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The nurse reached for the wheelchair handles, but Abby beat her to it.

"That's all right," Abby insisted, taking control of the wheelchair, "I've got it."

As she wheeled Jake into the hall, the doctor met them.

"Here's the prescriptions you'll need," he said, handing Abby some paper. "Make sure you follow these directions, to the letter. Those antiviral drugs are serious stuff. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to call."

"I'll be careful," promised Abby, soberly.

"Jake, remember to take it easy," said the doctor, extending a friendly hand to say good-bye.

When Abby saw that Jake was unable to return the gesture, she interceded and shook the doctor's hand in his stead.

Then, Abby pushed Jake's wheelchair down the long hallways and out the main door. A rush of frigid air burst in on Jake, momentarily robbing him of his breath.

"I brought your coat," offered Abby. "Do you want to put it on?"

Knowing that moving his arms would only cause his ribs to hurt more, Jake shook his head, "no."

As they neared the jeep, Jake steeled himself to get out of the wheelchair.

"Do you need any help, Son?" asked John, after Abby had set the brakes on the chair so it wouldn't roll out from under him when he tried to stand up.

"No," mumbled the young man, as he carefully got to his feet. "I think I'm getting better at this."

Abby opened the passenger door up front, and Jake slowly climbed inside. An orderly who had escorted them to the parking lot, returned the chair to the hospital, while John and Terry got into the back of the jeep. Abby climbed behind the wheel and glanced at the nervous young man sitting across from her.

"Before we go home," said Abby, "I need to stop by the pharmacy to pick up the drugs your doctor prescribed. Is that all right with you, Jake?"

"As long as I don't have to get out of the car," he softly breathed.

It wasn't a long drive to the pharmacy, for it was only a few blocks from the hospital. When they arrived at their destination, Abby went inside while John and Terry stayed with Jake out in the jeep.

While Jake waited for her to return, he rested his head on the back of his seat and looked out the window. Just then, a small group of young people his age walked by, all dressed in warm coats, and obviously enjoying each other's company. As he fixed his eyes on this scene, a strange feeling came over him. For the first time in nine years, Jake was looking at the world through the eyes of a free man. He wondered how the outside world would treat him, now that he was no longer on parole. Jake imagined himself among those young people, laughing and talking as though he belonged in their surroundings; but, all too soon, they saw through his disguise, and he was exposed as the outcast and impostor that he was. With a heavy sigh that caused his chest to ache, Jake awakened from this painful reverie. A feeling of self-pity started to overtake him. If he wasn't one of "them," and never would be, what good was this new freedom he had gained?

As the ex-convict anguished over these thoughts, God's Holy Spirit brought to him the following passage from Matthew, chapter five: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy... Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

As Jake's heart began to glow with this fresh comfort from above, some of the promised blessing walked out the pharmacy door and climbed into the jeep, her beautiful face smiling at him the whole way.

"Let's go home," she sighed happily, as they started their journey back to Three Mile Bay.

"I [Jesus] will not leave you comfortless."
~ John 14:18 ~

end of chapter
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