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- Lauren shared with Jason her suspicions that Josh might be cheating on her.
- Molly ran into Philip--and a woman named Adrienne, whom he is now dating.
- Claire confided in Brent that the DNA results confirmed that Spencer is her biological son. She was unsure about how to proceed with the information.


“I’m so glad you were able to come and meet me,” Paula Fisher says across the table as the busboy sets down a basket of rolls on the table.

“Me, too,” Molly Taylor says with a smile, reaching for one of the rolls. “Work has been pretty hectic this week. I wasn’t sure I’d make it out in time for dinner.” She scans the restaurant; there is not an empty table in sight. The dark wood and rustic ambiance are enhanced by rows of lit tea candles. “It looks like business is good. Dad must be happy.”

“Very much so. We’re very lucky.” Paula takes a roll for herself and sets it on her small plate. “How are things at home?”

Molly’s instinctive response is to shrug. There is so much to say, and yet so little is really going on. “Fine, really. The boys are excited to be playing soccer again. They have a game at the school next Saturday—you and Dad should come.”

“We’ll be there. How is Danielle holding up after the wedding?”

“I think she’s having a tougher time of things than she admits,” Molly says, “but she’s holding it together. She’s been going to A.A. meetings, which is a good sign. And she’s had her guitar out more. I think she’s writing.”

“That’s good to hear.” Paula draws a deep, harried breath and shakes her head. “I’m so disappointed in Ryan.”

“So are we all. People have to make their own mistakes, though. Maybe eventually he’ll figure out a way to stop making them.”

  Molly Taylor

“I’m glad that he and Jason are working together again,” Paula says. “They could be good influences on one another.”

Molly agrees with a nod as she chews on her bread.

“And how about you?” Paula asks, catching her daughter’s eye.

“What about me?”

“What’s happening with you? You’ve told me about the boys and Danielle…”

“Work is hectic,” Molly says, shrugging again. “I do less designing these days and more approving and editing, which is… I guess it’s the job. Sometimes it feels too complicated, you know?”

“I’m sure. We’re so proud of everything you’ve accomplished, Molly.”


Paula watches her closely for another few seconds. “How are you feeling about Brent? And life in general? And I’m not talking about work.”

Molly doesn’t quite know how to answer that. The divorce is finalized. She and Brent see each other long enough to trade off the twins, and they’re civil, even friendly. There isn’t much else to say.

“It’s seeming more and more real that Brent and I are actually divorced,” she says. “I guess, in the back of my mind, I kind of thought it was a temporary thing--like we’d figure out a way to fix it sooner or later. But it’s really over, and that’s… weird.”

“It took an incredible amount of strength to do what was best for you and for your sons.”

Molly lets that pass without a response. Most days, it doesn’t feel like she did something positive by ending her marriage. It feels like she tore apart her kids’ family and sent herself back to some horrible Square One.

“I just never thought I’d be at this point,” she says glumly. “Starting over at this age, when I have kids and a career. I thought I’d found the man I was going to spend my entire life with.”

“That’s how life keeps us on our toes,” Paula says, offering a sympathetic smile as she reaches over to touch Molly’s hand. “Is there… I hope I’m not pushing, and I know it’s soon, but have you met anyone?”

“No! No.” Molly’s reaction is involuntary and immediate. “I just got divorced. I’m not even… no.”

“I’m not saying that you need to dive into a relationship,” Paula says. “Just that it might be good for you to meet other men, make some friends--so you can see that there are other people out there, and eventually, you’ll be ready to date again.”

Molly cannot even conceive of dating again right now. The idea of going on a formal date with a stranger seems awful. She barely wanted to do it back when she was single before. And the one guy who might have been a possibility…

“I don’t think I’m cut out for any of that,” Molly says.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because…” She feels a sudden need to get this out of her system. Normally she would talk about these things with Danielle, but seeing as how she is Brent’s sister, it seems completely inappropriate. “Can I tell you something?”

“Of course.” Paula’s face sets with concern.

“There was someone. Or there almost was. And I think I blew it before it even started.”


Claire Fisher parks her car in the assigned lot and navigates her way on foot to the campus’s Greek Row, which is really more of a network of winding neighborhood streets a few blocks from the main part of campus. Luckily, she still has one of the maps from Parent-Family Weekend last year, and without much difficulty, she locates the Sigma Chi house.

It is an oversized Craftsman-style house, stretching far enough back from the street to accommodate however many members live here. The large front window is blacked out with paint, and a big, blue SC fills much of the main panel. Claire is fairly certain that the last time she set foot in a fraternity house was close to 25 years ago, and it is with great trepidation that she knocks on the front door--not only because of how much time has passed since she did this, but because of what might happen on the other side of that door.

A good thirty second pass before the door opens just enough for a gangly young man wearing a backwards cap to stick his head out.

“Hi, I’m, uh, I’m looking for Spencer,” she says. “Spencer Ragan. Can I come in?”

The guy points to the blacked-out window. “Nope. It’s I-week.”


“Initiation week. Members only.”

“Oh.” God only knows what’s going on inside that house, she thinks. “Could you ask Spencer to come out here, then?”

“Uh… sure.”

She suspects that the guy thought about asking who she is or what she wants with Spencer and then decided that he did not care enough to bother. The door closes again, and she waits.

A minute passes. Then two. Finally she knocks again. It takes another fifteen or twenty seconds for the door to open again. This time, an Indian boy, probably a freshman or sophomore, is the one to greet her.

“I’m waiting for Spencer Ragan,” she says. “Someone went in to find him…”

The kid regards her curiously. “Let me check.”

She debates whether or not to say that she’s his sister--because that is, at least, what Spencer and the rest of the world believe--but suspects that would only make him less likely to come to the door. Instead she adds, “It’s very important.”

Nodding, the kid closes the door. She waits for another full minute before it opens again. To her momentary relief, it is Spencer.

“Oh,” he says at the sight of her. He is wearing a navy sweatshirt with white SC letters across the chest, and his dark hair has grown a bit longer than she remembers, so that it sticks up wildly from his head. It is the first time she has seen him since receiving confirmation that he is her son, and she is surprised by how speechless the moment leaves her.

Fortunately, Spencer has something else to say: “They didn’t tell me it was you.”

“I just wanted to have a word with you,” she says. “Do you have a minute?”

“It’s Initiation. We have pledges in there.”

“It will only take a few minutes. Spencer, it’s important.”


Lauren Brooks fixes her hair in front of a mirror that hangs in the entryway. She is just finishing up when the expected ring of the doorbell sounds.

“Perfect timing,” she tells Josh Taylor, who leans in to greet her with a peck on the lips. He enters the house. Lauren looks him over; in his black North Face fleece jacket and dark jeans, he looks the same as ever. But something is different lately, she is sure of it.

“Mind if I use the bathroom?” he asks, already setting his phone and keys down on a side table. “I drank, like, three bottles of water after my run.”

She gestures down the hallway. “Go for it.”

She hears the door close and lock. She is about to re-check her hair when a buzzing noise catches her attention. It is Josh’s phone, vibrating on top of the table. Even at the most uncomplicated of times, she wouldn’t be able to resist a glance, but given his recent strange activities, she feels compelled to do so.

The text message preview lights up the screen. It is from someone named Allison: Do you have an answer yet?? I need to

And then the preview cuts off, leaving her with frustratingly little information. For a split-second, she thinks of picking up the phone and opening it to read the rest, but then the preview wouldn’t appear on the main screen, and Josh would know that she looked, and besides, that would be wrong--

  Lauren Brooks

But who in the world is Allison, and what kind of answer does Josh owe her?

She hears the toilet flush and the water running, and she goes back to checking her hair--which, it turns out, is totally fine, and is also going to totally get messed up by the wind, anyway.

“All ready to go?” Josh asks as he comes back down the hall.

She is all ready for something--to ask him who Allison is--but as quickly as the thought arrives and seems necessary, it morphs into a terrible idea, one that is going to make her look paranoid and insane.

Instead she forces a smile. “Let me just grab my purse.”

She disappears into the kitchen to retrieve it. She hates feeling this way, being suspicious of him when it could be nothing at all. But he took that mysterious trip to L.A. and lied that it was for work, and now he’s receiving texts from some woman whom he has never even mentioned to her. Lauren might be paranoid, but something is definitely going on.


Molly watches the surprise wash over her mother’s face. Paula is probably racking her brain, trying to identify and parse any clues that she might have overlooked as to who this man could be.

“It was Philip,” Molly says. “From work.”

“Claire’s brother.” Paula speaks the words without judgment or implication, but they land heavily upon Molly. Of course that is the context in which her mother would recognize his name--and of course it feels like even more of a complicating factor in the whole thing.

“Yeah.” The waiter arrives, and Molly is grateful for the momentary distraction of placing their drink orders.

When the waiter moves away, Paula asks, with a bit of hesitance apparent in her voice, “What makes you think that you blew it with him?”

“He’s seeing someone else now.” She finds that, as good as it feels to be discussing this with someone after all this time keeping it pushed down inside herself, it is still hard work to drag them up and out. It’s as if they have been caged for so long that she has to evaluate their readiness for the real world before letting them loose. “He made it very clear that he was interested in me. And I couldn’t do it. And now…”

“You’ve been going through a divorce.” It almost sounds like Paula is defending her daughter to Philip himself.

“He was pretty understanding about that. He gave me time. But I couldn’t have asked him to wait around forever.”

“No. Of course not. But you can’t blame yourself for needing time to move past your marriage to Brent. It’s going to take a long time, I’d imagine. You won’t magically be one hundred percent there one day.” Paula reaches across the table and covers her daughter’s hand with her own. “But it will happen. Have faith.”

Molly sighs. “I’m trying. And it is happening, day by day.”

“Well,” Paula says, and then she pauses while the waiter drops off her iced tea and Molly’s sparkling water. “This woman he’s seeing--is it serious between them?”

“I don’t know. It didn’t seem like it. I only saw them together for a minute.” Molly sets her lips around her straw and drinks some of the water. “But I can’t exactly go butting in there to break them up.”

“No. But you can let Philip know that you’re feeling more ready to move on now. If he’s still interested, he’ll be receptive. If not, you’ll know that you tried--and you’ll be free to find someone who’s available.”

Molly wishes that her mother’s advice filled her with a swell of hope, but she finds herself mostly hanging on the unspoken implication that no matter what she does now, Philip really might have moved on, and it might be too late for there to be anything between them at all.


Spencer’s body juts halfway out the front door of the fraternity house as he says to Claire, “I told you. I’m busy.”

“And I need to talk to you.” She steels herself for the next bit, which is as close to the truth as they can get at the moment: “We’re family.”

“You’re not my family. You’re some psycho who turned on my father and then killed him.” He glances behind him, into the house, ostensibly to be sure that no one is listening.

“That’s what I want to talk to you about,” she says. “The version of events that you’ve--” She stops herself. Bashing Loretta is not going to make this go any better. “The story you know isn’t the full story. If you hear my side, maybe you’ll start to see that--”

“This sounds like it’s gonna take a hell of a lot longer than a minute. And I told you, I have stuff to do.” He backs up so that only his head is sticking out of the door. “Don’t even think about coming here again.”

“Spencer, I’m--”

He slams the door in her face.

“That went well,” she mutters to the chilly autumn evening. She walks a few steps down the front walkway, pauses, and turns to look up at the house. From somewhere upstairs, she hears a big, rowdy cheer bellow out. There is no mistaking the sound of college boys acting up. She marvels at how odd it is that her son is living in this house, and she has no idea what is inside it.

  Claire Fisher

“Drink!” a voice screams from an upper-level window.

Instinctively, Claire looks for its source. She realizes that it is coming from the side of the house and moves around just far enough so that she has a glimpse of what is going on.

A young man is being lowered out of the window headfirst, a can of beer in his hand.

“Drink!” a chorus of voices shout in disharmony.

Claire watches with mounting horror as the boy is dangled further and further out the window. When his waist is firmly bent over the windowsill, his upper body hanging in mid-air, the commands come again.



The boy lifts the beer can to his mouth and, trying his best to keep his head up, does what he’s told. Foam and beery slip down his face and fall two stories into the patch of dirt below. Finally, he drops the empty can triumphantly.

Immediately a hand from inside forces another one into his grip.

“I can’t!” he gasps.

“Do you want to be a Sigma Chi or not?”

The boy tries to drink the second beer. In a matter of seconds, he has stopped and is gasping for air.

“I can’t!” the boy chokes out.

“What’s that?” barks the only voice that she recognizes.

“I can’t do it!”

A pair of arms force him even further out the window. Claire’s heartbeat speeds up and she instinctively reaches for her cell phone. She moves around ever-so-slightly and sees that the person holding onto him, first and foremost, is Spencer.

“Drink, you little bitch!” Spencer screams.

In that moment, Claire does not recognize any son she would have raised. Travis has had his bad patches, and she is sure that he has engaged in plenty of teenage boy behavior, but there is a hardness, a cruelty, present in Spencer--even from this distance--that horrifies her.

She is about to yell out to them to stop, but the boy finishes his second beer and is pulled inside the window safely. As cheers and jeers sound out, she hurries back to her car.


Can Claire ever get through to Spencer?
Should Molly open up to Philip about her feelings?
What should Lauren do about Josh?
Discuss all this and more in the Footprints Forum!

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Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011

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