Episode #577

- Cassandra’s ex-husband, JD Robinson, came to King’s Bay and demanded money in exchange for keeping a secret about Cassandra’s mother’s death. A reluctant Cassandra paid him off.
- During a chance run-in, Danielle confided in Matt about her troubles with Elly.
- Graham asked Sarah to marry him.


Rain taps against the roof like a set of long, bony fingers punching out a melody on a dusty, out-of-tune piano. Inside the old coffee shop, patrons take refuge, huddling around small tables and sinking into big armchairs. Sarah Fisher and Diane Bishop sit in two such chairs, angled to half-face one another. A brown and orange area rug stretches out at their feet.

“So he took me in the living room to give me one last present, and there it was: an engagement ring,” Sarah says.

Diane’s overly expressive eyes bug out even more than usual. “And?”

“And what?”

“What the hell did you say?”

Sarah holds up her left hand, which bears nothing resembling an engagement ring.

“Oh.” Diane stares at the ring-less hand for a moment more. “Good for you.”

“Good for me? You think it’s a bad idea?” Sarah lets her body fall back into the chair, which it does with a big floof. “I didn’t say no.”

“But you didn’t say yes.”

“No. I mean, yes. I mean, I got a call from Tim that he and Molly were going to the cemetery with Jason, and that seemed much more important, so I had to go.”

“That’s convenient,” Diane says, the same way one might say, I know what you’re up to. “So, what, it’s still up in the air? You haven’t given him an answer?”

Sarah shakes her head. “I don’t know what to do. He says that he doesn’t know how much longer he’ll be in King’s Bay full-time, and he likes the idea of making things official. Showing me that he isn’t just going to take off and forget about me.” Her brain gets snagged on something. “What did you mean, ‘good job?’”

Diane peers over her mug, the teabag swinging from its side like a pendulum. “I meant--I mean--don’t marry this guy if he isn’t it. You’ve done this before. Don’t put yourself back in that crappy situation.”

“Graham is a great guy.”

“I’m not saying he isn’t. But is he the kind of great you should marry? Or would you just be saying yes because it seems like the best option you have?”

Diane sits back, triumph lighting her face. Sarah wishes she could feel that same certainty, especially about the situation at hand. All she has are her confusion and the rhythmic looping of the rain, which is almost enough to lull her into not thinking about this any more today. Almost.


Danielle Taylor ducks her head down toward her chest as she moves swiftly through the rain. She hurries inside the restaurant’s front door to take cover.

As she takes a moment to gather herself, she spots a familiar face standing at the end of the bar. She offers a wave in Matt Gray’s direction.

“Hey!” he calls out, motioning for her to join him.

“Hi, Matt,” she says as she removes her coat. “Are you working?”

“I was on the early shift. Just finishing up. Are you here for dinner?”

“I’m meeting my brothers for dinner.” She slides up the sleeve of her sweater to check her watch. “I’m running a little early, though. I wanted to take care of some errands, and they went faster than I expected.”

Matt takes a seat on one of the glistening metal bar chairs. “Want to join me for a drink? I was gonna have a beer before I headed home.”

“That sounds good, yeah. Club soda for me,” she tells the bartender as he sets down Matt’s beer.

“You have a good Christmas?” Matt asks.

“I actually spent Christmas day at the Fishers’, because of Ryan. You went back east?”

“Yeah. Went to see my brother and his wife.”

The bartender delivers Danielle’s club soda. She thanks him and then tells Matt, “Your daughter was hilarious at Christmas dinner. I caught the tail end of her trying to explain some show called Jersey Shore to Paula.”

He shakes his head as if attempting to rid himself of a horrifying memory. “She showed me five minutes of that. I can’t even imagine her dragging Paula into it.” He takes a sip of his beer. “How are things with your daughter?”

Daughter. The word still sounds so forbidden to Danielle; hearing someone else refer to Elly that way sets off a spark of panic within her, before she processes that it is no longer a secret.

“Not any different than they were,” she says. “I thought Christmas might help...”

“She’ll come around.”

“I’d like to believe that.” She tries to bury the counterpoint that keeps screaming in her head: Maybe not!

“She’s a teenage girl,” Matt says. “If there’s one thing I’m learning, it’s that they’re bound to go through every emotion in the book at some point. You remember being one, don’t you?”

Danielle lifts her glass. “That’s what scares me,” she says before taking a big slug of the fizzy liquid.


While the talking heads on ESPN breathlessly tackle yet another college football season recap, Tim Fisher stretches across the sofa in Cassandra Ward’s hotel suite. It is far from the most comfortable sofa he has ever experienced; it has that slightly hard, formal quality about it, like one is not meant to relax too much on it.

His stomach makes a plaintive noise, and he checks the clock to keep him from foraging from food. Cassandra should be back from her errands soon enough, and then they can go to dinner. He shouldn’t ruin his appetite by snacking, he reasons.

The knock on the door startles him into an upright position. In all the time that he has spent with Cassandra here, he can’t remember anyone unexpected knocking on the door. Housekeeping comes in the mornings, and Cassandra has the timing of the Do Not Disturb door-tag down to a science. And he definitely didn’t order anything from room service--he would remember that.

He is still moving off the sofa when there is another, harder knock.

“Open up, Cass! It’s me!”

The voice is insistent and loud and utterly unfamiliar. Tim steps up to the door and looks through the peephole. He finds the warped image of a black man, staring right at the peephole in a way that makes Tim feel that he is the one being watched.

“I know you’re in there!” the man says. He rams his fist into the door, a half-knock, half-punch that makes Tim take a step back.

“Cassandra isn’t here,” Tim says through the door.

The voice recoils with surprise and takes a second to respond. “Really? Says who?”

Leaving the swinging bar clamped shut, Tim snaps open the door a few inches. “I’m her boyfriend. She’s out running some errands. I can tell her you came by...”

“Boyfriend, huh? That’s interesting.” Tim already has a feeling what the man is going to say next. “I’m her husband.”


Sarah rushes in from the rain, which she swears became more intense between the time she left Cassie’s and when she arrived here. Visibility on the roads is murky at best; the whole world looked like a soup of gray and mist through her windshield. Somehow, that seems fitting, given her current mental state.

“I’m picking up an order,” she tells the young woman at the host stand. “The name is Sarah.”

The young woman bustles off to grab the order. Truth be told, Sarah wouldn’t mind if it took several minutes, or more. She told Graham, during the world’s most rushed phone call, that she would pick up dinner for him, her, and Tori. But bringing dinner over there means that she will be face-to-face with him, which means that she can only put off answering his proposal for so much longer.

Maybe Diane is right, she thinks as she waits. She married Brent on an impulse to squelch her insecurities about him having feelings for Molly--and look how well that turned out. Even with Matt, she tried to push him into marriage before they were ready for it, out of some need to compete with Brent and Molly. Luckily, Matt was smart enough not to fall for that.

She is so busy thinking about Matt that, for a few seconds, it doesn’t even register when she sees him in the flesh. He is seated at the end of the bar, chatting with a blonde woman who is turned toward him, obviously very engaged in whatever he is saying.

What strikes her most is the glow on his face. He wears a smile that reaches beyond mere joy; there is a contentment, an ease, within it that Sarah forgot about. She cannot remember the last time he looked at her that way.

Instinctively, she turns so that she will not be spotted. Seeing him like this--being so open and so happy with someone else, the way he once was with her--twists her stomach and makes her hands go numb. She knew it would happen. He was bound to move on, and he has every right to do so. Especially after she threw Graham in his face right after she began seeing him. But it still hurts to be faced with the reality of it.

“Here you go,” the woman says as she returns with two plastic bags tied closed. She rattles off the items on the order and then the price. Sarah hands over her credit card and is waiting for her receipt when the blonde woman with Matt turns slightly--


A thousand thoughts surge through Sarah’s head. Is Danielle two-timing Ryan? Are she and Matt just friends? They’re probably just friends. She remembers last summer, when Matt had that USB drive that Diane wanted back, and that whole mess with Elly.

Even in the face of reason, the impact of seeing Matt with Danielle is hardly diminished. He is going to move on. Maybe he has already. She quickly signs her receipt, takes her card, and hurries out of the restaurant with her bags, grateful that neither of them saw her.


Tim’s hand remains on the doorknob, ready to push the door closed if need be. From everything Cassandra has told him, this is not the kind of guy he wants to set off.

“JD,” he says. “Cassandra’s told me all about her ex-husband.”

JD takes a step back, clearly thrown at having his “surprise” knocked down so quickly. Then a smirk spreads across his face. “What else did she tell you about me?”

Tim decides not to get into this with a stranger. Taking the bait will only make things worse, he suspects.

“Want me to let her know you stopped by?” he asks, a little sarcastic and a little irked.

“Yeah. You do that.” JD turns, but it’s a halfhearted effort with no real intention of leaving--just the setup for an exaggerated swivel back to face the door. “Know what? Tell her I said... equinox.”


“Yeah. She’ll know what it means.” That smirk again. “Maybe she’ll even tell you. Nah. I bet there’s tons of stuff she hasn’t told you about.”

Tim tries not to show how effectively the comment burrows under his skin. “I’ll let her know you were here.” He shuts the door before JD can get another word in.

Though he tells his feet to return him to the couch, Tim instead finds himself pacing the floor, running over his encounter with JD. Equinox? What is that supposed to mean? And why would the guy even turn up here?

The minutes tick away as he waits for Cassandra to return and wonders how he is going to approach this with her--or if she will even let him.


The rain continues its assault as Sarah parks her car in Graham’s driveway. She takes a moment to gather herself, putting her keys in her coat pocket and getting a secure grip on the carryout bags. Then she throws the car door open and makes a run for it. Once she is safely under the overhang outside the front door, she sets down the bags and uses her remote to lock the car.

As if on cue, Graham swings open the door.

“Thank you for picking up dinner,” he says, greeting her with a kiss on the cheek. “Come in. It’s awful out here.”

In the entryway, she removes her coat and shoes. Graham sets the carryout bags on a foyer table stained a rich cherry color.

“Is Tori not joining us?” Graham asks.

Sarah searches his face for some indication of what he is thinking. All she can tell is that he is doing his best--his polite, mannered, considerate best--not to pressure her about the proposal.

“Her friend’s mom is dropping her off in a little bit,” she says. “I spoke to her on the way over.”

“Ah. Wonderful. Here, let me.” He holds out his hand for her coat.

“Thanks,” Sarah says as he takes the coat and hangs it in the closet. She observes him, the fluidity and grace of his movement, so finely honed. And he is choosing to focus his attention on her.

Her mind drifts back to the moment between her and Matt in the mall just before Christmas. There was something so easy, so comfortable about it, and it made Sarah wonder what might have been. Now she sees that it was merely a flashback to old times, some smoke of the past wafting into the present before it separated into tiny wisps and curls and then died out forever.

Matt’s moving on. And so is she.

“Yes,” she blurts out.

Graham turns to her, one hand on the closet door. “What’s that?”

“Yes,” she says, more confidently. “I will marry you.”


Will Sarah regret her decision?
Should Tim ask Cassandra questions about JD?
Could Matt and Danielle be more than friends?
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