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"Are you coming, Abby?" he asked, zipping up his coat and checking the time. "I don't want you trying to get across all that slippery ice by yourself. I sprinkled sand over it last night," he continued, as Abby entered the room and put her arms into the coat Jake was holding for her, "but it's still not safe. After breakfast, I'll walk you home, so don't leave without me. And make sure you keep the fireplace on while I'm not here," he further instructed her.

"Yes, Jake," replied Abby, as he buttoned her coat.

"You need to keep warm..." Jake paused, as he noticed a tender smile playing around the edges of Abby's mouth. "What is it?" he asked. "Why are you smiling?"

"I didn't think it was humanly possible," she answered honestly, "but my love for you only gets stronger. How can that be, Jake?"

The young man hesitated, and gazed into her eyes with a longing that made Abby ache for his arms.

"Oh, Abby," he moaned, "why can't you tell me wonderful things like that when I'm prepared to do something about it?!" He could only kiss Abby on the forehead and place a warm scarf about her neck to protect her from the cold.

"I'm sorry, Jake," she apologized. "It just sort of slipped out. I usually don't say romantic junk like that."

"I know," he lamented, opening the front door and closing it behind them as a burst of chilly air stung their faces. "Watch your step on the ice."

Overhead, the sky was clear and brilliant, giving everyone a welcome reprieve from the white and gray clouds that had settled over the bay like a bad chest cold for the past few days. Such mornings made Abby impatient for spring. But, she was quick to remind herself, it was only after the middle of January, and there were many snowy days that still lay between her and fly fishing.

"I wish you didn't have to work all day, today," sighed Jake, as Abby accepted his arm to cross over a large icy patch on the ground. "We're assembling the triplets' nursery after breakfast, and I hate for you to miss out."

"I can spare some time for that," she answered.

"Could you?" he brightened. "Thanks, Abby."

Warmth enveloped the young couple as they entered the Johanneses' house and took off their winter paraphernalia. Jake hung their coats in the closet while Abby went to her parents' room to check on her mother.

"Good morning, Sweetheart," greeted Izumi, as Abby's smiling face appeared in the bedroom doorway.

"How did you sleep, Mom?" inquired Abby, after the pregnant women had exchanged hugs.

"Your father certainly is long-suffering," Izumi smiled wearily. "After I use the bathroom, it takes me forever to get situated in a comfortable position in bed, and by the time I do, I have to use the bathroom again!" Izumi moved her legs and sighed patiently. "It's taking every ounce of endurance I have to just lay here. I'm so big, I can hardly believe that my body is holding together!"

"Keep going, Mom!" Abby tried to encourage her. "You've managed to keep the girls inside your womb for thirty-four weeks! Just seven more days until your cesarean, and then it will all be over!" Abby paused, wondering if this was the right moment that she had been waiting for to talk to her mother in private.

"It will hardly be over, Sweetheart," Izumi replied, not realizing that her daughter was searching for a way to ask something. "I suppose, by then, I'll be wishing for the good old days when all I did was lay around in bed and watch T.V. I hope you and the others are ready. I won't be able to do everything by myself."
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