Dante's Peak 2
Part 9

After Harry left the next morning, Rachel finished typing his journal, then picked up the telephone to place a call to San Francisco. She had to go through information, but she got the number, and hearing that made her remember the extension of Gail March's office. "Gail March here."
"Gail? It's Rachel."
She heard Gail's surprise even over the phone line. "Rachel Wando- I mean Dalton?"
"The same."
"I read about you in the papers, old friend. And about what happened. Must have been a nightmare."
"Worse than you can imagine, Gail."
"What's up? Can I hope this call is to say that you want to write a book about your experiences?"
Rachel fingered the disk. "In a way, Gail. You obviously know I'm remarried-"
"Yeah. To a real hunk, too, according to the pictures I've seen. Lucky you."
"I am lucky. Harry's written something that I'd like you to take a look at. I put it on computer disk-"
"YOU, Rachel? I didn't think you even knew how to turn a computer on."
"Harry taught me how to use his computer. Anyway, would you be willing to read it?"
"Are you kidding? Right now, ANYthing about Dante's Peak is hot. Send it to me, don't worry about the cost- send it C.O.D. I'll take care of the charges on this end. Just make sure his name and a telephone number and address are on the disk."
"Where should I send it?" Rachel asked, picking up a pen. After a few more minutes, Rachel hung up and called the kids. "We're going into town," she told them. "I have to send something to a friend in San Francisco. And I don't think it would hurt to do some grocery shopping while we're there."
They were about to leave the house when the telephone rang, and Rachel asked Lauren to pick it up while she looked for her keys. "Hello? Hi. She's trying to find her keys so we can go into town. Okay. Mom? It's Daddy."
Rachel took the telephone, seeing her keys beside it as the same time. "There they are. Hello, Harry."
"Sounds as if I'm lucky to have caught you."
"I didn't expect you to call this early. I have to go into town to mail that disk to Gail."
"You spoke to her about it?"
"Just a few minutes ago. She sounds interested. How is it going?"
"Could be worse. Dr. Morrison told me that my arm is healing well- in fact, he's going to remove the cast next week, but I'll still have to take it easy for a while yet."
"That's wonderful news."
"And Marie Delabarre called me back. She's agreed to teach a course in the department."
"Sounds like everything's coming together."
"Yes. Once everyone arrives, the real work will begin. Agreeing on the curriculum."
"When will they arrive?"
"Marie won't be here for two weeks. The rest will begin arriving this weekend. Have you called and made the appointment with Jane Fox?"
"No, I haven't. She won't be there until Monday."
"You can still make the appointment."
"I'll do it while I'm in town," Rachel told him. "What time will you be home?"
"I'm not certain. I have some textbooks that I have to look over - no later than five, I should think."
"I'll have dinner ready," Rachel said.

She sent the disk overnight to Gail, then went to Dr. Bowles' office, where a young woman smiled at her when she entered. "May I help you?"
"I need to make an appointment."
"Dr. Bowles isn't taking any new patients, ma'am."
"The appointment would be with Dr. Fox."
"Oh. How did you know about that? Grandpa- Dr. Bowles only told me about it this morning."
"Dr. Fox and I are old friends," Rachel told the girl. "I'm Rachel Dalton."
The girl's brown eyes grew wide when she recognized the name. "Oh, I'm sorry, Mrs. Dalton." She got out the appointment book. "Dr. Fox won't be in the office
until Monday morning at nine-"
"How about nine-thirty, then?"
She wrote down Rachel's name. "And what's the reason for the appointment?"
"Dr. Fox knows what it's about," Rachel told her. "I'll see you Monday."
"Okay." She handed Rachel a reminder card. "Dr. Fox is supposed to be here later today. I'll let her know you came by, Mrs. Dalton."
"Thank you."

The telephone rang two evenings later as Rachel was just finishing the dishes, and Harry picked it up in the study. "Hello?"
"With that accent, you have to be Harry Dalton," the female voice said. "Is Rachel around? Tell her it's Gail March."
"Ms. March. I'll tell Rachel-"
"Not before I tell you that I LOVED the stuff you wrote that Rachel sent me. You're very talented, Dr. Dalton."
"Thank you."
"Would you be interested in letting us publish it? I can guarantee that it would be a best seller - make you and Rachel a lot of money."
"I'll have to think about it, okay? Let me get Rachel." He put the telephone down and went to the door of the kitchen. "Your publisher friend is on the telephone,
Rachel dried her hands. "Gail? She must have finished your book -"
"She wants to publish it," Harry told her as she picked up the extension. He turned back toward the study, where he hung up the other line.
"He's not only a hunk, Rachel, he's got talent to spare. Try to convince him to agree to let us publish it, Rachel."
"I'll try, Gail, but I won't promise anything."
"Thing is, do you think you could write something along the same lines from your point of view? We could combine the two into something that might even get a movie offer."
"Me? Write? I haven't written in years, Gail."
"Hey, who was the star reporter on the school paper? Even won a couple of awards, as I recall. Always thought you made a mistake getting married to Brian
instead of going to college and studying journalism, Rachel."
"That was a long time ago."
"Give it a shot- and get it to me as soon as you can."
Rachel hung up the phone and went to the study door, watching as Harry worked on the computer. "I think we need to consider investing in something a little bigger than that laptop," she said.
"Hmm. Considering that we just signed twenty years of our life away last night to buy this place, I think we need to wait a little while." He glanced up at her over his glasses. "What did your friend say?"
"She wants me to convince you to let her publish the book- and she wants me to write about what happened from my perspective. She mentioned something about a movie."
"Are you going to do it?"
"Probably. Harry, if the book were to make the kind of money she thinks it would, we could pay this place off."
Harry took off his glasses to study her expression. "This means a lot to you, doesn't it?"
"I think it's worth a shot. What have we got to lose?"
"I'll get to read what you write before you send it to her?"
"Of course you will."
"I'll think about it," he told her.
Rachel sat down at the computer the next morning and stared a the blank screen with its flashing cursor. Where to begin? With her struggle to raise her children after Brian left? With her decision to run for mayor of Dante's Peak, following in her father's footsteps?

"I was born in Dante's Peak, grew up there, never planned to leave the town where my father was a lawyer and later the town's mayor until his death with my mother when I was twenty. By that time, I had already been married for two years to my high school sweetheart, Brian Wando, and had a one year old son, Graham."
"Two years later, I had my second child, Lauren, and had started taking an interest in the future of Dante's Peak, much to Brian's chagrin. All I had ever wanted was to live in Dante's Peak, get married, raise my children in what I considered to be the best town in the world. Brian hated the town where we had grown up, wanted more than anything else to get away. So two years later, he left, after filing for divorce."
"I started a small coffee shop/souvenir store with a small business loan in order to support my children, the only family I had left in town being Brian's mother, Ruth, who lived up the mountain in a log cabin that she had her late husband had built when Brian was a baby. Between raising my children, and running the store, I was busy, and when I was approached about running for mayor after spending one term on the city council, I hesitated. I wasn't certain I could do the job and still take care of my kids and business. I finally convinced myself that I had to run, and to my surprise, I won. Soon after, one of the council members, who I had run against, brought Elliot Blair into town, and Mr. Blair, who was looking for a place to build a new plant, decided to build it in Dante's Peak, creating much needed jobs."
"Halfway into my first term, Dante's Peak was named by Money magazine as the second best place to live in the United States, with a population of under twenty-thousand. We were to be presented with a plaque to that effect during our annual "Pioneer Days" celebration. The afternoon before the gathering, I recieved a telephone call from Dr. Paul Dreyfus at the United States Geological Survey, telling me that he was sending one of his people, a Dr. Harry Dalton, up to look at the mountain, and asking if I could show him around."
"I had completely forgotten about Dr. Dalton's visit in the excitement of recieving the award for the city, so when he came up to me and introduced himself, it took me a moment to realize who he was. When I did, I agreed to show him around, with a detour to drag my son out of the locked, abandoned mine in the center of town, where he and some friends had set up a hide out. . . "
Harry sat reading the words on the computer screen, realizing so many things about the woman he'd married. He smiled when he read the part where she had asked him to dinner. "To thank you," she'd said.

"Thanking me for what?" he asked.
"Saving Graham's life. And for caring." She had wanted to add more, according to her writing, but hadn't the courage to say it. "And because I happen to think you're a hunk and want to get to know you better." Harry laughed outloud upon reading that. If she'd said that at the time, Harry probably would still have accepted the invitation, if only to find out if she were really that honest.

Rachel found herself pacing beside the lake's edge until she saw Harry come out of the house and start toward her. "If you hate it, I don't want to know."
He pulled her into his arms- "I didn't know you thought I was a hunk," he said, his eyes filled with laughter.
"I shouldn't have put that in there," she said.
"I liked it. I liked all of it. No wonder you thought I was talented. You're talented as well."
"Then you think I should send it to Gail?"
"By all means."
"And if she wants to publish both of them?"
"Go for it," he told her. "I think we'll survive - and you're right. We could use the money." He looked down at her. "You really shouldn't have tried to dig me out. If that tunnel had collapsed with you in it-"
"We were very careful, shored everything we could up. And it worked- until they pulled the truck out." She kept her eyes on his chest. "I still didn't know if you were alive. We knew the roof of the truck had collapsed, and when they started trying to rescue you-"
He held her tighter. "I know, love. I know." His kiss was gentle, and when he lifted his head, he said softly, "Now, about this 'hunk' description-"
"It's only because you happen to be drop dead handsome," Rachel told him. "And I feel extremely lucky that you're all mine."
"Forever," he promised. "Why don't we go back to the house and go to bed?" he suggested.

Monday morning, Jane Fox performed another test, then did a complete examination. "You're still in excellent health, Rachel. I'll let you know about the tests when the results get back. In the meantime, you know the drill. Calcium tablets, iron-"
"I'm way ahead of you, Jane."
They went back into the outer room. "Carla," she said to the young woman at the desk, "Would you set up another appointment for Mrs. Dalton in four weeks?"
"Sure, Dr. Fox." She entered the information in the book, then handed Rachel a card as the door opened and Hank Jameson entered.
"Rachel. I thought that was your truck outside. Hope nothing's wrong-"
"No, Hank. I was just visiting an old friend. Dr. Jane Fox, Hank Jameson. Cuttersville's mayor."
Jane smiled as Hank said, "Jerry Bowles has a lot to answer for. He didn't mention that you were so attractive, Dr. Fox. He did mention that you had come from Dante's Peak, however. Weren't you on the council over there?"
"Yes, I was."
"Great. Then I'll expect to see both of you tomorrow night at the council meeting. Seven pm sharp."
He looked outside. "I have to go. I look forward to seeing you again, Dr. Fox," he said, closing the door behind him.
Rachel looked at her friend. "Looks as if you've made a conquest, Jane."
"Are you going to the council meeting?" Jane asked, ignoring the comment.
"I hadn't really planned to," Rachel said. "Harry has a faculty meeting tomorrow night."
"Why don't I bring Lacey out to watch the kids and you and I can go together?"
"I'll have to discuss it with Harry," Rachel told her.
"I'll call you tonight," Jane said. "Just to make certain that you do. Rachel, you can't lock yourself away out there the way you have been. You're not used to that. I
think Harry will agree with me."

Rachel hadn't mentioned the council meeting to Harry by the time dinner was over that evening, and as she was washing the dishes, the telephone rang. Harry answered in the study. "Harry? It's Jane Fox. Has Rachel talked to you about her going to the city council meeting tomorrow evening?"
"No, she hasn't mentioned anything about it."
"I was afraid of that. I offered to bring Lacey out to watch the kids if necessary. I really think she should go, Harry."
"So do I, but I can't very well force to her attend."
"I suppose not."
"Why don't I talk to her about it and I'll have her call you?"
"Thank you."
Harry hung up and looked thoughtfully at the telephone before removing his glasses and heading for the kitchen. He leaned against the doorframe, watching Rachel close the dishwasher. "Almost finished?" he asked.
"Yes. Who was on the telephone?"
"Jane Fox. Why didn't you mention that she'd offered to have Lacey watch the kids so you could go to the city council meeting tomorrow night?"
"Because I'm not certain that I want to go," Rachel told him. "I'm not sure I should leave the kids right now-"
"They know Lacey," he reminded her. "And you need to get out of the house for a while."
He came toward her. "For the same reason that I did. To regain some normalcy in our lives. As much as we all need each other, we need to time alone, as well. You need something to occupy yourself outside of the kids and me. Something for you."
"I don't know if I should get involved with local politics again, Harry. They can be so time consuming. And with the new baby, and everything else-"
"You were expecting Lauren when you became involved in Dante's Peak's," he reminded her. "Rachel, we're going to be here for a long time. If we're going to raise our children in Cuttersville, then we owe it to them and ourselves to make certain it's the kind of place where they'll be happy and safe. And becoming involved in local issues is the only way I know to achieve that. I've no patience for such things - I think I proved that in Dante's Peak that first night. But you do."
"Look at me and tell me that you don't want to go to that meeting- that you have no interest in it, and I'll drop the subject and telephone Jane Fox personally to tell her."
Rachel met his eyes, but couldn't say the words. "I do want to go, Harry, but-"
"No excuses. You're going. Now call Jane and tell her to bring Lacey out here with her tomorrow." As if to punctuate the sentance, he placed the telephone before her.
Rachel picked up the telephone and dialed Jane's number as Harry watched. "Jane? It's Rachel - What time can you be here tomorrow evening?"
To Be Continued...

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