Be among the first to know when I post new chapters, to new books!

Click Here
Keep up-to-date on all the announcements and website news!

Subscribe today!

My policy is to follow the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12); I hate spam too, and will never sell or give away your email address.
Chapter Twenty-nine
Taking Care of Maddie

"How excellent is Thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings."
~ Psalm 36:7 ~

The diamond sparkled, caught Madison's eye even though she was trying to ignore its brilliance. It was expensive, it had made Terry spend a lot of money, and yet with each flash, it seemed to say, "I am loved, I am loved." It was so pretty, a piece of sunlight trapped in a polished stone and set so prettily on her finger.

No, she wouldn't look.

It flashed, and her eye traveled back.

I am loved. I really am.

The jeep swayed as Terry moved onto the road for the drive back home, and she shoved her hand into her pocket rather than be caught admiring the very thing that she'd tried so hard to talk Terry out of buying. Something caught, and she had to pull her hand out.

"Anything wrong?" Terry asked, as she looked the ring over from different angles to make sure it hadn't been hurt.

"It got caught on my pocket, but I think it's all right." She sighed at the brilliance. She shouldn't have let him do it, no matter how pretty it was.

"It caught?" Terry frowned, and Izzy spoke up from the back seat.

"It didn't catch on the material, did it? That's good. I didn't think that particular setting would."

The frown on Terry's face deepened, he adjusted speed and glanced in the rear view mirror. "Izzy, do some rings catch on material more than others?"

"Of course."

"Could they scratch someone? Maybe even hurt skin?" Terry's voice had an alarmed rise to it, as though a car in a parking lot had been touched and a security alarm had gone off.

"I don't know how badly it would hurt if you were to do it on purpose, because I've never tried-- but yes, they could scratch. That's why I was so very careful about which ring I brought to your attention."

"'Brought to your attention?'" John laughed. "Izumi, you all but picked the ring, yourself."

"I did not. It was Terry's choice."

"Izzy-- back to the scratching." Terry blew out a breath, but his eyes stayed on the road. "I never thought to make sure it wouldn't scratch Maddie. It never even crossed my mind."

"It crossed mine," Izzy spoke with a smile in her voice, "so you can calm down. It's why I had such a hard time finding anything. Most everything they had was with the traditional prong setting, which is my favorite, but it isn't what Madison needs."

Madison looked at the ring in question and her heart bumped with secret joy.

"Its raised just like a prong setting, so it catches the light, but instead of prongs, this one is bezeled at the corners, so it looks traditional enough to be very classy and yet won't scratch like the other ones would. And I admit, I liked the diamond."

"Is that why you took so long before you suggested something?" Terry asked.

"That's why," Izzy said with a yawn.

"What if I had gone with something else?"

"Don't worry, I would have told you if you were about to make a poor choice." Izzy yawned again, and Madison looked into the back seat to see John hug an arm around his wife. Izzy cuddled into John's hug, smiled at Madison, then closed her eyes for a nap.

"Thanks, Izzy." Terry glanced at Madison. "It looks like we're in pretty good hands."

Nodding, Madison settled into her seat and started thinking about something else entirely. She had so much to plan, things to do, logistics-- that's a word she'd heard on TV and had remembered-- and then there were the scissors. She needed some. Terry had taken away all the sharp things, and that was a problem.

She watched Terry as he sat behind the wheel, looking nice and handsome, and wondered how was the best way to get what she wanted.

* * * *

The fact Izzy had been looking after him and Maddie, came as a great relief to Terry. The saleswoman had said something about prongs, but--

Why was Maddie looking at him that way?

He adjusted his seat belt and concentrated on the road. After about two miles, he checked again, and groaned when he found her still watching.

"Maddie, would you knock it off?"

"Knock what off?"

"Whatever it is you're doing."

"I'm not doing anything."

Yes, she was, and he found it pleasantly distracting. That was the problem.


He shook his head, half laughed, and half smiled at the way she said his name. "Yes, Maddie?"

"If I asked for something, would you say 'yes,' even if I don't tell you why?"

"That would depend."

"On what?"

"On whatever it is you want."

She sighed, looked down at her feet and Terry thought she'd given up.


"Yes, Maddie?"

"If you loved me, would you give me anything I asked?"

"If you want something, Maddie, just come out and ask and I'll see what I can do. You don't have to beg."

"I want scissors."


"Please don't ask why, Terry."

"This wouldn't be to hurt yourself, would it?"

"Oh, no."

"Then why?"

"Please, Terry, I just asked you not to ask."

"I don't know." Terry shook his head. "I just spent thirteen thousand dollars, plus tax, then I had to pay for lunch, and now she wants scissors. What next? Glue? I don't know what the world is coming to, I really don't."

"You're making fun of me."

"I'm only teasing, Maddie, I'm only teasing."

"So can I have the scissors?"

"Do you mind if it's the kiddie-safe ones the triplets use?"

"I don't mind."

"Then you can have the scissors."

He slid her a look, saw her smile, a sweet parting of her lips that made his heart thump to a crazy-happy beat.

"Thank you, Terry."

His breath caught a little, he smiled, and it took effort to keep breathing. He turned on the radio, kept the volume low for Izzy's sake, and tried to work up an interest for the agriculture report. In the seat next to him, Maddie turned to look behind her, made some noise with a grocery bag and Terry switched the radio to something else.

He sped up a little, still keeping the limit but pushing to get home. Maddie, it seemed, was eager to get into her bags, and Izzy needed to go to bed. So did Maddie, for that matter.

"Maddie, are you hurting your stitches?"

She straightened in her seat and looked at him. "If I ask you to promise something, would you do it?"

"I don't like making promises until I know what's being asked."

"Promise you won't go into the office bathroom, even when it's empty?"

"What for?"

"If I told you what for, you wouldn't have to not go in."

"Maddie, if I hear breaking glass in there--"

"I won't cut, Terry. It's not why I don't want you to go in."

"Okay then." Terry breathed deep. "How long am I supposed to stay out?"

There was a long guilty stretch of silence, as though she didn't know, and he switched off the radio. He was glad they were nearing home, and guessed this had something to do with the scissors request, and those three bulging grocery bags. He could cross the chicken nuggets off the list-- whatever she'd bought, it wasn't frozen, or she wouldn't be able to take it into the office bathroom.

If she needed privacy, he wouldn't get in the way, and he told her so. Whatever her secret was, it was making her happy. He contented himself with that thought.

Even before Terry could see the house, Maddie was already struggling to undo her seat belt. She pulled and tugged, and he put out a hand to calm her. Her lack of sleep and over-excitement were getting the best of her, and he held her hand until turning off the main road.

He rolled to a stop in front of the house, switched off the engine, then released her from the seat belt.

She pushed against the passenger door to get it open.

"Maddie, settle down. You've gotten out before, just calm down and remember how."

She nodded, took a few breaths, then tried the handle and it popped open without problem. When Maddie fixated on something, she knew how to give it her everything, almost to the point of forgetting all else. Sometimes, it scared Terry-- especially, when she fixated on him.

He opened his door but sat where he was while Izzy stirred and John got out. Terry knew he wouldn't be allowed to touch "the bags" and stayed put while Maddie went around, and collected all three. Though John offered to help, she managed it herself, and struggled with all the plastic loops until Izzy saved her, took the bags and passed them to John without ceremony. John was willing to help, and Terry silently thanked his friends.

As John took the bags into the house, Abby came out with a big smile and waved to Terry as he got out of the jeep.

"Did you get the ring?"

"We sure did." Izzy coaxed Abby over, and showed her the engagement ring on Maddie's left hand.

"Is that a real diamond?"

"For what Terry paid, it had better be," John laughed as he stepped from the house with Jake. "Your mom picked it out."

"I did not pick it out. John, I wish you wouldn't say that."

"She suggested it, and I agreed she had very good taste," Terry smiled to Jake. "The munchkins give you much trouble?"

"Not much." Jake grinned when he saw Maddie's rock. "Somehow, I'm not surprised."

"She is." Terry nudged Maddie, but held back from teasing her further when her cheeks blushed pink. He braced himself for a "How much did it cost?" question, but to his surprise, one didn't come. John had already hinted that Terry had paid a lot, but even now, AJ didn't ask how much. Terry guessed Abby, in particular, would ask her parents in private, but the fact she didn't ask now, and in front of Maddie, proved to Terry that Abby had noticed Maddie's shyness over the ring.

For her thoughtfulness, Terry felt like giving his niece a big hug.

At Jake's side, Ricky leaned against his daddy, and watched as Debbie and Lizzie came out to meet them. Ruthie followed, and ran up to Terry.

"Uncle Terry," Ruthie asked, ending her run with an excited hop, "Jake said the box in the living room is for you and Madison?"

"True enough. That's what the shipping label said." Terry noticed as Maddie stole into the house. "Why, is the suspense killing you?"

"Yes! it is!" Ruthie twirled about. "Lizzie thinks there's a dog inside and we have to let it out, but Debbie said no one would send a dog, because Mommy's allergic and she'd have to take allergy pills like she does when Macho visits. But I listened hard, and I don't hear it making any noise, so I don't think they sent one."

"It could be a dog." Lizzie folded her arms as Debbie showed John something she'd drawn. "It could just be sleeping, that's all."

"Sleeping for all this time? And there aren't any holes, so how can it breathe?" Ruthie gave a patient look as Terry and the others headed inside. "I scooted the box on the floor, and I think it's stickers."

"If it is, there's a lot of them." Terry stepped into the living room with Ruthie hanging onto his hand, and saw the large box in question. To his amusement, it sported a medley of construction paper faces made by the munchkins. Ricky went over and pinned another eye on top of the box, so it ogled the ceiling. Apparently, it had been the center of attraction while they were away.

"Can we open it?" Lizzie asked, and the other two triplets chimed in with "Pleeeeease?

"Madison's name is on it, too," John told the girls as he shut the front door. "Izumi, how close are we to eating dinner? Terry and Madison have an appointment this evening."

"What do you mean, 'how close'?" Izzy laughed. "I just got home. Give me a chance to get into the kitchen."

Abby looked alarmed. "But I thought I was fixing dinner?"

"Why should you, when I'm here?" Izzy asked.

"But I have the meal all planned out. All I have to do is prepare the food."

"Enough for six adults and four children?"

"It's no big deal. We have enough ingredients. All I have to do is multiply the servings. Besides, you should probably be asleep. If you don't mind me saying, Mom, you look terrible. You should take it easy for a change and let someone else do the work."

"Thanks, I suppose." Izzy sighed, but smiled when John snagged her by the hand.

"Let's go take a nap," he said, and tugged Izzy toward the hall. "Would you guys look after the triplets for a while longer? Mommy and I are going into hiding, and we're locking the bedroom door."


"We are, and I don't want anyone to come running unless there's blood or broken bones involved. Got it?"

Ruthie nodded. "Got it, Daddy."

"What about dinner?" Abby asked. "Don't you want to eat?"

"Keep it warm, and we'll get to it later."


"Izumi, you need to lay down and get some rest, and contrary to what our eldest daughter just said, you look wonderful; we've been sleeping on different ends of the house the past so many nights, and I'd like the chance to hold you a while. We're locking the door."

How Terry wished Maddie could hear this.

He looked about, and pushed off to go find her, only to find Ruthie still latched onto his hand and leaning so hard toward the box she was nearly horizontal. Right. The box. He'd forgotten all about that. The munchkins were all over it-- Ricky picked at the edges of the packing tape and Debbie and Lizzie tipped it on one end to see if it would rattle and make a noise.

"Let me get Maddie," Terry smiled, and lifted Ruthie onto the couch as Abby headed into the kitchen with Jake.

"I'd like to see what's in the box, too." Izzy pulled away from John. "Just a few minutes, John, then I'm all yours. Terry, she's probably in the office bathroom. I told John to give her the scissors, but she's probably nervous you won't remember your promise to stay out."

"She has nothing to worry about," Terry chuckled. "I don't go in there when someone else is using the bathroom, and especially when she's in there. Don't worry, I won't forget that even when it's empty, I'm to stay out."

"Mom--" Abby stuck her head in the living room-- "do we have more black olives?"

While Izzy and Abby discussed olives, Terry went to get Maddie. He hoped Abby didn't knock herself out making dinner. It was just them, not a bunch of guests she had to impress. He moved into the office, rounded the desks, went to the closed bathroom door and gave it a sound knock.

It prompted a hasty, "Don't come in!"

He smiled. "Would you please come into the living room? Everyone wants us to open the box."

"You can go ahead without me."

"Don't you want to be there? It's for you, too."

"It's okay, I don't mind."

"Are you sure?" Terry could hear crinkling of some sort going on behind the door, and tried to ignore it for Maddie's sake. "I'll need to call Brian and Emily afterward, and thank them for the gift. Do I have your permission to include you in that thanks?"


"Okay." He hated to leave her out of things, especially when she was a big part of the reason why they were happening. But if she didn't want to come out, so be it. At least she was happy where she was, even though it was a bathroom.

Going back to the others, Terry found the munchkins seated on the floor next to the couch, looking very much ready to see what was in the box.

"Let me guess-- she's not coming?" Izzy smiled as Terry accepted a pocketknife from John. "Don't worry about her, Terry. I'm taking care of her."

"Thanks," Terry smiled, not needing the assurance but grateful for it anyway. He trusted Izzy.

Terry slit the tape and Abby and Jake appeared from the kitchen. He hoped whatever was in there was worth all this excitement. The kids grinned as Terry pushed back the cardboard flaps, then lifted out another box-- this one wrapped with packing bubbles. He unwound the packing and found a box with color pictures on all four sides.

"A bread-maker?" Abby came closer and smiled as Terry set down the large box.

It was supposed to be a bread machine that made two pound loaves, or something like that, and Terry opened the second box to find foam padding and a compact machine much smaller than its boxes. The machine seemed familiar somehow. The munchkins looked at each other in glum despair, and Terry handed them the packing bubbles as a consolation prize for all their patience.

As they ran off to play with it, Terry could already hear Ricky claiming one of the lengths of the packing bubbles for himself. At least they were having a good time, and Terry went to the triplets' room and also gave them the outer packing box, for good measure.

When Terry came back, Abby looked puzzled for some reason.

"A bread-maker." Abby said it again, as if saying it a second time would change the fact it was still there. "You already have a bread machine, Mom. In fact, you have that one."

Terry smiled. "I thought it looked familiar."

"No, that's a newer model than mine, but Emily knows how much I love my bread-maker and I guess she thought Terry and Madison would like one of their own."

"But they're not going to need one of their own." Abby folded her arms. "They're going to live here with us. Aren't they?" Abby turned to Terry. "Uncle Terry, you're going to live here, with Mom and Dad, and next to us, aren't you?"

"To be honest, Abby, I don't know."

"But I thought you said dynamite couldn't get rid of you. I asked you never to move, remember?"

"I thought that was a plea to not move from the general area, and I'm not planning to. I'm staying put."

"But you are planning to move from this house?"

"I haven't given it much thought, Abby. I don't know." Terry handed the pocketknife back to John and saw the sober look on John's face. "I really don't know. I guess I've always thought if I got married, I'd move out and start a family with my wife."

"You can't move out. You just can't. You've always been here."

"Abby, let him decide what's best."

"But, Dad--"

"Abby, let him decide." John gave his daughter a look, and Abby swiped something away that looked a lot like a tear. For a moment, John opened his mouth as if to say something more, but he couldn't speak.

Moving out had never really given Terry deep cause for thought, because he'd never had a girlfriend, let alone a fiancée. The bread machine had suddenly shoved that into focus. Emily and Brian had assumed the same thing he had-- that he would move out and set up house with Madison somewhere else. It made sense. Couples went out on their own and made homes of their own.

This made sense.

Shaking her head, Abby went into the kitchen and a moment later they heard what sounded like someone crying. Terry started for the kitchen, but Jake held him back.

"I'll take care of her."

Terry nodded, watched as Jake went to comfort Abby. For some reason Terry had trouble naming, he felt guilty, as though he were ripping apart his family. This was only moving out, and it made him feel like a dirty dog for even contemplating such a thing. It wasn't as though having a place somewhere else other than here, was so strange a thought. He had an apartment after all, a fully furnished apartment not far from Three Mile Bay.

Of course, it was an apartment he hardly ever used, so it had never been an issue with his family.

He had a family. Terry was feeling the full effect of that now, and a deep sigh drew Terry back to John.

"Whatever you decide, Terry, we'll support it all the way." John sounded strong, a tone Terry was used to when John was making a tough decision, and Terry nodded.

"Thanks. I know."

John gave a lips-pressed-together-smile that said he had a lot on his heart, and when John took Izzy's hand, Terry knew John was fighting back sadness. They all stood where they were for a long moment, and though Terry knew John could easily tell him how much he would be missed, John held back, and Terry knew why. John wasn't trying to make him feel any guiltier for leaving them than he already did.

"This is crazy." Terry gave a half laugh and collapsed onto the couch beside his bread machine. "I always thought if I got married, you and Izzy would want me out of the house."

"You what?" John let go of Izzy.

"This house--" Terry gestured to the four walls-- "I always figured you'd think it would be too small if I brought a wife to live here. As it is, I live in the guest room."

"That room is yours for as long as you want it. I don't know about Izumi, but I haven't considered that room as anything but yours, in decades. It's always been your room, and as far as I'm concerned, always will be. And that extends to Madison." John breathed each word so hard, Terry could feel the impact of them all the way from the couch. John looked to Izzy, and Izzy smiled and hugged John's arm.

It took Terry a long moment before he could speak. He got up, went over to them and gave them a hug. "Thank you for that."

"Think about it, Terry." John squeezed Terry's shoulder, and Terry stepped back to look at his friend. "You don't have to go, not unless that's what you want."

"It's not." Terry looked toward the hall and saw Maddie come into the room. "I'm not sure I have a choice, though. I don't know what's best for her."

"At least you won't make a knuckle-headed decision, thinking we want you out." John lightly knocked Terry in the arm. "That has to be the dumbest thing I've ever heard you say. As if I'd ever want you out."

"If I take you up on that offer, this house is going to get crowded."

"No more than it is right now. Less so, when we don't need AJ to help chaperone this situation."

"But when Maddie and I start having kids--" Terry stopped when Maddie began hugging herself. "I'm sorry, Maddie, I didn't mean to scare you. Thanks, Izzy." Izzy went to comfort Maddie, and Terry tried to press on. "Even if it doesn't get crowded in here, people are going to think I'm not willing to stand on my own two feet if we stay. They'll think it's because I need someone to prop me up. I know they already think you're the strong one."

"The strong one here, is you-- not me." John folded his arms. "Your two feet have been holding up pretty well considering what you've been through, and if people want to compare us, then go ahead and let them. I'm not afraid. They'll know what I've known for a long time-- that your feet are stronger than mine because they've been through more, and they've kept going when lesser men would've quit and retreated. Listen, Terry, if you want to move out some day in the far-distant future, then fine. I'll help you pack. But move when you're good and ready, and not because you think you have to. And certainly not because you think Izumi and I want you out. That's not good enough."

All that emotion poured onto Terry and he didn't know what to say. He felt helpless to give an answer, for he still felt the pull to move. John put out a hand, as if to stop him from making a decision at that very moment.

"Take all the time you need. Talk it over with Madison, as I'm sure you will. Take a few years to think it over-- I'm in no hurry." John smiled, then lowered his voice to a hush. "Unless you want panic in the troops, I'd suggest you kept this decision from the little ones. They won't take this as calmly as Abby."

"Are you sure you wouldn't mind us staying? What about Izzy? Wouldn't Izzy mind another woman in the kitchen? I thought women were territorial about things like that."

"Please leave the kitchen out of this." Izzy spoke as she took Maddie to the couch. "If you decide to stay, then Madison and I will get along just fine without you two trying to figure out how we'll possibly manage." Izzy lifted the box and started to show Maddie what it said about the bread machine. "I haven't been using mine lately, but tonight, I'll set up the one on our kitchen counter so we'll have warm, homemade bread by morning. I love the way it fills the house with aroma. To me, the sweetest perfume in the world is a loaf of freshly baked bread."

Knowing what he did of Maddie's past, Terry guessed she'd never eaten a slice of homemade bread in her entire life.

"Abby," Izzy called into the kitchen, "how are you coming with dinner?"

"How can you think of food at a time like this?" Abby asked, as she came into the living room and stared at them with puzzled horror. "The family's breaking apart, and you expect me to fix dinner? It's all right, Madison, I don't mean you. It's them I don't understand." Abby shook her head as John tugged Izzy toward the hall for their nap. "Dad, I don't think you're treating this very seriously."

"Give your poor old dad more credit than that," John smiled. "If you would, keep our dinner warm until Mom has had a chance to rest? And thanks for fixing dinner."

"Terry and Madison need to leave before five thirty," Izzy said as John continued to tug, "so make sure they've eaten and are ready by then." Izzy blew a kiss to Abby. "Your uncle will be all right, Sweetheart."

"But Mom--"

"Thanks for looking after the girls." Izzy smiled to Abby, then waved to Maddie as John led Izzy away to their bedroom.

It made Terry smile with happy satisfaction. He felt like pointing to John and Izzy, and making a big deal of their affectionate display.

Did you see that, Maddie? Is that anything like what you experienced with the Dragon? Did Izzy look desperate to get away from John? Were there any threats, any violence, anything that didn't shout love? That's what we want.

Had she seen that?

He glanced at the couch and found Maddie staring at the bread machine.

"I don't understand." Abby turned to Jake as he came into the living room in a spattered apron. "Uncle Terry and Madison are moving out, and Dad and Mom are going into hiding like nothing's wrong. I just don't understand. I know they care, but they sure aren't acting like it."

"They care, Abby." Jake gave Abby a hugging squeeze from behind and looked to Terry. "We haven't been listening from the kitchen-- someone was crying and I couldn't hear the conversation."

"I wasn't crying all the time." Abby let out a squeal as Jake tickled her. "I wasn't! Jake!"

Jake grinned, and held Abby fast. "Are you really moving out after you get married?" he asked.

"We're thinking it over."

"If you need help thinking it over, let us know." Jake gave Abby an extra-hard squeeze that made Abby laugh. "I'm sure Abby here would love to talk you and Madison into staying. I wouldn't mind a shot at it, myself. If you stay here, Abby and I could babysit whenever you want." Jake kissed Abby's ear, and Abby had to smile and relax a little with Jake's arms around her.

The effect was like sunshine on flowers.

"Thanks-- both of you."

"I think we'll have dinner ready in about ten minutes."

Terry nodded, smiled as Jake took Abby back to the kitchen to finish getting dinner ready. He easily guessed Jake was the one making sure things stayed in control in there, and thought again how good a match they were. One balanced out the other. He wondered how well he and Maddie balanced out each other.

Did they balance out well enough to make a marriage work?

From the couch, Maddie watched Terry with large gray eyes that made him feel off kilter, out of balance, and needing to reach out and grab onto something. Not exactly the effect he wanted, but this was love, and this was Maddie, and Terry's heart did a somersault when she gave him a half smile. A tiny ray of Maddie-made sunshine.

She looked back at the box and the smile slipped away.

He took out his phone, punched Emily's name in his address book and tried to make Maddie's smile come back. "Nice wedding gift, isn't it?"

Maddie reached around the box and snagged her teddy.

"You'll like homemade bread, you'll see." He smiled and his heart fell a little when she didn't. He had to push it all aside a moment later when Emily answered. "Hey, it's Terry. Maddie and I wanted to thank you and Brian for the wedding gift."

"Oh, you're very welcome!" Emily's voice was as upbeat and cheerful as ever. "I tried to think of something you could use, then I remembered how much you enjoyed Izumi's whole wheat bread and thought maybe Madison might like the help. It's the same model Izumi has, isn't it? I was thinking Izumi could show Madison how to use hers, so Madison would be able to make bread the way you like it."

"That was thoughtful of you, thanks." Terry grinned into the cell phone. "It's actually a nicer model than Izzy's, but I'm sure she can show Maddie how it works. Izzy's been teaching her to cook, and homemade bread is still very much out of Maddie's reach. A machine will be a big help." Terry glanced at Maddie and saw her hugging the bear. "Things have been kind of hectic around here. We've been out of the house for most of the day-- John and Izzy have been helping me pick out Maddie's engagement ring, and--"

"You have her engagement ring?" Emily gasped. "I wish you didn't have the flu, then we could see it."

"I don't think we're contagious. No one has a fever."

"Then come over. Both of our houses are probably about to have dinner, but maybe afterward, everyone could come over and have dessert and Madison could show off her ring."

"That's very kind of you." Terry paused. "I'd better check with Maddie. She's a wilting flower right now, and to be honest, I don't think she'll last the evening. Let me check." Terry put a hand over the receiver, looked at Maddie and found her watching him. "You wouldn't feel up to visiting Emily, later today, would you? She said she'd like you to show off your ring."

Maddie shook her head wildly.

"I didn't think so." Terry got back on the phone."I'm afraid Maddie will have to take a raincheck on that. She's a bit worn out right now, and I'm thinking we might have to cancel the rest of today. We had an appointment with our therapist--"

"No, Terry, please--" Maddie looked alarmed, but she stopped from saying more while he was still on the phone.

"Well, we'll have to see how that works out," Terry sighed.

"I understand if Madison can't make it, but everyone is more than welcome to come. Brian and Dave are here for dinner, and I know Brian would love to visit with you all. How about six o'clock? I have a Double Dutch Chocolate Cake that I'm sure the kids would enjoy, and we can catch up on some visiting before the craziness of tomorrow. What do you say?"

"Double Dutch?" Terry winced, knowing this would hurt. "That sounds great, but that appointment I told you about is for six."

To Emily's credit, she didn't miss a beat or ask him why Maddie might make it for a therapist, when she couldn't come for cake. To Terry, the answer was more obvious-- because Maddie had issues that often turned to emergencies, but he didn't want to embarrass Maddie and kept that to himself.

"How about eight o'clock? I know Brian would hate miss seeing you all before we leave on our honeymoon, and so would I. Dad's resting in his room, watching TV, so he can doze whenever he needs. Company won't bother him in the slightest. How about eight? Can you make eight?"

"Thanks, Emily, I'm pretty sure we can make it. Do you want us to bring ice cream?"

Emily laughed. "I have a gallon of vanilla in the freezer, so I'm well stocked. We'll see you tonight."

"See you then." Terry hung up with a smile. As always, Emily was a good friend, and he suspicioned her remark about Stan had been made to assure him that Stan wouldn't be present to make him uncomfortable. It gave Terry an impression that whatever Emily had or hadn't known about her father's behavior in the past, she was more aware of it now. That she had someone like Brian, made Terry happier than words could express. He pocketed the phone, turned to Maddie and found her drilling a hole through his skull.


"You're going to her house, aren't you?"

"Yes, but you don't have anything to worry about. You're off the hook."

With a sigh, she looked back at the machine.

A crazy thought occurred to Terry that Maddie might be jealous.

She collected the doll she'd been calling Terri-- a fact Terry found slightly annoying in an endearing sort of way-- added it with the teddy, and curled onto her side.

He crouched to her level. "You know I love you, don't you?"

She nodded, a shy smile starting around her mouth. She cycled through moods like a bicyclist moving through neighborhoods, but she had a constant and tender heart, even when she was hurting and all he could see was that jaded side. When those gray eyes fluttered and looked away, he realized he'd been looking at her too directly and for too long.

He stood, moved back and went to the kitchen to relay the invitation to AJ.

"That was nice of Emily," Abby said, as she slid her parents' dinner into the oven to keep warm. "If Mom and Dad don't wake before eight o'clock, one of us really should knock on their door. I know what Dad said about blood and broken bones and not interrupting Mom's sleep, but I think Mom would want to be there for that. On the bright side, this invitation gets me off the hook for dessert."

"Not that we had any planned," Jake grinned, taking off his apron. "The casserole is ready."

"Is that what you guys have been cooking? Not bad, Abby. Not bad at all."

"I wouldn't thank me just yet," she winced. "Jake helped a lot, and you haven't tasted anything. I'm afraid I messed up the recipe. It's a lot harder than it looks."

"She saved it-- it'll be fine." Jake looked unworried and Terry took that as a good sign.

Terry thanked them for all their work, rounded into the living room and paused to talk to Maddie.

"Dinner's ready, but if you finish early, you could get in a little sleep before we head off for Carol's. That is, if your heart's still set on going. I could cancel. Izzy had to take a nap, so there's no shame if you have to cancel. Do you still want to go? Are you sure? If you change your mind, let me know."

Maddie bit her lip, nodded, and watched as Terry started for the hall.

He paused. "Are you sure you're feeling all right?"

She nodded.

"Why don't you start dinner without me so you can get in that sleep I was talking about?"

She nodded. And watched him closely.

A little odd, but then, she needed a lot of sleep.

He pushed into the hall, came to the triplets' room and found torn packing bubbles and cardboard box all over the floor. This was nice. Anyone would think there had been a dog in that box, after all, and someone had let it out to make all this mess. He should have known better, but at least it had kept them busy.

"Uncle Terry?" Ruthie looked up from her destruction. "Where's the arts and crafts bag? We can't find it anywhere."

"You know, I think your Dad might have given it to Maddie. He was supposed to give her the kiddie-safe scissors, and he probably just gave her the whole bag. Why? Do you need me to get it from her?"

"No, I guess not." Ruthie kept working while Ricky had Stan leaping from the corner of a mattress and onto a pile of cardboard.

"Dinner's ready, gang. Start washing up. We'll have to tidy this floor before your parents wake, and kick me out of the house for being a bad uncle." He stepped around the mess to upright an overturned wastebasket. "Come on, let's scoot. Abby went to a lot of trouble over dinner, so don't keep her waiting."

"Mommy cooked?" Ricky's eyes went wide with shock. "Uh-oh."

"It's okay, your daddy helped." Terry moved into the hall and almost bumped into Maddie. "What are you doing here? I thought you were supposed to be eating?"

Maddie hugged her teddy and doll, and stepped back. She kept looking at him and he didn't know what to think. It wasn't romantic, like she was trying to catch his attention, so much as she was trying to watch him-- to see what he would do.

"Are you feeling warm?" Terry tried to touch her forehead, but she backed off. "I told Emily no one had a fever, so I hope you're not trying to prove me wrong." He stepped into the office, took out his receipts, then sat down to quickly enter the day's expenses into his laptop. He wanted to get it done before dinner, before he was missed too badly at the table.

Kids ran past the office door on their way to the kitchen, and Terry hoped they hadn't disturbed John or Izzy with all their play.

As Terry entered the last receipt, he noticed something under his coat on the desk. Something bright blue with... red hearts? He lifted the coat and found a small long package in shiny wrapping paper.

He glanced at the door and saw Maddie quickly draw back.

Grinning, Terry looked at the gift tag. In very careful, very neat print, it read:

You are loved.

His grin felt shaky, and a lump formed in his throat. He looked back to the door and saw Maddie watching. The fact she was hugging her friends almost made him cry. She hid her eyes behind the bear a moment, then looked at him, as if begging him to open the gift. She really, really wanted him to open the gift.

He slit the tape, and pulled away the shiny wrapping paper. Inside, he found an ordinary ballpoint pen. It wasn't fancy, just something that cost a few dollars, but it had been wrapped so carefully, and with that precious gift tag, Terry found himself brushing away tears.

"Do you like it?" she asked. "It clicks, just like mine does, like the one you gave me."

There was such hope and joy in her voice, Terry's heart ached.

"It's perfect, Maddie. Thank you."

"When you use it, you'll think of me?"

"Absolutely." He smiled from his aching, deliriously happy heart. "I promise, I will."

"Really?" She hugged her bear and stood on tiptoes to see the pen. "I was afraid you might not like it, that you'd think it was silly."

"This pen is not silly. I'll give it a place of honor in my pen holder and every time I use it, I'll remember the sweet one who gave it to me." Terry slipped it into the holder and quietly wondered if she had thirty dollars more of those pens in the office bathroom. He rubbed his face. It didn't matter. If he had pens coming out of his ears later on, he'd treasure every one, for they had come from Maddie.

Tucking the gift tag into his drawer for safekeeping, Terry shut the laptop and went to go eat dinner with Maddie and his family.

* * * *

He'd liked the clicky pen! Madison could hardly contain herself. She wanted to go tell Izzy, but Izzy was asleep and she couldn't wake her-- not when Izzy needed sleep so bad and had done so much that day.

As Madison ate the tasty dinner AJ had fixed, she tried to keep her eyes open so she could eat. Hard to do, when all she wanted was to crawl off and sleep. But he had liked the pen. She kept looking at him, to check if he had really liked it, and he kept smiling back at her and she felt easier.

Thank You, God. He had liked it.

Tired lines played around Terry's eyes, his mouth smiled slower than usual, but there was a sense of happiness to him that Madison tried hard to soak in. Things slid by her sometimes, the things that made Terry happy, and she desperately wanted to be like him, to see what he did, to have that kind of confidence in the next breath, that it wouldn't hold pain but something else. So many times, she felt like tightening into a ball; she kept expecting something bad to happen, to later open one eye and then another, only to find Terry enjoying something she had missed.

If she concentrated on him hard, maybe she wouldn't miss out on those moments as much.

The world faded. Terry bumped her arm, she widened her eyes and tried to give him a smile.

"Go lay down and get some sleep. Right now, sleep is more important than food." To make his point, Terry stood up from the table, pulled out her chair and helped her to the living room even though she could make it there on her own. "Are you sure you don't want me to cancel our appointment with Carol?"

"Please don't cancel." Madison gripped his arm as he tried to get her to sit on the couch. "Please, Terry, don't cancel."

He pulled out a comforter and tugged it over her as she curled onto her side on the cushions.

"Please, don't cancel, Terry."

"Calm down, I won't-- not if you don't want me to." He crouched beside the sofa and looked at her. "Are you close to cutting right now? Are you in trouble?"

She shook her head.

"Try to rest, Maddie. I love you." He tucked her Terri doll under her arm, and she relaxed.

Terry's comforting words, the soft blanket, the safe, warm feeling that it was all right to close your eyes, lulled her to a cozy, half awake sleep. Terry stood, moved away from the couch and the living room faded. Sleep came, and she fell into it completely.

It seemed but a heartbeat later, and someone's hand felt heavy on her shoulder. Panic washed over her, then tided from her body with the familiar sound of,

"Maddie. Maddie, wake up."

She wasn't so sound asleep she didn't know who that voice belonged to, and she tried to obey. She tried to, even though sleep demanded that it hadn't been a very long nap, that she needed more rest. Her body protested as she forced her eyes open, and there was Terry, wonderful wonderful Terry.

"I'm sorry, but it's time to go. You can get more rest in the jeep, but are you sure you don't want me to cancel?"

"I'm sure." Madison struggled off the couch, climbed into the coat Terry held for her and eyed the doll still sleeping in the blankets.

The house felt quiet, the kitchen was dark, and when Madison moved she noticed lights coming from the open bedroom doors in the hall-- all bedrooms but the master, that is, and she guessed it meant Izzy and John were still asleep.

"Let's go." Terry held open the front door and Madison looked back at the couch.

She bit her lip, edged around Terry and went to the couch to collect her doll. He said nothing as she hurried past him, and he didn't make fun of her when she climbed into the waiting jeep with the doll tucked under her arm.

The sun had yet to go down and it felt strange to Madison to see it still daylight when she'd just woke from a nap. She gave her Terri doll a hug and saw the real-life Terry slant her a look from behind the wheel. He smiled, said nothing, and Madison watched the trees speed by her window. The world dimmed once more, and before long, it disappeared altogether.

"I hate to break it to you--" she stirred and found Terry looking at her with an apologetic wince that for some reason, made her want to hug him. He just looked so nice.

It was then she noticed the jeep had stopped.

Through the windshield, she could see Carol's brick building, and Carol's sign, and Carol's shrubs.

They were here.

With a sigh, Madison worked to get off the seat belt. For once, she wished she could enjoy her sleep. All these interruptions left her feeling cranky, not in the mood for anything but a couch and a warm blanket. At least in the office, there would be a couch.

Hugging her doll, she climbed out of the jeep and shivered in her coat.

"I'm thinking we should have canceled." Terry locked the passenger door, shut it with a soft click that made Madison jump. "Look at you-- you're all nerves. I've already put you through a lot today, and you should be resting."

"I can rest later." She fell in behind him, but Terry waited until she caught up and could move with him at his side.

He pulled the entrance door open and held it for Madison. They went inside and found an empty receptionist's desk where Tom usually sat. He'd gone home for the day, and it gave an after hours feel to the place that emphasized Carol didn't usually do this for her patients. Carol's office door stood open and ready for them, and when they went in, Terry shut the door behind him, even though there were no other people about to overhear their session.

"Good evening," Carol smiled from behind her desk. She stood and shook Madison's hand.

Madison decided to just blurt out her news. "We're getting married."

"So he finally proposed." Carol smiled and shook Terry's hand. "When did this happen?"

"Tuesday, after we left here and we agreed he could ask me. Then he asked me again on Wednesday, but this time with roses. That's when I said 'yes,' but not because of the roses." Madison took off her coat, then showed Carol the ring on her finger. "He bought me this, today, even though I tried to stop him. I'm feeling kind of guilty about that, and I'm not sure what I should do."

"If you remember correctly, we did talk it over." Terry took his usual chair. "We stood out in the parking lot, and you agreed."

"I know, but it's so expensive." Madison looked at the ring she'd secretly fallen in love with, then turned to Carol. "How much is too much for something like this?"

"What are you asking her for?"

"Because I want a second opinion. I want to know if I'm being dumb for keeping the ring and not taking it back."

"Go ahead and ask, but you're not dumb." Terry sighed and looked to Carol. "We had this settled earlier, and now we're going over it again. I knew it was a mistake to bring her down here without enough rest. She hasn't been getting much sleep, lately. Izzy said Maddie has been having nightmares, and last night, Maddie didn't get any sleep at all."

"Nightmares?" Carol opened her laptop. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Madison shook her head. "I'd like to talk about the ring. How much is too much for an engagement ring?" Madison stared intently at Carol, and Carol gave her thoughtful face.

"That depends. How much is too much for whoever is buying it?"

"It's not too much, Maddie."

"Please stay out of this, Terry."

"Why? Carol just asked me a question, I was only answering. If you wanted another opinion, you know, you could've asked Izzy. She would've been more than happy to discuss this with you."

"No, Izzy picked the ring so it means she didn't think it was too much." Seeing she was getting nowhere fast, Madison let it drop. She was stuck with the ring. She'd done her very best to make sure it hadn't hurt Terry, and the thought gave her a quiet joy to know she could keep it, after all. Her conscience was clean. "My next question-- and please, Terry, let me get it out before you try to answer-- I want to know what Carol thinks."

Terry held up his hands in a playful gesture. He was smiling. He knew, that she knew, that he had won on the issue of the ring, and a small part of her sensed that now he also knew she was pleased about being able to keep it. It stunned her. He could sometimes be a really good guesser.

"Your question?" Carol asked.

"I don't want to move after we get married, but Terry does. What do normal people do when one doesn't want to move, and the other one does?"

The deep intake of Terry's breath got Madison's attention.

"I never said I wanted to move."

"Yes, you did." Madison held onto her doll. "You said-- I can't remember your exact words, but you told John that you'd think about moving."

"And I am. I'm glad you brought this up, because I'd like you to think about it, as well."

"But I don't want to."

"Maddie, we have to at least consider the possibility."

"I don't want to consider it. You consider it. I want to stay with Izzy."

Bowing his head, Terry smiled. "So it's Izzy, is it?"

"I don't want to leave her."

"Well, I don't want to leave John, but after we marry things are going to be different."

"No, they won't."

"Maddie, they will." Terry's breath sucked in, he looked up at Madison and gave her a half direct, half blunted stare that had her squirming. "Trust me when I say they will. Even if we stay five feet from each other at all times, it's going to be different. We'll be married, and there's going to be times when I'd rather not have John and Izzy around."

"Not me." Madison hugged Terri and the real Terry sighed.

"I appreciate the fact you love Izzy. I do, and I love you for it, but you and I have enough to work through without an audience. If things were normal between us, I'd love nothing more than to stay, but they're not. Help me out, Maddie, but I think we have to go."

"Have either of you considered an alternative that might make you both happy?" Carol asked. "That would make you both comfortable after you're married? What would it take to make you feel comfortable with yourself and with each other?"

It seemed to Madison to be a hard set of questions.

"For me," Terry began in a quiet, careful tone, as if he were picking his way through difficult terrain, "the thing that would make me the most comfortable, would be if Maddie were happy. If she's not happy, then I'm not going to be comfortable and neither will she. The thing is, I'm having a hard time balancing that, against what could be coming our way after we marry. Maddie has agreed that we'll try to have sex-- not right away, and not even on our honeymoon, but later-- we are going to try. When we do, I'd rather not be home."

Now Madison was wishing she'd never brought up the subject. She wanted to bolt from the office-- the building-- the city, and go find a place to lose herself and forget she ever made such an agreement.

"Madison, what about you? What would make you feel comfortable?" Carol waited, and Madison tasted blood and tried not to chew her lip so hard. Carol didn't look impatient, but waited with such calm it gave Madison a chance to find her thoughts.

"I don't want to be far away from Izzy."

"You like her?"

Madison nodded.

"What do you like about her?"

"I don't know. She's like... I don't know." Madison prayed no one would laugh at her. "She's like my sister."

"You've never had one."

Madison shook her head.

"So you'd like to stay close to Izzy." Again, Carol hadn't asked a question, but Madison nodded anyway. Carol turned to Terry, and so did Madison.

Now it was Terry's turn to look thoughtful. He looked so deep in thought, Carol didn't ask him anything, though Madison nearly did. She wanted to beg him to stay with John and Izzy, but held back. If Carol thought it best to give him time to think, then so would she.

"For all my resisting, I don't want to leave home." Terry shook his head. "It is home to me-- when I think of home, I think of John and Izzy, and the girls, and Jake. But even that's changing for me. Already, in my heart, home is taking the form of Maddie. I don't want to jeopardize what we might share together, but I want both."

"You think staying with John and Izzy might get in the way?" Carol asked.

"I think it could. Simply because I'll know that John knows when Maddie and I start getting really serious. But there we are. Back to square one. We move out, and Maddie isn't happy and neither of us is comfortable."

"Maybe we could just not try, Terry."

Terry gave her a pained look.

"Or," Carol pressed on, "you could find a compromise."

"I'd rather just not try."

"Compromise?" Terry looked ready to consider the word. "I do have an apartment-- Maddie has one as well. When we need a lot of privacy, I suppose we could leave for a few days." Terry brightened as Maddie's stomach began to churn at the thought. "Then we wouldn't have to move out. If we ever did later, at least we could stay with our family for as long as possible." Terry began to look hopeful. "That makes a lot of sense, but I'd like to know what Maddie thinks?"

"If I need to--" she felt so tired-- "will you take me home?"

Terry looked surprised. "Do you mean right now, or then?"


"I'll take you home, Maddie. If you that's what you need."

"And I can call Izzy?"

"Whenever you want. This isn't meant to be a punishment."

"But what about moving later, like you said?"

"We won't move without agreement. I'm sorry if I gave you that impression earlier, but I give my word, we won't move unless we agree. After what we've said here, though, I don't think we'll have to worry about that for a very long time-- not if we can make this arrangement work. We'll set up our hideaway at either my place or yours, and that's where we'll put the bread machine."

"And if the arrangement doesn't work, we won't have moved out for nothing." She felt a little better now. "I don't want to take you away from our family for nothing, Terry. If this doesn't work, then we can just leave things the way they are and I can keep sleeping on the couch."

"We'll see what happens, Maddie, but if you do wind up long-term on a couch, I'm going to make sure it's a comfortable one. Now maybe we can talk about the fact you haven't been getting much sleep lately. And those nightmares." Terry looked to Carol. "The night before last, Izzy said Maddie had one bad dream after another."

"But I want to ask about our honeymoon." Madison looked to Carol. "Is a honeymoon a honeymoon if there isn't any sex? If it isn't, couldn't we call it something else?"

"You're quibbling over semantics, Maddie."

"No, I'm not." She paused. "What's semantics?"

"You're splitting a hair, calling a rose by another name."


"I'd like to address your sleeplessness."

"We can relabel the honeymoon if it makes you more comfortable," Carol said, stepping in and giving the two a moment to settle down. "Have you been getting enough sleep, Madison?" Carol took notes on her laptop and Madison wished she had a different answer than the truth. "Have you been having bad dreams?"

Madison nodded.

"Has Izzy been able to wake you before they escalate into night terrors?"


"That's good, it's helpful to have someone there who can help. Have you been getting much exercise?"

"I can't-- not with my hip."

Carol nodded. "I saw your records. You were diagnosed with hip osteoarthritis."

"Yes, Dr. Nelson said my hip will one day have to be replaced."

"Did she say that as fact, or did she say something that maybe you thought sounded like fact?"

The question caught Madison off guard. "I don't remember. The doctor said a lot of things, and most of it I can't remember. She gave me an exam with my feet up in some stirrups. That's the main thing I remember-- that, and Terry gave me his cell phone so I wouldn't be afraid."

"Try to make an appointment to see your doctor," Carol nodded. "If exercise is appropriate, she'll let you know what kind and how much."

"So it's not definite Maddie will need her hip replaced?"

"I'm a psychiatrist, meaning I'm a physician as well as a therapist, and I'm guessing Dr. Nelson only meant it may one day need to be replaced, but that it wasn't certain. Sometimes things get lost in communication, especially when there's a lot going on." Carol smiled at them and Madison felt a little better for the misunderstanding. Carol asked Madison a few questions about the sleep she hadn't been getting, then leaned back in her chair. "What are some ways we might help you get a better night's sleep?"

"Besides getting more exercise?" Terry sighed. "I suppose Maddie could try an herbal tea, anything to help her relax. Absolutely no caffeine. We made the mistake of giving her coffee one time, and she nearly crawled out of her skin. Perhaps music? Reading from the Book of Psalms? How about sleeping pills? Those things are addictive, though. I'd rather stay away from them, wouldn't you?" Terry turned to Madison, and Madison held onto her Terri doll.

She was dreading another visit to the doctor's office, and the moment when Dr. Nelson would find out about the new scars. She'd cut more than once since the last time she'd seen her doctor, so there were many new ones to look at. There were so many to begin with, it might be hard for Dr. Nelson to know which were ones she'd seen before, and which she hadn't. Maybe that could be a good thing. But maybe a doctor could tell the age of a scar. Would it matter though, so long as Madison could say she was seeing a mental health professional like Dr. Nelson had wanted? Carol was a professional, wasn't she? Didn't Carol count?

"Maddie, calm down." Terry's voice brought Madison back to the office and she found herself scraping deep into her arm.

What time I am afraid-- there was a verse that started like that-- it had been on Terry's phone but she couldn't remember the rest of it and forced herself to stop scratching without the help of a comforting Scripture to lean on.

Sleep. Exercise. Change. This attempt for a normal life was hurting more than she had thought it would.

* * * *

As Terry watched Maddie struggle and fight not to scratch, he wondered if he wasn't making a mistake. He'd wanted to give her plenty of time to get used to their engagement, but in a way, time was against her. The more time she had, the longer she had to writhe and twist in the wind.

It made him think.

The session had grown late, and since Maddie had become listless and seemed to no longer be paying attention, Carol suggested that maybe they should call it a day.

He agreed.

"Before we go-- Madison?" Carol stood, reached over the desk and lightly touched Maddie's hand until their eyes met. "How do you feel about being engaged? Can you tell me in as few words as possible what you're feeling?"

"I'm--" Maddie seemed to search for the right words and Terry held his breath-- "everything's all jumbled up, but I'm happy. I love Terry."

"I've been admiring your doll. Does she have a name?"

While Maddie showed Carol her doll, Terry thought things over. To help Maddie, he must give her time but not so much time she languished from waiting. The timing would be a judgment call, he could see that now. After getting a marriage license, how long would they need to wait to have the wedding ceremony? He wondered. Pulling out his trusty iPhone, Terry did a quick search of the New York State Department of Health's website, did some reading, and almost didn't hear Carol.

"And you, Terry?"

"Huh?" He read one area in particular, and his heart sank.

"How are you feeling?"

"I'm... feeling good. Happy. I'm happy."

Carol closed her laptop and gave him a cautious smile.

"Sorry, I was thinking about something else and wasn't paying attention. I am now." Terry put away his smartphone and focused on the discussion, or what was left of it as everyone got up from their chairs. "I'm heart over heels in love with a very sweet woman, and I'm happier than I deserve to be. As I'm sure my family can attest."

"Then I'm happy for both of you." Carol collected her things while Terry helped Maddie into her coat. "When I became engaged to my Brent, I remember feeling lost in a flood of decisions, and it seemed like they all had to be made at once. I've always been a little sorry I didn't take more time to just breathe and enjoy the moment."

Terry smiled as they filed out of the office. "Is it ethical to invite your psychiatrist to your wedding?"

"Bless you," Carol laughed as they moved to the entrance, "but my schedule is busy and any free time I've promised to my family. But thank you for the thought."

The three moved into the cold, made all the crisper by the night sky and a fierce gusting wind. Terry zipped up Maddie's coat so she wouldn't catch cold or blow away, then closed his own.

Since Carol had only stayed this late on their account, and Tom had already gotten off work, Terry waited as Carol locked the entrance. Standing there in the semi-darkness of the streetlamp, he couldn't stop thinking about what he'd read. To get married in the state of New York, Maddie would not only need a birth certificate-- which she had-- but also photo ID-- which she didn't have. They wanted a driver's license, passport, or an employment picture ID. None of them seemed likely without a lot of time and trouble on Maddie's part, and Terry was feeling discouraged. He kept forgetting, or underestimating what it was like to have so little to your name.

"Good night, Carol." Terry stepped aside as Carol opened her car door. "Thanks for the session."

Carol smiled back. "Thank you for walking me to my car. You're a true gentleman."

With a nod, Terry headed toward his jeep. Maddie kept up at his side and he wondered if she could wait the several months it might take to get her one of the documents the state of New York wanted. Could she wait that long? Less importantly, could he? It was a much longer wait than he'd originally anticipated for their wedding to take place.

Fighting back some frustration, Terry unlocked the passenger door, opened it and held it for Maddie. So close. All for the sake of a photo ID. He shouldn't have assumed that just because she had her birth certificate, all would be easy.


He shook himself and realized Maddie was chewing her lip again.

"Are you mad at me?"

"Of course not. Why would I be mad?"

She shrugged as though it were obvious. "Because I'm so much trouble?"

"It's all right." He touched her shoulder. "Some things are worth a little trouble. Climb in, you're getting cold."

"But I'm a lot of trouble, aren't I?" Maddie got inside, stared at him as he shut the door. She looked worn out, like she didn't have the strength needed to keep talking.

He went around the back of the jeep, found she'd unlocked the driver's side and opened it with a thankful sigh. He slid in behind the wheel, closed the door and warmed his cold hands under his armpits.

"I'm a lot of trouble for you." She didn't fight as he fastened her seat belt. "Do you ever wish you didn't find me?"


"Not even a little?"

"Not even that, so don't give it a second thought." Terry started the engine, put on his seat belt and saw Maddie secure the Terri doll under the belt across her lap. He smiled at her sweetness. "The way I look at it, Maddie, life isn't easy for anyone. I'm not expecting a smooth ride, and I'm not about to throw a tantrum when things don't go exactly my way. When did God promise us no pain, no heartache, and no problems?" Terry pulled out of the parking lot. "God is faithful. If He wants something done, it will get done."

"I'm pain, heartache, and problems."

"No, not you." Terry reached over and took her hand. "I could never mean you."

"Something's wrong, though?" she asked, her words coming with a tired, sleepy sound that had him wondering how she managed to stay awake.

Not wanting to saddle her with a new problem when she already had so many, Terry gave her hand a quick squeeze. "Let me pray over it-- God will give us a way through."

"Through what?"

"Just let me think, Maddie." He slowed to a red light and silently asked God for wisdom. Okay. He could put off the wedding long enough to get Maddie one of the photo ID the state of New York wanted. Teaching her how to drive was out of the question-- it'd take too long-- a non-driver photo ID would probably work, but he'd already looked into getting her one and knew she still didn't have enough proofs of identity to apply yet. A passport would be a hurdle in and of itself, and an employee ID meant she had to get a real job. Ironically, getting married would've gone a long way in helping her obtain that non-driver photo ID, and it made him more determined than ever to find the way through that God intended.

In his soul, Terry knew God wanted this.

The light turned green and Terry moved through the intersection. He had two birth certificates and a Social Security card. That was it.


If they wanted to get married and didn't want to put off the wedding for very long, one thing seemed clear.

It couldn't happen in the state of New York.


Terry pulled into the nearest business to use their parking lot and a few moments to think. Leaving the engine running, he took out his iPhone and noticed the darkness gathering around the jeep. He made sure the doors were locked, reached up, turned on the overhead light and saw Maddie hugging her doll.

"It's okay, we're safe. We'll be going home in a minute."

"Are you okay, Terry?"

"I'll be fine, just fine." He searched the results, hit a link and it took him to a page about the requirements for wedding licenses in the state of Pennsylvania. Photo ID. How about Vermont? Same requirement. One by one, he checked nearby states until it became obvious that if any of them didn't require photo ID to get a marriage license, he had yet to find them. Anger simmered in his veins-- the Dragon had done this to her, he had kept her chained to that bed so long, Maddie now had a hard time proving who she was so she could do something as simple and basic as get married.

Terry hit the overhead light, shoved the phone into his pocket and started the jeep back onto the street.

There was no way around the several months needed for Maddie's ID. So be it. If he had to hold her together with duct tape and glue, he would-- but more importantly, God would, no matter how long this took.

Terry checked the time, winced, and sped up a little, not wanting to be late for Emily's get-together.

"Terry, I'm praying."

"Thanks for that, Maddie." He breathed deep, then realized he'd been so steeped in his own thoughts he hadn't been telling her anything. This was her wedding, and it was only fair that she should know. Even so, he wanted to break it to her gently. "Nothing very bad has happened, so you don't have to fast along with those prayers. We'll be all right. I just found out the wait until we can marry will be longer than I'd been expecting."

"Is that all?"

"What do you mean, 'is that all'? Don't you want to marry me?"

"Yes, I do, but I can wait."

"You realize we can't kiss until then, don't you?"


He'd said it out of reflex, not out of thought, and a voice in the back of his brain whispered that he'd just made a mistake. He adjusted his speed, glanced at Maddie and mentally kicked himself for being so stupid.

"I take it back, Maddie. You're right-- this is no big deal. We can wait."

"Are you sure we couldn't kiss, Terry?"

"I can't, Maddie. It'd just turn me on. I need to wait until we're married, okay?"

No answer, just complete and total silence.

"I scared you again, didn't I?" He glanced at her, and she nodded. "I'm really sorry, Maddie. It's my fault, I should have been thinking more clearly. If it's any comfort, I don't think we'll be married anytime soon. Please, try to relax."

Not trusting himself to not make things worse, Terry let the radio fill the silence between them for the rest of the drive home. Poor Maddie. She'd been running on fumes to begin with, she had little energy left after the long day she'd had, and now he'd turned her moonlight pale with one comment.

A comment he prayed she'd be able to forget.

* * * *

Tired. She was so tired-- it coated her thoughts, even the frightened ones.

She didn't know which scared her more, the fact Terry had kissed enough in the past to know himself so well, or the fact that the one thing she'd been looking forward to, had that effect on him. The dread of going back to Dr. Nelson smudged before her, and all she could think about was not being able to kiss Terry. Getting married had a curious sort of dread to it, mixed with wanting to belong to Terry, just not necessarily with Terry. She wanted those kisses-- she wanted them badly-- and now that she knew that about him, she wanted to burst into tears. Fatigue blurred the edges of her mind and she fought to stay awake.

What had Terry said about the Dragon again? What were those words that had eased her from the edge?

She wished she could remember.

Thoughts felt sluggish and yet they raced at the same time. If only she could take a nap, if only she could sleep, maybe the bad stuff would disappear and she'd find it had only been a dream.

Weak and feeling so tired it made her stomach turn, she leaned her head back and watched Terry. Darkness and light chased across his face, highlighting this feature, shadowing that one, caressing him with moonlight and the headlights of the occasional oncoming car. This wasn't a dream. If it were, he wouldn't be here. Dreams were never this sweet, this tender.

Why did things have to change? Why couldn't they go on like this forever?

She shifted in her seat and winced when her hip answered with pain. The acetaminophen had worn off, she'd been doing a lot of sitting and was stiff, and her eyes were so heavy she wanted to scream.

Needing comfort, she reached for Terry's hand and he gave it without pause or question.

She inhaled slowly, felt his thumb move in soft circles on the back of her hand and she began to pull away.

He stopped and she relaxed.

She had no strength to fight off the weariness that had been building since the day before, and in the semi-quiet with the radio and Terry, she tumbled into the clutches of an exhausted sleep.

* * * *

Terry shut off the engine, sat a moment and watched Maddie. He really hated to wake her. It seemed to him that he'd been doing a lot of that lately, and wondered if he shouldn't just let her sleep where she was. He pictured her waking in the jeep, alone, in the dark, freezing cold, thinking she'd been abandoned... NO. There was no way in a million years that he'd ever do such a thing to her, and it took him a moment to shake the grief the mental picture had caused him.

"Maddie." He gently nudged her shoulder and when that wasn't enough, he rubbed her arm. "Hey, wake up. Maddie? Come on, Sleeping Beauty, wake up."

She stirred, moved a little and kept on sleeping.

"I'm sorry, Maddie, but we're home. You really need to wake up now."

She didn't respond, but kept on sleeping like someone who'd reached the end of her endurance.

Terry sighed. She'd probably wake up if he made enough noise. He popped open the driver's side door and a cold blast of night air rushed in. He checked Maddie.

Still nothing.

He got out, locked the door, then let it fall shut with a sturdy slam. Someone came to the living room window at the house, but Maddie kept right on sleeping. Terry waved to Abby, rounded the hood of the jeep, unlocked the passenger door and opened it with gusto.

If he didn't know Maddie any better, he'd have said she was teasing, but she remained as lifeless as the doll seat belted on her lap. Becoming concerned, Terry leaned in and put two fingers to Maddie's neck. He felt a steady, resting pulse. She was alive, she was asleep, and she wasn't faking anything. She really was exhausted.

"Hi, Uncle Terry." Abby stepped from the front door in a heavy sweater, vapor spilling from her mouth. "You're running a little late."

"Shhhh." Terry put a finger to his lips, and Abby came to the jeep looking puzzled. "Maddie's asleep," he whispered. "I can't wake her."

"Then why are you whispering?"

"I have no idea." Terry sighed, looked Maddie over and unbuckled her seat belt. He handed the doll to Abby.

"She belted the doll?"

Terry gave Abby a look but made no comment.

"Maddie, come on, Honey. You really do need to wake up." He shook her by the shoulder and she moaned. "Maddie, we're home. It's time to go to bed."

"No," she mumbled, and began to fight the hand on her shoulder.

"Poor choice of words," he breathed, and tried again. "Time to go to your couch, Maddie. I can carry you to the house, but I need you to help me get you out of this jeep. Can you do that much?"

"Is she coming to Emily's with us?"

Terry shook his head. "She knows not to expect Maddie. It's a good thing, too, because it looks like Maddie isn't going anywhere. Tell someone to make up her couch, would you?" Terry gently tugged Maddie toward the passenger door so he could first get his arms around her, then scoop her up.

"Do you need help?" Abby moved out of his way. "Should I get Jake?"

"No, just tell him to get her couch ready." Terry hoisted a half asleep Maddie into his arms, and Maddie mumbled something about being able to walk on her own. He ignored her, and turned to Abby. "Open the front door, would you?"

Abby scrambled to the house, swung open the door and called to Jake.

This wasn't exactly the way Terry had pictured coming home, with Maddie in his arms, and he hoped the neighbors weren't paying attention. She wasn't heavy, but he'd had a long day, too, and he felt it in his biceps as he made his way to the house. He stepped through the open door and found Jake hurriedly making a bed for Maddie.

"I forgot--" Terry turned to his niece-- "would you lock the jeep?" He thanked Abby, waited a moment longer for the blankets to get in place, then lowered Maddie onto the sheet-covered cushions.

"Well," Jake sighed, "at least she won't have trouble sleeping, tonight."

"That's a true blessing." Terry worked to pull off Maddie's coat, tossed it aside, then gently tugged off Maddie's shoes as Maddie made a feeble attempt to do it herself. "Are John and Izzy up?"

"Not yet. I was just about to knock on their door when Abby heard your jeep."

"You'd better go wake them. I'm running behind schedule, and we're about to be officially late for Emily." Terry covered Maddie with a comforter, and smiled as Maddie rapidly cozied beneath the soft blanket in a fit of pure and utter exhaustion. "What a day," he sighed. "I don't suppose the kids are asleep?"

"Not a chance," Jake said over his shoulder. "They're too busy making their own coloring books to notice it's getting late."

A moment later, Abby came in with a shiver, shut the door, and handed the doll to Terry. "I locked your jeep."

"Thanks, Abby. I'd better call Emily before she thinks we've forgotten about her invitation." He put the doll next to Maddie, and while Emily's number rang, he saw Abby go to the couch and tuck in Maddie.

When Emily answered, Terry apologized for being late, and told her to expect them in a few minutes. After he hung up, the fatigue of the day seemed to catch up with him all at once and he almost wished he could fall into bed instead of visit with Emily and Brian. Still, he had promised, and unlike Maddie, he could go. As he put away his phone, he noticed the state of his shirt and decided to do everyone a favor and put on a clean one. He'd been sweating a lot that day-- first over the engagement ring, then over the marriage license. Really, he needed a shower, but there was just no time.

Even before Terry reached the hall, the play of the munchkins could easily be heard coming from the triplets' room. He could hear Jake telling them to put on their coats, the sound of toys being put away and the cleanup that came after play.

As Terry rounded into his old room, the door to the master bedroom opened and Izzy came out looking rested.

"I'll be ready in a moment--" Terry said, and ducked into his bedroom for that clean shirt.

Putting on her coat, Izzy came to his door and smiled. "Jake told us about Maddie. I'm glad she's finally getting her sleep."

"I offered to cancel our appointment with Carol," Terry located a comb on his dresser, ran it over his hair without bothering to check in a mirror, "but Maddie wanted to go and I didn't have the heart to say 'no.' I'm thinking maybe I should have."

Quiet now, Izzy watched intently as Terry went to his closet, then opened the door.

He was being watched again.


Then he saw it. He almost missed it, but there, hanging heavy by a ribbon from the metal closet pole was a medium-sized, bright blue package.

With red hearts.

"What in the world?" He looked at Izzy and saw her smiling. "What's this?"

"What does it look like?"

"It looks like a present. I had another under my coat, earlier."

"Really?" Izzy looked pleased. "I wish you'd found this when she was awake, but I suppose it couldn't be helped. Could I talk you into re-discovering it when she's around? No, that wouldn't work. She'd never look in this bedroom to see you opening it. Oh well. You might as well open it now."

"You put it in here?"

Izzy gave him a look. "We're running late, Terry."

"You put it in here?"

All the commotion attracted John. "What's up?" he asked.

"Terry found a you-know-what."

"There's more?" Terry asked.

"I never said that. Would you open it, please? Emily's waiting."

Terry pulled out the present, and smiled hugely when he saw the tag:

You are loved.

Tenderly taking off the tag so he could keep it forever, he tore off the paper and felt the weight of the medium-sized package. Whatever it was, it sure wasn't a pen. This had heft to it. Substantial heft. He let the wrapping paper fall to the floor, and gasped. Instead of the cheap item he expected, he found an electric pencil sharpener. A nice one.

Izzy smiled.

"I don't understand." He looked to Izzy. "She came from the MegaMart with three bulging bags. Three. I counted."

"Your point?"

"She gave me a ballpoint pen this morning, and it wasn't expensive."


"And this thing cost what-- twenty? Twenty-five dollars?"

"I'm not at liberty to say."

"My point is, she went in with thirty dollars. This and the pen, at best, leaves only a few dollars to fill three bags. Three bags? This pencil sharper isn't that big-- it couldn't fill a bag if it tried."

"Terry, you're thinking about this too much."

"I am?"

The noise in the hall was getting louder. John and Jake had the children gathered, and Terry could hear their voices. He knew it was time to leave, but the gift in the closet had him off kilter. Forget the shirt. He wanted to know what was going on with the bags. And the gifts. And that smile on Izzy's face.

Izzy left the doorway and Terry hurried after her.

He wanted to tell Izzy that he could easily look up this pencil sharpener on MegaMart's website. They would tell him how much it cost. Things weren't adding up and coming out to thirty dollars, and Terry had a sneaking hunch Izzy was the reason why. He had absolutely no idea what Izzy and Maddie had worked out, but whatever it was, he trusted Izzy. He knew and respected her. Knowing Izzy the way he did, he guessed the extra money had even been Izzy's idea. It sounded like something she'd do, especially for family.

John, the children, Jake, Abby, Ricky, spilled into the living room ahead of them, and Izzy looked behind her and smiled at Terry when he continued to say nothing.

He trusted Izzy, and Izzy looked grateful for that trust. Especially concerning someone as fragile as Maddie.

The munchkins made a low ruckus as John checked windows, locked doors, and made sure the house was secure before they left. As Terry was about to ask the kids to keep it down, something stirred on the couch, and Izzy sighed as Maddie struggled to push herself up. The munchkins had done the impossible. Maddie was awake, or partially so, and she was pushing herself up and trying hard to force her eyes open.

"I want to go with you," she mumbled, and began to struggle to get off the couch.

"Never mind about that," Izzy hurried to tuck Maddie in, "go back to sleep, and we'll save you some cake."

Not that Maddie had wanted to get up for cake. Terry started to go comfort Maddie, but Izzy kept going and he stayed where he was.

"He found the pencil sharpener," Izzy whispered, and Maddie's face momentarily came alive in a bright, beautiful smile. "He loved it, so go to sleep and dream of Terry." Izzy took Maddie's hands, said a quiet prayer, then turned on the night-light in what Terry sensed had become a small routine with them. They truly had become close. "Do you have your phone?" Izzy asked, and she made sure Maddie's phone was close by. "Call us whenever you want. We'll just be down the street. We'll lock up the house before we leave, so you'll be safe." Izzy turned off the lamp, and Terry began to doubt if he should leave Maddie by herself.

The sharp things had been hidden, but she could always hurt herself if she wanted.

If she was awake.

It looked as though Izzy's instincts were on target, those secrets between sisters, that small exchange that said everything was all right, that Maddie was safe and wanted right where she was. They would come back. She wasn't being abandoned. Terry didn't have to be Maddie to understand that. He had no idea if Izzy understood the impact of what she'd done, other than Izzy had her instincts and she kept to them, and they were often right.

Seconds after Izzy's comfort, Maddie was sound asleep and the munchkins were hushed out of the house. No one wanted to take the chance she'd wake again, though Terry had a feeling that Maddie was now feeling so good, and was now so tired, a natural disaster could wipe out their home and she'd still be asleep.

Outside, the night had become bitterly cold, and Terry fell into stride with Izzy and John for the very short walk to Emily's. The munchkins ran about them, now free to make as much noise as they wanted, and Abby and Jake walked arm in arm.

"Thanks, Izzy. She loves you, and so do I."

Izzy smiled, and leaned on John's shoulder as the moon followed them down the street.

"I second that, Little Dove," John said in his quiet, steady voice. "You've been quite a blessing to this family, and to me."

The praise seemed to embarrass Izzy. She kissed John's shoulder, gave Terry a warm, thankful smile, and was able to interrupt everything by ringing Emily's doorbell and changing the subject altogether.

Which seemed to suit Izzy just fine.

Hellos and congratulations and thank you's for the wedding gift they'd sent each other were passed around Emily's living room, and Brian and Terry hugged and congratulated each other on their upcoming marriages while Brian's teenage son, Dave, stood by and grinned. Macho barked his terrier head off, and the triplets introduced Ricky to their furry friend.

"I'm sorry Maddie couldn't be here--" Terry started, but Emily stopped him with a smile, and invited them to take seats on the couch and the chairs she'd placed about the room.

"I'm sure Madison has had a very busy day."

"You're about to have one, yourself," Terry grinned, and Brian grinned back. "Is everything ready for tomorrow?" Terry asked.

"You'll have to ask Emily that, I can't keep it all straight." Brian shook his head and looked about the room. It was then Terry noticed the boxes, the belongings stacked against the wall. "Dave and I have been moving our things in-- after Emily and I get back from our honeymoon, I have to go back to work on Monday. So it's kept us busy."

"I'm sorry we couldn't have helped."

"It's nothing Dave and I couldn't handle. And this way, Dave can already be moved in over the weekend, to keep Mitch company while we're in Niagara Falls."

"Niagara!" Izzy smiled. "Is that where you're going for your honeymoon?"

Terry was still reminding himself who Mitch (the aid) was, when the thought of Niagara Falls reminded him of his own predicament.

Beside him on the couch, John nudged Terry.

"You okay?" John asked in a hushed voice.

"Yeah. Just a lot on my mind, that's all."

"I can sympathize," Brian laughed, and Terry realized Brian had overheard. "I've been preoccupied and unable to string together two coherent thoughts, ever since she said 'yes.'"

"He has not," Emily said with a smile, "Brian has not only been coherent, but he made all the travel arrangements, himself. The tickets, where we'll be staying, the restaurants-- everything. I didn't have to lift a finger. And before anyone thinks I've forgotten, I'd better get the dessert." Emily stood and Izzy went with her to the kitchen.

On the carpet, the little ones played with a nearly manic Macho, who was unused to so much attention. He was loving it.

Dave grinned. "Dad's been on the computer, making reservations, researching wedding stuff. He's been driving me crazy. I'm glad the wedding's tomorrow, then he can drive someone else nuts."

"He's right, I have been driving him crazy," Brian said with a laugh. "If you need help planning your wedding, Terry, I could probably help out. Like Dave said, I've been doing a lot of reading up on the subject."

A frantic bark had everyone laughing as Ricky danced Firefighter Stan over the pup's head.

"I don't suppose," Terry hesitated, wondering if he should take Brian up on that offer. Just to see what he knew.

"Go on," Brian grinned. "Try me."

"I found out Maddie doesn't have enough ID for us to get a marriage license. If there's no way around it, we'll have to wait several months until she has enough proofs of identity to apply for a non-driver photo ID. Then we can apply for the marriage license, and get married. I'd been hoping to move up the wedding, but after this, that seems impossible."

"When did you find this out?" Izzy asked, coming into the room with Emily and a large serving tray of cake and ice cream.

"Today, as we were finishing up our session with Carol-- she's our therapist," Terry explained to the others. "I did a search on my phone and learned Maddie needs more than a birth certificate and Social Security card to get a marriage license in the state of New York. I tried other states, but I can't get around the photo ID requirement."

"There is a way." Brian winced. "You won't like it, but it would work."

"Tell me, please."

"Las Vegas. It's the only place I know of where you don't need anything but a birth certificate and a Social Security card to get married. I'm not kidding. Hey, they make it easy to get married down there. When my cousin eloped in Vegas a few years back, he told me all about it. Madison shouldn't have a problem-- not there. Stay away from the flesh shows and casinos though, that's what I'd recommend. Just get married. My cousin's marriage didn't last, but it was legal."

Stunned, Terry sat back on the couch and wondered if this was the answer to his prayers.

"Still, it's disappointing." Izzy helped Emily serve dessert from the large tray while Macho watched at their feet. "I'd been looking forward to a wedding here, in Three Mile Bay, but I suppose it can't be helped. You do what you need to, Terry."

"If we do go to Vegas--" Terry thought it over-- "I don't want to call off our wedding here. I want our memories to be here, not there. What if we had the first ceremony as a legality, something that has to be done to make this legal, but then we have a second ceremony here, and that's the one we buy the dress for, hire the photographer? That's the one we celebrate."

Except for the barking dog and the eating children, everyone was quiet.

Dave started in on his dessert and John broke the stillness with a deep sigh.

"It sounds like a plan, Terry. When do you want to do this?"

"That depends on how soon I can get everything set up." Terry grinned, suddenly finding an appetite for his cake and ice cream. "If what our very good friend and neighbor here says is true--" at this, Brian grinned-- "then I'd like to go just as soon as I can be sure it'll be good for Maddie. If all goes well, tomorrow, or the day after. That'd be Saturday, wouldn't it?"

"So soon?" Izzy sank onto the couch beside John.

For a moment, Terry wondered if Izzy didn't think the timing was good, but then he saw her smile, and knew God was opening a door for this marriage to take place. He still needed to work out the timing with Maddie, but if it all worked out, he didn't see why that stage of their wedding preparations needed to be drawn out. Then they could start on other, more happier things, like a church wedding with their pastor presiding, a nice dress, and honeymoon plans.

Terry felt his spirit lighten.

"John and Izzy invited us to stay with them," he announced. "Maddie and I want that, so we'll be staying with John and Izzy for the indefinite future."

A strong arm slung around Terry, nearly knocking the plate from Terry's hand as John hugged him fiercely. "Thank You, Lord! You talked it over with Madison?"

"I did, and it turns out she and Izzy are long lost sisters." Terry saw Izzy's smile deepen. "It looks like this family will be staying together. And thanks to Brian and Emily, I hope we'll be able to invite them to our own wedding here in Three Mile Bay, sometime soon."

"Amen to that." Brian was smiling so hard Terry wondered if it would become permanent, then he realized he was smiling just as much.

It meant getting hugs from everyone in the room, especially from a tearful Abby. The family would be staying together. If Emily or Brian wondered how they'd manage to get along in one house, they didn't say, and really, they didn't look too surprised by Terry's announcement. Terry wondered if that was a compliment to the closeness of their family, or a commentary on his perceived mental health and wellbeing. He decided to put it out of his mind. The future Mr. and Mrs. Donovan were genuinely happy for him and Maddie, and that was all that really mattered.

After dessert had been finished, Brian and Dave got ready to leave with everyone else. It would be the last night Brian would spend alone as a bachelor, and though there were no parties to encourage him as a new husband in the Lord, the small group gathered in the living room and asked God to bless the two couples about to be married.

How Terry wished Maddie could have been here, but as they left the house and Emily went to check on her father, Terry knew it had probably worked out for the best. The old friends had been able to visit as they were, as old friends, and not old rivals. Maddie didn't really know Brian and Emily as anything but the woman who'd chased Terry, and the man who'd scared Maddie silly, but after this, Maddie would owe them both in a very big way.

Terry could hardly wait until tomorrow morning, when he could tell Maddie the good news.

They would be able to marry, very, very soon.

"With God all things are possible."
~ Matthew 19:26 ~

end of chapter