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- Diane suggested to Alex that he and Trevor adopt Yvette’s soon-to-be-born baby.
- Spencer demanded that Natalie submit baby Peter to another paternity test, this time on his terms.
- Claire and Brent decided that it’s time to come out about their relationship.

Anxious energy courses through Alex Marshall’s veins as he turns the key in the front door of his house. He pushes it open and finds the weathered hardwood floors bathed in the dusk’s light, coming through the large living room window. 

“Alex?” comes a voice from the kitchen. 

“Never heard of him!"

“Yeah, he’s the worst,” Trevor Brooks says as he emerges from the kitchen. He holds a glass of white wine in his hand and is still dressed in his black slacks and slim-fitting sweater with tiny white polka dots on it. Per usual, Alex takes a moment to appreciate how damn well the sweater -- and most clothing items -- fit Trevor.

They share a quick peck on the lips.

“How was your day?” Alex asks.

“Thankfully very normal. How about you? Wine?"

“Yeah. I could use it.” Alex follows Trevor into the small kitchen, with its black-and-white checkered floor. Trevor opens the refrigerator and pours Alex a glass of the sauvignon blanc.

“Rough day?” Trevor asks as he hands Alex the glass. 

“No. Nothing bad.” He takes a heavy slug of the wine. “I met up with Diane this morning, though."

“You make that sound ominous…"

“Not at all. But there is something I want to talk to you about."


Now Alex leads the way over to the kitchen table, where he pulls out a chair and motions for Trevor to do the same.

Trevor sits tentatively. “You sure everything’s okay?”

“Everything’s fine. Sorry, this is just kind of… big.” Alex takes another sip of wine and then places the stemless glass down on the tabletop. 

“There’s something I’m thinking about,” he says. “Something we’ve talked about, in kind of broad terms. Something we both want…"

“Are you asking me to have a threesome? And do I even want to know what Diane has to do with this?"

Alex lets out a much-needed laugh. “No! Totally wrong ballpark. I promise."

“Then keep talking.” 

“It’s about… starting a family.” Alex pauses and watches this information register on Trevor’s face; both eyebrows lift, and his mouth forms a wordless O. “Adopting a child, specifically."

“Okay…” Trevor nods as he processes this. “I mean, we haven’t really talked about the how part."

“Yeah. So maybe this is the time--"

“Do you want to get the ball rolling? Is that what this is about? You don’t have to be so nervous to talk to me about it,” Trevor says. “It kinda makes sense. We know it could take forever, so maybe if we get things moving, get our names on lists, whatever you have to do…"

“It isn’t just that,” Alex says. “There’s a baby. Or there will be, soon."


Tempest’s mother is pregnant. She’s due in a few weeks. And she’s decided to give the baby up for adoption. Diane’s the one who told me about it -- because, well, she thinks it might be the perfect opportunity for us to cut through a ton of red tape."

“Are you saying…"

Alex gulps. “That we should adopt Yvette’s baby. What do you think of that?"

KB Memorial Hospital

“And, of course, everything is one hundred percent confidential,” the doctor concludes as he folds his hands in front of him. 

“I’d assume so,” Spencer Ragan says from across the desk. “But thanks."

They sit in a small office on the fourth floor of King’s Bay Memorial Hospital, the impending sunrise visible through the slats of the cheap blinds on the single window behind the doctor. 

“I understand this can be a stressful experience,” Dr. Liu continues, “so if you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch."

Spencer begins to rise from his chair. “Like I said, I had a bad experience at an independent lab, so I thought coming to the hospital might be smart this time."

The doctor offers a respectful nod. “I promise that we maintain the highest standards with regards to security of our samples. If you choose to bring a swab or a lock of hair from home -- I can have the front desk give you information--"

“I’d really feel more comfortable having a sample taken from the baby by your staff,” Spencer says. “I’ll make sure he’s brought in."

“Okay.” Dr. Liu appears to hesitate, then says, “You can’t force anyone to comply with a paternity test without a court order."

“I have no doubt that the mother will be more than willing to comply.” Spencer moves for the door. “Thanks again, Doctor."

He passes briskly through the lobby, assuring the receptionist at the front desk that he’ll call to make an appointment very soon. Truth be told, this consultation was absolutely extraneous; he only wanted to show his face -- and seem a little neurotic -- before making an appointment so that he would have the upper hand and be memorable himself in the event that Natalie attempts to pull a fast one like she did with the first test. 

He presses the down button beside the elevator and is waiting when his phone lights up, sending its vibrations up his arm. He looks down and sees the names “Bill & Paula Fisher” on the screen. A complicated brew of emotions surges through him at the sight. He hardly knew his biological grandfather, aside from a handful of pleasant interactions, and sometimes it still feels like a bizarre dream to think that Philip murdered Bill. He doesn’t see the contact info enough to have felt motivated to edit it to contain only Paula's name, and now the instinct hits him, but the strong hand of guilt pulls him back. It seems disrespectful, even though the man has been dead for over a year. 

The phone continues to buzz until it goes to voicemail. When the elevator doors part, Spencer steps inside. The only other passenger is a woman with oversized glasses; she looks old enough that the glasses are unlikely to be a hipster accessory. They ride down in silence, and just as the elevator is settling on the ground floor, Spencer’s phone vibrates again in his hand. 

He contemplates whether to listen to the voicemail as he steps off the elevator. He isn’t interested in any more of the Fishers’ pleas for unity, not after what Tim and Claire did. But he also knows that his grandmother has been going through a difficult time -- he saw something online about her being sentenced today for shooting Philip -- and his curiosity gets the best of him. He stops by the reception desk to listen.

“Spencer, hello,” Paula’s police voice says. “This is your-- it’s Paula Fisher. I know-- well, I wanted to let you know that I’m holding a dinner for the family -- the entire family -- this Saturday, and I’d be thrilled if you could make it. I’m not going to be able to go out for the foreseeable future, and I thought having everyone over would help ease the transition a bit."

Did she get jail time? he wonders, eager to check the news on his phone as soon as the voicemail finishes playing. Paula rattles off some specifics about the dinner, but even as he listens to her and then pulls up the news that she has been sentenced to a year of house arrest, he isn’t sure how he feels about attending this dinner.


Even before Jason Fisher opens the front door of his house, he can hear the activity of family life from within. A shout from one of the girls rips through the air; the television in the family room plays at what seems to be the default volume for kids, a little too loud for any adult to hear him- or herself think clearly.

He slips off his shoes in the foyer and walks past the family room, where Sophie sits in front of the TV with an iPad on her lap.

“Hey, kiddo,” he says. “Does the TV need to be so loud?"

She turns over her shoulder and shrugs. Jason ducks into the room, gives her a kiss on the cheek, and uses the remote control to return things to a sensible volume. 

“How was school?” he asks.

“Good. Kind of boring."
  Jason Fisher

“Hey there,” Natalie Bishop says as she strolls into the room, carrying baby Peter in a pale blue onesie. He rests comfortably on her forearm and scans his surroundings with big, wide eyes as they walk. 

“There’s my little man!” Jason says as he holds out his arms to take the infant. Peter immediately starts grabbing at his father’s hair and nose.

“How are things around here?” he asks Natalie.

“Good. Sophie says her homework’s all done. Bree’s upstairs finishing hers. Dinner should be ready in a few -- I decided it was the right night for Taco Night."

“Taco Night sounds amazing,” Jason says. 

Natalie leans in to whisper, “How was court?"

“Fine. About what we expected. My mom seems like she’s taking everything in stride. Dinner Saturday will be nice for her."

Suddenly Sophie looks up. “What does home confinement mean?"

The two adults gaze down at her in surprise for a moment.

“Why are you asking that?” Jason finally ventures.

Sophie holds up the iPad. “The news says Grandma has to go on home confinement for one whole year because she killed Philip."

Natalie swoops down and snatches the tablet out of the little girl’s hand. 

“What did we talk about? How you shouldn’t be reading the news on there?” Jason asks, doing his best to keep his tone concerned but not angry. 

“But you all went to court today,” Sophie counters.

Jason understands the impossibility of insulating his daughter from the real world, especially when the news pertains so directly to their family, but he still hates that she has to be privy to all of this. Then again, nothing about this situation feels realistic anyway. 

“Your grandma is going to be fine,” he says. “Think of it like… she’s been put on time-out. But you can go see her whenever you want."

“So she isn’t going to jail?"

“No. No jail. And I don’t want you worrying about this anymore, okay? We’re going to Grandma’s for dinner on Saturday. Everything will be just the way you remember it."

“Soph, why don’t you go wash your hands for dinner, and you can set the table tonight?” Natalie says.

“It’s Bree’s turn!"

“Bree is finishing her homework. She can do the next two nights. Okay? Now get moving."

Sophie lets out a loud, strangely adult huff and then walks with balled fists toward the downstairs bathroom. 

“I didn’t realize she had the iPad,” Natalie says. “Sorry. I know you want to protect her from seeing all this stuff."

“It’s going to happen.” He shrugs one shoulder as he bounces Peter on his arm. “And I can’t keep her from hearing about what’s going on. I just wish none of this were an issue."

Natalie runs her hand up and down his arm. “The worst of it is over. And we’re all going to be fine."

Jason looks into his son’s beaming face, all innocence and joy. He never would have predicted that they would form this little family unit so quickly, but here they are, two adults and three kids, finding their way one day at a time. 

“Yeah,” he says. “We will."


The hospital cafeteria has always felt to Claire Fisher like a place that exists outside reality. The rest of the hospital has such a sense of urgency racing through it, as if no amount of time could ever be enough -- and yet, in the cafeteria that sits just off the main lobby, everyone moves slowly, gathering and eating their food as if they’ve been sentenced to spend the rest of eternity in here. Between the employees on break and the loved ones waiting for procedures to end and proclamations to be made, there is the overriding sense that the clock’s ticking has slowed to a crawl, even when it is relatively busy, as it is during today’s dinner hour.

Claire sits at the end of a long table, on a bench across from Brent Taylor. Each of them picks at a turkey burger and a small green salad.

“I just hope she’s being honest with me -- and with herself,” Claire is in the midst of saying. “I think she’s so eager to put a bow on things with Yvette that she might be, I don’t know, suppressing some of the more complicated parts of her reaction."

Brent finishes chewing a bite of his burger before responding, “All you can do is be there for her, I guess. And it does sound like this is the best decision for that kid."

“One hundred percent.” Claire sticks her plastic fork into the salad and manages to spear a cherry tomato. “Thanks for coming to meet me, by the way. Sorry I couldn’t offer a more glamorous dinner option."

“It’s just nice to spend time with you. And I’ve gotta say, the cafeteria has stepped up its game a little bit. This turkey burger isn’t half-bad. But how about we go out for a nice dinner Saturday night?"

An enthusiastic reply is halfway out of Claire’s mouth before her brain puts a stop to it. 

“Actually, I have a thing Saturday night,” she says. “Paula’s having a dinner at the house for the whole family. I think she wants to get everyone together and start this sentence off feeling like she’s surrounded by people who love and support her."
  Claire Fisher

“That makes sense to me. It’ll be good for you to be there."

“Yeah,” Claire says, nodding thoughtfully. “Once this dinner party is over… I think we should tell her. And Tim. And the kids."

He only has to consider that for a split-second. “You’re right. It’s beyond time. And considering everything else that’s gone on lately, maybe it won’t seem like such a big deal."

“That’s what I’m hoping.” 

He sees her spirit sinking and reaches across the table to take her hand. “Hey. Listen. We’re going to work this out. We aren’t doing anything wrong. And the good thing is that it isn’t like we’re having some fling -- this is a real thing now. We took the time to figure that out before we put it in everyone’s faces. It’ll be fine."

“I hope so,” she says. She forces a brave smile.

“It will be.” Brent stands and slides around to her side of the bench to kiss her, and then he wraps an arm around her. 

At the entrance to the cafeteria, Spencer pauses, cell phone still in hand, as he watches his biological mother and Brent kiss and cuddle into one another.

That’s a thing now? he wonders, thrown for a loop. He backs out of the cafeteria, having forgotten all about the snack he was going to grab, and heads for the hospital’s exit. 


Trevor sits back slowly, his hand lingering around his wine glass as Alex’s statement and question absorb into his consciousness. 

“A few weeks?” he finally asks. 

“Yeah.” Alex nods slowly, as if to underscore the fact that this is a crazy proposition. “I know it’s fast--"

“It’s not just that it’s fast,” Trevor says. “There’s so much to do before you bring a baby home. And so much to learn. We barely know anything."

“That isn’t true. I’ve been really involved with Sophie and Billy. You have a niece."

“Neither of us have ever dealt with a newborn. Not really.” 

“We’ll learn. Everyone has to learn."

“Not on, like, two weeks’ notice!"
  Trevor Brooks

Alex stifles his response. He knows that Trevor has a valid point. They aren’t prepared for this. But they could be. Everyone has to start somewhere. 

“I just think,” he says, “that this could be… the universe’s way of putting a solution in front of us."

“A solution to what?"

“To what is going to be difficult for us, whether it’s now or in a few years. We aren’t just going to be like, ‘Oops, we’re pregnant,’ and have nine months to get things in order.” 

“So we can plan. We both make a good living,” Trevor says. “We can work this out. But we have careers. We have a wedding to plan--"

“The wedding could wait,” Alex interjects. “Or it could be super-small."

“Now this baby we have no attachment to overrides our wedding? Do you know how long I’ve waited to marry you?"

Alex lets out a heavy sigh. “I didn’t say that. I just mean, if it’s all too much--"

“It doesn’t have to be too much.” Trevor pushes away his wine. “I don’t think it’s a good idea. And you keep trying to railroad me into it."

“I do not."

Trevor stands from his chair. “All you’re doing is arguing with me.”

“I’m not arguing,” Alex says. “I just think it’s something we should strongly consider."

“And I don’t.” Trevor grabs his keys from the counter. “I’m going out for a little."

“Where? And you’ve been drinking."

“I’ve had half a glass of wine. But I’ll walk, if it’s that big a deal. I just need some air."


“I’ll see you later,” Trevor says, and in a blur, the front door is opening and then closing behind him.

Alex leans against the molding of the doorway that connects the kitchen and dining room. He knew this was going to be a difficult conversation, but he didn’t think that it would turn out this way. Worst of all, he has no idea what he is supposed to do now.  


Will Trevor change his mind about the adoption?
What will Spencer do with his newfound knowledge?
Will Paula’s dinner be a happy gathering?
Discuss it all in the Footprints Forum now!



Tuesday, March 07, 2017

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