Dante's Peak 2
Part 8

The largest eatery in Cuttersville was a steakhouse where it seemed most of the town hung out. Harry saw several faces turn their way in curious interest as the family followed the young hostess through the tables to a vacant one. He was certain that they had been recognized, and that the main topic of conversation was of their miraculous rescue from the mine.
Once they gave their orders, Rachel and Harry started talking about what kind of vehicle she wanted when a voice interrupted them. "Hello, Rachel."
Rachel glanced up, recognizing the voice from somewhere. The smiling, middle aged man who stood across the table was familiar. "Hank - Jameson, right?"
"Wasn't sure you'd remember me. Welcome to Cuttersville."
Rachel looked at Harry, seeing his curious expression. "Hank and I met at a Cascades mayor's conference just after I was elected as mayor," she explained. "He was the mayor here in Cuttersville."
"Still am," Hank told her.
"I thought you had decided not to run again."
"The good people of the town convinced me otherwise. Sorry to hear about what happened -"
"Thank you." She saw his look around the table. "I'm sorry. This is my husband, Harry Dalton-" Hank shook Harry's hand. "And this is Lauren, and Graham."
"Nice family. And we're glad to have you joining our community. I heard you were going to work at the university in Portland, Dr. Dalton?" When Harry gave him a surprised look, Hank laughed. "Small town, Dr. Dalton. News travels fast. I'm sure Rachel can confirm that. But I know a bit more than most. Lionel Harrington is my uncle. He stopped in to see me yesterday after renting the place to you and let me know that we had celebrities in our midst."
"Not celebrities, Mr. Jameson," Harry said.
"Make it Hank. And whether you like it or not, Dr. Dalton, that's exactly what the four of you are." He looked back to Rachel. "The City Council meets at seven on the fourth Tuesday of every month, Rachel," he said. "Just in case you find yourself needing something to keep you busy. As long as you don't decide to run for mayor, I'd be glad to see you there."
Rachel smiled. "I'll consider it, Hank," she told him. "Thank you."
"It was nice meeting all of you," Hank said, turning as the waitress arrived with their food. "I'll go on now and let you enjoy your meal in peace."

After seeing the children tucked in, Rachel and Harry went out onto the porch. "Are you going to take Hank Jameson up on his offer?" Harry asked.
"I don't know. Maybe." She looked up at him. "Would you mind if I did?"
"Of course not. How well did you know him?"
"We only met that one time- but he was very supportive of me. I'd just gone through a rough campaign against Les and won by a bigger margin than I'd expected, but I knew Les was already planning for the next election. Hank listened to me, gave me some ideas on how to handle council members like Les."
"How long has he been mayor of Cuttersville?"
"Oh, close to twelve years, I think. He's more interested in keeping the small town atmosphere than he is in luring people like Elliot Blair to invest in the town."
"Which might not be a bad idea."
Rachel put her arms around Harry's neck. "I have a good idea, Harry," she whispered, her lips caressing his jaw. "Why don't we go to bed?"
Harry nodded. "Now THAT is a an excellent idea," he agreed. "After you."

At ten o'clock the next morning, Rachel and the children stood beside Harry as he was introduced to the press as the Dean of the Volcanology Department. She had warned the children that the reporters would probably ask Harry about Dante's Peak, about what had happened up there, and both had assured her that they would be fine. Still, when the first question came, Rachel felt herself grow tense.
"Why wasn't there enough warning given when Dante's Peak erupted, Dr. Dalton?"
Harry used his glasses to scratch behind his ear as he considered the question. "Dante's Peak had been dormant for seven-thousand years. The chances of an
eruption were one in ten thousand. We have no idea what set that mountain on course for that eruption. But that is one of the things I hope to concentrate on here. My goal is to teach others how to recognize the signs of an eminent eruption before it's too late to give an adequate warning to those who live in the area." He pointed to another reporter.
"You went back up the mountain AFTER Dante's Peak began erupting," the man said. "Why? Surely you knew the danger -"
"I considered the risk worth taking in order to save lives," Harry said. "Are there any other questions about the Volcanology Department?"
"Are you going to take students into a live volcano area?"
"No." He pointed again.
"Is it true that you turned down a new position with the United States Geological Survey in Vancouver because you disagreed with Dr. Paul Dreyfus' decision not to place the town of Dante's Peak on alert a week before the eruption?"
"I decided to leave the USGS because I have a family to consider. And I hardly think this is the proper place to discuss any other matters." He glanced at the Dean of the University, who rose.
"That's all the questions for today, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming." He smiled at Harry. "Good job. You do realize that you can't keep evading those questions, Harry."
"I know. But now's not the time."
"I agree. You take your family and go enjoy yourselves."
Harry put his arm around Rachel. "Jane Fox is out there."
She scanned the crowd. "Where? I didn't see her."
"Because I'm right behind you, Rachel," the doctor said.
"Jane," Rachel said, hugging her old friend, as did the children, who were delighted to see someone from Dante's Peak. "It's good to see you."
"Judy teaches here at the university- English department. When she told me about this today, nothing could keep me away." She smiled at Harry. "Congradulations, Dr. Dalton."
"Harry," he corrected. Sensing that Rachel wanted a moment with the doctor, Harry took Lauren's hand. "Why don't we go find something to drink? Answering all
of those questions has left me a bit parched."
"You're looking well, Rachel. Happier than I've seen you in ages."
"That's because I am happy. You knew what was happening between Harry and me, didn't you?"
"I suspected it," Jane admitted. "Something in the way you and he looked at each other - and then when I heard he'd taken you up the mountain to get the kids- what on earth were they thinking of, Rachel? Going up there-"
"They wanted to convince Ruth to come down. Are you going to set up another practice, Jane?"
"I'm looking around for a place. Why?"
"Have you considered Cuttersville?"
"Cutters- You know, I remember hearing something about the local doctor over there wanting to retire if he could find someone to take over his practice. Dr.
Bowles, I think. Why?"
"The place Harry rented is two miles from there. It's beautiful, Jane. You have to see it."
"How come I think there's more to this than just wanting to help me find another place to set up shop?" Jane asked, her eyes twinkling. "Have you told Harry yet?"
"Told-" Rachel shook her head. "I don't know for certain. It's just a- possibility."
"Does he want anymore children? I mean, he took on two when he married you- and let me tell you that I'm a little put out that I wasn't invited to that wedding,
"We didn't want the press getting wind of it," Rachel explained. "They would have turned it into a circus."
"Well? Does Harry want-"
"He said he does," Rachel told her. "I would just prefer to be sure before telling him."
"There's an easy way to do it. Not that I have any doubts on the matter- if you'll remember, I told you both times before that you were pregnant even before you suspected it."
"How, Jane?"

After leaving the university, Harry drove to a car dealership, where Rachel picked out a bright red suburban. They arranged to pick the vehicle up the next morning, then drove back to the lake cabin, with a stop by a drugstore in Portland for Rachel to buy some aspirin for a slight headache. She rushed in, leaving Harry and the kids in the truck, bought the aspirin and a home pregnancy test kit that Jane had recommended, then went back out to her family.
At home, she told Harry she was going to take some aspirin and lay down for awhile, feeling guilty as she saw the concern on his face. He was so worried that she almost told him the truth. Instead, she went upstairs and into their bathroom as she heard Harry and the kids going outside toward the lake.

Harry watched as Graham and Lauren sat on the wooden dock with their bare feet in the water. Answering Graham's questions about the possible geologic origins of the lake, he wasn't fully concentrating on what he was saying. His mind was at the house, wondering if Rachel was all right. She'd been acting strangely all morning, he recalled. At last he couldn't stand it any longer and told the children he was going up to check on their mother. He entered the house quietly, so not to disturb her if she were asleep.
The bed was empty, and the bathroom door was slightly ajar, so Harry moved in that direction. He saw Rachel standing before the mirror, something in her hand, peering intently at it. Harry glanced on the counter and read the box. "Rachel?" She turned, and he could see it in her eyes. "Are you-?"
"This says I am," she told him, indicating the stick in her hand. "And Jane agreed- she knew before I did that I was pregnant with Graham and Lauren," she said. So far he hadn't stalked out of the room the way Brian had, she thought, and that was a good sign. "Say something, Harry."
"I don't know what to say. I hoped- I didn't expect it so soon-"
"We haven't used any protection, remember," she reminded him, smiling as she remembered that first time in the hotel. "Are you upset?"
Knowing that her former husband had probably put her through hell for becoming pregnant with Graham and Lauren, Harry shook his head slowly, his smile lighting up his eyes. "Upset? I'm delighted. Overjoyed." He drew her to him for a long kiss, then looked down at her. "How do you feel about it?"
"About the same- but worried about how Graham and Lauren are going to react when they find out."
"Why shouldn't they be as happy as we are?" he asked.
"They're not used to sharing you with anyone else. Another child- YOUR child-" she pointed out.
Harry stood there, his face buried in her hair for a long moment. "I already think of them as my children," he told her. "Do you think Graham and Lauren would be willing to let me adopt them?"
"I don't know if you could, Harry. Brian-"
"Hasn't seen them in six years. And from what you've told me, he didn't care about them before that. Would you mind my checking into it, at least?"
"No, I wouldn't mind."
Harry placed his hand on her stomach. "Oh, Rachel. You realize this means that we HAVE to buy this place now."
"We're going to have to add another bedroom," he told her.

After dinner that evening, Harry asked the children to sit down in the living room, then sat between them. "What would your reaction be, children, if your mother were to have another baby?"
Graham looked at Lauren. "Are you, Mom?" he asked at last, looking at Rachel.
"That's great. Maybe I'll get a little brother this time," he grinned, teasing Lauren, whose face had become closed.
Harry looked at her. "Lauren?"
She turned and threw her arms around his neck. "Will you still love Graham and me?"
"I'll love you even more," Harry assured her. "A very wise man once told me that when you love someone, your heart gets bigger so that you can love other people
too. So the more you love someone, the more love you have to share. Do you understand what I'm saying?" Lauren nodded. "You'll always be my little girl, Lauren. Nothing will ever change that."
"But I'm not- not really. I heard one of those reporters saying that I was your step daughter."
"Not in here," he told her, putting her hand on his heart. "In my heart, you're as much my children as the baby is that your mother's carrying. And I'm going to check
into making that legal as well."
Graham frowned. "What do you mean, Dad?"
"How would you feel about my adopting the two of you? Changing your names to Dalton, same as your mother and I?"
Brother and sister looked at each other. "That'd be great, Dad."
"I'd like that, too."
"Then it's settled. I'll speak to a lawyer about it tomorrow." He drew Graham into a hug. "Why don't we all go for a walk down by the lake?" he suggested.
As they were leaving the house, Lauren looked at her mother. "When are you going to have a baby, Mom?"
"It won't be for several months yet, honey," Rachel told her. "No earlier than next February, I think."
"Go get your sweater." Once the children were upstairs, Harry pulled Rachel to him. "I thought it went rather well-"
"It went VERY well," Rachel said. "And you know it. I'm beginning to think that you could talk those two into anything."
"And how about their mother?" he asked.
"You're too charming for your own good, Harry Dalton, and you know it. Let me get my sweater-"
"Lauren!" Harry called out, not releasing Rachel.
"Yes, Daddy?" she responded from the top of the stairs.
"Would you mind going to get your mother's sweater from our room?"
"Sure. Which one?"
"The dark blue one," Rachel called, smiling and shaking her head at Harry. "You're also incorrigable."

Before going to pick up the new truck, they stopped by the office of a friend of Harry's who happened to be a lawyer. Seeing the woman who rose from the desk as they entered, Rachel felt surprised. She was near Rachel's age, with blonde hair and green eyes- and from the way she greeted Harry, Rachel decided that the woman was an old girlfriend. "Donna Morgan, my wife, Rachel. And this is Graham and Lauren."
Donna smiled. "Rachel. Children. Please sit down. You're looking good Harry. But then, you always look good."
"How is Leo doing these days?"
"You know very well how he's doing. He told me that you called yesterday afternoon about teaching a course."
"Think he'll agree?"
"Probably. He won't admit it, but he misses the life from time to time. You will too, once you've been away from it for awhile."
"I doubt it."
She smiled a knowing smile. "Now, what can I do for you?"
"I'd like to find out what I have to do to adopt Lauren and Graham," he told her.
Donna looked at Rachel. "Are you divorced or widowed?"
"Divorced," Rachel told her. "For six years."
"And have you discussed this with their father?"
"We haven't seen Brian in six years," Rachel said.
"He hasn't sent any support or anything?"
"I didn't ask for any in the divorce.-"
Donna met her eyes, seeming to understand. "Well, the first thing we have to do is make a good faith effort to find out if he's willing to allow the adoption."
"But we don't know where he is."
"What we have to do is post notices in various newspapers around the country. If he hasn't responded in three months, then the court will grant the adoption request without his permission."
"What if he sees the notice and tries to stop it?" Harry asked.
"We can still fight it, considering that he walked away from his responsibilities six years ago and hasn't had any contact with the children since then."
They arranged to place the ads, then, after promising to invite Donna and her husband out for dinner, left the office. In the truck, Rachel turned to Harry. "Old
"Leo used to work for the USGS - until he met Donna and decided it was time to settle down. They've been married for about five years."
"And how did he meet Donna?" Rachel asked.
"I introduced them. I'll tell you about it later."
Graham grinned. "She was your girl, wasn't she?" he asked.
Harry glanced back at him. "What gave you that idea?"
"The way she looked at you."
"We dated a few times. There was never anything serious," Harry admitted. "She was always involved in a case, and I was always out of town- we became friends." He turned into the car lot. "Let's go get your truck."
On the following Monday, Harry left to begin his new job, and Rachel sat down to finish typing his journal onto a computer disk so that she could send it to Gail. She was almost finished when she heard Ruffie barking and the children's excited shouts. Closing the file, she went out to the deck only to find Jane Fox standing, looking out at the lake and mountain. "See who came to visit us, Mom?" Lauren said. "Dr. Fox."
"It's incredible, Rachel," Jane said. "I almost expect to see Ruth coming around the lake to find out what I'm doing up here."
"I know. It's one reason I feel so much at home. Come on inside. Lauren, we'll be having lunch in a little while. You two stay close to the house."
"We will, Mom," Graham said.

Rachel showed Jane around the house, ending in the kitchen, where she poured them each a cup of coffee. "Why didn't you call to let me know you were coming?"
"I decided to drive up and talk to Dr. Bowles on the spur of the moment, and since I was in the area, I thought I'd find out if you'd taken my advice."
"It was positive," Rachel told her.
"I knew it. Some women just have a - glow about them when they're expecting. You happen to be one of them. How did Harry take the news?"
Rachel smiled at the memory. "He's delighted. We're going to buy the place here and add a couple of rooms."
"Good for you. I told you he was a keeper, didn't I?"
Stirring her coffee, Rachel said, "He wants to adopt Graham and Lauren."
"That's even better. Heaven knows those two deserve a father who loves them and wants them. And from watching them the other day, I could tell he does both."
"He's really better with them than I am, Jane. And the change in Graham - all it takes is one word from Harry, and Graham does what he's told without arguement." She refilled her cup. "So what did Dr. Bowles have to say?"
"He's willing to give it a try. Lacey and I will be moving to Cuttersville this week. And next week, I expect to see you in my office for a check up."
"I haven't even asked about Lacey," Rachel realized, feeling guilty. "I suppose I just assumed that since you got out safely, she did too." Lacey had been Rachel's babysitter for some time, and was Jane's only child. Jane's husband, Mike, had been killed in a climbing accident ten years ago.
"She's fine, and looking forward to seeing you and the kids. At least you'll have someone that you know to watch them for you. So, what are you doing with your time these days? Just playing housewife and mother?"
"Not playing. Being. For the first time in years." She got up as the timer on the oven went and she pulled out some cookies. "Graham and Lauren still need me around right now. That night on the mountain was- "
"Perfect description. If it hadn't been for Harry, we wouldn't have made it."
"You must have been terrified when you found out that the kids had gone up the mountain.," Jane said, her eyes searching Rachel's face.
"I was frantic. We couldn't get back across the bridge, so Harry took his truck into the river. We got stuck, and if another car, trying to cross the other way, hadn't hit us, we wouldn't have gotten across." As she spoke, it all came out, for the first time, the frightening drive up the mountain, being chased from Ruth's house by lava, into an acid lake that slowly ate away at their only transport; Ruth's selfless act of jumping into that deadly water to pull the boat and her only family to shore, of Harry's carrying Ruth all night across his shoulders, knowing all along that she couldn't possibly survive her injuries, yet not wanting to upset the children further. She told Jane about Ruth's death, about finding a truck at the ranger station and of their transversing the lava flow, only to find Ruffie waiting for them to rescue her.
Rachel recalled her shocked dismay upon seeing Dante's Peak covered in volcanic ash, most of the buildings damaged already beyond repair, of finding the bridge gone, her house as well, and Harry's mad dash to retrieve the transmitter before heading for the abandoned mine. She described the absolute terror as the mountain finally exploded, sending a pyroclastic cloud down to destroy whatever was left, and of their narrow escape into the tunnel with only minor injuries.
"Harry remembered the transmitter, said it was the only way anyone would know we were down there, and decided to go back and get it. He hadn't been gone a moment when the tunnel started to collapse. The kids started into it, calling for Harry, but I stopped them, pulled them back into the main room."
"Weren't you afraid it would collapse as well?"
"I played in that mine when I was a child, Jane- so did you. Did you ever remember seeing one rock on the floor when there was a slight tremor?"
"Come to think of it, no. But those weren't slight tremors, Rachel. They were full fledged quakes."
"You're right. But I saw Harry check out the walls before he left, and I knew that he wouldn't have left us there if there was any danger of collapse. I heard Harry call my name once, then heard him cry out, and then nothing. For two days." She got up to get some bread and makings for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, needing to be doing something. "Graham had some drinks and crackers stashed in the cave, as well as some bottled water, so we were fine. After the first day, the quakes stopped, and Graham convinced me to let him start clearing a path through the tunnel. I helped him wedge dropped beams to support the roof - and with every rock we moved, I was terrified that we'd find Harry. We weren't far from breaking through- we heard the faint beeping of the transmitter, and I realized he'd at least gotten that far- Graham moved a section of rock and I could just make out the cab of the truck- saw that it had collapsed, and I was afraid for Harry again. I didn't see how anyone could possibly have survived that. We heard the helicopters, the machinery, and called out, but when they started digging out around the truck, the section just ahead of us collapsed again, and we had to start digging ourselves. We broke through just after they pulled the truck out of the tunnel - "
"And came out to find that Harry was indeed still alive," Jane finished. "I'd say you were all very lucky. How are you all holding up? So many times in situations like that there are emotional problems -"
"We're fine, except that being out of each other's sight for more than an hour tends to become nerve wrecking. Harry's had more than one anxiety attack - he calls home as often as he can to keep in touch."
"And the kids?"
"You can see for yourself that they're bouncing back."
"Kids often do. That natural resilience. And being here probably helps in the healing process as well. Has Harry talked to a psychologist?"
"No. You have to understand Harry's background, Jane. He's never been one to share his feelings until he met me. It's difficult for him to admit that he was frightened up there, or that he's still frightened even now. At least, it was until I made a suggestion that he write everything down- and I mean everything."
"Give him a safe outlet for those emotions," Jane commented. "Good idea."
"It's similar to what you suggested I do after Brian bailed out on us," Rachel reminded her. "It worked for me then, I thought it might help Harry."
"And did it?"
"I think so. The thing is, Jane, what he wrote is wonderful. He's agreed to let me send it to Gail March to read and evaluate."
"It must be very good."
Rachel put down the plate of sandwiches she was carrying. "Wait here." She returned a moment later, carrying the notebook, which she put down in front of Jane. "Read it. I think you'll agree with me." She picked up the plate and put it on a tray along with some milk and some of the cookies she'd baked earlier. "Let me take this to the kids."
Jane opened the notebook and started to read the neat, even hand.

She was still reading when Rachel returned, and when Rachel placed a sandwich before her, Jane kept reading as she ate, unwilling to put the book down. When she finally reached the final page, Jane closed the notebook and shook her head. "You have a talent for understatement, Rachel. I know you had just told me the same story, but reading the way Harry wrote about it - The sense of urgency, his certainty that the mountain was going to blow up - his feelings for you and those children - if Gail doesn't agree to publish this, she's crazy."
The sound of a vehicle's engine drew Rachel to the window. "Harry's home," she said, taking the book. "I'll be right back."
Jane went to the kitchen window and watched as Graham and Lauren greeted Harry, then watched the way Harry's tired expression changed as he looked up to see Rachel on the porch. He greeted her with a kiss, putting his briefcase on the porch rail so he could pull her to him. "You're home early," Rachel said.
"I finished everything I intended to do. I have all but one instructor lined up- and I expect to hear back from her tomorrow morning. I missed you."
"And I missed you. Jane Fox is here."
"So the kids told me." He looked up as Jane came to the door. "Hello."
"I just dropped by to tell Rachel that Lacey are moving to Cuttersville this week- and that I expect to see her in my office NEXT week."
"Why don't you stay for dinner, Jane?" Rachel asked.
"I have to get back to Vancouver and tell Lacey that we're moving up here. She's going to be glad to see you and the children. Take care- and don't let her forget to set up an appointment, will you Harry?"
"I won't," Harry promised, watching as Rachel walked Jane to her car, before turning to go into the house.

He was sitting in a chair beside the fireplace when Rachel came back in. "You look tired."
"Not really. It was just a strain, being away from you and the kids. I'll get used to it. Eventually." He smiled at her. "I have some paperwork to do - "
"Why don't you relax first? Spend a few minutes with the kids while I fix dinner," Rachel suggested. "You can do that paperwork after."
"I think I'll do that," Harry decided, getting up slowly, wincing.
Seeing it, Rachel frowned. "Your arm?"
"I bumped it on the desk earlier. I set up an appointment for tomorrow morning with Dr. Morrison."
"Do you want a pain pill?" she asked.
"Not right now. I'll be fine."
She went into the kitchen, watching as he joined the children at the pier, watching as Graham cast his fishng line into the water. Rachel heard Lauren' laughter, and smiled at the sound.
To Be Continued...

|| Back || Home || Dante's Peak || E-Mail || Next ||