The Prequel, Chapter Thirty-Six

Countless excuses flitted through Alexander's mind, but he forced himself to think rationally. This time, he would tell Miriam the truth. He would never allow himself to lie to her ever again.

"I left because I was sick of living in a town where nothing happened, and where everyone knew about my scandal. I wanted to start out fresh, with a new reputation. I guess I wanted to establish a life that was free of all the disgrace I was known for."

"But why did you leave me?" Miriam asked again.

Taking a deep breath, Alexander leaned against one of the cupboards and hung his head. "I didn't want to drag you down with me."

"Is that the truth?"

Alexander reached out and touched Miriam's cheek, ever so gently. "It is, Miriam. I didn't want to bring you with me, because I was afraid...afraid that my dreams would fail and I'd turn back to my former ways of finding pain relief."

The words were entirely true. Alexander had left Miriam because he didn't want to hurt her. He'd thought that she would forget him and find a man who was truly worthy of her love, but apparently, Alexander had consumed Miriam's mind just as much as she had consumed his.

"You know, when you said that, you sounded like the Alexander I fell in love with," Miriam said, eyes filling with tears. "Back before Eve got to you, I could tell you really cared about people and me and...well, about everything. You were so passionate about your beliefs, and you were always the chivalrous knight who put others before yourself. That's the Alexander I love."

"So...you're not going to kill me," said Alexander, only partially joking.

"Oh, I'm upset with you. Don't think for a moment that I'm not upset with you. But it's the glimpses of the old Alexander that keep me coming back to you. I'm going to be blunt, Alexander. You've become a man I don't recognize, a man who cares more about worldly fulfillment above all else. It seems this bad side of you has taken over you almost completely.

"But then, I see hints of the old Alexander, the good Alexander. Like when you surprised me with that bouquet of hand-picked flowers when I was having a particularly emotional day, and when you gave me chamomile tea and crackers when I wasn't feeling well. And I saw the old you just now, when you told me the reason you left was so that you couldn't bring me down."

Miriam's words were both true and painful. Alexander kept his head down, sensing that Miriam was trying to make eye contact with him. Sighing, he shook his head. "Well, I don't know what to say."

"I was hoping you'd be a less conflicted man when I found you. Not for my sake, but for yours. But I can tell with just once glance that you've only sunk more deeply. Am I right?"

"Yes."

"You haven't given up drinking, I can tell that just by your eyes." Miriam reached out and smoothed back a tendril of hair that had fallen in front of Alexander's eyes. "And I think you've picked up other habits, too. Habits that govern who you are."

Alexander stood more straightly and began to dry the dishes that Miriam had washed. "How can you tell all that?"

A look of sadness in her eyes, Miriam reached out and touched Alexander's temple. "Your eyes. Always by your eyes. I know you better than anyone else does - even you, I think." She gave a low harrumph. "Why didn't you leave me a letter?"

Knowing Miriam was referring to when he had left her, Alexander let out a long breath. "I don't know, Miriam."

Stricken, Miriam shrugged. "You never know. You're never to blame."

Distraught by the way the entire conversation had been flowing, Alexander ran a shaking hand through his hair and didn't even try to combat Miriam's words.

Letting out a sob, Miriam turned to Alexander and bit her lip before asking softly, "But do you still love me?" 

The End

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