Episode #573

- Molly was upset to discover that Brent had spent Thanksgiving with Claire.
- Travis worried that Elly would be angry with him if she found out that he knew about Danielle being her mother long before Elly learned the truth.
- After emerging from his coma, Seth worried about how to tell his parents that he had been in a relationship with another man.
- Philip went to visit Lauren at work but was stopped in his tracks by the sight of Josh comforting Lauren over Courtney’s death.


Philip Ragan stands frozen in the middle of the floor. Activity swirls around him at a near-frantic pace--phones ringing, voices calling out, feet rushing between offices--but Philip remains planted to his spot. Over the tops of the cubicles, halfway across the floor, he sees the person he came to visit.

Lauren Brooks is pressed against Josh Taylor’s chest, his arms wrapped around her in such a familiar, comfortable way that Philip cannot bring himself to intrude upon them. So he watches, and he waits, and he tries not to think about the implications of Lauren’s closeness with the other man.

Finally they separate, and before either of them looks in his direction, Philip resumes his stride, determined to pretend that the last ten or so seconds did not exist.

“Don’t the two of you have some mock-ups to show me?” Philip asks as he closes in on Lauren’s cubicle. He tries not to notice the way that Lauren and Josh automatically widen the distance between themselves, as if they have been caught at something suspicious.

“Hey,” Lauren says, offering a smile to greet him.

“I’m kidding about the mock-ups,” Philip says. “This is purely a social call.”

Josh takes a step backward. “I’ll leave you two alone, then.”

“Bye, Josh.” Philip sinks his hands into his pockets and waits until the blond man is some distance away before he continues. “I wanted to see how you were doing,” he tells Lauren.

“I’m okay.” The answer comes instantly, more a reflex than an actual response.

“Are you sure about that?”

“Yeah.” She pauses, perhaps reconsidering that answer, but then reiterates, “Yeah.”

Philip observes her carefully. Even with her eyes sliding uncertainly down to the floor, he can see how tired they are, how there is a sadness deep inside her.

“It’s all right not to be ‘okay’ yet,” he says. “When my father passed away... I don’t know if I felt normal for an entire year afterward.” He realizes how pessimistic that could sound and hastens to add, “Not that it has to take that long, or that you won’t have plenty of glimmers of good times along the way. But don’t feel that you have to speed up the process for anyone else’s benefit.”

Lauren’s dark blonde hair shakes around her face as she nods. “I don’t want to feel this way.”

“I know.” He reaches for her hands and takes them in his, feeling their size, their smallness, as he wraps his fingers around them. “I’m so sorry, Lauren.”

He thought that contact would help, that bridging the physical gap between them would aid Lauren emotionally, too. But the way her hands feel in his... they are cold, as if she is resisting his touch and the heat that could warm her up.

Philip prides himself on being a master of self-control. He has always excelled at keeping his emotions in check, at dominating them rather than allowing them to dominate him. But at this moment, as he feels Lauren’s resistance and recalls the hug between her and Josh, emotion gets the best of him, and it overpowers him in the form of a single question:

“Do you still have feelings for Josh?”


When the nurse maneuvers the wheelchair into his room, Seth Ashby shakes his head insistently.

“No way. I’m walking.” He hops off the bed and onto his own very functional two feet, just to make his point.

“Hospital policy,” the nurse says. “Once you’re outside, you can do whatever you like. But we have to see you out of here in one of these.”

Seth turns to his parents and then decides it is not worth the argument. After weeks of lying in that bed, being pushed around in wheelchairs, and shuffling over the linoleum floor with tentative steps, the last thing he wants is to take another moment for granted.

“Are you all ready to go?” Mrs. Ashby asks, clutching her purse in front of her winter coat.

Seth does a cursory scan of the room, although he is exceedingly certain that he has gathered every last one of his things. “Think so. Let’s, uh, roll.”

“We’ll pack up a few essentials in that apartment of yours,” his mother says as Seth loads himself into the wheelchair, “and you can spend the night at the hotel with us. We’ll leave for Portland tomorrow morning."

The proclamation knocks Seth so off-kilter that he is suddenly grateful for the wheelchair. “I can’t get my stuff together that fast.”

“We’ll have movers pack up the rest and deliver it to Portland. What’s important now is your recovery.”

“I get a say in this.”

“You can’t live on your own yet,” his father steps up to say. “We’re the ones who are going to be taking care of you, and we have lives in Portland.”

Something flares inside Seth, something that forces him out of the chair and to his feet. He knows that his parents are right, that he will need their help, but after the weeks he has spent confined to this hospital, the last thing he wants is to be locked up again like a grounded teenager.

“Can we have a minute?” he asks the nurse.

“Of course.” She gracefully slips from the room and shuts the door.

“What is this about?” Mrs. Ashby demands. “We aren’t going to argue about this, Seth.”

His stomach folds in on itself, and he feels as though he is trying to breathe underwater. “There’s something you guys need to know, before we go home.”

Now or never.

“Alex and I--we weren’t just friends,” he says. “We’re... we were together. As a couple.”


I did something kind of dumb.


I made a huge mistake.


There’s something I need to tell you.


After trying out ten or fifteen opening sentences, Travis Fisher lets his hands fall away from the keyboard. He has no idea what he’s trying to say--or, more precisely, no idea how to say it without maybe himself sound like the world’s biggest jackass.

“Sam?” he calls out.

His sister bounds over from her room next door. “What?”

“I need help writing something.”

As Travis throws his weight backward in the desk chair, Samantha sits down on the bed. “What class is it for?”

“It’s not.” He stares at the empty e-mail box on his screen. “It’s for Elly.”

“Is it some kind of love letter?” she asks with the slightest hint of a grimace. “Maybe I can find a poem you can quote...”

“No. It’s... I want to tell Elly something. Before she finds out from someone else.”

“What did you do now?”

Anger swells in his chest. “Forget it!”

Samantha doesn’t move. She remains seated on the bed and lets the moment pass. Travis doesn’t look at her, but he can feel when the flame burns out and she is about to speak.

“What happened?” she asks, a lot nicer.

“You have to promise not to say anything. To anyone.” After she gives an appropriately serious nod, he continues: “You know how Elly didn’t know Danielle was her real mom, like, forever?”


“I kind of figured it out. A while back. But I never said anything because, like, I wasn’t a hundred percent sure, and it kind of didn’t seem like any of my business.”

“But now you think she’s going to find out you knew and be mad at you.”

“Yeah. I mean, look how mad she got at Danielle.”

Samantha comes to stand behind him. “Well... what do you want to say?”

The blank e-mail form hangs there, a big, bright, white taunt directed right at him. There are so many ways he could screw this up.

“Maybe this is a bad idea,” he says. “I don’t know that she’ll find out--”

“Trav. Stop.” Samantha closes the laptop. “First of all, it’s a good idea. I’m surprised you even want to tell her. It’s really mature.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“You know what I mean. It’s a really grown-up thing to do. And she’d be stupid not to appreciate you being so honest.” She returns to her seat on the bed. “So just tell me what you want to tell Elly.”

“I don’t know.” Samantha cooks him under her intense stare, refusing to let him wiggle free. “That I’m sorry. I got nervous, and there was a chance I could’ve been wrong...”

“You didn’t say anything because you didn’t have any confirmation.”

“Yeah. Well, I kind of did. Ryan said something to me, and...” It’s all so annoying and complicated. “How do you always have a big word for everything?”

She shrugs. “Just tell me the rest. We’ll figure out how to write it later.”

“You’re sure this isn’t a bad idea?”


Travis tries to make himself believe her as he spits and sputters the rest of his reasoning out loud. By the time they open up the laptop and start typing, she almost has him convinced.


Sitting in her office on an upper floor of Winston Tower, with the rain pounding against the window, Molly Taylor turns her Blackberry over in her head perhaps twenty times before she finally dials.

It should not be this much of an ordeal to call her husband.

“Hey,” Brent says on the other end of the line.

“Hi. How, um, how are you?”

“I’m okay. How about you?”

“Fine, I guess. Just trying to get back into the swing of work after the holiday.” She cannot believe how much this feels like awkward small talk with a stranger or an old classmate with whom she’s been out of touch.

“Are we still on for tomorrow night? I’ll come pick up the boys after work?”

“Of course. They’re dying to see you.” The line crackles in Molly’s ear, no doubt a result of the rain. “How did your Thanksgiving wind up?”

“I wound up eating at Claire’s. I dropped by to show her something, and she had extra food, so... I’d rather have been with my family. No offense to Claire.”

“We’ll get there,” Molly says, and for the first time in a while, she believes it.

“Maybe when I come by tomorrow night, we can talk about our... arrangement.”

“About you moving back in.”


She feels herself relaxing. “I’d like that.”

“Me, too. Which I’m sure you know.”

Perhaps she got herself worked up over nothing. He spent Thanksgiving with Claire because she is a friend who had no plans for the holiday. He would have been with her and the twins if they hadn’t both felt it might be awkward to attend her parents’ gathering without sorting out their issues first. But they will get there.

“Let’s talk tomorrow night,” she says, unable to keep the fresh burst of hope from seeping into her words.


Seth wonders if he really said it. The air in the room is completely still, and so are his parents. They do not move, do not react. Nothing.

“Say something,” he finally blurts out.

His mother stares at him, as if seeing him for the first time. “I don’t understand. You almost married Miriam.”

“Yeah. Almost.”

“But you and that Alex, you were... lovers all along?” In one swift move, she heaves her purse behind her and hits him with it. “How could you do that?”

Seth holds up his hands to guard himself and backs away. “Not while Miriam and I were together. Just since I came to King’s Bay. A while after, actually.”

Mr. Ashby’s response is more muted. He moves his hands around, trying to work through his thoughts as though they were a pile of dirt that needs sifting. “I thought you and that Sabrina woman had a relationship.”

“We did.” Seth takes a moment of pleasure in their confusion. “I’m not gay.”

“You just said you and Alex were lovers,” his mother says. “That sounds rather gay to me.”

“I like women. And I like Alex. Liked. So I don’t know. I don’t know what this means about who I’ll up with, or how. But if I’m going to be back at home with you guys, I need you to know this. If you can’t handle it, then...”

His father comes at him first, one arm outstretched. He wraps it around Seth’s back. “We can handle it.”

Mr. Ashby trains his stare upon his wife, even as he speaks to his son. “We almost lost you, without any warning. That woman could have killed you. And your poor friend--I can only imagine how her parents must feel. We’re happy to have you with us.”

Seth waits for his mother to acknowledge all of that. He is surprised to find that he hardly even cares how she reacts. He thought he would; he thought he would lose it if they weren’t all right with this. Maybe he will, down the road. Right now, however, it is such a relief to have it out in the open--it feels like the whole world is spread out in front of him and anything is possible. His mother can’t take that away from him.

“Yes,” she says. “We are happy to have you with us. Safe and healthy and--whatever kind of person you might be.” She steps forward and kisses him on the cheek. “But this had better not interfere with you giving me grandchildren.”

“It won’t.” Seth can’t even think that far into the future, but it certainly isn’t something he is ruling out. The how can come later--a lot later.

“Now get back in that wheelchair,” Mrs. Ashby says, opening the door. “I'd like to have time for a decent dinner.”


As soon as the question leaps from his lips, Philip feels like a fool. “I’m sorry,” he tells Lauren. “That was out of line. I didn’t even--” He covers his mouth, still surprised at the shortcut the thought seemed to take from his brain to the outside world.

“It’s okay.” Lauren touches a hand to his shoulder to reassure him. “Josh and I are friends. I mean, we used to date, but working together--”

“You don’t have to explain anything to me.” And yet, he cannot shake the question: Do you still have feelings for him?

Uncomfortable silence settles over them, thick like quicksand and equally as suffocating.

“Are you really worried about that?” Lauren asks abruptly. He wonders if it came out as unexpectedly as the question he fired at her a moment ago.

The most cordial response he can muster is to lift his shoulders in a noncommittal manner. “It’s difficult not to be, if I’m perfectly honest.” He spies the open door of the darkened conference room. “Could we go in there for a minute?”

Lauren obliges by leading the way. She flips on the lights and closes the door behind them.

“I don’t know how to do this tactfully,” he says. “Maybe there isn’t a tactful way to handle things this personal. I’m not sure.”


“But I’ve seen the way you are with Josh.”

“I like you,” she says.

“And I like you.” Part of his brain keeps telling him to shut his mouth and say no more. She has just been through a horrible loss. But another part of him needs to know. “I also think that life is disturbingly short. We’ve all been reminded of that recently.”


“All I’m saying is, if your heart is elsewhere, we can chalk this up to a very nice experience and move on with our lives. I don’t want to keep you from...” He shakes his head. “That sounds a bit too selfless. Maybe I’m feeling insecure today. I’m sorry.”

Lauren simply stares up at him, her big, brown eyes clouded by her grief and who knows what else.

“Maybe you’re right,” she says at last.


“Josh. And me. I don’t think I ever totally got over him.” She cringes. “That was a bitchy thing to tell you. I’m sor--”

“Don’t apologize. I’m the one who crossed the line. You’re just being honest.”

“So where does this leave us?” she asks.

Philip struggles to sort out the various threads in his mind. As he does, he speaks slowly, trying to untangle the new knots as he comes to them. “I know you’re going through something very difficult. If you’d like me to be here for you, then I am. End of story. If you’d rather not feel the additional pressure of a relationship, then I’m all right with that, too.”

More silence. Finally Lauren snickers.

“What?” Philip asks.

“I think this is the weirdest break-up in history.”

As he joins her in laughing, he realizes something about that part of him that needed to know about her and Josh--it already knew the answer.


Will Lauren rekindle her relationship with Josh now?
How will Elly react to Travis’s e-mail?
Will Seth finally find some peace in his life?
Discuss all these stories and more in the Footprints Forum!

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