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Abby opened the door of Jake's house and stepped inside. It was the first time she had been there while he wasn't present. A sketchpad lay open on the coffee table; Abby resisted the urge to go take a look. Instead, she went down the hall to Jake's room. There, folded across the chair, were a pair of jeans. Abby grabbed these, some shorts, another pair of shoes, and made her way back to her parents' house.

When she returned to her bedroom, she found the door closed.

"Jake?" said Abby, knocking on the door. "I have your clothes."

The bedroom door cracked open, and she handed him the bundle.

"Put the pants and shoes you're wearing on my bathroom floor," she instructed him. "After they've been washed, I'll bring them over to your house."

Jake didn't say anything, but only nodded in assent. When Abby returned to the living room to wait, John and Izumi joined her.

"He's all right," repeated Abby. "I think Dad's return just caught him off guard, or something."

"Is he going home soon?" asked John.

"Are you trying to get rid of him, Dad?" asked Abby, half jokingly.

"Not exactly," John replied slowly. "He's sometimes a little hard to be around, but if you can take it, I suppose we can too."

Abby smiled wearily.

"Don't speak so loudly," warned Izumi. "He might hear you!"

When Jake didn't emerge from Abby's bedroom after several minutes, she went to go see if he was all right.

"Jake?" said Abby, knocking on the door. "Are you okay? Is it all right if I come in?"

"Yes, come in," came the reply.

Abby found him looking at the unfinished portion of her underwater mural on the wall.

"I could finish this for you," he offered.

"You don't have to do that," said Abby.

"No, I want to do something for you, after everything you've done for me," he replied. "I know I'm sometimes hard to be around."

"Jake," she asked, curiously, "did you just overhear my father in the living room?"

"Please, don't leave me, Abby!" he frantically begged. "I'll do anything to make it up to you-- I swear I will!"

"Stop it!" she cried, her voice rising into a shout. "Don't talk like that! You can do anything you have to-- whether I'm here or not! God doesn't give Christians more than they can take. That means He has a lot of confidence in you! You just have to have confidence in Him, that He knows what He's doing!"

Jake numbly sank down on the edge of her bed. Hearing the outburst, John came to the door to see what was the matter. Abby quickly shooed him away.

"I'm so tired of fighting it all the time," said the ex-convict. "You're right, I can get through this, with or without you. But," he added, "it's so much better with you."

"How did you ride through flashbacks in prison, or when you're by yourself at home?" she wondered.

"It doesn't end nearly as soon as when you're there to bring me out of it," replied Jake. "I don't blame you for wanting to get rid of me. But, you're the only good thing I've found on the outside [of prison]. Please, if I didn't bother you unless I really needed help, would I be less of a burden to you? I've asked God so many times for help, and it came in the form of you. I can't lose that!"

"Calm down," said Abby, sitting down in her chair. "I'm not going anywhere. Please, try to stop trembling. You've almost got me doing it!"

"Sorry," apologized Jake, gripping his hands together to keep from shaking.
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