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- Trevor called off his wedding to Liam at the last minute, but Alex insisted that he and Trevor still could not be together.
- Danielle and Matt continued to take their relationship slowly, though each seemed to have unresolved issues with their respective exes, Ryan and Sarah.
- A reluctant Ryan offered Diane advice on the mysterious goings-on at the bookstore: he was certain that Keith and Jimmy were running drugs through the store. Diane and Sarah asked for his help in extracting Diane from the mess. 

Objection Designs

"Send him in!" Molly Taylor says into the speaker on her desktop phone. A moment later, the door to her office opens, and Trevor Brooks slides inside.

"Merry Christmas," Trevor says as Molly rises to greet him with a hug. He hands her a meticulously wrapped long box, which can only be a bottle of wine.

"That's so sweet. Thank you."

"I'm the one who should be thanking you. You took a chance on me and gave me something to do beyond modeling."

"And you've done a great job," she says with a warm smile. "Here, sit."

Trevor unbuttons his navy blue wool coat and slips it off. "Are things crazy around here?"

"Not too bad. I was actually just finishing up some last-minute Christmas shopping for the boys online." She glances with a rueful smile toward the computer. "I don't suppose you know much about Pokemon."

"Can't say that I do. Sorry."

Trevor takes a seat in one of the guest chairs, and Molly returns to the other side of the desk.

  Trevor Brooks

"You're heading down to California for Christmas, aren't you?" she asks. "The boys are going with Brent. It'll be weird not to have them around on Christmas day, but I'm glad they'll get to hang out with their new cousin."

"Yeah, it makes more sense for my parents and I to go down there than for Lauren and Josh to travel with the baby. And it'll be nice to get away, honestly."

"How have you been?" she asks. "What happened with the wedding must have been difficult…"

He shrugs. "I guess, but it's my fault, right?"

"You can't blame yourself. You made a responsible choice, even if it was a tough one."

"I keep trying to tell myself that."

"It's still a really fresh wound--and no one should ever, ever, enter into a marriage they aren't one hundred percent convinced is the right thing," Molly says. 

Trevor sighs. "I know. I feel terrible about Liam, though. He's devastated. He went back to England to be with his family for the holiday, which should be good for him, but… I can't shake this feeling that I screwed up so badly. That maybe I don't deserve what I want."

He can see the question perched on Molly's lips--"What do you want?"--but she politely sidesteps it. As she thinks, Molly reaches out and touches one of the vibrant red leaves of the poinsettia that sits atop her desk. Finally she returns her attention to Trevor.

"Listen," she says. "When Brent and Sarah split up, I spent a lot of time thinking that it was my fault--mine and Brent's--and that because their marriage didn't work out, we didn't have a right to be together, because we'd hurt Sarah."

He nods. If she is trying to tell him that she knows what is going on with him and Alex, she is doing so in a very kind way, one that doesn't require him to confirm anything. But he isn't certain what the point of this storytelling is--not until Molly goes on. 

"But life is short," she says. "And even though our marriage didn't work out in the long run, I can't say that I regret having married a man I will always love, who gave me two beautiful children. You can't punish yourself for the way that you feel."

"I'm trying."

She offers him a warm smile. "And you'll get there--sooner than you think." 


Diane Bishop has never been particularly fond of Christmas. It has always seemed like an excuse for people to get sappy and pretend that they like each other when they don't. When she was growing up, it always felt like a competition between herself and her sister; Natalie was always determined to flaunt the best presents and, by association, the position as their parents' favorite child. When Diane became a mother herself, she found a way to enjoy the holiday from a different perspective: seeing Samantha's joy and excitement over the season. But if she were pressed to recount a few of her favorite things, Christmas would not be one of them.

Today, the twinkling lights and abundant shopping bags that populate the streets of downtown King's Bay come as a particular affront, since Diane is on a distinctly non-festive mission. She treks over the sidewalk, beating a familiar path to the front door of The Blank Page, the bookstore she has been managing--or, more accurately, where she has unwittingly been made an accomplice to criminal activity.

She pulls open the door, her resolve strengthening. No one screws with Diane Bishop and gets away with it.

Inside the store, she finds Jimmy Trask and Keith Huff lingering by the front counter, where a rope of silver tinsel hangs limply. 

"What's up?" Jimmy asks. His nervous energy is palpable. 

"I need to talk to both of you." Her tone is firm and her words clipped, but in her head, the script that Ryan gave her is scrolling through on a loop like an overactive marquee.

Keith furrows his brow, deepening the wrinkles throughout his long, birdlike face. "What's going on?"

"This is my official resignation," she says. "It's been a pleasure, but it's time for me to move on."

She watches their reactions carefully. She sees no sign that they suspect anything. They mostly appear nervous, which is validating; she knows that she is the one who has kept this place afloat for months and months while these two imbeciles bumble their way through whatever scheme they've been up to.

"Did we do something?" Jimmy asks.

She shakes her head. "It's just time. This was never going to be permanent." As they take that in, she reaches into her purse. "If you guys wouldn't mind, I have a resignation letter that my lawyer suggested I have someone from the store sign--since my name is on the bank records and all that. It's sort of an official severing of any financial accountability."

She sets the letter on the countertop and does her best to keep her breathing steady. She is counting on neither of them looking too closely at the document, which Ryan drafted using very specific language. If she can just get one or both of them to sign it, she will have written acknowledgement that all she ever did was deposit what was in the register, without having anything to do with the serious bookkeeping--which will protect her if, or rather when, this place goes down in flames.

"We don't have to sign nothing," Keith says. 

"Of course not," Diane says, "but it's a very simple step that will cut ties and make sure I don't have access to any of your finances or records, and of course frees me from any potential liability in the future."

Keith and Jimmy swap a look. Shifting a weary eye toward Diane, Keith snatches the sheet off the counter and scans it.

"No way. Not signing anything," Keith says. "What the hell are you trying to pull on us?"


Danielle Taylor sits on a love seat beside the Christmas tree, which is aglow with white lights. Red and silver ornaments shimmer in the cozy holiday lighting, and a pile of wrapping paper sits beside Danielle.

"These are beautiful. Thank you so much," Danielle says as she examines the green agate drop earrings in a small box in the palm of her hand. She leans over to give Matt Gray a kiss.

"I was hoping you'd like them," Matt says. "I don't really know jewelry…"

"…but I pointed at these when we were shopping last month," she says with a grin.

"Yeah. Exactly." 

"Well, I love them," she says, rubbing a hand over his firm bicep. "Thank you. I'm just sorry we have to do this in the middle of an afternoon instead of some romantic night--or on Christmas itself."

"Did you finish packing yet?" Matt asks.

  Matt Gray

"Not yet. I'm almost there. Waiting for some clothes to finish drying." She pauses, and Matt can see her considering her next statement carefully. "You know, it would've been okay for you to come with me."

"I know." The words tumble out of Matt's mouth. They have been dancing around the subject for weeks, ever since Danielle booked her own flight to California for the holiday. "And thanks. Just think I should be with Tori for Christmas, especially since she's gonna go to college next year…"

"She'll still come home for Christmas."

"I know. But it's her last year at home, and there's been so much going on with Sarah and the new baby, it just seems like it's good for everyone to be here. Together." He immediately regrets the explicit mention of his ex-wife, but he also knows that he can't back out of it or he'll make it even more awkward. "Would've been nice, though. Maybe next year."

"Yeah. Maybe next year," Danielle repeats, but there is something hollow about the way she says it. She shakes her head, and Matt can see her forcibly pushing the issue aside. She stretches to reach beneath the tree and withdraws a large box wrapped in green and white paper, which she hands to Matt.

"Your turn."

"This is huge," he says. "It's gonna put mine to shame."

"No way. You just can't give a guy earrings."

Matt laughs. "I mean, you could…"

"Yeah… I'm not sure that would be a good look for you. Now open it!" 

He eagerly dives into the wrapping paper, happy to have the crinkling drown out the echoes of their unresolved discussion.

Thaw Coffee & Tea

The shop is filled with bodies, too many for the relatively tight space. Trevor waits by the end of the bar, uncomfortably close to a display of mugs by local artists. Every time the barista sets a drink down, he hopes that it is his just so he can get out of here, even though he knows there are too many people still ahead of him. He is still waiting when he sees a familiar face walk through the door that connects the coffee shop to the ice arena.

Alex Marshall spots Trevor a split-second later. He waves and then moves dutifully through the crowd. Eager to get out of his cramped spot--and maybe to see Alex, too--Trevor decides to meet him in the middle.

"Hey," Trevor says. 

Alex, clad in a denim jacket and a dark gray scarf, regards him with trepidation for a moment before he replies, "Hey."

"How are you?" Before Alex has a chance to answer, though, Trevor gestures toward the line. "Here, get in line. It's busy. I'll just…" Instead of finishing the thought, he lingers nearby as Alex joins the back of the line.

"Um, I'm good," Alex says. "I just dropped Sophie off with Jason for the afternoon. I have a bunch of shopping to finish."

It hits Trevor that he wishes they were going to be exchanging gifts this Christmas… which, of course, they will not be. Even the realistic hope of that seems like little more than a vivid dream, although it was only several weeks ago that he considered it a real possibility.

"We have to ship all this stuff down to California, because we're opening everything down there," Trevor says. He feels like he is talking too much, or too openly, or something, but he can't help it. He just wants to talk with Alex, have a real exchange with him. 

"I sent Lauren an outfit for the baby," Alex says as the line advances ever-so-slightly. "I hope she likes it."

"I'm sure she'll love it." Trevor hopes the next part comes across as considerate and cool, though he fears it instead will sound desperate or prying. "Is Cameron going to be around for Christmas? Do you guys have plans?"

"His family is in Arizona, so he's flying there. Tonight, actually."

"Oh, cool." 

Trevor wants so badly to ask if Alex has heard from Liam, but he doesn't know what it would accomplish; he has no right to inquire about Liam's well-being, and it will only dredge up the ugliness all over again. Luckily, before his bout of verbal diarrhea can take hold, he finally hears his name shouted from the end of the bar.

"I need to grab that," he says, nodding his head in that direction. "I…" He resists the urge to hug Alex, even though it would feel so natural to do so. "Merry Christmas, Alex."

Maybe he is imagining it, but Alex's stare seems to dwell an instant too long before he responds, "Merry Christmas, Trevor."

With a sadness that he wishes he knew how to ignore, Trevor moves off to get his drink. 


Diane's posture remains rigid and her features steely as she stares right back at Keith.

"What I'm trying to do," she says, "is cover my ass. If this place goes down, or if something happens, I don't want my name on anything if I'm not working here. That's all."

"So we'll take your name off, which we'd do anyway if you weren't doing the bank drops. No need to sign some bullshit paper." Keith releases the paper with a flick of his wrist and lets it flutter to the floor.

Diane bends down to pick it up, which buys her a few seconds to think about what she's supposed to do next. She can't exactly hit pause and step outside to call Ryan and ask what her next move should be--not that the idiot would have a useful answer, anyway. Besides, she is quitting regardless. 

"Well, I tried," she says, folding the paper back up and slipping it into her purse. "My resignation stands. Good luck with everything, fellas."

She turns for the door, but a hand on her arm pulls her back.

"Let go of me," she snaps at Keith. 

"Not so fast. What's with you? Asking questions, trying to get us to sign some weird document? You up to something?"

"Am I up to something?" she says. She looks to Jimmy, who has his arms folded as he stands back from the whole ordeal. "You two are the ones running some shady real estate deal through this joke of a store, or whatever the hell you're doing."

She sees Keith's eyes light up and knows that she should have kept her mouth shut. 

"Whatever's going on, I don't want to know," she adds hastily. "I quit. That's all. Good luck and have a nice life."

A look passes between Keith and Jimmy.

"I'll sign the damn thing," Jimmy says.

"No," Keith says sternly. "Just shut up, okay?" He swivels back toward Diane. "I don't know why you wanna leave a perfectly good job."

"This was always temporary for me," she says. There is something wild about him now, an electricity that makes her nervous. "I'm gonna go."

She doesn't give them another chance to protest and simply walks out. The door chimes sound behind her as she steps back out into the cold air. But she makes it only a few feet down the sidewalk before she hears the chimes again, followed by Keith's voice.

"Diane! Wait!"

He hurries to catch up with her.

"This really isn't up for discussion," she says as she whips around. "Let me go and I'll let everything else go. Got it?"

"That's what I wanna talk to you about," Keith says, his breath visible as white puffs in the air. "What if I cut you in?"

She isn't sure that she has heard him correctly. "What?"

"I'll cut you in," he says. "If I gave you a cut of what we're pocketing, would you stay onboard?"


Should Diane take Keith up on his offer?
Should Alex forgive Trevor for everything?
Can Matt and Danielle make it in the long run?
Talk about all this and more in the Footprints Forum!

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Monday, Dec. 23, 2013

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