"So, rumor has it that a pretty little lady has come to town, looking for you," Ella said, taking a sip from her wine. She set the glass down on the table and looked Alexander in the eyes. "Tell me, who is this woman?"
"Her name is Miriam, and she's a childhood friend," Alexander responded, nervous at the change of the conversation topic. Normally, whenever he and Ella went out to a restaurant, Ella was the one who talked, and it was usually a running monologue. But today, Ella seemed intent on prying open Alexander's past, and it made him extremely uncomfortable.
"Childhood friend or not, do I have competition?" Ella inquired, eyebrows raising slightly. Alexander recognized jealousy in her tone.
Sighing, Alexander replied with a gruff "no" and drained the rest of the wine from his glass.
"Alexander, please, restrain yourself," Ella instructed, condescent apparent in her tone of voice.
"Listen, Ella," Alexander said, ignoring Ella's comment. "With me, you will never have competition. Miriam is a dear friend and nothing more. Do you trust me?"
As soon as the words left his mouth, Alexander knew what Ella's answer would be. "No," Ella responded, eyes flashing. "Honestly, when have I ever trusted you?"
As though on cue, Miriam walked into the building, escorted by Auntie Lala. The two sat down at table within Alexander's field of vision. That would be my luck, Alexander thought, bitter. Will Miriam plague me for the rest of my life?
Miriam looked across the room, and as soon as she spotted Alexander, she smiled. Then, her eyes rested on Ella, and she stood, shaking. In that moment, Alexander knew Miriam recognized the fact that he had truly been unfaithful to her. Miriam's eyes were wide, and she gave one long, slow nod before raising a trembling hand to wipe away a tear.
"Is that her?" Ella followed Alexander's gaze.
Breathing loudly even from across the room, Miriam reached out and steadied herself against the table. And then, without further ado, she ran from the restaurant.
It took Alexander only a moment to respond. Jumping from his seat, he nearly knocked the entire table over in his haste. Without another thought toward Ella, he dashed out the restaurant door and caught up with Miriam.
"Miriam!" Alexander exclaimed, grabbing Miriam's arm.
"I see now that I've been a fool," Miriam said, and even though she was crying, there was only anger in her voice. "I was fooling myself into thinking that you actually cared about me. What am I supposed to do when I see the love of my life with another woman?"
"Miriam, listen to me! It's not what you think it is!"
Voice rising, Miriam shook her head and stomped her foot. "Then what is it, Alexander? What is it? I'm tired of waiting around, thinking you'll realize that I've been here for you this entire time! What was I thinking? You've always been selfish, bending my emotions to make me believe you actually love me! But you know what? I'm not going to fall for your lies anymore. Because no matter what you say, you'll never be happy with little old me."
"Didn't we talk about this last night, Miriam? Didn't we decide that whatever relationship we had is over?"
"No, we didn't decide that. You only said that before running away from your pain."
"I don't want you to be in pain, Miriam! What can I do to make you believe that I am the problem, not you?" Miriam made a move to run away, but Alexander held her arm tightly. "Miriam," he said, hoarsely, "I need to know what I can do."
Though her tears had ceased, Miriam's voice was still feeble. "I don't know," she said, shoulders slumping in defeat. "I don't know if there's anything you can do. I thought coming here would bring closure, but..."
"But it hasn't. It's only reopened old wounds."
Miriam looked around. "Where can we talk without other people staring?" she whispered, and it was then that Alexander realized people were watching them.
"Come to my place," Alexander said. Then, he shook his head. "No, you've a reputation to look after."
Miriam nodded in the direction of a forsaken alleyway. Alexander didn't want to admit it, but the alleyway reminded him too much of Eve. Nevertheless, Alexander followed Eve to the designated area.
"Now, Alexander," Miriam said. "Speak your mind."