- Part 7
- They left Florida a month after
their arrival, with Ruffie having to fly back inside a carrier
in the cargo hold. But Lauren was more secure now than she had
been before, and the thought of being separated from the animal
didn't distress her as much as it would have a month earlier.
Harry had called Terry, and asked him to check on the cabin that
he had leased two years before, planning to go fishing, only
to be called back to work.
- When Terry and Nancy met them at
the airport, they told him that the owner of the cabin was willing
to agree to a long term lease, with an option to buy later.
- "You're going to love the place,"
Nancy told Rachel. "Terry and I drove out to see it yesterday,
to make sure it was livable and to drop your truck there, Harry.
We even stocked the fridge," she told Harry. "And Mr.
Harrington, the owner, said he'd meet us there this afternoon."
- "Then what are we waiting for?"
Harry asked as Ruffie's carrier appeared on the carousel. "Get
Ruffie and let's go."
- The first thing Rachel thought when
she saw the "cabin" was that someone had scooped Ruth's
log house and Mirror Lake from below Dante's Peak, then set it
down here, against the backdrop of a snow covered, non volcanic
mountain. She looked at the children, saw that they felt the
same way. Harry looked uncertain. "I hadn't realized how
much- Perhaps this wasn't such a wonderful idea."
- "It's beautiful, Harry. And
it feels like home, right kids?"
- "Yeah," Graham agreed.
- Lauren looked at the lake with frightened
eyes, then relaxed as she saw the fiberglass motorboat by the
wooden dock. Her eyes widened again as they caught sight of a
tree swing. "Look, Graham!"
- Rachel squeezed Harry's hand. "You
did good, Harry," she told him softly, her eyes shining
up at him.
- Mr. Harrington came from the house
as the truck stopped, greeting Harry with a smile. "Dr.
Dalton. It's been a while. Glad to see you're looking so much
better than you were when I saw you on TV."
- "It's been a month, after all."
He made the introductions, then Mr. Harrington insisted on showing
the house to Rachel and the children. "There are three bedrooms,
all upstairs, two and a half baths. There's a room off of the
living room that can be used as a study, and the kitchen was
just modernized this year-"
- "Well, Rachel? Children?"
Harry asked as Mr. Harrington placed the lease before him. "Shall
we take it?"
- All three nodded eagerly. "Yes,
Daddy, please?" Lauren begged.
- Harry signed the lease after reading
it, giving Mr. Harrrington a check for the amount he had specified,
then the man left. Graham turned to Harry. "Can we go outside?"
- "After we get our things from
Nancy's truck," Harry said.
- "I get the front bedroom,"
- "Mom? Why can't I have that
bedroom?" Lauren wanted to know.
- "Because Graham spoke for it
first," Rachel said.
- Harry tweaked Lauren's nose. "Besides,
the other room is closer to your mother and me. Now go help Graham
with your cases."
- The thought of being closer to her
parents seemed to mollify Lauren, and she turned to follow her
brother. Nancy sat back on the porch rail, shaking her head.
- never have believe that you'd be
this good with kids, Harry," she said, her voice filled
- "I think he surprised himself,"
Rachel told her. "I think they're going to need some help
with those suitcases. For some reason they're heavier than they
were when we left."
- "Probably all that Florida
sand," Nancy pointed out. "I remember that it got into
EVERYTHING," she said.
- "You've been to Florida?"
Rachel asked as they moved away.
- "Been there? I was BORN in
- "Then how did you become involved
- "Ask Harry," Nancy said.
"It's all his fault."
- Rachel turned to look at Harry,
who scratched his ear and grinned. "Terry and I will stay
up here and supervise," he told them, smiling. "I'll
have to remember to thank Nancy for that one," he commented
- "That's Nancy, always willing
to help," Terry said, laughing. "You look happy, Harry.
Happier than I've seen you in a long time."
- "I am happy, Terry. Rachel
and the kids- I think the day I met her was probably the luckiest
of my life."
- "And theirs. If it wasn't for
you, they might not have made it."
- "Who do you think is going
to take Paul's job?"
- "Stan's next in line for it.
I think he'll accept."
- "What about you?"
- "Don't want it. I'm not a chief.
I'm an indian, content to stay back out of the limelight and
let someone else take the heat." He looked across the lake.
"Nancy and I
- are driving back up to Dante's Peak
again tomorrow-" He saw Harry's surprised look. "Follow
up. Take some readings, check the mountain out."
- "Good luck," Harry said.
"Right now, I hope I never see the place again." He
stood up as Rachel returned carrying three cases. "Let me
take one of those," he told her, relieving her of the heaviest
suitcase. "Where does this go?"
- "Our room," she told him.
- Terry and Nancy left not long after
they unloaded the truck, with Harry telling Terry to call him
when they got back. Graham and Lauren were exploring the area,
and Rachel turned to Harry. "Where are Terry and Nancy going?"
- "To do a follow up on Dante's
Peak," he told her, looking at the lake. "Watch Lauren,"
he told her.
- It took a moment for Rachel to find
her daughter, but when she did, her attention was caught. Lauren
was beside the lake. She would take a step toward the water,
then stop and back away, as if something frightened her. "What's
- "Just watch. Come on, sweetheart,"
he whispered. Lauren took another step, then stopped. With each
forward step, she came a little closer to the water, closer to
her fear. At last she knelt and put out her hand, placing a finger
into the water, then jerking it back out to inspect it. "That's
it, Lauren. That's it."
- Rachel turned as Harry moved to
the steps and off of the porch, his steps taking him toward Lauren.
She hurried to catch up with him.
- At last Lauren placed her hand in
the water, leaving it before pulling it out. "Lauren?"
- When she turned, her smile was filled
with delight. "Did you see, Daddy?" she asked, running
toward him. "I did it. I did it just like you said. I- faced
- Harry went to his knees. "So
you did, sweetheart. So you did." He gave her a big hug.
"So you did."
- Rachel hugged her daughter as well.
"Is Lauren all right?" Graham asked, having seen them
at the lake's edge from a tree he'd been climbing.
- Lauren smiled widely. "See
what I can do, Graham?" she said, putting her hand back
in the water. "See? I'm not scared of it anymore."
- Graham grinned. "Hey that's
great, Lauren! Now maybe you can take a bath!" Lauren scooped
her hand, bringing it out of the water and tossing the liquid
toward her brother. "Hey!" he yelled, jumping back..
She missed Graham- and the water hit Harry in the chest.
- Harry reached into the water, intending
to douse the girl, but she ducked and Rachel found her shirt
wet. Before long, all four of them were wet and laughing loudly.
- Later, after dinner, Rachel and
Harry sat on the porch, watching Lauren and Graham playing in
the yard. "This place really is perfect, Harry," she
told him, handing him a glass of wine. "Are you sure you
won't mind the twenty minute drive to the university?"
- "It won't be that bad. We have
to check into getting you some kind of transportation so that
you're not stuck out here all day. Are you certain you won't
mind the isolation?"
- "It's only two miles into Cuttersville,"
she reminded him. "It looked like a nice little place."
- He took a sip of wine. "What
are you going to do here during the day when I'm gone?"
- "Oh, I don't know. Maybe I'll
see if Cuttersville needs a new mayor," she said with a
- Harry laughed, shaking his head.
"Wait a little while, at least. Seriously, Rachel. Have
you ever given any thought to going back to school?"
- "Oh, sometimes," she admitted.
"But I decided to wait until the kids were older -Hard to
run a business and take care of them if I'm trying to go to school,
- "Why not go now? You don't
have a business to worry about anymore. And I can help with the
kids. What did you want to study?"
- "Never really given it any
thought. When I was in school, all I ever wanted to be was a
wife and a mother. After I opened the store, I thought about
going to school and taking some courses in small business, but
there never seemed to be enough time."
- He looked at her. "What did
you want to be when you were very young?"
- "Promise you won't laugh?"
- He quickly crossed his heart. "Promise."
- "A lawyer."
- Harry turned back to watch as Graham
pushed his sister in the tree swing. "Because of your father."
She'd told him that her father had been an attorney who had handled
most of the legal work for the citizens of Dante's Peak, and
that he'd been the city's mayor before his death.
- "Why don't you go back and
do that, then?"
- "Oh, it would take YEARS,"
she said. "And I don't want to take that much time away
from you and the kids." Rachel refilled her glass of wine.
"You're trying to distract me, aren't you?"
- He shook his head. "Not that
I know of. About what?"
- "Nancy. And how you lured her
into chasing around after volcanoes."
- "I didn't lure her into anything.
She was already a geologist when I met her." He took a drink
from his glass. "After Marianne died, I took a six month
leave of absence- USGS' psychologist's suggestion."
- "What did you do?"
- "A friend of mine who taught
volcanology at the university had gotten a fellowship to attend
a major conference in Java- and needed someone to take over his
class for that year."
- "So you volunteered."
- "It was what I had wanted to
do, after all. Nancy was in the class- she was considering getting
out of the field, said it didn't interest her as she had thought
it would. But after being in my class for two semesters, she
came to me and told me that she'd decided to go for her doctorate
in volcanology. She's another year from that, I think."
- "So you were responsible."
- "It was Nancy's decision. And
believe me, no one can force her to do anything she doesn't want
- "What time are you supposed
to be at the university tomorrow?"
- "Nine," he told her. His
gaze fixed on the sun's rays fading behind the mountain. "I
finished the journal," he said.
- "Finished? When did you find
time to work on it? I haven't seen you-"
- "At night. After you went to
sleep, other times when you were busy in the kitchen or with
the children. It's on your nightstand. I want you to read it
- She smiled, nodding. "I will."
She stood up. "Graham! Lauren! It's time to get ready for
- "Oh, Mom. It's still early,"
Graham said, coming to the steps.
- "And you've had a long day
- Harry finished his wine. "Don't
argue with your mother, Graham."
- "Come on, Lauren," Graham
called, climbing the stairs.
- "Graham," Harry said,
causing the boy to pause. "If you get a good night's sleep
tonight, we'll go fishing after I get home tomorrow."
- Graham's expression lightened. "Really?"
- "Me too, Daddy?" Lauren
- "You, too, Lauren." He
smiled as they raced toward the door.
- "You're bribing them,"
- "It worked, didn't it?"
he asked. He got up from the chair, taking her in his arms. "And
if you're a good girl tonight, I'll let you come along as well."
- She slid her arms around his neck
as Lauren's voice reached them. "Mom? Where's my nightgowns?"
- Rachel wasn't sure who sighed more
deeply at the interuption. "Where did you put them when
you unpacked, honey?"
- "I looked there.-"
- "I'll be right there, Lauren,"
Rachel said, touching her lips to Harry's before saying, "This
shouldn't take long. Don't lose my place. Now where did you put
- Lauren?" she asked, going inside
- Harry went to the railing of the
porch, looking out over the now dark lake. He was glad he'd thought
of this place. It was the perfect place for Graham and Lauren
to grow up. From what he could recall, Cuttersville was a bit
smaller than Dante's Peak had been, with the same small town
atmosphere. Watching the light breeze on the water, he smiled,
recalled Lauren's triumph over her fear at the water's edge.
He only hoped that he would be able to overcome his own fear
tomorrow when he left Rachel and the children alone to go to
the university. The last time he had gone to see Dr. Richards
he'd had another anxiety attack- not as bad as the first one,
but enough that he had been forced to call Rachel again to satisfy
himself of her safety. He couldn't afford for that to happen
tomorrow. He lifted his gaze to the mountain. No volcanic activity
there- never had been. Rachel and the children were as safe as
they could be. There was nothing here that could possibly hurt
- "A penny for your thoughts,"
Rachel said softly, returning to find him standing, staring at
- "Oh, they're worth much more
than a penny," Harry told her, pulling her to him again.
"I was just thinking about having to leave you here tomorrow-"
- "You'll be fine," Rachel
told him, unfastening the top buttons of his shirt. "Just
think about how much fun we're going to have when you get home."
She kissed his chest.
- "I'd rather think about the
fun we can have tonight," he said, lifting her face to his
and kissing her lips.
- "You go tell Lauren and Graham
goodnight," she reminded him. "I'll meet you in the
- Harry reminded Graham and Lauren
about their fishing plans before he left the next morning, gave
Rachel a long kiss, then got into the suburban and headed toward
Cuttersville. Rachel told the children to go out and play, but
to stay within sight of the house for the time being, then poured
a fresh cup of coffee and opened the notebook she'd bought Harry
to write in. She reread the part about Marianne's death simply
because she enjoyed reading Harry's writing. Here was the part
about his six month teaching stint at the university, about Nancy
Wilton deciding to pursue a career as a volcanologist because
of his own enthusiasm about the field.
- Rachel read about his return to
investigating volcanic phenomena, about his ambivilance toward
his work, his belief that he might make a fatal mistake one day
soon, a mistake that would end his life much as Marianne's had
been ended- in the line of duty. He'd thrown himself into his
work, refusing to take time off when offered and suggested- or
scheduling trips only to cancel them when something came up at
work, and Paul Dreyfus had taken advantage of the fact that Harry
couldn't stay away.
- A month before he was sent to Dante's
Peak, the USGS psychologist had recommended that Harry take some
time off to relax and get away from work. He'd resisted the idea,
insisting that he was fine, knowing that he wasn't, that he probably
did need the time off. But the psychologist had been more insistant,
and Harry had agreed to a two week vacation. He'd told Paul that
he was going to take the fishing trip he'd been planning for
three years, but he'd been home for two days when Paul had called
and left a message on his machine to call the office.
- Harry had tried to resist, had even
packed a bag to leave, and was set to go the next morning. As
he was doing his pushups- fifty, as he had every morning until
breaking his arm,- Paul had called again, and Harry had really
intended to drive through Vancouver to where he'd been going
to go fishing. But his route had taken him past USGS, and he'd
stopped in, knowing that the fishing trip would be put off one
- He'd put the chances against an
eruption of Dante's Peak at ten thousand to one, but his curiousity
had been piqued by the activity that the monitors had revealed.
He'd told Paul he would go check it out on his way, and then,
since he expected to find nothing of interest, continue his vacation
- Rachel smiled at his desciption
of his first meeting with her and the children. Had she really
been that frustrated by Graham's refusal to listen to her? Or
embarrassed by Ruth's asking if Harry were her "boyfriend"?
- "I could have told her that
I wouldn't mind being the boyfriend," Harry
had written, "but I had the feeling that Ruth Wando wouldn't
take kindly to any man who tried to take her son's place with
his family. Besides, I wasn't there to become involved, I was
there to check the volcano. I kept telling myself that. But the
more time I spent with Rachel, the harder it was to remember."
- By the time Rachel finished the
journal, it was noon, and she prepared sandwiches for lunch which
she and the children shared outside beside the lake. Harry had
been more frightened during that ride across Mirror Lake than
Rachel had realized. He'd been certain- especially after the
motor quit, that they couldn't possibly make it to shore before
the acid ate enough of the boat to sink it. Ruth's jumping into
the lake to pull the boat to shore had been Harry's inspiration
to continue, to get Rachel and her children off of the mountain
and to safety.
- She opened the notebook and reread
the final entry about their rescue, smiling to herself at the
words Harry had written.
- "Paul hadn't made it. I'd
had my disagreements with him, but he'd been a friend, someone
I never thought would have been taken by nature's vaguaries.
I thought of Marge, wondering what her reaction would be, then
I thought of Rachel.
- They gave the word that they
were going to move the truck from the mine tunnel so they could
try to reach Rachel and the children, and as I moved closer,
followed by the paramedic, Stan, Greg, Terry, and Nancy, I said
a silent prayer, promising that if she were all right, I'd never
want to see another volcano again. It seemed an eternity before
the call came back that there were survivors, and I held my breath,
- When I saw Graham leading Ruffie
on a rope, followed by Lauren and Rachel, my knees very nearly
gave out, so relieved was I. I could tell Graham was surprised
by the number of people, his eyes searching the crowd until I
called his name, drawing his attention. When he and Lauren reached
me, I wanted to hug them so tight, to never let them go ever
again. And I could see that they felt the same way, especially
- Then I looked up and met Rachel's
eyes, saw her approaching slowly, steadily, tears in her eyes.
I wanted nothing more than to run to her, to hold her- but I
couldn't move. So I smiled, hoping she could read everything
I wanted to tell her in that expression. How much I admired her,
how glad I was that she was alive, how much I loved her. Her
answering smile almost made everything we'd gone through worthwhile,
and she ran toward us, holding me as tightly as I was trying
to hold her, kissing me as I was kissing her, not caring that
the children were watching, that we had an audience of hundreds-
perhaps more, considering the media. When the kiss ended, I brought
the children back into the circle, feeling that I'd finally found
what I'd been searching for, what I'd been waiting for all of
my life. A family of my own.
- Rachel and the children were
cursorily checked out be the paramedics, and I told my friends
that I would see them later before getting into the helicopter
that was to take us to the hosipital in Portland. Graham asked
if I had meant it about going fishing in Florida, and I told
him I had. I wanted to tell him that I didn't care where we went,
as long as we were together. Rachel seemed to understand. She
reached out her hand and clasped mine, holding on tightly, as
if I were some kind of lifeline. I know she certainly was- and
is , and always will be -mine."
- After lunch, Rachel agreed to let
Lauren and Graham play in the edge of the lake, with Graham promising
to keep an eye on his sister without being told to, and then
she went into the house.
- Harry had set up the laptop computer
in the study, and now Rachel, who had gotten over her fear of
the machine, sat down to begin typing the journal into a form
that could be used to send it to a publisher. Not necessarily
for publication, she told herself. She just wanted Gail to look
at it, give her take on Harry's writing abilities. Rachel knew
she was too close to the events he described to be unbiased in
When Harry turned into the short drive to the house, the first
thing he saw was Lauren, sitting in the tree swing, watching
for him. She ran to meet him as he got out of the truck, giving
him a hug. "I missed you, Daddy."
- "I missed you too, sweetheart.
Where are your brother and mother?"
- "Graham's looking for worms.
Mom's inside typing something on the computer."
- "Why don't you go find your
brother and let me change clothes, then we'll go do some fishing,
- "Okay," she said, grinning,
turning to run toward the back of the house. "Graham! Daddy's
- Harry entered the house and went
into the study, putting his briefcase on the desk where Rachel
was just closing her file. "Hello there," she said,
raising her face for his kiss. "How'd it go?"
- "I missed you.. What were you
working on?" he asked, noticing the now closed notebook
beside the computer.