Derek couldn’t speak. He hung up the phone and went back into the bathroom.
Janet was out of the tub wrapping a towel around herself. “I heard you yell something. I was coming to… what’s wrong?”
“I’m going to start the coffee and get dressed.” He said absently as he left the room.
She stared after him knowing whatever they were about to discuss, wasn’t going to be good.
Once she was dressed she took a couple of minutes to catch her breath, then made her way to the dining table where Derek sat waiting with two freshly made cups of coffee in front of him on the table.
This is how they’d always had important discussions; sitting at the dining table with fresh coffee and no distractions. They had set their rules for marriage when they were still in high school and had actually stuck to them.
As Janet made her way to her chair, she recalled how they had been realistic about their boundaries and clear about what they wanted from life and any future spouses. They had seen other couples fight and agreed that they would never be like that. They would fight at some point of course, they knew, but they made a pact to handle it with more maturity and dignity than others.
When they came to their first serious argument they had both stood, glaring at each other, unwilling to push the situation to a negative place. Derek had made coffee to distract himself and Janet had sat at the table, silent.
When the coffee was ready, Derek had made hers too, as usual, and joined her at the table. They had both taken deep breaths and talked out their issue; then decided that was how they would handle all of their problems from then on.
Janet took her seat and thought of the strange twists and turns their lives had taken since then and how today was somehow like a reminder of their past together.
“That was the hospital calling earlier.” Derek started. “They told me about the cancer.”
Janet inhaled sharply through her nose and held her breath as the surprise of his blunt statement washed over her.
When she opened her mouth to speak, Derek put up his hand to stop her. She closed her mouth again and waited.
“Before that phone rang I could only think of finding out why you left me. All this time I have nearly gone mad trying to figure it out; but now all I really want to know is what’s going to happen to Lauren. What are your plans for her?”
Janet shook her head. “I don’t know. You are the only trustworthy person I know on this island, and I can’t ask that of you.”
“You don’t have to ask, Janet. In spite of all that has happened, I still love you; and now I love your daughter too. I would never allow her to go to strangers or anyone who might ever hurt her.”
Janet stared at him as tears began to pour from her eyes.
Derek continued. “If you will let me, I will take her and raise her as my own. Will you let me do that?”
She jumped from her seat and into his lap. He wrapped his arms around her and held her tight as she cried on his shoulder.
After a few minutes Derek gently guided her back to her seat. “Well?”
Janet shook her head yes. “You are the best person I have ever known, Derek. I can’t imagine that there could ever be a better father than you.”
Derek let out a shaky breath. “Then we should get the paperwork started as soon as possible.”
“It would be the perfect solution if it weren’t for Joseph. He will never allow it. He will find a way to kill us all.”
“You don’t have to worry about him anymore.” He said.
Janet’s expression fell flat. “What do you mean by that?”
“I mean, you will never have to worry about him ever again, Janet. He is dead.”
“Oh! Derek, what did you do?” she asked in shock.
“I didn’t get a chance to do anything. He had a wreck after he left here. That was the scene I went to while you were at the hospital.”
Janet sat still and silent while Derek studied her reaction.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
She shook her head yes. “Are you sure he’s really dead?”
She let out an exhausted sigh. “It’s really over.” She stated.
Just as Derek started to respond, they heard a man’s voice yelling outside. Derek quietly ran to the front window and carefully peeked through the curtain to see a burly looking man in the yard.
“Who the hell is that?” Derek wondered aloud. He turned back to look at Janet and saw that she was gone. “Probably ran straight to Lauren.” He thought.
“Mr. Derek Fisher.” The stranger in the yard yelled in a deep booming voice. “I’m calling you out. If yer not yella, come on out so we can settle up.”
“Oh. That’s just great.” Derek thought. “There’s a lunatic on my lawn.”
He watched as the stranger moved his jacket aside to reveal a holster with a pearl white handle protruding from it.
“Fantastic. A lunatic with a six-shooter is calling me out.” Derek let out an exacerbated sigh as he turned to retrieve his own gun from the entry way table.
As he was readying his gun, Janet appeared at the end of the hallway. He held up his hand to stop her from crossing in front of the windows to get to him.
“Derek.” She whispered. “That’s John; Joseph’s younger brother.”
Derek froze in his tracks. “Well isn’t that just wonderful.” He whispered as he rolled his eyes. “Pack Lauren’s bag and go get my car keys and cell phone off of my night stand. If this goes south, go out the back and get to Kast. His number is on speed dial two.”
As he reached for the door to open it, Janet called out his name in a loud whisper. He turned and met her eyes. “I love you.” She said.
“I love you too.” He replied. Then he was out the door.
End of Phantom Island- Story 7-Part 4- “Derek and Lauren”
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