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Chapter Twenty-five
Our First Christmas

"I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone... I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer."
~ Song of Solomon 5:6 ~

Abby rolled over in bed and groggily blinked through her sleep at the digital clock sitting on the nightstand. It was midnight, and for some reason she was awake. With a tired yawn, Abby reached for Jake, who had fallen asleep beside her in bed earlier that night.

"Jake?" mumbled the young woman, feeling about in the darkness for her husband. "Jake, I'm cold. Jake?" Suddenly, Abby realized that Jake's place in bed was empty. Thinking he had momentarily gotten up to go use the bathroom, Abby closed her eyes and waited for his return. Seconds turned to minutes, and Abby slowly lost track of time as she fell back to sleep. But the cold awakened her once more, and Abby turned to Jake's familiar presence beside her in bed. However, when she reached for him, her hands only found emptiness. Where was Jake? Abby lifted her head and looked at the clock. An hour had passed, and Jake still hadn't returned.

Growing concerned, Abby climbed out of bed and checked the bathroom, only to find it empty. As her concern began to mount, her eye caught sight of the half open door to Jake's room. Normally, it was kept wide open... except for the old days, when he used to sleep by himself.

An entire week had passed since Jake had come to her bed, and even when his ribs wouldn't allow him to be intimate, he still held her. It had been too easy for Jake's past to spill over into the present, so he slept with Abby firmly clutched in his arms-- a constant reminder that the presence beside him was hers, and not someone else's.

As she stared silently at the door at the end of the hallway, the very real possibility that he could be there filled her heart with disappointment. Following her intuition, Abby quietly looked inside. Sure enough, Jake was back in his own bed, looking comfortable and snug, and worst of all, without her. Just then, the slumbering young man momentarily stirred before settling back into sleep.

Realizing that he had made his choice for the night, Abby solemnly shuffled back to her now empty bed, sighing wistfully. Her bedroom felt cold and empty without Jake, and so did she.

"What's the matter with me?" she groaned softly. "So he went back to his room. I've slept alone all my life. It's no big deal!" However, the logic of Abby's head wasn't able to fill the hollow aching in her heart. Jake wasn't there, and no amount of reasoning could make that fact go away.

Disgusted with her own weakness, Abby folded her cold legs beneath her and tried to fall asleep.

"Why is this so hard?" she wondered. Seven nights with Jake, and she suddenly couldn't stand to be by herself! The power of her physical connection with him, amazed her.

Suddenly craving a comforting presence, Abby got out of bed for Daisy, her long-beloved teddy bear. When Abby was little, Daisy was the one she had huddled against when the thunder sounded like a giant stamping its feet on the house rooftop. And when shadows on the floor began to take the hideous forms of lurking monsters, it was Daisy that Abby had clung to, all the while reciting her Bible memory verses to assuage her fears. But this time, there were no giants on the roof, and no monsters hiding in her bedroom-- only an inexplicable longing that Abby was unable to fill without Jake. Determined to prove to herself that she could overcome this perceived weakness, Abby searched her room for the stuffed animal. When the bear didn't turn up, it finally occurred to her that Jake must have taken Daisy with him.

Defeated, Abby returned to her empty bed and pulled the cold covers up around her body. With no husband and no teddy bear, Abby finally surrendered. As the lonely tears streamed down her face, she was grateful that no one was present to see her making a fool of herself. Abby would have been ashamed for anyone to know how she was carrying on, when Jake was only down the hall. Jake was safe and at home, her pregnancy was going well, and her parents and Uncle Terry were in good health. There was no excusable reason to feel this way!

continued on next page...
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