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Since Jake didn't know where he should be, Abby placed him on her art stool next to the easel. She sat on a folding chair beside Jake, while everyone else either sat on the couch, or made use of the chairs John had brought in from their home office. All in all, eight people had gathered to talk about Jake and Abby.

"We're here today," began John, "because Jake has asked Abby to marry him, and she has accepted. This has come as a great shock to her family. [Izumi and Terry nod in agreement.] What makes this situation troubling, is the fact that these two people say they don't love each other, and that it will be a union in name only. Before we give Abby and Jake our decision, we would like to hear from the others. As Jake's warden, parole officer, and psychiatrist, we're hoping to get your opinion and even whether or not you approve. Henry," asked John, "as his parole officer, you must give your permission before Jake can get married-- is that correct?"

"Yes, that's true," affirmed the Sheriff.

"What would you need to make that kind of decision?" asked John.

"Well, for one thing," said Henry, "I'd need Dr. Jacoby's recommendation. I'd talk to others like Dick, and you folks, and of course, Abby. Dick, seeing as how you've known Jake the longest, why don't you start?"

"Is that all right with you, John?" asked Dick.

"Please," agreed John.

"Jake was twenty-one when I first met him," began Dick. "I think I've told you this story, Abby. I was new at the time, and eager to bring reform to the state penitentiary. I knew prison rape was routinely committed, but I didn't know just how bad it was. That's when I met Jake. A month before the attempt to take his own life, Jake had been assaulted very brutally by a cell mate who was serving a life term. After recovering from the attack, Jake slashed his wrists with broken shards from a mirror. He lost so much blood that twice, his heart stopped beating while the doctors were working on him."

"Jake," whispered Abby, "are you all right? You're looking pale."

"If this is what it's going to take," he whispered to her, "then I'll do it."

"If you need a break, let me know," said Abby, looking concerned. "I'm sorry, Mr. Doyle. Please, continue."

"Where was I?" paused Dick. "Oh, yes-- the operation. While he was recovering in the hospital, I had the chance to witness to Jake. He impressed me as someone who was searching for something-- I think it was hope. Jake was a drowning man, desperately looking for a lifeline. And he found it, when he found Christ. I can honestly say, that the day he came to Christ, I saw hope in his eyes for the first time! But, with this new beginning, came the necessity to endure the ongoing abuse from the others. I've never been able to get it out of Jake, but I think he was raped two more times before I was able to place him in solitary confinement, where he would stay for the next two years, before being paroled."

"Were the men who raped Jake, ever punished?" asked Izumi.

"Ma'am, you have to understand," said Dick, "that when one prisoner turns in another, it's a death sentence-- at least that's the way it is in the Watertown State Penitentiary. And if they don't kill you, you'll wish they had!"

"What's your opinion of Jake and Abby's engagement?" asked John.

The man grinned, and rubbed his balding forehead with the palm of his hand.

"I may not be the best person to ask," he smiled, "because I'm prejudiced. You see, I know Jake wants this very, very much. He wouldn't still be sitting here, if he didn't. It seems to me that he's made good friends with your daughter, and it's only natural that he would want to be with her. To own the truth, when Henry told me what was going on, it saddened me, because I knew you folks probably wouldn't let your daughter go through with it. I can understand your feelings-- I might feel the same if she were my daughter. After everything he's been through, I just hate to see him get hurt like this. For whatever it's worth, I'm in favor of the marriage."

Abby looked at Jake, who was staring at the floor, his body rigid.

"Are you all right?" she whispered, again.

"Don't you ever get tired of asking me that?" exclaimed Jake, in a troubled voice loud enough for the others to overhear.

"Only when you say you're all right, and I can plainly see that you're not," replied Abby.
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