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Jason and Sabrina’s friendship continued to develop after he got her a job working at Thaw, the coffee shop in the ice arena.
- Paula remained determined to remember Philip’s shooting in hopes of testifying on Molly’s behalf -- but Molly and Sarah dreaded that their mother would remember that she was really the one who shot Philip.
- Following
the prosecution’s insinuation that Tori had an affair with Philip, Molly reassured her niece that she doesn’t blame her for any of what happened. Tori confessed that she'd had a one-sided crush on Philip.

After her talk with her niece, Molly Taylor returns home. The twins are at school, and Danielle must be out running errands, because her car is not in the driveway. As Molly enters the house, she is hit by its emptiness, its silence. There have been days when coming home to such a situation would’ve seemed like a gift from Heaven; after the chaos of a busy workday, a little peace and quiet could be the nicest surprise of all. Today, however, it feels ominous. She realizes that she should have stayed at her mother’s house and helped with the Christmas decorating. At least that would’ve helped a fraction of her mind distracted from thinking about the jury’s deliberations and the fact that there is nothing she can do but wait. Her conversation with Tori keeps blazing through her head, making her wonder what they could’ve done differently in presenting her defense if Tori had come clean about her crush on Philip earlier -- but she keeps coming back to the idea that it would’ve only bolstered the prosecution’s theory about Molly having shot Philip because of some tawdry love triangle.

She fixes herself a cup of tea and goes to the living room, where she switches on the TV. Since being placed on leave from work, she has become distressingly familiar with the daytime television lineup, and she flips through the late morning talk shows for something that catches her attention.

She is still trying to decide when the doorbell rings. Almost too eager for the distraction, she sets down her tea and hurries to answer it.

“I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” Conrad Halston says when she opens the door. 

“Yeah, I’m in the midst of a real moral quandary. Live with Kelly or the 19th hour of the Today Show? Here, come in.” She waves him inside and closes the door on the dull gray morning outside. 

“I just dropped Bree off at school and was driving by,” he explains as he wipes his shoes on the mat. “I saw your car outside and thought I’d how you’re doing."
  Molly Taylor

“I’m edgy. I really thought they’d have a verdict within the first day."

“So did I. But it doesn’t mean anything at all. They could be hung up on any number of things."

“Yeah. Like whether to send me to prison or not.” She takes his overcoat and hangs it on a nearby peg. “Can I get you some tea?"

“I’m all right, but thank you."

Molly leads the way back toward the living room, where she curls up on the sofa with her legs beneath her. Conrad seats himself in an armchair positioned diagonally from her. 

“Did my mother call you to come check on me? Or my sister?” Molly asks, noting the way that he is eyeing her. “I’m fine. I promise."

“No one called me. I saw your brother earlier, but we didn’t exactly discuss the case. I’ve just had enough clients caught in this waiting game that I understand how frustrating it can be."

“Frustrating is an understatement. This is… My entire future is in the hands of twelve people I don’t know. I could be in prison tomorrow. I could… I could miss my kids’ teenage years, their weddings, the births of my grandchildren, for all I know. I’ll be a convicted felon."

The fact that he doesn’t immediately cut her off with, “You won’t” or “That isn’t going to happen” causes daggers of fresh panic to spike in her bloodstream. 

“I should’ve known,” she says, and memory whirls around her like a gauzy fog, whisking her back to that day over a year ago on the hospital balcony. She can still feel the sheer terror at the prospect of having to leave that hospital with Philip, knowing that he murdered four people and left Tori in a coma. She recalls the dread she felt at seeing him pull out that gun. And she can see, so clearly, her own mother picking up the gun and firing it, almost robotically, her eyes glazed over, right into Philip’s chest. 

She will never forget the way Philip looked up at her -- his eyelids fluttering, blood running out of his mouth -- and used his last breath to tell her, “I did it all for you."

What if Paula hadn’t fainted? What if Molly hadn’t wiped off that gun and then picked it up herself? What if she had just told the police exactly what had happened?

Then her mother would be facing a prison sentence instead of her. 

“I’m such an idiot,” she mutters as she reaches for her tea.

“Excuse me?"

She focuses on the tea bag floating in the amber liquid, steam still climbing from its surface. “I thought I could control everything. I thought I could make this right."

Conrad leans forward. “Molly, what are you talking about?"

Emotion wells up inside her, expanding through her chest and pressing behind her eyes. “I thought I could fix it. I wanted to fix it. And now…"

“Molly. Look at me."

It takes several seconds, but she does, dragging her gaze upward. She doesn’t know where it comes from -- maybe from the catharsis she watched Tori experience as she told the truth about her crush on Philip. Maybe she wants the same thing, now that the prospect of the jury returning with a guilty verdict feels possible. She might never get that catharsis, or at least that relief of being able to put this entire ordeal behind her and move forward, unburdened. 

“I wanted to help,” she says. “I thought I could be the hero. I’m so stupid."

“You aren’t stupid--"

“Yes, I am! I didn’t do it. I didn’t shoot Philip."


Paula Fisher takes a step back and surveys her living room. The Christmas tree stands tall and proud in the corner, a star glittering atop it. Garland, lit by glowing white lights, winds along the mantle. Nutcrackers and Santa figures are stationed throughout the room.

“I suppose that’ll do,” she pronounces with a half-frown.

“It looks great!” Sarah says. “What more is there to do?"

Paula shakes her head sadly. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe nothing. Maybe I thought that putting up all the decorations would make it really feel like Christmas…"

“…and make everything else go away?"

“Exactly.” Paula begins stacking the now-empty plastic bins that store the Fishers’ Christmas decorations eleven months out of the year. 

Sarah dives in and picks up sheets of bubble wrap and thick tissue paper, gathering it all in one bin. “This will all be over before Christmas gets here. The jury isn’t going to be out that long."

“I certainly hope not.”

Paula picks up a stack of the bins.

“Here, let me get those,” Sarah says, snatching them away from her before her mother can protest. 

“Thank you, dear.” Paula lifts up the bin containing the wrap and paper and follows Sarah through the dining room and kitchen. 

“I just wish that security camera had been working,” Paula says. “Then the jury could see that Molly shot Philip to protect us."

Sarah remains tight-lipped as she opens the sliding glass door and steps out onto the deck. She lets Paula pass through and then slides it closed. 

“Well, it’s gone,” Sarah says, “and we can’t change that."

“I suppose not.” 

They move down the steps from the deck into the grass and cross toward the storage shed. The padlock is open and hanging on the door, so Sarah is able to use the toe of her shoe to kick open the door. 

“It’s so strange,” Paula says. “I can remember going out onto that balcony, and I can even hear the gunshot, but I can’t remember anything else--"

“Mom. Stop torturing yourself."

“It isn’t torture. It’s just--"

“You’re just stressing out over something you can’t control."

Paula goes inside the shed and places the packed bin on the floor. As she stands, she slams her head against the shelf above her and lets out a shout of pain.

“Mom! Are you okay?"

“Yes,” Paula says as she clutches her head and moves around woozily. She squeezes her eyes closed, clearly in pain.

“Why don’t you sit down?” Sarah suggests. “I can get you some ice."

“I’m sure I’ll be…” But before Paula can finish her sentence, the images come racing across the screen in her mind, chunks and blurs that spin into view.

She sees the gun falling out of Philip’s hand as the door hits him.

She hears the metal clattering across the balcony’s floor.

She feels the heft of the gun in her grip as she points it.

“No,” she says, the word slipping out in a gasp.

“Mom. What’s wrong?” Sarah scrambles to pull out her cell phone. “Should I call 911?"

Paula opens her eyes for the briefest of moments, then clenches them shut again. The images and sensations keep coming.

The gunshot blast explodes in her ears and rattles through her body. The sheer force of it hurts her hands and her arms. 

She sees Philip stumble backward.

Her hands go numb. The gun falls to the ground.

Everything goes black.

“Mom,” Sarah says, grabbing her by the shoulders. “What’s happening?"

This time, when Paula opens her eyes, she looks right at her daughter.

“It was me.” She can hardly breathe as the memory replays over and over, so clear now that she doesn’t know how it was ever muted. “It was me."

“What are you talking about?"

“I remember. I shot Philip.” 

Edge of Winter Arena

Jason Fisher pulls off his heavy gloves and stuffs them in the pockets of his parka as he enters Thaw Coffee & Tea, off the lobby of the Edge of Winter Arena. The coffee shop is decked out for the holidays, with lots of silver accents and crisp white lights to go with its normal clean, icy-blue-and-white decor. A brassy instrumental version of “Jingle Bells” plays over the sound system. 

Sabrina Gage smiles at him from her post behind the register. She helps the customer in line ahead of him, and then Jason steps up to the counter.

“Morning,” he says. 

“Good morning.” She picks up a white cup and scribbles his usual order on it. As she hands it to the barista, she asks Jason, “How’re you doing?"

“Hanging in there. How about you?"

“Good. I love Christmastime.” Her expression grows more serious. “How’s your sister?"

“Nervous, but okay. We’re all on-edge."

“I bet. I’m praying for your family."

“Thank you.” He forces a smile, though the subject of Molly’s trial has rarely been more than a few inches from his mind at any time over the past several weeks. “How are your holidays?"

“Really nice. Christmas is sort of… not new to me, but I missed so many of them that it all feels so fresh and exciting."

“Are you going home to Iowa to be with your family?"

She brightens, her smile widening and her large eyes glowing. “Yes! I stayed here for Thanksgiving so that I could afford the plane tickets for Christmas. I’m so excited to see my Mama and Papa."

“Glad to hear that,” he says as he hands her his debit card, which she swipes through the reader. “I was going to say, you’d of course be welcome at my family’s if you weren’t going home -- I didn’t realize you had stayed here for Thanksgiving or I’d have invited you then--"

She hands him back the card. “That’s very nice of you, but I wouldn’t have wanted to impose."

“It isn’t imposing at all. We have a real ‘the more, the merrier’ thing going on."

“That must be so fun."

“It is. Yeah.” He checks to make sure there isn’t anyone waiting in line behind him, and he lowers his voice when he speaks again. “Can I ask you a question? Feel free to tell me to shut up if it’s too personal."

Nervously, she nods and says, “Go ahead. Sure."

“Are you liking it here? In King’s Bay, I mean?"
  Sabrina Gage

Sabrina looks dumbfounded. “I love it. Why?"

“Oh. That’s great.” He fumbles for words that won’t come off as insulting or condescending. “I guess I just wanted to make sure. I know you had high hopes for working with Philip, and obviously that--"

“Was a disaster,” she says with a slight laugh.

“And I know you’re so far away from your family and basically everything you know. It must be tough."

She shrugs. “It is, sometimes. And kind of lonely, I guess. I don’t really know how to meet people."

“I know I wasn’t the most hospitable when you first came to town--"

“You had every reason not to trust me, based on what I know."

“Maybe, but I still wasn’t exactly welcoming. If you ever need someone to talk to, though -- or if you want to join us for dinner some night..."

“That’s really nice of you, Jason. You’ve already done so much for me by getting me this job. That’s the reason I was even able to stay here.” She flattens her palms against the counter and leans in. “You wanna know the truth?"


“It’s kind of worth it. The… loneliness, I guess."

“It is?"

“Yeah. Because back in Iowa, everyone knows what happened to me. Everyone knows I was in a coma for years and that I shouldn’t even be alive right now. Everyone treats me like some antique that’s going to break if they even touch it. Here, nobody knows any of that. I can just be a normal girl with a boring life who works at a coffee shop and goes home to watch TV and takes walks by herself and reads books."

He takes that in and nods thoughtfully. “I see what you mean."

“I wasn’t sure I’d ever have that,” she says. “But I do now. And it’s so great."

“I like the way you think. That’s a really great outlook on life. We should all be more grateful for what we do have."

“Nothing like a years-long coma to make you appreciate the simple things,” she says with a wry grin. 

“Jason!” comes the call from the end of the bar.

“I should get that and head up to the office,” he says. “But I meant what I said: I’m always here to listen. And that dinner invitation stands."

“Thank you,” Sabrina says, her cheeks growing pink. “I really appreciate that."

“Of course. Merry Christmas."

“Merry Christmas, Jason.” She watches as he picks up his coffee and heads back into the freezing cold of the arena. 


Molly’s proclamation hangs in the air like smoke from a bomb, so thick that it clouds reality and renders both her and Conrad unable to speak.

“What are you talking about? You confessed to shooting Philip,” Conrad finally manages.

Dread fills Molly. She doesn’t know whether to backtrack or to come clean in full. 

“You shot Philip,” he presses.

“I didn’t.” The words come out as a croak. “I didn’t shoot him."

“Then who the hell did?"

She hesitates. She can’t do this to Paula. But her conversations with Conrad are protected by attorney-client privilege...

“Molly,” he says. “What is going on? I’m your attorney. If there’s something I need to know -- I can still call the judge--"

“You can’t do that!"

“Why not? If you didn’t shoot him--"

“Because my mother did!"

The outburst shocks Conrad into complete stillness. His only movement is the slight working of his jaw as he attempts to find some kind of words to follow up on what Molly just told him.

“She passed out right after she did it,” she says. “I wiped her prints off the gun and then held it so mine would be on it."

“Molly, that’s insane. Why would you do that?"

“Because I didn’t want her to go through all of this! Especially not after what she had to deal with — Ryan dying, and then Dad being killed. All because of me."

“You didn’t make Philip kill anyone."

“No, but I invited him into our lives. I was supposed to know him better than anyone, and I had no idea what he was capable of. I let this happen."

Conrad covers his face with his hands for a long moment as he processes this news. 

“Your mother would’ve had an even easier chance of being acquitted than you,” he says.

“Except it wasn’t self-defense."

“Excuse me?"

“I mean, it was, broadly speaking, but… once we got the gun away from Philip, the threat was… minimized. But she picked up the gun and shot him anyway. It was like she was in a trance--"

“She had just found out that her husband was dead and was facing the man who’d killed him."

“Which they would’ve called vigilante justice,” Molly says. “I couldn’t let her go through all of that. All of this. And then it just snowballed."

“How could you not have told me about this?"

“Because the point was to close ranks. The fewer people who knew, the better."

“It’s lucky for you that the security footage--” He stops himself mid-thought as another overrides it. “How did you get rid of it?"

“We didn’t. That was a stroke of luck.” She decides to bite her tongue about the blackmail; she still isn’t sure if she needs him knowing that there is, or was, footage of the real shooting out there somewhere. 

Conrad shakes his head in disbelief. “Who knows about this? You, your mother, and Sarah? Is that it?"

“My mother doesn’t know. She really doesn’t remember what happened. She never would’ve let me go to trial if she did, believe me."

He mulls all this over for several seconds, and then, in a move so sudden that it startles Molly, slaps his hand down on the arm of the chair. “Damn it, Molly. The fact that you kept this from me--"

“Would it have changed anything?"

“Yes!” But before he can answer, his phone cuts into the conversation with a sharp, insistent ring. He reaches into his blazer and pulls it out. Molly notes the concern on his face as he looks at the screen before answering.

“Conrad Halston,” he says. 

She watches his expression carefully as he listens.

“Yes. All right. Thank you for letting me know. I will, yes. Thanks."

He hangs up, and instinctively Molly knows what this is about.

Conrad clutches his phone in his hand as he looks at her. “The jury has reached a verdict."


Sarah’s mind races as she watches her mother, eyes wide and mouth agape.

“You’re imagining things,” Sarah says. “You bumped your head. I’ll get you some ice."

“No, I’m remembering."

“You don’t remember things you’d blocked out by hitting your head."

Paula continues to touch the quickly rising bump on her head as she insists, “I was so close to remembering. There were times I felt like it was right there, like I could almost see what happened on that balcony. And now I know. I shot Philip."

“You’re talking crazy."

“I have to go talk to the judge. They’ll have to drop the charges against Molly."

Paula moves to exit the shed, but Sarah blocks the doorway. “And they’ll charge you."
  Paula Fisher

“So I did do it."

Sarah draws a deep breath. Every second that ticks by without this being resolved feels excruciating. 

“Molly wanted to protect you,” she says. “So did I. Nothing would’ve been gained by telling them you did it--"

“And now my daughter might go to jail!"

Sarah feels her phone vibrate in the pocket of her jeans. She reaches for it, entirely ready to ignore whatever it is, until she sees Molly’s name on the screen.

“What is it?” Paula asks.

Sarah quickly reads the text message and then looks at her mother. “The jury has a verdict."

“Then we have to go! I have to tell them what really happened before it’s too late!"

“No!” In one swift move, Sarah shoves her mother backward, just enough to give herself some room to maneuver. Quickly she pivots out the door and slams it shut.

“Sarah! What are you doing?"

“Saving you from yourself,” Sarah calls through the door as she clicks the padlock into place. 

Paula bangs on the door. “Let me out of here!” her muffled voice demands.

“I can’t do that, Mom. I’m sorry.” 

Sarah stands there in the cold, her head a jumble of thoughts, and then pulls out her phone again. She hurriedly scrolls through her recent calls until she finds the right number.

“Hey,” she says when the recipient picks up. “I need a huge favor."


Who is Sarah calling for help?
Will Paula get to the courthouse in time?
Can Molly trust Conrad with the truth?
Discuss it all in the Footprints Forum!



Tuesday, December 20, 2016

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