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"Okay," he said, "I've got my keys and wallet. Are you ready to leave, Little Dove?"

"Terry," called Izumi, as she and John prepared to step outside, "don't forget to lock up before bedtime!"

"Hey," said Terry, appearing from the kitchen wearing one of Izumi's aprons, "do I ever forget? Don't worry, I'll hold down the fort while you guys are gone!"

With a laughing grin from John, the married couple departed, closing the door behind them.

"So," asked Terry, turning to go back into the kitchen, "where did your guest go to?"

"I don't know," replied Abby, just now noticing that Jake wasn't in the living room with them.

"Well, you'd better find him," said Terry, "because dinner will be ready in a few minutes."

Abby had only one place to look in the house for Jake-- her room. As she came through the open bedroom door, she cried in dismay.

"Jake! What on earth are you doing?!" she asked, for he was wiping away all of his pencil marks that outlined where the mural would be, and what it would look like.

"I'm cleaning up the mess," replied Jake.

"This wasn't a mess!" refuted Abby. "It would have looked really good!"

"No, it wouldn't!" argued Jake.

"But," sighed Abby, "you've just erased all your work!"

"It's no big loss," he shrugged, tossing aside the rag he had used to clear the wall with.

"What's the matter, Jake?" she asked, for he had genuinely been excited about the project, up until now.

"Don't look so shaken, Abby," he said, seeing her concerned face. "I just have to find another way, that's all."

"What are you talking about?" she asked.

"You were only letting me work on the mural, because you were trying to keep me busy," explained Jake. "I was only doing this because I thought you really wanted it. I have to find another way to pay you back."

"You don't owe me anything," said Abby.

"Yes, I do," contradicted Jake, gathering the paint cans and placing them in a neat pile in the corner of the room. "I lean on you like a cripple leans on a crutch. I put you to a lot of trouble, and someday, I'm going to pay you back for the inconvenience I've caused."

"Okay," sighed Abby, folding her arms, "what did I say that's making you act like this?"

Jake looked at her out of the corner of his eye and lowered his head.

"I have the distinct taste of socks in my mouth," said Abby, "because I think my foot was just there. Come on, Jake. Help me out. What did I say?"

"You said no one hardly ever looks at this wall," he replied in a quiet voice.

"And I hurt your feelings," she sighed. "I didn't mean it that way, Jake. Honestly, I didn't."

"I don't want to be merely kept busy!" he exclaimed in a burst of emotion. "I need to do something important! Tell me what to do, and I'll do it!"

"I confess," she admitted, "that the mural was intended to give you something to do. You're always struggling to forget the past, so I thought something was better than nothing."

"I know God put me on this earth for a reason," said Jake, "even if it's only to be a Christian, like it says in that verse, 'Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.' I suppose, I'm trying to find my place in life. You're right, something is better than nothing, but I was just hoping that the something meant more to you than it did."
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