Alexander walked into church the next day with that same lazy grace we all love him for. Swinging around the corner on his heel, he sat down in the last pew. He was late - that much he knew. He and his parents had slept in a bit too late, due to being up in the wee hours of the morning. Now, he found himself in the back pew with one of his friends, Tommy Holbrook.
"A bit late, are we?" Tommy whispered, nudging Alexander.
Alexander disregarded his words with a good-natured grunt. "Would you like to guess what I did last night?"
Tommy's eyebrows rose. "Tell me!"
Smiling, Alexander whispered, "I went for a walk with Miriam. We had an incredible conversation about many different things."
Tommy laughed, which earned him a rap on the head from someone sitting next to him. Lowering his voice, he asked, "What kinds of things were in your conversation?"
But Alexander was too busy watching Miriam. She sat six rows ahead of them. Funny how Alexander could always locate her, no matter how far away she was. He sat for a moment, entranced, before realizing that Tommy had been speaking to him. "Yes?"
"What did you talk about?"
"She told me things she wouldn't want me to repeat."
Tommy raised his eyebrows. "Oh? Were they things about loving you?"
With a soft laugh, Alexander gave Tommy a shove. "No, not things like that. Things about her family that she told me in confidence. I can't tell you more than that." He fiddled with the pages of the Bible that was in a compartment in the back of the pew in front of him. Then, he pulled his hand away. If he was as bad as his parents seemed to think he was, then he didn't have any business touching a Bible.
"Do you think she...you know...fancies you?" Tommy asked.
Alexander shrugged. "I'd like to think so, but I don't think she does. Someone like her would never have feelings for someone like me." He didn't know who exactly "someone like me" was, but apparently, it wasn't someone very good.
"I think you're wrong," Tommy said. "I think she has feelings for you, and I think you deserve someone pretty like her."
Alexander shook his head, then asked with a smile, "Since when did you become my adviser?"
"Since you started needing advising," Tommy replied smartly.
Someone gave Tommy another rap on the head, so for the moment, the two stopped talking.
But Alexander never took his eyes off Miriam. For some reason, he felt responsible for her. Protective of her. If her reputation got sullied because of an innocent walk they'd taken together, he'd take the blame. He didn't want Miriam to be condemned for something they'd never done, but if she must be, then he'd willingly risk his reputation for her sake.
Because even though Alexander wasn't reputed to be the most honest or "good" boy in his town, he certainly was reputed to be the most charming and somehow still promising...and even though his understanding of love would become very skewed in the years to follow, there was no doubt about it:
When Alexander loved, he loved with all his soul.