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- Claire recalled an awkward night on which she made a drunken pass at Brent, which he rejected. 
- Spencer continued to resist all contact with his biological parents, Tim and Claire.
- Philip paid off Spencer's gambling debts--on the condition that Spencer work as his photography assistant to repay him. At their first photo shoot, Philip reprimanded Spencer for flirting with a model instead of doing his job, and Spencer walked out.  


The heavy sliding door slams closed, alerting Spencer Ragan to his brother's return. Spencer rocks upright on the sofa, where he has been watching an episode of Workaholics.

"I'm surprised to find you here," Philip says, his voice stern and his words clipped. He indicates the television. "Turn that down."

Spencer grudgingly obliges. "Where else would I be? It's not like I have any money to go do anything."

"And whose fault is that?"

"Yours!" Spencer fires right back. "If you weren't so obsessed with micromanaging my life--"

"Do you think I want to be doing this?" Philip sets down his two equipment bags from the Objection Designs photo shoot. "You racked up 28 thousand dollars of gambling debt. That's about 28 thousand more dollars than you had to throw around. I am trying to protect you."

"You're trying to run my life!"

Philip shakes his head. He hardly knows how to have a conversation with Spencer anymore. He might as well be jabbering in a made-up language, going on nonsensically until it is Spencer's turn to speak again, for all the impact his words are making.

"I am trying to help you," Philip says, taking care to maintain his composure. Allowing this to escalate into a full-blown argument will not get him anywhere with Spencer. "I paid your debt. All I asked was that you work it off--in what might be, quite frankly, one of the easiest jobs on the entire planet. You couldn't even sit behind a computer for a few hours and hand me new memory cards for my camera."

"I was right there!"

"You were off flirting with that model, which was the exact opposite of the job you were there to do."

"Oh, that's fair. That's, like, I don't know--taking a kid to Disneyland and telling him he can't go on any rides."

"That's the problem, Spencer. You think it's your constant right to go on all the rides. Sometimes those things have to be earned."

  Spencer Ragan

Spencer springs up from the sofa. "Yeah, well, I'm done jumping through hoops for you."

"You don't have much choice, if you want your trust money," Philip says.

Spencer blows by him and grabs his keys and wallet from the counter. "Watch me," he says before yanking open the door and storming out.


The din of evening activity has reached its height: diners' voices bounce off the brick walls; the PA system pipes guitar-driven music into the dining room; servers ask cheerful questions while balancing trays and plates and navigating through the maze of the busy dining room. In a booth against the back wall, Claire Fisher leans forward as she tells a story.

"It was pretty gruesome," she says, holding her fork over the half-eaten Cobb salad in front of her. "The driver had a piece of glass sticking out of his forehead."

Tempest Banks's eyes are wide as she listens. "But he's okay?"

"He's going to be. Yeah."

Tempest considers that in silence as she takes another bite of her cheeseburger. "I don't know how you do that stuff every day."

"You get used to it," Claire says with a shrug. She spears a piece of lettuce and some egg with her fork. "How was the rink today?"

"Fine. Same thing as usual. The hockey players clogged a toilet, so…"

"That sounds grosser than my day."

"Pretty much."

Claire finishes chewing another bite and then asks, "Did you see Travis?"

Tempest shakes her head, a bit solemn. "He wasn't working today. I think he might have the week off 'cuz of school starting and moving back to the dorms and stuff." 


They lapse into another bout of quiet. Claire scans the restaurant, waiting for the mention of her family troubles to burn off so she can think of something else to discuss--and, in the process, another disconcerting topic rears its literal head.

"Is that Brent?" Tempest asks, noticing what has caught Claire's attention.

"It is," Claire says. She realizes that she has been watching him for so long--waiting by the host's stand for a takeout order--that she now has to keep watching until he notices her so that she can wave hello.

Within a few seconds, he does notice her. And when he finishes paying, instead of just waving and walking out, he approaches the table; Claire notices that the whole act looks like a full-body grimace, like he is being reeled in against his will and just has to get it over with.

Still, he is coming over. That's something.

"Hey," he says, balancing the paper bag on his arm. "How are you guys?"

"We're good," Claire says. "Just grabbing some quick dinner. How about you?"

"The boys are on their way home from soccer practice. Thought I'd pick up some food…" He awkwardly gestures at the bag, as if they might have missed it. 

He turns his attention to Tempest. "How's everything at the rink?"

"Pretty good. Getting busy. All the kids have their big competition coming up, so it's…" Tempest waves her hands around to indicate the chaos.  

"I stopped by for a coffee the other day and I saw Jason out there giving a lesson," he says.

That just sits there, not leading the way to any particular conversation. Brent looks at Claire at just the wrong--right?--moment, when she is looking at him, and they hold the look, a look full of all the questions they aren't asking and the answers they are not giving, until Claire can't stand it any longer.

"How's work?" she asks. She wants to smack herself for the boring vagueness of the question, but at the same time, she needs something to keep this encounter afloat, and at least it is innocuous.

"Busy. Yeah. I'm going to see Josh and Lauren and the baby next week, though. I figure I can take a few days."

"You should," Claire says. "Give them my best."

"I will." Brent exhales loudly; there is evident relief in the noise, as if he knows he has hung around long enough to make a polite exit. "I'd better get home so this is all set when the boys get there."

Claire waves again. "Enjoy. Have a good night."

"You, too," Brent says, and he turns and walks off.

"Bye," Tempest says after him. 

The weight of the encounter hangs over the table for a few seconds before Tempest manages to catch Claire's eye.

"I thought you guys were friends," Tempest says, her eyebrows raised. "What in the hell was that?"


Molly Taylor sets her purse down on the metallic console table by the entry. 

"He isn't answering you?" she asks.

Philip glances at his iPhone again, though he already knows the answer it is going to give him. "No. Not that I'm especially surprised."

Molly joins him at the kitchen island and slides onto one of the translucent bar stools. "You're doing everything you can."

"Am I?" He turns sharply toward her, his look a challenge. "How do I know that? It clearly isn't working."

"I don't know if anything would. At least not in this short a time. Spencer's whole life has basically been swept up in a tornado, and it isn't like…" She trails off, unsure how to articulate the next part.

"You can say it. It isn't like he had the most stable of upbringings to begin with."

Molly shrugs, but she sees no anger in Philip's face, no offense taken at the comment. 

"He isn't accustomed to having to take a lot of responsibility for his actions," she says, "and now he's doing his best to act out. That's a tough combination."

"I've been trying to give him some structure," Philip says. "Set down some rules. But none of it is working."

"He's also a 21-year-old boy."


Molly rests her hand on Philip's forearm; she feels the strong muscle beneath his oxford shirt. 

"You are going through what nearly every parent goes through," she says. "You're doing what's best for him, and he hates you as a result. That doesn't make what you're doing any less good for him."

Philip nods in an effort to accept that. "I suppose so. What's mind-blowing is that he now has an excess of parents, and yet…"

"You're the one doing all this."

"Yes. Not that I mind. He's my brother, and he always will be, regardless of what crazy things might be revealed. But I worry that I am not cut out for this at all."

"You are doing the best that you can," Molly says. "Someday, Spencer will appreciate that."

Philip again stares at the notification-free screen of his phone. "I wish I had a little more faith in that."

322 Bar & Grill

"What do you mean?" Claire says.

Tempest's glare practically beams a laser straight to Claire's soul. "Come on. That was weird."

Claire fiddles with her salad as she stammers out a response. "We haven't seen each other much lately. Once the investigation ended…"

"You guys did holidays together and stuff. You were real close," Tempest says. "I kinda even thought you'd end up…"


"I dunno. Together."

Hearing it spoken aloud sets off a tidal wave of confusing emotions within Claire. On one hand, it brings the painful memory of that night crashing to the front of her mind--the memory she has tried so hard to push out; embarrassment floods her system as she recalls the feeling of being rebuffed by Brent, watching him walk out so awkwardly. On the other hand, something surges within her, something totally irrational and ridiculous, at the thought of them being together--that someone else saw what she saw and thought what she thought for a time.

"I don't see that happening," Claire says as flatly as she can. She tries to offer a nonchalant smile and then redirects: "How about you? What's new in your life?" She sees Tempest begin to shrug and adds, "Have you met anyone?"



Claire recognizes the stall tactic, not to mention the alarm in Tempest's face. She doesn't want to push too hard, especially given the strange nature of their relationship--not quite mother and daughter, not quite friends. 

"I dunno. Nothing much. Busy with work and hanging out with friends and stuff."

"Okay. Well…" Claire looks into her salad as she makes her careful selection of words. "If there ever is anyone, I hope you'll tell me. I mean, if you want to. I'd love to hear about it."

Tempest is already taking another bite of her burger. As she finishes chewing, she nods. "Cool." 

Claire waits another moment, wondering if Tempest is about to mention her friend Annie, the girl from the rink, but it doesn't happen.

"Cool," Claire echoes with a smile. 

Vision Publishing

Tim Fisher sits behind his desk, clicking through the CNN site after reading everything of interest on ESPN's. Normally, given the hour and how quiet the office is, not to mention how bored he is, he would just go home, but his plans to do so were derailed by a text message about half an hour ago.

His eyes continually flicker to the clock in the corner of his computer screen, as if that knowledge will solve anything. It comes as a relief when he hears footsteps coming through the mostly empty office, moments before a body appears in the doorway.

Tim rises from his chair. "There you are."

"Hey," Spencer says. "Didn't think it would be so dead around here. I told you we could've met at your place--"

"This is fine," Tim says. Truth be told, he doesn't know if Travis is going to be at the house or not, and those would be the absolute worst circumstances under which to hold this meeting. "So what's up? Your text made it sound pretty urgent."


Spencer takes a few more tentative steps into the office. 

  Tim Fisher

"You can have a seat," Tim says.

"Thanks." Spencer finds his way into one of the chairs across the desk from Tim, who sits back down. "So Philip is putting all these rules and regulations on me…"

"Spencer, I can't…" As difficult as this is for Tim to do, he knows that he needs to hit the brakes now, because once this train pulls out of the station, he will be powerless to stop it. "I want to be a part of your life. You know that. But Philip is your family, too, and there are certain things that he's in a position to handle--and it isn't my place to interfere with that."

He waits for the inevitable protest or tantrum. But it never materializes.

"He says I have to have a job," Spencer says. "But I don't want to work for him. And I liked what I was doing here, when I interned for you."

"You want to work here?"

"Yeah. If you'll give me a job… yeah. I think it would be better."

Tim hesitates, but there is no point: he already knows what his answer is going to be.


Should Tim hire Spencer at Vision?
What should Philip do about Spencer?
Is there any chance for Claire and Brent to be together?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to discuss it all!

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

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