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- Claire received a call from the hospital, telling her that Spencer’s DNA results were in.
- A group of girls whom Tori was hanging out with decided to play a prank on Samantha. They filled her locker up with trash, ruining her paper and humiliating her. Samantha told Travis and Landon about the incident but didn’t want to tell her family.
- Graham gifted Sarah with his mother’s cameo necklace and asked her to wear it. Sarah obliged.


Never before has Diane Bishop realized how many clocks are displayed in her home. They’re everywhere: on the microwave, on the oven, on the cable box, on her bedside table. She feels a growing sense of anxiety as the minutes tick upward, yet she remains in her robe. Her instincts tell her to get into the shower, to put on an outfit that exudes confidence and power, and to head to the office. But she has no reason to go there anymore.

She keeps reminding herself of that fact, but it does little to calm her jumpy nerves. Instead she pokes her head into the second bedroom, where Samantha--who does have somewhere to be--is sitting in front of the computer.

“You don’t want to be late on the first day of school,” Diane says.

“I won’t be late. I just checked the traffic on Google Maps,” Samantha says, turning over her shoulder to speak to her mother.

“Shouldn’t you be a little more excited? It’s the first day of your senior year. At least have something for breakfast.”

Samantha crinkles her brow. “Are you sure you’re my mom?”

“What does that mean?”

“You seem weird,” Samantha says, typing something on the computer and then standing from her chair. “I’ll go get a banana.”

“Good.” Diane watches her daughter go. It’s difficult to believe that this is the same little girl she held as an infant. Now she is practically a grown woman. Today Samantha wears a long-sleeved t-shirt and a pair of cargo pants with Asics running shoes; her brown hair is pulled back into a ponytail. Maybe it’s time to take her shopping and teach her how to dress like a grown-up, Diane thinks.

The interwoven strands of red, yellow, and green on the map draw her closer to the computer monitor. There is a lot of red showing. As she analyzes the route to Samantha’s school--and notes that Sam was, as usual, correct in her research--a ding sounds from the computer’s speaker. Glancing at the side of the screen, she sees an instant message window flashing.

Diane knows that she shouldn’t look. But she can see just enough of the message, obscured by the web browser, to make her want--no, need--to click on it and read the rest.

The conversation is with Travis, she can tell immediately. Nothing odd about Samantha talking to her brother. But his latest message is what catches her attention:

just pretend like it never happened
tori and those girls will find someone new to pick on

Tori? Picking on Samantha?

Unable to resist, she scrolls up the message window. Samantha’s words jump off the screen at her:

I don’t even want to see them. How am I supposed to act?
I don’t really need another locker full of garbage.


Samantha’s voice pulls Diane away from the computer. She knows that she has been caught, and while she feels a little guilty over that, it is not the real issue right now.

“What’s all this stuff about Tori and a locker full of garbage?” Diane asks.

Samantha pushes around her to get back to the computer. She closes the IM window with a decisive click of the mouse.

“You had no right to read that,” she says.

“I know. And I’m sorry. I was looking at the map, and the message from Travis popped up…” Diane knows that she was wrong to read Sam’s messages, but now that she has, she cannot be anything but concerned. “Did something happen at school? With Tori? Is that why you haven’t wanted to hang out with her all summer?”


“Samantha, come on. If your cousin did something to you, I want to know about it.”


Claire Fisher hurries to the door as soon as she hears the knock. She has been waiting for what feels like weeks for it, even though it has only been half-an-hour or so.

Brent Taylor nearly bursts through the door. “Are you okay?” he asks, immediately eyeing her up and down with grave concern.

“Yes. I’m--I don’t know.” The entire world has felt off-kilter to her since she received that phone call from the hospital.

He looks around the apartment. “Tempest isn’t here?”

“No. She had the early shift at work.” Suddenly doubt rises from her stomach and into her throat. The queasiness of earlier doubles in intensity. If she goes through with this…

“How’s Danielle?” she asks instead, ushering Brent toward the kitchen.

“She’s doing all right. Hanging in there. She went to a meeting--an AA meeting--which I think is a good sign. She isn’t going to let this overpower her.”

“Good for her.” She holds up the coffee pot to ask if he wants some, and Brent nods. Claire retrieves another mug from the cupboard. “I still can’t believe that Ryan and Diane are married. That’s… like a really bad joke.”

  Brent Taylor

“No kidding.” Brent accepts the coffee cup from her. “But I didn’t come here to talk about Ryan and Diane.”

With her palms planted on the countertop, Claire freezes. If she doesn’t do this now, will she be able to move forward? How is she supposed to continue functioning in this state?

She dips back into the living room and pulls the envelope from her purse. She hands it to Brent and says, “Here. I picked these up from the hospital yesterday. Just to be sure.”

His expression stiff, Brent opens the envelope and fishes out the document held within it. He unfolds it and studies the printout for several seconds. But he already knows what it says.

“So now that you know Spencer is your son,” he says, “what are you going to do?”


“What in the world is going on?” Sarah Fisher Colville asks as her best friend nearly knocks her over as she steamrolls into the foyer.

“We have a problem,” Diane says.

“We? Is this about you and my brother?”

Diane recoils. “No! Why would it be about Ryan?”

“I don’t know. Because a few days ago, you busted up his wedding by announcing that you were secretly married to him?”

“Sarah, this is serious,” Diane says, closing the front door for her. “We have to talk.”

The lightness drops out of Sarah’s tone as she sees how genuinely troubled Diane is. “What is it?”

“It’s about the girls. Samantha and Tori. You know how they haven’t spent much time together this summer?”

“Well… yeah. They’re growing up into very different people. You don’t always stay close with family as you grow up. Look at Molly and me--or you and Natalie.”

“It’s different than that.” Diane fiddles with the zipper of her lightweight leather jacket. “Maybe not, based on what Natalie pulled at the wedding. But still. This isn’t just the two of them growing apart.”


“Samantha told me that before school let out for the summer, Tori and her friends played a prank on her. Some senior cheer squad brat Tori was hanging out with decided it would be funny to fill Samantha’s locker up with garbage.”

Sarah doesn’t know how to react. It is a serious accusation.

“How does she know Tori was involved?” Sarah asks. “Just because she hangs out with the other girls on the cheer squad--”

“Tori was the only person at the whole school who had Sam’s locker combination. That’s a little convenient, don’t you think?”

Sarah hesitates. “Why did she only tell you now?”

“She didn’t even want me to know,” Diane says. “I saw something on her computer and made her explain it to me. She was telling Travis how uneasy she was about going back to school because of the way those girls were picking on her at the end of the year.”

Sarah turns away and faces a mirror that hangs over an antique side table. She sees that the cameo hanging around her neck--the one that Graham gave her, which used to belong to his mother--is drooping lower than it should. When she reaches back, her fingers determine that the clasp is barely holding together.

“I need to get this clasp fixed,” she says, more to herself than to Diane. She watches her reflection as she redoes the clasp.

“What is that? It doesn’t seem like your style.”

“It was Graham’s mother’s cameo. He wanted me to have it.”

Diane shrugs that off and catches Sarah’s eye in the mirror. “You’re going to have to talk to Tori about this.” When Sarah doesn’t respond too quickly, Diane adds, “Don’t tell me that you don’t believe me.”

“That’s the thing,” Sarah says, rotating back toward her friend. “I’m not having that much trouble imagining Tori being part of a prank like that. And that really bothers me.”


“I don’t know,” Claire admits. It is as decisive as she can be. Ever since she received the call from the hospital lab, she has felt paralyzed both mentally and emotionally. The logical part of her knows that sitting on this information forever, keeping it to herself, will not make it go away. But she has no idea how to proceed with a life in which this is the truth.

“I take it you haven’t told anyone else,” Brent says as he re-reads the DNA test results.

“No. I don’t know how--or who…”

“What about Tim?”

“I can’t. Not yet.” The statement rushes out of her before she can even form it internally. She knows that it is probably selfish to keep this from Tim, but she will tell him--once she decides what might be the best way to move forward.

“He deserves to know,” Brent says. “Travis is his son--and so is Spencer.”

“I know. I’m… I’m just in shock, I guess. I knew this was a possibility, but I’m still in shock now that it’s real.” She intertwines her fingers, overcome by an urgent need to keep busy. “You know what’s even weirder than finding out Spencer is my child?”


“Knowing for certain that Travis isn’t. That woman we met--Kathleen Bundy--she’s his mother. There’s a woman out there who is my son’s real mother.”

“And she sold him to James,” Brent says. “You are Travis’s mother.”

“But I’m not. I know it shouldn’t change anything, and it absolutely does not change how I feel about him, but it does change things. He has a family out there that he doesn’t know.”

“This is…” Brent sets down the paper. For once, he appears to be at a loss for words. He is usually so strong, so controlled, so ready with some practical advice or plan of action. It is why Claire has come to rely on him so much. But now, even he seems lost.

“I’m sorry about all of this,” he says, and instead of trying to fix the problem, he comes forward and draws her into a hug.

“Thanks.” She lets him wrap his arms tightly around her back. He feels strong, solid. If she can’t have that emotionally right now, having it in a physical sense is at least a bit of a help.

“We’ll figure out how to deal with this,” Brent says. “Together.”


Matt Gray is carrying an empty laundry basket back from the complex’s laundry room when he sees Sarah walking. He calls her name and hurries to meet her at the door to his apartment.

“Hey,” he says. “Everything okay? You seemed worried on the phone.”

“I am worried. It’s about Tori.”

Instantly he feels guilty for having doubted her motives for calling and asking to come by. For a while, he got the impression that she was making excuses to come see him--all but telling him to give her a reason to leave Graham. But he can tell by the look on her face and by the way she speaks that this is serious.

He unlocks the front door. “Did you find something at the house?”

“No. Diane came to see me.” She follows him inside. “Tori did something at school.”

“School? It’s the first day today. And why would Diane know something?”

  Sarah Fisher

“Because it’s about Samantha.” She proceeds to recount what Diane told her, about how Samantha found her locker full of garbage, saw a group of girls--Tori among them--laughing at her, was forced to clean up the mess in front of everyone, and then had to explain to her teacher why her paper was ruined.

As he listens, Matt feels a knot twisting and tightening inside himself. He never thought that he would have to think of his own child this way, as a bad person--no, as a person who makes mistakes and bad choices, just like he has done. He wanted to believe that, somehow, he could protect her from that.

“You don’t think there’s any chance Samantha’s lying, do you?” he asks.

Sarah shakes her head. “Do you?”

“Not really.”

“We have to figure out what to do with her,” Sarah says. “When she gets from school, we should…” She trails off as she touches a hand to her head.

“What’s wrong?” Matt asks. She looks pale and tired.

“Nothing. Just a little dizzy. I didn’t have a chance to eat breakfast.”

“Let me get you something. There’s some fruit in the kitchen.”

“That might be a good idea.” She holds onto the back of the couch for support.

Matt moves toward the kitchen, but he doesn’t even make it there before he hears the sound of a body tumbling to the floor. He turns around and sees Sarah crumpled up on the carpet.

“Sarah!” he shouts, though he already knows that he won’t receive a response. He kneels beside her and turns her on her back. Sure enough, her eyes are closed. He leans in close enough to confirm that her breathing is shallow.

“Sarah,” he repeats, aimlessly, as he fishes his cell phone from his pocket. He dials 911 and nearly screams into the phone as soon as he gets an answer. “I need an ambulance. My wife--my ex-wife--she just collapsed, and--she needs help.”

His heart pounds as he listens to the operator’s questions and tries to process them as English words.


What’s wrong with Sarah?
What should Claire’s next move be?
How should Matt and Sarah deal with Tori?
Talk about it all in the Footprints Forum!

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Monday, Sept. 26, 2011

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