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- Sarah stayed with her parents while she recovered from childbirth and the trauma of her husband Graham’s shocking death.
- Claire feared that Philip was about to tell Spencer the truth about his parentage and raced to stop him.
- A fire broke out in the fraternity house, trapping Claire behind a trophy case. Unable to help her himself, Philip shouted that Spencer had to do it--because Claire is his mother!



Thick smoke crowds all around Claire Fisher. She keeps trying to hold her breath and ward it off, but she can only make it so long without having to gulp for air--and as soon as she does, the smoke pours in to burn her throat and nose. She coughs into the dark gray air as she frantically considers how she is going to get around the fallen trophy case that is blocking her path out of this hallway.

“Spencer, help her lift it!” Philip Ragan yells from somewhere far away, maybe by the stairs. He sounds like someone has thrown a blanket over his head.

Claire evaluates the trophy case again. There is no getting around it and no going under it. She knows she can’t lift it by herself. She doesn’t know what she is going to do, but she can’t have both of them hurt or killed because of that.

“Why should I help her? She let our father die,” Spencer says, his words broken by a cough.

“Because,” Philip says.

“Get yourselves out!” Claire orders them. She hopes Philip isn’t crazy enough to--

“Because she’s your mother!” Philip shouts.

  Claire Fisher

A curtain of flames tears across the carpet behind Claire, trapping her for good. Her entire body goes numb. There is no turning back now. Spencer has heard the truth. Maybe she can cover--maybe she can do something--but not now… She cannot even see far enough through the smoke to gauge Spencer’s reaction--if he believes Philip, if he is shocked, if he is furious. All she can tell is that he hasn’t yet bolted, as the outline of his form is still visible on the other side of the trophy case.

And then an unexpected cry jars her out of her stupor:


It is Spencer, trying to lift his side of the trophy case. Startled, with flames leaping up behind her, Claire pulls her sleeves over her hands and grasps the side of the case. It feels much lighter with Spencer pushing the other side, and though she has to strain, Claire feels it moving. They get it to a nearly upright position.

“Run!” Spencer yells, as he slides in front of the case to try and hold it up. Claire hesitates, not wanting to see him crushed by it, but when she sees him balancing it just well enough, she bolts for the stairs. Philip becomes visible through the smoke.

“Come on!” she calls behind her, as she hears the trophy case once again crash against the opposite wall. She hears footsteps running and turns back, her eyes painfully itchy, to see Spencer rushing toward her through the dark clouds filling the hallway.


The house looks like a museum to Sarah Fisher. She stands on the staircase and takes in the furniture and the art in the foyer and the living room. It is all elegant and tasteful; she even helped picked some of it out. But nice as it is, it doesn’t represent any taste she had before marrying Graham. And so it is a reminder of another life--a life that, for a time, she thought was hers but is gone now.

“Did you get him to sleep?” Paula Fisher asks as she emerges from the kitchen.

“Yeah. He went out like a light,” Sarah says. She descends the remaining few stairs and tries to shake off the creeping sense of uneasiness she gets from being in this house again. “It’s nice to have a kid who likes to sleep this time around.”

“Hey! I heard that!” Tori Gray says from the railing at the top of the stairs, which is right next to her bedroom.

Sarah and Paula laugh.

“Honey, there are a lot of reasons I love you,” Sarah says, “but your sleeping habits when you were a baby are not one of them.”

“I wonder where she got that,” Paula says with widened eyes.

Tori plants her hands on her hips. “See, Mom? It’s your fault.”  

“Spoken like a true teenager,” Bill Fisher says as he enters from the kitchen. “All right. Your fridge is all stocked, and there’s a big batch of chowder from the restaurant waiting on the stovetop to be heated up for dinner.”

“Thank you, thank you.” Sarah hugs both her parents. “You guys have been amazing.”

“It’s our pleasure,” Paula says. “You’re sure you’ll be okay?”

Sarah nods insistently. “I’ll be fine. It’s time to get my life in gear, you know? I can’t hide out in your house forever.”

“We’ve loved having you,” Bill says. “And Tori and Billy.”

“You’re still gonna see plenty of us, especially if the offer still stands to babysit Billy once I pick up some more cases.”

“Of course it does. You’re sure you’re going to be okay tonight?” Paula asks.

“Positive. You guys can go! Seriously.” Sarah crosses the foyer and opens the front door for them. An obnoxiously chilly gust of air rushes in to assault her. “I swear, we will be fine.”

“If you say so,” Paula says, swapping a look with Bill as she slips on her coat. “Call us if you need anything.”

“I will. Thanks.” Sarah hugs each of them again.

“Bye, Tori!” Paula and Bill shout in not-quite-unison up the stairs. The teenager, who has retreated back into her room, hollers a response without emerging.

When Sarah closes and locks the door behind them, she turns and leans against it. She takes in the vast expanse of the house: the grand staircase with its oversized landing and ornately carved banister; the dark Persian rugs visible in both the foyer and the living room; the antique mirror that she has always admired. The house really is like a live scrapbook of a life she began but had cut short out of nowhere--or, more accurately, a life that was a lie from the very start.

I should save all of that for therapy, she thinks with a shudder. She grabs the baby monitor from the side table and ascends the stairs to unpack the clothing that slowly migrated over to her parents’ house over the past few months.

In the hallway, she can hear a Pink song playing faintly from Tori’s room. She thinks of asking her to turn it down, but Billy’s room is all the way down the hall, and there is actually nothing unreasonable about the volume for once. Ignoring the wedding portrait hanging on the wall--because she isn’t sure if it’s appropriate to take it down or not--Sarah turns into the master bedroom.

With a gasp, she freezes.

Because sitting on the edge, staring right at her, is her late husband.


In the street outside the warped, burning Sigma Chi house, a pair of bright red fire trucks block traffic. Claire sits on the curb, her arms folded against the winter cold even with the heat radiating from the burning structure, as she waits for the paramedic who was just questioning her to return. A crowd of onlookers has gathered at a barely-safe distance to watch the smoke and flames polluting the sky.

Claire glances around nervously, her heart vibrating so hard that it causes her whole body to quiver, and finally she sees Philip emerge from behind one of the trucks. He is covered in ash, his face and clothes marked with reminders of what they just went through. He approaches cautiously and stands over her.

“Is Spencer okay?” she asks.

“He’s fine. He’s talking to his friend.”

“They were the only two in the house?”

“Yes.” Philip nods tersely as the conversation hits a brick wall. Even in the face of such an emergency, there is something else overpowering anything else between them.

“You shouldn’t have told him,” Claire says.

“He was going to leave you there. He needed to know--”

“He was going to leave me because he hates me. This isn’t going to change that.”

Philip pauses for a millisecond, which is all the indication Claire gets that she actually made some kind of impact upon him.

“But he did help you,” Philip says. “Because he knew.”

She doesn’t know how to respond to that. Of course Spencer wouldn’t have left her to die on the heels of such a shocking revelation--but it doesn’t mean that anything will change now that they are out in the regular world again. Except that this secret is officially out of her hands.

“I should talk to him,” she says, pulling herself onto unsteady feet. “I need to.”

“Okay.” Philip assists her in standing up. “I’ll come.”

He holds her arm as they walk around the side of the fire truck. Claire makes no effort to brush off Philip’s hold. Truth be told, her head feels foggy and light, and she can still feel the smoke stinging in her eyes and her throat. If not for the urgent need to address this with Spencer, and then with Travis and Tim and the rest of the Fishers, she would curl up and go to sleep.

“Spencer,” she says to his back. He is talking with the burly young man who let her into the house, who looks like a shell-shocked child right now.

Spencer whips around more forcefully than Claire expected. “What do you want?”

“I want to talk to you,” she says.

“We all need to talk,” Philip adds.

  Spencer Ragan

“Hold up,” Spencer says to his friend. “This’ll only take a minute.” He leads Philip and Claire a few feet away, and the other fraternity brother wanders off uncertainly to watch the smoke billowing out of the house.

Claire feels as if her insides are trying to jump out of her body via her throat. She notices both of her hands trembling as she says, “Spencer, I’m… I’m sorry you had to hear what you heard that way. It wasn’t what I wanted.”

“So it’s true?” Spencer looks from Claire to Philip and back, his gaze burning with disdain. “They adopted me from you?”


Sarah stops herself from screaming and tries to reason with her brain. Graham is not really here. He’s dead. She’s seeing things. Hallucinating. And yet…

He looks so real.

“I’m officially going crazy,” she says to herself.

Her therapist encouraged her to try coming back to this house, and Sarah knows that she is right. For months, she has avoided this place, sending family members to pick up odds and ends as she has needed them. But this is the only home she has right now, and she can’t stay holed up in her parents’ house forever. She has to get back to real life at some point. So, just as she did with the wedding portrait in the hallway, she averts her eyes from Graham, grabs a suitcase, and goes into the spacious walk-in closet to unpack. She tries not to acknowledge all the clothes that she knows she will have to deal with at some point, too.

When she emerges, she finds that “Graham” is gone. Good. She can do this.

She goes into the bathroom and begins unloading her toiletry kit. Someone--Molly, she thinks--came by earlier and moved all of Graham’s things out of the bathroom. The empty space looks strange, but it is a relief not to have to feel like she is trapped in some time capsule. She pulls out her bottle of contact lens solution and realizes that it is almost empty, and when she looks up to place it on the counter, her eyes catch on something in the mirror--


He is staring right at her. Into her.

This time, she doesn’t freeze. She bolts from the bathroom and back into the hallway.

“You’re not real,” she says, trying to catch her breath. “You’re not real.”

Her heart thumps against the inside of her chest.

“You’re not real,” she repeats.

“Mom?” comes a voice from the end of the hall. Sarah tries to compose herself, but her breathing is still shallow and her heart is still pounding and her head is foggy with visions of Graham.

“What, honey?” she manages to choke out.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Nothing’s wrong.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. I’m fine.” Sarah forces a smile that she is sure looks like her lips are being yanked by hooks. “Just unpacking.”

With shaking hands, she reaches out and takes the wedding portrait off the wall. There. Maybe that will help.

Without another word to Tori, she goes back into the master suite. She can unpack. She can do this.

Down the hall, Tori watches her mother uneasily. Honestly, this place creeps her out now. They’re basically living in a dead guy’s house. And after all the crap Graham did to her mom and dad, Tori would rather not be reminded of him at all.

She sits down on her bed and takes out her cell phone.

“Hey,” she says when the person on the other end picks up. “I need your help.”


Claire’s head is light and her body is heavy as she tries to figure out how to answer Spencer’s question. Yes? No? Sort of? This young man’s world is going to be torn apart--even worse than it already has been--and she isn’t sure if she can handle the rage that she suspects will come her way.

“Did everyone know about this? Everyone knew I was your kid and no one thought to tell me?” Spencer says. “Un-fucking-believable.”

“It isn’t as simple as that,” Philip says.

“I just found out myself,” Claire pleads, trying to make eye contact with Spencer. But he keeps averting his gaze.

“What does that mean, you just found out?” the young man asks. The vitriol in his voice is unmistakable.

“I didn’t know. I thought…” This is so much more complicated than she has the energy to explain right now. She tries to focus. “I didn’t know you or Philip existed until a few years ago. I had no idea of knowing that you were my son.”

Spencer throws up his hands. “I don’t understand what the hell is going on.”

“We will explain to you,” Philip says. “Just give us the chance.”

“Then get to explaining!”

Claire starts to speak but gets interrupted by a cough. As she fights it off, she says, “When you were a baby, my father…” She doesn’t want to say kidnapped, because she knows Spencer will automatically accuse her of trying to make James and Loretta look bad. Her head swims with other words, and for a moment, she forgets what kind of word she is even trying to find…

“Claire?” Philip says. He sounds distant again, just like he did when they were inside the fire.

His voice and the grey-blue sky are the last things she registers before everything turns to black.


“She’s upstairs,” Tori says when she greets her father at the door.

Matt Gray quickly wipes his boots on the mat outside the front door and then goes inside, wrapping his daughter into a quick hug as he does so.

“Are you okay?” he asks.

“Yeah. I’m fine.” Her jitteriness--combined with the fact that she called him at all--tells Matt otherwise, but she looks more nervous than traumatized.

“Where’s the baby?”

“Asleep. Mom has the baby monitor.”

“Let me go talk to her,” Matt says as he heads for the stairs. “Just hang out here, okay?”

He isn’t sure what to expect as he walks to the master bedroom. Being in this house kind of creeps him out, so he can’t imagine how Sarah must feel. He notices a large framed photo of Sarah and Graham from their wedding day, taken down from its hook and propped up against the wall on the floor. He averts his eyes and turns into the master suite.

Sarah sits on the bed, her head in her hands. When he walks in, she slowly looks up.

“What are you doing here?” she asks. She doesn’t seem hysterical or angry or anything like that. She seems like… Sarah.

  Sarah Fisher

“Tori called me. Said she was worried about you.” He pauses. When Sarah doesn’t offer anything further, he takes a few steps further into the room and comments, “Must be weird being back here.”

“Weird’s an understatement. Yeah.” Sarah wipes her face, even though there is no evidence of tears. “Did Tori tell you I was flipping out or something?”

“No. Just that she thought you were having a tough time…” He carefully sits down beside her. “You don’t have to do this, you know.”

“Do what?”

“Stay in this house. You can sell it. Start clean. Might be good for you.”

“I know.” Though the words say that she agrees, or at least understands, her tone is vacant and disconnected.

Matt fumbles for something useful to say. When Tori called, he expected that he would walk into some kind of borderline-emergency and know what kind of action needed to be taken. But this is… not that.

“It’s gonna get easier,” he says. “All of this.”

She nods, too long and too deliberately for it to be casual. She is trying to convince herself that this will get easier, he realizes. Uncertain what to say, Matt slides an arm around her. She relaxes into him with surprising ease, dropping her head against his shoulder.

“You can do this,” Matt says. “If there’s one thing I know about you, it’s that you can get through all this weird crap and be better than ever.”

“Thanks.” He thinks he hears a smile peeking through her voice.

“I know Graham did some crazy, scary stuff, but he’s gone.”

There is no response for a moment--and then, abruptly, Sarah jerks to an upright position and then to her feet.

“Matt, I’m fine,” she says. She is a different person than the one who was just sitting next to him. “I’m fine. You can go.”

“I’m happy to--”

“You can go.” The can is really more of a should, the way he hears it, the way her gaze is burning into him.


“Seriously, Matt. I’m fine. I can deal with this. Just go, okay?”

He stands up but lingers. “If you need anything…”

“Okay. Got it.” She folds her arms, freezing him out. Matt backs out of the room uneasily. He has no idea what just happened or why she shut down the way she did, but it makes him even more nervous than Tori’s call did.

Downstairs, he finds Tori waiting in a stiff-looking chair in the foyer, playing with her phone.

“What happened?” she asks.

“Uh, nothing. She just seems on-edge. Are you sure you want to stay here tonight?”

She considers it for half a second or so. “I should. It’s better for me to be here.”

“Smart. Just… keep an eye on things, okay? And if anything weird or scary happens--call me. Don’t worry about the time. I’ll come back.”

“Okay.” She fiddles with her phone and then looks straight at Matt. “Dad, this place creeps me out.”

“Me too,” Matt says with a sigh, his gaze drifting back toward the stairs. “Me too, kiddo.”

KB Memorial

“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Philip says as he pulls into the hospital’s parking structure. “You should get checked out while we’re here.”

“She’s probably faking,” Spencer, sitting in the passenger seat, mutters.

“Stop it.” Philip guides the car around a turn and down a ramp. He turns to his brother--or nephew, whatever he really is. “None of this is Claire’s fault.”

“Really? ‘Cause it sounds like she knew I was her kid and she didn’t tell me. And neither did you.”

“It’s so much more complicated than that.” Philip tries to focus as he pulls into a tight parking space and waits until the car is in park before he continues. “Claire only found out because Mother wanted her to find out.”

“Then where the hell did she think her baby went? She just didn’t notice until then?”

Philip knows it isn’t his place to elaborate on this, but he also knows that he can’t leave Spencer questioning his entire existence this way.

“She thought she had him,” he says. “She and Tim never had a reason to question where their child was because they were raising him.”

“Travis?” Spencer’s face screws up in confusion. “Wait, so are we--Travis and I are twins? Are you kidding me?”

“No. You aren’t twins.” Philip rubs his eyes, which are still stinging from the smoke. “Father kidnapped you when you were an infant. When Claire and Tim got their baby back, it was Travis, not you.”

“He wouldn’t do that.”

“Yes, he would.” Seeing Spencer ready to protest further, Philip cuts him off: “You didn’t even know him!”

Philip knows immediately that he has gone too far. Spencer throws open the door of the car, hops out, and slams the door on whatever words Philip might try on him next. Philip turns off the engine and takes a moment to pretend that the dark of the parking structure is actual calm.


What will Spencer do now that he knows the truth?
Will Claire be all right?
Why did Sarah turn on Matt so suddenly?
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Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013

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