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For a moment, the ex-convict stared at the check, unable to speak.

"I don't want you to think that I'm ungrateful," said Jake, "because, I really appreciate what God is doing. God is providing for us, and He's making that very plain to me right now. But, Abby," he sighed, "this is more than just my hospital bills. I need to do something that supports my family. It's not your parents' responsibility to make sure there's a roof over your head, and food on the table-- it's mine!"

With that last emphatic statement, Jake winced in pain, his eyes traveling to the floor as he tried to catch his breath. It was then that he noticed the wet puddles Abby had left on the carpet from tracking snow into the house.

"Jake," she sighed, "I think you're being too hard on yourself. No one is expecting you to be the sole provider. I have a good job with Dennis, and have plenty of opportunity to move up in his family business. And," she added, hopefully, "I might be able to give private casting lessons, when the time comes. Jake, it's actually looking like we can have a career!"

"You mean you are going to have a career," replied Jake. "I know this may sound like pride, Abby, but it isn't. I just want to be able to take care of you and the baby, like I'm supposed to!"

"I realize you're not making as much as I am," she reasoned, "but, you are helping to support this family, Jake."

"Abby," he wondered, "do you expect me to clean your parents' house for the rest of my life? Or, go back to being Mr. Winkler's errand boy come next spring? I'm extremely grateful for those jobs, but they were temporary at best. I want to do something real... something that means I have a livelihood, other than that of living off my wife."

"I don't mind if you live off me," argued Abby.

"But, I do!" exclaimed Jake. "Don't you understand, Abby? I feel like a freeloader! Even your uncle is doing more for us than I'm able to!"

"That reminds me," she awkwardly hesitated, "there was one other thing I didn't tell you yet. It's good news, so you don't have to get excited," she added. "Uncle Terry is trading vehicles with us."

"Trading what?" asked Jake.

"My jeep... I mean, our jeep," rectified Abby, "isn't able to have a car seat in the back, so Uncle Terry is swapping our jeep for his pickup."

"Terry's red pickup?" asked Jake, incredulously. "The shiny, four door pickup truck he takes care of as if it were his baby? That pickup?"

"I agreed to his proposal," shrugged Abby, with a smile.

"Without talking it over with me, first?" he cried.

"I didn't think we had to discuss it," she replied, surprised that Jake was taking the news this way.

Even though he had swallowed a Xantol, Jake's chest was hurting him even more, for the young man wasn't giving it a good chance to work. This discussion with Abby was making the pain worse.

"I guess you're right," groaned Jake, wearily rubbing his forehead with the palm of his hand. "It's your jeep. You should be able to do whatever you want with it."

With a heavy sigh, Jake went to his room, leaving Abby alone with her coat and the puddles on the carpet from her melted snow. Jake's reaction was not what she had expected. To be honest, Abby was more than a little confused by his rationale, and insistence that he somehow support their small family in the making. Jake had vivid flashbacks, and a violent criminal record; how could he possibly ever hope to make a living independent of her income?

Later that evening, Jake readily declined her call to dinner at her parents' house. His system was so full of Xantol, that the mere thought of food made him feel sick.
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