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- Danielle went on a dinner date with Jimmy, the father of her grown daughter, with whom she'd been involved two decades earlier. 
- Spencer agreed to celebrate Thanksgiving at the Fishers' home. 
- Travis forced Spencer to admit that he, not Philip, had crashed the car into Molly's house--and Molly overheard the truth.
- Philip pleaded for Molly's forgiveness, but she told him that she could not enter into a marriage in which she felt her children might be in danger, and she tearfully called off their engagement. 


Paula Fisher unrolls the glittery red wrapping paper atop the dining room table. 

"This is the right one, yes?" she asks as she picks up a nearby video game box.

Molly Taylor, seated across the table, nods and rolls her eyes at the same time. "Yes. It's all Caleb has been able to talk about for the past month. I'm almost certain you are going to win best present of the year the minute he tears open that wrapping paper."

"And Grandma will wear that title proudly," Paula says as she sets the game down on the paper and begins measuring.

Molly grabs a roll of silver wrapping paper and a box containing an Elsa doll from Frozen. "Sophie, I'm guessing?"

"I think, between Helen and me, we've bought every piece of Frozen merchandise in a fifty-mile radius." Paula sets down the scissors. "Honey, you don't need to help. I didn't ask you over to put you to work--"

  Molly Taylor

"Oh, I don't mind. I'm happy to have the distraction, honestly."

Paula regards her daughter for a long moment before she begins carefully cutting the paper. "How are you feeling?"

Molly shrugs. "Fine. Or not. To be honest, I wake up in the morning and feel like everything is normal, and then I remember that the wedding is off and I--" She shakes her head. "It's going to take some time."

"I'm so sorry, honey. I hate to see you hurting this way."

"In a weird way, that's the hardest thing--knowing I did this to myself. Or at least that's how it feels." Molly remains extremely focused on trying to measure out exactly the right amount of wrapping paper to cover the doll box.

"You aren't the one who lied about that car accident," Paula says.

"No. But it was my choice to end things. What Philip did--it wasn't a capital crime, you know?"

"That's true."

Molly looks up as she reaches for the scotch tape. "I keep second-guessing myself. Am I being too harsh in calling it off? Am I overreacting because of what happened with Brent?"

"I wish I had an answer for you, honey. But the only way to know… What's in your heart? What do you think right before you fall asleep at night?"

Molly hesitates, trips over the start of a potential answer, and then aborts the effort entirely.

"I think there's one question you really need to ask yourself," Paula continues gently. "Do you think there's any chance for you and Philip to work things out in the future?"


Philip Ragan slides open the metal door, revealing Claire Fisher standing in the hallway outside his loft.

"Hi," she says. "I'm sorry to drop in like this, but you said you were at home, and you sounded so upset on the phone--I'm really sorry if I'm intruding."

"It's quite all right. Here, come in." Philip steps aside. "Truth be told, I don't exactly have people beating down my door to be supportive. I appreciate you coming by."

"Okay, good." Claire gives him a warm smile, which fades as she spots the open, half-full luggage in the middle of the room. "Are you going somewhere?"

"Yes. I'm going to… take some time. Gather my thoughts. Who knows? Maybe everything that's happened will inspire my photography."

"Maybe. Yeah." Claire stands near the door, her purse in her hands.

"Where are my manners? Here, let me hang your coat and your purse."

"Oh. Thanks." She hands him the purse and removes her coat, which is flecked with raindrops. "Where are you going to go?"

  Philip Ragan

"Europe. And maybe home to New England, for a bit." He takes her coat and hangs it. "I think I'm going to visit my mother."

Claire is careful to measure her reaction. "Are you… are you sure?" she finally asks.

"Yes. I know you don't--" He interrupts himself, an uncharacteristic move for someone as composed as Philip, and kneads his hands together. "You have no reason to have the slightest bit of compassion for her. But she raised me. The fact that she did all those horrible things doesn't rewrite history. It still breaks my heart to think of her spending holidays alone in prison this way."

"I do understand that. I just worry…"

"Claire, I'm an adult. It's fine. It just seems like a way to make myself useful at the moment. Even if my life is a disaster, maybe I can brighten my mother's Christmas a little by visiting."

"True. Yeah." 

Philip picks up a stack of folded dress shirts and places them in a suitcase. 

"Have you talked to Molly any more?" Claire asks.

"I've tried calling her. We've exchanged texts. I'm just afraid there's no changing her mind." 

"Don't give up hope."

"I don't want to." Philip drops onto the tufted sofa. "I'm not sure what else I can do, though."

"Maybe some time will be good."

"The wedding is off, though. Molly has cancelled everything…"

"The wedding date isn't a deadline. Maybe after the holidays, after she's had some time to think, she'll come around."

Philip looks to his half-sister. "Do you think she should?"

"Change her mind?" Claire doesn't know why the question is so surprising, but it catches her off-guard. "I want you to be happy, Philip. I know we haven't been close, but we're family, and I know you're a good person. You had your reasons for covering up that accident."

"Yes. Though I can see now how misguided that was." He rubs his eyes with his hands, which only makes his ill-rested look more apparent. "Can I ask you for a favor?"

"Of course. What is it?"

"Look out for Spencer. Especially with it being Christmastime… he's going to need people around him."

"He isn't going with you?"

"No. I need some time alone. And do you really see the two of us going to see the tree in Rockefeller Center?"

"I guess not." Claire leans on the arm of the sofa. "I'm not sure how much of a help I'll be, though. I don't think Spencer will let me get within 500 feet of him."

"I don't expect miracles," Philip says. "But knowing that he has someone looking out for him will put me a little more at ease while I'm away."

"It's the least I can do. And you know I want nothing more than to be able to spend some time with him, after all the years we've lost."

"It's difficult to believe how badly our father has messed up our lives, isn't it?"

Claire shakes her head. "If you knew him the way I knew him, you wouldn't be so surprised."

Vision Publishing

"Come in!" Tim Fisher calls out from behind his desk.

The door to his office opens wide, and Spencer Ragan enters with a wicker basket wrapped in green-hued cellophane. Pears and wrapped cheeses and small bars of artisanal chocolate are visible inside.

"Got another one of these for you," Spencer announces. "Where do you want it?"

"Umm… on top of the file cabinet, I guess." Tim laughs at the sight of the basket joining three others, similarly filled with cheese and fruit and crackers and snacks. "Everyone's so original at the holidays, huh?"

"We used to have a million of these show up at the house. It's nuts."

"Do you want to take one? Or two?" Tim asks.

Spencer looks to him with genuine surprise. "Oh. No. I don't need anything."

"I didn't ask if you needed them. I asked if you wanted them." Tim rises from his desk chair. "How are you doing?"

"Me? I'm fine."

"How are things with Philip?"

Spencer shrugs. "I don't know. He's been weird. Just, like, cold. I guess I can't blame him for being pissed at me." 

"It's a shame what's going on with him and Molly," Tim says, "but Philip did choose to take the blame for that crash. He knows that. If he's angry with you, he's just lashing out because he has no one else to blame."


"Can I ask you something, Spencer?"

"I guess." Spencer pauses, lips pursed, as if caught mid-word. "What is it?"

"That car crash--it was an accident, right?"

"Yes! You think I backed a car through Molly's house for fun?"

"No. No," Tim says quickly, realizing that he's pushed a particularly sensitive button in his son. "I'm only saying--if that's the truth, then you need to let yourself off the hook. You can apologize for the accident, but not for Philip's choices or what they led to."

Spencer crams his hands in the pockets of his gray slacks, his eyes darting around the room, turning over something in his brain. 

"What is it?" Tim asks.

"Nothing," Spencer says, as if he has been caught at something deviant.

"You're sure?"

"Just…" It takes the young man several seconds to process his thoughts into words. "Thanksgiving was kind of normal, you know? Until that stuff happened. As normal as it could be, considering how nuts the whole situation is. Your family was nice."

"They're your family, too."

Spencer blows past that. "And having Philip there helped. But Travis had to go and make a scene--"

"Travis has heard plenty from me and his mother and his grandparents about picking that fight with you. No one's letting him off the hook."

"Good." Spencer seems to stop himself from saying something further and then tips his head toward the mail cart out in the hallway. "I should get back to delivering all this stuff."

"Yeah. Probably." Tim crosses to the file cabinet, pulls the card off the newest gift basket, and reads it. "And I'm serious. Alan Hastings from Hastings Printing is never going to know whether I eat this cheese or not. Do you mind taking one of these off my hands?"

"I guess the chocolate looks pretty good," Spencer says.

"Then have at it." Tim hands him the basket. "You know you can come in here and talk whenever you need to, right?"

Spencer takes the basket and, with a clipped nod and the beginnings of a smile, gets back to work.


"Hold this corner," Brent Taylor says as he grasps the other end of the sheet and pulls it toward the head of the twin bed.

"I'm sure Dad is going to love the Seahawks sheets," Danielle Taylor says as her brother lays the fitted sheet into place.

"I thought he'd like them more than the Pokemon ones." 

Danielle straightens out the bottom of the sheet as Brent grabs the top sheet from the drawer. 

"It'll be nice to have him here for Christmas," Danielle says. "And to not have to deal with the airport."

"No kidding." 

"I wish Elly were able to come up, too, but at least I got to spend Thanksgiving with her."

"Yeah." Brent flaps the sheet open over the bed and lets it fall slowly into position. "Something I've been meaning to ask you…"


  Brent Taylor

"You want to invite Jimmy over here for Christmas dinner? Even if Elly won't be here?"

Danielle reacts by opening her mouth, but instead of speaking, she just hangs there, frozen mid-movement. Then she lets out a small laugh.

"You think I'm blind? You two have had plans every day this week, it seems like," Brent says. "I'm happy for you. Just… surprised."

"If you're surprised, then I'm shocked. Do you think I ever expected to be spending time with Jimmy again?"

"He seems like a good guy. Little bit of, uh…"

"A man-boy?"

"Yeah, maybe." Brent chuckles. "As long as you're happy."

"I don't even know where it's going," Danielle says as she helps him tuck the top sheet under the mattress. "What about you? I've been waiting to hear about you getting back out there…"

"Oh, yeah. A divorced middle-aged cop with two kids and a fake leg. Just what the dating scene needs."

"Don't be so critical of yourself! Everyone's got baggage. Not even baggage--backstory. It doesn't make you undateable."

"It'd be nice to hear someone besides my sister say that." Brent grabs the striped comforter and places it over the bed. "How's Molly holding up?"

Danielle folds her arms. "Dating tip: don't transition from talking about moving on to asking about your ex-wife."

"Yeah, yeah. How is she? Doesn't feel like my place to bug her, but I've been worried."

"She's having a tough time," Danielle admits. "Don't tell her I told you that, but having to undo all the wedding plans--I think it's been mortifying for her. Like admitting she made some huge mistake."

"I've gotta say, I'm still having a hard time believing Philip flat-out lied about the crash." He turns down the top of the comforter and reaches for the bare pillow, which he shakes into a Seahawks pillowcase. "Although I'm not too upset that the twins won't be living in the same house as Spencer…"

"Yeah. I don't blame you."

"Still feel terrible for Molly, though. If there's anything you think I could do…"

"Just be a good dad to your boys," Danielle says. "They mean more to her than anything else in the world--which is why she's going to be just fine once everything settles."


"Do you think there's any chance for you and Philip to work things out in the future?"

Paula's question repeats itself over and over in Molly's mind. It is identical to the one she has been asking herself--or, rather, one that part of her psyche has been attempting to ask, while Molly fights tirelessly to quiet the voice. But now that someone else has asked it so baldly, there is no more ignoring it.

"I don't know," she says, a piece of scotch tape hanging off the end of her index finger. "I don't hate him. I still love him, actually. I do."

"That says a lot," Paula responds evenly. 

"It does. I know I'm not going to stop loving him. I just never saw this coming.

"Then there is a possibility. Are you sure that what you need isn't a break? The wedding doesn't have to be the sort of production you were planning…"

"Of course not." Molly pulls the piece of tape from her finger, folds the wrapping paper over the box, and tapes it down. "But putting trust in someone the way I would have to to stay with Philip… I can't do it."

"And you're sure of that?"

"Yes." Molly lets out a sigh. "I have no idea what to do next, or where I go from here, but I know that he--he broke that trust. It's gone." 

"Then there's your answer." Paula reaches across the table and covers her daughter's hand with her own. "I'm so sorry, honey."

Molly fights back tears as she looks around the Christmas-filled house around her, feeling anything but festive herself. 


Will Molly be able to pick up the pieces and move on?
Should Danielle spend Christmas with Jimmy?
Is Spencer finally ready to get closer to the Fishers?
Visit the Footprints Forum to talk about it all now!

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Wed., December 17, 2014

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