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At noon, Abby, John, and Terry went to the cafeteria to eat lunch. For the first time in a while, Abby needed no prompting to eat her meal. She was overjoyed at the prospect of taking Jake home, and had no problem finishing her food. On the cafeteria wall, she noticed a calendar and eagerly went to it, to count the number of days that were left in the month of October. One, two, three, four. There were four days until November first. Abby could hardly wait!

While Jake continued to sleep later that day, his doctor discussed with Abby and her family the release date that he had set for Jake. There were anti-inflammatory medications that needed to be continued, to help the mended artery to Jake's heart from becoming infected; there were also many antiviral drugs that Jake would have to keep taking until the results from his HIV test came back; and then, finally, the doctor said something that Abby had been wondering, herself.

"When Jake goes home," he explained to Abby, "I won't be able to continue prescribing the sedative he's on right now-- it's just too strong. However, I can give him a much milder form of the drug, if he feels he needs it. It can only be taken once a day, so I would suggest saving it for the night hours, but that's only a suggestion."

Jake's coming home wouldn't mean that he was fine and healthy, only that the hospital thought he could do just as well at home, as he could there.

The next few days didn't pass fast enough for Abby. The swelling in Jake's face continued to improve, and his wife was slowly beginning to recognize his handsome features once more. She kept coming to the hospital as early as visiting hours allowed, and only left at the last possible moment.

When the morning of November first finally arrived, Abby could hardly contain herself. Today, Jake was coming home!

It was only after Abby had hurriedly dressed and went to the living room to locate the shoes she had kicked off from the night before, that she suddenly realized she had forgotten something important. The house. Its condition hadn't improved in the last few days, and she only had an hour to get it in order before it was time to go bring Jake home.

With one shoe off and one on, Abby quickly limped to the telephone and frantically called her old fishing buddy.

"Uncle Terry," she cried into the phone, "the house is a disaster! I can't let Jake come home and see this!"

"I offered to help you a few days ago," reminded her uncle, chuckling in spite of himself. "Okay, I'll come over. Maybe I can round up some more volunteers. Oh, Abigail! It's just like you to wait until the last possible moment, before getting something like this done!"

When the humiliated young housekeeper hung up the phone, she limped to the couch and put on her other shoe. Within minutes, Terry showed up with John, and the three started to clean the little yellow house from top to bottom. Just as Abby was getting out the vacuum cleaner in the living room, a third volunteer knocked on the front door.

"I heard you needed some help," grinned Dennis, looking at the unruly living room behind Abby.

"Thanks," she said in surprise, as he let himself inside, "but won't Mr. Winkler miss you at the marina?"

"On a Saturday?" laughed Dennis, taking off his coat. Seeing what needed to be done, he plugged in the vacuum cleaner and switched it on. Abby had been so preoccupied with the numerical day of the month, that she had lost track of the day of the week. "You've really missed Jake, haven't you?" observed the fly casting instructor over the whirring sound of the vacuum. "By the look of things, this house has missed him, too!"

While John hung up the clothing that was strewn throughout Abby's bedroom, Terry was finally able to erase the "Clean me!" he had scrawled on the window awhile back. As bad as the house was, Abby had saved the worst job for herself... the bathroom. She disappeared into the room and didn't emerge until every inch sparkled-- that is, as much as a bathroom can be expected to sparkle. After cleaning herself up after the bathroom, Abby put fresh sheets on Jake's bed and gave him some extra pillows to make him more comfortable.
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