Picket Fences

Late at night, Payton secretly listens to his mother’s therapy sessions. During one session, she reveals her past in college with her friends, Connie and Sarah. The three of them had attempted to pledge a sorority together, but were rejected. So they started their own group and became each other’s support system. The therapist comments that it must have been nice not to be alone, and Angela agrees. She then explains that Connie met Derick Lighten, a gay man from a wealthy, conservative family. To provide cover for him, Connie became Derick’s fake girlfriend, also known as a beard. In exchange, Derick gave Connie and her friends anything they wanted, including trips. Eventually, Derick came out to the world and found his tribe. However, he and his friends still needed cover from their families. That’s when Connie asked Sarah and Angela to play the role of love interests for some of the boys. They were paid well for these “services.”

Angela sat back down on the chocolate-colored sofa and began telling her therapist about a disturbing incident from her past. She revealed that her friend Connie had turned this into a sort of business to pay her way through college. One night, Connie, Angela, and Sarah attended a party on campus, but for Connie, it was just another job. She had to work for the party with Derick.

A few hours into the party, Derick rushed over to Connie and whispered something in her ear. Connie’s face changed, making Angela incredibly uneasy, and she said they needed to follow him. They rushed to a room where they found a guy lying on the floor. Angela recognized him as Henry, one of the school coaches’ sons. Derick had given him too much of something, and he had overdosed. 

Derick was panicking and on the phone with his father, Connie by his side, while Sarah tried to wake Henry up. Angela was trying to help Sarah and pleading with Connie to dial for help. Meanwhile, Connie was on the phone with Derick’s father, saying, “We’ll take care of it. You just come get Derick.” 

Angela demanded that Connie give her the phone, but then Sarah confirmed her worst fear: “He’s gone.” Derick was useless in the corner, and Connie suggested they couldn’t take Henry through the house. She looked at the balcony and said, “He’s already dead.” Angela was frozen. She couldn’t believe what had happened.

Payton takes off the headphones, needing a break from his mother’s story. But Payton isn’t the only one needing a break.

Hank is in front of the bathroom mirror, tending to his wounds from his fight with Sydney. Madalyn walks into the ballroom and addresses him. “What was that downstairs? You can’t fight your son, especially after what he’s been through!” she chides him. Hank turns around, looking bewildered. “Are you joking? Did you not see what happened? He attacked me, Madalyn,” Hank proclaims.

Madalyn responds, “But you provoked him, and you’re the adult. Maybe you shouldn’t have raised your voice. He has trauma and you probably triggered something.” She tries to make Hank understand.

“’Probably triggered something’? And what would that be? This boy hasn’t told us anything about what happened to him, and now I have to walk on eggshells to not be attacked in my own home,” Hank says in frustration. He walks out of the bathroom and through the bedroom. Madalyn is lost for words.

Feeling emotionally tired, Madalyn sits down on the bed. Sydney enters the room after seeing Hank leave. “It’s all my fault,” he says, knowing how to pull her heartstrings.

“No, no. It’s not your fault. We all have to adjust. I love you, and we’ll get through this together. I think we should see a doctor, someone you can talk to and process. I think it helps,” Madalyn says. Sydney hugs her and says, “I’ll do anything. Just don’t leave me.” Hank looks into the bedroom, catching the moment between the two, and can’t shake the feeling of being an outsider – an unwelcome presence to at least one of them.