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Jake had painted a portrait of the entire family, with such loving care that John couldn't speak for several minutes. He held it up so everyone could see. Against the backdrop of Three Mile Bay, Jake had painted John and Izumi, standing on the beach, with their arms around each other. On their right was Terry, wearing the smile that everyone loved so well. To the left, was Jake and Abby. Abby's face was looking forward, as if embracing her surroundings, while Jake's gaze was fixed on his wife. The painting was large, and each heartfelt expression seemed to show the soul of every person depicted.

"It's absolutely wonderful," sighed Izumi.

"Jake, it's stunning," John finally managed to say. "I had no idea you were this gifted." Suddenly, John could see his son-in-law going to college, and making something of himself. John had seen the mural in the triplets' nursery, but it had been stylized to a child's sensibilities, so he hadn't really taken it seriously. But this-- this was something altogether different. "Abby," asked John, "did you know Jake could do this?"

"I have to admit," Abby mumbled, "I'm floored. I really am, Jake. Why didn't you tell me you were a genius?!" She swatted him playfully and went back to the painting, marveling at his artistry. "I can't believe it only took you a few weeks to do all this-- and without any primary photograph to work from! Dad, do you know that Jake painted this using only the photos in our old albums?"

"Did you?" smiled Terry, momentarily forgetting himself and slapping Jake on the back. "Well done!"

When everyone could finally tear themselves away from the painting, Abby realized that there was one more box still sitting under the tree.

"There's still one more gift," announced Terry, as Jake bent down and lifted the Valentine papered box. "It's for Abby, if anyone can't already guess!" chuckled the uncle.

"Abby, this is from me," said Jake, placing the large present in her arms.

Smiling, Abby carefully opened the paper and found an unmarked, brown cardboard box. Jake was grinning, as she opened the flaps and looked inside.

"It's a teddy bear," said Terry, puzzled by why Abby was beginning to cry. No one could understand why she was weeping over a new stuffed animal. No one, that is, but Jake.

"Please, Abby," he begged in a hushed whisper, while taking her in his arms, "don't cry."

"There, there, Sweetheart," said John, touching her on the head like a child, "you're just a little overwrought."

"I'll start setting out lunch," volunteered Terry. "Is that all right with you, Jake?" he asked, for Jake was the one who had planned out the entire meal.

"Yes, thank you," replied Jake, still clutching a weeping Abby.

By now, Izumi was in tears as well, although she couldn't understand why. Her baby girl was crying, and that was all the reason she needed.

"I suppose," sighed John, trying to calm his own wife, "that with two pregnant women in the house, this should be expected."

Jake picked up the teddy bear and took it with them to the living room couch, where he and Abby sat down.

After Izumi had finally quieted, John checked to see how his daughter was faring. To his relief, Abby was curled up on the sofa, snuggling against Jake. With a happy smile, John sat down in his favorite chair and turned on the television. For several minutes, Jake held Abby, until he whispered something in her ear that John couldn't overhear. Out of the corner of his eye, John saw Abby turn to the large stuffed teddy bear and wrap her arms around its neck. Jake stayed by Abby's side, looking as though he had somehow failed her, while she clutched the bear for comfort.

Suddenly, John understood.

The father muted the television just long enough to hear Jake whisper, "I love you," to his daughter. John sighed heavily. He recalled what Abby had said about Jake not being able to come to her bed every night, and suddenly realized why Jake had given her the teddy bear. It was the only way the young man knew to comfort Abby when he couldn't be there for her. Until now, this was an aspect of his daughter's marriage that he hadn't considered before. Silently, John watched as Jake continued to talk to Abby in overly hushed tones that he was unable to make out. Then, as if Jake had been able to coax the clouds away from hiding the sun, Abby smiled. Jake tenderly kissed her on the forehead, and every trace of sadness disappeared. Then the young couple got up and went to help Terry with the food preparations.

"Those two make quite a pair," John sighed to himself, smilingly. He turned the sound back on, and watched television until Abby called him to Christmas lunch.

"For Thou [God] hast been a strength to the poor [Jake], a strength to the needy in [her] distress [Abby], a refuge from the storm [Terry, John, and Izumi]... when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall."
~ Isaiah 25:4 ~

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