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"I wanted a home," he replied in a gentle voice. "Just somewhere I could stay without having to look over my shoulder all the time."

"What else?" she asked, curiously.

"I wanted a wife," he said, half under his breath. "Someone who belonged to just me."

The kitchen was silent for a moment, as Jake paused.

"Do you know what your Mom told me when they gave their consent?" he asked. "She said you were mine."

"Did she?" smiled Abby, with some amusement. "That sounds like Mom."

Abby didn't notice the hurt look in Jake's eyes as she gathered the dishes and put them into the sink.

"I can do that," he offered, taking the washcloth from her hand. "You made the meal, so let me do the dishes."

Abby sat back down and finished her glass of orange juice.

"Jake, my parents want you to know that if you need help, financial or otherwise, that they'll be more than happy to help," she said, relating their message.

"Why would they say that?" asked Jake, puzzled by this generosity.

"You're a part of the family now," she reminded him. "A family looks after each other."

This might not be a novel concept to you or me, but to Jake, who had never had much of a family, it was something he didn't take for granted. He hadn't expected Mr. or Mrs. Johannes to do very much for him, because no one had EVER done much for him, unless it was because they intended to use him, later on. However, Abby's parents didn't seem like that kind of people to him. Thoughtfully, Jake added dish soap and ran hot water into the sink, creating small mountains of soapy bubbles.

"They don't think I can take care of you," he concluded with a sigh.

Abby fought back the temptation to laugh. In her opinion, Jake could hardly take care of himself, let alone her.

"No," she disagreed. "I think they're afraid you won't be able to find a winter job. Since your job at the marina is seasonal, you'll be out of work at the end of fall. If you don't find another job, you'll be in danger of breaking your parole, and could be sent back to prison."

Jake hadn't considered that possibility before. He had been so elated to get the job at the marina in the first place, that the thought that it was only temporary, had escaped him completely. Each day was so much of a concentrated effort on Jake's part to hold on, that planning for the future was often beyond him. As the horror of being sent back to prison gripped him, the glass cup he had been drying, slipped from his hand and shattered onto the kitchen floor. With a cry of dismay, Jake bent down and rapidly began to gather the shards of glass with his bare hands.

Before Abby had a chance to warn him, Jake pulled his hand back, wincing in pain. In his haste to right the accident, he had cut himself on the razor sharp glass.

"You're bleeding," Abby said, trying to remain calm, for she remembered Jake's reaction to the last time he was confronted with blood.

Thinking quick, she grabbed his hand, and placed it under the running water of the faucet. At the sight of the red blood, Jake began to grow weak.

"It looks worse than it is," she comforted him. "It's only a small cut."

But, it wasn't the cut, or the pain that weakened Jake's knees. It was the memory of seeing his father sprawled on the ground, and the blood that pooled around his body as he lay there dying. Jake clenched his jaw as the mental picture of that day flooded his mind.

"Hey!" called Abby, moving in front of Jake, so she could make eye contact with him. "Start counting backwards from one hundred."

Slowly, he began to move his lips, "ninety-nine, ninety-eight..." and so on. As he counted, Abby went to the medicine cupboard in the bathroom, and retrieved the antiseptic that Izumi had left for their tenant.
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