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- Sarah and Matt clashed after he said he didn't want to live in the house she shared with Graham and Sarah resisted selling the house, feeling it would be wrong to profit from Graham's death. 
- Ryan hoped for another chance with Danielle and was disheartened to learn that she and Jimmy were seeing each other again. 
- Philip told Claire that he would be spending Christmas traveling and asked her to watch out for Spencer in his absence. 


A white Christmas it is not.

On the morning of December 25th, Sarah Fisher awakens to the sound of rain thumping against the house and the pavement, as she has on so many recent mornings. She rolls over, savoring the warmth of her bedsheets and fluffy duvet, and sees that the spot beside her is empty. She can still feel Matt's body heat in the bed, and a glance at the clock on the nightstand confirms that she has not overslept horribly. With a certain amount of mental coaxing, she gets herself out of bed and into an oversized sweater.

As she descends the stairs, the smell of coffee drifts up to greet her, and she clambers to the kitchen. Matt stands at the counter, pouring himself a mug.

He turns and smiles at her. "Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas," she says, her voice still raspy from sleep. She curls up against him as he reaches into the cupboard for another mug. "Are the kids up yet?"

"Checked on Billy. He was still sleeping--no surprise, I guess."

"Yeah, considering he was up four hours ago." Sarah watches through the window as the rain pummels the pavement. "No sign of Tori?"

"You kidding? We're probably gonna have to get the jaws of life to pry her out of that bed."

"Fair enough." Sarah picks up her coffee and inhales the warm, comforting steam.

  Sarah Fisher

"Kinda nice for us to have some peace and quiet together first," Matt says, his strong arm wrapped around her shoulders.

"Yeah," Sarah says, as she disentangles herself from him. "But I need to get some milk and sugar for this or I don't think you're gonna get much peace and quiet."

She prepares her coffee and, once her brain is working more, goes into the living room and turns on the multicolored lights wrapped around the thick Douglas Fir tree. She makes sure that the presents, which she and Matt brought out after they put Billy down last night, are all accounted for before she goes up to the toddler's room and wakes him.

She has time to feed Billy breakfast before Tori drags herself down the stairs.

"Merry Christmas," Sarah says from the living room floor, where Billy is playing with a toy truck, perhaps fearing that it will become obsolete once his presents are opened.

Tori looks up through her bangs and croaks out, "Merry Christmas."

They unwrap their presents by the light of the tree, everyone becoming more awake and lively with each scrap of wrapping paper torn off a box. Tori is modeling a leather jacket--one she very overtly pointed out to Sarah several times at the mall and online in the past few months--when Sarah spots something: a very small, square box wrapped in crisp red paper. 

Her breath catches in her throat. Of course, the fantasy of Matt proposing at Christmas has floated through her mind, but they haven't discussed remarrying in specific terms yet, and she hadn't really considered it a concrete possibility. But there is only one gift she can think of that would be that size, and that is far beyond the quality of gift-wrapping that she has come to expect from Matt.

As if reading her mind, Matt grabs the small box next. 

"This one's for…" He waves it around. "…Billy!"

The little boy squeals at the announcement and grabs for the box. As Matt hands it over, he flashes Sarah a grin.

Is he messing with me? she wonders incredulously.

Matt helps Billy work off the wrapping paper. The box looks to be a ring box--small, square, and velvety--but when Billy pries it open with his clumsy little hands, what is inside is not jewelry, but a piece of paper folded many times.

"Hey, what do we got here?" Matt asks as he unfolds the paper. "Look, kiddo!" He shows the creased sheet to Billy, who is far more interested in swinging the open ring box around.

"Let me see." Sarah snatches the paper from Matt. She reads it over quickly. "You got my toddler a bank account for Christmas? With one dollar in it?"

"That was the minimum for opening the account." 

"That's a weird gift," Tori says as she slips off the leather jacket and carefully lays it over a chair. 

"The reason I wanted to get it set up," Matt says as he scoots over toward Sarah, "is so we can put the house on the market."

"What does giving Billy a dollar have to do with selling this house?" Sarah asks. 

"Because once we sell it, the money goes into this account. We save it for Billy's college tuition. Bam--you don't, y'know, profit off Graham, and his son gets what he deserves."

The whole thing makes so much sense to Sarah that she is shocked they haven't come to this conclusion earlier. 

"You're smart sometimes," she says.

Matt leans in to half-whisper, "I just wanna get out of this house and move on with our lives."

The rest of the unwrapping plays out, with Billy pausing numerous times to focus his full attention on new toys he has received. The last present Sarah opens is one from Matt--a cashmere sweater that she is sure Tori helped him pick out, because it's beautiful and just Sarah's taste, and not the kind of thing for which Matt normally has an eye. But as much as she loves the sweater, her stomach does sink a little when the final gifts have been opened and there is no ring after all.

Stop being stupid, she tells herself when she is in the shower later. It's not like he promised to propose--or like you even talked about it.

After she turns off the shower, she is toweling off when she hears a shout from the bedroom.


It is Matt's voice. She finishes tying the towel around herself as she calls out, "What's wrong?" No answer comes, and she rushes into the bedroom.

"It's fine," Matt says as he drops to his knees amongst an assortment of random, loose items. He picks up the bottom half of a cardboard shirt box. "I just tripped and dropped this stuff."

"Here, let me help."

"No, I've got it." 

Sarah looks over the items on the floor: a hairbrush, a ball of twine, a bunch of gold napkin rings. 

"Crap," Matt says as he picks up the napkin rings. "One, two, three, four… I swear there were five of these things."

"Why were you carrying--"

She stops cold when she sees it. Matt reaches to pick up one last item: a small black box. And then he swivels toward her, one knee planted firmly on the ground.

"Here's that last one," he says with a smile. "Thought I wasn't gonna ask today, huh?"

"You were faking me out!"

"Yeah. C'mon. This is the last time I'm ever gonna get to ask you this question." He pops open the box, revealing a gorgeous, classic princess-cut ring. Sarah gasps involuntarily at the sight of it.

"Sarah, I know this isn't news, but I love you," he says, gazing up at her, "and I don't wanna waste another second not being with you. Will you be my wife again--this time forever?"

"Yes!" She admires the gleaming ring as he slips it on her ring finger, which after so many different rings has been bare for the past two years. "It's beautiful, Matt."

"I'm glad you like it." He pulls himself to his feet and kisses her on the lips; Sarah grasps the back of his head and prolongs the kiss. They only part when a thought strikes her and bubbles over into a laugh.

"You started your proposal by yelling, 'Shit!'?" 

"Had to get your attention, didn't I?"

"Well, it was worth it." She clutches the top of her towel. "I should probably get dressed."

Matt yanks on the towel. "Or not…"

A few hours later, they pull up outside Sarah's parents' home in her Jeep Grand Cherokee. Tori helps Billy out of his carseat and leads him up the driveway, while Sarah and Matt linger behind to gather the various cooking-related items and gifts they brought with them.

As Sarah reaches across the seat, Matt notices her hand.

"What happened to your ring?" he asks.

"It's in my purse, safe and sound. I didn't want to walk in wearing it--then everyone would see it right away and we wouldn't get to make an announcement."

"So we're gonna make a big announcement?"

"It's exciting news! Come on."

As they reach the front door, it comes flying open, and Caleb and Christian race outside in their winter jackets. Christian has a large shopping bag in his hand.

"Merry Christmas, boys," Sarah says as she steps out of the way. "Where are you guys off to?"

"Our dad's. Aunt Danielle is picking us up."

Sarah turns to the street to see Danielle's car turning the corner. 

"Have fun," Sarah tells them, "and say hi to everyone for us, okay?"

"Okay!" The twins run down the driveway to meet Danielle.

Sarah and Matt find the rest of the family inside the house. Bing Crosby's voice plays through the stereo system. They exchange holiday greetings with everyone, and then Matt slips into the kitchen to assist Bill with the roast and the various side dishes. 

Sarah is pouring herself a glass of red wine in the corner of the dining room when she feels a presence beside her. She glances over to see that it is Molly, waiting with an empty glass of her own.

"Here, let me get that for you. Red or white?" Sarah asks.

  Molly Taylor

"Oh. White," Molly says, sounding surprised. 

Sarah grabs the bottle of Chardonnay. "We passed the twins on our way in. They were running like bats out of hell."

"That's pretty much how they do everything these days. Just wait 'til Billy's a little older. You'll see."

"I'm already noticing it. Way different than having a girl." Sarah fills her sister's glass and then sets down the bottle. She feels the pressure of conversation settling over them; what could have been a passing transaction, which is most of what the sisters have these days, has passed its expiration, and some greater force now demands that they either continue talking or make a very awkward split.

"How are you holding up?" Sarah asks.

Molly shrugs. "I'm fine. Philip went back to the east coast for Christmas, which kind of makes it easier… Out of sight, out of mind, right?"

"Still can't be easy."

"It isn't. I just feel like such an idiot. He pulled off this whole cover-up scheme, and I never would've had any clue if Travis hadn't put the pieces together."

"But you figured it out," Sarah says. "You're sure it's over?"

"Yes." Molly pauses, then nods more definitively. "Yes. I can't trust him."

"Okay." Sarah takes a sip of her wine. "I'm really sorry."

"Thanks. I guess I should be grateful it was something like this--I don't know how you picked yourself up after what happened with Graham."

Sarah's first instinct, honed from years and years of sibling rivalry, is to read it as a slam: I can't believe you were stupid enough to marry a psychopath and not realize it. But when she looks into Molly's face, she sees something more genuine. Molly seems so hurt and so lost.

"You made a really brave decision," Sarah says. "Even if it doesn't feel like it right now."

"I hope I'll feel like that someday. But it's hard when it's Christmas and you're alone and all you can think about is the wedding you're in the middle of canceling, you know?"


"And I miss him." Molly seems to be sinking into the carpet for a moment, but then she perks up, as if some higher force has tugged on puppet strings to redirect her. "But I'm not going to spend my whole night dwelling on that."

"Good call. Besides, we have eating and drinking to do." Sarah clinks her wine glass against her sister's, and they both take a hearty sip, and then Jason mercifully appears to refill his own drink and alleviate the tension.

Some time later, Bill emerges from the kitchen to announce that dinner is very close to being ready. Sarah is on the sofa, trying to help Billy and Sophie play together, when she hears the sound of a knife clanging against a glass.

"Sarah and I have something to tell everyone," Matt says from a spot where he stands in the dining room.

Sarah's heart swells. Instinctively, she reaches for her handbag, which she has kept by her side all evening. She gives Billy a pat on the hand and then stands.

As she does, she sees Molly leaning against the fireplace, glancing around the house with a look of unmistakable sadness etched on her face.

"Well, don't keep us in suspense!" Paula calls out.

Sarah doesn't know what overtakes her, but she feels compelled to spring into action.

"It's actually not that big a deal," she says as she navigates through friends and family members to join Matt.

"Not that big a deal?" he asks, incredulous.

"Yeah." She snakes her arm through Matt's. "Matt and I are… putting the house on the market. We're going to be moving as soon as we can!"

The proclamation draws a smattering of applause and some confused murmuring.

"That's very exciting," Paula says, unable to hide the note of confusion in her voice. "I thought the two of you might have something else to share with us…"

"Just that," Sarah says with a big smile. 

Once the attention is off them, Matt pulls her into the kitchen, where the roast is resting on the countertop. 

"What was that?" he asks. "I thought you couldn't wait to tell everyone."

"I couldn't. I can't." She looks down at her bare left ring finger. "I can't wait to wear that ring and have everyone know that we are officially back together and we're going to be married again. But today isn't the right day."

"Why not?"

"It's… Molly."

Matt does a double-take that can only be described as straight out of a cartoon. "Molly?!"

"She's having a hard time, with everything that's happened with Philip and calling off the wedding. I don't want to rub it in. We'll tell everyone soon, I promise. But today's not the day for it." 

Matt stares at her, his mouth gaping open.

"What?" she asks. "You're not mad, are you?"

"Not even a little. You never stop surprising me, you know that?"

"That's not always a good thing…"

"Nope. But today it is." He gives her a peck on the lips. "Merry Christmas, Sarah."

She kisses him back. "Merry Christmas, Matt."


Although she isn't scheduled to work, Claire Fisher finds herself at King's Bay Memorial on Christmas morning. Over the past few years, she has learned that it is best to let Tempest sleep in until she is good and ready to wake up, so instead of waiting around to open presents mid- or late morning, Claire goes to the hospital to visit some of the patients whom she knows will be stuck there for the holiday. 

She spends twenty minutes visiting with Mrs. Hanson, who has just had her second hip surgery in as many years and has no family to come see her. When Claire returns to the nurses' station, she finds her friend and coworker, Alicia, filling out a chart.

"Big plans today?" Alicia asks. 

"I'm going over to my in-laws' for dinner," Claire says. "Or ex-in-laws. You know."

Alicia laughs. "Yeah. Will both your boys be there?"

"Travis will. Tim was going to talk to Spencer about it. I just hope we don't have another scene like we did on Thanksgiving."

"I don't know how you do it," Alicia says with a shake of her head.

When Claire returns to her apartment, she finds Tempest awake and on the couch.

"Ready to open presents?" Claire asks as she hangs her coat and scarf.

"Let's go!" Tempest practically leaps off the couch. She positions herself on the floor beside the modest tree, and Claire takes a seat on the couch. Tempest jumps to her feet with excitement when she opens the new iPhone that Claire bought for her, and she barely stops hyperventilating long enough to pass Claire her present, a heavy square box. 

  Claire Fisher

Claire takes a moment to appreciate the shiny silver wrapping paper. "This is beautiful."

"The paper isn't the dang gift!" Tempest says. "Come on."

With a giggle, Claire undoes the wrapping and pulls out the plain white box.

"Certainly keeping this a mystery as long as you can, huh?" she says.

"Open it!" Tempest says eagerly.

Claire opens the top of the box to reveal six navy blue mugs. When she lifts one out, she sees a letter "C" embossed upon it in gold. 

"Is this one for me?" she asks.

"Yeah, look through 'em." As Claire lifts them out one by one, Tempest points out what the initials are for: "One 'T' is for me, and one's for Travis. And then there's an 'S' for Samantha…"

"And the other one is for Spencer?" Claire says. 

"Just in case he ever decides to come over here."

"This was really sweet of you, Tempest." Claire takes out the sixth and final mug but finds no letter on it. "And who's this one for?"

"When you meet someone. We can get a letter added to it then."

Claire wants to say something, but she's suddenly so overcome with emotion that all she can do is smile and stand up to hug Tempest. 

"Thanks for giving me, you know, a real home," the young woman says. "It's the first time I've ever had one."

"Thank you for making this a home," Claire says as they embrace.

That afternoon, they go to the Fishers'. When she rings the doorbell, holding up her umbrella against the continued rain, Claire cannot help but think of Christmas one year ago, when she was so intimidated that, instead of announcing her presence, she left their gift on the doorstep and went to have Christmas dinner alone at a restaurant--where she met Jimmy. So much has happened in the course of a year, but she is thankful that her relationships with the Fishers, who have been the only family she's had for so long, are finally on the mend.

Once inside, she finds Tim near the hors d'oeuvres.

"What did Spencer say?" she asks, finding no sign of their son anywhere at the gathering.

"Basically 'thanks but no thanks.'" Tim dunks a piece of celery in the artichoke dip. "Can't say I blame him after what a debacle Thanksgiving was, but it still bums me out that he wouldn't come."

"So what's he doing today?"

Tim shrugs. "He said he was going to have dinner with Philip. I guess both of them want to lay low this year."

"But Philip--" Claire stops herself from finishing the thought aloud.

"What about him?"

"Nothing. I just hope they're both doing all right." She supposes she isn't that surprised that Spencer lied about spending the day with Philip, even though she knows for a fact that Philip headed to the east coast for a while. 

During dinner, she sits between Tempest and Jason, who keep trading comments about various arena patrons and employees. There is something comforting about being able to sit back and not feel the burden of carrying the conversation; instead she is able to enjoy the delicious meal and the warmth of being around family. She offers to help clear the table and winds up alone in the kitchen with Paula.

"I have a favor to ask," Claire says as they stack dishes beside the sink. "Would it be all right if I brought a plate of leftovers to someone?"

"I don't see why not," Paula says, though there is a quizzical look on her face.

"It's a patient who's alone at the hospital. I thought it might be nice to brighten up someone's Christmas."

"Of course, of course. Let me put a plate together for you."

Travis insists that he can give Tempest a ride home later, so Claire says her goodbyes and takes the plate out to her car. She feels a little guilty for lying to Paula, but she reasons that it was for a good cause, and she didn't want to start a stampede.

She arrives at Philip's loft about fifteen minutes later and uses her fist to knock on the heavy metal door. From inside, some rather loud hip-hop music can be heard, though Claire doesn't have a single guess what it might be. Just as she is considering another knock, Spencer whips the door open.

"What are you doing here?" he says flatly.

"I heard you were spending Christmas by yourself, so I brought you something." She holds up the foil-wrapped plate. "Merry Christmas."

"What's that?"

"It's dinner. From your grandparents. And don't worry, I didn't blow your cover. Tim thinks you're spending the day with Philip."


  Spencer Ragan

Claire peeks into the loft, where she sees the kitchen in a state just short of total disaster. There are bowls and implements and food containers all over the place.

"Are you trying to cook?" she asks.

"No place is delivering today."

"Well, now you have food." She moves past him and sets the plate on the counter. "Can I help you clean up?"

"It's fine." 

"Spencer, come on. You shouldn't have to spend Christmas alone."

He folds his arms over his chest. "What, you decided you're gonna be my mother now?"

"I have wanted to be your mother since the minute I found out the truth," she says. 

"And what if I don't give a shit and just want you to leave me alone?"

"Which is it? You're mad at me for trying or for not trying? It has to be one or the other."

His only response is stone-faced silence. Claire decides that the best thing she can do is not give him the satisfaction of begging, so she starts moving items from the counter to the sink. She turns on the water and rinses off a cutting board, the music still playing at an irritatingly loud volume around her. She tries to ignore it.

"Are you ever just gonna leave me alone?" Spencer asks.

"Probably not." She turns back over her shoulder. "You didn't want me to die in that fire. I think that says something."

"Because I'm a better person than you. You let my father die."

Claire's insides fire up at the mention of James, her own father, Spencer's biological grandfather--the bastard who set all of this in motion. If not for him, Spencer would have grown up with her and Tim, would never have hated her this way. Although she wouldn't have known Travis then…

"Do you think I wanted that?" she asks suddenly, whipping back around. Her wet hands hang over the sink. "No. But I wasn't going to watch my husband and my son die because of him. The man you call your father--he thought he knew what was best: for me, for my mother, for Tim, for our child. He did this! To all of us!"

Spencer actually flinches, as if physically thrown off-balance by her rage. Claire finds herself having to catch her breath.

She turns off the faucet. "I know you've considered him your father your entire life, and I know he died when you were young, so it's easy to idealize him. But Spencer, the man was a monster."

"You think that because you hated him."

"I didn't always hate him. He was my father, too." Claire grabs a nearby dishtowel. "I loved him--and gave him the benefit of the doubt--for a very long time. And then it became too much. He was too controlling, too hateful." She can see Spencer's reluctance to respond and resumes washing the dishes. 

"This food looks good," she hears him say. 

"Mm-hmm." She keeps her attention on the pan she is scrubbing, while she attempts to figure out what Spencer did to give it that gross film in the first place.

"Thanks for bringing it."

Claire nearly collapses from surprise, but she manages to maintain her composure.

"You're welcome," she calls out.

She finishes cleaning up his mess and does the best she can to act like she isn't at all concerned with what he is doing, even though all she can think about is the fact that they have definitely never spent this much time in the same place, just the two of them.

At last, she flips down the faucet handle, and the constant stream of water relents. 

"All cleaned up," she says, quickly moving to grab her purse. "How was the food?"

Spencer, now seated on the couch with his attention fixed on the TV, turns back. "It was great."

"Good. Merry Christmas, Spencer."

"Yeah," he says before turning back toward the TV. Claire tells herself to chalk it up as a show of Christmas sentiment before she exits the loft.


The appealing scent of Christmas ham fills Brent Taylor's house as the family circulates through its rooms, their voices booming with holiday cheer. Caleb and Christian run straight inside and begin hollering with excitement, while Danielle takes her time hanging her coat.

"Put the presents under the tree!" she calls out to the boys, who are simply swinging the bag from the Fishers as they talk to their Uncle Josh.

"Everything go okay?" Brent asks, a beer in his hand, as he approaches his sister.

"Fine, yeah. The boys actually came to meet me outside, so I didn't even see anyone." She stashes her purse at the bottom of the coat closet and closes the door. "I assume you're actually asking about Molly."

"I'm asking about everyone!"

"And also Molly."

"Maybe. I just worry, that's all." 

"She's doing okay," Danielle says. "Really. Christmas can't be easy, I'm sure."

  Danielle Taylor


She goes into the kitchen to check on dinner, over which her father has been presiding, and everything seems to be in order. She takes over mashed potato duty for a while, and just as preparations are winding down, the doorbell rings.

"Look who's here!" she hears Brent announce from the living room.

A minute later, Jimmy Trask finds his way into the kitchen. He sticks a 12-pack of beer in the refrigerator. 

"Thanks for inviting me," he says, wrapping an arm around Danielle's shoulders. "Mr. Taylor! How you been?"

"I'm doing well, Jimmy. It's been a long time."

"Real long time. Yeah." 

The two men shake hands, and Danielle listens to them make somewhat awkward small talk, mostly about her and Elly, before the announcement that dinner is ready. 

"Hey," Jimmy says, pulling her back as everyone streams into the dining room. "Merry Christmas." 

"Merry Christmas," Danielle says as Jimmy wraps an arm around her shoulders.

They join the rest of her family, plus Lauren's family, at the table. Halfway through the meal, Danielle finds herself barely able to breathe and having to set down her fork because she is laughing so hard at Trevor's story about a much older designer who shamelessly tried to pick him up at a fashion party in Amsterdam.

"Those parties must've been crazy, though," Jimmy says between bites of the Brussels sprouts.

Trevor nods emphatically. "You have no idea. There was all kinds of…" He glances toward Caleb and Christian, at the end of the table, who of course sitting rapt. "…stuff going on."

"Like what?" Caleb asks.

"Crazy stuff," Trevor says with a laugh.

"We used to see some wild stuff when we were on the road, didn't we, Dani?" Jimmy says as he spears another sprout with his fork. 

"Yeah," she agrees.

"Remember that time in Portland? When we had to climb through the window?" he turns to ask her.

"Yes! That was insane."

Patrick Brooks folds his hands. "What happened?" 

Jimmy sets his fork down on the table decisively. "It was nuts. So we play a gig at this bar, and after we finish, this guy is sitting on the stool next to me while I'm trying to order, and he looks all bummed out--so I get him to do a Jager shot with us. Next thing we know…" He gestures for Danielle to add to the story.

"…he invites us to this party," she says.  

"So we go," Jimmy continues. "And it's this awesome basement party, lots of fun--I remember Dani was, like, doing the Macarena with a nun--"

"A real nun?" Brent interrupts.

"She was dressed as a nun!" Danielle says.

Laughter bubbles up from around the table as Jimmy goes on.

"All of a sudden," he says, "the guy who brought us kills the music and tells us to be quiet. So we're standing there, silent, and we can hear people moving around upstairs. Then the guy tells us that we have to go out the window--"

"It wasn't his house?" Roz Brooks asks incredulously.

"He broke in!" Jimmy says, busting up into even greater laughter. "He thought the people were out of town and broke into their house to have a party!"

"We had to climb out the basement window," Danielle says, nodding. "You know those narrow little ones that are ground-level?"

"The nun got stuck," Jimmy adds.

Brent holds up his palms, as if to distance himself from the entire thing, but he is grinning nonetheless. "I'm just going to pretend I'm not hearing any of this."

"Good," Danielle says.

Everyone peppers them with follow-up questions as dinner goes on, and it plays out as one of those lively holiday dinners that everyone will remember very fondly. Danielle hasn't thought about that night in a long time, but she has to admit that the story is amusing.

After they finish eating, they move to the living room to open presents. Lauren and Josh's daughter receives the lion's share of the packages, Brent gets a BluRay player from Josh to replace the existing DVD player that only plays discs about 50% of the time, and several people open Christmas ornaments that Paula and Bill sent over. When just about all the presents have been opened, Danielle notices one more sitting under the tree.

"What's that?" she asks.

Christian picks it up. "It's for you."

"From who?"

"Uncle Ryan. He put it in the bag with the other stuff we brought," Christian says with a shrug, as if that explanation is just as likely as aliens having delivered it by beaming through the roof while they were eating dinner. 

She glances over and is oddly relieved to see that Jimmy is too busy chatting with Josh to have heard this exchange. Slipping a nail under the flap of the festive red-and-green wrapping paper, she easily slides it open. As she expected from the shape, there is a book inside, as well as a card. She flips the book over to see that it is a special anniversary edition of Siddhartha.

"What's that?" Jimmy asks, looking over at her.

"A book." She holds it up and, predictably, Jimmy gives it approximately one-tenth of a second's attention before turning back to Josh. 

Danielle opens the card and reads:

I don't know if you remember this, but you once told me how you read this book in college and didn't fully understand it, but you went back to it years later and it changed the way you looked at the world. I was ashamed to say I'd never read it--until recently. I picked it up a few months ago and, surprise, you were right (as usual). Anyway, I saw this special edition in a store and thought of you. Merry Christmas. I hope life is treating you well. Love, Ryan

The note causes her to sit up straighter, even as she tries not to reveal its impact outwardly. The fact that he remembered her comments about the book, let alone picked it up on his own and then thought to get her a copy… 

At the end of the night, Lauren and Josh pack up the baby and take her back to the Brookses' house, and Danielle shows Jimmy to the door. 

"Thanks for having me over," he says. "That was a lot of fun."

"Yeah." She gives him a kiss on the cheek. "Merry Christmas, Jimmy."

"You could come over if you want…"

"I have to take the boys back to Molly's."

"Okay. No worries." With one final, loud greeting to the rest of her family, Jimmy takes off toward the curb, where his car is parked.

"Nice guy," Bob comments after the front door is closed.

"Yeah, he is," Danielle says.

The boys beg and plead to stay over with their dad and grandfather tonight, since Bob has to return to San Diego tomorrow, and Molly seems all too willing to consent when Brent texts her. Danielle says goodnight to all of them and heads to her own car. Thankfully, it has finally stopped raining, but the roads are still gleaming with reflections of the many lights all around.

And then something strange happens. Instead of steering it back toward Molly's house, she finds herself driving a familiar route, albeit one she has not traveled in a long time.

The lights are still on when she pulls up to the house. Propelled by adrenaline, she makes her way to the front door and rings the bell. It is only once she can hear it sounding inside the house that she begins to second-guess what she is doing.

But by then, it is too late.

"Um, hi," Ryan says when he opens the door.

"Hi. Merry Christmas." Danielle knots her fingers together nervously. "I got the book. I wanted to say thank you."

"A phone call or a text would've been fine."

"I know. Actually, no. It wouldn't have."

  Ryan Moriani

"What's up with you?" Ryan asks.

"Nothing. I'm just…" She grabs his hand. "Ryan, I know this is probably insane, but I was sitting there at dinner tonight, and we were talking about--people were telling stories about the past, about all these stupid things we all did when we were younger, and of course it was funny, but then I get this lovely, thoughtful gift from you, and all I can think is that you're so focused on moving forward and making things better--"

"Okay, slow down," he says, though a soft smile has crossed his face. "What is this really about?"

"I don't know. I mean that. I don't know what this is except that I can't think of anyplace I should be besides here tonight."

"All right." He pauses thoughtfully. "What do we do now?"

"Talk? Do you feel like having some tea?" She laughs at how stupid she sounds. "I don't know!"

"I'm okay with that."

"You're sure?"


He clutches her hand and leads her inside, and though Danielle hears the door close behind her, all she can hear is the beauty of a new beginning.


What did you think of the special format?
Should Danielle take a leap of faith with Ryan?
Has Claire made real progress with Spencer? 
What did you think of Sarah's decision not to share her news?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to talk about it all now!

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Sat., Dec. 27, 2014

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