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- After finding out that Travis had thrown her study-abroad application in the trash instead of mailing it as he'd promised, Elly refused to see him. 
- Claire and Jimmy, who had been sleeping together for months, were shocked to discover that they are more connected than they thought--and that their children had been dating! Brent clocked their unexpected familiarity. 
- After being shot, Sarah was rushed into surgery and was thankfully given a good prognosis. Matt, overcome with emotion, kissed her when she awoke, but Sarah pushed him away. Tori spied their strange interaction as Matt hurried out. 



As he pours his second cup of coffee, Matt Gray peers out the small window above the kitchen sink. The sky is foreboding, an unsettled gray that will almost certainly give way to a downpour before the morning is through. 

"Do you think I need a jacket?" his daughter asks from the living room.

Matt continues to study the sky, as if it is going to grant him some kind of definitive answer. "Couldn't hurt."

"Ugh." Tori glances down at her outfit. "All my jackets look stupid with this skirt, though."

"That's not true," he says, almost by rote, before testing the coffee and finding it too hot to gulp.

She frets over the skirt, which is tan and casual and, to Matt's relief, fairly loose, for another few seconds.

"Maybe I'll just change," she says. "Do I have time?"

  Tori Gray

"Wanna be late for school?"

"I mean, I don't care."

"Well, I do. So if you're gonna change, do it fast." Matt leans against the kitchen counter and takes another tentative sip of the black coffee.

She stands there, so frozen with indecision that she might as well be trapped in quicksand. Finally there comes a total non-sequitur:

"Mom's getting released today."

Matt keeps his reaction measured. "Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah. She texted me while I was in the shower." She waits, as if expecting him to have something to add.

Matt cracks under the silent pressure. "That's good. I'm glad she's doing better."

"You are?"

"Yeah! Why wouldn't I be?"

Tori shrugs. "I dunno. You haven't gone to visit her since that first day, right?"

Matt feels a sting of embarrassment. That much is true--though he has no intention of delving in the complexity of it with his teenage daughter. 

"That doesn't mean I don't want her to get better."

Apparently having forgotten about her skirt dilemma, Tori stares him down. "I saw you guys in her room that day."

"What?" he asks, as much to kill time as anything else. He isn't sure he wants to hear her answer.

"It was weird, right? She, like, kinda pushed you away."

"Tori, this isn't the kind of--"

"Dad. I'm not a little kid." She holds up her phone, which has been cradled in her palm the way it almost always is--her most prized possession. "There's something I want to show you."

Matt sets down his coffee, uncertain what to expect as she approaches. She scrolls to something on the phone and then holds it up for him to see.

"What is this?" he asks, trying to make it out. It looks like a picture of a handwritten note.

"Just read it. You'll get it."

Matt takes the phone from her, but before he looks back at the screen, he tells her, "If you're gonna change, do it now."

"The skirt's fine," Tori says. "Just read that."

KB Memorial Hospital

Sarah Fisher stands beside her hospital bed, dressed in a baggy sweatshirt and a loose-fitting pair of yoga pants. Not her most glamorous look, but at the moment, anything would be preferable to a hospital gown--and the fact that she is comfortably standing on her own two feet is a victory unto itself.

"You look so much more like yourself than you did even yesterday," her younger brother says as he zips up the duffel bag resting on a chair. 

"I feel so much more like myself," Sarah says. She scrawls a few more signatures on the clipboard-bound documents in front of her and sets the whole thing down on the bed. "That's it. I'm free."

"Awesome. I still feel so bad that Ryan and I were in Seattle for that vendor meeting when this happened."

"Unless you handed that idiot the gun and told him to fire it in my direction, you have nothing to feel bad about. Besides, you're helping me schlep home, so you're more than making up for it."

"Good. You sure you're gonna be okay at your place? You know you're welcome to stay at my house for a few days…"

"It'll be good to be back in my own space," Sarah says. "And it's nice of Mom and Dad to keep Billy for a bit. I'm not sure I could handle a toddler yet."

"Yeah. That might be pushing it." Jason hoists the duffel bag over his shoulder. "I still don't get how this happened. How did you wind up in the middle of whatever was going on there?"

"Because I was trying to protect Diane--" She sees Jason about to interrupt and presses on: "I know. Might as well have just slammed my head against a brick wall. But I could tell something was going on in that store and it was a bad idea for her to be in there."

"Is Brent able to explain to you what was even going on in the first place?"

"Some kind of sting. He's been a little vague, but it's not that hard to figure out. He had Jimmy wearing a wire, Jimmy called Keith and Diane there to try and get them to confess to whatever scam was being run--"

"You think Diane was involved?"

"Unless she's a way better actress than I know, absolutely not," Sarah says, though there's still that seed of doubt. If Diane was so desperate to extract herself from Keith and Jimmy's dirty dealings, why was she still in touch with them? Why did she go to that bookstore when Jimmy summoned her? 

"Point being, I was in the worst possible place at the worst possible time, but I'm okay now," she says. "So let's go drop off this paperwork and get me out of here. Deal?"

"Deal," Jason says as he opens the door for her. 


As he leans against the brick wall of the academic building, Travis Fisher checks the time on his phone yet again. Sixteen minutes left. He has seen several students stream out, apparently having finished their Political Science final, but Elly Vanderbilt has not been one of them. 

He gazes across the quad. A small handful of individuals are moving in this direction and that over the walking paths, but the whole campus seems eerily quiet this week. He has become familiar with the phenomenon over the past four years: the whole place turns into a ghost town during finals week, with students squirreled away in the library and in their rooms, desperately cramming for their exams. 

He can tell that it is going to rain soon. The sky is weird and gray, as if the world is issuing one more warning to the students to stay indoors and focus on their studies. 

Travis is checking the time again--finding that only a minute has passed--when the main door of the building opens again. He glances up and, at first, doesn't register that it is precisely the person for whom he has been waiting, now headed in the opposite direction. When he realizes it is finally, actually Elly, he hurries to catch up with her. 

"Elly," he calls out.

She stops walking and turns slowly, cautiously. 

"I was waiting for you," he explains. 

  Elly Vanderbilt

Elly's brow furrows. "How did you know I was--"

"I checked the finals schedule. I knew your Poli Sci class was on Tuesdays and Thursdays--" He cuts himself off. "I just want to talk. I thought it'd be easier to see you in person than keep trying to text."

A long, painful moment of silence passes between them.

"I don't have much to say," Elly says. 

"Then just hear me out."

She doesn't bolt, which he takes as a go-ahead.

"I am so, so sorry for what I did," he says, cobbling together all the words that he has rehearsed so many times in his head. "It was stupid and disrespectful, and I know I need to earn your trust back. I was in a bad place when I threw away your application, and I know that's not an excuse."

Her face doesn't move, doesn't relent. It stays a hard mask.

"It's not," she finally says. "But thank you for your apology."

Travis exhales. "Oh god. Thanks. So you think we can--"


She might as well have just slapped him across the face. The word is such a firm, stinging declaration. 

"You betrayed me in a way that I'm still having trouble understanding," she says. There is a tinge of sadness to her voice, one that makes Travis wonder if the door is still open a tiny bit. "I trusted you, and you took advantage of that to get what you wanted--"

"I was just so scared to lose you--to be alone. It was dumb. Beyond dumb. If I could do it again--"

"Well, you can't. You can't take back what you did, and I can't get back the experience that you took away from me." She shakes her head, like she is shaking off an uncomfortable sensation. "I'm sorry, Travis. I don't have anything else to say to you."

"Elly. Just wait--"

But she has already turned and begun walking away. This time, he is too devastated to chase after her. 


Even after he drops Tori off at school, Matt is still reeling from what she showed him on her phone. It makes so much sense. He even knew it, kind of--maybe not in such an easily articulated way, but on a gut level, he understood it. As he read those words, it was as though he were reading something he'd already heard, maybe even felt.

He parks his truck in the driveway but hesitates before he turns off the engine. Coming here was impulsive; he understands that much. But he can't figure out if that's a good or a bad thing. Is he being an idiot?

Something at his core tells him no.

Danielle's car is parked in front of the house, the only vehicle here. Matt looks through the windshield and up to the sky, still so ominous and gray. It looks darker than before. 

Steeling himself as best he can, he takes the keys from the ignition and hops out of the truck. At the front door, he hesitates only a moment before ringing the bell.

Danielle answers the door within a matter of seconds. Her hair is pulled back into a ponytail, and she's dressed in workout clothes--a t-shirt and leggings.

"Hi," she says, her surprise evident. "I wasn't--I just finished doing my video."

He can see her scanning him, trying to make sense of this impromptu appearance.

"Do you have a few minutes to talk?" he asks, swallowing the lump that has formed in his throat.


"Okay. Great."

She lets him into the house and closes the door.

Outside, the sky finally breaks open, and the rain begins to cascade down. 


"You're sure you're okay?" Jason asks. 

"I'm fine!" Sarah insists, a smile plastered on her face even though she looks too tired to stand for much longer.

He lingers in the foyer, not yet convinced that he should leave. "I can order some food--"

"We had lunch, like, 45 minutes ago! I got shot. I didn't get a tapeworm."

Jason cracks into a laugh. "Okay. You're starting to seem like Sarah again."

"I'm fine," she says. "I'm just happy to be home."

"If you need any other help with Billy, I'm happy to jump in. Sophie would love having him around, I'm sure."

"I might take you up on that. But I miss him, so maybe not. Seriously, Jay, thank you for everything today."

  Sarah Fisher

She lurches forward and gives him a tight hug. 

"Now get outta here," she says with one final squeeze.

"Are you sure you don't need anything?"

"Don't you have a business to run?"

"Ryan's holding down the fort."

"Well, I'm gonna take a nap, so unless you want to sit here and be creepy and watch me sleep, go!"

"Fine, fine." He returns for one more quick hug. "Call or text me if you need anything. I can be over here in fifteen minutes."

"Thank you. I will. I love you."

"Love you, too," he says, before finally making his exit.

Sarah watches the door close and relishes the absolute silence of the house around her. In the hospital, there was always something--a person in the hallway, a monitor beeping, a voice over the P.A. system--that kept it from being totally quiet. As much as she misses Tori and Billy, she's relieved to have one day and night that she can spend by herself, resting without anyone to interrupt her. And she knows any of her family members are just a phone call away. 

A wave of exhaustion sweeps over her, the latest in a series of them. Even getting home from the hospital and eating the sandwiches that Jason picked up has worn her out, unsurprisingly. She makes her way to the stairs but then pauses and turns back, drawn, for some reason, to take another look at the house.

A house. That's what it is. Not a home. It has never really been her home, at least not since Graham died. Even that was all a lie. She has tried since then to make it her own, but it's as if he is all over the space like a fine mist that is impossible to catch. 

Her eyes settle on a trio of vases perched on a console in the entryway. She remembers Graham picking them out. They didn't have any special meaning to him; he simply liked them. Sarah didn't mind them enough to object, but for some reason, she has not yet gotten rid of them. She has had this thought so many times while leaving and entering the house, but the sight of them is suddenly unbearable. So is all of it, really: the lacquered console table itself, the striped runner by the front door. It's all him

And then her gaze shifts to something else. It is a pillar candle, placed at the opposite end of the console. This candle, she did pick out herself. She grabbed it while running errands a few months back, intending to replace one that had worn down and grown dusty. She has only lit it once or twice since then. But as she studies it, sees the wick ready to be lit, she knows what she has to do to feel free. 

Thaw Coffee & Tea

"Would you look at that?" the barista, a young woman with a stud in her nose, says with a sigh. "It's like summer is never gonna get here."

Claire Fisher grumbles sympathetically as she glances over her shoulder, not at all surprised to see the rainfall through the café's front wall of windows. She pays for her drink and slides down toward the end of the bar to wait for it.

She is still waiting when she spots a familiar figure scurrying through the front door of the shop: Brent Taylor, whose uneven gait she recognizes even before he pulls off the hood of his windbreaker. He glances around the café, and before Claire knows it, they have made eye contact. She waves, but her stomach sinks as she recalls the humiliating moment at the hospital when she realized how Jimmy is connected to the Taylors. As Brent finishes placing his order at the counter, Claire decides to suck it up and approach him.


He offers an uneasy smile. "Hey." 

"Do you have a minute?" she asks, shifting her weight from one foot to the other.

"Yeah. What's up?"

"It's about the other day. At the hospital." She catches herself checking the end of the bar for her drink, even though it hasn't been called yet. "I wanted to explain about Jimmy…"

Brent holds up his palms. "You don't have to explain anything to me."

"I know. But I…" She feels as though she does owe him an explanation, for some reason that she can't quite articulate. "Jimmy and I met at 322. We've been… seeing each other, I guess. But I wasn't sure it was going to be a serious thing, so we sort of avoided specifics about our lives--"


"I just want to clear the air," she says. "There isn't any big secret I'm hiding."

"It's fine. You're both single, you're both adults--you're allowed."

"Yeah." She nods, feeling stupid for even delving into this at all. "Maybe what I really should be saying is that I'm sorry."

Brent cocks his head. "You don't owe me an apology about Jimmy."

"Not about Jimmy. About us. What happened last summer--I know I put you in an uncomfortable position. I was in a really bad headspace, and the way I kind of… threw myself at you…"

"I understand. It's okay."

"But nothing has been the same since then," she says, a sense of urgency creeping over her. She has been holding this in for so long. "I miss our friendship, Brent. I'm sorry if I crossed a line or put you in a weird position. But I'd love if we could be friends again--real friends."

She hears the barista call out her drink order, but she doesn't move.

Brent cracks a grin. "I'd like that. I've missed you."

"I've missed you, too," she says, suddenly feeling a thousand pounds lighter than she did a few minutes ago. 


By the time Matt pulls up to the house, the rain is driving hard against his windshield, causing his wipers to swish back and forth at a frantic clip. He turns off the truck's engine and braces himself for the onslaught of rain. Through a front window, he can see a candle lit in the foyer. 

He rushes through the downpour to the front door, but just as he reaches it, the door swings open to reveal Sarah, dragging an overstuffed trash bag behind herself.

"What are you doing?" he asks. Even if he didn't know that she just had surgery, she doesn't appear to be in any shape to be hauling heavy items. 

She freezes. "What are you doing?"

"I needed to see you." He moves to grab the trash bag. "Here. Let me." 

"Just leave it." She manages to swing it out on the porch and steps back into the safe cover of the house. 

  Matt Gray

Matt follows her inside. "Why are you taking out trash? You should be resting."

"I'm fine." 

"You just got shot!"

"Matt. It's not really your business, is it?"

He recoils a little. "Look, I just wanted to talk to you--"

Sarah swallows hard. "I think I said everything I had to say the other day at the hospital."

"Yeah." He fishes for his next words, not wanting to reveal that Tori showed him a photo she snapped of a letter that Sarah apparently wrote to him and then threw in the trash. As much as he wanted to reprimand Tori for going through her mother's private things, he's thankful that she offered him that kind of insight into Sarah's mind.

"I get it now," he says.

"Get what?"

"All of it. What's in that bag?"

"A bunch of stuff. Old crap." He stares until she explains further: "Stuff Graham bought for the house."

He wipes beads of water from his face. "Why are you doing this to yourself? Living here, torturing yourself--"

"You don't know what I'm doing."

"Is it because you blame yourself?" he asks. "'Cause you married him? You didn't know he was a psycho."

"I should have known." She bites her lower lip in that old, familiar way she has for as long as he's known her. Suddenly he sees a much younger woman, the vibrant but troubled girl he met all those years ago an entire country away. 

"You've gotta stop doing this," he says. "It's not your fault."

She balls her fists and then turns away, flailing them at the air. "It is. I was stupid enough to marry him, even though I knew…" She trails off and swats against at nothing. 

He doesn't want to push her to finish the thought. He doesn't need to, because he knows the answer now. Instead he spits out what he really came here to say: 

"I broke up with Danielle."

For a moment, nothing happens. Everything is still. And then Sarah turns, her face crinkled with confusion. 

"You what?"

"I broke up with Danielle. I had to." 

The next word out of her mouth is so hesitant, as if she's scared to ask. "Why?"

"Because." He feels his breaths growing shallower. "Waiting to hear about your surgery--seeing you in that hospital bed--it was a lot for me. If things hadn't gone well that day--"

"I'm fine," she repeats.

"Yeah. Thank God. But if you hadn't been…" He hates even putting the thought out there. "I couldn't have lived with myself, knowing how much time we wasted."

"I thought you were happy with Danielle," she says.

"I was. But I wasn't…" His mouth fumbles over a thousand words before he gets a select few out. "But she isn't you. I wanna be with you. So I'm putting it out there. And if you don't wanna, then I guess I've gotta figure that out--but no more wasting time." 

He watches her intently, waiting for some sign, some indication of what comes next. 

"Matt," she finally says, and she looks like she is going to cry.

"I love you," he says. "There. I said it."

And then she is surging toward him, grabbing both his arms. "I love you, too." 

When they kiss, in spite of everything that has happened, it feels like maybe no time has passed at all since this was all he had in the world.


Can Sarah and Matt really make it work this time?
What will Danielle do in the wake of her break-up?
Can Travis win Elly back?
What will come next for Claire and Brent?
Talk about it all in the Footprints Forum now!

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Thursday, July 03, 2014

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