The Prequel, Chapter Forty

Over the next few days, Miriam and Alexander were practically inseparable. Something about Miriam's presence gave Alexander hope. If she had recovered from her emotional wounds, perhaps he could, as well - though his were certainly far deeper and more horrendous than hers had ever been.

On a particularly cold December day, Alexander and Miriam were sitting on a small couch in Alexander's small apartment. Christmas was drawing nigh; already, the date was December 19th. Being a Thursday, the day was not especially exciting; Miriam, who had found an unassuming job as a worker at a mercantile, had gotten off work early, as a result of her owner falling ill. 

"I have the perfect Christmas gift for you," Miriam announced, smiling excitedly at Alexander. "Just you wait until you see it."

Alexander kissed her briefly. "You shouldn't have," he responded, chuckling.

"I wanted to! Oh, you'll love it! It's something I've been spending quite a few hours working on lately." Miriam stood and walked to the small kitchen. "I'm going to make myself some coffee. Would you like any?"

"Seems like I should be asking you that, Miriam."

Walking over to the kitchen, Alexander motioned for Miriam to sit down. "You're the guest," he insisted. He paused. "Miriam, do you like jewelry?"

"Of course!"

"May I give you your gift now, then?"

Miriam laughed. "No, that's got to wait until Christmas. Sorry!"

Alexander winked at Miriam, causing her to blush. No, though she had made mistakes in her past, she still retained an air of sweetness that soothed Alexander's soul. It was times like these that Alexander had a hard time reminding himself that he was not the marrying type. Being with Miriam changed his perspective on life, and that was dangerous. If they married...if they married, then Miriam would become like all the others whom Alexander had romanced - depressed and lifeless.

 But if Alexander did not intend to marry Miriam, why was he even associating with her? The answer was his own selfishness. Being around Miriam gave him a confidence he'd lost long ago, even before he'd met Eve.

Had there ever been a time when Alexander was truly innocent?

The thought brought a hint of distress. Unwilling to think of his mistakes any longer, Alexander shoved the feeling away. When he'd finished making the coffee, he set Miriam's mug down on the table...and poured a bit of alcohol into his, once he was sure Miriam wasn't watching. What harm would it do, anyway?

"Would you like anything to go with yours?" Alexander asked. Miriam shook her head, and Alexander brought the two mugs to the sitting room.

"Thank-you, love," Miriam said, reaching for her coffee. But when she tasted the coffee, Alexander realized his mistake.

The mug went sailing across the room, and Miriam stood. "Alexander, what did you do to my coffee?"

Alexander handed his mug to Miriam. "I gave you the wrong one!" he explained, but Miriam was no less distraught.

"I thought we said you wouldn't drink anymore! You promised!"

Mentally shooting himself, Alexander walked across the room and picked up the mug, which luckily was metal and hadn't broken. Miriam went to the kitchen and brought back a towel, and the two worked together in silence to clean up the mess.

Finally, once they were finished, Alexander and Miriam sat back. Miriam's face was littered with a myriad of emotions, but Alexander refused to show his own shame. "I'm sorry," was all he said.

"You promised," Miriam whispered, her voice breaking. She drew her knees to her chest and rocked back and forth on her heels. "You promised," she repeated.

Alexander swore and reached for Miriam, but she turned away. "What do you expect, Miriam? I already told you - it's no use." Alexander bowed his head and studied his hands, at a loss for words. "I was kidding myself, Miriam. I have no right to love someone like you."

"You were doing so well..." Miriam whispered.

"It's not like it came as a shock to you!" Alexander exclaimed, irritated though he didn't know why.

Miriam put her head in her hands and didn't speak for a long, long time.

The End

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