Episode #579

- Travis was shocked to run into Tori at a party, dancing with a senior. He wanted to get her out of there, but she resisted. After Landon spilled beer on her shirt, she reluctantly agreed to let the boys take her home.
- When Travis and Elly ran away to Los Angeles, they encountered a homeless girl named Tempest. Claire gave the girl her phone number and told her to call if she were ever near King’s Bay.
- Claire received a surprising phone call that caused her to rush from a restaurant...


Claire Fisher slows her car to a crawl as it approaches the diner, just off Route 202. It is located on the outermost reaches of King’s Bay, a good twenty minutes from downtown, where she was having a drink with Brent Taylor when she received the phone call. It was the last thing she expected tonight, but she wasted no time in getting out here.

She turns into the parking lot, where a few other cars are scattered. The bright glow of her headlights catches a figure standing outside the diner, features obscured by the haze of dust that swims in the car’s light. It takes Claire’s eyes a moment to adjust and determine that the figure is exactly who she came to see.

She puts the car in park and opens her door. The girl doesn’t move from her spot.

“I didn’t expect to hear from you anytime soon,” Claire says. “How did you get all the way here?”

Tempest shrugs. “I dunno. Just started catching rides up. I had to get out of there.”

She says there like it might be a place across town, not Los Angeles, an entire coast away. Claire examines the teenager: her dark face is free of bruises or anything else alarming; she wears an oversized sweatshirt--possibly the same one she was wearing when Claire met her in L.A.--and a pair of ripped jeans. A battered backpack hangs over one shoulder.

“Are you all right?” Claire asks.

“Yeah. I’m fine, I guess.”

“Are you hungry? We can go inside.”

“I’m okay,” Tempest says, turning her face to her shrugging right shoulder. “I didn’t know where to go, that’s all...”

“Let me buy you some food, and we can work all that out.” Claire moves back around to turn off the car. Pocketing her keys, she moves for the diner’s entrance and notices Tempest hanging back.

“I could use something myself,” Claire says, holding open the door for the teenager. “I was so busy that I missed dinner tonight.”

Hesitantly, Tempest follows her inside the diner. While an acne-ridden young man leads them to a table, Claire racks her brain. Truth be told, she is hardly hungry at all, but she figures that the time it takes them to eat will be sufficient for her to figure out what she is supposed to do next.


As the Honda Civic pulls into the parking lot of the apartment complex, Tori Gray undoes her seatbelt. She knows that she should thank Landon Esco for the ride, even if she didn’t want to leave the party in the first place, and even if he spilled beer all over her new shirt. And she guesses it was nice of him to drive her all the way out to her dad’s, even though Travis, Fee, and Julie all live much closer to where the party was.

“Thanks,” she mutters as she opens the car door.

“No problem.” He looks over the giant wet spot on her shirt. “I, uh, sorry about that. I hope it comes out.”

“Yeah. Me, too.” Tori pauses, her hand resting on the open door, to survey her options. Her dad thinks she went to a movie with Fee and Julie. If she walks in looking--and smelling--like this... “Do you have, like, a sweatshirt or something I can borrow?”

Landon turns to the backseat, at least as much as he can with his seatbelt still buckled. “Uh, maybe...” He struggles to scour the backseat while the seatbelt restrains him, and his arm winds up flopping around behind him like a dead fish.

“You could unbuckle it,” Tori says, annoyed.

He stops and looks at her as if it’s some revolutionary idea. He undoes the belt and, a few seconds later, hands her a sweatshirt.

She has no idea where the black Billabong sweatshirt has been, but it’s better than nothing. “Great. Thanks.” She pulls it over her head; the thing is at least ten sizes too big for her.

“You okay to get inside?” Landon asks.

“Yeah...” A thought strikes her and dread follows, before she even has the chance to reach into her pocket. “Crap. I don’t have my key.”

“Is your dad home? Just knock on the door.”

“I don’t want him to pay that much attention to me. He’s gonna ask me all kinds of questions. And he might be asleep...” Her brain turns over quickly, and it takes only a second to arrive at the obvious answer. “I’ll just climb in the window.”


“To my room. My dad’ll never know the difference in the morning.”

Landon seems confused by the prospect, which isn’t surprising, since he seems confused by everything.

“Park the car and come help me,” she tells him, already moving around the back side of the building. As she expected, the light in her dad’s bedroom is out. Good.

A minute later, Landon joins her. “You sure this is gonna work?” he asks, his voice quiet.

“Yeah, my mom’s friend broke into my room a few months ago. Didn’t look too hard.”

“Your mom’s... what? Who does that?”

Tori sees his point and shrugs. “Just get on your hands and knees. I need to climb up on you to reach.”

Thankfully, Landon doesn’t argue. He makes a face and then lowers himself to the dirt. Tori lifts a leg to raise herself onto his back.

“Um, are you gonna take those off?” Landon asks. “I’d kind of like to leave here without getting my heart punctured or anything.”

“I guess.”

She kicks off her heels and steps up onto his back. She pulls for her window and is relieved to find it unlocked. Her fingers move to the edges of the screen and are beginning to pull it out when she sees--

“Oh, crap.”

She freezes as the light in her dad’s room flips on.


Several miles up Route 202, closer to the heart of town, Claire pulls up in front of a short, squat cement building. Even in the dark, she can tell that its exterior is a murky, dirty gray.

“What’s this place?” Tempest asks from the passenger seat.

“One of the nurses I work with suggested it,” Claire says. “It’s a shelter. They’re supposed to have a bed for you.”

Tempest doesn’t bother responding. Claire noticed a lot of that during their stilted meal at the diner. She would unfurl a thread of conversation, only to hand it off to Tempest and have it fade off into the ether. She supposes the girl hasn’t exactly had a lot of friendly conversation in recent years, though.

Claire leads the way inside the building. Harsh fluorescent lighting--simultaneously too bright and yet gloomily dim--assaults her senses in the lobby. The linoleum floor stretches back down a hallway, where she can hear the vague din of teenage rowdiness. A tired-looking woman looks up at them from her post at the front desk.

“I’m Claire Fisher, from King’s Bay Memorial,” she says as she approaches the desk. “I called ahead about a bed for this young lady.”

“Yeah. We have one.” The woman hands Claire a clipboard with a form, which Claire scans and then hands to Tempest. They seat themselves in two of the rickety plastic chairs against the wall.

As she watches Tempest scrawl in pencil on the form, Claire looks over the girl’s hair. A rubber band holds it back in a ponytail that seems to be expanding outward; her natural, uncombed hair looks greasy and heavy, as if it hasn’t had a good wash in some time. At least she’ll be able to have a shower here, Claire thinks, taking in the underwhelming surroundings.

“I have some money for you,” Claire whispers to Tempest as a small group of boys comes barreling into the lobby.

Tempest eyes the boys. “Okay. I dunno where I’m gonna put it.” She scans her body. “Maybe in my bra.”

“Oh.” Her frankness surprises Claire. “I’ll check if there’s someplace safe you can put your things.”

“Never is. You gotta sleep with, like, one eye open.”

Tempest stands up and hands the clipboard to the woman at the desk. Claire watches the group of boys scanning Tempest up and down.

“Damn,” one of them says, ostensibly to his friends but purposely loud enough for everyone else to hear.

Tempest half-turns to the boys, enough to shoot them a look that tells them she is not impressed. In turn, they snicker and point and whisper among themselves. Claire rises from the plastic chair, her hand inside her purse, holding the bills that she wants to hand to Tempest--without anyone seeing.

“Uh, thanks for the food,” Tempest says. “And bringing me here and stuff.”

The ease with which she disengages amazes Claire. This teenager traveled a whole coast--hitchhiking, apparently--all for what purpose? To call some random lady and get a meal and a hundred dollars? What is she supposed to do tomorrow night, or the next?

Claire is about to suggest that Tempest come outside with her for a second when she finds herself turning to the woman at the desk instead.

“You know what? She’s not going to need that bed,” she says.

Tempest’s head swings toward her in shock. Claire takes her by the arm and directs her toward the door. “Come on.”


Tori grips onto the window’s outer frame to steady herself. She definitely sees movement in her father’s room, which is only a few feet away.

“What’s wrong?” Landon asks from his perch down in the dirt.

“My dad’s up,” she whispers, as her hands go to work frantically attempting to undo the screen. The nervousness makes it worse, though, and she fumbles several times before getting one side of it open. That will have to do. “Give me a push.”

She can feel Landon’s weight shift uncertainly beneath her. “How? I’m on my hands and knees.”

Narrowly resisting the urge to snap at him, she gets a good hold on the window frame and is about to hoist herself up when the light inside the room turns on. She has her head lodged halfway underneath the screen’s free side when her dad pulls back the curtains.

“Jeez,” he says, a word and an exhale all at once. “What are you doing? I thought someone was breaking in.”

“Well, she is, kinda,” Landon says from down below.

“Who’s that?” Matt asks.

Tori continues trying to pull herself inside. “No one.”

“Sounded like someone to me.” Matt moves her head out of the way and reattaches the screen. “You can use the front door, like a normal person. What are you doing? And who’s down there?”

Landon moves again, leaving Tori with no choice but to step down off his back. As Landon scrambles to his feet, Tori shoves her hands into the pockets of the big, stupid hoodie--his big, stupid hoodie--that she has on.

“Landon,” he says, extending a dirty hand to Matt. “I’m one of Travis’s friends. We ran into Tori, and she needed a ride home--”

“I thought you were at the movies with Fee and Julie,” Matt says through the screen.

She could smack Landon for talking too much. Instead, she puts her brain to work spitting out the quickest story she can manage. “I was. We ran into Landon there. He offered to give me a ride home so Fee’s mom wouldn’t have to drive all the way out here.”

“Yeah,” Landon says, nodding. “I went to see Avatar.”

Tori throws him a sideways look. “But it was sold out, so he saw It’s Complicated instead. With his mom. For the second time.” She does her best not to laugh as that lands on Landon.

Matt is too busy watching Tori’s every movement to notice Landon’s discomfort. “And you were breaking in through the window why?”

“Forgot my key. I didn’t want to wake you up.”

“Come around to the front door,” Matt says, stepping back from the window. “This is not a door--”

“Diane did it,” Tori responds.

“Don’t ever, ever think of anything that woman does as normal.”

Eager to get inside and throw her shirt in the laundry before her dad notices anything further, Tori starts to move around the side of the building. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Landon standing there dumbly, like he is waiting by her bedroom window for something.

“Thanks for the ride,” she calls back to him. “And for the sweatshirt. I’ll give it to you at school on Monday.”

“Great,” he says, and his hands go to work brushing the dirt from his knees and hands.


“Why’d you go and do that?” Tempest says as Claire starts the car. “What am I supposed to do now?”

The car lets out a grunt and then a roar as it comes to life. Claire stares through the windshield as her headlights hit the over-painted exterior of the building.

“I’m going to get you a hotel room for the night,” Claire says. “Tomorrow, we’ll figure out something more... sustainable.”


“When I met you in L.A., I told you I would help you if you needed it. Buying you a mediocre burger and leaving you at a shelter... that’s not too helpful.”

Tempest eyes her uncertainly. She wraps her arms around the backpack that sits in her lap.

“Why can’t I stay at your place, then?” she blurts out.

Claire’s mouth moves long before she has any words for them to release. The thought crossed her mind, but in a fleeting, Nope, that wouldn’t work kind of way.

“My son’s at home. And you two got along so well back in L.A....”

“You think I’m gonna rob you?”

“I didn’t say that.” It did occur to her as a possibility, but it would with the prospect of inviting any stranger into her home. At least, she’d like to think it would.

“If I promise not to rob you, can I stay at your place?”

“I...” Claire reverses the car and backs out of the parking space. “I don’t have a bed for you.”

Tempest snorts out a derisive little laugh. “You could see the places I’ve been sleeping, you wouldn’t think a bed was such a big damn deal.”

She delivers it like a joke, but the reality of it is far too serious, far too troubling, for Claire to laugh with her. She has no idea what this girl has been through, or why she is so far from home, or where her home even is, but this is a child about Travis’s age. She needs someone to look out for her, at least for a little while.

“Hotel room is my final offer,” Claire says. “Otherwise, you can go back in there and tell that woman you want the bed.”

Tempest slumps in her seat. “Hotel room is cool.”

They lapse into silence as the car carries them back into King’s Bay. Claire is not sure what she will do about Tempest tomorrow, but considering the world of problems that the girl seems to be facing, handling those logistics seems like the least Claire can handle for her.


What should Claire do about Tempest tomorrow?
Did Matt believe Tori’s story?
Will Landon actually get his sweatshirt back?
Discuss this episode and more in the Footprints Forum!

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