Episode #609

- After reconciling with Danielle, her biological mother, Elly decided to attend King’s Bay University.
- Philip decided to relocate to King’s Bay. With their mother in jail, he convinced his brother, Spencer, to move with him and attend college in King’s Bay.
- Matt, Sarah, and Graham clashed over how to discipline Tori after the teenager stole $100 from Graham’s house.
- Ryan was horrified to learn that Vision Publishing had offered Julian St. John a contract to publish his memoirs.


The campus of King’s Bay University is vivid and alive on move-in day. The neatly manicured lawns are a healthy green; the skies have deigned to provide a bright blue cover for the proceedings; and banners in the school’s signature crimson and gold hang all over campus, welcoming new and returning students alike.

On the second floor of Hartley Hall, one of the comfortably worn brick dormitories on the campus’s west side, Travis Fisher flaps his brand-new gray comforter in the air and watches it settle down atop his bed.

“You can’t put that on yet,” his mother says, stepping up to the bed. “You have to tuck in the sides of the sheets.”

“I hate that! It’s like sleeping in a straitjacket.”

“It’s neat,” Claire says, as she begins to tuck the sides of the top sheet under the mattress.

“Let him have it however he wants,” Tim Fisher intervenes, gently placing a hand on Claire’s shoulder. “Besides, he’s just going to change it back once we leave.”

Travis grins at them. “Exactly.”

“You can make my bed for me if you want, Mrs. Fisher,” Landon Esco says from the other side of the room, where his newly purchased bedding is strewn atop the bare mattress.

Claire makes a face at Travis. “At least someone appreciates my contributions.”

She sets about making the other bed, while Landon stands by, pretending to help by holding pillows and occasionally handing items to her. Travis busies himself by tacking a Muse poster onto the bare white wall.

“How did he trick you into doing that for him?” Elly Vanderbilt asks as she steps through the open doorway.

Claire looks up from her bed-making. “He didn’t even have to trick me. How’s your room coming along?”

“It’s great! We’re almost done.” Elly floats into the room and takes her spot at Travis’s side; with wordless ease, he slides his hand around her back.

Melanie and Tom Vanderbilt follow their daughter into the room. “Looks like you guys are in good shape, too,” Melanie says.

“How long do we have until that orientation thing?” Travis asks as he pulls out his phone.

Elly checks the time on her own phone. “Twenty minutes. I can’t believe this is actually happening!”

“Neither can I,” Tim says, more than a little shell-shocked, and the looks he swaps with Claire, Melanie, and Tom confirm that they feel the exact same way.


Coming to this place always throws Sarah Fisher a little off-kilter. She has not lived here for some time now, and for months upon months before she moved out, it was a hotbed of tension, a veritable pressure cooker in which she, Matt, and Tori stewed daily until something had to give. With time, however, the memory of that period has faded; when she comes to the apartment now, she remembers it as home, a place where she and Matt began and lived their married life. She can still effortlessly locate a glass in the kitchen cupboards or find the broom in the hallway closet or any other number of things that one does instinctively in one’s home.

That is why she tries not to come inside here too often. Because it isn’t her home any longer. Her home is with Graham Colville, at his house, and this place is Matt’s. When she comes inside, the memories are too overwhelming, the signals too confusing to sort through. But today, she has no choice.

“Sorry about this,” Matt says as he lets her into the apartment. “She’s in her room. I’ll go get her.”

Sarah takes a step toward the back hallway. “I can--”

Matt gives her a look that implies that this situation is no surprise to him. “Let me do it.”

He disappears into the hallway, knocks on Tori’s door, and, after a few attempts at hushed conversation through that door, enters the room. Sarah lingers in the living room, trying not to dwell upon the familiarity of her surroundings or all the memories that they carry.

“You knew Mom was coming,” Matt is saying in the bedroom. “Why aren’t you ready?”

The plan was, as usual, to call when she pulled up outside and have Tori come out to the car. Today, though, Tori didn’t answer her cell. Sarah tried twice and then called Matt, who apologized, said Tori would be ready in a few minutes, and invited Sarah inside.

“Because I’m not going!” Tori tells her father.

“Tori, come on. We don’t have all afternoon--”

Sarah doesn’t want to be listening to this, but she is.

“I said I’m not going!” Tori yells. “I hate it there. I’m never going back!”


“Is she in?” Ryan Moriani asks without bothering to pause.

Diane Bishop’s latest assistant, a woman in her late 20s named Mandy, with hair dyed so blonde that it is almost white, simply nods. That was easy, Ryan thinks as he strolls through the open door of Diane’s office.

She looks up from her computer monitor and scowls at the sight of him. “Ryan,” she says, loading the name up with questions about why he is here and what he could possibly want from her.

“We need to talk.” He presses his palms into the desk, tipping his weight toward her. “I think you know about what.”

In response, Diane shifts backward, letting her chair tilt away from Ryan and putting space between them.

“Julian St. John? Really? Do you have any standards whatsoever?” he demands.

She makes a show of shrugging one shoulder and crinkling up her face. “Well, I did publish your book, so… probably not.”

Even though he expected such a cavalier reaction, her refusal to engage seriously makes every muscle fiber in his body burn. He wants to leap over the desk, smash the computer to the ground, and find whatever contract she and Julian have signed so that he can tear it into a million pieces.

He settles for slamming his hands down onto the desk. “Diane, are you serious? This is a horrible idea. It’s going to dredge up all sorts of things--God, it’s going to make Sarah look incompetent--”

“Sarah is a big girl,” Diane says, folding her arms. “And while the faux concern for your sister is touching, we both know what this is really about: you.”

Ryan cannot deny that.

“Let me tell you how this is going to go,” she says. “I’m going to fix up Julian’s ridiculous manuscript. The same ninnies who ate up your book are going to buy this one. I’m going to keep my job. And you--” She jabs a long, red fingernail in his direction. “--are going to butt the hell out.”

“Nope. I’m afraid not.”

In one sudden movement, she bursts to her feet. “Yes. Now get out.”

“Gladly.” He takes a step backward and allows a lazy, self-satisfied grin to sprawl over his face. “But I promise you: this is not over. That book is never going to be published.”

She swats him away like one might a fly at a barbecue. “Whatever. I’m sure your sterling reputation as a man who tried to frame his half-brother for murdering his father won’t take too much of a hit. Now out.”

Ryan knows her well enough to recognize that such a straightforward approach is not going to work. Visions of counterattacks and subterfuge flash through his mind like fireworks in an otherwise dark sky. And before he leaves, the words come out:

“This is war, Diane. This is war.”

“Go blow it out your ass,” she says, dropping back into her chair as he exits.


After the first orientation session--the only one to which parents are invited--hordes of students and their families spill out of the campus auditorium and onto the quad. It is a vast expanse of perfect green grass, with clusters of evergreen trees shading spots at its corners. The scene fills Claire with nostalgia for her own college days, when she would wile away entire afternoons studying outdoors on the University of Washington campus, and she feels a surge of excitement that her son is about to create similar memories of his own.

She only wishes that her excitement could be pure, that it were not marred by her fears over that birth certificate and what it might mean. Today is not for worrying, she tells herself. Brent is tracking down the parents listed on that certificate, and soon they will have answers. Travis, however, is still the same boy she has raised since infancy, and today is the first day of his college life.

Travis and Elly hold hands and walk a few feet in front of Claire and Tim. Claire can tell that Tim is drinking in the atmosphere and remembering his own college days with that bittersweet sense of loss over days gone by.

“They make it sound so exciting,” Elly is saying up ahead, “like there’s so much stuff to do that you forget you actually have classes, too.”

“Your parents will be back in a minute,” Claire says. “I wouldn’t let them hear you say that.”

Elly turns back with a radiant smile. “Don’t worry about me. I’m actually excited for classes.”

“Because you’re a nerd,” Travis tells her.

“Try and share some of that excitement with him, would you?” Tim says.

Elly continues to look through the folder full of paperwork and flyers handed to them when they entered the orientation session. “I want to check out the Activity Fair tomorrow. There’s seriously so much stuff to do!”

“I think soccer’s going to be my one and only extra thing this semester,” Travis says. “The practices so far have been pretty killer.”

Claire begins to respond: “At least you get--” But the words die mid-breath when she catches sight of something down the walkway.

Travis and Elly both turn back to her, and she can feel Tim staring at her, too. She cannot focus on anything but what she sees up ahead.

“What is it?” Tim asks, clearly concerned.

Claire doesn’t even know how to explain what she sees… or to ask why in the world her half-brothers would be roaming the campus of King’s Bay University.


In an overstuffed parking lot on the edge of campus, Melanie and Tom dodge the jerky movements of vehicles packed with furniture and boxes. They make their way to the spot where Danielle Taylor has managed to park her own car. Tom helps her remove a microwave from the trunk.

“Thanks for bringing that,” Melanie says. “Elly will be grateful to have it in her room, I’m sure.”

“It’s been sitting in the garage at Brent and Molly’s for a good three years. I don’t think anyone will miss it,” Danielle says as she closes the trunk and locks the car.

They make it to the curb without too much trouble, though Tom is breathing heavily when he is finally able to set the microwave on one of the dollies provided by the campus. He pushes it over the cement path, and the whole assemblage rattles ominously every time it goes over a crack or a bump in the pavement.

“How was the orientation?” Danielle asks while they walk.

“Pretty standard,” Melanie says. “Lots of hyping up the school--you know, like we hadn’t already agreed to pay for it.”

“Lots of trying to make us parents feel safe about leaving our kids here,” Tom adds.

Danielle’s gaze sweeps back and forth, taking in all the move-in activity and breathless reunions occurring around them. “Elly will do fine. She’s such a responsible kid.”

Melanie frowns. “Aside from that whole running-away-to-Hollywood thing.”

“That was kind of an extreme circumstance,” Danielle says.

They arrive at Hartley Hall, and Tom heaves the microwave off the dolly. Melanie and Danielle hold the doors for him and guide him into an elevator.

“We’re glad that you’re going to be here for her,” Melanie says. “With her being so far from home… it will be good for her to have someone in town she can turn to.”

Danielle accepts that with as gracious a nod as she can. “I’m happy to have the chance to spend more time with her. And if there’s ever anything you guys need, let me know.” She pauses, watching the slow, old elevator’s lights proceed up to the third floor. “I just want to make sure I’m not overstepping any boundaries. I know the two of you are her parents.”

“It’s a complicated situation,” Tom says. “But we’ll make it work. The way I see it, how can it be a bad thing for Elly to have three adults who love her and would do anything for her?”

“I like that,” Danielle says, a smile spreading over her face as the doors open. They exit the elevator and head for Elly’s dorm room, ready to put the finishing touches on the place that will now be her home.


Warring instincts tug Sarah in opposite directions, like two wild dogs tussling over a slab of meat. One part of her wants to rush into Tori’s room and convince her that her mother needs her and that everything will be fine at Graham’s from now on. The other part would like to flee the apartment and not hear any more of this, not have to think about the fact that her daughter no longer wants to live with her.

“You don’t get to decide,” she hears Matt say firmly. “So get packing.”

There is a bout of stiff, oxygen-free silence, followed by the exasperated grunt of a teenage girl, and then another outburst: “I said I’m not going!”

“Then I’ll pack for you,” Matt says. The sounds of him bustling around the room, pulling Tori’s suitcase from its familiar place on the top shelf of her closet, can be heard.

“He’s mean,” Tori says, and Sarah can picture her standing there, arms crossed over her chest, a petulant scowl on her face.

This time, Matt does not respond, does not take up in defense of Graham.

“Listen,” he finally says. “Your mom loves you. You know that. And Graham--he makes her happy. You know I’m gonna do everything I can to make sure you’re happy, and so will Mom. We’ll work on this Graham thing, okay? He’s not gonna get to overrule us like he did with the money. But you have to at least respect him.”

Total silence from Tori.

“Do this for your mom,” Matt continues. “Go to that house, be polite, maybe even crack a smile or two. I can tell you, nothing would make your mom happier.”

“I don’t wanna go,” Tori says again, but this time it is more of a resigned whine.

“Finish packing your stuff. We’ll wait in the living room.”

Suddenly conscious that she was eavesdropping, Sarah moves to the kitchen to keep herself busy. On autopilot, she opens the cupboard to get a glass--but when she opens the one where the glasses are kept, she finds stacks of dishes and bowls instead.

“She’s packing,” Matt announces as he rejoins her.

“Thank you.” Sarah drops her chin in a grateful nod. “Sorry about this. It’s--I know it isn’t easy for her.”

“It’ll get easier.” He offers an encouraging smile. “You looking for something?”

“Oh, I, uh--” She glances again at the cupboard’s contents to make sure she hasn’t gone nuts. “I was just going to get a glass of water.”

Matt moves to the other side of the small kitchen and opens a cabinet door that used to hide dry food. Now, the glasses, cups, and mugs are inside.

“Moved ‘em,” he says, grabbing her a glass. “Thought it made sense to have them closer to the fridge.”

“Oh. Thanks.” She accepts the glass from him in a bit of a daze. As she pours herself some water, she reminds herself that this place’s familiarity is an illusion, a mirage of days gone by. Life is different now.


Excitement radiates through the quad, buzzing from person to person like an electric current. One individual, however, seems to be immune to it.

“You’re basically making me live on Skid Row,” Spencer Ragan says, looking around in disgust.

“Oh, please,” Philip Ragan rebuffs him. “This is as nice as any college campus. It looks just like any Ivy League school.”

Spencer casts a disdainful eye at two students carrying plastic shopping bags. “Really? Look at that. Walmart! You’re making me go someplace where people shop at Walmart.”

“I think you’ll survive.”

Before Spencer can insist otherwise, they both notice her: Claire Fisher, utterly frozen as she stares at the pair of them.

Meanwhile, Claire does not even know how to process what she is seeing. Tim, Travis, and Elly follow her gaze and spot the Ragan brothers, who are now approaching them.

“Who is that?” Elly asks.

“My mom’s brother, I guess,” Travis says, the words sounding foreign and improbable as they leave his mouth. “Half-brother. I don’t know.”

“Claire,” Philip says as he and a scowling Spencer arrive in front of the Fisher group. “This is my brother, Spencer. Our brother. I don’t believe you had the chance to meet him when--”

Claire cuts him off: “What are you doing here?”

“I’ve decided to settle in King’s Bay, and I thought it would be good for Spencer to attend school someplace far away from our mother.”

“No.” She shakes her head. “No. You can’t--you can’t be here.”

Philip appears genuinely hurt by that, and Claire almost wishes that it were possible for her to believe anything he says. But the man is Loretta Ragan’s son. He wouldn’t know good intentions if they smacked him in the face.

“You must be Travis,” Philip says, extending a hand. “I’m Philip. I work with your aunt Molly, and--”

Tim steps in front of his son. “Don’t do this, Philip. Claire and my son--they are not your family. Biology be damned.”

“Whether you like it or not, I’m going to be in King’s Bay indefinitely,” Philip says, his familiar confidence asserting itself. “It appears that Spencer and Travis are going to be attending school together. Maybe it would be best if we all tried to get along.”

“I don’t want to get along with you,” Claire says. “I don’t even want to think about you. Your mother is a psycho, and your father was--”

“You killed our father.” Spencer’s eyes burn with fury as he stares directly at Claire. No one says a thing or moves a muscle.

“You killed our father,” Spencer repeats. “And what’s worse is that he was your father, too. And you killed him like it was nothing. So if you--”

“That is not what happened,” Tim interjects.

Spencer rolls on, undeterred. “So if you want to act like we’re the psycho side of the family, go for it. But we all know the truth.”

Claire takes Travis and Elly by the arms. “Let’s go,” she says, pulling them away.

“Stay away from my son,” Tim tells the Ragans, “and stay away from Claire. Got it?” He turns and hurries to catch up with Claire, Travis, and Elly.

“I’m sorry about that, you guys,” Claire says to the teenagers. “Stay away from Spencer, okay? If he comes near you, or if he tries anything, you tell me right away.”

She tells herself that caution is enough, that if they steer clear of Loretta and her family, the Ragans will not be able to do any of them any further harm. But not too far below the surface, she knows that is not true.


Will Claire ever change her opinion of Philip?
Will Tori warm up to her soon-to-be stepfather?
Who will be victorious: Diane or Ryan?
Discuss all this and more in the Footprints Forum!

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