying that. You’re not alone. You have a lot of people around you.” Eager to perk him up, Tim offers, “How about I cook breakfast for us?”

Jason appears ready to protest but relents. “Sounds good.”

He picks up Sophie, and they troop back to the kitchen. Tim forages in the fridge, freezer, and cupboards, and he finds enough items that he can use to create a meal: bread to toast, frozen sausage patties to heat up, cheese to melt over the sausage, cereal. He gets the cooking underway while Jason sits at the table with Sophie.

“How have you been sleeping?” Tim asks.

“Fine. I mean... not great, but fine.”

“Maybe you should take an over-the-counter pill or something. Just for a while, until you get back on track.”

“Yeah.” Jason’s agreement sounds distant and noncommittal.

Tim drops the frozen sausage into a heated skillet. Sizzling sounds fill the room. “Have you been to the office lately? Do you need any help there?”

“I need more than help. My staff is pretty much nonexistent. Courtney always said she’d come back from maternity leave, so I didn’t...”

As he trails off, Tim dives in to keep him from falling too deep into that abyss of thought. “How about Seth? How is he?”

“Supposed to get out of the hospital this week. So we’ll see. I’m still going to have to hire someone else.”

“Has Travis gotten good enough sweeping up snow and handing out rental skates to earn a promotion to the office?” Tim asks with a teasing smile.

“At least I’d be able to trust him. That’s the part that freaks me out--like, how do I know that the people I hire are who they say they are?” Jason drops his head down. “I never should’ve trusted ‘Sabrina.’ I should’ve listened to Court.”

Tim turns to face him. “Don’t do that to yourself. She fooled a lot of people for a very long time.”


“Still nothing.”

The bread pops out of the toaster, and the smell of the cooking sausage makes Tim’s stomach more eager for breakfast than he realized. “Want more coffee?” he asks, grabbing a mug for himself, as well.

“Yeah. Thanks.” Jason watches Tim refill his mug. “Listen, I need to apologize.”

Tim pauses. “For what?”

“Springing Ryan on you guys on Thanksgiving. Especially you. I just thought if I said anything beforehand, it would be all weird, and... I’m sorry if it was rough for you.”

“I’ve had to deal with him at Vision plenty. I’m used to it.” Tim flips the sausage patties. “I get why you brought him. I do.”

Jason bounces Sophie on his lap as he says, “It just doesn’t feel like the time to keep up old grudges. Even if they were legitimate.”

“Absolutely,” Tim says. “I made my peace with it a long time ago, or whatever peace I’m ever going to make with it. Ryan is never going to be my favorite person, but I got my life back, and I’m not wasting it hating someone who the universe apparently wants to throw in front of me as much as possible.”

“You’re so zen. How the hell did that happen?”

Tim refrains from making a crack about coming back from the dead, in light of recent circumstances. Instead he asks, “Where the hell can I find some clean plates around here?”


Uncertain what to say, Paula stands there, gaping at Ryan.

“Come in,” he says, stepping to the side.

“How did you know--”

“I saw you sitting in your car.”

He lets her into the house. Paula tries not to think about the fact that this is the place where Nick Moriani was shot and thought dead, where Ryan made the impulsive decision to shirk responsibility for a crime he committed and instead allow his brother to be blamed for it.

“Thank you for letting me stay on Thanksgiving,” he says. “I know that must have been awkward for you. Jason insisted, and--honestly, I wanted to be there.”

“I wasn’t about to say no to him.”

Ryan half-turns his body toward the living room, ready to lead her in there. “Can I get you anything to drink?”

“No,” she says simply, making no move to leave the foyer. One step at a time.

Ryan takes the cue and waits.

“I don’t fully understand what I expect from this,” Paula says at last. It is the most coherent thought in her head at the moment. “I am Tim’s mother, and no matter how I might feel about you, I have a responsibility to stand up for him. I don’t think I can ever forgive you for what you did to him.”

“I know that.”

“But I’m your mother, also, and the things that have happened lately have made me very aware of how precious our time is.” She folds her hands, kneading them together as if the activity might conjure up a clear solution. “I read your book. As I said, I don’t think I can ever forgive you for what you did... but I understand how it happened.”

“That’s more than I could have asked,” he says.

“I appreciate you having been there for Jason, too. If he can accept you in his life, and if Tim managed to work with you, then I suppose it’s time for me to take some of those steps, too.”

She can see the relief all over Ryan’s face. “Thank you. Thank you.”

A cold tension stands between them, a force field that binds them together and yet keeps them from moving any closer. One step at a time. Paula doesn’t know what comes next, but at least there is a “next.”


Lauren had forgotten all about this. She used to stare into Josh’s icy blue eyes and see something that most people couldn’t--that she often couldn’t. She felt privileged to have that access to him, like they were sharing a secret that no one else knew. She feels it again now, and the memories come rushing back.

Josh seems to misinterpret her stare, though, and the next thing she knows, he is pulling her close, folding her into his arms.

“It’ll get easier,” he tells her, his hands warm on her back. She can feel the strong muscles of his chest against her body and even the faint reverberations of his beating heart.

For the first time since Courtney’s death, she really believes that it will get easier.

* * * * *

Elsewhere on the floor, a pair of steel doors slide open. Philip Ragan steps off the elevator and makes his way through the maze of cubicles, over the familiar path to where Lauren works.

Halfway across the floor, he freezes. Above the cubicle walls, he sees them: Lauren and Josh, wrapped together in an embrace, oblivious to the rest of the world.


What does Philip make of Lauren and Josh’s closeness?
Will Ryan become a part of the Fisher family again?
What will come of Tim’s confusion over Cassandra’s finances?
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