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- Alex apologized to Sarah for blaming her and Matt for his father’s death. Sarah assured him that she wants him to be a part of his little brother Billy’s life.
- Diane, struggling with the shocking news that she is pregnant with Ryan’s baby after their one-night stand, told Jimmy Trask that she would like to take him up on his job offer at the bookstore.
- Still reeling from the news that Spencer is Claire and Tim’s biological son, Philip visited Loretta in prison and was stunned by the magnitude of her hatred for Claire.
- Claire attempted to tell Tim the truth about Travis and Spencer having been switched as infants but chickened out when Travis interrupted the conversation.


It isn’t exactly a white Christmas, but it is certainly a wet one. Claire Fisher and Tempest Banks have their hoods pulled tightly around their heads as they power-walk through the pouring rain up to the Fishers’ front door. Once they are under cover of the porch, they take a deep breath in unison, and then Claire rings the doorbell.

The sounds of the family Christmas celebration are already audible--festive music playing, conversation buzzing--and it only intensifies when Paula Fisher opens the door. The house appears full with life and love.

“Merry Christmas,” Paula says, hugging first Claire and then Tempest. “Come on in.”

They oblige all too happily, shedding their coats and hanging them in the entryway.

“Thank you for having us,” Claire says as she closes the closet door.

“Thank you for coming,” Paula says. “Samantha and Travis are in the kitchen helping Bill, Tempest.”

Tempest moves off to find the other teenagers, leaving Claire and Paula in the relative calm of the foyer. Johnny Mathis’s rendition of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” plays from elsewhere in the house.

“She seems to be doing so well,” Paula says.

Claire nods. “She really is. I think working at the arena has been really good for her. I can’t thank Jason enough.”

“Merry Christmas,” comes a male voice from Claire’s left side. She turns to see her half-brother moving toward her. Instead of bombarding her with a hug, however, he simply offers her a wave.

“Merry Christmas,” Claire says to both Philip and Molly, each of whom holds a glass of red wine.

“Mom, do you know where the Christmas card Caleb and Christian made you is?” Molly asks. “I want to show Philip.”

“I think it’s in the living room. Let’s go find it,” Paula says.

Molly lifts her index finger to Philip and Claire. “Be right back.”

Philip waits until they move off and then says to Claire, “I’m glad we have a moment alone. I went to see my mother.”

  Claire Fisher

“You have my condolences,” Claire says, unable to hide her contempt for Loretta Ragan and seeing no need whatsoever to do so.

Philip takes the comment in stride. “I’m sure this is no surprise to you, but she is a loose cannon. She wants Spencer to know the truth because she wants him to hate you. I think, if we’re going to manage this--”

We are not going to do anything.” Claire whispers so quietly that she can barely hear herself over the celebratory din.

His features hardening, Philip takes a beat before responding. “Like it or not, Spencer is my brother, and I’m a part of this now.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” She feels as if this entire situation is making her insane, like she is a stick of dynamite with the fuse lit, just waiting for it to run out. “I tried to talk to Tim about it, but Travis came in, and--it’s Christmas--” Truthfully, she just cannot process the idea of turning everyone’s lives so upside-down with this horrible revelation.

“You need to tell them,” Philip says. What Claire fears most is the unspoken addendum: Or I will.

“Found it,” Molly announces gleefully as she bounces back toward them. With the card in hand, she freezes when she catches sight of their faces. “What’s the matter?”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Claire says quickly.

“No, you guys look really worried,” Molly says. “Is something wrong?”


“All ready!” Tori Gray announces as she struts down the hallway and emerges into the living room. She wears a grey, cowl-necked sweater dress with black leggings underneath, and her recently straightened chestnut-colored hair falls over her shoulders.

“Just about done over here, too,” Matt Gray says. He crouches beside the Christmas tree, loading presents for the Fishers into a large shopping bag. When he stands up, Tori lets out what might reasonably be called a gasp.

“You’re wearing that?” she asks, and Matt snickers at the way she recoils at the sight of him.

“I don’t think it matters much,” he says, glancing down at his baggy Pittsburgh Steelers fleece pullover and faded jeans.

“Dad, it’s Christmas. I know Danielle’s with her family in California, but that’s not really a reason to give up on life.”

Matt sets down the bag of gifts while he slips on some running shoes. “I wouldn’t really call it ‘giving up on life.’ I’m gonna drop you off, come back here, heat up some of the food I made last night--”

“Wait, you’re not staying at Grandma and Grandpa’s?”

“Nah. It’s not really the place for me, you know?”

“Why not?”

Matt just shrugs. He doesn’t have a great answer for the question, truthfully, at least not one he can articulate to his teenage daughter. Even though he is working for Bill again, he doesn’t really consider himself part of the family anymore--nor should he, since he and Sarah have been divorced for years, long enough for her to marry someone else and have a child by that man.

“’Cuz it’s not my place,” he says.

“You’re the only one who thinks that,” Tori says as she slips into her coat. “Grandma and Grandpa would love to have you there. So would I.”

Matt grabs his keys from the hook by the door. “I’m gonna be fine.”

“Spending Christmas alone is not fine. Especially when you have a whole family to hang out with. Come on, everyone would love for you to come. Even Mom, I bet.”

“I don’t know about that,” Matt says. Despite the bonding they did after Matt’s kidnapping, there seems to be a wall between them ever since Graham’s death--a wall that Matt understands. Maybe it’s the only way for them to co-exist peacefully as parents.

“Dad, I am not letting you spend Christmas alone,” Tori says, folding her arms. “So are you gonna listen to me, or are you gonna make this difficult?”


On the Fishers’ living room sofa, Sarah Fisher and Diane Bishop sit side-by-side, having some one-on-one time in the midst of the festivities.

“So I met with Jimmy and his friend, Keith, who’s kind of exactly like Jimmy except even less subtle, which I didn’t think was possible,” Diane explains as she cradles a bottle of sparkling water between her hands. “I guess Keith caught wind of this used bookstore that was going out of business, and he made the owner an offer to buy the whole place, inventory and all.”

“And you’re going to manage it?” Sarah asks.

“Yeah. I’m not sure those two have a damn clue what they’re doing, so a little common sense might go a long way.”

Sarah sets her glass of red wine on the coffee table and leans toward Diane, elbows resting on her knees. “You’re sure this is something you want to do?”

“Yeah,” Diane says, but the word is offset by an uncertain shrug. “I mean, yes. I want work. Or at least income. I don’t like feeling this stressed about money, and at least this will kick the can down the road a bit.”

“Okay. I get that.” Sarah’s nod lags several seconds behind the words. “As long as you’re happy. I’m worried about you.”

  Diane Bishop

“About me? Have you met me?” Diane tries to play it off with a smirk, but her insides are twisting, knowing how spot-on Sarah is. Her stomach jumps, and all the physical response does is remind her of the life growing inside of her--the baby that she conceived with Ryan, the baby that absolutely no one else knows about.

“I know, I know. Just let me worry.”

I’ve gotten myself into a huge mess. I’m pregnant with your idiot half-brother’s baby, and for some reason I can’t make up my mind what to do about it, so I’m taking this ridiculous retail job working for buffoons because I can’t find anything in my actual industry and I feel like my entire life is falling apart, Diane wants to explain. The words dart through her mind so quickly that she is worried they will accidentally gush out of her mouth.

“I’ve got everything under control,” she lies instead.

The sight of Ryan in the dining room, pouring a drink for Helen Chase, unnerves Diane even further. Suddenly she is very conscious of the fact that she is drinking water instead of wine. She shoots to her feet.

“I’m going to go use the restroom,” she says, practically darting away. Not the smoothest exit, but she has to collect herself before the urge to confess becomes too overwhelming and she sets something in motion that she can’t stop.


“It’s nothing,” Philip says, with a calm that surprises Claire. “I was just telling Claire about how I’ve been trying to reason with Spencer about living at the fraternity.”

Molly shakes her head sympathetically. “I don’t know if anyone can get through to him.”

“I just wish he would listen,” Claire says as her system floods with relief.

“Could I have a moment more with Claire before we look at the card?” Philip says. He plants a quick kiss on Molly’s cheek, rendering it more a declaration than a request.

“Yeah, of course.” Molly steps away, and Philip immediately leans in toward Claire and lowers his voice.

“You need to tell,” he says, “or this is only going to get worse.”

“I know,” Claire says, but as she sees Tim across the room, chatting jovially with Jason, she again wonders how she can blow his life--and Travis’s--to smithereens by dropping this bomb.

Across the room, Diane emerges from the powder room but only makes it one step out the door before she runs smack into Ryan.

“Hi,” Ryan says. He pauses and looks her over. “Everything all right?”

“Are you seriously asking me how going to the bathroom was?” she snaps.

“No! You just look a little pale.”

“Great. Thanks for the critique.” She pushes past him and moves to the appetizers on the table. She cannot face him for another moment knowing what she knows--and, right now, telling Ryan about this baby is the last thing she can handle.


“I have someone here who would love to see his big brother,” Sarah says as she slinks up to her own brother and Alex Marshall, with baby Billy snuggled in her arms.

Alex offers Sarah a look of silent gratitude before zeroing in on the infant. “Look at your little Christmas outfit! You look so handsome,” he says.

“That was a gift from Grandma,” Sarah explains. “It’s been a few years since she had a baby to spoil…”

“Too bad you can’t use Sophie’s hand-me-downs,” Jason says.

“I mean, you could,” Alex offers, “but I’m not sure how happy Billy would be with that.”

“Do you want to hold him?” Sarah asks. “He just woke up from a nap, so he’s a little out of it, but…”

“I’d love to.” Alex holds out his arms, and Sarah carefully places Billy into them. The baby looks up at him curiously for a moment and then settles against his chest.

“I’m gonna go, uh, get another drink,” Jason says, holding up his glass and then lowering it when he realizes how not empty it is. “Be right back.”

They allow him to go without protest. Alex quietly sways back and forth for a long moment, savoring the warmth and comfort of the baby in his arms.

“I went to Graham’s grave, finally,” he says.

“How was that?” Sarah asks, her tone even and unrevealing.

“Fine. Probably very necessary. I think I expected some kind of magical closure, which…” He shakes his head. “Not really going to happen, you know? But it’s a start.” They share a sad, knowing smile before Alex asks, “How are you doing?”

  Sarah Fisher

“Honestly? Okay. Maybe better than I feel like I’m supposed to be doing.” She brushes some loose blonde hair behind her ear. “Seeing the therapist is really helping. I feel guilty about… how things went at the end--”

“I’m sorry I blamed you for any of that. Or Matt. There was obviously something very wrong with my father, something we might never really get--”

“I know. But I still played a part in it, and for that, I’m sorry. Then, of course, I feel guilty about feeling sort of relieved, and it’s all just a big mess.”

Alex stares down at the peaceful baby for a few seconds before he looks up and says, “No easy answers. I guess that’s the lesson here.”

“You sound like my therapist.”

“Now this is a sight I like to see, especially on a holiday,” Bill says as he approaches them. He plays with his namesake’s cheeks a bit, eliciting a smile--or at least a bunch of spit bubbles--from the little boy. “What a lucky little guy you are, with such a great mom and such a great big brother.”

“We’re trying our best,” Sarah says as she exchanges a look with Alex.

“That’s all you can do,” Bill says, wrapping an arm around his daughter as he proudly watches his grandson resting against Alex.


Claire enters the kitchen with the empty ice bucket and finds both Tim and their son in there, working as a team to carve the large roast beef that Bill and Paula prepared for Christmas.

“Hey there,” Tim says. “Came to call dibs on the rarest piece?”

Claire makes a face. “Yuck. That joke still hasn’t gotten old to you, has it?”

Tim shakes his head, clearly amused with himself.

“I actually told Paula I would get some more ice.” She opens the freezer and begins filling the bucket. “How’s dinner looking?”

“Awesome,” Travis says. “I can’t wait to eat so much I can’t even button my pants.”

“I’m glad to see you’re keeping things sophisticated this year,” Claire says.

As she scoops a little more ice into the bucket, Tim asks, “Anything else on Spencer? I saw you and Philip talking earlier.”

Involuntarily, she glances over at Travis and sees him tense up at the mention of the other young man. She takes a moment to gather herself, grateful to be turned toward the open freezer.

“Um, no, nothing. Philip was just venting to me.”

“Is he okay?” Travis asks. “I keep seeing people on Facebook talking about that accident he and Brad got in.” 

“His recovery is going fine,” Claire says carefully. “Philip is just having some… disagreements with him about living arrangements.”

Travis moves over to stir the gravy. “Dad, it’s so weird you were the one who donated blood for him.”

“It’s because your dad is a very good man,” Claire says, closing the freezer.

“I’m not going to do the whole ‘He’s really not that bad’ speech,” Tim says.

“Good, because I’m not buying it,” Travis says, turning over his shoulder briefly.

“I’m going to go put this back out there,” Claire says. She is already halfway out of the kitchen, since plunging herself into the ice bucket to cut off the stifling heat--heat that she is certain is only partly coming from the cooking--that is overwhelming her now.


As various family members clear the appetizers from the table and replace them with place settings, the front door bursts open. In comes Tori, who instantly exclaims, “Merry Christmas! Look who I brought!”

“Matt!” Tim says, quickly moving over to shake his former brother-in-law’s hand. Tori has coaxed her father into a nicer pair of jeans and a navy blue sweater, and he looks prepared to be part of the Christmas celebration now.

Matt sets down the bag of gifts as he rotates through family members, sharing Christmas wishes and greetings. Sarah sidles up to Tori, who is hanging up her own coat.

“I didn’t know your dad was coming,” Sarah says. “I thought he might be with Danielle today.”

Tori waves off the idea. “She and Uncle Brent went to California. I didn’t want Dad to be alone.”

“Good idea.” Sarah gestures toward the dining room. “Alex is holding Billy over there.”

“Okay. I’ll go say hi in a minute.”

Matt swivels around and finds himself face-to-face with Sarah. Tori takes a step back and watches her parents.

“Merry Christmas,” Sarah says, somewhat tentatively.

“Merry Christmas.” After a moment of hesitation, Matt pulls her into a hug.

Paula comes toward them, arms already outstretching to greet Matt, but Tori cuts her off.

“Give them a minute,” the teenager says.

“I was just going to say hello.”

“Just give them a sec.”

Tori watches her parents happily, if a bit awkwardly catching up, and her attention is so laser-sharp that she doesn’t notice her grandmother eyeing Tori with concern.

“How’s the baby?” Matt asks Sarah.

“Fourteen and a half pounds, so… good. Big.” She smiles. “Alex is holding him right now.”

“How’s that going?”

“It’s going well. I think Alex is going to want to talk to you, too.”


“Yeah. Just… hear him out.”

Matt nods, and then Bill calls out over the Christmas music: “Dinner’s ready!”

The Fishers begin to flood toward the dining room and the newly set table. Four taper candles in silver holders burn atop the table, and Bill dims the lights ever so slightly, setting a peaceful mood for the meal.

“I can’t imagine a table full of people that would make me happier,” Bill says as everyone finds their seats. “Thank you all for being here, every last one of you. And Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas!” they say in unison, raising glasses and clinking them by the light of the candles.


Will Philip have to tell the truth if Claire doesn’t?
What should Diane do about her own secret?
Could Sarah and Matt find their way back together?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to talk about all of it!

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Friday, Dec. 28, 2012

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