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- Matt accompanied Danielle to her brother’s wedding. That night, they slept together for the first time.
- Sarah gave birth to her and Graham’s son.
- Graham confronted Sarah in a rage and accused her of having had an affair with Matt. He admitted to having engineered Matt’s kidnapping and then collapsed.
- Sarah and her family were shocked to learn that Graham had died of a ruptured brain aneurysm. Alex was devastated by the news and lashed out at Sarah.


The bright, open sky seems all wrong for today, Ryan Moriani reflects as he stands at the door of his mother’s home. He presses the doorbell and then straightens his black tie as he waits.

“Hi, dear,” Paula says as she lets him into the house. She wears a simple black dress that hits just below her knee. “How are you?”

“I’m fine. How are you guys? How’s Sarah doing?”

Paula holds her lips together in a tight line. “I’m glad she agreed to come stay with us for a while.”

“Hi, Ryan,” Bill says as he enters in his black suit.

“Bill. Hi.” The men shake hands.

“Would you mind driving your car? Between you and me, we can get everyone over to the cemetery in two cars,” Bill says.

“Of course.”

The energy in the house is drowsy and stagnant, like a sealed room desperately in need of an open window and a fan. But there are not enough fans in the world to clear out the pollution of what has happened over the past several days.

“So it’s only a graveside service?” Ryan asks, careful to keep his voice quiet. “No funeral home or anything?”

“Everyone thought something simple and respectful would be best,” Paula says.

They clam up at the sound of footsteps on the stairs. It is Sarah, who instead of wearing a black dress is clad in a t-shirt and yoga pants. She carries her barely awake infant son in her arms.

“Hi,” Ryan says, offering her a compassionate rub of the arm.

She goes through the motions of smiling at him. “Hey.” Then she addresses her mother: “Would you mind taking the baby to the cemetery?”

“We’ll bring both of you,” Bill says.

Sarah shakes her head. “He needs to be there for Graham’s burial… but I’m not going. I can’t.”


“Can I get a little help?” Matt Gray asks as he pokes his head into his daughter’s bedroom.

“Duh,” Tori says. She takes another moment to evaluate herself in the full-length mirror. She looks so grown-up in her black dress, with its skirt that fans out in a way Matt lacks the fashion vocabulary to describe.

He holds out his tie to her as he grabs the chair from her desk and sits in front of the mirror. “I don’t know how you got better at this than me.”

“It’s pretty pathetic, old man,” Tori says with a laugh. She positions herself behind him and pops up the collar of his dress shirt.

  Tori Gray

As she sets about tying his tie, Matt studies the teenager’s expression. She seems like herself. Normal. Unburdened.

“How’re you doing?” he asks. “With all this stuff--Graham and the baby and…”

“I’m fine.” She says it quickly, as if she had anticipated the question.

“You sure? Graham was--forget all the other stuff, he was your stepdad and you lived with him a lot of the time.”

“And he was mean to me and then he tried to murder you. So I’m not gonna be all sad that he died.”

Matt lets out a sigh as Tori wraps the tie around itself to start the knot.

“It’s a really complicated situation,” he says, as he fumbles to find something inside himself that isn’t really there because he knows it is what he needs to say to his daughter. “There was a lot of stuff going on with Graham that nobody knew about, not even your mom or Alex. It’s sad when someone is that… troubled.”

“I know.” She pulls one end of the tie through the knot, and suddenly it really resembles the finished product. “Here, check the length.”

Matt stands to do just that and, amazingly, she got it perfectly right.

“You clean up pretty good, Dad,” she says.

He grins at her reflection in the mirror. “So do you, you little brat.” Then he turns to face her. “And promise me that if you ever wanna talk about any of this--about Graham dying, what he did, the baby, anything--you’ll come to me. Okay?”

He sees her suppressing a smartass comeback. Instead she simply answers, “Okay.”

“Now let’s go be there for your mom,” he says, clapping a hand on Tori’s shoulder. “She’s gonna need us.”


A breeze blows across the beach, a strip of land tucked beneath the piers. Alex Marshall stares out over the water, which sparkles under the summer sun. He knows that he needs to go home and get dressed, but he doesn’t want to leave this place yet. Rather, he doesn’t want to go to the cemetery and see his father buried for all eternity.

His focus is finally pulled from his thoughts when an alert sounds from his phone. He checks--it is a text message from Jason. When are you gonna be back? I can drive to the cemetery.

Alex lets the text go unanswered as he continues to turn the situation over in his mind. His father is dead. Just like that. Out of nowhere. Dead. He wasn’t even sick--just suddenly dead. Just like what happened to his mother. It didn’t even seem real when he saw Graham’s body in the hospital. He didn’t look injured or sick, just very, very still. Alex is still struggling to comprehend how an entire life can be over that simply.

Eventually he forces himself to type a response to Jason: On my way home now.

He climbs the stairs back to street level and is reaching for his car keys when he spots someone he would rather not face right now. But before Alex can divert his path, Trevor Brooks spots him.

“Hey,” Trevor says as he crosses the gravel path toward Alex. “I’m really sorry about your dad.”

“Thanks.” Alex looks back at the water.

“Is there gonna be a funeral?”

“We’re just doing a burial service. Today, actually. I should get going.”

“Okay.” Trevor lets Alex move past him, then says, “How are you? Do you need anything?”

  Alex Marshall

The sight of him suddenly causes anger to swell inside of Alex. How can Trevor stand here and act like they’re close friends, like he didn’t make a fool of Alex mere weeks ago?

“I don’t need anything,” Alex says, pulling out his keys. “Especially not from you.”


But he keeps walking to his car and doesn’t look back.


Ryan greets his half-sister with a hug and shakes Philip Ragan’s hand as they enter the house, also dressed in somber black.

“Your father’s upstairs talking to her now,” Ryan finishes explaining a few moments later. “Paula is changing the baby.”

“Maybe I can help,” Molly says, though a grimace flashes across her face and betrays her lack of confidence in her potential usefulness. “She’ll regret it if she doesn’t go.”

“Maybe not, after what Graham did,” Ryan says.

“True. Let me see if I can help my dad, though.” She touches a hand to Philip’s arm. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

He gestures toward the stairs. “Go. Please.”

Ryan finds himself left alone with Philip in the suffocating air of the living room. He crosses the room to crack a window and then says, “I guess you and I are overdue for a conversation. What with our parents having been such close friends and all.”

“And yet neither of us knew the other existed,” Philip says.

“I only wish I’d been smart enough to stay out of my father’s business. You seem to have done all right for yourself.”

“Because my father passed away a long time ago, and my mother kept all her conspiring secret.” Philip shakes his head in disbelief. “You really never knew how close my mother and your father were?”

“I didn’t have a clue. I had never heard her name before--at least not in any significant way. I suspect that’s exactly how she wanted it.” Ryan pauses before adding, “The same way you had no idea what kinds of things your mother was involved with.”

“At least you believe me about that,” Philip says. “Speaking of which… you know Claire fairly well, don’t you?”

“To say that I’m not one of her favorite people would be like saying our parents made a few questionable choices in their lives.”

“So I’ve heard. But you have a fair amount of insight into how her mind works…”

“That I do.”

“I can’t seem to get through to her,” Philip says. “There have been a few times when I thought I was making headway, but in the end, she always shuts me out again.”

“Does she still believe you knew about your mother’s activities?”

“I don’t know. She says she believes me now, but she seems so reluctant to let me into her life. I’ve reached out, but…”

“Here’s the thing about Claire,” Ryan says. “Her mother moved on and started a new family. Her father was, at best, a complete lunatic who put her husband in a coma and kidnapped her son. For Claire, being blood-related isn’t a reason to trust you--it’s a reason to run for the hills.”

Philip walks over to the open window and stares out of it, watching as a truck pulls into the driveway. “Short of going back in time and changing my biology, do you think there’s any chance of eventually convincing her to give me a chance?”

“She’s also a very caring woman. Look at how she took in Tempest and made her a part of her family so quickly. Give it time. Show her that you can be trusted.” Ryan sticks his hands in his pockets and sighs.  “And then don’t ever take that trust for granted, like I did.”


In the spare bedroom that has become Sarah’s home base in the past few days, Bill sits beside her on the bed, while Molly stands nearby, listening to their father’s calm attempts to reason with Sarah.

“You’ve already made all these arrangements,” he is saying.

“Because I had to. It wasn’t much. I told the funeral home what to do and gave them a credit card number.”

Bill takes her hand. “I don’t want to make you do anything you don’t want to do. And God knows that Graham does not deserve anything from you, after what he did. But you do have a son together--”

“That’s why I want you and Mom to take him,” Sarah says. “He should be there, even if he won’t know what’s going on.”

“It might help you find some closure,” Molly offers.

Sarah looks up at her with a blank stare, and for a moment, Molly is worried that she has made a severe misstep. But when Sarah responds, her tone is not defensive or angry--at least not toward Molly.

“Closure is moving out of that haunted house he had me living in. Raising this baby. Leaving Graham in the past.”

All Molly can do is nod in agreement. Her sister has a point.

  Sarah Fisher

“All I’m saying is that I don’t want you to regret not having gone,” Bill says. “Regardless of how things turned out, Graham was a significant part of your life--”

“Which was a gigantic mistake on my part.” Sarah appears utterly lost as she stares intently down at her hands, as if they might contain the answer to some great mystery. “I did this. I brought him into our lives. I almost got Matt killed. I brought a child into this world with a man who never should have been a father. I don’t think I can handle any more reminders of that.”

“You had no way of knowing who Graham really was,” Molly says. “You can’t blame yourself or beat yourself up for that.”

“It’s my job to know things like that.”

“Don’t do this to yourself,” Bill says as he reaches for her hand again. But this time, she yanks it away.


Downstairs, Ryan opens the door to let Matt and Tori into the house. He freezes when he sees who else is with them.

“Hi,” he says when he and Danielle catch eyes.

“Hey,” she says as she follows Matt and Tori inside.

Ryan tries to put this awkward surprise out of his mind as he introduces them all to Philip.

“How’s Sarah?” Matt asks.

“About as well as can be expected, apparently,” Ryan says. “Bill and Molly are upstairs with her right now. She isn’t sure if she can go to the service.”

“I don’t blame her,” Matt mutters.

“Did she come up with a name for the baby yet?” Tori asks, impatience creeping into her voice despite her obvious effort to keep it at bay.

“I don’t think so,” Ryan says. “Your grandma has him in the kitchen, if you want to go see him.” He barely finishes the sentence before Tori is out of the room to see her newborn brother.

“How are you feeling?” Ryan asks Matt.

“Good. A lot better. Thanks.” He acknowledges Danielle with a tilt of his head. “She’s been a big help.”

“Yeah, I heard you were staying with Matt while he recovered,” Ryan says to his former fiancée.

“He wasn’t even that bad of a patient,” Danielle says with a grin, but she seems very aware--as aware as Ryan is--of what is being left unsaid: that Matt has recovered and they are still spending time together. Ryan reminds himself that he has no right to be jealous of anything Danielle does with her life, not after how he blew it with her, but that doesn’t do much to take the sting off the realization that she might be moving on with her life for good.


Tim and Diane are waiting with the priest at the burial site when Alex and Jason arrive. Jason holds Sophie’s hand as she stomps through the grass, seemingly on a mission to make her new black shoes as dirty as possible.

“Everything taken care of?” Jason whispers to his brother as they greet each other.

“Yep. I came ahead so Sarah wouldn’t have to deal with any of it,” Tim says quietly. Then he turns his attention to Alex and extends his hand. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you,” Alex says, but it is a robotic response. He repeats it as Diane offers her own sympathies. He distractedly takes in the scene: the population of gravestones dotting the landscape; the mahogany casket resting on a stand; the hole in the earth where his father will spend the rest of eternity.

Tim and Jason make small talk, mostly about Sophie, for the next few minutes. Helen and Don arrive and offer Alex their condolences. As Alex embraces them, it flashes through his mind how strange it must be for Don to be attending the burial of a man who altered the course of his own life so sharply.

“Thanks for coming,” Alex says to this man who has tried so hard to be a father to him in his adulthood. He wonders, for the millionth time, what his life might be like if he had grown up with Don Chase as his father.

Or if Graham hadn’t pushed Sally away, and Alex with her.

Alex is vaguely aware of the priest asking Tim, “How many are we expecting?”

“A few more,” Tim says. “Maybe eight or so. They should be here soon.”

The rest of them return to their stilted chit-chat, something about Jason’s work at the arena. Alex stands to the side. He appreciates their efforts to act normal, but he cannot muster the energy to participate.

Then he sees them coming over the hill. First Bill and Paula… then Molly and Philip Ragan… Matt and Tori… Danielle… and finally Sarah, carrying the baby in her arms.

Alex has not gone to visit his new brother yet. He keeps meaning to, but paying Sarah a visit feels so strange, and he has not quite been able to process the idea of having a newborn sibling at this age. Especially not when this is a child who will never have any opportunity to know his father--even less than Alex had.

He doesn’t know what to say to Sarah. He knows that his father did something horrible to Matt, but he had to have been pushed to it. Graham was never a thug. He was so in control of his emotions. For him to have been that desperate… Alex knows that he was out-of-line yelling at Sarah in the hospital the other day, but it doesn’t seem entirely impossible that she really was having an affair with her ex-husband--an affair that drove Graham mad.

The Fishers cluster around Alex, offering their condolences in soft voices. He hears himself thanking them but can focus only on his little brother, held in Sarah’s arms.

“I think you should hold him,” she says, without any greeting. “You and he should be together for this.”

Her voice is cold and clinical, but Alex understands that detached feeling well right now. And he cannot blame her for being awkward with him right now, given the way he exploded at her at the hospital.

“What’s his name?” he asks.

He notices the way that Sarah looks around at her family before answering. “William. I’m going to call him Billy. I think it’s only right to name him after a man who’s set such a great example of what a father should be.”

She carefully places the baby in Alex’s arms. He feels himself trembling and does his best to steady himself. Billy is so tiny, and his eyes are clamped shut. His cheeks are fat and rosy, and if Alex weren’t so focused on holding him, he would use a finger to poke one of them.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Sarah moving off to give Bill a hug. Then the priest begins the service. As he recites a prayer, Alex glances down to see little Billy opening his eyes to look up at his older brother. There is no earthly way that the baby would understand the significance of this day, but for Alex, holding his new brother might be the only thing that enables him to get through this service.


Will Alex be able to handle his grief?
What will come next for Sarah and Billy?
What did you think of Ryan’s talk with Philip?
Talk about it all in the Footprints Forum!

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

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