The Prequel, Chapter Twenty-One

Alexander and Miriam were inseparable. Every day, they found events to go to in which they could see each other - Aaron Kelley's barnraising, a church bazaar, Marc Donnager's homecoming. And everytime they saw each other, they stayed at one another's side for the rest of the evening.

Talking to Miriam was balm to Alexander's soul. It was almost impossible to focus on his own hopelessness when she was near. The whispers of damnation to which he'd become so accustomed were nearly wiped away, replaced by Miriam's sweet words and frequent laughter. When Miriam was near, all was well. At least, for the first few weeks.

But Alexander was growing restless. Yes, it was only a matter of time...

It was a chilly September evening when Helen McOlsen caught Alexander's eye. She was wearing a dark red dress and her hair piled neatly atop her head when Alexander was paired with her for the first dance at a church happening. 

"Rumor has it you're courting Miriam," said Helen, her eyes flashing. Alexander wouldn't have noticed the jealousy in her eyes if he hadn't been looking, but it was impossible not to meet her eyes when they were dancing.

"Not really, no," Alexander replied warily. "We're just excellent friends. Our families have been friends for several generations."

Helen shrugged, as though it didn't matter to her. "The two of you are always together. Everyone's talking about it."

"Well, then, everyone doesn't understand that we're nothing more than friends."

Helen smiled and looked away. Raising his eyebrows, Alexander let out a long breath. He stepped away. "It's been lovely dancing with you, Helen, but I'm afraid I haven't shared a dance with Miriam yet, and I wouldn't want to disappoint the town gossips."

Helen gave a small gasp. "You're leaving right in the middle of a dance? It's scandalous, Alexander!"

Alexander shrugged. "No more scandalous than what's already being said."

There was something intriguing about Helen. And at Alexander's most recent words, she blushed and shook her head. "What's already being said?" she asked sweetly.

"Things that wouldn't be good for your ears," Alexander responded.

Eyelashes working, Helen stepped forward. "What kinds of things?"

"Scandals you wouldn't even dream of," Alexander whispered, and he took Helen's hands for the dance.

"Were they worth it?" Helen asked. "I know I'm being forward, but I want to be able to give my news to the town gossips, you know." She gave a soft laugh.

"'Were they worth it?'" Alexander echoed in Helen's breathless tone. "I don't know, Helen. You tell me. Were they worth it?"

"I don't rightly know," Helen replied shortly, and she broke away from Alexander. "You're disgraceful, Alexander. Even your eyes tell stories of dishonor. Any girl would be a fool to fall for you."

As Helen strode away, Alexander called after her, "And are you a fool, Helen?"

Helen turned and finally met Alexander's eyes. She looked troubled as she bit her lip. At long last, she responded, "I'm starting to think I might be."

And then, they went their separate ways.

The End

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