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"No, I trust you," John repeated. "Abby's departure reminds me of Grace, because her mother and I have to let go and move forward. But," he quickly added, "we're not letting go so completely, that we don't expect to hear from you two. My wife will go on grieving for Abby, if you don't remind that forgetful daughter of mine, that her mother would like to hear from her, once in a while!"

At this, Jake chuckled. He could easily imagine Abby being so forgetful, though he knew full well that it wasn't for lack of love on her part.

"If you're ever short on rent money," continued John, "please, tell us. I know Abby won't say a word unless things get dire, so I'm counting on you to speak for her. Whatever you need, tell us so we can help." John smiled. "I'm not trying to scare you again," he added, realizing that he had just asked his son-in-law to tell him if he was ever desperate for cash. "I'm sure you'll do just fine in California."

"Yes, Sir," answered Jake, wincing as he heard that second "Sir" slip from his mouth.

"I'm not putting you at ease, am I," laughed the father.

"That's all right," shrugged Jake. "I understand."

"I know you do," smiled John. Reflecting on a thought, he looked out into the distance, and then turned back to the young man standing somewhat nervously beside him. "If I ever had a son," said John, "I hope he'd turn out to be like you. I mean it," he insisted, seeing the disbelief in Jake's eyes. "I'm not talking about your struggles," he explained, "but the way you overcame them. I'm proud to have you for my son-in-law."

Not knowing what to say, Jake awkwardly hung back, his hands still shoved into his pockets.

"I don't know what your limitations are," ventured John, "but would it be possible for me to give you a hug?"

The request caught Jake off guard. Before he knew what he was saying, he agreed. Jake didn't know if he was ready for this physical contact, but he did know that he owed this man more than he could ever hope to repay, and all John was asking in return, was a hug.

Carefully, John took a step forward and put his arms around his son; slowly, Jake's hands emerged from his pockets, and he embraced his dad.

"Thank you," whispered John. Wiping the moisture from his eyes, John walked back to the house.

"Have you been crying?" asked Terry, seeing his best friend come through the front door looking very sad.

"I don't think I have," sniffed John, taking a deep breath to keep his eyes from tearing over.

"I don't envy you and Izzy right now," Terry sighed, sympathetically. "Three Mile Bay is going to feel empty without AJ and Ricky."

As he said this, one of the triplets began to cry, promptly setting off the other two. John hurried over to the playpen, and picked up the baby that had started the chain reaction.

"Three Mile Bay might feel emptier," chuckled John, as a teething Ruthie screamed into his ear, "but it sure won't be any quieter!"

Back in the little house across the way, Jake sat on their bed, waiting for Abby to wake up. Evening was turning into night, and Ricky was getting hungry. With a patient smile, Jake looked down at the small bundle strapped to his chest in the baby sling. Ricky wasn't sure why his meal wasn't forthcoming, but since his daddy didn't seem worried, the infant was temporarily content to suck on his pacifier.
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