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While Jake lay on the sofa trying to forget Terry's last joke, he heard the mailman shutting the mailbox outside, before going on to the yellow house, as was the route the mailman usually took. When his chest pain finally subsided, Jake went outside and retrieved the Johanneses' mail. As he opened the mailbox at his house, however, Jake made an unexpected discovery: four envelopes addressed to Abby, bearing the address of a doctor, a hospital, a laboratory, and a pharmacy. Puzzled, he opened one of the envelopes and found a large bill for his stay at the Watertown Mercy Memorial Hospital. Suddenly, Jake understood that Abby was being charged for his expenses.

With a lump in his throat, the young husband opened one envelope after another, only to find thousands of dollars that others said Abby now owed them. They had been assured that the state was picking up the tab for these expenses, so this was coming as a great shock. Jake knew his wife was far from rich, and he wondered how she could possibly ever hope to pay these bills.

Stunned and confused, Jake hid the four envelopes in his room, before returning to the Johanneses' home with their mail. As he resumed work on the apple cobbler, Abby noticed that the former holiday cheer in Jake's demeanor was gone. Instead of smiles, his mouth was pensive, his brow furrowed in thought, and his eyes kept evading her inquiring gaze.

"So there I was," related Terry, biting into one of their homemade chocolate chip cookies, "standing in the checkout line holding a home pregnancy kit, and trying to look not guilty. The lady at the checkout knew me, and must have thought I had gotten someone poor woman pregnant, because she gave me one of the sternest looks I've ever had-- bless her heart! I tell you, John owed me for a long time after that one! I'll never forget that day, Jake. We learned that John and Izzy were going to be parents for the first time, and even though I didn't know Abby yet, I could hardly wait to meet the little person God was creating for this family!"

Jake smiled faintly, as if caught between two thoughts. As he sliced the red apples Terry had cleaned in the kitchen sink, Jake wondered what he should do about the thousands of dollars in medical bills that he had generated for Abby.

The woman in question watched Jake out of the corner of her eye, debating with herself what to do. Whatever was weighing so heavily on his heart, he was keeping to himself.

"Hey, look!" cried John, coming to the kitchen and beckoning everyone to the living room window. "It's snowing! This time, it's really coming down!"

"At this rate," observed Terry, peering out the curtained window, "we're going to need to shovel the walk."

"We'd better keep an eye on the roofs," remarked John, "so they don't pile up with too much snow."

Thinking that perhaps Jake didn't understand what her father was talking about, Abby explained.

"If you get too much snow on the rooftops," she told him, "then they could collapse."

"I know," retorted Jake, "I grew up in New York, too. This isn't the first time I've ever seen snow, Abby."

There was a bite to Jake's voice that surprised Abby. Before she could react, he went back to the kitchen to finish the apple cobbler. Silently, Abby resumed her work, and wondered if she should say something to her husband.

"After this thing is done," Jake asked her rather abruptly, "what am I supposed to do with it?"

"I don't know," she stammered. "I'll go ask Uncle Terry."

Jake waited until Abby returned with Terry's directions.

"The oven's already preheated," she related, "so Uncle Terry said to put it in for thirty minutes."

Jake slid the casserole dish into the oven and unintentionally slammed the door shut. Abby jumped as the loud thud sounded in her ears.

"Sorry," he apologized, seeing the startled look in her eyes.

"It's all right," she smiled.

When he didn't return her smile, Abby's concern began to grow.
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