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- Trevor opened up to Molly regarding his guilt over calling off his wedding to Liam.
- Paula lashed out at her former daughter-in-law, Claire, for keeping the truth about Spencer’s parentage from all the Fishers for so long.
- Danielle invited Matt to join her and her family in California for Christmas, but he maintained that he should stay in King’s Bay for his daughter.
- On Ryan’s advice, Diane met with Jimmy and Keith to quit her job at the bookstore. She requested that they sign a document absolving her of financial responsibility, which pricked Keith’s suspicions. When she walked out, he followed her--and offered to cut her in on the store’s “extra” revenue.


The Christmas tree stands proudly in the same spot in the Fishers’ living room that it has occupied for the past thirty-plus years, just beside the hearth. Strands of white lights wind through its full green branches, illuminating the room in a warm glow. The ornaments are an eclectic mix: elegant balls in seasonal colors; the ice-skating penguin, the wooden Santa Claus, and others that were gifts throughout the decades; and of course the ones that were handmade by Bill and Paula Fisher’s children and grandchildren. The base of the tree, which several hours ago was occupied by presents of all shapes, sizes, and colors, is now bare, revealing the tree skirt whose brilliant red has faded over the years.

At present, the room--and the house--is filled with the chatter and laughter of a family celebrating another Christmas together. Plates bearing cheese, crackers, nuts, and more sit atop the coffee table, the piles of appetizers gradually dwindling.

Tim Fisher and his son are sitting on the love seat beside the Christmas tree, talking, when Paula Fisher approaches them.

“Travis, would you please do me a favor?” she asks.

“I don’t know if I should agree before I hear what it is,” her grandson says with a laugh.

“There are two chafing dishes up in the attic that your grandpa and I couldn’t get down earlier. Could you be a dear and go upstairs and get them?”

“Yeah. I guess I can do that.” Travis takes one more sip of his beer and then sets the bottle on the coffee table. He stands from the love seat. “I’ll go up there in a minute.”

“Thank you,” Paula says as Travis moves off. She assumes his seat. “It seems like he’s doing better,” she comments to her son.

Tim cradles a glass of eggnog between his hands. “I think so, yeah. It hasn’t been the easiest year for him.”

  Paula Fisher

“That’s putting it mildly.” Paula considers her next words carefully before she speaks them. “It would be so nice if Spencer could be here, too.”

“I know,” Tim says, his shoulders sagging. “It’s just too much. For one, Travis would not be happy--”

“Travis is a part of our family no matter what. Spencer wouldn’t be replacing him. He’s just another family member.”

“I know that, and you know that, but I don’t think Travis feels the same way. Not yet, anyway.”

“The poor boy.” Paula lets out a heavy sigh. “I don’t mean to push you, really. But Spencer is my grandson, too, and I’ve hardly even met him. We’ve lost so many years with him. It would be nice if…” The rest goes unspoken but is understood by both of them.

Philip invited him, and he said no--repeatedly,” Tim says. “I’m still trying to gain his trust. I think it’s happening, but slowly. I don’t want to scare him off.”

Paula gestures at the family Christmas scene surrounding them. “What’s to be scared of?”

“Look at who raised him--how he was raised. Loretta poisoned him.”

“Against Claire.”

“Against all of us.”

Paula sinks into the back of the love seat. “I hate the idea that there’s a child out there who should be with us who… isn’t. I spent so many years not knowing where Ryan was or how his life had turned out. This feels like the same thing happening all over again--only we know where Spencer is and we still can’t be with him.”

“We need to give it time,” Tim says. “That’s the only thing that’s going to make this better.”

“We’ve had so much time taken from us already,” Paula says sadly, shaking her head.

* * * * *

“He’s gonna eat your nose! He’s gonna eat your nose!”

Alex Marshall sits cross-legged in the small hallway that links the entryway to the living room, a stuffed lion in his hand. His one-year-old half-brother stands in front of him, giggling uncontrollably as Alex steers the lion right at his face and then pulls it away, over and over again.

“I think he got it!” Alex says, and Billy reaches up to feel his face and then bursts out in another fit of laughter when he realizes that his nose is still there.

The front door cracks open, admitting a burst of the chilly winter air into the house. Alex turns to see Molly Taylor and Philip Ragan entering.

“Merry Christmas,” Molly says, and Alex returns the sentiment as he scrambles to his feet. He gives Molly a hug and shakes Philip’s hand, and then he bends over to scoop Billy up in his arms.

“We were just having some brother time,” Alex tells them, as Billy’s little fingers poke at his face.

“It looks like he’s enjoying it,” Philip says.

Alex smiles at the baby. “So am I.”

“Let me hang your coat,” Philip tells Molly, who wriggles out of her black-and-white printed outer layer and hands it to Philip. He heads toward the coat closet.

“You’re very good with him,” Molly says to Alex as he makes faces at Billy.

“I get a lot of practice with Sophie.”

“And we’re all really grateful that you’re there to help Jason.”

Alex shrugs. “It’s no big deal. He’s my best friend.”

“Well, you’re a very good friend to him.” Molly holds up her index finger to Billy, who immediately clutches it in his tiny fist. “I thought you might’ve brought Cameron with you today, if he hadn’t gone home to Dallas.”

“Maybe,” Alex says. It was never really a possibility, since Cameron booked his flight home months ago.

“Things are going all right with you two?”

“Yeah. Things are good. We’re just taking our time, that’s all. We’re both busy. But he’s a really great guy. Thank you for even thinking to set us up.”

“You can thank Jason for that,” she says.

“See? He’s a very good friend to me, too.”

Molly smiles, but as the expression fades, Alex can see that the conversation is about to take a more serious turn.

“Trevor came by my office a few days ago,” she says.

Alex tries not to betray any hint of what has gone on recently between him and his ex. “I actually ran into him, too.”

“He’s really beating himself up over calling off the wedding. He feels responsible for how devastated Liam was.”

“There isn’t really anyone else to blame, is there?”

“No… but sometimes relationships don’t work out, and it isn’t either person’s fault. It’s just… circumstance.”

“I know how that goes,” Alex says.

“Me, too. Alex… I think it would mean a lot to Trevor to have you in his corner right now.”

Alex’s heart thuds in his chest. Did Trevor confide in Molly about why he really called off the wedding? He can’t tell, and he certainly isn’t going to ask outright, but there is a knowing glint in her eyes.

“It’s complicated,” he says, his mouth feeling heavy. “Liam and I are working together. We’ve become friends.”

“So you feel caught in the middle.”

“Sort of. Yeah.”

“Just remember that you ultimately need to do what makes you happy, okay?”

Alex nods slowly, taking that in and trying to sort out exactly how much Molly does know. Philip returns and slides an arm around Molly’s back.

“Shall we go grab drinks and say hello?” Philip says.

“Absolutely,” she says. “Merry Christmas, Alex. It’s good to see you. You, too, Billy.”

“Merry Christmas,” Alex says, his mind spinning as he watches the pair walk off.

* * * * *

In the kitchen, two men regard the open oven with all the care of surgeons presiding over a critical patient on the table.

“This baby looks perfect,” Matt Gray says as he and Bill Fisher guide the roasting pan out of the oven. With a dishtowel in each hand, Matt lifts the pan by its handles and sets it--and the 20-pound roast inside it--on one side of the stovetop.

“Excellent teamwork,” Bill says as he studies the dark crust on the outside of the roast. “I can hardly wait to carve into this thing.”

Paula comes into the kitchen, as if beckoned by the scent of the roast. “Oh, that looks wonderful. I can start the gravy.”

“Here, let me move it,” Matt says, grabbing a nearby platter. He shifts the roast onto it, leaving a pan of juices atop the stove to be turned into gravy.

  Matt Gray

Paula looks around the kitchen. “I asked Travis to get the chafing dishes from the attic. He hasn’t brought them in yet?”

“He might need another reminder,” Bill says with a grin.

Paula sets down the whisk. “I’ll go find him. I’ll be back to do this gravy in a minute.”

“I can start it,” Matt offers, picking up the whisk as she exits.

“You know, I’m really glad you’re here with us,” Bill says as they continue working on dinner. “I’ve missed working on these dinners with you.”

“Wasn’t always so easy when Sarah was with Graham.”

“I can’t imagine it was. But I’m sure it means a lot to Tori to have both of you here on Christmas day.”

“Yeah,” Matt says, bending to retrieve flour from the freezer.

“Did Danielle go down to California with Brent and the twins?” Bill asks.


Even with his back turned, Matt can feel Bill’s gaze on him.

“The two of you are still seeing each other, aren’t you? She’s a very nice woman.”

“Yeah, she is. And we are. But you know, holidays and stuff--you spend time with your families.”

“Ah. Of course.” Bill falls back into silence, but Matt can’t help but hear a certain amount of judgment in the decisive thump of Bill’s knife against the cutting board.

* * * * *

In the dining room, Sarah Fisher and Ryan Moriani each hold a glass of red wine as they hover near a selection of hors d’oevures.

“She said she was going to talk with them, but I don’t know if she wound up doing it,” Sarah says. She casts periodic glances toward the front of the house as she awaits an arrival.

“It’s Diane. God only knows what happened,” Ryan says with a caustic raise of his dark eyebrows.

“At any rate, thanks for helping out. I wouldn’t have known how to approach that whole thing without your advice.”

“I did it to help you, not her. Just make sure she knows that.”

Paula comes rushing out of the kitchen and nearly bowls them over.

“Have either of you seen Travis?” she asks.

“I think I saw him on the stairs,” Sarah says. “Why? What’s wrong?”

“Oh, nothing’s wrong. I asked him to get the chafing dishes down from the attic. I was hoping he’d already done it.”

Sarah places a hand on her mother’s arm. “Why don’t you get back to worrying about dinner, and I’ll find Travis?”

“Thank you, dear.” Paula takes a moment to smile warmly at her two children and then retreats into the kitchen.

“I’ll be back,” Sarah tells her brother, holding up her index finger. Then she heads off toward the living room.

Ryan busies himself by grabbing a cheese cube. He looks around the room for Jason, the other Fisher most likely to engage in actual conversation with him without tension or awkwardness. But before he can locate him, he hears the roar of new arrivals being greeted. An instant later, Diane Bishop’s Christmas greetings float over the din of the gathering.

He waits until she and Samantha have hung their coats and then makes a beeline for Diane.

“What happened?” he asks. “Did you talk to them?”

She frowns at him. “I thought you wanted nothing to do with me.”

“I don’t. I want to know if my plan worked. You’re welcome, by the way.”

Diane grabs him by the arm and drags him around the corner, back into the entryway where they can be alone.

  Diane Bishop

“Your plan sucked, FYI,” she says. “They saw right through it.”

Ryan can’t tell if she is trying to rankle him--of course she is--or if it really went as poorly as she is implying. “Are you sure?”

Keith was onto me the minute I pulled out that paper. Of course, he’s completely paranoid anyway… but it seemed like he knew exactly what I was talking around. I fed them your whole bit about not wanting to be liable if the store crashes and burns.”

“But they wouldn’t sign it?”

She shakes her head. “Keith refused. Jimmy said he would, which pissed Keith off. So I just told them I was quitting and walked out.”

Ryan takes a drink of his wine as he thinks. “Well, you’re out of there, and they’ll have to change the name on the banking stuff if you aren’t doing it, so even if they get caught, you might be distanced enough--”

“That’s not all.”


A self-satisfied smile crosses her full, bright red lips. “He offered to cut me in.”

What?” Ryan looks around to be sure that they are alone. “You mean he told you that he’s running drug money through the store and offered to make you a partner? What the hell?”

“He’s still insisting it’s real estate, which… whatever. And he told me that I couldn’t tell Jimmy.”

“So Jimmy has no idea what’s even going on.”

“That’s what I think.”

“Well… what did you tell him?”

“I said yes.”

Ryan feels himself lurching forward, eyes bugging out like a cartoon character. “Are you insane?”

Diane’s face remains emotionless for another instant before she bursts out into a cackle. “I’m kidding. Do you think I’m a moron?”

“So you turned him down,” Ryan says. “He was okay with that?”

“I think I flattered him enough and pretended I still thought it was real estate, so he let me go. And now I’m unemployed and don’t have a cut of their drug money, but at least I’m alive and not in prison.”

Ryan raises his glass. “In the spirit of Christmas, I’ll pretend to be happy about that.”

“Gee, thanks,” Diane says. She slips past him but then turns back. “But seriously: I appreciate your help. And let’s hope this whole thing is behind me now.”

“You’re welcome,” Ryan says, but she has already moved around the corner and into the party.

* * * * *

When the chafing dishes fail to appear in the kitchen within a few minutes, Matt leaves Paula in charge of the gravy and makes his way upstairs. In the hallway, he sees the attic door open and hanging from the ceiling, leaving a ladder dangling in midair.

“Travis?” he calls into the opening, but there is no response. Matt grabs the sides of the ladder and pulls himself up. He climbs it with ease and pokes his head into the attic.


“It’s me,” comes an all-too-familiar voice: Sarah’s.

“What are you doing up here?” Matt asks, standing at the top of the ladder.

“I couldn’t find Travis, so I figured I’d just get the chafing dishes myself.”

“Here. Let me help you.”

He hoists himself up and through the opening--or he tries to. His boot catches on the top rung, and as he climbs onto the attic floor, he hears something surging up behind him. Before he has fully comprehended what is happening, the door flips shut behind him.

Sarah emerges from behind a large shelf, with one of the chafing dishes in her hands. “What happened?”

Matt kneels down and pushes on the door, but it won’t budge. The handle that opens it is on the outside, of course. He dreads looking back to tell her what is going on but finally admits that he has no choice.

“I think we’re locked in,” he says.

* * * * *

Strands of green garland twist around the railings that flank the front steps of the Fisher house. It is already dark outside, thanks to the incredibly short Pacific Northwest winter days, but multicolored lights line the door and the front porch.

Claire Fisher is careful to watch her step as she moves up the short staircase to the front door. With the package in her hands, she is unable to steady herself otherwise, so she takes the steps slowly in her heels.

When she reaches the door, she pauses. The decision to come here was not an easy one; by no means was she invited, and she already spent time with Travis on Christmas Eve. But this gathering defined Christmas for her for so many years, and the Fishers are, in a way, the only true family she has ever known. She doesn’t want to intrude, but she genuinely does want to wish them a Merry Christmas.

Besides, she has no other plans for the night. She and Tempest opened presents this morning, but Tempest was invited to her friend Annie’s house for dinner, and Claire urged her to go.

Before she rings the doorbell, she takes a moment to peek through the window beside the door. She can see the lights of the Christmas tree and the family talking, circulating, and laughing together. Samantha is playing with her little cousin, Sophie, while Tim and Jason pick on a shrimp cocktail and chat. There is no sign of Travis, though she can’t really see much of the gathering.

As she watches, something happens. Whatever resolve she had minutes ago fades--or, rather, springs a leak, so that within seconds, it has drained out of her. She sees a family that she misses terribly, a family that did not invite her to be a part of their holiday… and, somewhere in there, a son who has barely tolerated her for most of the year.

Claire sets the present down in front of the door and, without even ringing the doorbell, retreats down the stairs and into the night.

* * * * *

“I can’t believe I left my phone in my purse,” Sarah says with a groan.

Matt slams his hand against the door for the umpteenth time, to no avail. “I remember putting mine down with my keys and thinking I shouldn’t leave it sitting around, but I did it anyway.”

Sarah slumps to the floor and pulls her knees to her chest. “They’ll find us eventually.”

Matt laughs. “Yeah, because the damn chafing dishes still won’t be down there. Your mom is probably gonna force Travis to come up here.”

“Let’s just hope he listens this time.”

Matt stands so that he can search for something he can use to pry the door open. The attic isn’t large, but it is dimly lit and very full, which gives him the impression that there must be something in here that can help.

  Sarah Fisher

“Did you set up that Apple TV thing that Tori got you?” Sarah asks, leaning against a beam.

“I tried. I’m still not sure if it works.”

“She was pretty excited when she got it for you.”

“I think she was excited to use it,” Matt says, a chuckle slipping through. He finds an old mop and brings it back over to the door.

“Yeah. Good point.”

Sarah watches as he tries to jimmy the door open with the mop handle, to no success; the handle is too wide.

“I think you need a crowbar,” she says, “and I’m pretty sure my parents have never owned one.”

He drops the mop to the floor. “I can’t just do nothing.”

“You’ve always been bad at that,” she says.

“Oh, you’re one to talk.”

“Excuse me! What does that mean?”

Matt walks toward her, his boots clapping against the uncovered floorboards. He sinks to the floor beside her, close enough not to be weird but far enough not to be too intimate, either.

“Means I’ve known you long enough,” he says, “to know you’re no good at letting sleeping dogs lie.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Do, too.”

He looks over at her, flashing that same lazy grin that she remembers seeing peek through his tough exterior all those years ago in upstate New York. Back then, it came as such a surprise; Matt was so reserved, so intense, that the hint of joy seemed reluctant, maybe even grudging.

“What?” he says, staring at her.

“Nothing.” Her blonde hair wags back and forth as she shakes her head. “I had these weird flashback to when I first met you, that’s all.”


“And nothing. But I never would’ve predicted that we’d have a kid and be divorced and be locked in an attic together on Christmas.”

“Ha.” Matt actually speaks the syllable, as if he isn’t sure how to respond to this reflection on the turns their lives have taken.

Their eyes catch, and neither breaks the contact. The moment is unmistakable to Sarah. It’s as though this is not just a feeling, but a tangible thing closing in on them. She knows this feeling, knows him, too well.

“It’s good to have some time to talk to you at Christmas,” Matt says.

“Yeah. It is.”

She feels herself leaning closer, bending at the waist so that her face moves toward his, and she is sure that Matt is doing the same.

* * * * *

Philip finds Molly refilling her glass of white wine. He waits until she is finished and then taps her on the shoulder.

“Could I speak to you alone for a moment?” he asks.

Confused, Molly draws back. “Sure… What’s the matter?”


She notices that he is carrying his coat.

“Let’s just go outside for a second,” Philip says.

Normally, she would tell him that he is crazy for wanting to step outside in this weather, but something about his tone is so strange that she follows him through the kitchen and out to the deck. The sky is pitch black, and when Molly speaks, she can see her breath in little white clouds.

“What’s this about?” she asks.

Philip slips his coat around her shoulders.

“There’s something I need to ask you,” he says.

“Now? In the freezing cold?”

“It’s Christmas. I wasn’t going to do this until we got home, but I’ve been waiting so long, and with your family here, I thought…” He pauses. “Molly, I find you to be the most fascinating, compassionate, driven woman I have ever met. It’s impossible for me to remember what my life was like before I knew you--maybe because I always knew you, in some way, knew that you were out there waiting for the time when we would meet in person.”

Molly gasps, her lungs filling with cold air as she realizes what is going on.

And then he does it: he stoops down, planting one knee of his designer trousers on the wet, dirty deck. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small black box, which he quickly opens to reveal a gorgeous, gleaming diamond.

“Molly, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”

* * * * *

Diane is in the midst of a conversation with Alex when her cell phone begins to ring inside her clutch. She apologizes and reaches for it with the intent of silencing the ringer, but when she sees the name on the screen, she swiftly excuses herself.

“Why are you calling me on Christmas?” she says when is safely alone in the bathroom.

“‘Cuz I wanted to make sure you were serious,” Keith Huff says through the phone. “You really wanna go through with this?”

She can hear the sneer in his voice, like this was all a test. If she hadn’t picked up, she is sure that he would have had some smartass move ready to go.

“Dead serious,” she says.

“Fine, then. The deal is on.”

* * * * *

There are plenty of seats open, but 322 Bar & Grill isn’t exactly empty, either. As Claire makes her way to the bar, she cannot help but wonder who all of these people are and what brought them to this place on Christmas day.

She finds a series of unoccupied stools and orders a glass of Chardonnay. She is waiting for it when she hears a man’s voice beckoning her.

“Excuse me,” he says, “but can I buy you that drink?”

Claire stiffens, both uncomfortable and thrown. He is not bad-looking, not at all, but the whole thing is so foreign and unexpected that she doesn’t know how else to react.

“I’m okay,” she says, “but thank you.”

He nods toward the glass as the bartender sets it down in front of her. “Figured you might not hate some company on Christmas, and I’m not seeing a lot of other prospects around here.”

Claire laughs. “Fair enough.”

“What’s your name?” he asks, extending his hand over the two stools that separate them.

“Claire,” she says as they shake.

“It’s nice to meet you, Claire. I’m Jimmy.”

* * * * *

Sarah doesn’t know what to do. She wants this--in fact, she hates how much she wants this--but after everything that has happened, it seems wrong, forbidden. Everything that happened with Graham, everything she caused--and now Matt is seeing Danielle--

Still, it is like a runaway train, or rather, two trains about to collide. She feels her face being drawn toward Matt’s, as if everything is happening in slow motion. She tells herself that she needs to stop this, but she can’t.

And then there is a creaking sound, and she hears a voice.

“I said I would get them,” Travis says from somewhere below them.

She and Matt snap apart, and Sarah sees that the attic door has been opened. Instincitvely, she and Matt scoot away from one another. Matt even springs to his feet and grabs the discarded mop.

“There you are,” Tim says as he comes up the ladder. “We didn’t know where either of you had gone.”

“I came up to get the chafing dishes, and I guess Matt had the same idea,” Sarah says.

“And then the door closed behind me and we couldn’t get out,” Matt finishes.

“Well, let’s grab ‘em and hand them down to Travis,” Tim says. His gaze shifts between the two of them for a long moment, but if he suspects anything, he is nice enough not to bring it up.

“The other one is back here,” Sarah says, standing up and pointing toward the shelf.

As Tim goes to get it, Sarah picks up the chafing dish that she was carrying earlier. She hands it to Matt.

“Merry Christmas,” she says.

“Yeah.” That grin shows through again. “Merry Christmas to you, too.”


What did you think of Christmas in King’s Bay?
Should Sarah and Matt have kissed?
Did Diane lie to Ryan?
Will Claire get mixed up with Jimmy?
Talk about all this and more in the Footprints Forum!

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Friday, Dec. 27, 2013

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