Episode #723

- Claire brought a gift to the Fishers, but when she witnessed their Christmas celebration through the window, she felt like she was intruding and left the gift at the doorstep. Later that night, she met Jimmy Trask, and they began a casual relationship. 
- Samantha was suspicious about Elly's study-abroad application and used the access of her work-study job to check the system, where she discovered that Elly's application (which had been left in Travis's care) was never submitted. 
- Sarah and Matt got locked in the Fishers' attic on Christmas Day and nearly shared a kiss before they were freed.


Claire Fisher has just finished toweling off her hair when there is a knock at the door. For a moment, she considers not answering, but given the fact that it is late morning, it is most likely a delivery or one of her neighbors. She tosses the wet towel into the nearby hamper and, still wearing her plush pink robe, makes her way to the front door, careful to shut the bedroom door behind herself.

When she opens the door, she is genuinely surprised to see Paula Fisher standing there.

"Claire. Hi." Paula wears a blue plaid coat, one that Claire has seen many times before, and the familiarity of it all--and the fact that it has been so long since Paula came to her home--fills her with a nostalgic sadness. She holds a plate wrapped in red cellophane in her hands. 

"I hope I'm not catching you at a bad time," Paula continues.

"Oh, no. Just getting ready for work." Claire holds her breath for a moment and feels her heart thudding against the inside of her chest. She uses the silence to listen hard and is relieved that she can't hear much from the other room--just the faint sound of the shower, which she can only detect because she knows it is running. 

"Well, I won't take up much of your time." Then, to Claire's horror, Paula moves swiftly through the doorway and into the apartment. Reluctantly, and not wanting to seem strange or uncomfortable, Claire closes the door. 

Paula hands Claire the wrapped plate. "I baked you some cookies."

"Thank you. That's very nice." Claire takes the plate and sets it on the kitchen counter. When the cellophane stops crinkling, she perks her ears up again--but she can't tell if the shower is still running. A nervous tingle flutters through her body.

"I just wanted to thank you," Paula says, folding her hands in front of her stomach, "for the lovely serving plate you dropped off on Christmas day." 

"Oh. I--I didn't want to bother you all, but I thought…"

"It was very nice of you. I thought I should come by and acknowledge it."

"I appreciate that."

An awkward silence dangles between them. Claire wondered if there might be more of an olive branch here, perhaps an admission that Claire should have been included in the family Christmas celebration, but it does not come. Instead, she hears a barely detectible creaking elsewhere in the apartment. Could she be imagining it?

No, she isn't imagining it. Her breath catches in her chest as she tries to figure out an escape plan--but before she can hustle Paula out of the apartment, the door to the bedroom opens, and Jimmy Trask steps out wearing nothing but a towel cinched around his waist. 

Paula turns and spots him and then, her jaw hanging open, looks back to Claire.


The center pulses with activity, just as the heart of student life on campus should. Bodies rush around, phones jingle, and at the crowded reception desk in the main office, Samantha Fisher tries to keep up with all of it. She is waiting for the fax machine's frustrating hum to turn into something more when, out of the corner of her vision, she sees a body approaching the desk. 

She swivels in her chair and rolls it back toward the desk--as she recognizes the person who has just entered.

"Hi there," she says to Spencer Ragan, her stomach twisting.

"Hey." His delivery is flat, and it isn't clear if he even recognizes her.

"What can I do for you?"

"I'm taking the semester off, but they told me I need to fill out some form or something so I don't have to pay tuition--"

"A Leave of Absence Form. They're right over there, in the third slot." She points to the hanging folders on the wall. "You can just fill it out and I'll put it into the system right now."

"Cool. Thanks." 

Spencer grabs a pen and begins to fill out the document on the top of the reception desk. Samantha sits back in her chair, eyeing him, and then returns to tinkering with the fax machine. But she cannot focus on the impossible task, especially not with her brother--this guy is her brother; that's so weird--standing five feet away.

"I don't know if you recognize me," she says, "but--"

He narrows his eyes, but it takes only a split-second before the answer dawns on him. "Samantha, right?"

"Yeah. I didn't know if…" She feels like a bumbling idiot for not having spoken up sooner--but then again, he's the one who didn't even know who she was. 

Spencer just shrugs and goes back to writing on the form.

"Why are you taking a semester off?" she asks.

He glances up, his dark eyebrows lifted. "That's private."

"I know. I just thought--"

"What? That because we're accidentally related, we're supposed to stay up late drinking hot cocoa and swap secrets and all that crap?"

"No, but…" She doesn't even know how to finish the statement. 

"Just forget about it, okay? You people are strangers to me. Finding out about some fucked-up thing from 21 years ago doesn't change that."

Humiliation stinging all over her body, Samantha tries to focus on the computer monitor, even though she doesn't have any work to do on it. She knows that she didn't say anything out-of-line, but Spencer has made her feel like a total loser. Part of her wants to tell him off, tell him that she was only trying to be nice, that it's weird that they are siblings and don't even know each other--

"Here," he says, thrusting the form her way and interrupting her thoughts.

She takes the paper. "I can process this right now. Just give me a second."


With a few keystrokes, she pulls up his file and gets the input process in order. A grayed-out button catches her attention.

"It looks like you have a hold on your account," she narrates as she clicks through. "There's an outstanding balance."

Spencer throws up his hands. "What now?"

"It's a $25 charge from Residence Life. Room clean-up, it looks like."

He appears ready to protest but instead just exhales loudly. "Fine. Whatever. Put it on this." He takes out his wallet and shoves a credit card across the counter.

Samantha puts the payment through as quickly as she can, while Spencer taps his slim leather wallet on top of the counter. The drumming feels like a ticking clock, like pressure to get this over with as quickly as possible. She obliges, moving as fast as she can, because suddenly all she wants is for this uncomfortable encounter to be over. 


The ficus used to be in the corner. 

That's what Sarah Fisher is focused on as her therapist speaks to her, or rather, reviews the events of Christmas Day aloud so that Sarah cannot go on ignoring them. The plant, in its same blue ceramic pot, now sits by the window, where dribs and drabs of the Northwest winter sunlight can reach it. It's a more awkward place for it, but the plant already looks healthier than it did last time Sarah was here.

"And before you were rescued," Dr. Croft says, "what were you thinking?"

It takes Sarah a moment to refocus on the therapist. "It wasn't really a rescue," she finally says. "We were locked in the attic in a full house for maybe twenty minutes."

"Then before your family opened the attic door… what were you thinking?"

"That it was weird, mostly." Sarah chooses each syllable carefully. "That's what Matt and I were talking about. After all this time, after everything that's happened, it was weird to be stuck together on Christmas. That's all."

"That's all?"


The doctor adjusts her glasses, in a way that somehow manages to call Sarah out and declare that she is withholding something important.

"It doesn't matter," Sarah says, cracking under the weird, silent pressure. "It was a passing moment. It didn't mean anything."

"You don't sound like you believe that, Sarah."

"Well, what am I supposed to say? Nothing happened."

Dr. Croft tilts her head with interest. "What could have happened?"

"I don't know! Matt's still with Danielle. So it really doesn't matter!" Sarah realizes that she has raised her voice and drops her head in embarrassment. "Sorry."

"It's all right." 

Sarah sighs. "No. I'm just frustrated. I thought--" She shakes her head and then takes a moment to push her hair back behind her ear. "This is so stupid, but if I'm being honest, I felt like there was a moment when Matt and I were going to kiss."

The doctor takes that in calmly, not betraying any reaction. "And why didn't you?"

"Because they found us. Or maybe because he wouldn't do that to Danielle. He shouldn't do that to her."

"Okay," Dr. Croft says with a nod. "But did you want to kiss him?"

Sarah knows there is no use lying. "Yeah. I did."

That is exactly the answer Dr. Croft seems to have been expecting--of course it is, because she somehow knows everything. She rolls right on. "Okay, then. I have an assignment for you."

Sarah has to suppress a gulp. "What kind of assignment?"


The moment reminds Claire of a computer's cursor blinking against an empty white screen. As long as no one speaks or moves, nothing is committed to record, and maybe it doesn't exist. So there they stand--Claire in her robe, Paula in her coat, and Jimmy in his towel--for what feels like countless hours.

"Oh. Sorry," Jimmy finally says, breaking the spell. "Didn't realize you had--" He shrugs off the rest of the sentence.

Claire notes the stunned look on Paula's face; the older woman can't quite seem to stop staring at the sight of Jimmy's bare torso, still wet from the shower, its muscles carved in a shockingly perfect way.

"Jimmy, this is Paula," Claire says. "She's my--" She trips on the words and then spits out: "--my son's grandma. Paula, this is Jimmy." She grabs the plate of cookies and hastens to add, "She brought these over."

Jimmy moves over to eye the cookies. "Looks awesome. Thanks."

Paula's mouth flaps once or twice before actual words come out. "You're welcome." She turns to Claire. "I didn't know you were entertaining…"

There is a bite to the word--entertaining--that makes Claire seethe.

"I actually have to get to work soon," Claire says, pulling her robe a little tighter around her body. "Thank you for the cookies, Paula."

"Of course. Thank you for the serving plate."

Claire simply nods. Paula moves toward the door, then pauses.

"Is Tempest home?" she asks. Claire is sure that she sees the judgment flickering across her former mother-in-law's face.

"Tempest went away for the weekend with her friend Annie and her parents."

"I see." Paula opens the door. "You two have a lovely day." She takes one more glance at Jimmy in the towel before exiting.

"Sorry," Jimmy says once the door is closed. "I would've just stayed in the bedroom--"

"It's fine." Claire busies herself by unwrapping the cookies. Is it fine? Does Paula's opinion even matter anymore? 

Jimmy sidles up next to her and grabs what looks like an oatmeal raisin. "So that was awkward. Your son's grandma? That means she's either your mom or--"

"She's my ex's mother." She grabs a cookie of her own to avoid explaining further how Paula is actually the mother of two of her exes, and how she's sort of the grandmother of two boys Claire could call her sons, and how close Claire used to be to her, and all the other history and baggage that she does not want to dredge up right now.

Instead she closes the gap between herself and Jimmy, taking a bite of the chewy cookie as she leans against his cool, bare flesh. 

"It doesn't matter," she says. 


Samantha has finally gotten the fax machine to produce an actual piece of paper when she looks up and sees her brother strolling into the office.

"Hey," he says, holding several envelopes in his hand. "I was just checking my mail and thought I'd come say hi."

Samantha gestures at the envelopes. "How much mail do you get?"

"I actually hadn't checked it in a week. I'm not that popular."

As he stuffs the envelopes into his backpack, Samantha takes the fax and returns to her chair. Travis picks up something off the counter.

"What's this?"

Samantha eyeballs it for just a second before she recognizes the item. "Someone must have left their wallet." She grabs it from Travis before he can look inside.

"Whose is it?" he asks.

"This kid who was in here earlier. I'll drop it at the Lost & Found downstairs and send him an e-mail."

She gets the sense that it is better not to mention Spencer to him if it can be avoided; it seems like time to change the subject. 

"Just so you know," she says, "Elly was really upset this morning. I think being back in class while everyone is off for their spring study-abroad programs is really hitting her hard."

Travis groans. "Seriously? What is so special about traipsing around Vienna or London or whatever?"

"I don't know. It sounds pretty cool."

"Okay, yeah. It does. But why right now? Is it so bad that she's stuck here with people she knows and things she loves? It's our last semester!"

"I think it's just something she really wants to do." Samantha quickly checks the faxed document against an e-mail on her screen and confirms that the information matches up. "There's something I wanted to ask you, though."

Travis flinches. "What?"

She drops her voice to a whisper. "I looked in the system. Elly's application was never received."

"You aren't supposed to do that!"

"I know!" Samantha glances around to be sure that no one heard her confession. "But I knew it was driving Elly nuts, and after you said that she put you in charge of it…"

"Don't say anything to her about this."

"I won't. But be honest with me: did you mail the application? Or did you just tell Elly you did?"

Travis's face turns stony, and several tense seconds pass before he answers her.

"Of course I mailed it," he says. "Why would you think I didn't?"

His anger instantly makes Samantha feel bad, and she backs down. "Sorry. It just seems weird."

"Yeah, well… weird shit happens sometimes."

"Okay. I just wanted to warn you, that's all."

The two siblings are so wrapped up in their conversation that neither notices that the owner of the wallet has returned. He lingers just outside the door to the reception area, taking in every word that Travis and Samantha have just exchanged.


What will Spencer do with this private information?
Should Claire open up to Jimmy about her life?
What kind of assignment will the doctor give Claire?
Discuss all this and more in the Footprints Forum now!

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