- 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
- 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
- "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,
- "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,"
- "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
- "How long has he been mayor
- "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
- "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
- "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
- "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,
- "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?
- of those questions has left me a
- "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.
- "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
- "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,
- "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
- "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
- 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,
- "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
- 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
- "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?"
- 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?"
- "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
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
- "How is Leo doing these days?"
- "You know very well how he's
doing. He told me that you called yesterday afternoon about teaching
- "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
- "I didn't ask for any in the
- 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
- "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."