Dante's Peak 2
Part 6

Back at the house, Harry sent the children to their rooms to put on their swimsuits while he sat on the deck, telephone in hand, talking to Dr. Richards. "Yes, we just got back- Are you certain you want to? . . . Very well. I'll cancel the other boat-What's that? . . ." He smiled. "Really? Can he meet us there at ten tomorrow morning? . . All right. Thank you. What? . . . I will." Rachel looked at him as Lauren and Graham came from the house.
"What did he say?"
"He knows a fishing guide who'll show us where the biggest, fattest fish are," Harry told them, smiling at the kids. "He'll meet us tomorrow morning at the boat."
"Yeah!" Graham said.
Rachel shook her head. "You two go on down to the beach," she said.
"Aren't you coming?" Graham asked.
"In a few minutes," she told him. "Just keep an eye on your sister."
"Don't I always?" he asked her, taking Lauren's hand as they moved toward the stairs.
"Don't go out very far," Harry reminded them. "The undertow can drag someone under before anyone realizes it."
"We'll be careful. Come on, Lauren. Ruffie!" The dog barked and ran ahead of them down the stairs.
Harry sat forward to watch as they neared the water. Rachel touched his hand to get his attention. "What happened this afternoon that made you decide to come back for us instead of going out to the boat with Dr. Richards?"
He took her hand in his. "I don't know. Dr. Richards and I were talking about what happened, about the two days I was in that truck alone, wondering if you and the kids were all right, and suddenly I -I felt that if I didn't get back here, to you and the kids, something would happen and I wouldn't be here to stop it. I started having trouble breathing, my palms got sweaty. Dr. Richards said it was an anxiety attack."
Rachel touched his face. "Oh, Harry."
"He was considering admitting me to the hospital, and then suggested that I call home, to make certain you were all okay. As soon as I heard your voice, and Lauren's, I was fine. When I realized that you were just as upset as I was, I decided that I couldn't stay away another hour." He closed his eyes for a second. "I didn't want to tell you about it-"
"Why not?" she asked.
"Because right now, you and the kids need me to be strong. And-"
"You've BEEN strong, Harry. A rock. I think it's time you admitted that you were just as much affected by what happened as the rest of us were and lean on us. That's part of being a family, Harry," she told him softly. "Knowing that you can lean on each other when you need to."
"I've never - There's never been anyone I could lean on, Rachel. I suppose I just never learned how."
Rachel could see the lonely, lost little boy he must have been upon his parents' deaths, and her heart ached for him. "Then it's time you learned," she said with a crooked smile. She gave him a kiss and then went to the nearby table. She picked up the notebook that Lauren and Graham had used for their list, and brought it to Harry along with a pen.
"What's this for?"
"You need to write a report for work- so write it. Include everything- how you felt, what was going through your mind during thosel two days- "
"I can't send that in-"
"You can edit it later. Right now, I think it's important for you to put those feelings down on paper, to get them out into the open." Another kiss, and she moved toward the house.
"Where are you going?"
"To start dinner," she said. "Write."
Harry took out his glasses and put them on. "I don't even know where to begin."
"How about four years ago?" She suggested, and when Harry looked up at her, she nodded, coming back to kneel beside his chair. "That's all part of what you're feeling now, Harry, whether you want to admit it or not. Start with Columbia- when you and Marianne were trying to get out."
Harry touched her cheek. "Have you ever thought about becoming a psychologist?"
"I think one doctor in the family is enough, don't you?" She put the pen into his hand. "Now start writing," she ordered gently, moving toward the house again.
He removed the glasses to take another look at the kids as they splashed in the water, and smiled as Lauren ran into the wave, then let it wash over her while Graham had found a stick for Ruffie to fetch. Columbia. The day had been hot- terribly hot, and he'd been out checking some readings when the volcano had blown. Flaming rocks the size of soccer balls had come screaming down onto the small village, creating a panic as the ash laden rain coated everything with a muddy sheen. He got back into the truck and wound his way through the village, hoping that Marianne and the others would be ready to get out when he got there. He was tired of this. All he wanted was to marry Marianne and settle down in a boring professorship teaching what he knew about volcanoes. Maybe after this, Marianne would be ready to do the same thing. The rain was coming down harder, the rocks were getting bigger, and Harry found it impossible to see the road, even with the windshield wipers on full. The Columbian soldier directing traffic recognized the vehicle and directed it toward homebase, and as he neared the building, Harry felt increasingly uncertain. They'd stayed too long already. Marianne was there, waiting for him, but no gear in hand. He got out of the truck, telling her they had to go. She hadn't wanted to, had pointed to the computer screen, to the readouts. She'd been so excited. This was her first real eruption, and she was enjoying it.
Harry started packing up, leaving her and the others no choice but to leave with him. The others, Juan, Chico, had gotten into the second vehicle, leaving Harry and Marianne alone in the pickup. He'd been going to tell her that this was it, that he was finished with volcanoes, but Marianne was too excited to listen. A huge slag of rock fell from the sky, hitting the front of the truck, bashing in half of the engine. Harry kept going, mostly by momentum, assuring the now frightened Marianne that they were going to make it.
Suddenly another rock fell, not much larger than Harry's fist, slicing through the roof of the truck above where Marianne sat. Harry turned to look at her. She was shaking, her eyes closed, blood pouring from her head. Harry pulled her to him, crying, realizing that she was gone, that the damned volcano had taken her from him just as surely as another had taken Charlie.

Harry sighed, blinking back the tears, and pulled off his glasses. He looked down at the beach, seeing Graham toss the stick into the surf and watching as Ruffie dove into the water to get it. Something wasn't right, he realized, standing up and moving to the railing. Where was Lauren?
Harry's heart seemed to stop beating as his eyes searched the beach. There was no sign of her. "Lauren!" he called, taking the stairs to the beach two at a time.
"Graham!" the boy turned as Harry caught up with him, grabbing his shoulders. "Where's your sister? You were supposed to be watching her-"
"I am," Graham assured him.
"Then where is she?"
He pointed to the shady area beneath the deck, and Harry felt his heart start to beat normally again as he saw her coming toward him. "Thank God. For a minute I -" He hugged Graham as he struggled to apologize and explain. "I'm sorry. I-"
Graham nodded. "I understand, Dad. She got tired, and I sent her up there to play in the sand, out of the sun. I guess I should have told you."
Lauren came up to them, smiling, taking Harry's hand. "Come and look at my sand castle, Daddy," she said, tugging on his arm.
Harry bent to let her put her arms around his neck, then picked her up, carrying to back to the shaded area.

Rachel watched the scene from the deck, having come out when she had heard Harry call Lauren's name in such panic. She stooped to pick up the notepad, and was tempted to read what Harry had written, but something told her that it should be Harry's decision for her to read it. To do so without his permission seemed like an invasion of his privacy. She closed the cover and put the book onto the chair as Harry, Lauren, Graham and Ruffie came up the stairs. "Hey, you guys. Time to get cleaned up for dinner."
When they were alone, Rachel asked Harry, "What happened? I heard you call Lauren's name."
"I took a break from writing," he said, looking around for the notebook. Finding it with the cover closed, in his chair, he picked it up. "When I looked out to where the children had been earlier, I saw Graham and Ruffie, but there was no sign of Lauren. I was afraid-"
She put her arms around him, holding him. "It's okay to admit it, Harry," she told him. "I probably would have been too, if I'd been out here." She gave him another hug, felt his shuddering sigh. "Let's go have some dinner, shall we? And then you have some more writing to do."

After dinner, Rachel started clearing the table, leaving Harry and the children to go the living room. She heard them talking about the fishing trip, about Lauren and Graham's list, and smiled. They were getting along so well. She was loading the dishwasher when she heard Graham say, "I did not," and then Lauren's voice.
"Did too."
Rachel sighed deeply. So much for getting along, and she started to wipe her hands to go and stop the arguement before it could escalate. But in the doorway, she heard Harry say, "Why don't you go and see if your mother needs some help, Graham?"
"She never -" Graham started to say, and Harry looked at him over the top of his glasses.
"Yes, sir," Graham said, getting up from the sofa.
Rachel went back to the sink and picked up a plate as Graham came into the kitchen. "Hello there. What's up?"
He shrugged. "Dad thought you might need some help in here," he said.
"You could hand me that pan on the stove," she told him. "Did I just hear you and Lauren arguing a second ago?"
"She was telling him about the time we went fishing at Mirror Lake and told him I'd pushed her in."
Rachel smiled, remembering the incident. Graham hadn't pushed her in, he'd been trying to help her land a fish. But from Lauren's point of view, it had seemed as though her brother had deliberately pushed her into the water. "Oh."
"Is Dad okay, Mom?"
Rachel looked up at him. "What do you mean?"
"He really freaked earlier when he didn't see Lauren on the beach."
"He'll be fine," she told him. "He's been having to be so strong for us, that it's taken some time for what happened to start affecting him. Right now, he needs as much love and support as he's given us the last few days."
"I figured it might be something like that." He gave her the last dish.
Rachel closed the door and turned on the machine, then wiped everything down. Putting her arm around her son's shoulders, she said, "Harry- Your dad needs to know that we're going to love him no matter what, Graham. He's not used to sharing his feelings with other people. So he's got all of the fear and worry from those two days all bottled up inside, and they're trying to work their way out."
"But he thinks if he lets us see that he's scared, we won't love him as much."
"That's right. Let's go out and join them."
The room was quiet, and as they entered the room, Rachel paused. Harry was sitting on the sofa, his arm around Lauren, and the girl was asleep, her head on his chest. "She's had a long day," he whispered.
"I'm not asleep," Lauren murmured.
"Well, you're close enough that I don't think it matters," Harry told her, bending down to give her a kiss. "Go with your mother. I'll be in to say goodnight in a few."
Graham watched them go, then watched as Harry got up to go outside onto the deck. He followed, leaning on the rail beside his step father. "Dad?"
"Were you scared? When we were in that boat on Mirror Lake?"
Harry put his arm around Graham. "I suppose I was. But I knew that I couldn't let the rest of you see how frightened I was. Why do you ask?"
"Just curious."
"You did something of the same thing yourself when you gave your sister that crystal," Harry reminded him. "Trying to keep her from becoming more afraid."
"I didn't push her into the lake," Graham said, wanting to set the record straight. "She had a huge fish on her line, and I was worried that it was going pull her in."
"It was that big?"
"Almost as big as Lauren," Graham insisted. "It almost took me in as well. She said she could do it by herself. I grabbed for the line just as she lost her footing and fell."
Harry tried not to laugh. "Did you land the fish?"
Graham's smile widened. "Nope. He got away."
Harry laughed softly. "You'd better get to bed. We've a busy day tomorrow."
"All right." He gave Harry a hug. "Night, Dad."
"Goodnight, son." Harry picked up the notebook from the table as Rachel came onto the deck. "Lauren all tucked in?"
"She's expecting you in to say goodnight," Rachel said.
"While I'm doing that, why don't you read this?"
Rachel didn't take the notebook. "Are you certain you want me to?"
"I thought that was the point of my writing -"
"The important thing was to give you a safe outlet for your feelings, Harry."
He put the book into her hands. "If I can't trust you with my feelings, Rachel, then who can I trust with them?" he asked. "I'll go say my goodnights, might even tell Lauren a story before she goes to sleep."
Rachel followed him inside, curling up on the sofa so she could see the words he'd written.
"It's often said that everyone has, at some point in their lives, one defining moment. A moment that so changes their lives that nothing is ever the same again. That moment came for me in the upper Cascade Mountain Range in a small town called Dante's Peak. . . "

Harry came from Lauren's room and stood watching as Rachel closed the notebook, wiping her eyes. She looked up and saw him, and her smile let him know that she wasn't disappointed by what she had read. In fact, the love in her eyes seemed deeper as he crossed to sit beside her. "Well?"
"It was- I can't find the words. Have you ever thought of writing, Harry?"
"About your experiences, the people you've met- Reading this, I could almost feel what it must have been like in that village. Hasn't anyone ever told you this before?"
Rachel ran her finger over the edge of the cardboard cover. "Would you mind if I sent it to someone I know who's a publisher?"
"A publisher?"
"Gail March. She grew up in Dante's Peak, but she left to go to college. She works for a big publisher in San Francisco."
"I'll have to think about it, Rachel," Harry told her. "Letting you read it is one thing, but knowing everyone else was doing so-"
She nodded, returning the notebook to his care. "I understand. You haven't finished it, anyway."
"And I still have to write that report for USGS." He got up, holding out his hand to her. "Let's go for a walk."
"What about the children?"
"Lauren's asleep. And I told Graham that we might go for a walk on the beach. You'd better get a sweater."

Two evenings later, after fishing most of the day, Harry finally sat down to write the report for USGS. He kept his writing to scientific data, a dry, basic reporting of the events that had occured in Dante's Peak from his arrival to the pyroclastic cloud that had devastated the area, nearly wiping the town from the map.
Once finished, he gave it to Rachel to read, watching her this time. "The style's certainly different," she admitted. "What am I supposed to type this on? I don't remember seeing a typewriter anywhere."
Harry drew what she had assumed was a breifcase from the closet, placed it on the table, then opened the lid to reveal a small computer. "I thought it might come in handy," he told her.
Rachel looked uncertain. "I've never-"
"It's just like a typewriter, only there's no paper. Come here." He sat her down and showed her how to use the system. "See? That's all there is to it."
"And what happens after I finish and save it?"
Harry took a length of telephone cord from the bag that the computer was in. "Then, we plug this in and connect to the USGS computer, then upload it into their system."
"Won't they be able to trace us here?"
"USGS isn't likely to release that information to reporters," Harry said. "I'm going for a run on the beach," he told her as she started to type. Just save it when you finish and I'll upload it later."
He had started running late in the evening, something he told her that he'd done often when he wasn't in the field. Rachel told him to hurry back, then looked at the flat screen before her. It was just an overgrown typewriter, Harry had assured her. She resumed typing, wanting to finish the report before he returned.

Three weeks later, Rachel sat on the deck, watching as Lauren and Graham frolicked on the beach. They were both deeply tanned from the Florida sun, and Lauren's hair even had streaks of gold in it. She heard the car turn into the drive and went to the sliding glass door as Harry entered the house, removing his sunglasses. "What did Dr. Richards say?"
"Everything is fine," he told her, kissing her, then returning his attention to the paper in his hand.
"What's that?"
"A letter that came to Dr. Richard's office for me. There were several, actually. Including one for you."
"How did they- ?"
"Dr. Richards has been sending medical reports on my injuries back to USGS- which he had to do, since their insurance is footing the bill. Terry and Stan found out where we were from those reports." He handed her the envelope. "Here's yours."
Curious, Rachel opened it. "It's from the government. An application for disaster relief funds for the citizens of Dante's Peak displaced by the volcano erupting."
"Are you going to apply?"
"There's nothing left to rebuild, Harry." She put the letter back into the envelope. "But I suppose I'll fill it out and send it in for anyone else who wants it. What's so
"Oh, it's nothing. Just a position I'd have given my eye teeth for at one time."
"Harry-" she said warningly.
"One of the letters was from Terry Furlong. He said that a headhunter from the University of Oregon in Portland was at the office just after we left. He wanted to
talk to me about becoming head of their new volcanology department."
"In Portland?" she asked, watching him carefully.
"It's a wonderful opportunity, Rachel," he told her. "I'd be starting the department from scratch, could hire the teachers I want, set up the curriculum. And the money they're offering-" He showed her the letter from the university, and smiled as Rachel's eyes widened.
"That is a lot of money," she agreed. "Is this what you want to do?" She could see the light that had been rekindled in his eyes, a light that she hadn't seen since the days before the mountain went berserk.
"It would be perfect- except that it's so close to the Cascades-"
"And you're worried that being there will be difficult for us," she finished.
"I don't want to ever put you or the children in that kind of situation. And there are volcanoes scattered all over the area-"
"We'll just find a place that's not close to one," Rachel said. "Out of harm's way. And even if we can't- then who better than you to tell us that it's time to get out?"
"Do you think the children would be willing to move back into the area?"
"We could ask them," she suggested.

Graham and Lauren listened silently, their faces solemn, as Harry explained about the job he'd been offered. As he finished, he told them, "We're a family, and I want everyone to be all right about any decision that's made which affects all of us. Now, I know that moving back to that area might be scary, but sometimes the only way to face your fear is to confront it." He sat down, pulling Lauren into his lap. "I'm not suggesting that we go all the way back up there, but being nearby might be enough."
"Would we have to live in Portland?" Graham asked.
"Not necessarily. There are enough small towns within driving range that I think we could find something- In fact, I think I know a place. Right on a lake, good
fishing-" He saw Graham's eyes light up at the thought.
"Would you have to go to anymore volcanoes?" Lauren asked him, her fear evident in her wide eyes.
"No, sweetheart. All I would be doing is teaching others how to do what I used to do. So that maybe they could save some else's lives."
"Like you saved ours?" Lauren asked.
"Something like that. I'm leaving it up to the two of you," he said. "Shall I tell these people that I'll take the job, or shall I tell them no thank you and that they should find someone else?"
Graham looked at Lauren, who looked up at Harry. "If we were back in Portland, you'd still be able to see your friends from USGS," Graham said. "And Mom would be able to stay friends with Dr. Fox. And as long as we're together, I don't care where we live. So I guess I think you should take the job."
Harry put his arm around Graham and hugged him, then looked at Lauren. "If you say no, Lauren, then I'll turn it down."
"What would happen if you did?"
"I'd have to find another position somewhere else, one which wouldn't pay nearly as much money -"
"And you wouldn't be happy. Tell them yes, Daddy."
He hugged the girl, looking up at Rachel. "I need you to type another letter for me."
To Be Continued...

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