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- Alex and Liam received interest from a film studio regarding their screenplay. Alex invited Liam to join him and some of Cameron's friends for a night out to celebrate. 
- Samantha and Tempest made out again, but Samantha got nervous when her mother nearly caught them in the act. 
- Jason introduced Natalie to his late wife Courtney's parents and announced that they are dating. 
- Philip returned from King's Bay, hopeful that Molly might give their relationship another chance, but she stuck to her guns. 


Alex Marshall comes down the stairs and makes his way through the short hallway toward the living room, where he finds Jason Fisher sprawled across the sofa, an episode of Friends playing on the flatscreen on the wall.

"How does this look?" Alex asks as he peers around the corner and then steps out to reveal his outfit: a slouchy gray sweater, a dark pair of skinny-but-not-too-skinny jeans, and boots with their laces only partly done up. 

Jason sits up to get a better look. "It's good! I mean…"

That pricks Alex's nerves. "What?"

"It's a normal night, right? Not like, some, theme night?"

"No! What kind of theme night would it be?"

"I don't know," Jason says through a laugh. "A foam party?"

"A foam party? What?!" Alex almost doubles over in hysterics and has to wait a few seconds before he can get his next words out: "It's a normal club night!"

Jason pauses the Netflix playback. "I haven't been to The Lookout in forever. God."

"They stopped doing the gay night for a while," Alex says as he fidgets with the way his jeans are tucked into the boots. "It's supposed to be some big grand return tonight."

  Alex Marshall

"And you're cool going out with Liam? That won't be weird?"

"Yeah. I mean… yeah. We're friends."


"What about you?" Alex asks. "Do you have plans beyond finishing another season of Friends before the night is over?"

"Nah. Maybe some popcorn… a couple of beers…"

"Don't get too wild."

"No promises."

"I'm serious," Alex says, planting his hands on the back of the sofa. "You're welcome to come with us, if you don't want to stay here alone."

"Do you know how long it's been since I had an evening with no one else in the house?" Jason says. "Go have your fun. Sophie can enjoy a night with Don and Helen, I can chill out…"

"The police are posted outside?"

"Yeah. The two officers came and introduced themselves before. I'll be fine, seriously."

"Okay." Alex goes to the refrigerator and takes out a small bottle of water. "Have you heard anything else from Brent?"

Jason shakes his head. "The judge approved the petition to exhume Shannon's body, but then it turned out she'd been cremated, and I guess they're trying to find out where the ashes are so they can do a DNA test."

Alex shudders. "You're sure you want to stay alone in a big house all night after telling that story?"

"I'll be fine! Go have fun."

"You, too. Give Ross and Rachel my best," Alex says with a grin as he takes a drink of the water.


Samantha Fisher waits in her room, dressed up in jeans, a flowing tunic top, and a cardigan, and watches the clock. As always, she is ready well before the specified time, so as she waits for the minutes to tick away, she busies herself by tidying up the room while listening to the latest episode of This American Life on her computer. She is having trouble focusing on it, though, knowing that she will have to cut it off abruptly sooner or later, so it is a relief when--only four minutes after the planned time--she receives the text message.

She hurries out of the dorm and finds Tempest Banks outside in the backseat of their Uber, a blue Toyota Prius. 

"Thanks for picking me up," Samantha says as she gets into the car.

"No problem," Tempest says. "Besides, I figure I have a better chance of you showing up if I bring you there myself."

Samantha rolls her eyes, even though she knows that what Tempest is saying is probably true.

"So where we headed?" asks the driver, a man probably in his late 30s, wearing a windbreaker and riding so low in his seat that Samantha wonders how he can actually drive.

"This club called The Lookout," Tempest says. "It's down by the waterfront. I can get the address…" 

She begins fiddling with her phone, but the man cuts her off.

"I know where it is. Used to go all the time."

The girls thank him as the Prius silently pulls out of the parking lot and toward the campus's exit.

"So who are these friends of yours we're meeting?" Sam asks.

"These two girls I met through Annie. Steph and Maria. They used to be a couple but now they're just friends."

Samantha feels her cheeks burn at the mention of the same-sex relationship, as though it somehow gives them away to their driver. She hates herself for it, knowing that it's closed-minded, but it still feels uncomfortably like revealing some secret part of herself to a total stranger. 

"Oh. Okay."

"I guess it's some big opening night or something," Tempest continues. "They used to do this big gay night thing and then stopped, but they're starting it up again, so there's gonna be $1 Jell-o shots and a bunch of stuff."

"Cool," Samantha manages to say, though she can see the driver eyeing them in the rearview mirror. She feels Tempest's judgmental--irritated?--gaze burning into her and quickly looks out the window, at the tree branches flying by as the streetlights illuminate them from behind. 

"That's supposed to be a killer night," the driver chimes in. "My best buddy from high school is gay--he used to go all the time. He brought me a couple of times. Used to have such a good time. Those guys know how to party."

"See?" Tempest says when Samantha looks back toward her. "We're gonna have fun."

Samantha tries to relax back into the seat, but her stomach keeps wobbling, wondering what she has chosen to walk into. 


The din of conversation blankets the upscale restaurant, surrounding its patrons in the same sort of warmth that emanates from the flickering votive candles in the center of each table. The setting feels overly formal to Claire Fisher, given the occasion, but she could not imagine suggesting to Philip Ragan that they meet at 322 for burgers and fries. For as much progress as they have made in their sibling relationship over the past few years, there remains that impenetrable veneer of propriety that she still finds a bit intimidating.

"I can't thank you enough for stopping by to see Spencer on Christmas day," Philip says as he holds his glass of red wine. "I felt awful leaving him, but I had to get out of here and clear my head."

"I know. And it wasn't exactly something I hated the idea of doing," Claire says. "I've missed so many holidays with him."

"At least this one didn't end in disaster."

"No. There's that."

Claire watches as Philip sips his wine, his eyes loosely fixed on the candle's winking flame. 

"I'm really sorry about Molly," Claire finally offers. "I was hoping that, given some time…"

"So was I. But the things she said to me…" He sets the glass down atop the white tablecloth. "She'd never said so flatly that she worried I might have inherited my parents', er…"


"Exactly," he says with a smile that is both wry and sad. "Has this ever happened to you--people worrying that you might somehow be just like our father?"

"Not so directly." Claire laces her fingers around the stem of her own wine glass. "But it almost derailed Ryan's entire life. It did, for a long time."

"And he had the misfortune of being pulled into Nick's business."

"Yeah. And then there was his biological father."

"Who was he? Molly never mentioned who it was, in all the time I've known her."

"His name was Stan Lincoln." 

Claire feels a sudden surge of bile in her throat; this is why she works to suppress even the thought of Stan, whenever it rises up to terrify her in an unexpected moment during her day or, even worse, in her sleep. She focuses on a passing waiter, carrying two plates bearing perfectly seared steaks, as she composes herself.

"He was a bastard," she says, unable to restrain herself from letting that much out. "When Ryan was a teenager, Stan managed to track him down. He wanted money, of course, after he found out who had adopted Ryan. And Ryan went to stay with him for a little while--during some falling-out he had with Nick."

"And what happened? Did Stan do something to him?"

"He did something," she says, her chest tightening. "To me. He attacked me."

Philip's eyebrows leap upward as he leans forward. "He what?"

Her voice is low as she says, "He raped me."

"Oh my god." Even in the dimmed light, she can see several shades of color fall from Philip's face. "Claire. I'm so sorry."

"It's okay. I've made my peace with it--as much as I'm going to make. I don't talk about it much."

"That's horrifying," Philip says, his mouth still agape.

She nods numbly. "The reason I bring that up is not to talk about that--because I would just as soon never think about it again--but because it was probably the worst in the long line of awful things Stan did, and Ryan has had to go through life with the burden of Stan and Nick's actions hanging over him."

"From the sounds of it, he didn't always do the best job of fighting the past."

"No. He did some horrible things. It was like he had bought into the idea that he was bound to self-destruct anyway, having come from those two men."

"Is this supposed to make me feel better?" Philip asks, the words twisting into a sardonic laugh.

"I'm only saying: learn from him." Claire lifts her wine glass. "Ryan wasted far too many years buying into the idea that he wasn't better than his heritage. And then he found a way to pull away from that, before it was too late. You're too smart to go down the same road."

"Well, thank you for that vote of confidence." Philip sighs. "I only wish Molly could be convinced of that."


When he and Liam Cassel enter the club, Alex is stricken by how it is both so familiar and so foreign at the same time. This place was once such a landmark of his early years in King's Bay--and his coming-out process-but it has been a long while since he set foot inside it. Though it has clearly undergone a remodel, the basic structure is the same: the 360-degree bar near the entry; the sunken dance floor, lined by VIP booths upholstered in leather; and the floor-to-ceiling window that gives the place its name, as it offers a view down the King's Bay waterfront. Even in the darkness, Alex can see the docks, stretching out from the land like shadowy fingers trying to grasp the shimmering water of the bay. 

The place is showing good signs of life for this hour; it isn't depressingly empty, nor is it crushingly full. Alex spots Cameron Kelley and his two friends on the far side of the bar and leads Liam toward them.

"You made it!" Cameron says, coming forward to greet Alex with a hug. Alex introduces Liam to the group, and Cameron does the same with his two friends: Gideon, a disarmingly attractive guy in his 20s with thick, black-framed glasses, and Andrew, thin with a shock of bleached platinum hair. 

  Liam Cassel

Alex can see Andrew's interest perk up when Liam speaks and his accent becomes apparent.

"So are you visiting?" Andrew asks, toying with the thin black straw of his cocktail.

"I've been back-and-forth the past few years. I moved here for a…" Liam glances toward Alex. "A relationship that didn't work out."

"Aw, I'm sorry," Andrew says, overly sympathetic as he cocks his head to the left. 

"That sucks," Gideon echoes flatly.

"But it led me to meeting this one," Liam says, patting Alex on the arm, "and we've been plugging away on a project that's got some real traction now."

Alex's insides twist with the all-too-recognizable guilt over his secret role in Liam and Trevor's break-up. 

"Have you heard anything?" Cameron asks, springing forward with excitement.

"We had a call with a studio the other day," Alex says. "They're interested in the screenplay, so… it's a big step."

"That's awesome!" Cameron holds up his drink. "You guys need to go get some so we can toast."

"Yeah, let's do that," Alex says, and he steers Liam around the side of the bar. They lean against two high-backed stools and wait for the bartender's attention.

"I think Andrew has eyes for you already," Alex says.


"Totally. You'll see when we go back there."

Alex glances around to see if any of the other bartenders are more available--but when he does, he sees something that he never expected he would see tonight: Samantha Fisher walking into the club.


As the ending credits of the latest Friends episode begin to flash across the screen, Jason pulls himself off the couch and goes to the kitchen for a beer. He is closing the refrigerator door when he hears his phone ding with the sound of an incoming text message.

He picks up the phone and sees that the text is from Natalie Bishop:

Did u wind up staying in??

Jason sets his beer on the coffee table and types his response:

Yeah. Just relaxing with some Netflix. 

He settles back onto the couch, then worries his text could be read as dismissive. He picks up the phone again and adds:

What are you up to?

The new episode is only a few seconds in when the phone dings again. He reaches for it and reads.

Bree went to a sleepover @ that little monster Sydney's! I have a bottle of champagne - want 2 come over??

He chuckles at Natalie's blunt and all-too-apt description of Sydney, one of the other young skaters at the rink, and then considers her offer in earnest. The idea of a child-free night alone with Natalie is plenty appealing. His thumbs begin to tap out a response, then stop. That would require taking a shower, getting dressed, driving across town, holding actual conversation… He lies back down on the couch and sends his answer.

That sounds awesome. Would have taken you up on it 2 hours ago. I'm fried now. And I look like a bum.

The response only takes a few seconds to come in:

I bet u still look hot ;)

Jason grins and quickly fires off a reply:

Not even close. I bet YOU do, though.

Natalie's comeback is simply a winking emoji, but Jason's mind is revving up now. He feels a stirring in his sweatpants and sends another text.

What are you wearing?

The three bubbles, which indicate Natalie is typing, pop up and then linger for what feels like forever. He wonders if she could be sending a photo and half-consciously slips a hand under the waistband of his sweats. And then her response arrives:

Only way 2 find out is if u come over here! :)

He sighs and sends one more message.

I'm tempted. But gonna take a rain check tonight. I want to see you soon, though! I'll call you tomorrow?

He puts the phone down, takes a drink of his beer, and realizes that he has no idea what has happened in the opening scene of this episode. As he rewinds it, a final text from Natalie arrives. He pauses the show in order to read it:

Sounds good. But u r missing out! 

"I know I am," he mutters as he reclines again and hits play on the TV.


The blaring Katy Perry remix seems to fade into the ether, and Samantha freezes when she spots Alex at the bar. Tempest keeps moving into the club and only stops when she realizes that she has lost Samantha.

"What's up with you?" Tempest asks, turning back. "No one's gonna, like, jump out and tackle you."

"No, it's not that." Samantha's head is spinning. "My Uncle Jason's friend--Alex--he's here."

"So?" But even as the word rolls off Tempest's tongue, recognition dawns over her face. "Oh."

"Yeah. He works with my dad, and he used to work with my mom, and… ugh."

"Okay, it's not the end of the world."

Samantha wants to shout back that it might as well be--that their innocent night out has completely exposed her, and now she's going to have to explain to everyone something that she doesn't even understand yet. 

  Samantha Fisher

"Let's just go get drinks and be chill," Tempest says.

"He's coming over here," Samantha says, her eyes fixed upon Alex, who is telling his friend--Samantha is pretty sure it's the guy whom Trevor almost married, the screenwriter--that he'll be right back.

Samantha's brain is firing off words and ideas rapid-fire, but she manages to tell Tempest, "Go order us drinks. I'll get the next round. Okay?"

"Sure. I'll see if Steph and Maria are here, too."

Tempest moves off just as Alex gets close to Samantha.

"Hey," he says, clasping his hands together in a way that tells her that he might be nervous about this, too.

"Hey, Alex." She gives a broad wave that immediately feels dopey and ridiculous. "How, uh, how are you?"

"I'm good. Just got here. Listen…"

Her entire body clenches.

"I just wanted to come over and say hi," Alex says, "and let you know that this is between us. Okay?"

Samantha's mouth flaps open and closed a few times, ready with the various excuses that have been percolating in her head, but finally she just nods.

"Okay. Thanks."

"I hope I'm not overstepping my bounds here," he says, "but if there's ever anything you want to talk about--come to me. I promise anything we discuss will stay between the two of us."

She takes that in as she contemplates her next words. "Even though you're friends with my mom and dad?"

"Absolutely. There were plenty of times when I was your age that I could've used someone to talk to, and I didn't know anyone. And believe me, I can keep a secret if need be."

She smiles. "Thanks, Alex."

"Can I buy you a drink? Liam's over there--"

"Oh, Tempest went to get us some, but thanks." She pauses and then adds for emphasis, "Really. Thank you."

"My pleasure. Maybe we'll see you guys out on the dance floor."

"Yeah." Her body floods with relief. 

Alex starts to return to the bar but then swings back around toward her. 

"By the way," he says, "the second time I ever laid eyes on Trevor, it was here."


"Yeah. Just saying." And then he heads back to rejoin Liam by the bar. Samantha scans the crowd, half-looking for Tempest, otherwise just surveying the scene, as she processes that thought and what it could mean for her night. 


Not wanting to be seen, the woman leaves her car halfway down the block. She walks briskly but as casually as she can, one hand tucked beneath the flap of her trenchcoat. The night air is cold against her face and her legs, but her mission drives her on, reminding her to play it cool. She only gets one shot at this.

She decides to forego the driveway and the stone path, preferring to remain in the shadows. Instead she slinks beside the fence on the side of the house and then remains close to the garage as she follows it around toward the front door. 

Here goes, she tells herself as she rings the doorbell.

She does not hear the careful, deliberate footsteps approaching her from behind.

She does not sense the weapons being raised.

She does take a deep breath when she notices movement in the foyer, and as soon as the door is pulled open, she makes her move.

"Surprise!" she yells, whipping open the coat.

"What are you doing here?" Jason asks, wide-eyed, as he takes in the sight of her.

"Freeze!" comes the stern voice from behind. "Hands in the air!"

"Oh my god," Jason says, his gaze trailing behind her to whatever is happening in the yard.

Natalie turns, the wind snapping against her now-exposed bare flesh, protected only minimally by the lacy bra and panties, to see two police officers with guns aimed right at her.


What the heck is going on at Jason's house?
Should Samantha open up to Alex?
What will happen during the night out at the club?
Visit the Footprints Forum to share your thoughts!

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Friday, February 06, 2015

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