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"Dumb old bear," she sighed, trying to cozy down into her pillow. Envious of the stuffed animal in Jake's arms, Abby at last fell asleep.

The next morning, Abby awoke only to discover that Jake had already left for her parents' house to start breakfast. Disappointed to have missed him so completely, Abby lingered at her bedroom window and paused to see the natural beauty of the winter wonderland that lay just outside the pane of glass. Overnight, a storm had passed through, covering over the unsightly tracks everyone had made in the snow, and making everything look crisp and new. But Abby couldn't enjoy the unspoiled landscape, for her mind was busily engaged elsewhere. Jake had left without kissing her good morning, and though it had been a small oversight, Abby couldn't help feeling that he had missed seeing her on purpose.

The newly fallen snow crunched beneath her feet as Abby walked to her parents' house for breakfast. She was eager to see Jake, and to learn how he had fared sleeping a night through without her. A part of Abby secretly wished for a confession of how terribly he had missed her, so that she might feel less ridiculous for the miserable night she had endured.

When Abby entered the kitchen, she found Jake busy at the stove, while Terry read the morning paper at the table, making thoughtful remarks about the local news. Terry looked up from his newspaper as she made her way to the coffee pot to pour herself some of the hot beverage.

"Good morning!" he greeted his niece. "Only six days till Christmas! I hope everyone has already done their shopping! The malls are going to be jammed this week!" As if to confirm his prediction, Terry examined the newspaper and shook his head knowingly.

Jake glanced up at Abby and quickly returned to his work, giving the simmering meal of bacon and eggs more attention that it really needed.

"That reminds me," continued Terry, "I'll be with some friends from church tonight, and we're going to do a little Christmas caroling around town. John wants to stay home with Izzy, but I thought maybe you and Jake might want to come along." When he heard no response, the uncle looked up from his newspaper. "Abby, are you listening?" he asked, for she was staring into her coffee mug with a distant look on her face.

"I'm sorry," apologized Abby, returning to earth. "You said something about caroling?"

"Are you and Jake coming?" asked Terry.

"I don't know," stammered Abby, "are we, Jake?"

"If you want to," shrugged Jake, his back still turned to her.

"Then, I guess we're coming," she sighed, unenthusiastically.

Narrowing his eyes thoughtfully, Terry looked the young couple over. After a few moments of silent deduction, he set the newspaper aside for John, and got to his feet.

"I think I'll go alphabetize my bookcase," he announced, quickly exiting the kitchen without further explanation. Terry hadn't lived with John and Izumi for so many years, by not being able to recognize when a married couple needed to be alone.

With Terry out of the room, everything suddenly became quiet. All Abby could hear were muffled voices as the rest of the house went about its morning routine, and the crackling of bacon in Jake's frying pan. With a loving smile, Abby quietly walked across the room to where Jake was still facing the stove, and slipped her arms tenderly around him.

Gasping in surprise at this sudden, unexpected physical contact, Jake nearly jumped out of her arms.

"Don't ever do that to me, again," he chided her a little sharply, relieved that it had only been Abby, and not someone else.
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