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- Travis, still reeling from how Elly broke up with him and left King's Bay, blasted Tim for continuing to employ Spencer, whom Travis blames for the break-up. 
- Sarah and Matt announced to their daughter that they are back together as a couple.
- When Jason got locked out of his hotel room in a towel, he knocked on Natalie's door--but when she made a move on him, Jason bolted. 

Edge of Winter Arena

"You're gonna make fun of me," Jason Fisher says as he bends over the open drawer of a stuffed filing cabinet, "but it might be time to hire someone to do filing and phones in here."

"Finally!" Ryan Moriani proclaims from his seat behind his desk.

"Mostly because you suck at filing."

"I suck? You're not exactly Office Manager of the Year material."

"Yeah, yeah." Jason keeps digging through the drawer, passing folder after folder without locating what he is looking for. "Actually, I had a thought--"

"Hi," Ryan says, and before Jason even looks up, he can tell they have a visitor.

"Hi," Natalie Bishop says, her voice much more reserved than usual.

She stands in the doorway, in a pair of very skinny jeans, a black-and-white printed blouse, and her usual too-tall heels. 

"I wanted to bring you this," she says, holding out a check to Jason. "It's for the competition."

He makes his way over to accept the check, leaving the drawer open. "You could have sent it with Bree. But thanks."

"She's with her dad until next week. That's why I didn't schedule any lessons this week. I didn't want you to have to wait."

"Well, thanks." He places the check under a makeshift paperweight--a snow globe Sophie decorated in preschool--on his desk. "I appreciate it."

But Natalie lingers there.

"I actually wanted to talk to you, too," she says. Her whole energy is throwing him off. It's such a change from her normal brashness--and that is what confirms for Jason that Natalie wants to discuss what happened (or didn't happen) between them at the hotel in Spokane.

Jason is suddenly very aware of Ryan's presence. He would really rather his brother not be privy to any of this. Ryan, for his part, is suddenly very focused on whatever is on his computer monitor.

  Jason Fisher

"Why don't we go out in the hallway?" Jason says.

"You know what?" Ryan practically leaps to his feet. "I'm gonna run down to Thaw and get more coffee. I'll be back in a few, okay?"

Jason decides not to mention the cup from Thaw that has been sitting on Ryan's desk for the last hour. He just gives his brother a grateful nod as Ryan dashes out of the office.

"So," Jason says once he and Natalie are alone. "What's up?"

"I wanted to talk to you about Spokane," she says as she places her purse down on his desk. 

"What about it?"

"Come on." She cocks her head to the left, and he sees more than a glimpse of the familiar Natalie. "What was up with you racing out of that hotel room the way you did?"

Harbor Boulevard

The restaurant has begun to fill with the dinner crowd. Most of the rustic-style wooden tables are now occupied by patrons, and the servers and bussers perform an intricate and (seemingly) effortless ballet as they weave through the narrow pathways between tables. At one, toward the back of the dining room, Bill and Paula Fisher sit side-by-side. They watch the evening traffic through the floor-to-ceiling windows that look out at the streets of King's Bay. 

"I suppose we should start getting used to the rain again," Paula says as she watches the rivulets of water run down the window pane. Outside, the asphalt shines; it is wet from the rain and reflects the lights from businesses, cars, and street lamps.

"Yeah. Maybe we'll see the sun by April or so," Bill says. Decades of living in the Pacific Northwest have prepared them for this: the summer stretches into September, creating the illusion that perhaps fall will never come--and then, one day, the rain returns to take its rightful place, and it showers the city steadily until spring is ready to break. And even then, the rain is reluctant to give up its stronghold.

Paula takes a piece of bread from the full basket in the center of their table. "This is nice. It's been too long since we went out like this."

"I wonder why Sarah wanted to meet," Bill says. "I hope everything's okay."

"It sounded okay. I really do think she's doing better."

"I hope so." Bill remembers all too clearly how horrifying it was to receive that call that their daughter had been shot, how stressful it was to wait for news about her surgery and her recovery. She insisted on going back to her house after she left the hospital, rather than stay with them--and as much as he wishes she had moved in for a few weeks, her decision wasn't that great a surprise. That has always been Sarah.

Paula is chewing a piece of the bread when she makes a noise, but Bill can't tell what it is supposed to indicate until she points toward the restaurant's entry. He sees Sarah, wearing a flowing black cardigan over a gray dress, scanning the dining room. She checks in with the host, who points out where Bill and Paula are seated, and she makes her way over to them.

"Hi, honey," Paula says as she stands to hug their daughter and Bill waits his turn.

"Where are the kids?" he asks.

Sarah gives him a quick hug and then takes a step back. "Tori's watching Billy tonight."

"Oh," Paula says, confused. "I thought you wanted all of us to have dinner."

"I did--I do--but…" Sarah trails off, and then a smile emerges across her face. "Someone else is going to be joining us."

Paula and Bill trade a look.

"Who?" Bill asks. Sarah seems happy; there is no doubt about that. But if the kids aren't coming…

Then he sees someone else enter the restaurant.

"Oh, Matt's here," Paula says when she notices him. "I thought you said he wasn't working, honey."

"He isn't," Bill says. He takes note of Matt's uncharacteristic attire--a golf shirt tucked into slacks--as their former son-in-law heads toward them.

"Hey, everyone," he says as he approaches.

"This is who's joining us." Sarah glances back and forth between her parents to see if they understand. Then Bill notices Matt slide his arm around Sarah's back.

"We have some news," Sarah says, beaming. 

Vision Publishing

Tim Fisher is sitting at his desk, wrapping up his e-mails for the day and listening to the rain tapping against his window, when he sees the mail cart appear outside his office's doorway. He waits a moment until he can confirm who is pushing it, then calls out.

"Spencer! Anything in there for me?"

Spencer Ragan gives the rather meager contents of the cart a cursory look before answering, "Nope. Just clearing out a few things before the end of the day."

"Do you have a second to chat?" Tim asks, turning fully away from his computer.

"Uh, sure." Spencer moves the cart over to the wall so it isn't blocking the walkway and then comes inside Tim's office.

"Shut the door, would you?" Tim says. 

Spencer obliges and then stands awkwardly in the middle of the room. "What's up?"

"I just wanted to have a quick chat with you. About Travis."

"What about him?" Immediately the young man's tone sounds more irritated, more confrontational. 

"About what happened with him and Elly. I'm sure you heard that Elly left town."

Tim is sure that he sees Spencer flinch. 

"Didn't she go to law school?" he says.

"Yeah," Tim says, "but it got pretty ugly between her and Travis--and Samantha--before she left. And you know why."

"I told you already. That was a mistake. A really stupid mistake. I didn't realize Elly didn't know--"

"I know. You said that. And I'm choosing to believe you." 

"I'm serious, Spencer. I took a big leap hiring you here. And it's been great so far." Tim folds his hands on the desk. "Don't make me regret that."

Spencer stares silently at him.

"I really am enjoying having you around," Tim says. "But if I find out--"

"You won't. I swear."

"Okay. As long as we're on the same page."

"We are."

"Good. Then why don't you go finish handing out the mail and then get out of here for the night?"

"Okay." Spencer pauses after opening the door. "Have a good night."

"You, too." 

Tim swivels back to his computer, but his attention remains on the doorway. He watches the mail cart disappear from sight down the hallway and hopes that this is the last time he will have to have a talk like this with Spencer. 


Jason folds his arms across his chest. 

"I'm not really sure what there is to explain," he says. "I was in a towel. I wanted to get back into my room and take a shower. End of story."

"That's oversimplified," Natalie says. "A lot oversimplified. And you know it."

"I was uncomfortable, okay?"

"But you wanted it to happen."

A visceral memory hits Jason--the way it has many times since they were in Spokane--of the way Natalie's hand felt brushing against his bare stomach, dancing on the rolled edge of his towel. It's been a long time since he felt a touch like that at all.

"I don't know." He fiddles with the check on his desk, sticking out from beneath the paperweight. "It wouldn't have been a good idea."

  Natalie Bishop

"Why not?"

Jason's head snaps up to look directly at her. "Why are you pushing this?"

"Because it was weird," she says. "You come barging into my room in a damn towel, you're lingering there… There's always been this vibe."


"Yes. Come on, Jason. The way we bicker--you're such a pain in the ass--"

"I'm a pain in the ass?" He shakes his head, trying to process how the real Natalie could have come roaring back this fast. "I don't get why you're so hell-bent on making this happen."

She rolls her eyes. "I'm not assaulting you. But there's clearly some tension there. We could have gotten it out of our systems. But you had to bolt like some weirdo."

"How does that make me a weirdo? It's inappropriate. You're my student's mother."

"I didn't say we had to hump at center ice while the whole skating club watches--"


"It's a joke! You really do have a stick up your ass." She narrows her eyes and just stares him down.

"What?" he says, turning away. He has no idea what that intense gaze is supposed to mean. 

"I get it," Natalie says. 

"Get what?"

"You haven't been with anyone since Courtney, have you?"

"What? No. That's..." But his denial sputters into oblivion almost immediately. Lying about it feels strangely disrespectful to Courtney; he has to stop himself before he says something he can't take back, something that will keep him awake at night riddled with guilt. 

"I'm right, aren't I? That's why you freaked out? Because you're out of practice?" She moves closer to him. "I'm pretty sure it's like riding a bike: once you know how…"

Her fingernails toy with the front of his blue oxford shirt. Jason's whole body feels hot, like there is lava boiling inside him, rising up into his head and scalding his cheeks.

"I don't want to ride your bike!" he exclaims, pulling back.

Natalie looks startled. It is a long moment before she speaks. "That's not exactly how the metaphor works."

"Well, I don't want to do it. Stop being gross."

"Gross?" She drops her hands to her sides. "Sex isn't gross, Jason. It's normal. It's healthy."

"I'm aware. Thanks. Maybe I just don't think it'd be healthy to sleep with you." 

"Wow. Thanks." She snatches her purse up off the desk. "Have fun being alone for the rest of your life. I'm sorry I'm not a saint like your dead wife."


But she doesn't even turn back to him. He watches her storm out of the office, his blood still boiling.


"I couldn't be happier," Paula says, and Sarah doesn't find it hard to believe: her mother hasn't stopped smiling since they sat down.

"I can't believe I didn't notice anything," Bill says, looking across the table to Matt. "Come to think of it, you have been in an awfully good mood the past few weeks." 

"We just wanted to wait a little before we told anyone," Matt says.

"And tell Tori first," Sarah interjects.

"She took it well, I'm guessing?" Bill says.

Matt laughs. "She was out of her mind excited."

The conversation pauses as the waiter arrives with their entrees. They all thank him before he departs.

Sarah eyes the food in front of her mother. "The scallops look great, Dad. I haven't been in since you added them to the menu."

"Hey, where's my credit?" Matt teases. "I work here, too."

"They do look delicious," Paula says. Everyone takes a few moments to taste their food and rave about how well it turned out.

"You guys should come by the house with the kids sometime next week," Bill says. "I'll make the scallops there."

"Your sister will be there for another week or so," Paula says between bites. 

"How are the repairs on her house coming?" Sarah asks.

  Bill Fisher

Paula sets down her knife and fork. "On schedule, thank goodness. The damage wasn't structural--"

"Yeah, aside from the wall that got a car driven through it!" Sarah says.

"Thankfully there was no damage to anything load-bearing," Bill explains. "I'm still just grateful no one was hurt."

Matt finishes chewing a bite of his halibut and then says, "Philip just didn't notice that he was putting the car in reverse instead of drive? That's weird."

Sarah nods. "Yeah. If it made any sense for him to do something that destructive on purpose, I'd be suspicious."

"Oh, stop," Paula says, swatting her hand as if to bat the idea away. "He was driving Spencer's car and got confused. Accidents happen."

"That's a pretty big accident!" Sarah says.

Paula picks up her fork but then pauses. "Like your father said, I'm just grateful no one was hurt. It could have been much worse." 

"I bet Spencer's not too thrilled about his car getting driven through a living room," Sarah says.

"I wouldn't imagine so," Paula says, her attention suddenly dropping down toward her plate.

Sarah can read her mother's mood clearly. "You guys still haven't gotten to spend time with him?" she asks.

Paula shakes her head sadly.

"We've asked Tim to bring him over," Bill says, "but he says things are still pretty touchy. We don't want to push too hard."

"Maybe it'll get easier once Molly and Philip get married," Matt offers.

"That's what we're hoping," Paula says before bringing another forkful of her dinner to her mouth.

"Speak of the devil!" Bill announces, and the other three heads go to the door, where Tim has just entered the restaurant. It takes him a second to see Bill's hand waving at him, and then he says something to the hostess before coming over.

"I'm picking up a takeout order for dinner," Tim says as he approaches the end of their table. "I didn't think you'd be in tonight, or I would have let you know."

"Your sister and Matt invited us to dinner," Bill says. 

Tim looks to Sarah, who can barely hold in the news any longer now that they have started sharing it.

"We're back together!" she says, grasping Matt's hand as she does so.

"You are? That's terrific!" Tim says. "Congratulations." 

"Here, let's get you a wine glass," Bill says, "so we can all toast again." He stops a passing busboy as the excited chatter at the table rages on.

322 Bar & Grill

"Might as well make me another one while you're down here," Natalie says to the bartender as she cradles what's left of her gin-and-tonic between her palms. 

The bartender, a guy in his late 20s or early 30s with a hipster mustache and a multitude of tattoos visible on his left arm, starts to pour her new drink. "Rough day?"

"It was fine until about an hour ago." She slugs back the rest of her glass. "Never think about getting involved with a guy whose wife died."

The bartender pauses and holds up his left hand, which bears a wedding band on the ring finger. "Not really planning on it."

He finishes making the drink and sets it in front of Natalie. 

"Thanks," she says as she wraps her fingers around the glass.

"What can I get ya?" the bartender asks, and Natalie follows his voice a few seats down the bar, where a younger guy has just taken a seat.

"I'm gonna order some food, so a menu would be good," the guy says, "but a whiskey rocks would be awesome for now."

"Got it." The bartender grabs a glass and hands the guy a menu.

Natalie finds herself staring at the younger man a few stools away, and when he glances her way, she doesn't look away fast enough.

"Cheers," the younger guy says, raising his glass in her direction as soon as he gets it from the bartender.

Natalie lifts her own. "Cheers."

They drink, but before the silence settles into awkwardness, the guy says, "So what's up with the widow guy?"

Her glass just a few inches from her lips, Natalie pauses. "Who?"

"The guy with the dead wife or whatever. What's his deal?"

"Long story. Long, stupid story." Natalie takes another swig. 

"Well, he sounds like an idiot to me." The guy sets the menu on the bar and, drink in his left hand, stands to approach her. He sticks out his right hand for a shake. "I'm Spencer. Nice to meet you."

He's pretty cute, Natalie thinks as she takes his hand. 


What's going to happen with Natalie and Spencer?
Will Jason regret his freakout?
Is Tim wrong to give Spencer the benefit of the doubt?
Talk about it all in the Footprints Forum!

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Friday, Sept. 19, 2014

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