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"But, you don't love me, either," reasoned Jake. "What's to stop you from leaving?"

"Okay, we must get something straight-- here and now," said Abby. "I know we don't love each other like a husband and wife, but if we don't at least trust each other, then we've got nothing. I don't marry every man that comes along. In fact, this is my first time, and with God's help, it will be my last time. I'm not marrying you until I find someone else to take your place. I'm in this for as long as we both shall live. Either you believe me, or you don't."

"I believe you," replied Jake in a dazed voice. "I never thought you'd say 'yes,' though."

"Then, why did you ask me?" wondered Abby.

"Because," he slowly explained, rolling the cigarette between his fingers, "as soon as I had the idea, I thought I'd better act on it. It's only a matter of time before another fishing buddy proposes to you, Abby."

"Well, whether anyone else would have or not, I've made my decision," she replied. "I have to warn you, however, that I'm no prize. I'm opinionated, sometimes called stubborn, I have the talent of hurting you when I don't intend to, and as you pointed out, I don't put my heart on canvas."

"I can put up with you, if you can put up with me," answered Jake, in awe of what had just happened. "So, I guess we're getting married, then."

"I guess so," said Abby.

"I hope you still think this is a good idea, tomorrow morning," Jake said apprehensively, for he was struggling to believe that this was really happening to him.

"I forgot about Uncle Terry!" exclaimed Abby, getting up and going to the little yellow house. "I left him asleep in your room."

Jake followed her inside, and stopped her before they reached the master bedroom.

"Are you going to break the news to your family, tonight?" asked Jake, in a hushed voice.

"I was planning to," she replied.

"They're going to hate me," he nodded knowingly, already dreading their reaction.

"They'll be extremely surprised," she admitted, "but they won't hate you, Jake. If you want, you don't have to be present when I tell them."

"I'm not trying to run out on you," he resisted.

"I know you're not," smiled Abby. "I just think they'll take the news better, if it comes from me."

"If you say so," he breathed a sigh of relief.

Abby went into the bedroom and found Terry still fast asleep.

"Uncle Terry," she announced, nudging his foot with the toe of her shoe, "it's time to go home."

With a sudden start, Terry sat up straight in his chair in sleepy confusion.

"What happened?" he asked. "Why am I in John and Izzy's room?"

"We're in their old bedroom in the little yellow house, and now we're going home," explained Abby, coaxing him to his feet.

"Oh, now I remember," Terry yawned.

As the three made their way to the living room, Terry recalled what Abby had been doing when he dozed off.

"Have you finished looking at Jake's work?" he asked her.

"I looked at it," she replied, glancing at Jake with a hint of merriment in her eyes.

"And?" pressed Terry. "What did you think?"

"I think I can learn a lot from him," she replied.

Suspicious, Terry eyed her and Jake.

"There's something going on," he guessed. "What is it?"

"I'll tell you when Mom and Dad get home," smiled Abby. "Say 'good night' to Jake so we can leave."

"Okay," Terry hesitated, a little frightened by the apprehensive feeling in the pit of his stomach. His intuition was giving him warning signals, but Terry couldn't figure out why. "Good night, Jake."

"Good night," mumbled the young man.

Terry opened the front door and waited for Abby.

"Don't worry," she whispered to Jake, "I'll hold them off so they won't bother you until tomorrow. Try to get some sleep."

Jake smiled weakly at her. As Terry and Abby disappeared into the Johanneses' house across the way, Jake wondered how Abby was going to tell her family about their news. Even more, he wondered if they would try to put a stop to it.

"Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up."
~ Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10 ~

end of chapter
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