Several minutes passed before Miriam said anything again.
"You really don't want to get better, do you?" Miriam asked, defeat in her tone.
"It's not that I don't want to, Miriam. I just...can't." The words were said in utter dejection.
"No, Alexander. That's not true. If you wanted to get better, you could. You just don't have enough 'want to' anymore." Miriam blinked rapidly, clearly trying to rid herself of tears. "Was I wrong to believe in you? Was I wrong to think you'd want me?"
"Since when does my drinking mean I don't want you?"
Miriam stood. "I hate to have to say this, but Alexander, it's either me or the alcohol. I will not - I repeat, I will not - compete with it." Taking a deep breath, she stepped toward the door.
"Where are you going?" Alexander asked gruffly, though he didn't mean to sound angry.
Sighing, Miriam threw her hands up in surrender. "I can't let you do this to yourself."
"Because when you do it, you only hurt yourself."
"Do what, Miriam?"
"You know what I'm talking about! All this stuff you've gotten yourself into! Maybe Eve did get you started, but you could have resist further sin! You don't have to be a liar and a thief and a gambler...and...and..." Miriam shook her head. "I've done enough crying. I'm sorry. I'll leave you to your precious liquor."
It was the first time that day that Miriam had spoken with spite, and Alexander could not fault her for it. Helplessly, he watched as Miriam walked out the door.
Once Miriam had left, Alexander went back to the kitchen and stared at the bottle. For a long time, he did nothing, only stared blankly. Yet a million thoughts rushed through his brain.
Alexander, it's either me or the alcohol. I will not - I repeat, I will not - compete with it.
"Do I really love," Alexander whispered, then couldn't speak for a moment. When he'd gathered his emotions, he continued, "Do I really love this filth more than I love Miriam?"
Alexander, it's either me or the alcohol.
"Do I really want to overcome this? Don't I value Miriam more than this?"
I will not - I repeat, I will not - compete with it.
Slowly, shakily, Alexander reached for the bottle. The amber liquid looked so tempting...so mesmerizing...so freeing...
But it paled when compared with Miriam.
With a loud cry, Alexander grabbed the bottle and smashed it against the table, watching the contents spill out and soak the rug beneath the table. His heart was breaking, his mind was screaming, and his hands were tremoring, but the voices of condemnation had lessened considerably.
"God," Alexander whispered, sinking to his knees, "I know better than to ask You for redemption. But I want to do this. For Miriam. I know better than to ask You to save me, but if You'd listen to the prayer of this wretched sinner...God, help Miriam..."
Instantly feeling self-damnation for so much as speaking to God, Alexander stopped there. He didn't dare ask God for more.
Standing, Alexander looked over at the liquor-stained rug, his chest heaving greatly from heavy breathing. It was all he could do to keep his sanity. It was all he could do not to curl up and die.
But Alexander had someone to catch.
Throwing open the door and barely remembering to lock it behind him, Alexander went out in search of Miriam.
He'd made his choice.