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"I understand," she replied in a quivering voice. "I'm so sorry I make you feel that way."

Upon hearing this, Jake seized Abby by the shoulders and gazed straight into her face.

"Never apologize to me for that," he made her promise, shaking Abby by the shoulders ever so gently. "Why, Abby, all you've ever given me is happiness! Just the sight of you brings me joy! Baby, look at me," he pleaded. Abby raised her tearful eyes to his, and saw that he was crying. For a moment, Jake struggled to steady his voice. "This isn't your fault," he insisted. "Those flashbacks were not your fault!"

"But, if it wasn't for me..." wept Abby.

"If it wasn't for you," interrupted Jake, beaming at her through his tears, "then I never would've known what it was like to be loved by such a wonderful woman as you. I may not look it," he added, "but I've had a few miracles in my life, and you, Abigail Murphy, are definitely one of them. Never apologize for that!"

As Abby collapsed into a pool of tears, Jake let his wife bury her face against his shoulder. It pained him greatly to see her suffering for someone else's sins. The transgressions of his father, and the others that had come afterward, seemed to surround him and Abby like a prison with no bars. In that moment, Jake was more angry with his abusers than he had ever been in his entire life. Their sins were now hurting his beloved Abby, and it was almost more than he could bear. Jake could only hold her, and tell her that he loved her.

Even as Abby hid herself in Jake's strong arms, she knew that he was forcing himself into this physical contact for her sake, alone. Drying her face on his shirt, Abby freed herself from Jake's firm grasp.

"I'm sorry I burst into tears," she apologized, accepting his handkerchief. "I understand, Jake-- I really do."

"I know you do," he sighed. "Could you promise me, never to feel guilty when I have a flashback after we're together?" he wondered. "Could you, Abby?"

Abby looked at him, uncertainly.

"Are you able to promise me," she countered, "never to come to my bed unless you really want to?"

"Not when I think you need me," answered Jake, soberly. "I don't want to fail you as a husband, Abby. In spite of what you're thinking right now, this past week has been one of the happiest of my life. I just can't be there all the time."

"I can accept that," replied Abby, her voice much calmer now. "I'll try not to feel so guilty," she bargained, "if you can make me a promise: hold me if you think I need you, but don't go any further unless you really want to. That way, when you have a flashback, I'll know it was your choice, and not something you were doing just for my sake. If you could promise me that, then it would really help."

"Would it, Abby?" he asked in surprise.

"It would."

"Okay then, I promise," said Jake. "Is there anything else?"

"Since you ask," Abby smiled tearfully, "you could return my teddy bear."

Jake grinned. When Abby's face lit up with a beautiful smile, Jake could feel the anger over his past melt away. The sins of his father paled in comparison to the marvelous love Jake had found in Abby. As God's grace flooded his entire being, it became clear to the young man that there were no bars here, only the tender mercies of a God that knew his every pain. This realization slowly crept into Jake's heart, until it shown as brightly as the noonday sun. God's love for His children became as obvious to Jake as Abby's laughter was to his ears. He didn't have to search long and hard for it-- it was standing right before him.

Jake stepped close to his wife and gazed lovingly into her soft blue eyes.
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