The Prequel, Chapter Forty-Three

Christmas day was both the hardest and the most blessed day of Alexander's existence.

Alexander woke up in the morning to hear Miriam hum as she worked. Sitting up and groaning, Alexander looked over and saw Miriam pressing Alexander's coat, a smile on her face.

"What are you doing?" Alexander asked, still groggy from sleep.

"I got tired of waiting around for you to wake up and decided to press the wrinkles out of your coat," Miriam said, smilingly.

"What? Are we going somewhere today?"

Miriam laughed. "We're going to Clarence and Marla's! Did you forget? You've been so absent-minded lately."

Indeed, Alexander had been absent-minded as of late. As he went more and more days without alcohol, the ability to concentrate became more and more difficult. Still, he pressed onward, for Miriam's sake. He could only thank God that he hadn't been more severe in his alcoholism than he was (though he still couldn't allow himself to believe that God would ever want to restore him to life again).

Miriam's blonde hair, still tousled from sleep, tumbled around her shoulders in a most endearing way. Alexander got up and walked over to where Miriam stood, wrapping his arms around her middle and resting his head on her shoulder. Miriam seemingly forgot she was ironing a coat, because for a long time, she only stood, luxuriating in the warmth of Alexander's embrace.

"I can't believe," Miriam finally said, "I can't believe you're here, and you're mine."

"I can't believe you're here, and you're mine," Alexander replied.

"I mean it, Alexander. All those years you were away...all those years I thought you didn't care about me..." Miriam stopped and sighed, resuming her work. "It's still to painful to remember."

Letting go of Miriam, Alexander walked over to the kitchen. Out of habit, he opened up the cupboard door he'd usually kept his bottles in, then shut them quickly. Of course, there was no liquor left. He'd gotten so used to going there every morning, but that was all changed now.

Miriam had been watching Alexander, a worried look on her face. "What can I do for you?" she asked.

Sighing, Alexander ignored her question. Honestly, he didn't know what she could do for him. Leaning back against the cupboard, he massaged his temples and didn't say a word for several minutes. Finally, he asked in as brave a tone as he could manage, "When are we leaving?"

"Oh, I don't know. They said to be there by eleven, but it's only ten o'clock right now. I can't believe you slept in so late. You're usually up far earlier than this." Miriam finished pressing Alexander's coat and hung it up on the doorknob. "I still have a present for you, you know."

In the midst of his struggle, Alexander had completely forgotten about gifts. Now, his heart was cheered as he remembered the necklace he had bought for Miriam.

"I'll give you mine, first," Miriam said. She beamed and reached into a section of the cupboard she'd told Alexander not to touch. When she took the present out, she hid it behind her back and giggled. "Want to guess?"

"If it's something you've made, then I don't think I can guess. You're so creative, Miriam."

Blushing, Miriam drew the gift from behind her back and presented it to Alexander. "Here," she said. "Whenever I stay with Auntie Lala, I work on this. I finished it two nights ago."

If Alexander had been expecting something that looked as though it had been made hastily, he was utterly wrong. Reaching out, he could do nothing but gape at what Miriam had created. It was a small canvas painted to portray a man and woman, sitting together on a bench, their silhouette made glorious by the breathtaking sunrise in front of them. Every line, every detail, every paint brush stroke was clear and precise, their meanings significant.

"You and me," Miriam said, blushing again. "This is what I feel like, whenever I'm with you."

Tears filled Alexander's eyes, and for a moment, he couldn't find his voice. At long last, he said in a voice strained with emotion he could not check, "Well, uh...thank-you."

Miriam smiled with joy and threw her arms around Alexander. Alexander held her tightly and didn't let go for a long, long time.

The End

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