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- Danielle got drunk by herself at 322 and made a pass at Jimmy, who questioned whether she’d been drinking. She angrily blew him off.
- After becoming nauseated, Natalie took a test and understood the reason why: she is pregnant.
- As Molly and Philip continued to reconnect, he realized that he has to ensure that Tori never awakens from her coma to identify him as the Footprint Killer.

When Molly Taylor opens the front door of her house, a gust of sharp autumn wind rushes to greet her. Behind her visitor, she sees the wet blacktop of the driveway covered in autumn leaves in brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow.

“Sorry for dropping in,” Jimmy Trask says, hands in the pockets of his khaki cargo pants. “I’ve been needing to talk to you about something."

“Of course. Come in.” Molly steps aside to let him in. As she closes the door, she is pleased to see Jimmy remove his coat, hang it on one of the open pegs, and then slip off his boots, as well. 

Dani’s gone, right?” he asks, and Molly detects a nervousness about him.

“Yeah. She went down to see Elly before she goes on that trip over Thanksgiving break. Why?"

“It’s about her,” Jimmy says. “I’m worried."

“Did something happen?"

“Sort of. Yeah."

  Jimmy Trask

Molly leads him into the kitchen, where she offers him coffee and tea. Jimmy declines both and takes a seat at the kitchen table. 

“Jimmy, what’s going on with Danielle?” Molly asks as she pours water for her own cup of tea. 

He folds his hands atop the woven placemat and sighs. “I ran into her at 322, a little while back. I think it was the night that your niece got…” He trails off at the thought. “How’s she doing?"

“No change,” Molly says solemnly as she joins him at the table. “We’re all praying for the best. But what happened with Danielle?"

“She didn’t seem like herself — at least, not like the Dani I’ve gotten to know since I came here. She was friendly — too friendly — and then she got mad, real fast."

Molly thinks she knows where this is going before he even says it.

“Reminded me of the Dani I used to know, way back when,” he continues. “When she was drinking."

There it is. The word, so loaded, lands on the table between them and sits there, too heavy to move and too big to look past. Molly realizes that she has never thought about Danielle in this exact way — “drinking.” It has also been something she did in the past, long ago, before she straightened herself out and became one of the most level-headed, reasonable, trustworthy people Molly has ever known. She has always seemed to have sobriety under control, to be one step ahead of the threat that addicts always face. 

Jimmy senses Molly’s hesitance and adds, “I didn’t expect it, either. But after Ryan got killed — maybe she couldn’t take everything."

Molly nods, still processing the concept. “She’s mentioned meetings to me lately. She’s been going. If she slipped— no, she wouldn’t have."

“I know what I saw, Molly. She was acting weird. Real weird."

“Like you said, she’s been through a lot this year,” Molly says. “She’s been under an incredible amount of stress. I don’t think she’s been sleeping well. But she wouldn’t give up her sobriety. Not after all this time."

“Just keep an eye on her when she gets back, will you?” Jimmy says. “I know what I saw, and it wasn’t the regular Dani at all."

* * * * *

“Oh my god! These people are crazy!” Jason Fisher exclaims. “How do you guys watch this?”

“That’s why we watch it,” Natalie Bishop says. She is curled up beside him on the deep, plush sofa in Jason’s living room. “Right, Alex?”

Over on the loveseat, Alex Marshall swivels his head toward them. “That’s the point of Real Housewives. They’re insane.”

Jason stares at the television for several more seconds. “They’re just shrieking at each other!”

“See, the blonde one is still pissed that the other one brought three people – who never RSVPd – to the launch of her shapewear line,” Natalie says.

“I can feel my brain melting,” Jason says.

Alex looks at his phone and then swings his legs onto the floor. “Natalie’s going to have to clean that up, because I need to get going.”

“You aren’t going to finish the episode with us?” Natalie asks.

“I told Sarah I would watch Billy while Matt works so she can stay at the hospital,” Alex explains, “and I have to run an errand first.”

“But he’s going to out-vote me and change the channel!” Natalie whines.

“I can’t technically out-vote you if there are only two of us,” Jason says, “but I am 100 percent changing the channel.”

Alex pulls on his running shoes and ties the laces. “Sorry, Nat.”

After Alex leaves, Jason stretches across the sofa to grab the remote.

“What are you doing?” Natalie says.

“Exactly what I said I was going to do. So long, Housewives!” With a flick of the wrist, he darkens the flatscreen TV.

“You can’t tell me you hated that so much that it ruined TV for you forever.”

“No. But now that we have the place to ourselves, there’s something I would much rather do.” His hands settle on her upper arms, and he moves toward her until their mouths are joined. The heat intensifies as lips and tongues melt together, and soon, Jason is lowering himself down on top of Natalie. When his fingers reach for the button on her jeans, though, her hands are suddenly there, too, pushing him away.

“Huh?” he asks, pulling back with a befuddled expression on his face.

“What? I’m just… I’m not in the mood.”

“Okay.” Jason sits back, legs folded under himself. “What’s going on?”

“What do you mean?”

“These last few weeks, every time I make a move, you’re suddenly tired or have a headache or don’t feel well or something.”

“We were just watching TV…”

“Even you don’t love the Real Housewives that much,” he says. “So be honest with me: why don’t you want to have sex with me?”

* * * * *

After she sees Jimmy out, Molly finishes her tea and settles in on the couch with her laptop to attend to her work e-mails, which have somehow been piling up all morning. She is just starting to feel optimistic about the state of her inbox when the doorbell rings again. With a huff, she sets her computer aside and goes to answer the door.

“I apologize for the unannounced visit,” Philip Ragan says as he stands on the front porch in a camel-colored overcoat, a paper bag in his arms, “but when you said you were alone at home, I thought it might be good for you to have some company. And some lunch. Too presumptuous?"

Molly allows a smile to creep across her face. “What kind of lunch are we talking about?"

“Those delicious chicken salad sandwiches from Penelope’s downtown,” he says. “And a side of those braised Brussels sprouts…"

“Get in here,” she says, grabbing his arm. 

They move to the kitchen, where Philip unpacks the food while Molly retrieves plates and cutlery. 

  Molly Taylor

“Has there been any more word on Tori’s condition?” he asks.

Molly pauses and shakes her head sadly. “No. Sarah and Matt have been at the hospital almost nonstop. I feel awful. She’s always been so energetic and full of attitude. It’s bizarre to see her lying in the hospital bed that way."

“She seems like a lovely young woman,” Philip says as he folds up the paper bag. 

“We’re all hoping for the best.” Molly brings the plates over to the table. “I had a weird visit a little while ago."

Philip’s eyes widen with alarm. “What happened? Was there another delivery—?"

“No. Nothing like that. It was Jimmy — you know, Danielle’s ex, Elly’s father."

“The one my sister was seeing a while back. What did he want?"

“He’s worried that Danielle has been drinking,” Molly explains. “He said he had a run-in with her, and she was aggressive and was acting strangely."

“Have you noticed anything?"

“I didn’t think so… but the more I think about it, there are times she’s seemed… off. Like one night, I came home with the boys, and she was playing the piano and seemed like she was in outer space. She had totally forgotten about dinner."

Philip cracks a grin. “You know how we artistic types can get."

“I know. But her demeanor was weird. And the night Tori was attacked — when that package was left on the doorstep — she came home in a cab, and she didn’t seem like she noticed anything about the guy who left the package."

“It was dark out, and I’m sure she wasn’t expecting to see something like that."

“No. Of course not. But the more I think about what Jimmy said, the more I wonder if something could be really wrong."

Philip places one of the sandwiches on a plate and sets it on the placemat for her. Molly lowers herself into the chair, clearly still absorbed by her thoughts. 

“I’m not sure what to do,” she says. “Do I confront her about it? Do I say something to Brent?"

“I don’t know if there’s a correct answer, aside from trusting your instincts. You’re a very intelligent woman, Molly, and if you’re concerned about your friend, you’ll be doing her a favor in the long run if you speak up."

“You’re right,” Molly says, though she doesn’t feel at all convinced of that as she picks up her sandwich.

* * * * *

“It isn’t that I don’t want to,” Natalie says. “I just haven’t been in the mood.”

“Okay. You don’t have to.” Jason leans back even further. “It’s just hard not to take it personally.”

Natalie scoots herself up into more of a sitting position. “Don’t. I’ve felt a little weird lately, that’s all.”

“Weird about us?”

“No! Physically.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” She resists the urge to move a hand to her stomach, as she has been doing so often lately. Truthfully, she is reluctant to remove her clothes in front of him, because she can definitely see the difference in her pregnant body now, and she suspects that Jason is smart enough to pick up on it, too. And she isn’t sure that she is ready to ruin this by making things so heavy. Especially since she doesn’t know that she wants another child, particularly right now.

“I promise it isn’t you,” she says, leaning forward to give him a peck on the lips, “or that I don’t want to be with you.”


With the television turned off, the silence in the room feels overwhelming.

“Why don’t we go get some lunch?” Jason says as he scrambles off the couch. “It might be good to get out.”

“Yeah, good idea,” Natalie agrees, though she has a feeling that the air of awkwardness is going to linger around them no matter where they are today.

* * * * *

Light rain patters against the sidewalks of downtown King’s Bay as Alex makes his way from his car to the dry cleaner’s storefront. He makes it under the awning without getting too wet and has his hand on the door when he spots Trevor Brooks walking down the block. Stepping to the side so that he doesn’t block the entrance, Alex waves and waits for Trevor to come nearer.

“Funny running into you here,” Trevor says. A smile crinkles his cheeks and lights up his eyes; it has always amazed Alex how effortless it is for Trevor to look so handsome.

“Why? Because my clothes always look dirty?” Alex asks.

Trevor laughs. “I just meant…” He glances at the lettering on the window and realizes where they are. “I get it now.”

“It was a pretty lame joke,” Alex says.

“What are you up to?”

“I’ve had dry cleaning to pick up for days. But I’ve been at Sarah and Matt’s so much that I haven’t had time. I’m actually headed over there after this to hang out with Billy so Sarah can stay at the hospital.”

“How are they all doing?” Trevor asks. “Nothing new about Tori?”

Alex shakes his head sadly. “Nope.”

“It’s really great that you’re spending so much time with Billy. And I bet Sarah and Matt appreciate it.”

“He’s my brother. I want to be a part of his life,” Alex says with a shrug. “How have you been? How’s your dad?”

  Alex Marshall

The barely perceptible cloud that has been hanging over Trevor during the entire encounter now moves in further, casting a somber shadow over him. “We’re getting by. He’s looking forward to going down to California for Thanksgiving so he can hang out with his granddaughter.”

“I bet. Hey, I didn’t want to bother you about this, but Tim called to tell me he ran into Liam.”

“What? Here?”

“Yeah,” Alex says. “He was at Vision. He said he had some paperwork to take care of. Tim said he kind of ripped into him for what he did.”

“Good. I still feel so bad about causing all that…”

Alex waves a hand through the cool air. “It’s in the past. We can’t change it. And if we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that there’s no point being hung up on things like that.”

“Yeah. I guess you’re right.” Trevor looks out at the falling rain in the street. “I’ll let you get going. It’s really good to see you, Alex.”

“You, too,” Alex says, and before he can fumble over any further words, Trevor takes off past him and around the corner. Alex remains under the awning, watching him go even after he is gone.

* * * * *

As she cleans up after lunch, Molly finds herself staring into the water running from the sink’s faucet.

“Please, let me help with that,” Philip says from behind her.

“It’s no trouble. And thank you for bringing me lunch.”

“It was my pleasure.” He watches her for a long moment. “What’s troubling you?”

“I’m just thinking about Danielle. I can’t decide if I should butt in or not.”

“You care about her. And she’s responsible for your children a lot of the time. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to be concerned.”

“Yeah. You’re right.” Molly sets the second plate in the dish rack and dries her hands. She turns around to face Philip. “You’ve been a godsend these past few weeks. Do you know that?”

“I care about you. I haven’t made any secret of that,” he says.

The warmth of his smiling face sends a sudden rush of heat through Molly’s body.

“I care about you, too,” she says.

“I’m sorry things took the turn they did. I never should have given you a reason to question whether you could trust me.”

Molly’s lips settle into a tight line as she contemplates her response.

“You don’t have to say anything,” Philip finally says.

“No, I want to. You’ve been wonderful this entire time. Yeah, you made a mistake, but you were trying to protect your brother. In a certain way, that’s admirable. I know you would never hurt anyone.”

Looking down at the floor, he reaches out and takes her hands in his.

“I’ve never stopped loving you,” he says, and then he leans in and plants a gentle kiss upon her lips. Molly is surprised by how good it feels; she has never even tried to tell herself that she stopped being attracted to him, but she didn’t quite realize how much she missed this, either. She feels herself softening into the kiss, opening her mouth to him.

Philip is the one who ends it with a sweet peck.

Molly stares into his eyes. “Me, neither.”

“Do you mean that?”

Transfixed by him, she nods, slowly at first and then more adamantly. “Yes. This year has been— it’s really put some things in perspective.” She can feel something radiating off him – passion, intensity – and it seems to be penetrating her, too, and drawing her to him. Instead of attempting to explain further, she raises herself up on her tiptoes and kisses him again.

This time it builds quickly, months of longing and repression bubbling over as they push their bodies together urgently. Joined as one, they stagger toward the living room, where Molly pulls him down onto the couch with her.

“Are you sure about this?” Philip asks, slowly running a finger over the soft flesh of her throat.

“Very.” She grabs him by the sweater and pulls him on top of her, too hungry for his touch to wait even a second longer.


Will Philip keep Molly from learning his dark secret?
Should Natalie tell Jason about her pregnancy?
What should Molly do about Danielle’s behavior?
Discuss all this and more in the Footprints Forum!

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Friday, Nov. 13, 2015

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