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"Especially women," confided Terry in a hushed voice. "They find the triplets irresistible. It's one thing to be pushing a single baby in a stroller, but three at the same time!" He shuddered.

"Terry, I wish you could overcome that shyness of yours," sighed John, as Jake looked up from the kitchen stove and overheard the tail end of that last remark.

"Nah! What for?" Terry good-naturedly shrugged. "This is all the family I'll ever need."

After John went to see if he could help his wife with the girls, Jake saw a strangely quiet look on Terry's face. It was very unlike him.

For a few silent moments, Terry lingered by the stove and then settled into a chair at the empty kitchen table, as if troubled by his own thoughts.

"Jake," he finally broke the silence, "I think it's because of you."

"What is?" asked the young man, taking a break from the meal preparations and sitting down across from Terry at the table. "What are you talking about?"

"You and Abby have something good going on," smiled Terry. "I don't need a daily bulletin to know that things are getting better for you; it's obvious to anyone who has eyes." Terry looked at his friend in admiration. "I envy you, Jake."

Jake stared at him, incredulously.

"Why in the world would you envy me?" he asked in surprise.

"I didn't fully realize it until now," Terry reproached himself, "but I've used my abuse as a reason for not risking intimacy with a woman. But you," he sighed, "you, who have so much to overcome, you're doing it."

Taken aback by the frankness of Terry's admission, Jake was speechless. Before he could gather his thoughts to give some kind of encouraging reply, the expression on Terry's face quickly resumed to that of his old self.

"Don't tell the others what I just said," regretted Terry, scooting his chair back from the table. "I've probably just changed one too many baby diapers, and the fumes have finally gotten to me." Terry smiled his lopsided grin, and went to wash up for lunch.

Jake looked down at the gold wedding band on his finger. It was good to belong to someone, but it was even better to belong to Abby.

The days passed, but Jake never forgot that one brief moment when Terry had let his guard down and confessed his true feelings. Since Terry hadn't spoken of it since, Jake didn't feel at liberty to discuss it with anyone but Abby. As always, talking with her somehow made him feel better.

"I had no idea that Uncle Terry felt he was using it as an excuse," sighed Abby, as Jake leaned against her computer table in their living room one morning.

Abby had once told Jake that he could interrupt her work whenever he wanted, but Jake hated to take too much advantage of that promise, unless she should become sorry for giving him so much liberty with her time. As he stood with his arms folded, Abby couldn't help smiling.

"What?" puzzled Jake.
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