- Part 3
- They stopped, over Rachel's objections,
at a fast food franchise, then Rachel drove them all back to
Portland and the Regency Hotel. The desk clerk seemed pleased
that they had suitcases this time, but he still looked at bit
askance at Ruffie, even with a new collar and leash.
- In the room, Harry called the landlord
of his apartment, and told him that he would be moving out the
next day, and agreed to pay out the month's rent. Then, he called
the airlines and made a reservation for four to sunny Florida.
"We're really going?" Lauren asked, her eyes shining
up at him.
- "We're really going,"
Harry told her. "So if I were you, I'd start making that
list of things you want to stock up on." She went to the
small table and pulled out the notepad and pen, writing furiously.
- Graham was looking uncertainly at
Harry. "What's wrong?"
- "I heard someone at your office
talking about your going back to work there," Graham told
him. "Are you going to?"
- "They want me to," Harry
told him honestly. "They've offered me a desk job, and they've
given me a month to decide." He could sense Graham's uncertainty.
- Whatever is decided, it will be
all of our decision, Graham. What's best for us." He ruffled
the boy's dark hair. "Now why don't you go help your sister
with her list?"
- "All right, Harry."
- Rachel came into the room after
putting up the children's clothes, pausing by the table. "What
are you two up to now?"
- "We're making a list of things
to take on the fishing boat," Graham told her.
- "Oh." She looked at some
of the items. "Sounds yummy to me." She smiled at Harry.
"It's time for a bath, Lauren."
- "Can't I finish my list first?"
- "You can finish it tomorrow,"
Rachel told her. "Let's go."
- Harry picked up the newspaper that
had been delivered earlier, and put on his reading glasses. There
were still two pages of articles about the Dante's Peak eruption,
and the allegation that the USGS hadn't moved quickly enough
to insure the safety of the town's residents was prominent. He
felt someone reading over his shoulder, and looked up to find
Graham there. He turned the pages to the comics. "Let's
read the funnies together," he suggested, patting the seat
Graham's face was tight as he came around. "They're not
going to stop, are they?"
- "Oh, they will. I'll wager
that once we're in Florida, we won't hear another word about
it. Now, which one of these is your favorite?" he asked,
looking at the comics.
- When Rachel and Lauren returned,
the little girl was wearing a brand new nightgown, and she climbed
into Harry's lap without asking if he minded as her mother said,
"Your turn, Graham. Hit the shower."
- "But Mom-"
- "Do as your mother says, Graham,"
Harry told him.
- "Yes sir." He slid from
the couch and went into the other room.
- "Lauren, Harry might not want
you sitting in his lap-"
- "I don't mind," Harry
assured her. "Graham and I were just looking at the comics,"
he told her. "Which one is your favorite?"
- She pointed to one. "This one."
- "Excellent choice," he
said, watching as Rachel took the paper that Stan had given her
from her pocket and put her hand on the telephone. "Why
don't we go into the other room," he suggested, "And
give your mother some privacy for her telephone call?" He
put the paper under his injured arm, then stood, holding onto
Lauren with the other. "I might even be able to find a story
to tell you before bedtime."
- "Really?" Lauren asked.
"Mom used to read to me before bed, but she's been so busy-"
- "Well, that's going to change,"
he told her, seeing Rachel's grateful smile as he closed the
- Rachel dialed the number slowly.
"Hello? Is Jane Fox there? It's- Rachel Wando-"
- A moment later, Jane's voice came
on the line. "Rachel?"
- She sat down as her legs began to
shake. Of everyone in Dante's Peak, Jane had been her only real
friend and confidante, the only one Rachel had felt able to talk
to during those horrible years after the divorce and Brian's
desertion. "Jane. I just got your message this afternoon.
Are you all right?"
- "I should be asking YOU that.
I saw the TV reports- I can't tell you how glad I was when I
heard that you and the children were alive."
- "How many got out?"
- Jane fell silent, and for a moment,
Rachel thought the connection had gone. "We lost about twenty,
as far as anyone can tell. Les and Elliot were killed in the
helicopter when they paid Steve tried to fly them out."
- Rachel remembered seeing that helicopter,
watching as it bounced over the truck she and Harry were in before
crashing in a ball of flames. "Who else?"
- "Mr. Cluster didn't make it.
He tried to drive through the river when the bridge became impassable-
It was a nightmare, Rachel. Everyone trying to get across that
bridge at the same time- How's Ruth?"
- Rachel felt tears in her eyes. "She
didn't make it either."
- Jane seemed to understand. "Here
I am going on about what a nightmare I went through, and it couldn't
possibly be near what you put up with."
- "Where is everyone? Is there
a shelter- or-"
- "Most of them went to hotels
or family. I'm with my sister in Vancouver. You remember Judy,
- "Yes. Jane, do you know who
told the press that the USGS was negligent in not ordering an
- She sighed into the phone. "Mary
- "But she went along with Les
- "Well, now she's saying there
should have been an alert. She's blaming Dr. Dreyfus for talking
us out of it."
- "It wasn't Paul's fault. Jane,
I'm going out of town for awhile-"
- "Then go. Rachel, you have
to stop feeling responsible for the town. There's NOT a town
anymore, for goodness sake. Cut loose, take care of yourself,
those kids-and Harry too. And let him take care of you. I think
you've found a keeper there." Rachel smiled as the door
opened and Harry came into the room. "I think so, too, Jane.
- "No buts, Rachel Wando."
Harry sat beside her, his good arm around her shoulders. "You've
paid your dues, honey. Been to hell and barely got back alive.
The future's yours to do what you want. Keep in touch, okay?"
- "I will."
- "And give the kids- and Harry,
- Rachel hung up the telephone, resting
her head against Harry's shoulder. "She sent her regards."
- "How is she?"
- "She sounds fine. Les Worrell
and Elliot Blair were in that helicopter."
- "I'm sorry, Rachel," he
said quietly. "I know they were friends-"
- "I'd known Les for years. We
ran against each other in the last election. Elliot- he was a
newcomer. Someone Les introduced to the Council in hopes he would
help the town." She fidgeted with a button on his shirt.
"Jane thinks you're a 'keeper'," she told him softly.
- Harry grinned. "And what do
- Rachel lifted her face to look at
him. "I think that I can't imagine what my life would be
like if I hadn't met you." She raised up to kiss him. "Is
- "I told them we would be in
to say goodnight after you finished your call."
- Ruffie was on Graham's bed, and
as Harry sat down, Graham asked, "How did you know that
we'd be alright in that old mine, Harry?"
- "In my experience, the back
of a mine is usually the sturdiest part. I took a cursory look
at the walls, and I noticed that there wasn't any sign of rocks
having fallen in there. So I knew it was probably pretty safe.
The tunnel, however, was a different story. My biggest worry
as that your air supply would run out before they found you."
- "That's what Graham was worried
about with you," Rachel told him. "After the quakes
subsided enough, he convinced me to let him go out and start
trying to dig through the rocks in the tunnel- slowly, trying
to reach you."
- "That could have been very
dangerous," Harry told him. "As unstable as that tunnel
- "Once the quakes stopped, nothing
else collapsed. I called you a few times, but you never answered.
I was afraid that-"
- Harry pulled the boy to him. "Couldn't
happen, Graham. I wouldn't let it. I heard you calling, but I
thought I was imagining it." Releasing him, Harry fixed
- "Now, time to get some sleep
and dream about all those big, fat fish we're going to catch."
- Rachel gave Graham a good night
kiss, then did the same for Lauren. Lauren held her arms up to
Harry, so he bent to give her a kiss as well. "I love you,
Harry," she told him.
- "And I love you too, Lauren.
- "Shall I leave the light on?"
- "I'll turn it off," Graham
- Alone in their room, Rachel felt
suddenly as nervous as she had that night in her kitchen. She
knew it was silly, after all, they'd taken a bath in the same
tub last night, but there was a difference tonight. As she turned
down out the lights, she heard the sound of a sliding door, and
looked up to see Harry standing in the doorway to the balcony.
"Let's go out here for a few minutes, shall we? Give them
a chance to get to sleep."
- He put his arm around her and they
went to the wrought iron railing. "Rachel, I wasn't going
to ask you this until we spent some time Florida, got to know
each other a little better-" he wasn't looking at her. He
was looking the city lights, the skyline, anything except her.
"But I don't know that I want to wait-"
- Rachel craned her neck a bit to
look at his face. "What are you trying to say, Harry?"
- "I told you once that I've
always been better at figuring out volcanoes than people. And
I know that we've only known each other for a week and a half-
but- What do you say to turning this trip to Florida into a honeymoon?"
- "A honeymoon?" She repeated.
"Harry- are you asking me to marry you?"
- "That usually preceeds a honeymoon,
- "Harry, look at me." When
he finally did, she smiled at him. "Why are you asking me
to marry you? Out of some overblown sense of responsibility to
me and the children?"
- "No more than you would say
yes out of gratitude," he said gently. "Rachel, I don't
want to ever leave you- it has nothing to do with the children.
It's you and I that matter at this particular moment. I was impressed
by you the moment I saw you on that podium talking about your
town. You cared. And the more time I spent with you, the more
I came to realize that it wasn't only the town that mattered
to you. When they dug me out, the first thing I told them was
that you and the children were farther back in the mine, that
they had to get you out. Because if they hadn't, I wouldn't have
cared if the next volcano took me to the pits of hell."
- There were tears in her eyes. "Oh,
- "Words- certain words don't
come easily to me, Rachel. But I'm going to say something to
you that I haven't told another woman in- a very long time."
He looked into her eyes. " I love you."
- "And I love you," she
told him. "But you have to be sure, Harry. You're not just
getting me, remember. You'd be taking on a ready made family-"
- "I haven't done too badly so
far, have I?"
- "No. But-"
- "If I didn't know better, Rachel,
I'd think you were trying to put up roadblocks-"
- Rachel rested her forehead against
his shirt. "It's just that- I've been through one bad marriage,
Harry. I don't want to make that mistake again. I don't want
to put the children through that."
- "Was it that bad?"
- She nodded. "Worse. Brian and
I would argue, then not talk for a days, then argue again. He'd
disappear for days, never tell us where he went. When Graham
was five, he wanted Brian to go to some father and son thing
in kindergarten with him - but Brian had something else to do,
as usual. Poor Graham was devastated. He was the only boy in
class whose father wasn't there."
- Harry lifted her face so he could
see her. "I'll always be there for you, Rachel, and for
your children. Even if you refuse my proposal, I'll still try
to be as big a part of their lives as I can. Graham needs a strong
male influence, I've noticed. Someone to keep him in line."
- "I certainly haven't had much
luck with that," she admitted. "Lauren doesn't really
remember Brian. She was only two when he left, and he spent less
time with her than he did with Graham."
- "Wasn't cut out for a family,
- "He blamed me for having them,
said they tied him down too much- "
- "I think Ruth was right. Brian
was a fool to have ever left you and the kids- and if you'll
let me, Rachel, I'll try every day to make the rest of your life
so much better."
- "Why don't we just go to Florida,
see how things go? I mean, a few days with the kids may be one
thing, but constant exposure-"
- "Rachel, I think the last few
days has been pretty constant, don't you?"
- "But we're all still in a state
of shock from what happened, Harry. I'm not saying no. I'm just
asking for a little time."
- Harry rested his head on the top
of hers. "All right. If that's what you want, Rachel, we'll
wait." He took a deep breath. "I think I'll go back
to my apartment for the night-"
- "Because there's no way I can
spent a night alone with you and not-"
- "You were willing to before-"
She slid her arms around his neck. "Besides, what if Lauren
wakes up during the night and wants to see you?"
- "That's unfair, using Lauren
- "Well, if that's the only way
I can convince you to stay-"
- Harry's lips came down on hers,
caressing, cajoling, teasing. When he lifted his head, his eyes
were a deep blue, and Rachel smiled up at him. "Oh, Harry.
- He looked at her for a long moment,
his arm tightly around her. "I don't think I could even
if I wanted to, Rachel," he whispered, leading her back
into the room, toward the bed. Rachel had pulled the covers back
earlier, and now, Harry and Rachel laid on the bed, his arm around
her, her head on his shoulder as she slowly worked the buttons
of his shirt loose. Her fingers on his heated skin caused him
to draw a ragged breath, and when her hand moved to his belt,
she smiled at him.
- "Oh, Rachel," he sighed,
bringing his right hand to the buttons of her blouse, wanting
to feel her skin against his. As he freed the last button, and
was about to place a shaking hand on her lace covered breast,
the connecting door opened and Lauren ran into the darkened room
to climb between them.
- Rachel sighed, meeting Harry's eyes.
She saw her own frustration mirrored there as he pulled Lauren
against him, trying to stop her shaking. "There, there,
sweetheart. What's wrong?"
- "I had a bad dream. About the
- "Ssh, ssh. It's all right,
honey," he whispered, rocking her gently. "Just go
back to sleep. We're right here. Nothing's going to hurt you."
He watched as Rachel got up and found a night gown before going
to the bathroom to change. Harry rubbed slow circles on Lauren's
back to calm her down, and finally she slept. Rachel came out,
wearing an oversized tee-shirt, and said, "I'll carry her
back to her bed," she told him.
- Harry shook his head. "I'll
- "You can't," she told
him. "Your arm-"
- He drew the girl against him, using
his cast to keep her head on his shoulder as he slowly sat up.
Rachel saw his grimace of pain as the movement against his injured
arm was painful, but she said nothing. He rose to his feet and
took the sleeping child back to her bed, and Rachel was tucking
her in as Graham stirred. "What-?"
- "Your sister had a nightmare,"
Harry whispered. "Go back to sleep." He was holding
is left arm. "Good night."
- "'Night," Graham mumbled,
already half asleep again.
- To Be Continued...
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