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- Diane struggled with the news that she is pregnant with Ryan’s baby. Desperate to pull her life together, she accepted Jimmy’s offer to manage the used bookstore he and his friend had purchased.
- After Spencer was injured in a drunk-driving accident with one of his fraternity brothers, Philip tried to convince him to move out of the fraternity house, but Spencer refused. 
- Claire tried to figure out how to tell the family the truth about Spencer and Travis having been switched as infants, especially now that Philip also knows.


“Inventory’s a little over half-done. When you have downtime, try and knock out a shelf or two,” Jimmy Trask says.

Diane Bishop ambles along as Jimmy and his business partner lead her through the tight aisles of books. All around her, spines are frayed and yellow pages peek out. There is something familiar and comforting about it to Diane. The place is dusty and perhaps in need of a makeover, but it also transports her back to those days in her youth when her mother would be wrapped up at the gymnastics studio with Natalie, and Diane would wander down the street to the bookstore and lose herself in worlds far away from the one in which she lived.

“Looks easy enough,” she says as she glances over a series of titles on a shelf at her eye level.

Keith Huff comments, “We just need you to be here and keep things in order, basically. Help out customers if they need anything. That kinda thing.”

“Got it.”

They head back toward the front of the store. Diane walks behind the two men. Keith is thinner than Jimmy--clearly less a fan of the gym and the tanning bed--but there is something more unsettling about him. Maybe it is the way he has dressed in a shirt and tie, like the wolf disguising himself in the grandmother’s clothes until he could pounce on Little Red Riding Hood.

“What about the name?” Diane asks. “Are you going to change it?”


  Diane Bishop

“Because it seems like the same exact place as before. I’m so used to driving by this place, and I wouldn’t look twice at it now because nothing seems different.”

“If you’ve got any ideas, throw ‘em our way,” Keith says offhandedly.

Diane thinks about it. “In publishing, one of the things we always hear is that even with the growth of e-books and e-readers and tablets, people miss the feel of books. There’s something visceral about turning the pages, the smell of the paper… something that evokes that would be great.”

“Sounds good,” Keith says, sounding bored. He crumples up a piece of paper and aims it for the wastebasket. His shot bounces off the rim, but Jimmy grabs another sheet and does the same.

“The Last Page… no, that sounds kind of depressing,” she muses aloud as the two men play their impromptu game of hoops. “Page One… sounds like a newspaper…” She picks up a book--an old paperback copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles­ with a hard crease in the front cover--and idly thumbs through the pages.

And then it hits her. “How about The Blank Page? It conveys the promise of a book--the sense that anything can happen when you have a page to put words on.”

Jimmy and Keith trade an impressed look.

“I like it,” Jimmy says with a shrug. He fires a shot at the wastebasket.

“Me too,” Keith agrees, moving to swat away Jimmy’s shot.

Diane feels a surge of pride at their acceptance of her idea. It makes her long for her days at Vision, when she felt productive and purposeful. But that’s why she is doing this: to be productive. To get back on her feet.

And for the other reason. Instinctively her hand goes to her stomach, which has begun to swell just a little bit. It’s a reminder that she has to figure out what she is doing about this baby, and soon. She knows she needs to make an appointment to terminate the pregnancy. She has to do it soon.

“Are we going to be buying new books?” she asks.

Keith shrugs. “Nah. We’ll just sell off what’s here and take donations. People are always trying to get rid of old crap.”

“Okay,” she says quietly. She moves behind the counter to begin fiddling with the register; clearly they did not spring for a new one. She takes another look around the store. She’ll be damned if she has any clue how they expect this business to succeed, but as long as they pay her checks for the time being, that part doesn’t have to be her problem.


The last traces of the morning’s snowfall linger outdoors. As is typical of bouts of snow in the Pacific Northwest, the dusting on the road has already melted, leaving the pavement wet but unobstructed. The only evidence that it snowed recently is the thin layer of white that sits on tree branches and rooftops.

Claire Fisher surveys the weather from the window of Brent Taylor’s office. Arms folded in front of her, she stares out into the gray day as she attempts to untangle the complicated cables of thoughts inside her head.

“I was so close to telling Tim,” she says, still looking through the window. “I had myself psyched to do it. And then Travis came in and I--I lost my nerve.”

“Understandable,” Brent comments from behind her. He sits in his desk chair, half-turned to face Claire. “It’s not exactly a casual piece of info.”

“That’s the problem. It’s so big, and it’s going to turn everyone’s lives upside-down, and…” She has run through these justifications so many times in her head that they sound stale even to her, but the fact remains that they are true. “And now Philip knows, and I’m so worried he’s going to take this into his own hands.”

“So am I. That’s why you need to do this as soon as possible, Claire.”

She turns toward him and pulls the sleeves of her wool sweater down over her hands. “I know. I know! And the longer I wait, the worse it’s going to be.”

Brent’s face grows grim, his mouth straightening into a tense line. “Yeah,” he says through a deep exhale.

“You know what? I’m going to talk to Philip and figure out how to do this.” She pulls her phone from her purse and fires off a text message. As she lowers the phone, she adds, “He isn’t wrong to be concerned about how this will affect Spencer. That kid is…”

“A loose cannon.”


Her phone vibrates, and she reads Philip’s response: I’m at Molly’s right now. We can talk later.

“What did he say?” Brent, attempting to read her expression, asks.

“That he’s at Molly’s.” She says it quietly, not wanting to upset Brent--not that he isn’t aware of Molly’s relationship with Philip, but still. She grabs her coat from a nearby chair. “But you’re right--I have to do something about this. And I might as well do it now.”


“I have to do something. Now.”

Philip Ragan moves around the kitchen with manic energy. Molly Fisher stands at the sink, rinsing the cookie sheet that she used to crisp the bread for their sandwiches, while Philip gathers the debris of the lunch they just shared with her two sons, who have since gone running off to the den.

“There isn’t much you can do,” Molly says as she balances the cookie sheet on top of the dish rack, “short of physically dragging him out of the fraternity. And I’m not sure how effective that would be.”

“I know.” Philip deposits the plates and silverware in a stack beside the sink. “But the house is mostly empty until the end of the month. Once this mini winter term is over, the rest of the brothers will be back, and then it’ll be even more difficult to convince Spencer to move out.”

“Maybe you can take him to look at apartments. If he sees something that he loves…”

  Philip Ragan

“I was thinking the same thing. Convincing him to come with me is the tough part. But I really do not want him living in that house anymore.”

The tail end of his sentence trails away as something distracts him. He removes his phone from his pocket and checks a message. Molly watches him tap out a quick response before he refocuses on her.

“It’s a reckless environment,” Philip continues, “and I hate to say this, but I don’t trust Spencer’s judgment around those boys.”

“Why don’t you call him and see if he’d be willing to meet up today?” Molly says as she begins rinsing the plates.

“I think I will.” He begins to take out his phone again but stops mid-movement. “You know what? I’m going to see him. It’s much more difficult for him to write me off that way.”

“Do what you need to do.”

“I’ll be in touch later. Thank you for lunch,” he says as he dips out of the kitchen and retrieves his coat from the hall closet. “Wish me luck.”

“Good luck.” They share a quick peck on the lips, and then Philip is gone, that wild energy carrying him out the door. With the water still running from the faucet, Molly pauses to offer up a little wish that somehow, some way, Philip will be able to get through to his brother.


Later, after Jimmy and Keith leave the store, Diane leans on the counter with her elbows. Sarah Fisher is across from her, a purple scarf wrapped around her neck. They are the only two people in the store.

“They have no idea what they’re doing,” Diane says. “I think they just liked the idea of buying a business, and this one happened to be for sale.”

“So they just bought the place? Inventory and all?”

“Apparently. But hey, if they’re going to pay me to hang out here and ring up the occasional customer, fine by me.”

Diane can feel Sarah leveling that familiar, weird stare upon her.

“What?” she finally asks, even though it has probably only been two or three seconds.

“I just worry about you,” Sarah says.

“Me? Have you met me?”

“Yes. And I know how important work is to you. To be managing a used bookstore now--”

“Hey. It’s a paycheck. It’ll buy me some time to figure out what I’m doing.” Diane moves out from behind the counter, eager to be out from under Sarah’s curious gaze. She loves her friend, but she hates how she has that X-ray vision detective thing going on. Diane sets about shelving a small stack of books waiting on a nearby cart.

“As long as everything’s okay,” Sarah says.

“Everything’s fine.” Diane forces the words out, but in the same breath, she again has the urge to tell Sarah what is going on. Before she can even pull them together, though, she hears the jingling bell that indicates the door opening.

She turns to see a man, probably in his early 30s, with a dark mustache and goatee. He wears a red baseball cap and stands there like he has just wandered into a foreign land.

“Can I help you with something?” Diane asks.

“Oh, uh, Keith around?”

“No. He stepped out for a bit. I can leave him a message--”

“No, it’s fine.” The guy is already halfway out the door as he mutters, “Thanks.” Then he is gone.

“That was weird,” Sarah says.

“I have a feeling everything around here is going to be weird.” Diane returns to shelving the books but takes a silent moment to compose herself. It’s better that she not tell Sarah anything--soon enough, she will have this all taken care of, and then it will be as if this pregnancy never happened at all.


Claire turns the wheel of her car sharply to swing into Molly’s driveway. She winds up parked a little too close to Molly’s BMW 3-series. Under normal circumstances, she would back up and straighten out her parking job--but not today. She hops out of the car, careful not to strike Molly’s car with her door, and races through the drizzling rain for the house. With concern she notes that Philip’s car is nowhere to be seen.

Taking cover on the front porch, she pushes the doorbell and hears its muted ring through the door. She waits for an answer. Five seconds pass… then ten… and she hears a voice inside. Finally there are footsteps.

“Claire,” Molly says with surprise as she opens the door. “What’s going on?”

“Is Philip here?”

“No, actually. He had to go take care of something.” Behind Molly, Claire can see Caleb and Christian working on their homework at the dining room table. 

  Claire Fisher

“Oh. He had texted me that he was here but then stopped responding. Do you know where he went?”

She can see annoyance bubbling right beneath the surface, as if Molly is thinking, Why is this any of your business? To her credit, Molly suppresses it almost entirely and answers, “He had to go see his brother.”

“Spencer? At KBU?”

“That’s what it sounded like.”

“Do you know what it was about?”

Molly stammers for a gut-wrenching moment and then says, “It was important.” She barely pauses before asking, “Claire, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Claire shakes her head and begins backing off the porch. “Nothing. Thanks, Molly.”

She dashes back to her car, her heart thumping wildly inside her chest. As she starts the car, she sees Molly still standing at the open front door, watching her carefully. Claire backs out of the driveway and sets course for the university, which is much too far away for her liking right now. Philip couldn’t possibly have gone to tell Spencer the truth--could he?


What will Claire do when she arrives at KBU?
Should Philip tell Spencer the truth?
What should Diane do about her pregnancy?
Discuss all this and more in the Footprints Forum!

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Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013

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