The Prequel, Chapter Twenty-Three

"Excuse me?" Alexander whispered, almost unable to speak. What had just occurred?

"You heard me," Miriam said, her eyes filling with tears. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything. I should have just walked away right then and there." She put her head in her hands and started crying.

"Miriam, Miriam, Miriam," Alexander whispered, putting his hand on Miriam's shoulder. If they had been alone, then he would have taken her into his arms, but he knew he should do no such thing in public.

"That time you kissed me? I haven't forgotten it," Miriam spoke quietly when she was finally able to speak. "I've relived it every day."

"Miriam," Alexander said again, because he really wasn't capable of saying anything else.

"You don't have to love me back, Alexander. Please, don't love me back. I'm not deserving of you. You deserve some girl who is witty and intelligent and prettier than me. Please, Alexander, love someone who deserves you!"

"Miriam, look at me." Alexander lifted Miriam's face so he could meet her eyes, but she closed them before he could. "You're being ridiculous. If there's anyone in this world that I care about, it's you. It's just that I'm not the one for you, Miriam. I can't deny that I am, most definitely, attracted to you, and I can't deny that I would have married you in any other lifetime. But I'm not the one to marry you, Miriam. You need someone who hasn't already fallen in such terrible ways. You deserve someone who isn't such a failure."

"You're not a failure," Miriam said, her lips trembling. She looked away and let out a long sigh. "I just wish I could convince you that you're more beautiful to me than anyone else in this world."

"I appreciate it, Miriam, I really do. But I care too much about you to let you fall in love with someone like me." Alexander kissed Miriam's hand.

"I'd never ask for anyone but you," Miriam said, and she took her hand back. "Alexander, I want you to be happy."

"If you're trying to play hard to get - "

"I'm not." Miriam nodded in the direction of the dance floor. "Go find a girl who can really make you happy like I never could. I'll always love you, Alexander, but I understand that you probably would never love me back."

"You're good enough for anyone, Miriam. But I can't let you love me." Alexander stepped back, eyes finally meeting Miriam's. "I wish I could be your prince, Miriam, but the fact is...I'd be a fool to let you fall in love with me. You need a man who hasn't already indulged in the world."

"You're perfect to me," Miriam said, her eyes spilling over with fresh tears.

"I know," Alexander said. He gazed at Miriam for a long, long time before whispering, "But I'm only perfect to you because you've blinded yourself to my faults. I can't let you love me."

So that was that. Alexander walked away, purposing in his heart that he would avoid Miriam at all costs. He cared so much about her that he didn't want to corrupt her. If only he'd known from the beginning that she loved him...then perhaps he wouldn't have made such a mess of his life.

But what was done was done, and there was no turning back. Alexander searched the dance floor until his eyes rested on Helen. If Miriam was gone, then he had no reason to stop himself from jumping headfirst into sin.

The End

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