The Prequel, Chapter Thirty-Seven

I love you, Miriam, but I can't let myself get involved with love ever again.

"Miriam, I'm sorry." Alexander picked up a pot to dry and turned so that Miriam couldn't see his face, which was distorted in a mask of shame. "I'm so sorry."

Miriam crossed her arms and leaned against the table in the kitchen, head lowered. "You didn't ever love me, did you," she said, her tone designating a statement rather than a question.

"I...I did love you, Miriam. But I don't want to be 'in love' with you anymore, because I know it'll just hurt you." Alexander sighed. "I'm sorry."

Blinking back a fresh torrent of tears, Miriam shook her head. "You've got it all wrong, Alexander. If you really do love me, then you won't hurt me anymore. So if you really do love me, then it's okay. We can be together without any more disgrace."

"I'm afraid you don't want to 'be together' with me anymore, Miriam. If I was bad back home, then I'm...I guess I'm evil here."

"I know you've gotten worse."

Alexander snorted. "You say it so politely. I haven't gotten worse, Miriam - I've just finally begun showing how sinful my heart always has been."

"You used to be gentlemanly and loving, Alexander. I know that with time and care, you can be who you were before Eve ever tried to worsen you."

"You talk as though it's all Eve's fault."

"If Eve hadn't ever pursued you, then you wouldn't be here today!"

Voice growing a bit louder and more passionate, Alexander exclaimed, "I wouldn't be here today - you're right. But I was always destined to be hopeless. Even if Eve wouldn't have met me, it would have only been a matter of time before I chose a broken path."

"Why are you so intent on defending your badness?" Miriam asked, eyes flashing. 

"Because I love you!" Alexander slammed the pot he'd been absently drying down on the shelf and turned to face Miriam. "God help me, I love you and don't want you to get hurt again!"

Miriam was trembling, and she sagged onto the floor, drawing her knees up to her chest. "Please, don't be angry..." she whispered, sniffing and burying her face in her arms.

Alexander knelt beside Miriam and shook her gently. "You still don't understand what I'm saying. If you love me, then you've made a terrible mistake. Loving me is the worst thing you could possibly do to yourself. I've changed into someone you don't know anymore. Please, respect my decision to leave you alone."

"Just like I'm supposed to respect the decision you made five years ago to leave me behind in the dust? Are you still trying to convince me that you did it because you loved me?" Miriam was shaking with tears. "I've never been good enough for you, have I?"

"You're wrong, Miriam. I have never been good enough for you. You're too good for me, Miriam. Don't try to tell me otherwise."

Alexander set down the drying towel and strode from the kitchen. He could hear Miriam's muffled sobs as he made his way through the house to the front door. Without stopping to thank his hosts, he fled the place and didn't stop until he reached an empty field, where he fell to his knees and tearlessly grieved.

The End

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