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- Travis's family and friends gathered to celebrate his 21st birthday. Elly convinced him to invite his mother, Claire, despite their recent animosity. 
- Spencer returned to his hotel room to find two men waiting for him. They demanded the $28,000 he owes them from playing high-stakes poker and then beat him up. Spencer asked Philip to come help him but, fearing he might face legal trouble, insisted they not go to the hospital.
- Claire was on her way to Travis's birthday party, eager to begin repairing their relationship, when she received a phone call from Philip, desperate for her help.


"Doesn't look like you're going to need stitches for any of these, which is good," Claire Fisher says as she kneels in the thin-pile carpet that covers the floor of the hotel suite. She dabs at one of the freshly cleaned cuts on Spencer Ragan's leg with a sterile cotton swab. "You said they used a baseball bat? How did you get cuts?"

Spencer sits up, his weight leaned against the wall. "I don't know. I think I hit my leg on that desk when I fell or something."

Philip Ragan stands nearby. His arms are folded in front of his chest, and one hand rests thoughtfully near his lip; he is doing the best impression he can of someone waiting patiently.

"We don't have to take him to a hospital, then?" Philip asks. 

"He needs x-rays." Claire sets the cotton swab aside and grabs a medium-sized bandage. As she applies it to Spencer's wound, she says, "I'm going to make some calls. There's a 24-hour Urgent Care about 20 minutes from here. If the doctor I know is working--or can come in--you can have the x-rays there."

"I don't wanna have x-rays." Spencer looks to Philip. "I thought the point of you calling her was so we wouldn't have to--" 

  Spencer Ragan

Claire cuts him off: "If the ribs are broken or fractured, they'll heal on their own. But a broken rib can have any number of complications. Your ribs protect your vital organs. If one of them is broken, there could be more serious internal damage."

"You'll make sure they won't report anything?" Philip asks.

"They wouldn't be obligated to report if you had gone to the hospital, anyway. You're over 18, and there isn't a gunshot wound," she says as she cleans one last cut. "But there will be fewer questions, and we'll make sure you get some pain medication."

"Good," Spencer says as he puts his head against the wall and clamps his eyes shut. Claire isn't certain whether it is due to the pain or to having to sit here while she administers care.

She continues dressing the wound in silence for a few moments.

"Now that you're all cleaned up," she says, "I have to ask: who do you owe money to?"

Spencer recoils at the question. "What are you talking about?"

Claire glances toward Philip. She can see on his face that she's hit the nail on the head.

"This was a warning," she says. "I've treated plenty of beatings like this. They didn't want to kill you. They wanted to make you pay up."

Spencer shoots Philip a warning look, but Philip offers it right back. 

"Gambling," Spencer mutters in defeat. "Some guys I played poker with before I left town." 

"How much?" she asks.

"I'm going to handle the money," Philip interjects. "Or, rather, I'm going to take care of the money upfront so these people go away, and then Spencer is going to work off every last penny of his debt."

"It isn't debt if I take it out of my trust," Spencer says.

"If I take it out of your trust," Philip says. "When I thought this was for an apartment in New York, I was considering it. But for some incredibly careless poker-playing? Absolutely not. I'm going to loan you the money to pay these people back, and then you're going to work as my assistant, or whatever we decide upon, to pay me back." 

Spencer groans but doesn't protest further. Claire gathers the small bag of trash she has accumulated and stands to go throw it away. Philip follows her over to the suite's kitchenette, where the trashcan is located.

"Thank you," he says quietly. 

"Of course. I'm happy to help--even if I wish I didn't have to."

"And I trust you'll keep to yourself."

Claire starts to nod but stops herself. "I can't keep this from Tim. Not after everything… I can't not tell him something this serious about our son."

Philip's mouth flattens into a thin line. "He can't tell anyone. Not his parents, not his siblings, not Travis."

"Okay. You can trust him. Spencer can trust him." She looks around the suite and sees her purse on a side table. "Now I'm going to call that doctor and see how quickly we can be seen at Urgent Care. I hope this x-ray will just be a precaution."

"Me, too," Philip says as she moves off to retrieve her phone.


Tim Fisher ends a call and sets his cell phone on the dining room table, amidst the debris of pizza boxes and birthday cake. 

"There's going to be a surprise waiting outside for you in about ten minutes," he tells his son, whose attention immediately flies toward Tim.

"You got me a car?" Travis asks, his eyes wide.

"In a way." Tim laughs as the rest of the family members and friends present focus upon him. "There's a limo outside to take you guys to the bars down by the waterfront. You have it all night."

"Dad, that's awesome! Thank you!" Travis seems to cover half the room in a single stride as he bounds toward Tim. He clasps his father's hand in his and pulls him into a half-hug, patting him on the back. "This is gonna be so sweet."

"Have fun, and be safe," Tim says.

Travis makes a grossed-out face. "I've got it. Don't worry."

As the rest of the party begins buzzing again, Tim slings an arm around the young man's shoulders.

"Your mom still hasn't texted you or anything?" Tim asks.

"No." Travis's reply is clipped, as if meant to cut off the conversation.

Tim forges ahead, though. "Something must have come up at the hospital. I know how badly she wants to be here."

"Then she could've shown up," Travis says. He gently brushes Tim's arm off him. "Thanks for the party--and the limo. You rock."

"I try." 

Elly Vanderbilt appears in front of them, and Tim takes his cue.

"Just be safe, okay?" he says. "There's no need to try and drink every drop of liquor on Earth in one night."

"That's gonna take me at least two or three weeks," Travis says with a goofy grin. Tim moves off, leaving the young couple with a moment alone.

"Have fun tonight, okay?" Elly says. "I love you. Happy birthday."

"I love you, too." He plants a quick kiss on her lips. "And we're gonna get to do this for your birthday in just a few months."

"Please don't take every shot Landon tries to make you take. That kid is lacking in common sense and boundaries."

"Believe me, I know--I live with him." 

A familiar noise grabs both of their attention, and they look to the table, where Tim's phone has just vibrated. The screen is lit up with an alert, and Travis cannot help but notice what it says:

There was an emergency with Spencer. I'm so sorry I'm not there. Please tell Travis I was stuck at the hospital.

It's from Claire.

Travis sees Elly reading it, too.

"I'm sorry she didn't come," Elly says. She's clearly fumbling to make this right.

"Of course it was him," Travis says.

Tim suddenly swoops in upon them. "Was that my phone?"

"Uh, yeah." Travis nods toward the table and then watches as Tim picks it up and reads the text himself. "Everything okay?"

He can see Tim processing the message and waits, as if in slow-motion, to see how he responds. 

"It's your mom. She says she got caught up at the hospital and only now got to her phone."

"Big surprise," Travis says. He can't believe his father is lying to him, too--though of course it makes sense. He's always covering for her. Travis thought that pattern might be broken after this latest, enormous lie, but apparently not. 

He sees Tim ready to stand up for her again, so he simply cuts him off: "How long until that limo's here?"


Across the living room, Jason Fisher crouches on the sofa behind his young daughter.

"Here, go like this," he says as he pulls a lightweight brown throw over his head. He waits a few seconds and then tears it off. "Peek-a-boo!" he announces to baby Billy, who giggles in amazement at this miraculous reappearance. 

Sophie laughs along with her young cousin and then grabs the blanket from Jason. She slings it messily over her own head--half her brown hair still peeking out from under it--and then immediately takes it off.


Billy still lights up with laughter as if it is the first time he has ever seen this executed.

"I wish I were that easily amused," Sarah Fisher says from the arm of the couch, where she sits watching her son play with his cousin.

"You were once," says her own mother, Paula, who is standing only a few feet away.

"I still am, sometimes," Jason pipes in with a chuckle. 

  Jason Fisher

Sarah lowers herself down to her knees beside Jason as Sophie reclaims the blanket and acts out the game for Billy all over again. He squeals with delight as her head appears from her underneath it. 

"Grandma! You try!" Sophie says, thrusting the blanket toward Paula. She joins them on the couch and gives it a shot. 

"Do it again!" Sophie instructs while Billy laughs.

Jason and Sarah settle into the living room carpet; Sarah folds her legs underneath herself, while Jason stretches his out. 

"I don't know which of them is having more fun," Sarah says.

Jason raises an eyebrow. "Mom, probably."

"Good point. Where's Alex tonight?"

"Having his own life, which is good. He signed up to be my roommate, not Dad Number Two."

"He likes it, though."

"I know, but still. I don't ever want him to feel like he's on the clock." Jason checks that the kids are fully engaged with their grandmother and then says, in a quieter voice, "How are you and he doing?"

"Good. Honestly. I think he's being overly respectful of boundaries, but Billy is his brother, and he should be around as much as he wants to be."

"He's a damn good free babysitter," Jason says with a grin. 

"That is always a plus." 

Jason draws his knees up toward his chest. "And how about you?"

"What about me?"

"How are you?" He nods his head to indicate the kids. "If anyone gets what you're going through…"

"It's kind of different," Sarah says, shifting her position.

"You're a single parent with a little kid."

"What happened to Courtney is way different than what happened to Graham." She pauses and takes a deep, burdened breath. "You didn't deserve any of that."

"Neither did you! You didn't know he was insane."

"I married him. I should have."

Jason watches her and notes the intensity and the anger that seem to underscore every discussion of Graham and their marriage.

"Have you given any more thought to selling the house?" he asks.

"I'm not going to sell it. It's our house."

"It doesn't have to be. It was Graham's house--"

"And he bought it for us to live in," she says. "I've got it under control. I promise." With that, she moves over and takes the blanket back from Paula so that she can be the hider. 

"If you say so," Jason mumbles to himself as he watches her shift gears so abruptly.


After he reads Claire's text, Tim slips out to the backyard and calls her. She quickly fills him in on what happened to Spencer and how Philip is taking him to Urgent Care.

"What do you mean, he got beaten up?" Tim asks. "By who?"

"He owed some people money. Owes. That's why he skipped town, it sounds like."

"How much money?"

"I don't know. Philip insisted on handling that part of it. But as long as the x-rays look good, then he's going to be fine, which is what's important."

Tim exhales loudly into the night. The small backyard is shrouded in darkness, a stark contrast to the lively gathering in the well-lit rooms inside the house. 

"What does he owe them money for? Drugs?" he asks, not even wanting to say it aloud.

"He says it's gambling. I'm choosing to believe him for now." 

"What in the world have we gotten ourselves into?"

"I have no idea," Claire says, her voice crackling slightly over the line. "I'll let you know what happens with the x-rays. I just wanted to tell you what was going on."

Tim eyes the party going on inside the house. Travis and his over-21 friends are getting ready to head out the door; the limo should be here any minute.

"I appreciate it," he says. "Thank you."

"How's Travis? I feel awful not being there--"

"I told him you got stuck at the hospital. It'll be okay."

He can feel Claire's reluctance, even through the phone. "I'm not so sure I believe that. Inviting me tonight was a big olive branch. I don't know if there'll be another one."

Tim doesn't know how to respond to that: optimistically or truthfully. Instead, he lets it slide away. "You did the right thing by going to help Spencer. He needed you."

"So does Travis," she says. "Even if he doesn't think so… or maybe I'm delusional."


Inside the house, Landon Esco and a few of Travis's other friends are waiting eagerly by the front window. The sharp glare of headlights cuts through the summer night.

"It's here!" Landon calls out, and the young adults--easily mistakable for five-year-olds at the moment--flood out the front door.

Tim catches up with Travis, who has just given Elly a goodbye kiss.

"Have fun tonight, kiddo," Tim says. "And I just talked to your mom. She's really sorry she couldn't be here. Sounds like it was a crazy night at the hospital."

Tim sees the shift happen. Travis starts to respond, then stops himself, and then a darkness settles over his face.

"How's Spencer?" The question is soaked in bitterness.


  Tim Fisher

"Spencer. How is he? That's where Mom is, right?" 


"Don't lie to me. Not you, too. I saw the text." 

Elly tugs on Travis's arm, her lips moving with some admonition to calm down that goes unheard. 

"There was an emergency," Tim says. 

"There's always an emergency."

"Philip called your mom because he didn't know what to do. They're taking Spencer to Urgent Care."

"Philip couldn't do that his damn self?"

Others are letting their own conversations lapse now, their attention turning to the mounting argument. Tim spots Molly a few feet away, listening more closely now that Philip's name has popped up.

"Your mother wants to be here," Tim says. "She's sorry that something important came up. I'm sorry, too. Maybe we can all do something, dinner--"

"I don't wanna have dinner with her. I don't wanna see her at all." Travis spins around to face his friends, who hurry to act like they haven't been listening. "Let's get out of here. I need a drink."

Tim doesn't want to see him leave this way. "Travis--"

"Just leave me alone." Travis keeps his back to Tim as he tells Elly, "I'll text you later."

"Have fun," she says. She casts a sideways look at Tim, a sort of silent apology for Travis's behavior. 

Travis leads the rest of the gang out of the house. He doesn't even bother to look back. Tim feels a presence hovering right behind him and turns to see that it is his own father.

"Give him a little time to settle down," Bill says.

Tim nods, grateful for Bill's effort. He wants to believe that some time is all this will take, but he is not sure that will be enough. Ever.


Will Claire ever be able to mend fences with Travis?
Will Philip be able to get Spencer out of trouble?
Why is Sarah so resistant to selling Graham's house?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to talk about it all!

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Friday, August 02, 2013

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