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- Diane began managing Jimmy and Keith’s used bookstore and continued to keep her pregnancy to herself.
- Claire, Philip, and Spencer were caught in a fire at Spencer’s fraternity house. Desperate to have Spencer save Claire, Philip shouted that Claire is Spencer’s mother.
- All three escaped the fire, but as soon as Claire confirmed the information to Spencer, she passed out and was rushed to the hospital.


KB Memorial Hospital

Philip Ragan would like to think that he is a patient person, but it is taking every ounce of willpower he can dredge up not to scream at the two children running back and forth through the hospital’s waiting room. It has been going on for at least half an hour, and their mother has done little more than pipe up with a halfhearted word here and there before returning to whatever she is doing on her phone.

Then again, Philip knows that it is less the children’s chaos and more the waiting that is stressing him out. The paramedics brought Claire here in the ambulance after she fell unconscious, and Philip followed in his own car, so he has had no access to information for some time.

“Leave me alone!” the little boy screams as his older sister chases him across the room. They whiz right in front of Philip, who sits back in his chair and folds his hands in his lap in an attempt to ignore it all.

“Mr. Ragan?” a voice asks, pulling him from his moment of forced focus.

Philip stands. The doctor is an Indian woman who appears to be in her 40s. She is nearly an entire foot shorter than Philip and has a round face that shows warmth even through her professional demeanor.

“I’m Dr. Verma,” she says. “You’re Claire’s brother?”


“I didn’t know she had siblings. We work together fairly often.”

“Half-brother, actually. It’s… complicated.” Philip clasps his hands together. “Now tell me, please: is she all right?”


Spencer Ragan pushes the half-eaten plate of fries across the scratched formica tabletop. The food here is even crappier than the food in the dining hall at King’s Bay U, and at least that place doesn’t look like a total relic of the 80s. Well, not as much of one, at least.

Not that Spencer has much of an appetite right now, anyway. He still has no idea what any of this means or if he is even supposed to take it seriously. Claire is his mother? And that means Tim is his father? He actually likes the guy. Then again, if Tim has known this all along and kept it from Spencer--if he helped him with that tire and gave him the internship because of this….

Spencer always assumed that his birth parents were some anonymous poor couple who couldn’t take care of their kid--and he got lucky when he was adopted by Loretta Ragan. He has never had any urge to find out who his biological parents are; in fact, he has decided in the last few years that he likes not knowing.

Liked not knowing.

He still isn’t even sure whether he believes Philip’s story. He wants to ignore the whole thing but knows he can’t until he gets some solid information. And he can’t grill Philip and Claire any more until she wakes up and is okay. If she’s okay.

The whole thing has his head spinning. As much as he doesn’t want to eat those soggy fries, he doesn’t have a damn clue what else he’s supposed to do while he kills time in this hellhole. And he doesn’t even know if the Sigma Chi house is still standing or how much trouble he’s going to be in if it turns out he caused that fire…

  Spencer Ragan

His thoughts abruptly smash into one another, piling up like cars on a freeway, when he spots Travis Fisher moving quickly down the corridor outside the cafeteria.

Spencer tosses his napkin on top of the fries and springs to his feet.

“Fisher!” he calls out, shaking off the odd realization that it could also be his last name. Or should be.

Confusion registers on Travis’s face as he stops and turns. “What are you doing here?” he asks.

“Waiting for my brother. What are you doing here?”

“My Aunt Molly said your brother was here with my mom,” Travis says. “So what the hell is actually going on?”


Diane Bishop has barely closed the door behind the delivery man who brought her takeout order of Chinese--too much food, she realizes both glumly and excitedly once alone with it--when the doorbell rings again. This time, it is someone who comes bearing considerably fewer gifts.

“To what do I owe the honor?” she asks her sister.

Natalie Bishop does not even pause before letting herself into the condo. “I told you I was going to drop by tonight. Remember?”

Diane has a vague recollection of a series of quick text messages from yesterday, but truthfully, she is far too preoccupied these days to pay much mind to her pain-in-the-ass sister. Part of her hoped that Natalie might forget about whatever coffee klatch she is apparently planning to have.

“I just finished a very long day of work,” Diane says, her feet and back still achy from the hours she spent inventorying the bookstore in-between the handful of customers who dribbled in throughout the day. “Not that you would recognize one if it smacked you in the face.”

“So polite,” Natalie says as she unbuttons and removes her navy blue coat. “Aren’t you going to offer me some…” She glances toward the kitchen. “…moo shu pork or whatever?”

“No. Cut to the chase, Natalie.”

“Jeez. Fine.” The younger Bishop sister shakes out her chestnut hair before she continues. “I have to go out of town at the end of the week to handle the last of the divorce with Conrad--”

“That’s still not over?”

“There were just some assets left in limbo. You know.”

“I don’t. But go on.”

Bree can’t miss school up here,” Natalie says. “I was wondering if she could stay with you for, like, three days.”

Diane’s body relaxes ever-so-slightly. Considering the kinds of nightmares she is usually prepared to deal with when her sister is involved, this is a cakewalk.

“Sure,” she says. “Maybe Samantha can spend those nights here instead of the dorm. It could be fun for them.”

“See? That’s what I thought.”

Before Diane can snap back a response, the telephone rings. She thinks of answering it just to have a reason to kick Natalie out, but she isn’t sure that she wants to deal with whatever fresh hell awaits on the other end of the line, so she allows it to ring. The answering machine picks up, and she hears her own voice reciting the same tired greeting.

“When do you want to drop her off?” Diane asks, talking over her recorded self.

“How’s Wednesday evening?”

The machine beeps, and both of them unintentionally pause as a female voice begins: “Ms. Bishop, this is Alma calling from Dr. Genovese’s office. I’m just confirming your appointment--”

Diane lunges toward the kitchen to grab the phone and make the voice go away, but it is too late.

“--for your ultrasound tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m.”

Slumping with defeat, Diane holds the phone in her hand but never answers. Alma finishes her message and hangs up, and the machine goes quiet after a click. Diane can feel Natalie’s eyes burning into her long before she wheels around to face them.

“Ultrasound?” Natalie asks. Her face dazzles with a devious sort of excitement. “Are you pregnant?”


“Hi there,” Philip says as he enters the hospital room to find Claire groggy but awake in the bed.

“Philip.” Her voice is raspy, like every word has been rubbed raw. Philip’s isn’t much better; his throat feels burnt and itchy.

“You’re going to be fine,” he tells her as he approaches the bed. “I just spoke to Dr. Verma. You fainted from a shortage of oxygen, but they’ve put you on something… nebular…”

“Nebulized heparin,” she says with half-closed eyes, the instantaneous recall of information seared solidly into her professional mind. But as the term floats out of her mouth, her eyes open wider, and her body stiffens with alarm. She lifts her neck. “Spencer knows.”

“Yes.” He lets out a heavy sigh. “He went down to the cafeteria. I spoke with him a little…”

“I need to talk to Travis and Tim. Where’s my phone?”

She glances around frantically. Philip spots her purse on a chair near the wall and locates her phone inside it.

“I called Molly to tell her what happened and that you were being treated,” he says. “She said she would call Travis. He’s probably on his way now.”

Claire looks up from the phone. “What did she tell him?”

“Just that you were here and I was with you. Nothing else.”

“Okay.” She references the number on her cell phone and uses the bedside phone to dial. “Tim, it’s me,” she says as Philip looks on. “I’m at--I’m in the hospital. Yeah, I’m fine. But I need you to come here right away.”


The first thing Travis notices is that Spencer looks like hell. The whites of his eyes are irritated and more like a dull pink; eerie red blood vessels creep across their surfaces. His hair is a mess, and his face and clothes are dirty. And as sharp as he seemed a moment ago, he now appears incapable of stringing together an explanation.

“What’s going on?” Travis repeats. “Is my mom okay?”

“Waiting to find out. There was a fire. Sigma Chi caught on fire--”

“Why was my mom at Sigma Chi?”

“She came to find Philip.”

“Huh?” This is all sounding weird and urgent and disconnected to Travis. “Did something happen?”

  Travis Fisher

“Besides the fire I just mentioned? Yeah…”

Travis hates the smug tone in Spencer’s voice, that perpetual, invisible smirk hanging over everything single thing he says. “Dude. What is it?”

Spencer draws his head back and studies Travis silently for a second. There is something unnerving and calculating about it.

“You really have no idea?” Spencer finally asks.

“No, or I wouldn’t be wasting my time talking to you. What the hell is up?”

Then comes another lengthy moment of contemplation, or whatever Spencer is doing. It is as if he is considering every single syllable and every possible inflection. Travis’s mind whizzes as he tries to get ahead of Spencer, but he cannot even form a viable theory about what might be going on.

“It’s about us,” Spencer finally says. “You and me.”

“I’m not even gonna pretend I have a clue what you’re talking about.”

“Did you know I was adopted?”

“Yeah. I guess.” The threads of Travis’s patience are rapidly fraying. “What does any of this have to do with me? Can I go find my mom?”

“You want to hear this before you see her,” Spencer says, his eyes flashing with something that Travis can’t place, “because you’re never going to look at her the same way again.”


“That,” Diane says, her body tingling with panic as the medical receptionist’s damning words repeat in her head, “is none of your damn business in the first place.”

Natalie’s face is full with a self-satisfied grin. “So you are pregnant.”

“They do ultrasounds for other things.”

Natalie tosses her coat over the back of a chair. “I didn’t even know you were seeing anyone.”

“I’m not!”

Diane bustles around the kitchen, getting herself a plate and utensils for her dinner. She can practically feel Natalie thinking, her vapid little brain swirling like a tornado, eager to swallow up and ruin whatever it can find.

“Have you been hiding some guy on the side?” Natalie asks, though it sounds more like an accusation than a question.

Diane slams the plate down on the counter, then zooms over to the chair and grabs Natalie’s coat. She thrusts the navy blue thing at her sister and says, “You can go now.”

“But I’m having so much fun with this little puzzle.”

“If you want me to watch Bree later this week, you will go now, and you will stop asking questions and keep your mouth shut. Hear me?”

Natalie rolls her eyes. “Ugh. Fine.”

  Diane Bishop

It seems to take forever for Natalie to squirm back inside that coat. Diane has the front door open and waiting by the time Natalie is all buttoned up.

“Good luck with your ultrasound,” Natalie says.

Diane keeps her lips firmly sealed as her sister sashays out of the condo. And before Natalie can get another obnoxious dig or insinuation in, Diane slams the door behind her, sealing her out.

She only wishes it were that easy to keep her away or to erase what Natalie just heard on the answering machine. But it makes one thing very clear to Diane: whatever she is going to do about this pregnancy, she needs to decide it once and for all at her appointment tomorrow.


“I should have told them a long time ago,” Claire says as she knots her hands together in the hospital bed. “I never should have let it get this far.” Her gaze flashes for the thousandth time to the doorway.

“We’ll handle this,” Philip assures her.

Claire picks up her phone from the bedside stand. She checks the screen and then sets it back down.

“No response from Travis yet?” Philip asks.

“No.” A sudden surge of energy swings her legs over the edge of bed. “I need to go find him.”

“Claire, you can’t just leave--”

“I need to.”

“Whoa, what’s going on?” Tim Fisher stands in the doorway. “Why are you in a hospital bed?”

Claire trades a look with Philip before she begins. “There was a fire. I’m fine. They were treating me for smoke inhalation.”

The lines in Tim’s face deepen with worry. “You called me to rush down here even though you’re fine?”

Claire takes a deep breath. Her throat and lungs already feel exhausted, and the added pounding of her heart isn’t helping.

“Tim, there’s something I need to tell you,” she says. “Something I should have told you a long time ago--told you and Travis, actually--”

“You don’t have to worry about Travis,” says another raspy voice. All eyes in the room go to Spencer, who has appeared behind Tim.

Dread seizes Claire as she makes the short hop off the bed. “What do you mean?”

“He knows,” Spencer says, staring straight at her--through her--with such gleaming anger that it sends a chill up her spine.


Did Spencer really spill the beans to Travis?
How will Tim and the Fishers react to this news?
Will Natalie interfere in Diane’s plans for the baby?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to discuss it all!

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Friday, Feb. 22, 2013

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