Episode #632

- Ryan and Diane planned to get a secret annulment without telling anyone in King’s Bay about their drunken Vegas wedding.
- Diane worried that, since she lost Julian St. John and his book to another publisher, she might lose her job at Vision.
- Philip surprised Molly with a hot air balloon ride, but things took a turn for the scary when the wind sent the balloon hurtling toward some power lines.


In the darkening sky over town, harsh gusts of wind have turned a peaceful hot air balloon ride into a terrifying experience. Molly Taylor’s fingers tightly clutch the top of the wicker basket in which she and Philip Ragan are riding, as the now-forceful wind threatens her balance.

“Can’t you steer away from them?” Philip asks the pilot, a burly man named Earl. It is less a question and more a demand, but Molly can hear the panic in Philip’s voice.

“Trying my best!” Earl calls out.

Up ahead, Molly sees the dark power lines standing out like clawmarks on the sky. She glances again at the propane burners keeping the balloon aloft and wonders what would happen if they suddenly stopped working. Would they plummet to Earth, or would the balloon slow their fall enough to make it safe?

Molly feels Philip’s hands grasp her, pull her closer.

“We’ve got this!” Earl says, the words half-buried in a grunt. The power lines seem perilously close, but at what must be the last possible second, the balloon veers. As close to the lines as they come, they manage not to make any contact.

Molly is about to release the breath she has been holding inside for minutes when Earl says, “This is gonna be a bumpy landing! Hang on!”

She doesn’t know exactly what to expect or how rough a landing this is going to be, but she feels Philip bracing behind her. Her own body tenses, and she grips the basket’s edge even harder. And then, suddenly, as if materializing out of thin air, there is the ground, rushing up at them.

She screams but knows that it will do no good. All she can do is watch, as if standing outside her own body, as the shrubs and trees grow menacingly larger and the ground comes closer and closer.


“You’re sure you don’t want to come?” Natalie Bishop asks as she puts on her earrings in the mirror.

“I’m sure Bree is going to enjoy a movie about a bunch of animated birds, but I’m fairly certain it won’t be my sort of thing,” Julian St. John says. His reflection smiles back at Natalie from across their suite’s luxurious bedroom.

Natalie finishes with her earrings and turns to face him. “Maybe you’re going to miss out on something amazing.”

Julian’s face creases with a smile. “Maybe. Then you can rub it in.”

They exit to the main living area, where nine-year-old Bree sits on the structured, beige sofa playing a game on her iPad.

“All ready to go?” Natalie asks her daughter.

Bree doesn’t acknowledge her until the game makes some sort of victorious noise. Then she looks up. “Yep. Let’s go.” She hops off the sofa and begins putting on her shoes.

“Enjoy the movie,” Julian says, leaning to kiss Natalie on the cheek. “I’ll see you ladies later.”

Natalie and Bree leave the suite and follow the maze-like hallways until they reach the elevator bank. The doors to one elevator open, and Bree darts forward, nearly ramming into a cold-looking woman with long, black hair and a vibrant red trenchcoat.

“Excuse me,” the woman says with disdain, making an exaggerated step out of the way to avoid Bree. Natalie rolls her eyes as she and Bree get into the elevator and press the button for the lobby.

No sooner has the elevator begun descending than Bree exclaims, “Mommy, I forgot my purse!”

“I think it’ll be okay,” Natalie says. “Not to ruin the illusion, but I’m paying for the movie, and the only things in your purse are a bunch of lip glosses.”

“I need my purse!”

“You don’t need it--”

“Yes, I do!” Bree presses the button for the eleventh floor, where their suite is located. Natalie decides that riding back up to the room is less work than arguing with her daughter. They arrive back at their floor and retrace their steps--but as they turn the final corner, Natalie sees something that makes her stop in her tracks.

A red trenchcoat, black hair tumbling over the back of it, stands outside the door to their suite.

“Wait a second,” Natalie mumbles to Bree, as she slips back behind the corner. She cranes her neck to get a view of the door again.

Within seconds, it opens, and Julian greets the woman with a warm smile. He takes her hand and leads her into the suite.

“I need my purse,” Bree says, stomping her foot on the carpet.

Natalie’s breath catches in her chest, and she can’t make any air move in or out. How is this possible? Julian said he was going to spend the evening working on some changes for his publisher. He couldn’t possibly be--

“No, you don’t,” she manages to say. “We’re going to be late for the movie. Come on.”

“But Mommy,” Bree insists.

“I said we’re going.” Natalie grabs the girl by the hand and leads her back to the elevators.


The bright glow of the computer monitor shines harshly upon Diane Bishop’s face and provides some light in the otherwise dark office. She has been sequestered behind her desk for hours, since well before the sun went down, and though she has been planning to stand up and turn on the overhead lights for some time now, she is too engrossed in the task at hand to do so.

Besides, the darkness seems fitting for her current predicament.

“Looks like someone is pulling out all the stops,” comes a voice that makes her cringe.

When she looks up from her work, Martin Ellis, the Vice President of Acquisitions, is looming in her doorway. His shadowy form resembles an out-of-shape Frankenstein monster.

“I’m trying,” Diane says, hardly able to mask her annoyance. She has a low tolerance for the man as it is, but for him to interrupt her efforts to save her job takes it to an entirely new level.

“I respect that.” Martin strolls into the office, his lumpy features becoming more distinguishable as he nears her. “It’s a real shame about the St. John book.”

“It’s more than a shame. It’s… it’s ridiculous.”

Martin seats himself across from her and props one ankle up on the opposite knee. “Do I like you, Diane? Yes, I do. You’ve been one of our most effective editors for years now. Do I want to let you go? Of course not.”

She gestures at the obscene amount of newspaper, magazine, and internet articles spread before her. “I’m trying to find a replacement for Julian’s book on our docket. Not just a replacement--something better.”

“That’s the attitude. Anything standing out?”

Diane picks up one article, its face marked up by a highlighter. “This one could be interesting. A Death Row inmate in Tennessee was cleared thanks to newfound DNA evidence, only to confess to the murder once he was released. There isn’t anything they can do about it.”

With a hand pressed to his chin, Martin says thoughtfully, “It’s interesting. But very dark. People aren’t going to want to reward that kind of story with book sales.” He picks up a few articles and flips through them. “What about this one? A woman who lived inside a giant egg for a year?”

“We already have one of those, and it’s called Lady Gaga,” Diane says. “Besides, I checked. The publishing rights have already been scooped up.”

Martin regards her with a grim expression. “You’d better pray something turns up, then. I know we already let Kevin go, but the economy isn’t getting any better, and if we have people who aren’t delivering… Is it pleasant? No. But it’s the reality of the situation.”

“I’ll find something,” she says insistently, as much a vow to herself as to him.

“I hope so.” Martin rises from the chair and lumbers toward the door. “Good luck, Diane.”

“Thanks.” She looks back to the flood of articles but feels utterly uninspired to dig through them anymore. The answer is out there, somewhere, but with every minute that passes, she feels less and less confident that it is anywhere on this desk. All she knows is that she has to find a way to locate it--and soon.


The landing happens in a jumble of images and sounds. Molly grabs onto Philip and holds him tightly, but when they hit the ground, her head thumps into his chest. Everything is still spinning as she realizes that they are okay. They made it.

“I’m real sorry about this,” Earl says, his words coming between ragged breaths. “The wind--it just got--”

“Are you all right?” Philip asks Molly.

She tries to get her bearings. The earth beneath them feels false somehow, like it might give out at any moment.

“I’m fine,” she says, closing her eyes in an attempt to stabilize her vision and her mind.

“We should go to the hospital, just in case,” Philip says.

Molly doesn’t protest, even though she is fairly certain that she does not need to be checked out by a doctor. Her body simply feels weak from the onslaught of adrenaline that has been released in the past few minutes.

“Are you okay?” she manages to ask him.

“Yeah.” He works his way out of the balloon’s basket and then assists Molly, slipping his hands under her arms to lift her slightly. All she wants to do is collapse against his chest--so she does. She is too tired to fight it right now.

Earl scrambles to put out the propane burners. “I’m real sorry about this,” he says over his shoulder while he works. “Of course we’ll be refunding your deposit…”

“Good,” Philip says. Molly can feel his chest move up and down against her cheek with every syllable that he speaks. She notices how hard he is breathing as he tells her, “I’m sorry this was such a disaster. I wanted to do something special to take your mind off things.”

She works up a slight laugh. “It was special, that’s for sure. You know we’re going to laugh about this down the road.”

“I hope so.” Philip doesn’t sound so convinced of that.

“Philip, I’m serious.” She draws back far enough to look him square in the face. Her palms rest on his arms, feeling the strength of his biceps. For someone whose physical presence is so strong and reassuring, Philip does not seem particularly capable of reassuring himself. “We’ll call this an adventure.”

He lets out a weighty sigh. “I’m sorry, Molly. If anything serious had happened to you…”

She can tell that he is going to continue beating himself up over this, and she can only think of one way to make him realize how not upset she is. She isn’t sure if it is the residual adrenaline, or the feel of his body against hers, or the rapidly darkening sky filling with stars, but the next thing she knows, she is surging forward and pressing her lips against Philip’s.


“Make sure you get me a Reese’s candy bar,” Bree says.

Natalie examines the snacks on display in the glass case of the concession stand. She sees candy bars… she sees Reese’s peanut butter cups… but she does not see anything resembling a Reese’s candy bar.

“I don’t even think that’s a real thing,” Natalie says.

“But I want one. It has chocolate and peanut butter and it’s soooo good!”

Natalie tosses an exasperated expression at the pimply teenager waiting to complete their order. He already has their diet Cokes sitting on the counter, waiting for them.

“Those are your choices,” Natalie tells Bree, indicating the items inside the counter. She has a bad feeling that the girl is going to smash the glass in a rage over the absence of an item that Natalie is not even sure exists.

“I’ll just have the Twizzler Nibs,” Bree finally says. “The cherry ones.”

“Those are delicious,” the concession worker chimes in as he grabs a package. “Anything else?”

Natalie pays for their snacks, and they make their way toward their theatre. A stream of people pours out of one of the other theatres. As Natalie takes Bree’s hand to dodge the foot traffic, she notices a familiar face: Ryan Moriani.

“Natalie,” he says, stopping as if he’s been hit by a stun gun. “This is, uh, Danielle Taylor. My fiancée.”

“Oh.” Natalie slowly takes Danielle’s hand for a shake. “Natalie Bishop.”

“Diane’s sister,” Ryan hastens to add.

A dubious look crosses Danielle’s face. “I see.”

It doesn’t surprise Natalie that her sister might have pissed off someone else in this town, but there is something smug about this Danielle woman that repels her instantly. Fitting that she would be stupid enough to marry Ryan, then.

“Fiancée, hmm? When’s the big day?”

“We’re getting married this summer,” Danielle says.

Natalie glances meaningfully at Ryan. “Do you have everything squared away already? I bet you have a lot of things to take care of.”

“We’ll handle it,” Ryan says. He grits his teeth. “How about you? Honey, Natalie is getting married, too. To Julian St. John.”

The sight of that woman in the red trenchcoat entering their hotel suite flashes across the screen of Natalie’s mind--not that it has strayed far since she saw it happen.

“Julian is fine,” she says. “Everything’s fine. Now if you’ll excuse us, Bree and I have a movie to see.”

She yanks Bree toward the theatre. But in the dark, with only the blaring light of the screen to focus on, she cannot shake the mental image of Julian letting that woman into their suite.


Molly doesn’t quite believe that this is happening until she feels Philip’s lips part. His mouth is warm and inviting, and she remembers how it felt when he kissed her all those months ago at his mother’s party. She realizes that she has thought about that kiss in the time since, that she remembers vividly how it felt.

And then she remembers how it felt when she realized Brent had seen the whole thing.

Some force within her compels her to pull back. Philip’s face is covered in shock--whether at the kiss itself or the abrupt ending, she cannot tell.

“Now I’m the one who’s sorry,” she says. Her stomach sinks.

“You don’t have to be sorry.”

“No, I do.” Thoughts rush through her brain faster than she can take stock of them. I’m still married to Brent. I shouldn’t be kissing Philip. But I wanted to do it. And he liked it, too. But I don’t want him to think--

The only way to quiet the warring thoughts is to speak out loud.

“I shouldn’t have done that,” she says. She realizes that her hands have been lingering on his arms and pulls them away, as if his body were a scalding stovetop.

“Molly, I promise. It’s fine. More than fine.”

“No, it isn’t.” She shakes her head. “I’m sorry, Philip. I need to go.”

“Let me drive you--”

“I’ll call a cab.” She hurls her body in the opposite direction and breaks out into a jog.

“Molly, wait!”

She can’t bring herself to look back at him. The grass beneath her feet is ever so damp with reminders of the recent rain, and the ground squishes beneath her feet as she runs--toward where, she is not certain, but she has to go anyplace but here.


Should Molly have rushed away from Philip?
Will Diane find the material she needs in time?
What is going on with Julian and the mystery woman?
Talk about all this and more in the Footprints Forum!

Next Episode