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"Friend?!" exclaimed Tyler, his voice rising so that everyone turned to see what was going on. "Is that all I mean to you?"

"I've tried Tyler, I honestly have, but I don't love you!" cried Abby, fighting back tears.

"Oh, no," sighed John. "She's turning him down."

Tyler got up from the picnic table and backed away from Abby.

"Don't you marry the first man that comes along," warned Tyler, looking directly at Jake, "because it's not over between us, Abby!"

"Please, believe me," said Abby, "I'm not going to change my mind!"

"Are you sure?" Tyler asked, pleadingly.

"I'm sure," she answered with a monumental gulp.

"I'll tell you what," said Tyler, trying to keep his composure, "I realize that you're under a lot of stress right now. I'll come by another time, and we'll talk. But, Abby, please don't shut the door on us, completely."

"I'll talk to you," replied Abby, "but I won't change my mind, Tyler."

Biting his lip, Tyler took one last warning look at Jake and left the waterfront. Abby felt numb.

"Sorry I ruined the celebration," said Abby, getting up from the picnic table. "If it's all right with you, Dad, I'm going to go fishing."

John nodded his consent, and Abby went to fetch her fly rod. On her way back, she hesitated as she passed Jake at the picnic table.

"I really am sorry about the pike," she apologized. "I seem to have a propensity to hurt my friends, today."

"I'm all right," shrugged Jake.

"That's good," said Abby.

Then she walked off to fish by herself. Abby cast her fly onto the fresh bay water and collapsed into bittersweet tears. She wept for the pain she had caused Tyler, a longtime friend; she wept for the baby sister that she never had the courage to hold; and she wept with joy for the new baby God was giving them. Gradually, the tears had a cleansing effect on her soul. With a heaven-turned face, Abby committed her family and friends into God's keeping.

Whatever the future held, she was determined to meet it, grounded in a faith stronger than herself.

"Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He [Jesus] IS faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works."
~ Hebrews 10:22-24 ~

"Christ... whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end."
~ Hebrews 3:6 ~

end of chapter
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