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"So," continued Jake, "you don't think you're ever going to get married?"

"What's with you, tonight?" she groaned. "First, you erase the mural, then you question Uncle Terry about flashbacks, and now you're quizzing me on my future marital status! Haven't you had enough for one evening?"

"I'm trying to think things through," said Jake, thoughtfully.

"Then, could you think a little quieter?" she requested. "I have work to do."

Jake sat down on the bed and stared at the aquarium while Abby tapped away at her keyboard. This continued for half an hour, until Jake broke the silence, once more.

"Abby," he wondered out loud, "would you ever marry somebody you didn't love?"

Abby swiveled around in her chair and stared at him.

"What kind of question is that?" she asked, with a frown.

"Would you?" he repeated.

"No," answered Abby, becoming perturbed that he was still thinking about it. "No, I wouldn't. I didn't love Tyler, and for that reason, I turned down his proposal. Why do you ask?"

"I was wondering," asked Jake, "if you had to love someone, that you married in name only?"

"Why would I do that?" asked Abby, puzzled by where Jake's line of questioning was headed. "Are you proposing to me, Jake?"

Jake folded his hands and stared at the floor.

"Would you have to love someone you married in name only?" he repeated.

"I don't know, Jake," said Abby, "I've never thought about it before."

"What if," he began slowly, "we got married in name only, and if either of us ever wanted out, we could have the marriage annulled."

Abby didn't quite know how to take this suggestion.

"If we don't love each other, what would be the point?" asked Abby.

"Because," explained Jake, "we could help each other. It would be a relationship of mutual dependence. I already depend on you, but I couldn't think of anything I could do for you... until now."

"What are you talking about?!" exclaimed Abby, more confused than ever.

Jake got up from the bed and walked into the living room with Abby on his heels.

"I'm talking about that," he answered, pointing to the painting sitting on Abby's easel.

"What's wrong with it?" asked Abby, placing her hands indignantly on her hips.

Terry dropped his paper and curiously watched the two.

"Something about this painting didn't feel right," explained Jake.

"There you go with 'feelings,' again," sighed Abby.

"Just let me finish," said Jake. "I couldn't put my finger on it until a few minutes ago. This painting lacks emotion. You did wonderful detail work, but there's absolutely no emotion anywhere on this canvas!"

"Excuse me!" said Abby, coming to her heron's defense. "Mom liked it, Dad liked it, and Uncle Terry... you said you liked it, right?"

"I thought it was beautiful," agreed Terry.

"That's because they're your family," said Jake, "and they're not looking with an objective eye. This is better than average for a hobbyist, but not for someone wanting to have a career in art."
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