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Abby put her hands over her ears and tried to shut out the thoughts that came rushing in. The possibility that Jake could have HIV, was almost more than she could bear. She hadn't yet associated Alex Walters' name with the Bayside Rapist, so his name didn't instill the same dread in her as it had in Terry and John.

Suddenly, Abby became acutely aware that Jake was intently watching her reaction. Seeing that she was only causing him more anguish, the young woman took a deep breath and relaxed her posture. She didn't know how yet, but she had to believe that God was going to get them through this. A still small voice reminded her of a verse from Deuteronomy chapter seven, verse nine: "Know therefore that the LORD thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations." The faithful God. Abby grabbed onto those words with all her heart.

"When will you know if Jake is HIV positive?" she asked, struggling with every nerve in her body to be brave in front of Jake.

"Normally, it would take three to six months," answered the doctor, "but your husband doesn't want to wait that long. While you were out of the room a little while ago, one of the orderlies told him about his sentence being commuted. It was then that Jake requested a viral load test."

"I don't understand," replied Abby, struggling to keep up.

"You see," explained the physician, "a viral load test looks for the virus itself and not the antibodies to the virus, as the standard tests do. Until Jake knows if he's infected or not, he couldn't have sexual intercourse with you for at least six months. A viral load test is much quicker, so you both wouldn't have to wait as long."

Upon hearing this, Abby looked to Jake in surprise.

Unable to withstand the situation, the poor man closed his eyes to escape.

"Will you recommend the test?" she asked, feeling a familiar hope stirring within her.

"Yes, I am," answered the doctor with a knowing smile. "I think that after all he's been through, this isn't an unreasonable request. However, Jake," he warned, turning to his patient, "make sure you give those ribs a good chance to heal, first. You'll be able to tell by the level of pain you're in, if sex is a good idea, or not."

After the doctor left, Abby turned to her young husband, who was still trying hard to avoid her questioning blue eyes.

"He's assuming a lot," Jake breathed slowly. "I never told him it was because of that, Abby."

"Take it easy," she assured him. "At least we'll soon know if you're infected."

Relieved that Abby wasn't going to press the question, Jake relaxed a little. In small, labored breaths, he began to relate some of his experience the day before.

"Walters kicked me in the ribs," recalled Jake. "I broke my finger when I tried to shield myself from his blows. Then he took my right arm and dragged me across the floor to his bed. The pain from my chest was so bad that I passed out, and he let me alone. When he came at me later that day, I couldn't fight him off. Abby, it was awful."

"Did you know," she informed him, wanting to see what his reaction would be, "that because of your history, the hospital has considered placing a suicide watch on you."

"They're crazy," smiled Jake. "I want to live too badly, to give up now. I hope I don't have HIV, Abby. I want to come home, but not like that." Here, Jake paused, trying to wait for the pain in his chest to subside before continuing. "Life is such a wonderful gift," he panted. Even though each breath had been agonizing, his desire to talk to Abby had been even greater. Now that the pain was coming on stronger than before, the young wife realized he needed to stop.
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