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- Jason asked Natalie to be his date for the arena’s New Year’s Eve party.
- A heartbroken Tempest admitted to Claire that she is a lesbian and that Annie, whom she’d been seeing, had broken up with her.
- Danielle was touched by Ryan’s thoughtful Christmas gift and impulsively went to see him on Christmas night. She confessed that she thinks there might be a future for them.
- Matt gave Sarah an engagement ring on Christmas day. She was elated and couldn’t wait to tell everyone, but when she saw how upset Molly was about calling off her wedding to Philip, Sarah told Matt that they should wait to share their big news.

Edge of Winter Arena

When Jason Fisher enters the arena where he works every day, he cannot believe how it has been transformed. The normally bright overhead lights have been dimmed, their workload handed off to strands of elegant white bulbs strung throughout the vast space. Black carpet has been rolled over half the ice surface to transform it into a wintery dining area, with tables adorned in crisp white linens arranged in perfect configuration atop the carpeting. Jason finds his childhood coach and present-day colleague, Sandy James, at the bar, dressed in a navy cocktail dress and wrap. Her hair is swept up and her makeup is tastefully done; he is so used to seeing her in her casual coaching gear and skates that he nearly does a double take.

“You look terrific!” he exclaims as he greets her with a hug.

“So do you, James Bond.” She takes a step back to examine him in his classic black tuxedo. “The place looks great, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah! I was a little nervous when I checked in this afternoon and the crew had barely done anything, but this is amazing.”

“It’s lovely.” Sandy takes her glass of Chardonnay from the bartender, thanks him, and deposits two dollar bills in the tip glass.

“It was a great idea to make this a New Year’s Eve party,” she says as they stroll along the side of the rink, stopping at a table where literature is laid out for guests to learn more about the Courtney Chase Fisher Student-Athlete Excellence Program.

“And, with any luck, we’ll raise some money for a great cause,” Jason says.

Sandy nods. “It’s going to be a great night.”

Jason takes a look around the arena and marvels once again at its makeover. “Yeah. I really think it will be.”


“The car is going to be here in five minutes!” Molly Taylor calls up the stairs.

“Almost ready!” Christian yells back.

Molly turns to Danielle Taylor, who waits in the foyer with a grin on her face. Danielle wears a simple black sheath dress, and her blonde hair is pinned up in a graceful chignon.

“I never should have let them discover hair product,” Molly says. “What are the odds at least one of them comes downstairs with a mohawk?”

Danielle chuckles. “Very high.”

“I should probably go check on that.” Molly hustles up the stairs as best she can in her black Louboutins.

Danielle starts toward the kitchen to retrieve her clutch, but she only makes it a few steps before the doorbell rings. Turning around, she answers it and is thrown to see Jimmy Trask standing in front of her, a bottle of sparkling cider in his hand.

  Danielle Taylor

“Hey there!” he says before noticing her dress. His face falls. “Headed someplace fancy?”

“Molly convinced me to go to the fundraiser Jason is having at the arena,” she says, though that is only part of the reason she decided to attend. “Kind of a last-minute decision.”

“Oh. Okay. I was thinking we could do, you know, a low-key New Year’s Eve together, but I should’ve called first.”

“It’s fine. I’m sorry you had to come all this way.”

Despite the cold air drifting in from outside, Danielle suddenly feels uncomfortably warm. Then she sees headlights pulling into the driveway.

“I’ll let you get to your party,” Jimmy says. “Have fun tonight.”

“Thanks.” But she hesitates, her hand on the door, and then continues, “Actually, why don’t you come in for a minute?”


“Yeah.” Her stomach flip-flops as she guides him inside. “We should talk.”


As the party fills up, Jason keeps one eye on the entry. Finally he sees Natalie Bishop enter, in a fire engine red dress with a daring slit up the side and a black pashmina around her shoulders. Her daughter trails behind her, a black leather trenchcoat tied over her party dress. He quickly makes his way over to them.

“There you are,” he says, unable to keep the grin off his face. “Hey, Bree. You look so nice.”

“Thanks,” the little girl says with a smile. “Where are all the kids?”

“In the ballet room. They have some games and a TV, if you want to go in there.”

She puts her hands on her hips and cocks her head. “Duh.”

“Go ahead, hon,” Natalie says, patting her daughter on the back. “And don’t eat too many cookies!”

Bree dashes off to meet up with her fellow skaters and the other children. Jason takes a few seconds to size Natalie up.

“You look amazing,” he says.

“Did you expect anything less?” She reaches up to straighten his bowtie. “You look sexy in that tux.”


They stare at each other in silence for a long moment, playful energy buzzing between them. Jason cannot believe how much he just wants to grab her and kiss her. Instead, he maintains his composure and reaches for her hand.

  Jason Fisher

“Here,” he says, leading her toward the spot where his parents are standing and talking. “Mom, Dad… you remember Natalie Bishop, Diane’s sister, don’t you?”

“Of course. Great to see you again,” Bill says, extending his hand for a shake.

“Very nice to see you,” Paula says.

Natalie smiles at them. “You, too. How’s your night so far?”

“Terrific,” Bill says. “The place looks great, doesn’t it?”

Natalie looks around and nods agreeably. “I’m really impressed.”

“Jason tells us your daughter is a very talented skater,” Paula says.

The three of them continue to make small talk about the skating world, but Jason stops hearing them when he sees the newest arrivals enter the arena. He immediately withdraws his hand from the small of Natalie’s back, but it is too late--he can tell from the expressions on Don and Helen Chase’s faces that they have already spotted him, too.

* * * * *

“You’re gonna freeze to death,” Tempest Banks says as she watches Claire Fisher hand her coat to the attendant in the lobby.

“Jason said there would be plenty of heat lamps.” Claire thanks the attendant and sticks her claim ticket in her purse. “I’m not going to walk around all night with a big, bulky coat on.”

“Let’s see how you like it when your bony ass gets frostbite,” Tempest says, grinning as she pulls her own simple brown coat closer to her body.

The two women enter the main area of the arena, where they take in the growing crowd and the special-occasion décor.

“It looks great in here,” Claire says.

“Yeah. Barely looks like the place I come every damn day.”

Tim Fisher, dressed in a well tailored black suit with straight black tie, spots them from across the way, where he is chatting with Diane Bishop. He waves and, moments later, makes his way over.

“You both look beautiful,” he says as he greets each with a kiss on the cheek.

“Thank you,” Claire says. “You look very handsome.”

He makes a show of straightening his tie. “This? I just threw it on.”

Claire laughs. “Mm-hmm. I’m sure.”

Travis and Samantha here yet?” Tempest asks.

“I think they went to the bar,” Tim tells her, pointing toward some vague location around the corner. “Did you see the coat check outside? You don’t have to--”

“Oh, I’m keeping it,” Tempest says. “I’m gonna go find those guys. See you later.”

“She’s convinced we’re all going to freeze to death at this party,” Claire explains once Tempest has gone. “I don’t suppose Spencer said anything about coming tonight.”

Tim shakes his head. “I invited him, of course, but he said he had plans.”

“Doesn’t it kind of feel like we’re going to spend the rest of our lives wondering if he’s going to show up to things?”

“Exactly. He seemed okay at work this week, though. Said his Christmas was fine. Uneventful.”

“Oh. I guess that’s good.” Claire was wondering if Spencer was going to mention her visit on Christmas day, but she isn’t at all surprised that he didn’t; having people know that he behaved in a moderately civil way toward her might wreck his reputation. Thankfully, before she has to figure out how to proceed with the conversation, she sees Sarah Fisher and Matt Gray cross through the doors to enter the party.

“Hi!” Sarah says, hurrying over to hug her brother.

Tim looks behind them. “Where’s Tori? Travis, Sam, and Tempest are all here.”

“She’s coming with a few friends in a little bit,” Sarah says as she moves to hug Claire.

“Wait a second,” Tim says. “What’s that on your finger?”

Claire’s gaze goes to the beautiful ring on Sarah’s left hand. Sarah trades an impish glance with Matt, who has just settled beside her.

“We have some news,” she says at last.

“I can tell. Congratulations, you guys.” Tim wraps his arm around his younger sister.

“Congratulations. When did this happen?” Claire asks.

“A few days ago,” Sarah says. “We decided not to make a huge deal out of telling everyone.”

“Well, it’s really exciting,” Tim says.

“Yeah, it is,” Matt says, beaming. “And this time around, we’re gonna get it right.”


“Really, don’t worry about it,” Danielle tells Molly as she sees her and the twins out the front door. “I’ll drive myself.”

“Is everything all right?” Molly asks, pausing on the front steps.

“Yeah. Jimmy and I just need to… get some things straight.” She forces a smile. “I’ll see you in a little while, okay?”

With a nod, Molly goes off to the black Towncar with Caleb and Christian, both of whom have had their hairstyles reconfigured into ones appropriate for a formal party. Danielle closes the door, takes a deep breath, and then returns to the living room.

Jimmy sits on the buttercream sofa, cracking his knuckles.

“So what’s up?” he says. “Am I in trouble?”

“No. Not at all.” Danielle smoothes her skirt. “Jimmy, I just…”

“I’m totally in trouble.”

“I promise. You’re not.” Despite her jittery nerves, she takes a seat on the couch, leaving nearly a full cushion between them; still, part of her would prefer to continue pacing.

“I’m really glad that we’ve gotten the chance to get to know each other again,” she says. “As adults. I never really thought that would happen.”

“Me, neither.”

As she goes on, she watches his face for signs of understanding. “I’m thrilled that you’ve been able to be a father to Elly. You’re great with her, and I know she’s loved getting to know you. It’s just…”

He sits back, sinking into the deep sofa cushions. Clearly he can tell where this is headed.

“I think it’d be best if we kept things friendly.” She spits the sentence out all at once and then waits to see how it lands, as if it were an antique dropped out a twentieth-story window.

The impact is mercifully soft.

“I get it,” Jimmy says with a one-shouldered shrug. “It’s cool.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. I’m a big boy. I won’t pretend I’m not disappointed, but there’s probably not much room to negotiate, huh?”

After a slight hesitation, she shakes her head. “I’m sorry.”

“Me, too.” He claps his hands on his thighs and then stands. “I’ll let you get to your party.”

She doesn’t want to seem as if she is in a rush to get rid of him, so she remains seated. “Thanks for being so understanding, Jimmy.”

He shrugs again.

“Here. Don’t forget this.” She picks up the bottle of cider from the coffee table and holds it out to him.

“You know what? Stick that in the fridge. You and the kids could probably use that more than I can. Me, I’m gonna go pick up a six-pack.”

“Okay.” She stands. “Thanks, Jimmy. And I really do mean it--I hope we can still be friends. I think we’re good as friends.”

“I think so, too.”

She goes in for a hug, and he doesn’t back away, which she takes as a good sign.

“Happy New Year,” she says as he starts out of the living room.

“Happy New Year,” he says, and then he is gone.


Jason locks eyes with the Chases. Everything seems to be running in slow motion, except for his brain, which is scrambling frantically to make sense of this moment and figure out how to address it. He knew that Courtney’s parents would encounter Natalie at some point tonight, but he had hoped that they could be introduced to her as Diane’s sister and his student’s mother, rather than with a flashing red sign that reads, I’m dating again!

“Excuse me a second,” he says to Natalie and his parents. He darts through the growing crowd and over to the Chases.

“Don, Helen. Hi. Happy New Year.” He claps his hands together.

“Happy New Year,” Helen says, her words clipped and her posture stiff.

“Listen, there’s someone I’d like you both to meet. Or re-meet, I guess.” He leads them over to the group he just left, and his parents instantly begin trading New Year’s greetings and hugs with Don and Helen.

  Helen Chase

“Don and Helen Chase,” Jason finally gets a chance to say, “do you remember Natalie Bishop? She’s Diane’s sister, and her daughter is a student of mine. She also helped plan the first scholarship fundraiser a few years back.”

“I remember. Yes. Happy New Year,” Helen says. Her tone is just this side of bitchy, and Jason can feel his blood pressure skyrocketing.

“It’s good to see you both,” Natalie says politely.

He turns toward his date, just enough so that he can give her the briefest of wide-eyed I’m sorry looks. “Would you excuse us for a minute?”

“Go ahead,” Natalie says, and Jason wastes not an instant more in shuffling Helen and Don a few feet off to the side.

“I was hoping I’d have a chance to talk to you,” Jason tells them.

Helen crosses her arms. “I don’t really see what else there is to say.”

Her smugness punches a button inside Jason, and he has to remind himself to remain cool and calm. He knows that Helen is really reacting this way because she misses her daughter.

“I wanted to re-introduce you to Natalie as a friend,” he explains. “She’s Samantha’s aunt, and I’ve been coaching her daughter for a while now. We’ve just started seeing each other--like, a few dates. That’s it.”

“You have every right to be dating,” Don says.

“Yes, I do. Thank you. But it’s very early, and I know it’s a big transition for all of us--especially Sophie.”

“Does Sophie know about this yet?” Helen asks.

“No. I’m not going to start introducing women to my daughter left and right. When it gets serious with someone--whether that’s Natalie or someone down the road--then I’ll start to consider it.”

Helen’s lips straighten into a thin, terse line.

“I still love Courtney,” Jason continues. “I will always love her. I miss her every day. But it’s taken me a long time to accept that I do need to keep living my life eventually…”

“You don’t have to explain that to us,” Don says. The comment earns him a sharp look from his wife.

“I just want you both to know that I’m not being cavalier about this.”

They both nod--Don a little more graciously than Helen.

“The bar is that way,” Jason says, pointing. “I hope you both have a great time tonight. We’re going to raise some serious money for Courtney’s memorial fund.”

“That will be nice,” Helen says.

Jason decides to chalk up her diplomatic tone and choice of words as a victory. As the Chases see themselves off to the bar, he allows himself to breathe a sigh of relief. That went about as well as could be expected, he reasons, though he fears he is not entirely out of the woods just yet.

* * * * *

When Jason slides away with his former in-laws, Natalie makes a beeline for the bar. She is taking a glass of white wine from the bartender when she feels a presence beside her.

“Such a subtle color choice,” Diane says. “And the slit up the side is a very classy choice for a fundraiser in the memory of your boyfriend’s dead wife.”

“Oh, shut up,” Natalie says, turning toward her sister. “At least I can still pull it off. Congrats on the new gig, by the way. I guess it’s true what they say about having a face for radio.”

Diane rolls her eyes and then asks the bartender for a gin-and-tonic.

“I’m actually impressed you’ve made it this long without Jason realizing what a gold-digging lunatic you are,” Diane says as she waits for her drink. “Then again, he’s probably still blinded by grief…”

“Or maybe he actually likes me.”

“Yeah. Maybe. Just try not to make a total mess of his life, please? He’s a good guy.”

  Natalie Bishop

Natalie takes a gulp of wine. “You would know a lot about making a mess of lives, wouldn’t you?”

“I’m no competition for you.” Diane accepts her drink from the bartender, a young man who appears to be doing his best to pretend he can’t hear their venomous exchange. “I’m going to go find my daughter. Happy New Year, Natalie.”

Diane walks off, leaving Natalie holding her wine glass.

“Happy New Year, you miserable bitch,” she mutters before weaving back through the crowd to locate Jason.

* * * * *

When Travis gets sucked into a conversation with some of the other baristas from Thaw, Samantha and Tempest find themselves talking by the side of the rink. After some chatter about Christmas, Samantha decides to bring up something that has been buzzing in the back of her mind.

“I haven’t heard you mention Annie lately,” she ventures.

Tempest grimaces and then pauses for what feels like an eternity. Samantha’s stomach clenches, and she wonders if she spoke out of turn.

She begins to say, “Sorry if--”

“Nah, it’s fine. Just isn’t much to say. She, uh… thought we shouldn’t hang out anymore.”

“She broke up with you? I’m sorry.”

“Thanks,” Tempest says with a shrug.

“Here,” Samantha says. She leads her friend around a corner, into the hallway that leads to a supply closet and a back exit, so they can have this conversation with a little more privacy.

Samantha sips her wine. “You know, this is the first time you actually acknowledged to me that you and Annie were dating.”

Tempest bugs her eyes out--there is something a little accusatory about it--and then takes a drink from her beer bottle. “Didn’t seem like something you’d wanna talk about.”

Again Samantha feels her insides wobbling. “Okay. Yeah. I’m really sorry I got weird on you after we--after that…”

“Kiss,” Tempest says pointedly. “You can say it. And it’s cool. You don’t have to apologize. Sometimes you kiss someone and they’re not feeling it and you move on. That’s life.”

“Yeah.” Samantha lifts the plastic cup to her mouth again. “You know, that was the first time I’d ever kissed someone. Or someone kissed me, I guess. I didn’t know how to react.”

Tempest cracks a grin. “Next time, don’t jump up and run outta there and then not talk to the person for months.”

“You’re probably right. Yeah.” Samantha feels her head--her entire body, really-- humming from the wine. “I haven’t kissed anyone since then, either.”

“For real?”

  Samantha Fisher

“No. I don’t know. I…” Samantha struggles to find the words for an explanation, but her brain is fuzzy, and she isn’t even sure what she is looking for. An impulse surges through her, and suddenly it seems like the best option.

She darts her head toward Tempest and, before the other girl can react, kisses her on the lips.

Their closed mouths linger there, pressed together, for a few seconds before Tempest pulls back.

“Where’d that come from?” Tempest asks.

“I don’t know. I guess I wanted to do it.”


Then Tempest is kissing her again, and this time, a tongue parts Samantha’s lips, and she wonders why she was so stupid and didn’t do this sooner.

The girls are so caught up in the kiss that neither notices Diane walk around the corner, freeze in her tracks, and then, eyes wide and breath held in, back away.


How should Diane handle what she just saw?
Will Helen stay out of Jason and Natalie’s way?
Did Danielle make the right choice ending things with Jimmy?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to discuss it all!

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Friday, January 02, 2015

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