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- Alex told Trevor that he is going to stop harboring resentment over their one-night stand.
- Philip was determined to convince Spencer to move out of the Sigma Chi house after he got into a drunk driving accident with a fraternity brother.
- Claire went to track down Philip at Molly’s house, only to be told that he’d taken off in a rush to go see Spencer. She feared that Philip might be about to reveal the truth about Spencer’s parentage and rushed to stop him.


“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” Spencer Ragan mutters as he rushes to put out the joint currently burning in his hand. He hastily deposits it in the ashtray on the windowsill, blows a last cloud of hazy gray smoke into the cold winter day, and shuts the window.

“Coming!” he calls out. Realizing that the room still reeks of pot, he lights a candle, sets it on the windowsill, and ducks out of the room. Spencer pulls the door closed behind him as he finds his older brother waiting in the hallway.

“What’s up?” he asks casually.

“We need to talk,” Philip says.

Spencer groans. “Don’t make it sound so appealing.” He stares off at the contents of the trophy case against the opposite wall.

“Spencer, please. Just hear me out.” Philip glances one way and then the other down the hallway, as if to make sure he will not be overheard. “I want to talk about your living situation before the spring semester starts.”

“There’s nothing to talk about.”

Feeling a fist of rage knotting itself inside his chest, Spencer reaches for the doorknob to his room—and is surprised when Philip grasps his upper arm.

“Hold it,” Philip says. “I’m going to talk, and you’re going to listen.”


Claire Fisher’s shaky hands clutch the steering wheel as she passes the Sigma Chi house. She spots Philip’s car on the street, and her heart rate intensifies. He couldn’t have come here to tell Spencer the truth… could he have? Logically, she knows that it is a leap, but with the pressure Philip has been putting on her to come clean, coupled with the trouble he’s been having with Spencer, anything is possible.

Seeing no more parking spots on the street, she makes a right and circles the block. This time, she snatches the first spot she can locate. It’s not very close to Sigma Chi, but it’s a spot. Her racing nerves compete with her focus as she attempts to parallel park, but after three tries, she gets the car in a good enough position and heads for the house.

The structure seems even more imposing now that it is mostly empty. She knows the school’s schedule well because of Travis, and she is aware that most students will not be back from winter break for another few weeks. Those who are still on campus are taking specialized winter term classes—things like exercise classes, intensive foreign language courses, or writing workshops. There is a strange chill surrounding the campus that has nothing to do with the residual snow on the roofs and trees; it is the unusual silence and calm of a school break. Isolated clumps of snow linger on the lawns and plants and walkways like blots from a child’s errant paintbrush.

  Claire Fisher

A burly blond kid answers the door at Sigma Chi. He offers no greeting, simply waits for Claire to say something.

“I’m here to see Spencer,” she says. “Spencer Ragan.” She opts not to mention their relationship, both because it’s strange for her to refer to herself as Spencer’s sister when she knows the truth and also because any preview of who is at the door will probably send Spencer into a petulant rage. And what she really wants to know is what Philip is doing inside this house.

“I’ll get him.” The blond kid goes to the foot of the stairs and yells, “Ragan! You’ve got a visitor!” Then he disappears back down a hallway without so much as acknowledging Claire.

She steps into the foyer and closes the door. The house is shockingly quiet, aside from the faint sound of music playing from down the hall. Then Spencer appears at the railing at the top of the stairs.

“Oh, hell no,” he says when he sets eyes upon Claire. To someone else she can’t see, he barks, “You called in reinforcements?”

“What?” she hears Philip’s voice ask.

Claire quickly climbs the stairs and spots Philip standing in the hallway behind Spencer.

“What are you doing here?” Philip asks.

“What about you?” she fires back. She tries to read both of them and see if there’s any chance Philip already said something revealing to Spencer, but it doesn’t seem like it.

“I have an idea,” Spencer says. “Why don’t the two of you go talk somewhere else and leave me the hell alone?” He beats a hasty retreat to what Claire assumes is his dorm room.

“Spencer, wait,” she says, following him. She sees him reaching for the doorknob, and then she sees the gray smoke rising from beneath the door.

“Don’t open that!” she calls out, but it is too late. She hears Spencer scream, and then she sees a burst of bright light and feels smoke crowding all around her.

322 Bar & Grill

Only a few of the restaurant’s tables are occupied, given the post-lunch hour. As a Maroon 5 song plays in the background, a college-aged waitress delivers two plates to the booth where Jason Fisher and Alex Marshall are seated.

“This looks so good. Thank you,” Jason says, eyeing his burger and fries ravenously.

“Thanks,” Alex tells the waitress as she places his chicken sandwich in front of him.

“This is what happens when I wait until this late to eat lunch,” Jason announces as he dives into the burger.

Alex watches him chewing an overly full mouth of food with amusement. He picks up a few of his own fries and says, “I picked up the funniest little Valentine’s gift to give Sophie—”

But he sees Jason’s gaze wandering off, focusing on something else, and he cannot help but follow it across the restaurant, where Trevor Brooks and Liam Cassel have just walked in the front door. Before Alex really registers what is going on, Trevor notices them, and the two men walk toward their table.

“Hey, guys,” Trevor says merrily. “Late lunch?”

“Uh, yeah,” Alex says, determined to make this as normal as possible. He hasn’t seen Trevor since their talk at Jason’s fundraiser, but he hopes that the passage of time really has done the healing that he hoped it would. “Lauren texted me a picture of her latest ultrasound the other day—”

“We went to see her two weeks ago. She looks so happy,” Trevor says before adding with a little laugh, “and she’s getting huge! It’s really funny.”

“I’m sure she’d love to hear you say that,” Liam interjects.

“She keeps sending me pictures with captions like, ‘Look how fat I’m getting!’ And she’s my little sister. So whatever.”

“She seems really happy,” Jason says.

“Yeah,” Trevor agrees, nodding. “She is.”

Jason picks up his soda and cups it between his hands. “Molly said you’re working with Objection now. Sounds cool.”

“Yeah, I’m kind of consulting. Acting like a… a…” Trevor snaps his fingers, trying to call up the word.

“Liaison,” Alex and Liam say in nearly perfect unison.

“Leave it to the writers,” Liam says in his British accent.

Trevor chuckles as he finishes, “A liaison between corporate and the stores. Should be really fun.”

“Are you guys here for lunch?” Alex asks.

“Just picking up a takeout order.” Trevor searches around and sees the bag waiting by the register on the bar. “And there it is. We should get going. But it’s good to see you guys.”

“Same,” Alex says, and amidst a flurry of goodbyes, Trevor and Liam head to the bar to pick up their food.

Jason munches on a French fry until he is sure they are out of earshot.

“That seemed normal and painless,” he says, scanning Alex’s face. “Am I misreading, or…?”

“No, it was fine. Good, even.” Alex allows himself to exhale with relief.

“So you guys are in a good place now?”

Alex looks over to where Liam is signing his credit card receipt. “Yeah. I think so. This year is going to be all about moving on. Leaving the past in the past. Getting my life on track.”

“I can get behind that,” Jason says. “And I think it’s good that you’ve kinda made peace with this Trevor thing.”

“Yeah. And actually…” Alex pauses with his straw resting on the edge of his lip. “There’s something else I could use your help with in that department.”


Flames and smoke surge out of the room. Instinctively, Claire reaches for Spencer. She manages to grab a hold of some piece of fabric—his sweatshirt, she thinks—and yank him backward. Spencer nearly loses his balance but braces himself against something against the wall, a bookcase or something. 

Claire has heard enough of her hospital patients recount stories of being trapped in fires that she knows this is exactly what they should be doing. “Get down!” she yells to Philip as she drops to her hands and knees. “Crawl!”

Through the plumes of dark smoke, she sees Philip drop and start moving toward the stairs. Spencer seems disoriented as he regains his balance.

“Spencer! Get down and crawl!” she calls out. She sees a trail of flames racing out of the room and grabs Spencer again, pulling him to the ground and out of the way of the flames, which devour the case—she can tell now that it is a trophy case, based on the way the light glints off the items inside.

“Crawl!” she orders Spencer. After what feels like forever but is probably only a second, he finally does.

  Spencer Ragan

Holding her breath against the smoke, Claire moves toward the wall to escape another tongue of flames lapping desperately and eagerly at her. And that is when she senses something closing in on her. She glances up just as the trophy case begins to crumble—right on top of her.


“What’s up, sis?” Jason says as Molly Fisher lets him into the house.

“I’ve got the boys actually working on their book reports and Downton Abbey going in my DVD player,” she says, bringing him into the kitchen. “I can’t complain.”

“Sounds good to me.”

“Can I get you anything to drink?” she asks as she takes out two glasses from the cupboard.

“Nah, I’m fine.”

Molly pours herself a glass of water from the filtered pitcher in the refrigerator. “The booster seat is in the garage. Two of them, actually, if you want to swap out one seat for an identical one for no reason…”

“I’ll just take one. But thank you. You’re a lifesaver,” Jason says. He pauses before adding, “There’s actually another kind-of favor I wanted to ask you.”

Molly leans against the counter and sips her water. “What’s that?”

"Remember that idea you had to set Alex up with Cameron?”


“He says he’s interested now.”

Surprise registers on Molly’s face as she sets down the glass. “Oh, wow. I thought that was kind of a lost cause.”

  Jason Fisher

“I think it’s a good sign. He’s been kind of… out of it the past few months. Since Graham died, and then with Trevor coming back…” He trails off before he reveals anything more. “It’s just been a lot for him. So I think this could be good.”

“Then I will set it up. I think they might really hit it off. Now how about we grab you that booster seat?”

“Let’s do it,” Jason says as Molly leads the way to the garage.


Claire tucks her body into a ball and rolls. She braces for the worst and then hears the shattering of glass and the splintering of wood--but she feels almost none of it, aside from something that bounces and hits her in the side, probably a trophy. She tries to ignore the pain and keeps rolling until she is sure that she has avoided being crushed by the trophy case. And through the smoke, she can tell that she has--

The only problem is that the case is blocking her way to the stairs now.

“What was that?” she hears Philip call through the smoke. He sounds far away now, but she can’t tell how much of that is distance and how much is the distortion of the fire that is raging all around them.

“The trophy case fell!” Spencer shouts in response. He sounds closer, but she can’t tell how close.

“Claire?” Philip shouts. “Where are you?”

“I’m back here! I can’t—the case is blocking the way!”

She carefully rises to her feet, trying not to breathe at all as the smoke swarms around her. But there is no way around the case. She pulls her sleeve down over her hand and tentatively pushes it, but it doesn’t budge. And she doesn’t know how she could even try to jump it if she can’t see what is on the other side.

“I can’t lift it!”

“Help her!” Philip yells, presumably to Spencer. On the other side of the bookcase, Claire can barely make out Spencer, once again standing, through the smoke as he presumably tries to locate her.

There is a terrifyingly long pause before Spencer calls back, “I’m getting the hell out of here!”

“You can’t leave her!”

“You guys get yourselves out!” she says, even though the implication--that she will be left behind--sends a chill through her body even with the unbearable heat surrounding her.

“We aren’t leaving you!” Philip screams. He might as well be a continent away, from the sounds of it.

Spencer doesn’t respond. Claire frantically searches for some way, any way, around the case or under it. There is none, not unless she can somehow move the trophy case’s fallen corpse.

“Help her!” Philip says. Claire can hear his desperation even through the crackling of the fire. That’s her brother yelling out for her to be saved. It brings her a fleeting--very fleeting--sense of calm in this terrifying chaos.

Claire sees Spencer’s form start to move away from her, across the floor toward the stairs.

“Spencer, help her lift it!” Philip instructs him from deep in the smoke.

“Why should I help her? She let our father die,” Spencer says through a cough. He sounds shaky and confused, but his anger is still unmistakable.

“Because,” Philip begins.

“Get yourselves out!” Claire says.

“Because she’s your mother!” Philip announces as a curtain of flames tears across the carpet behind Claire, trapping her for good.


Will Claire be able to manage this revelation, or is it too late?
How will Spencer react to Claire being trapped?
Will Alex and Cameron be a good match?
Talk about it all in the Footprints Forum!

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Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013

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