The cell door clanged open, and a haggard-looking man set a tray of food down in front of Alexander. "Here's your dinner."
Alexander waited until the man was gone before inching over toward the tray. Bread, cheese, water. That was it. The prison certainly wasn't generous with their portions or their menu.
Feeling too miserable to eat, Alexander lifted the cup of water to his lips. He knew, of course, that the water wouldn't quench his thirst for liquor, but he hoped it would somehow soothe his parched tongue. Within several gulps, the water was gone. Setting his empty cup down on the floor, Alexander leaned back and tried not to recall the most recent events of his life.
But the most recent events wouldn't stay out of Alexander's mind.
What were the last words Alexander had spoken to Miriam before he'd gone off with the men to complete one last "thrill"? Alexander remembered the last words all too well. He'd been in an argument with Miriam about something really stupid. He couldn't remember what the argument had been about.
But Alexander could remember how he'd ended it. "You're so selfish! You never stop to consider the hell I've been going through, Miriam!"
And Miriam had begun to wail. She'd fallen against the wall, hand pressed against her abdomen, her hair falling about her face. She'd screamed Alexander's name, but Alexander had been too feverish with anger to turn back.
Shivering, Alexander swallowed and tried to quiet his roiling stomach. It had been a nearly impossible journey, giving up drinking, but he'd done it for Miriam. Now, however, the urge to return to his old habits came back to Alexander - full-force. There was nothing he could do but sit in agony and try to calm himself. Swearing, Alexander stood up and began to pace.
The shadows began to sift through the cell window and onto the floor. The voices of damnation had increased hundredfold in Alexander's mind, and he rammed his fist into the wall, trying to concentrate on anything but his own foolish decisions.
And when there was nothing else he could do, Alexander fell to his knees and clenched his hands into fists. "God, I have no right to pray to You. But I must ask that You watch over Miriam. I left her. Like a fool, I left her."
Lifting his head, Alexander looked across the cell floor.
The shadows had moved quite a bit, signifying the late hour. Sighing, Alexander moved to his cot and lay down, heart beating in a flurry.
Alexander could not sleep all night, so intense were his withdrawal symptoms. Every few minutes, he would remember his parting words to Miriam.
"I knew better than to let her love me," Alexander muttered bitterly. "I knew better! Why didn't I protect her heart!"
The morning came without prelude. As the birds sang cheerfully in the trees, Alexander was reminded that despite his misery, life was still going on around him. The world did not stop for the sake of one lost soul.
Miriam, forgive me...It would appear I was right the whole time. I'm not redeemable. I'm just sin personified. Miriam, forgive me! I should have protected your heart!