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"Are they triplets?" they asked, almost simultaneously.

"Yes," stammered Terry, who normally found it difficult to talk to women. It was as if he were suddenly holding a sign that said, "Look at me! I'm special!" Of course, it also read, "This guy is married."

Terry noticed that neither of the women had even bothered to check if he were wearing a wedding band, because it was almost assumed. But instead of making sure that they understood he was only baby-sitting, Terry remained tongue-tied.

As the women admired the triplets, he wondered what it felt like to be a father; to have a wife that intimately knew his soul the way Izumi knew John's; to belong to a family of his own, and not be just an adopted relative of someone else's. Lately, thoughts such as those were becoming more frequent, and he wondered why it should be happening to him now. In the past, he had been fairly satisfied to stay in the background of his friends' lives. Why was now so different?

After the two women left, Terry's train carefully proceeded down the sidewalk. All too soon, he was stopped with more questions and more compliments. By the one millionth time someone asked if they were triplets, Terry dryly responded,

"No, they just look alike."

Seeing that he was obviously joking, the questioner chuckled and moved on.

On the other hand, friends were always a welcome sight to Terry, for it meant no explanations or questions to answer. Just friendly exchanges, and passing comments as to how big the girls were getting, though they were only about a month and a half old, and still relatively small.

Izumi had been right. With those three babies out in front of him, no one even noticed that he was shouldering one of her oversized purses. Seeing another stranger up ahead, Terry quickly diverted the stroller to a little used path that he frequently took as a shortcut.

This was much better. Finally able to really enjoy his outing with the girls, Terry introduced them to the beauty of their surroundings, though they were just on a narrow dirt path. Snow still spotted the landscape, but spring was definitely on its way. Always the nature lover, Terry turned his gaze upward and watched in wonder as birds deftly rode the air currents in the blue expanse overhead. He smiled faintly. It truly was a beautiful sight. When baby Debbie gurgled, however, Terry's daydreams quickly returned to earth.

"Little bit has drool on her mouth," he smiled, squatting down and gently wiping the infant's face with a clean handkerchief. Suddenly, he noticed the position of the sun overhead, and checked his watch. "Guess I'd better return you three home to your mommy," Terry chuckled knowingly, "before she sends your daddy after me."

Terry and the triplets arrived home before lunch, only to find Izumi waiting for them outside, by the front door. She tried to hide her relief from Terry, but he could plainly see that she was suffering from new-mother jitters.

"Here we are," smiled Terry, "right on time, just like I promised. Now, don't you feel silly for worrying?"

"I wasn't worried," contradicted Izumi. "I'm just trying to be careful, that's all." She checked over each baby, and after seeing they were still intact, took them inside for their noon feeding.

"I hope you both appreciate the sacrifice I made this morning, so you could have a few minutes of peace and quiet around here," he lightly announced, taking off his coat. "I must've told half a dozen people about the girls, today."

"They do tend to attract a lot of attention," conceded John, as the men went to the kitchen to see what Jake was fixing for lunch.
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