Episode #613

- Alex found Jason passed out on sleeping pills while Sophie cried. He told Sarah, who told the Fishers. 
- Jason resisted his family’s attempts to help him with his grief and with Sophie. He continued to insist that he was fine.
- During a visit with Alex, Helen and Don came to suspect that there was something about Jason that Alex was not telling them.


One year. One entire year.

For twelve whole months, he has lived like this. He has operated in a total fog, doing little more than going to the office, running his business, coming home to watch TV, and caring for his daughter. Sometimes it startles him to think of how little he has done in the past year. He has not gone to a movie; he has only eaten a handful of meals in restaurants. On a few occasions, he has laced up his skates and taken to the ice, but those sessions only last twenty or thirty minutes. It feels wrong to be on the ice without her, when she will never be able to do it again, when this was their thing.

Mostly he tries to keep himself occupied with operating a business and taking care of Sophie--occupied enough that he does not dwell too much on the past or the future.

Sometimes, though, while he lies in bed late at night, he cannot keep his mind from wandering. It likes to travel into the past, to relive times that he took utterly for granted. It also ventures into the future. Not the future that they planned, though--thinking about that is too painful, even in the hazy half-consciousness that comes before sleep. Instead he allows his mind to contemplate the real future, the one that he and Sophie will eventually have to face.

Will it always be like this? Will he ever be able to handle more than this stripped-down existence? He is not so sure that he will. But Sophie… there will come a time when Sophie wants more, and that terrifies him. She is not going to remember her mother. She will mourn her, of course, but she will really be mourning an idea, a lifetime of possibilities. What will she do when she expects more than he is able to give her?

That is usually when he forces his brain to give in to the blessed exhaustion that the sleeping pills bring.

When his doorbell rings on this day--the day that should be their first wedding anniversary--he sweeps aside all those thoughts, as he has become so adept at doing, and allows his family and friends to flood into his house.

“How are you feeling?” his father asks.

“Today is about celebrating Courtney,” Helen Chase says with a brave smile.

“It’s so good to see you,” Molly tells him.

“I love you,” his mother says as she wraps him in a hug.

His best friend, Alex Marshall, enters the house with a solemn nod. They have not spoken since an argument a few weeks ago.

They trickle from the foyer into the kitchen and dining room, where they set out the food they have brought. They make coffee and mix drinks. They play with Sophie. They fill the house with chatter and memories and respectful laughter. And Jason stands back, observing it all, wondering if he will ever feel like one of them again.


He is standing at the edge of the dining room, watching Helen and Don play with their very chatty granddaughter, when Sarah approaches him. He stiffens.

“I wanted to apologize,” she says, her voice soft and sincere. “For telling Mom what Alex told me about--about what happened that one morning.”

He doesn’t know how he is supposed to respond. “Thanks.”

Apparently she can tell that his acceptance of her apology is half-hearted, at best. “I’m worried about you, Jason. We all are. And before you say you’re fine--”

“I’m getting by.” It is the greatest concession to their worries that he can make.

“I know. We’re all really proud of you for keeping the arena going as well as you have, and for managing with Sophie all on your own. But we want to help.”

He bows his head and studies the carpet, which is a little less beige and a little more brown than when he and Courtney first moved into this house.

“Please don’t be mad at Alex,” Sarah says. “He was worried, too. He told me because he wants you to be okay, not because he wanted to tattle on you or make you look silly.”

He has to squeeze out the next words: “I know.”

Encouraged, Sarah grips his hands.

“I just--I need to be alone,” he says. “I need to keep going. Maybe then I’ll feel normal one day.” He feels stupid saying the rest aloud: If I let myself fall apart, I’m never going to be able to put myself back together.

“I get it.” Quickly she swallows those words and adds, “As much as I possibly can, I mean. We just want to help you get there, however we can.”

When Sarah finally leaves his side, he goes over to Alex and talks about the new Kings of Leon album. It almost feels normal.


Lauren Brooks hovers over the spinach-artichoke dip. She wanted to be here today for Jason, for the Chases, for Sophie--and really, for Courtney, too. Now that they are all gathered, though, she cannot help but feel a little out of place. Everyone else is a relative of either Courtney or Jason; even Alex is sort of an unofficial son to Don and Helen. She hopes that she isn’t intruding.

Molly Taylor sidles up beside her at the makeshift buffet.

“Everything all right?” Molly asks. Lauren nods. “Where’s Josh?”

“He offered to come,” Lauren explains, “but he wasn’t sure if it was appropriate.”

“I’m sure no one would have minded if he’d come.”

“I know, but we figured it was just easier if I came alone.”

Molly grabs a baby carrot and looks around the room. “It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year.”

Lauren’s brain has practically been hosting a countdown to this day, and she has heard the fact a hundred times today, but it never seems possible. Courtney cannot have been gone a full year already.

“Sometimes I’ll get a random thought and grab my phone to text her,” she says. “Then I remember that she’ll…” She doesn’t have to finish the sentence; they both get it.

Molly turns to her and, softening her voice, asks, “How are you doing?”

Lauren shrugs. “I’m good. Work is going well, and things with Josh--”

“I mean, with all this?” She gestures around them. “With missing Courtney. She was your best friend.”

Though her first instinct is to wave off Molly’s concerns and insist that it doesn’t matter, that there are people here who had a closer connection to Courtney than she did, Lauren instead smiles gratefully.

“I’m okay,” she says. “I just… I miss her. I feel like we wasted so much time being mad at each other, and we’ll never get that back.”

Molly hesitates before responding. “You can’t change that. But you and Courtney had a lot of good times together, right?”


“I remember years ago, when I was staying at my parents’ for a while, I came home and you, Courtney, and Jason had the camcorder out and you were reenacting this music video--”

“The Meatloaf video!” Lauren’s laugh comes bursting out as soon as she pictures the incident. “We were trying to make it look like Courtney was levitating over the coffee table.”

Both women chuckle at the ridiculous memory for another moment, and as their laughter fades, it gives way to a somber silence.

“It doesn’t matter if you had a falling-out for a while,” Molly says at last. “You were best friends. You made an impact on Courtney’s life, and she made one on yours. Nothing can ever change that.”

A warm feeling spreads through Lauren’s body. “Thanks, Molly.” She considers her next words carefully but decides that she should at least return the favor and offer a listening ear. “How are you holding up? Josh told me about Brent moving out again…” She makes sure to speak this last part in a much quieter voice. “I hope I’m not intruding. I just thought--”

“No, of course not. Everyone’s going to find out soon enough, anyway.” Still, Molly glances around the room, as if ensuring that soon enough will not be right this instant. “I’m all right. Thanks for asking. Mostly I’m just very tired.”

“You’re sure this is what’s best for all of you?”

There is only the briefest of hesitations before Molly says, “Yes. Definitely. We tried. It’s just not--it isn’t working. I don’t know…”

“If you need any help, please let me know,” Lauren says. “Especially if you aren’t ready to tell the rest of your family yet. I can keep a secret.”

Molly looks genuinely relieved. “Thank you, Lauren. I mean it.”


When Helen spots Alex alone in the living room, looking over the framed photos on the mantle, she excuses herself from a conversation with Bill and Sarah.

“Thank you for being here,” she says, coming up behind Alex.

He turns, a little startled to be yanked from his introspection. “Of course. I wouldn’t have missed it.”

She tips her head toward the dining room. “I saw you and Jason talking earlier. Have you two made up?”

“I think so.” He adds a tentative nod to the statement.

“Good. Do you have any sense how he’s doing?”

“He’s getting by.”

His delivery is not fully convincing, and Helen turns to watch Jason talking with Molly and Lauren in the dining room. He seems perfectly normal, if rather introverted; still, something is off about him, and she hates the idea of Sophie suffering because of it.

“He’s getting better every day,” comes a voice from her other side. Helen rotates back and finds Paula standing with them.

“I’m glad to hear that,” Helen says. “If there is anything Don and I can do, especially with Sophie, I hope you’ll let us know. You and Bill shouldn’t have to do all the grandparent duties.”

She sees a twinge in Paula’s expression, and it only serves as confirmation that there is something no one has told them about Jason. Alex’s slip the other day at lunch implied much greater concern than general worry for a man who was widowed a full year ago.

Don interrupts before either of the women or Alex can say anything further.

“We’re going to watch the video in a minute,” he announces to the assembled crowd at large. “Everyone refill your drinks and come into the family room!”

They all move accordingly. Helen lingers behind, turning the situation over in her mind once again. There is certainly something deeper going on here.


In the family room, Bill sets up a video of Courtney and Jason’s skating through the years. Everyone awwws at their very first competition program, to music from My Fair Lady. A Christmas routine set to “Jingle Bell Rock” draws laughter when the young skaters fall completely out of synch, causing them to stop and stare at each other for a good three seconds before resuming. As teenagers, they skate a perfect long program at Regionals and steal a local show by performing as Aladdin and Princess Jasmine. And then comes a video of their final program: the skate that earned them their Senior level certifications--a test that Jason first took with Kelsey and Courtney attempted with Dylan, only to fail and wind up skating together again for their last-ever performance.

Jason sits amongst his family and friends and watches the video. It has been a long time since he saw these. Clips were shown at Courtney’s funeral, but he could barely sit through that presentation, and all he did to select the clips was pull tapes and DVDs from a box and drop them off for the editor. The idea of watching them has been too painful.

And the actual watching is painful, too. All he can focus on is the way Courtney matures from one performance to the next. Her poise on the ice was evident from a young age, but the way she grows from a cute little girl to a stunning young woman throughout the video takes his breath away. Nothing about that final skate hints that the end of the road is coming so soon; instead it suggests a world of possibility, a life wide open.

It isn’t fair.

“She should be here.” The words spew out without warning, and right on their heels come the tears.

“Oh, honey.” Paula flies to his side and begins rubbing his back in large circles, just as she used to do when he was younger.

“She should still be here,” he says, gasping through his tears. He hasn’t cried much in the past year. He hasn’t wanted to go there. But now he lacks the ability to control it. “It’s all my fault.”

“It’s not your fault,” Tim says from a few feet away.

“It is. I took Shannon’s money. I hired her at the arena. I should have known it was her--”

“There was no way to know that,” Paula says. “No one could have known.”

“Courtney knew!” He gulps hard. “She knew something was wrong with Sabrina, and I wouldn’t listen to her.”

They gather around him, but no one says anything more as he continues to sob. Paula rubs his back and is finally the one to speak again.

“Why don’t we get you up to bed?” she suggests. “You should rest. We can look after Sophie.”

“No!” He shoots to his feet, and when she reaches for his wrist, he lashes out with more force than is necessary to jerk away from her. “I don’t want to go to bed.”

Tim moves toward him. “Jason--”

“I said no! Do you think I’m gonna be able to sleep, anyway?”

The frown on his mother’s face only spurs him on. There is a knot of anger swelling inside his chest, growing into something bigger, a fist, threatening to punch through his body--

“Jason, calm down,” Bill says, his voice an even mixture of caring and firm.

But he doesn’t want to calm down. He can feel everyone watching him, and he doesn’t care. He wants them to know how badly this hurts.

“Hey, buddy. Come with me,” Tim says. He moves to grab Jason, to restrain him. Jason pushes him away, too.

“Everybody get out!” he yells.

No one responds--except Sophie, who begins to wail.

“I said, get out!”

Tim once again tries to grab hold of him. “Let’s go upstairs. Come on.”

“Leave me alone!” And when Tim moves for him again, Jason grabs the nearest item--a vase that hasn’t had flowers in it for months and months--and hurls it against the far wall.

It explodes against the wall. Pieces of tinted blue glass scatter over the carpet. A shocked hush clamps down over the room.

He can still feel their eyes focused on him. Only the attention doesn’t feel good anymore--it doesn’t feel like he is showing them anything but what a mess he is, how angry he is, and he realizes how stupid he looks. All he can do is crumble to his knees and continue crying as they tentatively circle around him.


Finally, Tim and Sarah manage to maneuver Jason upstairs and put him in bed to relax. Downstairs, everyone mills around, cleaning up in a haze of stunned silence.

Paula is rinsing plates at the kitchen sink when she hears someone enter the room behind her. She turns her head to see Helen carrying several cups toward her. She sets them on the counter beside the sink, and the two women make eye contact, though no words are exchanged. Many seconds pass as Paula continues washing dishes and Helen stands nearby.

Finally Helen speaks. “Has this happened before?”

Paula’s instinct is to play dumb and brush off Jason’s outburst as a minor incident at most, but she knows neither of them would be fooled. “Of course not. He has been bottling a lot of things up. This was just… the natural explosion that comes from that.”

“He needs help, Paula.”

“He has help. He has all of us. Maybe now he’ll realize that he needs to accept it.”

Returning her attention to the sink, Paula vigorously scrubs one of the serving dishes. Helen remains by her side, undeterred.

“I don’t want Sophie growing up like this,” Helen says. “It isn’t fair to her.”

“It will get better, Helen. It’s been a difficult year.”

“Yes. I’m aware of that.”

Shame stings Paula. Of course the Chases know how painful this past year has been. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to suggest--”

But Helen waves off the apology. “The point is, Don and I are mostly concerned about our granddaughter’s well-being.”

“So are Bill and I.”

“Then you need to do something about Jason. Because if you don’t…”

The sentence dangles there in mid-air, waiting for Paula to grasp at it. She isn’t sure that she wants to. “Then what?”

“Then Don and I will have to act through more official channels.”

Paula sets the almost-clean dish down in the sink but allows the water to keep running. “What are you talking about?”

“Sophie deserves to be raised in a loving household by people who are most focused on her,” Helen says. “If Jason can’t provide that, then Don and I will.”

“Helen, I know Jason’s outburst was disturbing, but you’re being--”

“Ridiculous? Consider what kind of man your son has been for the past year and tell me whether you really think I’m being ridiculous. Just consider it.”

Her point made, Helen exits the kitchen. Paula tries to refocus on the straightforward simplicity of washing the dishes, but she has known the Chases for a long time. She knows that they love Sophie as much as they loved Courtney, and she knows that they will do anything to protect their granddaughter and preserve their daughter’s memory. Worst of all, she cannot shake the terrible feeling that Helen might be right about Jason.


Should the Chases pursue custody of Sophie?
How can Jason overcome his grief?
What did you think of Lauren and Molly’s conversation?
Talk about this episode and more in the Footprints Forum!

Next Episode