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- Elly hit it off with her biological father, Jimmy Stark, who said he would be sticking around King’s Bay to help a friend manage a new business.
- Diane and Jimmy had a brief run-in at Cassie’s, though neither knew who the other was.
- Sarah admitted to Alex that Graham had seen her and Matt kissing. Alex exploded at them for having pushed Graham over the edge.


Even with the windows open and the large box fan whirring at top speed, the dorm room still feels suffocating to Diane Bishop as she unpacks her daughter’s belongings into the small closet. Every room in the building seems to be full of people setting up for the new school year, and that is only making the stuffiness worse.

“I can’t believe they haven’t put AC in these places yet,” Diane says as she pauses to wipe her moist forehead.

“I’m sure they would use that as an excuse to increase tuition by ten grand or so,” Elly Vanderbilt says, followed by a little laugh. Samantha, who is standing on a chair lining up books on a shelf above the desk, snorts in response. Diane even lets herself snicker a little--Danielle might be a total pill, but her daughter doesn’t seem all bad. Probably because Danielle didn’t actually raise her.

Samantha carefully climbs down from the chair. “This room is great,” she says. “It’s so much bigger than the freshman rooms.”

“It only took me two years to swing one of these,” Elly says, “so you got a major lucky break having a junior to live with!”

Diane’s cell phone rings. She pulls it from her pocket and, seeing Ryan Moriani’s name on the caller ID, sends it to voicemail. She returns to placing Samantha’s clothes on hangers, but within a few seconds, a new commotion at the door gets her attention. A man is backing into the room, his arms supporting a large box, and soon Danielle follows, carrying the other end of it.

“The futon has arrived,” she announces as they shuffle toward the window and set the box on the open floor beneath it.

“Thanks for bringing that up,” Elly says. “Did it fit in the elevator?”

“By some miracle, yes,” Danielle says. “Oh. Jimmy, this is Samantha, Elly’s roommate, and her mother, Diane.”

Diane sets down the shirt in her hands as she evaluates this Jimmy guy. She heard that Elly’s biological father would be picking up the futon from the store and helping assemble it--but she never thought he would look so familiar. She is trying to place him when Jimmy’s smirking face gets to it first.

  Jimmy Trask

“We actually met already,” he says, eyes fixed on Diane.

Danielle’s surprise is apparent. “Really?”

“At the coffee place,” Jimmy says. He wears a white t-shirt that fits snugly across his defined chest, along with board shorts and running shoes. He could probably trade wardrobes with any of the boys in the dorm without missing a beat, Diane thinks.

“Ah, yes,” she says. “Though I wouldn’t call it meeting so much as being groped…” She sees the concern on Samantha and Elly’s faces and decides to soft-pedal it. “We bumped into each other at the counter.”

Jimmy displays no such discretion as he reaches out his hand. “I’d say you bumped into me. And you kinda enjoyed it.”

Diane doesn’t even bother responding with words. She just allows a harsh, disgusted sound to rasp out of her throat as she shakes his hand.

Danielle and Jimmy start to open the futon box, while Samantha reads over a green piece of paper from the packet that she received at check-in.

“I need to go get my student ID by 5,” she says as she checks the time on her phone. “Where’s the Winthrop Room in the Student Center?”

Elly begins to explain, “If you take a right out of the front door and follow the walking path to the quad, you’ll see a brick walkway--” She cuts herself off. “You know what? Why don’t I just take you down there really fast? Are you guys all okay to keep setting up for a little bit?”

The adults mutter that they will be fine, but as soon as the girls exit, an awkward silence descends over the room, backed by the blowing of the fan and punctuated by the occasional clang of a piece from the futon box.

“I’m dying in here,” Jimmy says as he screws two of the black bars together. Then, without any further ado, he slips off his t-shirt and tosses it on the floor. Diane sees the movement out of the corner of her eye and wills herself not to look… but after she hangs up a few more items in Samantha’s closet, she feels her gaze being pulled toward the end of the room, where she can see the muscles of Jimmy’s overly tanned back flexing as he works.

Jimmy turns and sees her looking in his direction. He flashes a cheesy grin, and Diane immediately returns to hanging clothes. She hears Danielle say something about Parts F and G.

“Here, hold this up,” Jimmy says, and Diane instinctively glances over again. This time, Jimmy is on his feet, showing Danielle where to support the partially built structure so he can attach a leg to it. His torso is on full display, and Diane has to stifle a gasp at the sight of it. He is in incredible shape--muscled and lean, with dark hair covering his bronzed flesh. It is the body of a man a decade or two younger.

All right, so having him paw at me wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, Diane thinks as she averts her eyes again. As long as he kept his mouth shut the entire time.


Alex Marshall can feel Jason Fisher’s aggression the second his friend enters the house. There is an energy coming off him, clear and untamed. Well, that and the fact that he slams the door when he arrives home.

Alex waits in the kitchen over their half-prepared dinner--salmon that he is readying for the grill and a salad that still needs to be assembled--as Jason storms in.

“Where’s Sophie?” Jason asks, but as soon as the question passes his lips, the sounds of Dora the Explorer guide him to the family room, where he bends down and gives his young daughter a kiss on the forehead.

“Can I talk to you?” he asks when he returns to the kitchen, gesturing with his head toward the dining room. Alex puts down the knife and the lemon and follows Jason.

“Is there a good reason you went over to my parents’ house and yelled at my sister, who has a newborn baby and no husband to raise him with?” Jason demands.

“That baby is my brother,” Alex says, “and her husband was my father, and I didn’t go over there to yell at her. I wanted to talk.”

“But it turned into something else.”

“I was asking her and Matt questions. I wanted to know what happened that day at the hospital. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.”

“No. Of course not. But it’s unreasonable when you start accusing them--”

“My father saw them kissing! That’s what started this whole thing. She was married to him and kissing Matt. Don’t you think that’s kind of an important part of the story?”

Alex can see the information hit Jason like a piece of road debris blown across a windshield, blocking the driver’s sight and forcing him to hold on desperately to remain on-course. He feels a dull, achy surge of what he supposes is victory. The faint sounds of Dora float in from the other room to eat up the unbearable silence between them.

“I didn’t know that,” Jason finally says.

“Yeah, me neither. It seemed kind of relevant. And all I was saying was that if they hadn’t done that--let alone done it so openly that my father saw them doing it--then maybe everything wouldn’t have spiraled--”

“Okay, there’s still a huge leap from ‘I saw my wife kissing another guy’ to ‘I’m going to have the guy kidnapped and left for dead.’”

“But they set it in motion!”

“Maybe, yeah.” Jason places a hand over his mouth as he recalibrates. “What is your objective here?”

“What do you mean?”

  Jason Fisher

“What are you hoping to accomplish? With all these questions and accusations and stuff?”

“I don’t have any objective,” Alex says, unable to resist the urge to douse the word in sarcasm, “besides understanding what happened--and making sure that my little brother is raised correctly.”

“He will be! Do you really think he won’t be?”

“I don’t know!”

Jason’s hands jut out and grab hold of Alex’s shoulders. “Don’t you see what you’re doing?” Jason says.

Alex doesn’t know how he is supposed to answer that.

“You’re doing what Helen did to me,” Jason says, his words slower and more deliberate now. “You’re grieving, and you’re turning it into something much bigger because you don’t know how to handle that grief. Please, for my sister’s sake and Billy’s sake and your own damn sake, don’t do what Helen did to me.”

A chill courses through Alex’s veins as he realizes how right Jason is. His muscles, which a moment ago were as tensed as they could be, go limp. Jason’s hands, firm and full of force, continue to grip his shoulders.

“I won’t,” Alex says. “I promise. But my father is dead. I have a right to understand what happened.”

“But you don’t have a right to act like an asshole to everyone else.” Jason releases his hold on Alex, with the slightest hint of pushing him away as he lets go. He passes back through the kitchen to the family room, where Alex can hear the distant sounds of conversation with a toddler about her day. Alex lingers in the dining room, soaking in what Jason had to say to him and trying, yet again, to reconcile himself to the newest twists in his reality.


In spite of the scorching, sweaty summer day that has yet to be swept away by the sunset, Diane turns on the hot water in her shower when she arrives home. She allows the bathroom to fill with steam before stepping in and letting the warmth pound away at her tired, achy muscles. As her body relaxes, her mind begins to wander… and no matter how she attempts to redirect it, it keeps finding its way to the image of Jimmy’s bare torso on display.

You need to get laid, woman, she thinks to herself as she turns off the water.

She is toweling off, the bathroom still enveloping her in fog, when she hears the doorbell chime over the whir of the fan. She decides to ignore it, only to hear it ring again as she is tying her fluffy pale blue robe around her body.

“Just a minute!” she calls out, double-checking the robe’s tie before she answers.

At first, she thinks she must be imagining the sight before her: Jimmy, his white t-shirt back on, set against the artsy pink hues of the fading summer sky.

“What is it?” she says, stretching an arm up the door.

“This.” He holds up the dark brown leather wallet that she instantly recognizes as her own.

“Where’d you get that?” Even as she slings the half-question, half-accusation, she realizes that she doesn’t remember picking it up off the desk in the dorm room--or seeing it in the car or since she got home.

“You left it at the dorm. Danielle said I should bring it by. Your ID was in it…”

She snatches the wallet from him. “Thanks. For the wallet and sparing me a visit from Danielle.”

“You guys don’t get along?”

“Yeah, not so much.”

Jimmy gives her an up-and-down appraisal. “Just get out of the shower?”

“You’re incredibly perceptive.” Diane opens the wallet and thumbs through it. Everything looks to be in place. “And not a thief. Color me surprised.”

“You’re kinda judgey, you know that?”

“Proudly.” She sighs and averts her eyes from the way Jimmy’s t-shirt is clinging to his chest. “But thanks for not stealing my cash. I can’t really afford to be losing money these days.”

“I hear ya.” A lopsided grin plays with one side of his mouth as he looks around her to take in the condo. “Seems like you do pretty okay for yourself.”

As she turns to set the wallet on an end table, she says, “I thought so, too.”

“Tough times?”

“The publishing industry and a shitty economy don’t really go well together. So now I have to figure out what to do with my life all over again.”

“My buddy just bought this bookstore,” Jimmy says, hitching a thumb vaguely to his left as if the bookstore in question might be out in the parking lot.  “I’m gonna stick around and manage it with him. If you need a job…”

“Great. Thanks.” The thought of going back to the sort of job she had while in college depresses Diane even more than her current situation.

“So what are you up to now?” Jimmy asks.

She is about to laugh at the brazen, transparent nature of his question--her standing there in her robe, her skin damp and alive, him all sweaty--when the possibility of it flashes across her mind. Sometimes she really wishes she could turn off that part of her brain.

Then she sees another face coming up the stairs.

“Hey,” Ryan Moriani says, as his sight lands on her and Jimmy together. “I tried calling, but you kept sending me to voicemail.”

“And you’re so good at taking a hint,” Diane says, pulling her robe a little tighter just in case. She notices the bottle in his hand. “What’s going on?”

“Our divorce. It finally went through!” He holds the bottle aloft and then, noting Jimmy’s confusion, adds, “Really weird situation. Sorry.”

“Why don’t you come in and we can talk about it?” Diane says. She has never been so glad to be able to put Ryan Moriani to use. But he might earn his keep if his presence can prevent her from making a stupid mistake with this slab of meat at her door.

Ryan slips past Jimmy, and Diane gives Jimmy a wave. “Thanks for the wallet. I appreciate it.”

“Yeah. Later,” Jimmy says as she closes the door on him.

“I’d almost think you were happy to see me,” Ryan says as he sets the champagne down on the kitchen counter.

“Don’t flatter yourself. But you’re welcome to pour me a glass of that,” she tells him as she settles down onto the chaise longue.


When Tim Fisher arrives home from work, he finds the house surprisingly quiet. Billy’s bassinet sits empty in the living room, and none of the telltale signs of his mother’s evening activity--dinner cooking, the Beatles playing--are in evidence. He strides through the living room, then the dining room, and when he reaches the kitchen, he looks out the sliding glass door and sees Sarah sitting out on the deck.

She turns as he opens the door.

“It’s quiet around here,” he says, a little warily.

“Mom took Billy for a walk, now that the sun’s going down. Dad is still at the restaurant.” She sits back in her chair and admires the pink and purple hues of the Northwest sky. “Nice, huh?”


Tim lowers himself into the wooden steamer chair beside hers. “How’re you doing?”

“I’m fine,” she says a little too quickly.

He leans forward, craning his neck to get a look at her face. “You sure about that?”

“What? You don’t believe me?” she says with a knowing smirk, an expression he recognizes all too well from their childhoods. Sarah would flash that same look at their parents, as if daring them to prove that she was the one behind some little prank on Molly.

“I get it if you’re sick of talking about this crap. But if you do want to…”

“I mean, that shrink is totally getting an earful.”

“Good. That’s what he’s paid for.” Tim stares out at the sun in the distance. It seems to have slipped a few more feet down the horizon in the past few minutes. “As long as it’s helping you.”

“It is.” She spits the words out hastily, then rushes to grab onto them, like a dog given too much lead on its leash. “I just have no idea how I’m supposed to feel, you know? I married Graham. He’s Billy’s father. But then he did all these terrible things, and--”

“And there isn’t a way you’re supposed to feel,” Tim says. “Don’t put pressure on yourself to have this emotion or that one.”

“I’m trying.”

“Good. The entire situation is nuts. You got caught in the middle of something that was much more complicated than you could’ve expected.”

“It’s my job. I should have expected it. Or I should have known.”

“You’re a P.I., not a psychic.”

“Same thing, sometimes.” She shakes her head, and her wavy, dark blonde hair sways around the sides of her face. “I got all of us into this.”

“You fell for Graham! He seemed like a nice guy. And he wanted to take care of you. And he was rich,” he says, trying to lighten things up with a smile. “It’s not like you had any reason not to be with him.”

He watches Sarah turn that over, chewing on the inside of her cheek as she thinks. “Maybe,” is all she says.


“And I haven’t talked to her since then.”

“Not at all?” Diane asks. She is still in her robe, with her feet curled up beneath her on the couch.

Ryan, seated in an armchair across from her, reaches for the bottle of champagne. He pours a little more into his glass and then empties the rest into Diane’s.

“Not a phone call, not an e-mail, nothing,” Ryan says. “We were married for two years, and I haven’t spoken to her in… God, two decades, basically.”

“I don’t know if it’s better or worse that this is my only marriage.”

“Better. You’ve saved yourself a lot of grief.”

  Diane Bishop

She takes a big slug of the champagne. “This might surprise you, but I always thought I’d be married by this age.”

“You? Really? There are a lot of phrases I might use to describe you, but ‘natural wife’ isn’t one of them.”


“Hey what? It’s not an insult.” Ryan finishes what remains in his glass, but a few drops trickle down onto his white oxford shirt.

“How were you walking around dressed like that today? It was miserable out,” she says, watching the bubbly liquid swirl around in her glass.

“There’s this thing called air conditioning,” he says. “That and I work in an ice arena. Kind of helps.”

He unbuttons his sleeves and rolls them up to mid-forearm. Diane has to admit that he isn’t entirely awful-looking. If she didn’t know him so well, she might even think he were handsome.

Get a grip, she warns herself. The alcohol has turned the evening hazy and loose. A new wave of heat washes over her body, and she again pictures Jimmy’s shirtless image. If Ryan hadn’t shown up…

She shakes off the thought, though not all of her wants to.

“What are you daydreaming about?” he asks teasingly.

“Nothing,” she snaps. She raises her glass. “Here’s to a good damn divorce.”

“I think you mean a damn good divorce,” Ryan says, laughing. “And I can’t toast with an empty glass.”

Diane hops off the couch. “I have a bottle of white open. Hang on.” She hurries to the kitchen, retrieves it from the fridge, and fills his champagne glass with pinot grigio.

“Here’s to being divorced,” Ryan says, toasting her. Diane clinks her glass against his.

She feels the warm glow of the alcohol rushing over her body again. Something inside her shifts, clicks into place, and the question is out before she can control it:

“You’re currently employed, right?”

Ryan pauses mid-sip. “Huh?”

“You have a job?”

“At the arena. Yeah.”

Diane considers this as she finishes her champagne. Am I really doing this? she wonders, except she knows that she is. After the day she has had…

“And you aren’t under investigation by the police for anything?” she asks.

“No! Why would I be?”

“Have you met yourself?” Her eyes lock onto the way that his dark jeans snugly fit around his thighs.

Ryan sets down his glass. “What are you grilling me for?”

“Because.” She stands up and, this time, doesn’t bother to tighten her robe, which has loosened since she has been lounging. “You get one shot before this marriage is officially kaput. Take it or leave it.”

Without missing a beat, she heads for the bedroom. For a moment, she hears nothing behind her and worries that she has just made a fool of herself. But then she hears Ryan stand and follow her. She shoves him down on the bed and closes the door, trying not to think about what tomorrow will be like…


Will Diane regret sleeping with Ryan?
Should Diane give Jimmy a real chance?
Will Alex listen to Jason’s admonishments?
Talk about all this and more in the Footprints Forum!

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Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012

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