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"Abby," he hesitated, as if the very sound of her name caused him great pain, "it's best if you forget about me-- at least, until it's all over."

"Please, Jake," she begged, "don't do this to me. I need to know what's happening to you."

There was silence as Jake struggled with himself to reply to his dear friend. Suddenly, a recorded message broke the stillness, and reminded Abby that she was speaking to an inmate from the penitentiary, and that their call could be recorded or monitored.

"Thank you for being my friend, Abby," he said in a painfully distant voice. "You don't know how much it's meant to me."

Before Abby could protest, he hung up. John looked soberly at his daughter who was still fighting the shock of what she had just heard.

"Well, what did he say?" asked Terry, for he had only been able to watch their expressions.

"He tried to tell me good-bye," replied Abby, still dazed by the call. "He's put me off before, but this time... I don't like the way his voice sounded. Dear God," she cried under her breath, "don't let me lose him-- not now!"

"Surely, he wouldn't take his own life," said John.

"What's going on?" asked Izumi, waddling into the living room.

"Little Dove," sighed John, going to his wife, "you need to stay in bed."

"But," she protested, "I can't hear anything from the bedroom."

"Then we'll come in there," said John, guiding Izumi back to the bed. "Abby, as I was saying-- surely, Jake wouldn't take his own life."

"He's tried it before," Abby replied. "Four times, as a matter of fact."

"As many as that?" asked Terry in surprise. "I didn't know that."

"But, it wasn't hopelessness that I heard in his voice," said Abby, recalling the sound of his words over and over in her mind. "No, it's something else. I don't want to say it out loud, but I think he's in a situation where the abuse is likely to happen again. Jake told me to forget him, only because he's trying to protect me from knowing what's going on." The young woman looked at her silent parents, who didn't know what to say. "For all I know," she continued, "he's already been abused. By the sound of his voice, it wouldn't surprise me. It wouldn't surprise me at all."

"Maybe, you're intuition is wrong," suggested Terry, unwilling to consider Abby's conclusion.

"I've heard that same tone in his voice when he's suffering flashbacks," replied Abby. Everyone was silent. The eighteen year old woman smoothed back her long hair and shook her head in desperation. "How are we going to get through this?" she cried, quickly brushing away the tears that came to her eyes. "I don't understand! How could God let this happen to Jake? He's tried so hard to overcome his past! It's not fair! Dad, it's not fair!"

"Abigail," replied John, wiping away his own tears, "the Judge of all the earth, ALWAYS does right. Remember Genesis, chapter eighteen, verse twenty-five? 'That be far from Thee [the LORD] to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from Thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?'"

"Dad," wept Abby, "please don't quote more Scripture right now! What does that have to do with me and Jake?"

"You're under a lot of stress," admonished John, "but I want you to seriously consider your stand before God right now, Abby. The Scripture has everything to do with what's going on in your lives. Your mother and I, along with your Uncle Terry, have tried to raise you in the nurture and admonition of God's word. Ever since you were old enough to understand that there was a God and that He was worthy to be obeyed, you've said that you were a Christian. I know this is the hardest thing you've ever had to do in your entire life, but you need to ask yourself if you really believe what you say you believe. Faith isn't something that you put in a jar and set on the shelf. If faith is no longer active, then it's not faith anymore, only a previously held belief. I've heard you tell Jake often enough to trust God's Providence, even when it seems as though all is lost-- and he believed you. It seems as though God has seen best to test you two in ways I can only imagine. If Jake is being abused again, then he's going to need you now, more than ever. Don't fail your friend, and don't let God down. The Lord wouldn't have given this test, unless He knew you both could pass it.
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