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- Diane wasn't sure that the used bookstore she is managing for Jimmy and Keith would be open for very long, since business has been so slow.
- Claire was elated when Travis invited her to his 21st birthday party. But when Philip called her for help with Spencer, who'd been beaten up, she had to miss the party.
- Travis spotted a text from Claire to Tim, explaining that she was dealing with Spencer, and blew up at his father for covering for her. He went out to the bars to celebrate his birthday with his friends. 


The first thing Travis Fisher realizes is that someone is trying to set him on fire. He tries to roll away from the heat, but he can't get far enough--there is a wall blocking him from getting away.

And then he wakes up.

It isn't a fire at all, at least not in the sense he was imagining. It is the sun, burning through the window of Landon Esco's bedroom and onto the futon, where Travis is curled up with a light blanket. He moves his head enough to determine that he is still in his jeans and shirt from last night… but then quickly closes his eyes and drops his head back down onto the pillow, wanting to shut the world out again.

"You're up," Landon says from somewhere in the distance. 

Travis groans.

"How do you feel?"

"Like a horse took a shit in my mouth and then kicked me in the head." Travis buries his face in the pillow. "What time is it?"

"Almost 11."

  Travis Fisher

He hears Landon and another set of feet walking toward him and peeks out with one eye. Elly Vanderbilt is right behind Landon.

"Looks like you had fun last night," Elly says with a grin.

Travis looks to Landon. "Did I?"

"You don't remember?" Landon smacks Travis on the leg, which somehow causes his stomach to leap up as if he's about to puke. "You played darts against some old guy, told him he was being mean to Jesus after he beat you, and then bought a bunch of balloons from the grocery store and--" He adds air quotes to the equation. "'--released them into the sky like the beautiful doves they are.'"

"God." Travis folds the pillow over his face. 

"Sounds like a good 21st birthday night," Elly says as she takes a seat on the edge of the futon. She begins rubbing his back. "You need some food and water. A lot of water."

"Maybe." Travis isn't sure whether that sounds good or awful. "How'd I wind up crashing here?"

"You wouldn't let the limo take you home," Landon says. He picks up a foam basketball and fires it toward a mini-hoop above the window. The ball bounces off the rim and rolls across the floor. 

The memory of his argument with his father comes rushing back to him. His mom never showed up… because she was with Spencer. Something about an "emergency." Sure.

"And that is why I'm here," Elly says. "Well, that and I wanted to see you. But I can take you to get food and then drop you at home."

Travis dares to look up at her. The sun assaults him through the window, and he covers his eyes with his hand. "Fast food. Please. Don't even try to get me with kale or some crap--"

"You're allowed to have fast food. I promise." 

Landon picks up the basketball. "What about me?"

"You can come with us, but I'm not driving you all the way back here," Elly says.

"Dude, just have your mom make you something!" Travis says. 

"Or that." Elly stands up, and her keys jingle in her hand. "Come on, Drunky. I have to get my study abroad application notarized and then finish packing for my flight."

"You leave tonight?" Landon asks.

Travis struggles to sit up. "Ugh. I forgot about that."

"It's only for two weeks," she says. "And I really want to see my parents!"

"That makes one of us," Travis says. "Can I just come to San Fran with you instead of going to my dad's?"

She takes his hand. "I don't know if plane turbulence is what you need right now."

Travis's stomach churns at the thought. "Seriously. I'm gonna eat something and then pass out again. That way I won't have to deal with my dad, either."

"Big day you've got ahead of you," Elly says.

He finds his shoes under the futon and tries to put them on. "You only turn 21 once, right?"


Diane Bishop is in the back of the store, restocking a cart full of books that have been lifted out of place, when she hears the chime that indicates someone has entered the store. She moves eagerly toward the front, ready for some human interaction--which is a testament to how many hours a day she spends alone now that she is working here. She's pleasantly surprised to see a familiar face browsing a table near the entrance.

"Now there's someone I don't mind seeing," she says.

Alex Marshall looks up. "Hey! How are you?"

"I'm good." The answer has become rote by now, and after taking this job and the miscarriage and all the other upheaval of the past year, it's finally beginning to feel less inauthentic. "How about you?"

"I have a rewrite of my screenplay due in three days, so obviously going shopping makes the most sense." 

"Tim's had really good things to say about the script."

"I owe a lot to my co-writer. I wouldn't have had a clue about how to adapt this thing if it weren't for him," Alex says. He pauses to examine a used, hardbound copy of Where the Wild Things Are. "I'm actually not just browsing. I could use your help with something."

  Diane Bishop

"What are you looking for?"

"I got a text from Trevor earlier that Lauren's in labor. I want to get her and Josh something--they're having a girl--but something personal, kind of useful. So I was thinking a book they can read her when she gets older might be nice."

"I like that idea. Come on." She leads the way toward the counter and moves behind the computer. "Let me see what we have." 

While she types, Alex glances around the store. "Pretty quiet in here, huh?"

"Always. Literally always. You're doing me a favor by even thinking of buying anything." She presses a few keys to move through the inventory menu. "I know someone brought in a really nice Signature Edition of Charlotte's Web not too long ago. It's in great shape, beautiful illustrations…"

"Let's have a look at it." 

Diane goes about locating the book in the system. When the entry comes up, she is sure that the system is malfunctioning in some way, so she refreshes. But it displays the same information as before.

"What's wrong?" Alex asks.

"It says it was sold." She studies the screen and then checks another entry. "That's weird. It was only brought in a week ago. And I don't remember it selling."

"You aren't here every minute of every day, right?"

"No, but pretty damn close. That's really weird." She goes back to the main screen and tries to refocus. "Let's find something else for you, then." But as she clicks through the system, the discrepancy continues to gnaw at her. 


Elly's red Jetta pulls into the driveway. The neighborhood is lively, with a moving truck across the street and a cluster of kids playing in the sprinklers two houses down; the brand-new development has begun to fill up in the past few weeks. 

Travis unfastens his seatbelt. "Wanna come in for a minute?"

"I really need to go get everything done," she says. "You're gonna come by Molly's before I leave for the airport, though, right?"

"Yeah." He takes a deep breath, again steadying his stomach. "Even if I'm puking the whole way."

"Gross. Go eat your food and lie down. And don't forget to drink more water."

"I won't." He leans over to give her a kiss; even the minor movement makes his head spin. "Thanks. Love you."

"I love you, too," Elly says. She watches him slowly extract himself from the car.

Clutching his bag of food in one hand and his Sprite in the other, he makes his way toward the front door. His father's car is nowhere in sight, which is a relief. He sets down the Sprite to unlock the front door and turns back to wave goodbye to Elly. As she drives off, he lets himself into the house.

It is as quiet inside as he hoped. There are still signs of last night's party: the couch pillows in disarray, a bunch of empty pizza boxes stacked on the dining room table, and that goofy Happy Birthday banner hanging on the wall. Other than that, though, the place is completely undisturbed.

Travis plops down on the sofa and fishes a few French fries out of the bag. He eats them tentatively, but his stomach is surprisingly welcoming to the grease and salt. He tries a few more, less cautiously this time, and sips his Sprite. He is reaching for the television remote when the doorbell rings.

He decides to ignore it. If it's a package delivery or something, it can be left on the porch. But just as he flips the TV on, the doorbell rings again--and he hears the familiar voice.

"Travis! It's Mom! Open up!"


The low growl of the dated microwave fills the back room. Diane drums her fingernails against the wooden table that serves as the countertop, waiting for her lunch to be ready. She can smell the leftover pasta and is anxiously counting down the seconds when she hears the door jingle out front. With only eight seconds left on the bright green display, she hurries to greet the customer.

Instead, she finds one of the shop's owners strolling in. Jimmy Trask wears cargo shorts and a loose white button-down, and he's fiddling with his cell phone.

"What's up?" he says when he spots Diane.

"Just making my lunch in the back. What brings you by?" She maintains a pleasant expression and tone--not quite a smile, not quite enthusiastic, but pleasant--as she asks this question, although inside, she dreads whatever inane decree he has come to bestow. He and Keith tend to do that a lot. In the distance, the microwave beckons her with an urgent beep. 

"Gonna get the bank deposit ready to go. You cool with dropping it off later?"


  Jimmy Trask

She heads back to the microwave and retrieves her pasta. Jimmy follows in that loose, lazy way he has, a way that suggests he's just going wherever his feet decide to take him.

"Speaking of the bank deposit, there's actually something I wanted to ask you about," she says as she blows on her steaming food. 

"What's that?"

"There were a whole bunch of books that came in last week that I entered into the system, but now it says they were all sold. And I don't remember any of them selling."

"Huh." Jimmy ambles over to the mini refrigerator and grabs a can of soda from it. 

"You don't know anything about that? There was this special edition of Charlotte's Web that I remember entering into the system, but I went to look it up for a customer, and it was gone."

"Maybe someone bought it."

"And all those other books?"

He shrugs. "You're not here every second we're open. Someone probably went on a shopping spree."

She takes that in and waits a moment as she calculates a response. She can't tell if he's dodging the question or genuinely aloof. 

"It seems a little strange," she finally says.

"Look, I don't know." He pops open the can of soda. "Keith knows more about that stuff than I do. I'm gonna go get that bank deposit ready, okay?"

He leaves the room before she can respond. Something about this doesn't add up. The odds of a major shopping spree taking place during one of her few times out of the store seem low, and Jimmy's utter nonchalance is surprising, even for him. She takes a plastic fork from the drawer and begins to eat her lunch, turning the whole thing over in her mind once again. 


Travis doesn't move from the couch. He sits there, frozen, unsure what to do. Part of him wants to keep ignoring Claire until she goes away. Another part wants to rip the door open, tell her to go to hell, and slam it in her face. 

The doorbell rings again. 

"Travis, please!" she calls through the door. 

Realizing that he isn't going to get any peace or quiet until he deals with her, he leaves his food on the coffee table and goes to the front door. 

"What do you want?" he asks as he opens it.

"To see you." She folds her arms in front of her body and shifts her weight from foot to foot. "I'm sorry about last night. Something came up--an emergency--"

"With Spencer, right? I saw the text you sent Dad. But nice try."

Her face falls. "It was an emergency. We had to take him to Urgent Care."


"Philip and I." 

"What, Philip couldn't take him alone? Couldn't he just go to the damn hospital? And how many damn times has this guy been in the hospital in the last year?"

Several sentences start to emerge, then are cut off, before she says, "It's complicated. I'm so sorry I wasn't here for your party. It meant the world to me that you invited me." 

"Not enough to show up, apparently."

Claire sighs and tries to make eye contact, which he dodges.

"If it had been work--a stranger at the hospital--you wouldn't be holding this against me," she says.

A coil of angry energy, all bound up, feels like it's going to spring forth and punch through his chest. "No shit! It wasn't a stranger. It was Spencer. Just like always."

"Like always? Travis--"

"I don't wanna hear it, okay? I feel like crap, and I want to eat, and I want to be left alone. So just go. Got it? Go help Spencer and leave me the hell alone." 

"I wanted to be here," she says.

"Good for you." He takes a quick step back and flings the door closed. He takes a moment of pleasure in the way it slams into the frame, banging loudly. He half-expects her to knock or ring the doorbell again, but she doesn't. 

Travis returns to the couch and eats his food, the empty house humming all around him.


Will Claire and Travis ever mend fences?
What is really going on at the bookstore?
Talk about all this and more in the Footprints Forum!

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Friday, August 09, 2013

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