Episode #581

- Claire suggested that runaway teen Tempest come stay with her for a while, pending Travis’s approval.
- Landon drove Tori home from a party and was roped into her scheme to sneak in through her bedroom window, until Matt caught them.
- Philip ended his relationship with Lauren.
- Brent and Molly made an uneasy agreement to move forward with a legal separation.


The after-school scene at Liberty High is always chaos. Underclassmen crowd the front of the school, waiting to be picked up by their parents. Upperclassmen blast music from their cars and clog the parking lot. Today, as it does on many days, the rain has decided to join in and make things even more of a mess.

Travis Fisher and Landon Esco are crossing the parking lot when a familiar voice calls out to them.

“Hey! Wait up!”

Tori Gray comes bounding at them from the south locker bay, where the freshmen’s lockers are housed.

“I had this in my locker all day,” she says, waving a black sweatshirt at them.

Landon takes it from her. “Thanks.”

Travis observes the exchange curiously. Why would his cousin have his best friend’s sweatshirt?

“He lent it to me when he dropped me off the other night,” Tori explains quickly, as if afraid of what thoughts might be running through Travis’s head. “To cover up the shirt he spilled beer all over.”

He also gave you a ride home and helped you break into your own bedroom window,” Landon adds.

“Actually, if I remember right, I never actually got to break in, because my dad woke up and found us. Probably because you were breathing through your mouth or something.”

Landon makes a big show of rolling his eyes in the most exaggerated way possible. “Yeah. I’m sure that was it.”

Travis feels compelled to interject somehow. “Why were you breaking into your own room?”

“Because I forgot my key and didn’t want my dad to smell the beer on me when he let me in,” Tori says. “Anyway, I’ve gotta go. Fee’s mom is coming to get us.” She tosses Landon a sideways glance. “I’d thank you for the sweatshirt, but it kinda stank.”

With that, she takes off, dashing beneath the building’s overhang to avoid the rain and rejoin her friends. Travis watches Landon with a mixture of amusement and horror.

“What the hell was that?” Travis asks.

“What was what?”

“I know that look.” Travis examines the dopey expression lingering on his friend’s face: the big, moony eyes; the mouth hanging open. “Like when Christine Dombrovski kicked you down the slide in fourth grade. Or when you asked Leah Prince to Homecoming freshman year and she screamed in your face and ran away.”

Landon looks off at the sky. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You’re a little turned on!”

“I am not.”

“You are. You think I didn’t see how rude Tori was to you? You love that.”

“I do not!”

“Well, cut it out,” Travis warns, digging in his backpack for his keys. “She’s my cousin. And she’s a freshman. It’s gross.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Landon says as they continue walking to their cars, but he sounds about as convincing as when he insisted he didn’t want to go to Homecoming with Leah Prince, anyway.


The rain beats against Molly Taylor’s office window. Truth be told, she enjoys the white noise, the subtle rhythm that makes everything feel a bit less still. Not that it is helping her choose between the two barely-different fonts that have been presented to her for use in a new in-store promotion.

“You have no idea what a nightmare those were to retouch,” Philip Ragan says from the doorway.

Molly looks up and invites him in with a wave of her hand. “They look great.”

“We spent 48 hours in the lab editing them. I knew the lighting was going to be a problem, but I didn’t realize how atrocious it was until we had them on the computer.” Philip stands over the desk and gazes at the sample ads. “Definitely this one. That other font...”

Though Molly does not look up, she can picture the mock horror on Philip’s face. It is one of his more frequent expressions.

A knock on the door tears their attention from the sample pieces. A man with a ruddy complexion, wearing a tucked-in blue dress shirt and khaki pants, stands at the entry.

“Molly Taylor?” he says.

She notices the envelope in his hand and immediately knows what this is.

“You’ve been served,” the man tells her, handing her the envelope. She accepts it with a numb hand.

The office is as silent and still as death for a lengthy moment; the rain’s contribution no longer matters. Finally Molly sets the envelope down on the desk. She cannot even face opening it yet.

“I’m going to go,” Philip says. “I hope you...” He uncharacteristically fumbles for words. “I’m sorry.”

“No. Wait.” She doesn’t even know what she is going to say next, but the thought of being alone with that envelope scares her far too much.

Philip appears to understand and takes a seat. The silence weaves its way around them.

Thoughts zip through Molly’s head: revisions of the past, worst-case scenarios for the future. She cannot comprehend how her marriage to Brent has come to this.

“If there’s anything you need,” Philip says, “let me know.”

She feigns what she hopes resembles a smile. “Can you get me out of my life for a while? Because that would be helpful.”

A thoughtful look passes over Philip’s face, but several more seconds pass before he speaks. “Actually... that does give me an idea.”


After he leaves school, Travis battles traffic to make it to the arena on time for work. He slips into his Edge of Winter parka just as the Zamboni pulls off the ice, and a minute later, he has a shovel in hand and is clearing out the pile of snow and slush sitting by the rink’s door.

He is halfway through the heap when he sees someone he did not expect to see this afternoon: his mother.

“Hi,” Claire Fisher says, greeting him with a quick kiss on the cheek. Travis resists the urge to tell her not to do that in front of people he works with. “Do you have a few minutes to talk?”

“Yeah. Go for it.”

There is something hesitant about her tone and her mannerisms, as if she is not sure this is a good idea, or maybe that she fears how he is going to react. He braces himself for what he suspects is going to be yet another curveball.

“Do you remember that girl you met in L.A.? Tempest?”

“The one who stole Elly’s purse?” Travis asks. “Uh, yeah.”

“Well... it turns out that she’s in King’s Bay now.”

“Huh?” Travis has a vague recollection of the frenzied scene in Hollywood, when his parents’ and Elly’s came upon them just as Tempest told a police officer that they were attempting to steal the purse from her. “Oh, god. You gave her your number, right?”

“Yeah. I thought it was... I don’t know. At any rate, she’s here now. She called me for help.”

Travis looks up from his shoveling. “And?”

“And I made an appointment for her to see a social worker today. I went with her. They want to put her in a group home, see if they can find foster parents for her. But she’s 17. The chances of that...”

“Oh, god. Mom. No way. What are you gonna do? Adopt her?”

“No. Travis--” He can tell how nervous she is about this. “I see this kind of thing every day at work. And all we do is ship these kids off, to social workers, to shelters, and that’s supposed to fix everything. But being on the other side of it...”

He focuses even harder on his shoveling, but the pile is dwindling too fast to keep him busy for long.

“I’m not telling you. I’m asking you,” Claire says. “I would like to have Tempest stay at the apartment for a while, but if you aren’t okay with it, then I won’t do it. It’s up to you.”

He stands the shovel up with a louder clang than he intended. It bounces off the high ceiling and the concrete walls, surrounding them.

“So either I say yes even though I don’t want to, or I say no and I’m the bad guy? Great choice,” he says. “Mom, she robbed us. That’s literally the only reason we know her. You can’t be serious.”

He can see her working to conceal her disappointment. “If you aren’t okay with it, then that’s that. When I say it’s up to you, I mean it.”

“Do whatever you want,” he says. “I have to work.” He closes the Zamboni doors and heads for the back room before she can push this crazy idea any harder.


“You didn’t have to do this,” Jason Fisher says as he watches Lauren Brooks set several Tupperware containers on the kitchen table.

“I wanted to.” She sets the containers in a row and points to each one. “Chicken casserole, pasta salad, and my mother’s famous Better Than Sex cake. She insisted.”

“Just what I want to feed my one-year-old daughter,” he says with a smile. “Thanks, Lauren. I appreciate it.”

She folds her arms and leans against the refrigerator. “How are you doing?”

“Fine.” He considers it for a few seconds, or at least goes through the motions of doing so. “Yeah, fine. Just buried in work stuff.” He indicates the pile of papers sitting beside his laptop on the other end of the table.

“Have you put out any ads for new staffers?”

“Not yet. I can’t even...” He drifts off, then shakes his head as if breaking free of the cobwebs. “It’s too much to deal with right now. I’ll get there.”

“Okay.” As the quiet comes over them, Lauren watches him carefully, trying to get a read on how truthful he was being when he said he was doing fine. She has not seen nearly enough of him lately, partly because she has been busy with work and partly because he always claims to be too busy or about to go someplace or do something.

“I stopped in to see Helen and Don yesterday,” she says, deciding to come at the topic from a different angle.

“Sophie spent the night there last Sunday.”

Lauren can’t tell if he says it as a defense or simply to fill space.

“They love having time with her,” Lauren says. “They seem... I don’t know. Lost. Not that I blame them. I can’t imagine...”

Jason allows the thought to fade off into the ether. After enough time has passed that the topic has withered and died, he jumps back in: “How are things with you? Are you still hanging out with that Philip guy?”

The transition from Jason’s wife’s death to Lauren’s dating life is jarring enough, without having to face the fact that she and Philip are no more.

“No,” she says simply. “He... I don’t know. I guess it fizzled out. He thought maybe we should take a break, and I didn’t have a good reason we shouldn’t.”

“That probably told you all you needed to know.”


“What about Josh?”

Lauren wonders how she became the one having to answer the tough questions today, but if a little prying and gossip helps Jason feel normal, so be it. “What about him?”

“You guys seemed pretty friendly at the wedding--that whole trip to Iowa and everything.”

“We get along. I mean, we have to. We work together.” She feels her cheeks heating up and hopes the sensation doesn’t show on the outside.

“You’re sure that’s all?”

Truthfully, she doesn’t know. It kind of has to be all, given how badly things ended between them. It’s a miracle they are even friendly. “We actually have to go on a business trip together,” she says. “I found out this morning. Of all the people to send to Phoenix overnight, they had to pick the two of us.”

Jason merely grins back at her. Before she can tell him to shut up--despite his lack of actual words--the sound of Sophie crying booms from the nearby baby monitor.

“And the princess is up from her nap,” Jason says. “Wanna come check on her with me?”

“I’d love to,” Lauren says, genuinely relieved for the excuse to stop talking about Josh.


Travis’s conversation with his mother lingers in his head for the rest of his shift. When it is time for his break, instead of heading into the coffee shop and grabbing a snack, he goes outside with his cell phone. Hanging close to the front door to avoid the rain, he dials Elly Vanderbilt’s number.

“Hey,” she says, her surprise at the impromptu call evident. It is rare that they speak on the phone without setting up a time beforehand, and she knows that he has work this evening.

“Hey. What are you up to?”

“Homework. Should I ask what you’re up to? Because you sound kind of...”

“I am.” He spits out the story of how his mom got it into her head to take in some runaway who robbed them, and how she expected Travis to be okay with the girl moving into their home. Like that isn’t the craziest idea in the world.

“Okay, that’s really random,” Elly says when he finishes explaining.

“No kidding. Is my mom crazy?”

The hesitation from the other end of the line catches him off-guard. “You don’t think it’s a good idea for her to do this, do you?”

“I didn’t say that,” Elly says.

“You didn’t say no, either.”

“I mean, it’s weird, but... it isn’t the worst thing in the world that she wants to help someone who needs it.”

“She could give her money,” he says. “And she already took her to a social worker and stuff. That’s help.”

“Or she could give her support, which I bet she doesn’t have a lot of.”

Travis stares out at the diagonal lines of falling rain. “Am I being a brat?”

“No. I mean, the girl did steal our stuff.” Elly’s pause is something Travis recognizes well; it is her way of segueing into what she would call a suggestion. “I just think that this could be a really good thing your mom is trying to do, and if there’s a way you could support her in that for a while, I don’t think it would be the absolute worst thing.”

“I hate when you get all reasonable,” he says, a grin creeping over one side of his mouth.

“Someone’s got to do it,” Elly says.


Molly attempts to decode the idea lurking behind Philip’s handsome features. “What’s your big suggestion?”

“Take a trip,” he says. “You said you wanted to step out of your life... so step out of it.”

The literal interpretation of her words--and the fact that it makes so much sense--surprises her. Just as quickly, however, reality takes the reins once more. “I can’t. There’s everything going on here, and the boys... I can’t leave them.”

“I’m sure their father would appreciate a long weekend with his sons. You’re always going on about how guilty you feel that they don’t get to spend every single day with him.” As usual, there is something subtly derisive about how he recounts this perfectly true fact; if she weren’t so preoccupied with the separation papers, she would be annoyed with him.

“I wouldn’t even know where to go, or what to do,” she says instead.

Philip brushes something from his black cashmere sweater, then meets her eyes. “I have an idea.”

“Should I be concerned?”

“It isn’t anything that wild. Don’t worry. Every year, my mother hosts a masquerade ball benefiting the Red Cross. It’s a wonderful night--a lot of fun and all for a worthy cause. You could come back east for a few days, join us for the ball.”

Molly doesn’t even know how to respond to the proposal. It is so out-of-the-blue, yet so simple...

“Consider it,” Philip says, rising from his seat. “It’s the weekend after next. There will also be a lot of important people--wealthy people--there. It couldn’t be a bad thing for Objection if you were to meet and mingle with them.”

She nods. “I’ll think about it. Thanks for the invitation.”

“My pleasure.” He moves for the door, then turns back. “And I meant what I said earlier. If you want to talk, or if you need anything, please let me know.”

“Thanks, Philip.”

She watches him leave the office and wonders what in the world she is supposed to do next.


“I came as fast as I could,” Claire says as Brent Taylor lets her into his office. “What’s the matter?”

“It’s Loretta.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing. That’s the problem.”

She sets her sopping wet umbrella by the door. “The FBI thing?”

“They won’t move on her,” Brent says. He holds out his hand for Claire to pass him her rain-spattered coat. As he hangs it on a peg by the door, he explains, “They won’t touch it because there isn’t sufficient proof that she committed any crimes.”

“She hired the guards who helped Nick blow up a building!”

“No, Clayton--Reginald Carter, whatever--did. Loretta has kept her hands very, very clean.” He drops into the desk chair, which lets out a heavy sigh in conjunction with his own. “And the New Hampshire police won’t touch it because she’s so well known in the community. It’s so political, and unless we can prove... I don’t even know.”

Claire seats herself in one of the chairs across the desk from him. “And no one here will let you move ahead with it?”

“I keep hitting brick walls. So much of what happened wasn’t here. Tim’s captivity was in Vermont. The explosion was blamed on Moriani and Clayton, and they’re both dead. As far as charging her here, we don’t have a leg to stand on.” A goofy, faraway grin breaks out over his face. “Well, I never do...”

Grateful for the moment of levity, Claire laughs. “We’ll figure this out. We just need to--I don’t know--find better proof. We need to be able to show that Loretta was pulling the strings.”

“Yeah. But how?” He picks up a ball of rubber bands and tosses it from one hand to the other and back again. “What’s going on with you? When I called, you sounded--”

“I might be in the midst of doing something very crazy,” she says. “Or I was. Travis gave the official veto.” She gives him the barebones version of the Tempest story, or as barebones as she can manage. “And now I feel like a terrible person for even bringing it up. Travis has had to deal with so much garbage. The last thing I should be doing, as his mother, is springing more on him.”

“You asked how he felt about it. He told you, and you’re going to respect that. That doesn’t make you a bad mother.”

She would like to believe that, but Travis’s reaction to her proposal made her feel like a terrible person for even entertaining the thought of bringing Tempest into their home.

“Maybe that’s why I’m doing this in the first place,” she says. “I feel like I’ve screwed up so many times with Travis. If I can help this girl, it might... I don’t know. It might make up for some of that. Cosmically. Does that make sense?”

“Of course it does.” He stares across the desk at her with that compassionate gaze; he has a way of listening that makes it seem like he has eliminated every other thought from his mind, like every last thread of his attention is focused on what he is taking in. Claire has only recently realized how rare that is--how so many people’s version of listening is simply to wait for their next turn to speak.

“At any rate, I’ll have to figure out what to do with her,” she says. “I’m worried that if she has to go into a group home, she’s going to take off, and who knows where she’ll end up?” She shakes her head, though it does little to dislodge the thoughts that have overtaken it. “I’m sorry. I’m going on and on.”

“No, please, do. I’m a lot better at helping other people with their problems than I am at dealing with my own.” He folds his hands on top of the desk, and his mouth opens but hangs there, like he is not sure that he wants to say what he is thinking. Finally he lets it out: “My lawyer sent the separation papers to Molly today. She should have them by now.”

“Oh. Wow. Brent, I’m...” Her natural instinct is to reach out to him, and before she knows it, her hands are resting on top of his.

The contact seems to surprise both of them. Before Claire can do much in the way of reacting, though, her cell phone does it for her. It erupts with a loud ring, and the moment breaks.

“It’s Travis,” she says, checking the screen. “I’m sorry. I need to take this.” Brent waves her on, and she answers the call. “Hey, honey.”

“I was thinking,” Travis says through the phone, “and maybe I’ll stay with Dad for a while. So my room at the apartment is free.”

The surprise is forceful enough to make her grip the arm of her chair. This was the last thing she expected. “Travis, are you sure? If you aren’t comfortable--”

“No. I think it’s a really good thing to do. Sorry I was a jerk before.”

“You weren’t a jerk,” she says. “You aren’t a jerk. You’re... honey, thank you so much. I love you.”

“Love you, too,” Travis says, and for once, it doesn’t sound like that pained, obligatory version of the statement that she is so accustomed to getting out of him.


Is Claire making the right decision about Tempest?
What will she and Brent do next regarding Loretta?
Should Molly take Philip up on his invitation?
How will Lauren’s trip with Josh go?
Discuss this episode in the Footprints Forum!

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