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- Spencer reached out to Samantha, and they went to happy hour together--but Spencer seemed to be prying her for information on Travis and Elly.
- Molly and Philip clashed after he told her that he wants Spencer to live with them after they are married.
- Paula was thrown when she came to see Claire and found Jimmy in her apartment in nothing but a towel. Claire was mortified when Tim revealed that his mother had told him about the encounter.


Claire Fisher stands over the bin of green apples, carefully picking her way through what seems like the entire stock as she tries to find one more apple that doesn’t have a bruise or some other disfiguring characteristic about it. She is about to give up when she spots one last hope; she manages to pull it out without causing all of the other apples to tumble to the floor. Miraculously, there is nothing wrong with it, so she adds it to the plastic bag and grabs a twist tie. She is placing the bag in her cart when she sees her former mother-in-law at the other end of the produce section.

Paula Fisher is currently preoccupied with a bundle of scallions. Claire contemplates turning around and hightailing it out of here before Paula spots her. But that desire to flee also comes with a fire that burns inside of her at the mere sight of the woman, and she decides that there is only one way to extinguish it. Claire pushes her cart straight toward the other end of the aisle.

“Paula. Hi,” she says, parking her cart out of the walkway.

The older woman turns with a start. “Claire,” she says after a moment’s hesitation. “Hello.”

“I’m glad I ran into you,” Claire says, even as her hands tremble.

Paula holds her mouth in a tight, straight line. “Is that so?”

“I had a talk with Tim the other day. I was a little surprised to hear that he’s so up-to-date on the details of my personal life.”

  Paula Fisher

A lengthy pause ensues before Paula responds. “You don’t appear to be making much of a secret of your activities these days.”

Her tone ignites a new flame of rage inside Claire. She has heard Paula speak in this judgmental manner about people before, but it always seemed to be about people who were making genuinely bad, perhaps even malicious, choices. To feel that turned around on herself sends Claire’s head spinning.

“That was in the privacy of my own home,” she says. “Yes, Jimmy and I have been seeing each other. It isn’t a national scandal.”

“I didn’t say it was. So it shouldn’t be so horrifying to you that I mentioned it to my own son.”

“It certainly sounded like you sold it to Tim as some kind of scandal. Luckily for me, he’s a reasonable person, but to have you smearing me like that--”

“I would hardly call it smearing.”

“It was nasty,” Claire says. “Nasty and hurtful. So why don’t you tell me, Paula: why do you have it in for me these days?”


As Spencer Ragan approaches the entrance of the tall brick building, he clutches his student ID card in his palm and wonders if the very first step of his plan is going to hit a snag. He had to turn in his Leave of Absence form, and he hopes that Campus Security isn’t as on top of things as they should be. When he swipes his card over the reader at the front door, he is relieved to find that they are not; his card has yet to be deactivated, and it grants him easy access to the dormitory.

He bypasses the elevator and instead takes the stairs up to the sixth floor, which houses the larger rooms reserved for upperclassmen. He is pretty sure that he remembers the correct number of Samantha and Elly’s room, and the whiteboard on the door confirms that he has the right room. He can hear music playing from inside, but it’s so faint that he can’t identify what it is.

Moments later, Elly Vanderbilt opens the door. Her chestnut hair is pulled back into a ponytail, and she wears a grey hoodie and black yoga pants.

“Uh… hi,” she says, clearly surprised at the sight of Spencer.

“Hey.” He peeks into the room. He tries to ignore the music, which he can now unfortunately peg as Taylor Swift. “Samantha’s not here?”

“No. She’s at work.”

“Oh. Dammit. I must’ve gotten my times mixed up.” He gives the time on his phone a cursory check, although he already knew very well that Samantha wouldn’t be here. He saw her walking into the Student Center for her shift mere minutes ago.

“No worries.” Elly’s hand lingers on the open door. “You guys are… hanging out?”

Spencer shrugs. “I’m trying. You know, making an effort. I’m sure Travis told you I’m working for Tim again.”

Elly grimaces. “Yeah.”

“I was kind of a jerk to Samantha when I had to go into Student Affairs a while back, so I went back to apologize and we wound up doing happy hour. She’s a really nice kid.”

“Yeah. She is.” He can see Elly trying to read him; if she had a laser scanner behind her eyes, it would be compiling its results right this instant.

“Sorry to bug you,” he says, but instead of turning to leave, he sticks his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “I probably owe you an apology, too.”

She waits silently for him to go on.

“I know I’ve been kind of a dick to everyone,” Spencer continues. “This whole thing has been really freaking disorienting.”

He watches Elly process this. “I’m sure.”

She is so reserved, so skeptical, that it makes him suddenly and almost uncontrollably angry. He’s standing here apologizing--even if it is bullshit--and she has to keep eyeing him like this? What a bitch.

But he forces himself to keep his emotions in check and continues down the same path as before.

“You all seem like nice people,” he says. “I had fun hanging with Samantha. And hey--sorry about that whole study-abroad thing. That really sucks.”

He sees what might be the beginning of Elly softening. Perfect.

“Yeah, I’m pretty disappointed. But life goes on, right?”

“Right. It’s just crazy--the application never even got turned in? If you had known before, at least you could’ve done something. That sucks, man.”

He waits and watches as the information sinks in and then registers on her face.

“What do you mean?” she asks.

“That’s what Samantha said,” Spencer says as casually as he can. “Maybe I misunderstood. But I’m pretty sure she said your application never even got turned in.”

Objection Designs

When he steps off the elevator, Jason Fisher goes straight toward the executive suite at the back of the floor that houses his sister’s office. He heads through the open double doors, where he finds Cameron Kelley behind his transparent, acrylic desk, tapping away at his computer’s keyboard.

“Hey, Cameron,” Jason says. “Is Molly in her office?”

Cameron barely glances over at him. “I’ll let her know you’re here.”

He presses a button on his phone and announces Jason’s presence.

“Go on in,” the redheaded man says, his focus already back on the computer. Maybe he is just busy, but he seems cool, if not outright resentful.

“Thanks,” Jason says, a bit confused. He proceeds past Cameron and into Molly’s office, where he finds his older sister on the floor, hovering over what appears to be approximately 800 swatches of fabric spread in front of her.

“Uh-oh. Do I dare ask?” he says as he closes the door behind himself.

“Tablecloth options,” Molly says as she uses a nearby chair to help herself up. “Overlay, underlay… you know the drill.”

“I kind of let Court leave me out of that stuff, honestly. But it seems like the kind of thing you’d love.”

“I do, yeah.” She gives him a hug and then takes a seat in one of the side chairs flanking a small coffee table. “Sit, please.”

Jason obliges. “Question,” he says. “Have you noticed something off about Cameron today? Did something happen?”

  Molly Taylor

Molly narrows her eyes. “I don’t think so…”

“He seemed kind of weird just now.”

“Weird how?”

“I don’t know. Cool.” He shrugs. “It’s probably nothing. Anyway--what did you want to talk about?”

“We could have done it over the phone,” she says. “I just kind of need to… vent.”

“Is it about Philip?”

“Sort of.” She indicates the swatches on the floor. “It’s about the wedding. Or, rather--we were talking about living arrangements for after we’re married. And there’s a lot to work out.”

“Does he have a problem living in the house you and Brent bought together?”

“No, actually. He said it’s the twins’ home and he understands that.”

Jason folds his hands together as he waits to hear the actual problem. “Well, that’s good…”

“He wants Spencer to come live with us,” Molly says, letting it all out in one rush of breath. “He even tried to convince me that with him and Spencer there, Danielle wouldn’t need to be around to help out with the boys anymore.”

“I’m guessing you don’t agree.”

“I don’t trust Spencer around my kids. I know he’s technically their cousin, and maybe it’s an awful thing for me to say, but he’s a trainwreck. He got in that car accident, he almost burned down an entire fraternity house--I don’t trust him.”

Jason can’t really argue with anything she is saying, but he suspects that “Yep, you’re right” isn’t the most helpful brotherly advice.

“Have you talked to Tim about it?” he asks. “How’s he doing at Vision?”

“Well, apparently. At least he hasn’t caused any huge problems. And Philip hasn’t had any blow-ups with him lately. But this is about my kids’ safety, you know? I’m not sure I can just take other people’s word that it’ll be okay.”

“Philip really doesn’t think he can live on his own yet?”

She shakes her head, her dark hair waggling from side to side. “He doesn’t think he’s ready. Am I just being a huge bitch about this?”

“No.” Jason leans forward, resting his elbows on his thighs. “You’re right to be concerned about your kids. But try and remember that Philip is basically Spencer’s parent, too--and he’s trying to do what’s best for him. At a certain point, you have to trust the man you’re going to marry.”

“You’re right,” Molly says, but she doesn’t sound convinced that she can actually do that.


For one interminable moment, Claire thinks Paula is genuinely going to split without even addressing her question. The older woman rests her hands on the handle of her shopping cart and seems prepared to push it away, leaving Claire’s inquiry hanging in the air. Finally, Paula adjusts her purse strap on her shoulder and then looks Claire in the eyes.

“I don’t have it in for you,” Paula says. “I was coming over to your apartment to bring a thank-you gift. I think that was rather civil.”

“Yeah. It was nice. But why did you have to turn around and make me sound like some kind of…” Claire lowers her voice before continuing. “…some kind of whore to Tim?”

“Please don’t put words in my mouth.”

“It wasn’t that difficult to read between the lines. You acted like you’d walked in on me with the entire Seattle Seahawks team.”

“I was caught off-guard, I’ll admit that much,” Paula says. “You hadn’t told any of us you were seeing someone. And I hardly expected to run into a half-naked man in your home in the middle of the morning.”

“I’m sorry about that! I didn’t expect visitors. I still don’t understand why you had to make me sound so bad to Tim--or tell him at all.”

“Because--” Paula pauses as an elderly couple moves past them; she and Claire maintain tense eye contact as they wait.

“Because I have a grandson I don’t even know!” she continues in a loud whisper. “I haven’t even met the boy!”

“And how does trashing me help that?”

“I’m not trying to trash you, Claire. But that boy has decided he hates us--all of us--because of you. Because you pushed and pushed him, and you kept this secret for far too long, and now we don’t have him and Travis is pulling away--”

“You cannot blame me for this,” Claire hisses. “I admit that I waited too long to say anything, but it was a huge shock. I was trying to figure out how to handle it. I’m sorry it came out the way it did--”

“That’s just it,” Paula interrupts her. “You’re always sorry. Sorry that Tim lost years of his life because he was trying to help you. Sorry that you broke his heart because you couldn’t stay away from Ryan. It goes on and on. You’re always sorry--but these things keep happening.”

Claire feels as if she has been slapped across the face. The thought that Paula has been harboring grudges over all those things for all these years--

“I’m sorry if I spoke out of turn to Tim,” Paula says, “but if you’re looking for absolution, I’d suggest you look elsewhere.” She wastes not one more second steering her cart away, deftly navigating her way out of the produce section. Claire lingers behind, still reeling from the encounter.


Elly considers waiting in the room until Samantha returns from her shift, but she quickly acknowledges that she isn’t going to be able to focus on her thesis outline at all between now and then. Instead she marches across campus--regretting her decision not to grab a jacket, since the air is still stuck in winter mode, despite the sun riding high in the sky--and makes her way to the Student Affairs office, where she finds Samantha on a phone call behind the front desk.

“Let me transfer you,” Samantha says, and as soon as she places the call on hold to do so, she casts an uneasy glance over at her roommate.

“I need to talk to you,” Elly says in a heavy whisper.

Samantha finishes sending the call through and hangs up. Elly leans over the front of the desk.

“Spencer just came by our room,” she says.

“I meant to tell you guys that we went to 322 together. I should have said something--”

  Elly Vanderbilt

“I don’t care about that. It’s none of my business,” Elly says, obviously straining to keep her voice down. “What is my business is the fact that my application apparently never got turned in--which was news to me.”

All hints of color drain from Samantha’s face. “Spencer told you that?”

“Yeah. Which makes me wonder why in the world he would know that.”

Samantha suddenly looks desperate, like she might be on the verge of tears. “I might’ve said something--we were drinking and I kind of remember--”

“You said something to him but not to me?”

“I looked in the system,” Samantha whispers. “You can’t tell anyone. I’m not supposed to do that--I could get fired--”

“Then why would you tell Spencer?”

“I didn’t mean to.” Samantha looks around nervously. “Elly, I’m so sorry. It was really stupid of me. I didn’t know if I should tell you--if it would make things better or worse--”

“I don’t either,” Elly admits, balling her fists in anger. She hates feeling like she is playing catch-up in her own life. “So where did it go?”

Samantha seems to shrink in her seat. “I don’t know. All I know is that it was never processed. Maybe it got lost in the mail.”

“Maybe.” Elly lets out a loud sigh. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me.”

“I’m sorry!”

“I’ll see you later,” Elly says, storming out of the office without giving Samantha a chance to respond. She heads straight for the elevator, knowing that there is one more person she needs to talk to about this.


Is Spencer getting exactly what he wanted?
Will Claire and Paula ever mend fences?
Should Molly reconsider her stance on Philip’s request?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to talk about it all now!

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Wed., March 19, 2014

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