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"This is going to sting a little," she warned him, applying the ointment to the palm of his hand.

After the antiseptic, Abby was about to apply a bandage. Upon her touch, Jake quickly pulled his hand away from her.

"Here," she said, handing him the bandage, "you put it on. And next time, be more careful! That cut could have been much worse."

"I can't go back to prison," said Jake, numbly. "Please, God! Don't let them send me back!"

"Take it easy," said Abby, in a voice so confident that Jake marveled at her. "You'll find work. God hasn't deserted you."

She went to the pantry and returned with a broom and dustpan to sweep up the broken glass on the floor. Abby's presence had a soothing effect on him, and Jake realized more than ever, how much he had come to rely on her strength.

"Do you want to move into the other bedroom?" he wondered, brightening at the idea, but unsure if it was the best thing for her. "I don't want to be even more of a burden to you than I already am."

"Dr. Jacobs said that I shouldn't pressure you into anything, because your whole life has been about having no choice," replied Abby. "But, if you're willing, I would like to move in. It's the first time I've ever been on my own, and I'm kind of looking forward to it. I know this wouldn't exactly be on my own, but you know what I mean. I'd be moving out of my parents' house, even though they're just across the way."

"Being on your own isn't all it's cracked up to be," warned Jake, in a voice of experience. "I can't promise that I'll be of much help to you."

"I knew what I was getting into, when I married you," answered Abby.

"Then, I want to do this," said Jake.

"We could move my studio into this living room," proposed Abby, becoming excited with the prospect of moving. "Then we could work whenever we wanted, without getting in my family's way."

Abby walked to the spare bedroom that John and Terry had once used as their old office, and looked around.

"The hardest thing to move," she said, "will be my aquarium. I could fit it in here, but maybe we should put it in the living room, so you could enjoy it, as well."

"No," said Jake, remembering something Abby had once told him, "you like to watch it when you fall asleep at night. Keep it in your room."

As happy as Jake was about the prospect of Abby's move, he was still worried that he wouldn't be able to handle her near proximity, even though he was often with her at the Johanneses' house. This was going to be different. They would be living together, though sleeping in separate rooms.

"What if it doesn't work?" asked Jake, his face betraying uncertainty. "What if you get sick of me?"

"Then I go back home," replied Abby. "I know you're having second thoughts, but try to remain calm. If we respect each other's space, then I think this has a good chance of working. But, don't do this if you don't want to. I'm not trying to pressure you into anything."

"What if your parents say 'no'?" he worried.

"They won't," answered Abby. "We got married, Jake. This is OUR life, and OUR decision-- not my Mom and Dad's."

"I know we've gone over this before," said Jake, in a shaky voice, "but I need to make sure that you agree not to take this relationship into the bedroom."

"You're not afraid of me, are you Jake?" asked Abby, a little concerned. "You're bigger than me," she reminded him. "You may not feel like it, but you have the advantage. I promise, this is not some convoluted scheme to get into your bed. We're married now, and I believe it's a little unrealistic to think that we'll be living in separate houses for the rest of our lives."

Jake smiled warmly, lighting up his youthful face as though someone had turned a light on inside of him. For a moment, the thought crossed Abby's mind that she had never seen so handsome a face, nor so attractive a smile as Jake's. But, such thoughts tended to work against their agreement, so Abby quickly brushed it from her mind.
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