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- In the wake of the Footprint Killer’s murders, Jason pushed Natalie away. Feeling rejected, Natalie got drunk and called up her old booty call, Spencer — unaware that he is Jason’s nephew. 
- Tim helped Jason see that he had acted foolishly, so Jason went to Natalie’s to apologize. With Spencer still asleep in the bedroom, she panicked but managed to get rid of Jason just in time. 
- Tori found her date, Ian, hooking up with her friend, Fee. When Philip came upon her and saw that she had been crying, he offered her solace. 
- Brent told Sarah about the woman calling herself Sabrina Gage and suggested that she investigate on behalf of her family. Eager to solve the murders, Sarah agreed. 


Bacon crackles on the stovetop, bubbles of grease hissing and popping in the skillet. Jason Fisher nervously presides over the scrambled eggs on the next burner, taking care not to catch any of the jumping bacon grease on his bare arm. As the eggs cook, he glances at the clock on the microwave repeatedly. He has tried to time everything so that the food would be ready when Natalie arrives, but now he worries that it will wind up sitting out for too long.

Luckily, just as he is spooning the eggs into a bowl, the doorbell rings. He gives the bacon one more look and then hurries to answer the door.

"Hi," Natalie says before swooping in to plant a kiss on his lips. It is no more than a quick peck, but the mere contact feels so significant to Jason; she is here, things are back to normal, and yesterday's fight is ready to be filed away in the past.

"Come on. I have stuff cooking." He takes her hand and leads her into the kitchen.

Natalie sets down her purse on the table. "It smells great in here."

"How it tastes remains to be seen," he says as he returns to the stove, "but I have faith."

"So do I."

  Natalie Bishop

He carefully flips the bacon, and the sounds of sizzling fill the air between them for a few seconds.

"Listen," he says, "I want to apologize for yesterday. I flipped out. It wasn't right of me to lash out at you the way I did--"

"Jason, I get it."

"--and I promise I'll try to keep that in check from now on. After what happened to Courtney, and then Sandy and Ryan, I just get…"

"I understand." She slides up behind him and places a hand on his upper arm. "You've been through some really insane stuff in the past few years."

"That's putting it lightly. But it's no excuse for snapping at you. I hope you'll understand that it comes from being scared of what's going on--"

"I know." She rests her face against his back, and Jason relaxes into her touch.

"I'm glad you're here." He swivels around and clasps his hands on her lower back. "Being with you has really made me happier. I can't believe I almost screwed it up."

"You didn't."

"Thank god. No harm done, right?"

Natalie drops her head onto his chest. "Right."

"Good." He gives her a squeeze. "Now let's get those rolls out of the oven and eat! Want to be on mimosa duty?"

"You know that's one of my top skills," she says as she moves toward the refrigerator. 

"As I recall, you have a few others," Jason says, smirking as he transfers the bacon onto a paper-towel-covered plate.


After he leaves Natalie's apartment, Spencer gets into his BMW and pulls out the Altoids tin that he stores in the center console. From it, he takes one of the joints that he keeps stocked in there, lights it, and rolls down the window. He drives away from the apartment, the summer breeze blowing in his face and the pot sanding down the rough edges of waking up. His mind wanders as he drives, and after he has spent sufficient time reflecting on his night with Natalie and his annoyance at not having been able to go for round two this morning, he recalls how Tim stopped by the loft to see him last night. He decides to make an impromptu stop and steers his car toward a less familiar neighborhood. He stops a few blocks from his destination to do away with the joint and apply some Febreze, and then he continues on his way. 

"Spencer," Paula Fisher says when she opens the door. 

"Hey." It seemed like such a simple mission when he was driving, but now that he is actually here, his head is foggy and self-consciousness envelops him. "I, uh, I wanted to come say thanks for the stuff you sent over."

Paula's face brightens. "Oh. You're very welcome! It was the least we could do… We were so glad you came to Ryan's service."

He shrugs. "I felt like I needed to."

"Well, why don't you come in?" She steps aside to usher him into the house. "Are you hungry? I was just making breakfast for everyone."

He isn't sure that he wants to be bound to stay for the duration of a whole meal -- especially without knowing whom "everyone" entails -- but his stomach is rumbling, and the weed tells him that whatever is cooking in the kitchen smells terrific.

"Sure. Thanks." 

As Paula closes the door, Spencer takes in the sight of the house. On Thanksgiving, it was so full of people and decorations and activity that the place itself didn't make that much of an impact on him. Now, with a clearer view, he can tell that it is carefully decorated but still comfortable. Several years ago, he would have found it incomprehensibly small -- he grew up believing that everyone lived in a house as expansive as his mother's, since everyone they knew did -- but after living in the dormitory at boarding school, the fraternity house, and now in Philip's loft, he has developed a different sense of what homes are like. He thinks "quaint" might be a good description of it.

"Come this way," Paula says, and she leads him to the kitchen. There they find Bill Fisher sitting at the table with a steaming cup of coffee and a newspaper spread open before him.

"Look who came to visit," Paula tells her husband.

Bill reacts with surprise and then removes his reading glasses, as if they might be projecting an illusion in front of him.

"Spencer. Hi there," he says, standing to shake the young man's hand. "What brings you by?"

"Oh, I, uh, I was out driving and I thought I would come thank you guys for everything you had Tim drop off last night."

Bill nods. "It's good to see you. Joining us for breakfast?"

"I guess so. Yeah."

"Bill, what's Sophie doing?" Paula asks from her post at the stove.

Spencer stands back as Bill moves to the back door, where the sliding glass sits open, leaving only the screen as a barrier to the outside. 

"She's still building whatever she was building before in the sandbox," Bill says. "That kid is going to be a real estate mogul, I tell you."

"It's the palace from Frozen," Paula explains matter-of-factly. 

"I should've known." Bill turns to Spencer. "Here, have a seat. Do you want any coffee?"

"No, I'm okay. Thanks." Spencer slides into a chair at the simple wooden table, whose top bears the nicks and scars of a very full life. 

“I’m making pancakes,” Paula says. “Is that okay?"

“Smells really good. Yeah."

Paula works in silence for a few moments, while Bill settles back in across from Spencer.

  Paula Fisher

“Tim says you’re doing a great job at Vision." Bill picks up his reading glasses. “Are you enjoying it?"

“I am. Yeah. He’s let me sit in on a lot of meetings and calls with authors and stuff. Kind of a weird time to be getting into publishing, but…"

“People will always want books, in one form or another,” Bill says, as if there is no room for any other eventuality. 

Paula comes from behind Spencer and presents a plate stacked with more than enough pancakes. If he weren’t buzzed, he would think they were too many to eat — but his stomach feels like a bottomless pit right now. 

“Thanks,” he says, noting the maple syrup and butter already on the table.

“Go ahead and eat,” Bill says. “We aren’t too formal around here."

Spencer picks up his knife and fork. Paula returns with pancakes for Bill.

“I’m just so glad you came,” she says, hovering over Spencer. “After all the time we lost — and everything you must have been subjected to by that crazy woman—"

“Hey.” Spencer lets his knife and fork drop to the plate with a clang. “Maybe this wasn’t such a hot idea after all."

He sees Bill throw Paula a warning look over the table.

“She’s been my mother my whole life,” Spencer says, pushing his chair back from the table. “Even all the stuff she did doesn’t change that. And sorry, it doesn’t sound like this family is a bunch of saints, either. Ryan tried to frame Tim for murder, and Molly stole her sister’s husband, and Travis— well—"

“Paula didn’t mean it that way,” Bill says, holding out his palms as if the tension in the air were a wall in need of stabilizing. 

“I’m sorry,” she says. “I know that you look at Loretta — that she’s your mother. It would be wrong of us to try and say otherwise."

Spencer stares at his plate. “Yeah."

“When I finally met Ryan, when he was an adult,” Paula goes on, “he had spent his entire life being led down a very dangerous path by Nick Moriani. That’s why I worry."

“I’m my own person. I’m fine."

“I’m glad to hear that.” Paula falls silent for a few seconds. “I really am sorry."

“I get it.” With a huff, he scoots his chair back in and resumes cutting the pancakes. 


Sarah Fisher Gray lugs the suitcase down the stairs and sets it down on the hardwood floor of the foyer with a decisive thump.

“Pack enough stuff?” her husband asks with a teasing grin.

“I need to be prepared for all kinds of weather,” Sarah says, casting a disdainful glance at the suitcase. She always imagines being able to travel light — toss a coat and a change of underwear into a bag and go — but these work trips are rarely as simple as that.

Tori Gray appears at the railing at the top of the staircase. “Where are you going?"

“I can’t say exactly,” Sarah says, “because it’s for a case. But I’m flying into Des Moines."

“I don’t even know what state that’s in. Illinois?"

“Iowa,” Matt says. “Aren't you in college?"

Tori rolls her eyes. “Sorry, I’m not majoring in Boring Cities Where People Hang Out at the Piggly-Wiggly.” She starts to descend the stairs. “How long are you gonna be gone?"

“With any luck, two days, tops,” Sarah says as she takes her cell phone and keys from the nearby console table. "How was your date with Ian last night?"

She pauses on the staircase. “Dumb."

“Why?” Matt furrows his brow with concern. “Did something happen?"

“No. He’s just, like, a dumb boy."

“What, he didn’t know where Des Moines is?” Sarah asks.

Tori sticks out her tongue at her mother before explaining, “I don’t want to date some immature frat boy. I can do better than that. He’s lame."

“I think it’s good that you aren’t settling,” Sarah says. 

“Yeah. Don’t need to be in some big rush to grow up,” Matt adds.

Tori groans. “That is such a dad thing to say."

“Funny, because I’m a dad."

“You guys are so corny.” Tori leans against the bannister and flips her chestnut hair over one shoulder. “Don’t worry. The next guy I date is going to be mature. I’m not wasting my time on stupid boys anymore."

“Good,” Sarah says as she pulls out the handle on the rolling suitcase. “Want to kick off this newfound maturity by giving your mom a ride to the airport?"

“Now that sounds like a dad thing, for sure,” Tori says with a smile.

Thaw Coffee & Tea

The single mimosa she has at Jason's helps to soften the lingering effects of last night's red wine overindulgence, but what Natalie really needs is a nap. Unfortunately, she has to pick up Bree from her Girl Scout trip. On her way to meet the bus at the park, she stops for the only thing that might do half as much for her as sleep: a large coffee. 

When she enters the shop, she immediately sees her sister and niece adding milk and sugar to their drinks. She contemplates bolting before she has to deal with Diane, but in that split-second, Samantha notices her. 

"Aunt Natalie! Hey!" the young woman calls across the mostly empty shop. 

Natalie takes a deep breath, waves, and heads over to greet them. 

"Hi, ladies," Natalie says. "How's your Sunday going?"

"It's good! We're going to see Jurassic World. Have you seen it yet?"

"Your aunt doesn't need to see a movie to learn all about stomping through civilization terrorizing people," Diane says. "She's been doing that for years."

"Mom!" Samantha says.

Natalie fixes her stare on Diane. "It's okay, Sam. I've been putting up with this even longer. You know, Diane, it really is shocking that you're still single. I can't imagine why some man hasn't just swept you away yet."

"Maybe because I don't need one," Diane fires back. "Speaking of, have you managed to scare off Jason yet?"

Natalie's stomach rolls, but she forces her expression to hold tight. "As a matter of fact, I just came from his house. So, as much as I know it would thrill you to hear otherwise, we're doing well."

"Your poor uncle," Diane says to Samantha. "We need to get going or we'll be late to the movie."

"It was nice to see you, Sam," Natalie says pointedly. 

"You, too." Samantha double-checks that the plastic lid on her cup is properly affixed. "Tell Bree I'll come over and hang out with her soon."

"She'd like that."

"Bye, Natalie," Diane says. "And don't worry -- I'm sure it's only a matter of time before Jason sees you for who you really are."

Natalie just grunts and watches them leave. But Diane's words ring in her head. Jason can't find out what she did -- and he won't. It isn't even a question. Her mind made up, she heads toward the barista to order. 


"It's time to come in and eat your pancakes!" Paula calls out the back door. 

"I'm still building!" comes a child's voice from somewhere outside. 

Bill rises from the table and joins Paula at the door. "Sophie, either you come in and eat or I come out there and knock down that palace!"

Paula gasps. "Bill!"

"A little threat never hurt," he says, looking to Spencer for approval. Mid-bite, Spencer nods and laughs. 

Seconds later, a little girl with dark brown hair comes rushing inside. She wears a polka-dot swimsuit and wipes her sandy feet on the mat before she enters the kitchen. 

"Here you go," Paula tells her as she brings a plate to the table. 

But the girl has halted in place, staring at Spencer. "Who's he?"

"This is Spencer," Paula explains. "He's your cousin."

The child scrunches up her face. "No, he's not."

"He is," Bill says. "He's Uncle Tim and Aunt Claire's son. Spencer, this is Sophie. Jason's daughter."

Spencer raises his hand in an awkward wave, not really sure how to address a kid this age. "Hey."

Sophie regards him for another few seconds, shrugs, and climbs into a chair to start eating her pancakes. The adults make small talk for a few minutes until Sophie suddenly sets down her fork and looks right at Spencer. 

  Spencer Ragan

"Do you like Frozen?" she asks with all the seriousness of a participant in a Senate hearing. 

"Uh, I actually haven't seen it," he says, glancing between his grandparents and hoping that's an acceptable answer.

Sophie nearly springs out of her chair, her eyes bulging. “What?!"

“Yeah. I don’t know. Never saw it."

“Can we watch it now?” she asks excitedly.

“I think Spencer probably has things to do today,” Bill says gently. 

“Maybe next time,” Spencer says. He sees Paula light up with delight, no doubt because of the indirect confirmation that there will be a next time.

The moment is broken by the sound of the doorbell. Paula exits, and Sophie starts to explain the plot of Frozen to Spencer. When Paula returns, she has Jason behind her. 

"It's usually an open-door policy around here," she tells Spencer, "but given everything that's been going on..." She leaves the rest unsaid, but the adults all clearly get it. 

"Spencer, you remember Jason," Bill says. "He's our youngest."

"Yeah. Hey, man," Spencer says. 

"Hi. Good to see you." Jason is obviously surprised to find his nephew sitting here but soon redirects his attention to his daughter. "Was my little monster a good girl for Grandma and Grandpa?"

"I'm not a monster!" Sophie says. 

Paula swoops in and pats her granddaughter on the head. "No, you're a princess."

"Yeah, I'm a princess!" Sophie declares as she spears a piece of pancake with her fork. 

"She was very good," Bill chimes in.

"Can I get you any pancakes?" Paula asks Jason, as she pulls another plate from the cupboard. 

"No, I ate. Thanks," Jason says. He sits down in the chair beside Spencer. "How's your weekend going, Spencer?"

"Pretty good. How about you?"

"Good. Tim came over last night and we watched the game." Jason pauses, as if mentally testing out his next statement before putting it out there. "You're always welcome to join us."

Spencer finishes his late bite of pancake. "Thanks."

"Did you go out or anything last night?" Jason asks. 

“Nah.” Spencer looks toward Sophie at the end of the table, but she is occupied with swirling a piece of pancake around in a pool of syrup. “Hung out with this girl."

Jason leans in. “Girlfriend?"

“Nope. Just this girl — well, she’s, like, older, so not a girl, but you know — I met her at a bar a while back."

“Older woman,” Jason says, nodding approvingly. “It’s good to have you around, Spencer."

“It’s nice,” Spencer says, unable to believe that he really is enjoying this.


Will Jason and Spencer find out they have something in common?
Will Spencer continue getting closer to the Fishers?
Will Sophie become obsessed with a new movie?
Discuss it all in the Footprints Forum now!

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

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