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- Molly revealed to Brent that she is now dating Philip.
- Stunned by the news of Graham’s death, Alex exploded at Sarah and Matt, accusing them of having had an affair.
- Sarah brought her and Graham’s son, whom she named Billy, to Graham’s burial service and placed him in Alex’s arms.


The Sigma Chi house looms large in front of Philip Ragan. It is a behemoth, a dormitory in costume as a Craftsman-style home. They are all like this, the houses that make up the university’s Greek Row: imitations of architectural styles--a bloated Colonial here, an oversized Victorian there--that do not fit together and are not what they seem, a neighborhood-wide masquerade ball.

Sigma Chi itself is in a vague state of disrepair, nothing that some landscaping and diligent cleaning couldn’t fix. But the overgrown front lawn is littered with beach chairs and beer cans, and the railing on the front steps is broken, missing a bar. It is a house in the care of college-aged men, none of whom feel any personal responsibility for the property. Philip offered to rent Spencer an apartment for the summer, since his own loft doesn’t have the space for two people and they would likely drive each other mad, but Spencer insisted on remaining on-campus. He even signed up for a single summer course so that the university housing office would have to allow it.

Philip stares up at the house, wondering what his own college experience would have felt like if he hadn’t had a home to return to during breaks. He cannot really imagine it.

Finally he knocks on the front door. A dazzlingly handsome young man, all blond surfer hair and gleaming, flawless teeth, answers in a matter of seconds. Philip can hear the TV blaring what sounds like the Summer Olympics in the common room.

“Hi. I’m Spencer Ragan’s brother,” Philip says. “Could you let him know I’m here?”

“Yeah, no problem, man. Come in.” The blond kid darts to a back hallway, of which Philip can see only the entrance, and yells, “Ragan! Your brother’s here!” Then, with a nod at Philip, he returns to the common room.

  Spencer Ragan

Philip waits thirty or forty seconds, his impatience growing, before Spencer finally appears. He is dressed in khaki pants and a blue-and-white checked button-down shirt.

“What’s up?” Spencer asks, in a tone of calculated disinterest that Philip recognizes well and knows is intended to make clear Spencer’s annoyance with him.

“I thought I would drop by, since you haven’t been returning my calls.”

“There’s this thing called texting.”

Philip decides not to pick a fight. “I’m hoping we can get together soon--a dinner or a lunch, maybe.”

“Sure. Whatever. I’m kinda busy--I have that class, and I’m interning, like, three days a week.”

“Then let me know when you’re free. Spencer, we are the only family that each other has--”

“That isn’t true.”

Claire doesn’t seem especially interested in getting to know either of us any better--”

“Big loss there.” Spencer jingles his keys in his pocket and then pulls them out. “Listen, I don’t want to be late for my internship.”

“Let’s make plans soon, then. I’ll text you.”

“Great. Hope you’re not too busy with your girlfriend.”

“I’m not.”

“Okay.” And Spencer walks out the door, leaving Philip standing in the under-decorated lobby of the fraternity house, staring at a giant crest painted on the wall and the single word floating beneath it: Brotherhood.


The noise of the Summer Olympics--the cheering, the unflagging enthusiasm of the commentators, the bold, triumphant music--has become a familiar soundtrack for the household in recent days. Just as Jason Fisher expects on this morning, he finds Alex Marshall planted on the sofa, watching a men’s swimming event on the large high-definition television.

“I honestly cannot believe how hot he is,” Alex mutters as one of the Speedo-clad American swimmers comes onscreen, hands on his hips and a distant sort of focus on his face.

“I’ll take your word for it,” Jason says, infusing a tiny laugh as he perches on the arm of the couch. He allows the busy din of the broadcast to fill up the silence between them for several seconds. “How are you doing?”

“Fine.” Alex speaks the word casually, almost dismissively, while still staring at the screen--but then he swivels his head to regard Jason, and a wary expression presents itself. “Why?”

“Just wondering. It’s not like you to keep stuff to yourself like this--bottled up--and I want to make sure you know that I’m hear to listen if you ever want to talk at all. About your dad or anything.” Jason knows that it sounds stilted and rehearsed, but that’s because it is stilted and rehearsed, and he hopes Alex will be able to see past that, because he means every word of it.

“I don’t know what you want me to say. None of it makes any sense. It’s senseless.”

“I don’t want you to say anything. Just whatever you feel like saying. Or whatever you aren’t sure how to say.” When Alex doesn’t take that bait, Jason continues: “And you’re right. It doesn’t make sense. But I can help you try to make sense of it.”

“Thanks.” It sounds mechanical, noncommittal.

Jason distractedly watches the latest of the bleeding-heart, rags-to-Olympic-glory interview packages that seem to be as plentiful as the sporting events themselves.

“Have you tried writing about it?” he asks. “Maybe that would help organize your thoughts, or at least get some of it out.”

Alex shrugs. “Maybe. I don’t know.”

He watches the TV intently, the kind of watching that is almost an act of extreme physical exertion, as if staring at it hard enough might make Jason disappear. Finally Jason rises from the sofa’s arm.

“I’ve gotta get to the arena,” he says, “but any time you want to talk, seriously--I’m wherever you need me to be. Okay?”

“Okay. I’ll pick up Sophie from Don and Helen’s around noon like they said to,” Alex says, giving him a glance and a little lift of his mouth that Jason thinks is supposed to be a smile, a I’m not trying to be an asshole, this is just really rough reassurance.

Jason claps a hand on his best friend’s shoulder and leaves him there in the living room, with the Olympic announcers and the stirring music and the hot swimmers desperately working to fill a space that cannot be filled.

Objection Designs

“I hope I’m not interrupting,” Philip Ragan says as a means of announcing himself.

Molly Fisher looks up from the two fabric samples in her hands. “I mean, it’s technically the middle of the workday…” She sticks her tongue out at him. “But I suppose I can find a few minutes to squeeze you in.”

She continues to consider the two samples, a pair of black chiffons that are barely distinguishable from one another. “Does this feel cheap?” she asks, handing him one.

Philip rubs the coaster-sized piece lightly between his fingers. “I don’t think so.”

Molly regards it with a shrug and a sigh, then sets both samples on her desk. “What brings you by? We’re still on for dinner tomorrow night?”

“Of course we are. There’s also a photography exhibit downtown I’m interested in seeing, if you’re game. A series of aerial shots of beaches from around the world. It’s supposed to be wild and abstract.”

“I’ll take a little taste of a beach wherever I can get it,” she says, gesturing at the stylish but sealed-up office around her. The large window behind her desk forms a depressing barrier between them and the glowing summer’s day outside.

“So what’s going on?” she asks.

“I went to see Spencer this morning,” Philip says, dropping his chin to the area of tanned skin revealed by his unbuttoned polo shirt. “He was… dismissive, to put it lightly.”

“Did he give you any idea why?”

“Not really. He’s Spencer. Sometimes that’s all it means.”

Molly can tell that how burdened he is by the distance between himself and his brother. She crosses the office and threads her fingers together with his.

Tim says he’s actually doing pretty well at his internship,” she says.

“That’s good to hear. It’s difficult--I was so much older than him that we never really grew up together, but he doesn’t see me as an authority figure, either. Now I’m responsible for him, only he thinks he doesn’t need me. If I didn’t have control of his trust, I don’t know that he’d even speak to me.”

Molly wishes that she had some sort of solution to propose, but she cannot even begin to comprehend the Ragans’ complicated family dynamics or how to sort them out. “I guess all you can do is reiterate that you’re there if he needs anything and try to be aware of what’s going on in his life.”

“Which he doesn’t exactly make easy.”

“I’m sorry.” That is the most she can really offer. She stretches her neck up toward him--her high heels make it possible to do this without standing on her tiptoes--and presses her mouth softly against his. She can feel Philip accepting the kiss and melting into it--


Molly’s instincts force her to jump back from Philip long before--at least in this slow-motion reality, it feels like a long time--she processes that Christian and Caleb are both in her office and have just seen her kissing Philip.


The house feels stifling. Is stifling. Sarah Fisher checks the thermostat on the air conditioning unit and finds that it is set at 70 degrees, the same as it has been for days and days. But she still feels like she is overheating. She thought that having the house to herself for a few hours would help--even though she can’t really have it to herself, since Billy is here, and even if he weren’t, there are so many less tangible things crowded in here with her, taking up space, pushing as close against her as they can…

She is in the kitchen refilling her water bottle when her phone vibrates. She reads the message first with disbelief and then with irritation before making her way to the front door, checking on Billy, asleep in his bassinet, as she goes.

“Hey,” she says as she pulls the door open.

“Hey,” Matt Gray says. “Figured I shouldn’t ring the bell in case he was asleep.”

“He is. So thank you. What’s up?”

  Sarah Fisher

“I was out taking care of some stuff and thought I’d come by. See if you needed help or anything.”

She can feel the heat from outside, bouncing off the houses and the pavement. “Come in. Fast.”

She quickly closes the door, hoping to seal as much of the cool air inside as she can.

Matt moves with ninja-like silence to peer at the sleeping infant. He steps away from the bassinet before he asks Sarah, “Where is everyone?”

“My dad’s at work. Mom had to run to the store.”

“Good thing I came by, then.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She restricts her voice to a loud whisper, which becomes more difficult as her annoyance grows.

“I just thought you might need a hand.”

“I’m capable of functioning on my own for a few hours, but thanks.”

“That’s not what I meant--”

“Then what did you mean?” she snaps.

But of course, before Matt can answer, the baby wakes up in a fit of cries and shrieks, and Sarah darts across the room to check on him.


With some time to kill before he has to pick up Sophie from the Chases’, Alex decides to get out of the house. As his car takes him through King’s Bay, none of the possible destinations that come to mind seem particularly appealing or even tolerable. The waterfront will be busy with activity; the park will be full of children on summer break. He winds up driving through the more rural area outside of town for a little while, enjoying the way that the massive evergreen trees block the sun.

He thought this might make more sense now, since a little time has passed since the shock of Graham’s death. His father’s death. It is still so strange to think of the man that way--as his father. Alex hardly knew him at all. They were only beginning to forge a relationship when Alex discovered that Graham had lied about the past--that he had rejected Sally, and Alex by association, rather than the other way around as he’d led Alex to believe.

He wonders if he should have reacted differently to that discovery.

Finally, there is only one place the car wants to take him, so Alex lets it do so. He pulls into the driveway, turns off the engine, and takes several seconds to gather himself.

He almost rings the doorbell but catches himself at the last instant. He knows how annoying it can be when Sophie goes down for a nap and then a delivery person or a neighbor rings the bell, waking her up. So he knocks lightly and hopes that it is enough to be heard inside the house.

As he waits, he removes his sunglasses and thinks about what he will say. He only wants to have a conversation about the last days and weeks of Graham’s life, of what happened in that hospital room between him and Sarah--

  Alex Marshall

Then the door opens. Instead of it being Sarah in front of him, it is Matt Gray. And he has the baby in his arms.

“Hey, Alex,” Matt says.

Before Alex can even think to ask what is going on, Sarah emerges from the dining room in the background. “Bottle’s all ready,” she calls out, but she freezes when she sees Alex standing at the door.


How will Alex react to Sarah and Matt?
How will the twins take the news about Molly and Philip?
How can Philip get through to Spencer?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to talk about it all!

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Wed., Sept. 05, 2012

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