Alexander didn't care if he was screaming the town down. He could see Miriam up ahead, walking dejectedly to where she was staying with Auntie Lala.
At the sound of her name, Miriam stopped and turned. She clasped her hands together as she watched Alexander catch up with her.
Not even slightly winded from the run, Alexander put his hands on Miriam's shoulders. "I've made my decision," he said, finally allowing himself to meet Miriam's eyes.
Miriam's eyes grew wide, and she stifled a sob. "What did you choose?"
"You," Alexander said, and he kissed her, oblivious to the crowd around them. "You," he whispered, and he kissed her again. "You and only you," and he wrapped Miriam in his arms, unaware of the tears that wet his face.
Gasping, Miriam hugged Alexander with all the force she could muster. Their open affection had certainly turned heads, and no doubt their scandalous behavior would be the gossip of the town for weeks afterward, but Alexander didn't care - and from Miriam's reaction, he could tell she didn't care, either.
Drawing back, Miriam wiped away her tears and sniffed loudly. "You really do choose me?"
"Always, sweetheart. I was a fool not to recognize it. How much I love you."
"You really do," Miriam said, forehead knotted with the effort to keep her emotions in check. "You really do love me, don't you?" She shook her head. "This is the first time I've ever been truly confident about it."
"I can't marry you, not yet. But someday, I will. I just don't want you to have me as a husband until I am worthy of it."
"You've always been worthy of it."
"No, I won't allow it. But until then, Miriam - will you be mine?"
Laughing, Miriam took Alexander's hands. "I'm yours, Alexander. All that I am. And when you consider yourself to be the 'marrying type,' as you call it, I will answer just as readily as I do now." She stood on tiptoe and kissed Alexander's cheek.
"What will your family say?"
Miriam rolled her eyes, and it was the first time Alexander had seen the rebellious side of her. "I couldn't care less about what my family says," she said, disregarding Alexander's concern with a wave of her hand.
"No, really. What will they say? What if Auntie Lala doesn't let you live with her anymore?"
"Auntie Lala wouldn't make me leave just for loving you. And even if she did, it's not like I wouldn't have a place to go."
Alexander's heart swelled. "Where would you go?" he teased.
"Wherever you are," Miriam whispered, and Alexander scooped her up and swung her around.
"Forget Auntie Lala," Alexander murmured in her ear. "As far as I'm concerned, you can go anywhere you want, as long as I can come, too."
"Always," Miriam replied with dancing eyes.
Alexander knew he should discourage the idea, but the thought of Miriam staying with him, helping him daily through his trials...it wasn't such an unattractive idea, not at all. He couldn't help but pick her up and swing her around again, delighted by her laughter. Maybe she will be my redemption, after all.