Episode #633

- Philip surprised Molly with a hot air balloon ride, which nearly turned deadly when the wind forced the balloon toward power lines. The pilot managed to land it safely, and in the aftermath, Molly excitedly kissed Philip. Feeling guilty and thinking about Brent, she rushed away.
- After learning of Helen’s consultations with attorney Eric Westin, the Fishers forced Jason to let them help him. They formulated a plan so that he could maintain custody of Sophie.
- Sarah confronted Matt about having come to her and Graham’s wedding, but when Matt pressed her about why this was so upsetting, she clammed up.


There are entire days when Matt Gray goes without significant one-on-one interaction. When Tori is staying with him, of course, he talks to her, but a teenager can’t always be counted on for meaningful conversation. He talks to his brother and Mia on the phone, but that happens once or twice a week, tops. And his coworkers… well, he was much closer to the staff at The Fisherman’s Pier than he is with the people who work at the more upscale Windmills.

Usually it is small talk at work or while doing errands, some chatter with Tori when she is up for it, and a very one-sided conversation with ESPN when he goes home at night. That is why, when he spots Danielle Taylor in the restaurant as he is leaving after his shift, Matt is all too eager to approach the table where she sits alone, sipping a glass of iced tea.

“Matt,” she greets him with a smile. “How are you?”

“Good. Just finishing a shift. How about you?”

“I’m doing well, thanks. Meeting Ryan for dinner, but he’s running a few minutes late.”

“It’s been a while,” Matt says. He suddenly feels a little silly for rushing over like he had anything important to tell her. “How’s everything with you and Elly?”

“Honestly, pretty great. She’s enjoying King’s Bay U a lot, and having her close by has been good for both of us. It’s not exactly the mother-daughter relationship I used to think about it, but it’s… it’s really good. Thanks for asking.”

He just nods. “Heard you’re planning a wedding. Congrats.”

“Thanks. I could do without some of the planning, to be honest.” She clams up suddenly, like she is about to say something and then thinks better of it.

“What is it?” he asks.

“Oh, nothing.” Another silent moment passes. She picks up her iced tea but does not drink it. “Are you seeing anyone?”

“No.” He shakes his head with much more force than is necessary, but it is his instinctive reaction. “Not even close.”

She seems to be looking him over, as if searching for an answer that might be printed somewhere on his clothes. “Sit with me,” she says.

“What? Isn’t Ryan coming?”

“Just join me until he gets here.” As Matt hesitantly takes the seat across from her, Danielle continues, “Are you doing okay with the… Sarah thing?”

Matt checks the nearby area to be sure that none of his coworkers are anywhere close. The last thing he needs is one of the pretentious types who make up the Windmills staff overhearing him talking about his ex-wife.

“I was,” he says. “She married Graham. Nothing I could do but accept that. But then I find out that she was basically hoping I’d stop her from doing it.”

“Excuse me. What?”

“She pretty much told me that if I’d gone in there and stopped the wedding, she would’ve been okay with it.” It sounds hopelessly silly coming out of his mouth; he wonders if Danielle thinks he is just imagining things or believing what he wants to believe.

“She told you that? What did you say?”

He shrugs. “I told her that she married Graham. That’s all there is to it.”

“I guess that’s the responsible thing to do.” She brings the glass of iced tea to her mouth. “What if I told you that I had a friend I’d love to set you up with?”

Matt feels his cheeks going warm. “I don’t know. I mean…”


“Exactly what?”

“You don’t feel ready. Because of Sarah.”

“That’s not it…”

“Then what is it?” The hint of a smile on her face makes it clear that she already knows the answer as well as he does.

“Go talk to her,” Danielle says. “If you don’t clear this up one way or the other, you’re never going to be able to move on with your life. Either of you.”


“Why do I feel so unprepared for tonight?”

“Possibly because you’re trying to do 900 things at once,” Graham Colville says to his wife, who is presently attempting to pack up the leftovers from their dinner. From inside her purse, her cell phone sounds an alert, as it has been doing all evening.

“Maybe those are the reports I need,” she mutters, reaching for her purse to retrieve the phone. Graham takes the opportunity to finish storing the leftovers in the refrigerator.

“Thanks,” Sarah says, glancing up from her e-mail. “That was what I needed. Just in the nick of time.”

“Mom! Are you ready to go?”

Tori’s voice comes hurtling toward them from the foyer, where she is uncharacteristically ready to leave the house before Sarah--even a bit ahead of schedule, really.

“In a minute!” Sarah calls back. She sets her phone down on the counter and takes a quick moment to breathe. “Okay, I’m organized. See? Organized. Prepared to spend all night doing surveillance, even.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Graham responds with a grin. He leans in and gives her a kiss on the forehead. “You’re going to do very well.”

“From your lips to God’s ears.” She stops before the words are even done leaving her mouth. “And I just turned into my mother. Great.”

Graham spins her around and directs her out of the kitchen. “Good luck tonight.”

“Thanks.” In the foyer, they find Tori waiting, a stylish black trench cinched around her body. Sarah cannot get over how much like a woman she looks. She wants to ask where in the world her little girl has gone, but that would be yet another step toward morphing into her own mother, so she stops herself.

“Are you ready?” Tori asks impatiently. “These seniors actually invited Fee and me to hang out with them, and if we’re late, we’re totally not getting another chance.”

“Well, we wouldn’t want any tragedies,” Sarah says, in a sarcastic tone that she is fairly certain is completely lost on her daughter. She slips into her coat and pulls her purse over her shoulder as she turns back toward Graham. “I’ll see you in a few hours. Or more.”

“Good luck,” he says. “And have fun, Tori. Be safe.”

Tori acknowledges him with a slight wave as they exit the house. As Graham returns to the kitchen, a phone begins to ring. He recognizes the ringtone not as his own, but as Sarah’s.

Sure enough, her phone is sitting on the counter, where she set it down moments ago. He hurries over to pick it up--and freezes when he sees the name on the display.


He drops the phone back to the countertop as if it were on fire. The ringing seems to go on forever, but Graham cannot tear his eyes away from the screen.

Finally--finally--it stops. Moments later, an alert sounds in the form of a loud beep. A small icon indicating a voicemail message appears onscreen.

The sound of the front door opening propels Graham backward. He pretends to be reaching for the phone just as Sarah bounds into the kitchen.

“I forgot my phone,” she says.

“It was actually just ringing.” He picks it up and hands it to her. “It’s a good thing you realized you’d forgotten it.”

“Yeah.” She checks the screen, and the intrigue on her face is unmistakable.

“Was it about your job tonight?” Graham asks.

“Oh, uh--” She tucks the phone into her purse. “Yeah. I’ll see you in a few hours, okay?”

“All right. Good luck.” He watches her leave the kitchen and listens to the closing of the front door. Something about it sounds too definitive, too final, and all at once, he knows that he has to do something.


The office building is eerily quiet. The clicks of Helen Chase’s sensible heels reverberate off the walls of the marble-laden lobby, making the space feel like a giant cavern. A security guard checks her name off a visitors list and leads her to the elevator bank where, with a swipe of his badge, he sends her traveling up to the sixth floor.

Upstairs, it is even quieter, even scarier. There is no receptionist seated at the law firm’s front desk. As Helen is wondering what to do, she hears footsteps come up behind her. Her body tenses as all sorts of frightening thoughts race through her head.

“Hector phoned from downstairs to say you were on your way up,” Eric Westin says.

She turns with relief. He is dressed, as usual, in a crisp suit cut very narrowly to accentuate his long, lean frame. Today’s selection is a striking navy blue with a pressed white shirt and a striped tie incorporating various lighter shades of blue.

“Thank you for making time to meet with me tonight,” Helen says.

“Thank you for coming by after hours. Why don’t we move to my office?”

He leads the way down a series of corridors until they reach his corner office, a vast, impressive space that makes Helen vaguely uncomfortable. Maybe it is the cold, almost industrial feel of the place, a feel that is not helped by the liberal distribution of bronze throughout.

They settle on two of the straight-backed chairs in the sitting area that occupies one of the office’s corners.

“My private investigator has been following Jason Fisher,” Eric says, reading off an iPad. “There have certainly been some interesting developments.”

Alarm spikes within Helen. “Such as?”

“Alex Marshall is apparently moving into his guest room.”

“Alex? He--” She stops herself. She has always wanted to believe that, if push were to come to shove, Alex would side with her and Don; of course, Alex might not even be aware that sides need to be taken.

“That doesn’t have to mean anything,” she says. “Jason is having a friend stay in his house. Couldn’t we argue that that’s detrimental to Sophie?”

“Is he somehow an… unsavory character?”

A wave of nausea sweeps over Helen. She could never bring herself to build a court case on Alex being gay and that somehow being a negative influence on Sophie.

“No,” she says. “I was just thinking out loud.”

“Then it might be more difficult for us to argue that Jason will be overwhelmed with Sophie, if he’ll have someone around to help him. Though unless Alex has significant experience with children, we might still have an opening there.”

“Okay.” She hates the idea of dragging Alex into this, and she knows that Don will hate it even more. Only if it becomes absolutely necessary, she assures herself. “Anyway, there’s still the matter of Jason’s work. He’s in over his head at the arena.”

Eric holds up a finger. “That’s the other significant piece of news. He’s hired someone to work with him at the arena--Ryan Moriani.”

Helen almost feels relieved. “I’m sure we could spin that in our favor. Ryan Moriani doesn’t exactly have the cleanest record on the block.”

“I’m very much aware of that. And you’re right. Still, it weakens our case considerably. It becomes less about Jason as a potentially unfit parent and more about the people around him, and if we can’t prove their significant influence upon your granddaughter…”

She doesn’t like where this is going. If Tim hadn’t seen her meeting with Eric, none of this would have happened.

“Damn Paula,” she says, partly under her breath. “She did this. She forced Alex and Ryan to do these things so that Jason would look better.”

“And I’m afraid it might work.”

Helen rises from the chair, too uneasy to remain still. Her brain churns as she paces over a small area of the floor.

“These are all cover-ups,” she says. “Ways to hide how incapable Jason is. He’s a great young man--I wanted my daughter to marry him!--but he is in no condition to be responsible for Sophie. And he can’t get by on help from his family forever.”

Eric crooks a finger underneath his chin. “You really believe that Jason Fisher is a threat to your granddaughter’s well-being?”


“Then there are things we can do. Tactics that are more… shall we say… aggressive.”

“Aggressive?” Something about his tone makes Helen nervous, and she backs into an end table. It teeters but regains its balance. “I’m sorry,” she says, clamping a hand over a small bronze statue of a horse to keep it from toppling over. “This is very nice.”

“It’s a Trojan horse,” Eric says, shifting in his seat. “Now, as I was saying…”


After her dinner with Ryan, Danielle heads across town to the police department. The long, fluorescent lights overhead hum a steady tune as she winds through the cubicles and hallways until she reaches her brother’s office.

“Are you sure I’m not interrupting anything?” she asks Brent, who is behind his desk with a mound of paperwork and a mug of coffee. His light blue dress shirt is unbuttoned at the collar, and his sleeves are rolled halfway up his forearms. “You don’t usually stay this late, do you?”

“No, but I have all this to catch up on.” He slaps the stack of papers before him. “I was actually happy when you called. I could use the distraction.”

“Then I’m happy to provide it.” She settles into one of the hard, plastic chairs across from him. The padding on the seat feels worn and tired.

“How was your dinner?” he asks, leaning back in his chair.

“Nice. We had to go over a whole bunch of wedding stuff.”

“It’s coming together all right?”

“Yeah. It’s just… a lot, you know? I almost feel like I’m tempting fate by planning a real wedding this time around.”

“Why? You deserve it.”

“But I did all this before,” she says, “and look how that turned out.”

“That’s because, deep down, you knew marrying Andy wasn’t right for you. You believe that Ryan is the guy you want to spend the rest of your life with, right?”


“Then there’s your answer.”

She knows how difficult this must be for him to say; Brent has been far from the biggest supporter of her relationship with Ryan, though he has been slowly coming around.

“Besides,” Brent adds, “I’d say Ryan’s last wedding was a much bigger disaster than yours.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

He considers that for a few seconds and shrugs. His gaze moves to the door, and when Danielle follows it, she sees an officer in uniform, an Asian woman approximately their age, standing there.

“What can I do for you, Chang?” Brent asks.

Officer Chang brings a printed sheet to Brent. “I thought you’d want to see this. We responded to an incident at Justine Ellis State Park last night--a hot air balloon ride that almost turned very bad.”

Brent scans the sheet. Danielle can pinpoint the moment when he spots whatever information it is that Officer Chang wanted him to see. His face hardens, and he slowly lowers the sheet.

“Molly was there?”

“I guess she had left by the time we responded, but the man wanted to notify us so it was on record in case there were any injuries or financial issues later on,” Chang says.

“Is Molly okay?” Brent asks Danielle.

“Yeah. She seemed fine when she came home last night. She didn’t even mention anything.” All of a sudden, Danielle has an idea why. “Who was she on a hot air balloon ride with?”

Brent’s face remains stony as he hands the sheet back to Officer Chang. “Philip Ragan.”

“I’ll leave you alone,” Chang says.

“Thanks for showing me that,” Brent says as she exits the office. Then he turns his attention back to Danielle. “She didn’t mention anything?”

“No. She told me she was going to be home late, that’s all. She seemed tired when she came home… she played with the boys for a little, put them to bed, and then went to bed herself.”

“And she was on a date with Ragan. Unbelievable.” Brent shakes his head slowly, and then, out of nowhere, slams a fist down on the desk.


“She’s going on hot air balloon rides with him? That’s a date.”

Danielle doesn’t know what to say to console him--certainly the fact that they are getting a divorce and Molly is free to date seems the opposite of helpful--so she moves around the desk and wraps her arms around her brother.


The hot water pounds down upon Matt’s skin, and the steam envelops his body. Nothing works to wash away the grime--both physical and mental--of a long shift in the Windmills kitchen like turning the showerhead to its highest intensity and the water to an almost-scorching temperature.

He is drying off, still breathing in the steam that fills the bathroom, when he hears a knock at the front door. At first, he decides to ignore it, but then whoever it is knocks again. Hastily securing the towel around his waist, he hurries down the short hallway and across the living room to the door.

A quick look through the peephole convinces him to open the door.

“Hey,” he says to Sarah. “I called you--”

“I know.” She does a less-than-stellar job of concealing the way that her eyes take in his naked torso; it has been a long time since she saw him like this, Matt realizes. He is at once grateful for his morning runs and occasional weight-lifting sessions, which have lately seemed more like a way to occupy his mind than anything else.

“I got your message,” she says.

“You could have called.”

“I had to drop Tori off to see some friends, and I’m on my way to do a surveillance job tonight.” That doesn’t exactly explain why she is here, but Matt accepts it with a nod. When she didn’t answer his call and didn’t return his voicemail asking for a conversation, he wondered if he would ever hear anything from her beyond the details of Tori’s next drop-off.

“What did you, um, want to talk about?” she asks.

“I think you know.” Matt resists the urge to say anything further, partly because he doesn’t even know how to articulate it, and partly because he is enjoying how uncomfortable the sight of him in a towel is making her.

She pushes a few flyaway hairs back behind her ears. “Is it about… the last time we talked?”


“I’m sorry if I came off kind of bitchy. It was wrong of me.”

He isn’t going to deny that part. But he has her here now, and he isn’t going to let this go unresolved any longer. “You were obviously pretty upset. I just don’t get why you had to take it out on me.”

“Matt. You showed up at my wedding, you stood outside, and you didn’t even say anything.”

“Because you were marrying Graham! What was I supposed to do, storm in there and make an ass of myself?”

“You wouldn’t have…”

“Wouldn’t have what?”

He just needs to hear her say it: that she wanted him to stop the wedding. That she wanted him to give her reason not to marry Graham.

“Matt.” She takes a step backward, out into the cool night.


He hitches his thumb under the top of the towel, pulling it infinitesimally lower. Sarah’s gaze follows it.

“You just need to say it,” he says.

Her voice catches in her throat. “Say what?”


Their eyes stop resisting and snap together. He knows this is incredibly wrong. She is married to Graham. She chose to marry him. That should be the end of it. And yet…

“I’m trying,” she says.

Matt doesn’t know how much he believes that--if she were really trying to sort out this situation, she would actually be honest about what she wants, one way or the other--but in this moment, with her standing right in front of him, he isn’t sure that he cares. He surges forward, out of the apartment, and as the cold air goes to war with his still-warm skin, he grabs Sarah’s face and presses their mouths together.


He doesn’t even know why he did it. It was an absurd, juvenile act, that is certain, but he could not help himself.

When Sarah rushed out of the house, pretending that Matt’s call had come from her client, Graham’s mind raced into overdrive. He waited until she and Tori had pulled out of the driveway and then went to his own car to pursue them. He felt ridiculous trying to maintain a safe distance, but the other vehicles and the darkness made it possible. After Sarah dropped off Tori to meet her friends, she took a route that, as it went on, became more and more recognizable to Graham.

It was the path toward Matt’s apartment.

Graham’s skin felt warm and uncomfortable as he watched Sarah park her car and stride toward Matt’s front door. He parked some distance away and rushed toward the apartment. From behind a corner, he spied Sarah talking to Matt, who had the audacity to answer his door in only a white towel slung around his waist. It was as if he were prepared for Sarah’s visit and knew how best to take advantage of her.

He stood in his hiding place, watching them talk, trying to make something out of their body language or the rhythm of the conversation. But it was not until one crucial point that he knew precisely what was going on--what is going on between them.

Matt’s kiss is forceful and aggressive. Graham can tell that Sarah is taken utterly by surprise by it, and for that he is thankful. It confirms a great deal about the situation. Graham is weighing the pros and cons of rushing forward to rescue Sarah when he notices something, however--

Sarah is kissing Matt back.

There is no mistaking the way her body melts into the kiss. This is not being forced upon her. At least, it no longer is. He feels queasy seeing it, let alone expounding upon its broader implications.

That is when he makes up his mind. This is not the time. They cannot know that he was here, that he saw this, until he knows how he is going to proceed.

He retreats to his car and, unseen by Sarah or Matt, leaves the parking lot and returns to the home that Sarah pledged to share with him, the home where she has been making a fool of him day after day and night after night.


What will Graham’s next move be?
Was Matt wrong to kiss Sarah?
Should Helen go along with Eric’s plan?
Discuss all this and more in the Footprints Forum!

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