Episode #619

- Diane insinuated to Tori that Matt might stop Sarah from marrying Graham, but the wedding went off without interruption. Afterward, Tori saw Matt rushing away from the house.
- Travis and Elly clashed over how to be a couple while still enjoying a full college experience.
- Molly told Philip that she believed he had no part in Loretta’s plots. They renewed their friendship. Meanwhile, Molly’s marriage to Brent disintegrated, and he moved out of their house for good.


A Kanye West song thumps from the stereo system, at a volume loud enough to send a vibration through the entire fraternity house. The exterior of the house is strung with mismatched Christmas lights of every color, spun around the porch columns and through the hedges out front. The interior is jammed with students dancing and shouting over the music, red cups in hand. A not-insignificant number of them wear Santa hats or have fashioned scarves out of shiny holiday tinsel.

In the living room, Travis Fisher drains the last of his crappy keg beer from his cup. He holds up the empty cup to Elly Vanderbilt.

“Want more?” he leans in to holler.

Elly shakes her head. She shows him her cup, still three-quarters full.

“Drink faster!” Travis says with a broad smile.

“I have a final at 11 a.m.,” she says, but nevertheless obliges by taking a sip. “You guys are so lucky!”

Travis lifts his cup to toast to Landon Esco and Elly’s roommate, Georgia, who are dancing in a small circle with them. “Here’s to being done with our first semester!”

“I can’t fucking believe it,” Landon says, breaking out into what Travis can only describe in his head as a very unfortunate dance move that someone’s grandma might do.

A roar rises up someplace behind them. A group of guys has gathered near a folding table, upon which three girls in Santa hats are dancing in what looks like an audition for a strip club.

“Ho alert!” Travis calls out in laughter.

He notices, however, that Elly and Landon’s faces have gone slack. He follows their gazes to focus on one of the dancing girls and immediately figures out the reason for their reaction.

“Uh, isn’t that your cousin?” Landon asks.

“Yeah.” Travis groans. “Yep, that’s Tori.”


Despite the fact that Christmas is still days and days away, the entire grocery store seems to be caught up in a whirlwind of panic. The holiday aisle is in the kind of disarray that suggests a tornado touched down recently, and the nighttime shoppers bustle about like very anxious robots. Molly Taylor, still clad in the black dress and pearls that she wore to her sister’s wedding earlier, finds herself dodging a lot of aggressively piloted shopping carts as she moves through the store.

First she examines the holiday candy, but she imagines how awful she will feel after polishing off an entire box of candy canes or a bag of chocolates. Then she moves to the freezer section, where many of the ice cream flavors call out to her; she isn’t sure if she has the willpower to stop before devouring an entire pint. Not tonight. While she mulls over her decision, she goes a few aisles over and picks up some soothing herbal tea. Then she returns to ponder the ice cream.

“Searching for a late-night snack?” a voice asks from behind her.

She turns with a start, wondering what late-night supermarket lurker she will have to deal with, and is surprised to see Philip Ragan, a bottle of red wine in hand, studying her with a quizzical expression.

“Um, yes.” She takes a step back from the freezer door and tries to conjure a more articulate response. “My sister got married tonight.”

His face lights up. “Ah. That didn’t please you too much, I gather?”

“I’m happy for her,” Molly says. “It was a very nice ceremony. Small, just the family.”


She caves. “But it isn’t the most fun watching your sister get married while your own marriage is on its last legs.”

“I wouldn’t imagine so.” Philip moves out of the way just as a deranged, cart-pushing shopper barrels by. “Herbal tea is a rather subdued splurge, don’t you think?”

Gesturing toward the freezer, she says, “Hence the ice cream.”

“Perhaps I can be of some assistance.” He settles in beside her. He wears a leather jacket that hits right at his waist and a dark pair of jeans. It is a more casual look than she is accustomed to seeing on him, but it suits him well. “Tell me something: what’s your first instinct?”

The question catches her off-guard. “First instinct?”

“Chocolate? Vanilla? Candy bits?”

With a smile, she turns her attention forward. “I was looking at Christmas chocolates before.”

“All right, then let’s focus our attention here…” Philip waves his hands in front of a particular section of the freezer. “Plain? Something with fudge in it? Marshmallows?”

“This is way too complicated.”

“It’s very serious business. Now focus, Molly. Focus.”

With a laugh, she attempts to do just that.


Travis pushes his way through the gyrating crowd. Landon falls into step behind him. They manage to make it to a spot right in front of the table where the three girls, whom Travis now recognizes as Tori and her two friends, are doing the sluttiest dance they can muster for a group of cheering college guys.

“Tori!” Travis yells, but when she does not respond--either because she can’t hear him over the music or because she is ignoring him--he reaches up and pulls on her hand. She turns in alarm and looks ready to kick him in the face, until she realizes who it is.

“Hey!” she shouts, a broad, intoxicated smile widening over her face.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“Um, partying. Duh.” She goes back to her dancing, and this time Travis has to tug harder on her hand. She loses her balance and leans down toward him.

“Come on. Get down,” he says.

“I’m fine.”

“Tori. Seriously. Get down.”

“Why?” She grabs his cup from him and frowns when she finds it empty. “My mom got married today, Trav. She married that old dickhead.”

Landon extends a hand to help her off the table. Tori smacks it away.

“So you’re getting wasted at a frat party because your mom married Graham?” Travis says.

“Pretty good reason, don’t you think?”

Travis shrugs. He would probably do the same thing, but his fifteen-year-old cousin does not need to be dancing like a stripper for a bunch of horny frat boys.

“Come with us,” Travis says. She hesitates until a guy with a bad goatee and a backwards hat paws at her leg.

Travis turns and throws him a look. “Dude.” Tori shudders with revulsion and lets Travis help her down. Landon helps her friends--Travis thinks both of them are named Fee--down, as well.

“My dad was there,” Tori says as they move through the crowd, letting the waves of bodies transport them across the living room.

“Your dad was where?” Travis asks.

“At the house! For the wedding!” Tori stops walking and makes Travis look her in the eyes, very serious. “He was supposed to stop her.”

Travis doesn’t know how much of this is drunken nonsense, but he plays along. “Did he tell you that?”

She shakes her head adamantly. “No. Diane told me. My dad was going to stop the wedding. But then I guess he decided not to…” She trails off, her thoughts overtaking her speech. “I don’t know. But he should have. Right?”

“I’ll take your word for it.”

They arrive back where they left Elly and Georgia. The girls all say hi to one another, and Tori and the two Fees resume dancing.

Elly leans in toward Travis and hands him her cup. “Do you want the rest of this? I need to go back to the dorm and study.”

“Study more?” he asks. “Really?”

“I feel like I’m never going to memorize all this Western Civ stuff,” Elly says. “If I can spend a few more hours on it…”

“Elly, you’re fine. Seriously.”

“And I’ll be even more fine if I spend some more time studying.” She forces him to take her half-full cup. “Text me when you leave, and you can come over and say hi if you want.”

He cannot believe she’s actually doing this. “It’s my last night on campus,” he says. “We’re supposed to have fun.”

“And it’ll be my last night on campus forever if I bomb this final. I’ll see you later.”

She turns to say something to Georgia. Travis lays a hand on her shoulder and spins her back around.

“You’re seriously doing this?” he challenges her, while one of the Fees bumps into him from behind.


After their guests have gone home and the caterers have finished cleaning up, Graham Colville asks his new wife if she would like a digestif. Pleasant as that sounds, Sarah is even more interested in changing out of the silver dress she wore for the ceremony. She goes upstairs, changes into the lingerie and cover-up that she specially selected for this night, and removes the massive number of pins from her blonde hair. When she emerges from the bathroom, Graham is waiting on the king-size bed in a robe, holding two glasses of cognac.

“That was lovely, don’t you think?” he says as he hands her one of the glasses.

“It went about as well as it possibly could’ve. Everything was perfect. The fish at dinner…”

“It was exceptional,” Graham agrees. “Though I don’t believe the fish was the highlight of my night.”

She returns his smile. “I can’t imagine what could have topped it.”

They lapse into contented silence for a few moments.

“When I found you crumpled on the ground in a snowstorm a few years,” Graham says, “I truly never thought you would be my wife someday.”

“I thought you might be a serial killer. And I don’t generally like to marry those.”

“Here’s to life’s little twists,” he says as he raises his glass. Sarah joins him in the toast, and they drink.

Sarah joins him on the bed. As she stretches out her legs, the mattress absorbs the weariness of her muscles and joints. It has been a very long day, and now that everything is finished, her body is not being shy about acknowledging that.

“I hope Tori is doing okay,” she says, realizing that her mind has been wandering for some amount of time that she cannot determine. “She was very quiet at dinner.”

“There will be an adjustment period, I’m sure. We’ll all get there soon enough.”

“I hope so.” Sarah hates the thought that a decision she made about her future can make her daughter so unhappy. “At least she’s having a sleepover with her friends tonight. It might help put things into perspective.”

“And it gives us some much-needed time to ourselves, Mrs. Colville.” Graham places his glass on the nightstand and moves a hand onto Sarah’s bare leg.

Mrs. Colville.

That hammers home the reality of what she did tonight. She married this man. She pledged to spend the rest of her life devoted to him.

Feeling the warmth of his hand moving up her leg, seeing the beautiful home around them, she decides that she made the correct choice.

“Let’s put this someplace safer,” Graham says, moving her glass to the nightstand before rolling on top of her.


“Do you feel content with your decision?” Philip asks.

Molly clutches the pint of Caramel Chocolate Swirl. “I think so. Thanks for your help.”

“My pleasure.” He levels a serious gaze upon her. “Are you sure you’re all right?”

She waves away the concern. “Yes. Absolutely. Just bad timing for a wedding, that’s all.”

“I apologize if this is prying, but… things aren’t well between you and Brent?”

“Things haven’t been ‘well’ for a long time. Things are downright terrible.” The freezers hum loudly around them, but not loudly enough to drown out Molly’s thoughts. “We’re going to get divorced.”

“Oh.” The news genuinely seems to rock Philip. “I’m sorry, Molly.”

“Thanks.” She glances down at the ice cream carton and stares at the blur of words on the label. “We haven’t even said it officially, but I know it’s coming.”

“I’m so sorry.”

She forces an awkward smile. “It’ll be okay. This isn’t where I expected my life to go, but I have a lot to be grateful for. I have two wonderful boys. I’ll find my way.”

“That’s a terrific attitude.” He shifts his weight uncomfortably--not something she is used to seeing him do. “Would you like some company tonight? The ice cream might even go well with this.” He holds up the bottle of wine.

In many ways, it sounds like the perfect proposition. She could use the company, and for all Philip’s faults--his arrogance, his argumentative disposition--he has helped put her at ease tonight. The boys are with Brent. Danielle is out with Ryan.

She catches herself staring at the hint of dark stubble running across Philip’s jawline.

“I probably wouldn’t be very good company,” she tells him. “I’m so tired. I’ll probably be asleep within an hour.”

He does a good job of covering, but she is certain that she spies a hint of disappointment pass over his face. “Then take care,” he says. He lifts his free hand in a self-conscious wave. “If you need anything, please let me know.”

“I will. Thank you, Philip.” In a split-second decision, she throws caution to the wind and hugs him. The heat of his body against hers is surprisingly comforting, and his chest is even stronger than she imagined.

Suddenly she pulls away. “Enjoy your wine,” she says, darting toward the checkstand.


A Lil Wayne song takes over the house. A roar flies up from the crowd, but as far as Travis is concerned, they might as well be on another planet.

“Seriously, El? You’re gonna leave already? Don’t be lame!”

“I’m not being lame! I’m being… studious.” She sticks out her tongue at him to defuse the situation. “I have to study.”

When he sees that she has made up her mind, he hands off the half-drunk cup to Landon. “I’m gonna walk her back to Hartley. Will you guys be okay?”

“I’ll keep an eye on these ones,” Landon says, tilting his head toward Tori and her two friends, who are dancing obliviously.

“Thanks. What about you?” Travis asks Georgia.

“I’ll hang out for a little longer,” she says. She is a young-looking freshman with blonde hair currently pulled into a ponytail. “I’m having fun.”

“Then you drink this,” Landon says, handing her the extra beer. “’Cause I bet I’m gonna wind up driving the Pussycat Dolls over here home.”

“We’re all staying at Fee C’s tonight!” Tori chimes in. Travis is surprised that she has processed anything they have been saying.

They say their goodbyes, and Travis and Elly exit the house. Across the pathway, they see a familiar figure leaning against the academic building that houses a 24-hour computer lab. Puffs of smoke float from the figure’s face.

Even through the dark, Travis can see that Spencer Ragan is formulating some kind of obnoxious comment. “Let’s go,” Travis says, taking Elly’s arm and booking it out of there before Spencer can pounce.

A little while later, Landon leads the girls out of the house. “How were you guys gonna get home, anyway?” he asks Tori.

“Fee’s mom would probably pick us up,” she says.

“Yeah,” one of the Fees chimes in. “We just walk down the street to the mall and act like we got out of a movie.”

“Okay, well, I only had that one beer, so you’re in luck tonight.” He swings his keys around on his forefinger. “You okay to get back to the dorm, Georgia?”

“I think so,” she says with a laugh.

They part ways, and Georgia starts down the path that will lead to the parking lot that she will have to cross to get back to Hartley Hall. She only makes it a few steps before a voice calls out to her.

“Hey,” the male voice says. “Excuse me.”

She scans the dark for a moment before she sees him leaning against the wall, smoking.

“Yeah?” she says, unable to tell if it is someone she knows.

He comes toward her. He looks familiar, but so do most people on the campus. “You’re friends with Travis Fisher and his crowd?” the guy asks.

“His girlfriend is my roommate.”

“Oh. Cool. Travis and I are--we’re related. It’s complicated.” He holds out what he has been smoking, and at the shorter distance, she can tell that it is definitely not a cigarette. “Want a hit?”

She considers it but thinks better of taking a joint from some guy she doesn’t even know. “No, thanks.”

He lets a critical look pass over her. “Suit yourself. What’s your name? I’m Spencer.”

He reaches out for a handshake, and she obliges. There is something engaging about him--the way he holds eye contact, maybe.

“I’ve been working on this damn paper for hours,” he says, nodding toward the lights of the computer lab in the window. “What are you up to?”

He’s really cute, Georgia thinks as she relaxes into conversation with him. Ten minutes later, she is headed back to his dorm room with him.


What is Spencer up to with Georgia?
Should Molly have invited Philip over?
Will Tori adjust to her mother’s new marriage?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to discuss!

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