The Prequel, Chapter Forty-Nine

I am going to lose my mind.

That was the first thought that crossed Alexander's mind as he was ushered out of his prison cell. Auntie Lala, who was a favorite among the Hendrick community, had absolutely demanded that Alexander be allowed to come for a walk around the prison grounds with her. She had been granted permission, as long as two guards followed behind them.

As Alexander stepped outside, the dreary sky matched his somber mood. It was a hot July day, despite the fact that the thunderclouds appeared ready to burst at any moment.

Auntie Lala was waiting outside, her white hair sticking every whichway. She seemed oblivious to her rather maniacal appearance, however, instead choosing to smile and greet Alexander with a hug.

It had been the first time anyone, other than guards, had touched Alexander, and the guards had always been rough. Alexander found himself rigid at her touch, though he couldn't quite explain why. Perhaps he was just unused to it.

Ignoring Alexander's obvious discomfort, Auntie Lala smiled, pulled away, and opened up the conversation with a chipper, "I've always loved the rain!"

Alexander wanted to be cheerful - honestly, he did - but the need for alcohol haunted his every movement. Today was an especially hard day.

"How are you doing, young man?" Auntie Lala asked.

Alexander crossed his arms and stared up at the sky. "I'm well," he replied, though his tone implied the truth.

"You don't have to lie," Auntie Lala said. "I can tell you're not doing well."

"I've only been here for three weeks, and already, I think I'm going to lose my mind," Alexander confessed. He shivered. "I've been wanting to ask, but I didn't feel like I should..." he began, then stopped.

"You're wanting to ask about Miriam," Auntie Lala stated.

"Yeah," Alexander confessed. Auntie Lala began to walk, so he followed.

"Well..." Auntie Lala's eyes darkened, and she didn't say a word for a long time. Finally, she sighed and shook her head. "I think you'd better talk to her yourself, Alexander. She hasn't been doing all that well lately."

"Do you think she'd come to...visit me?"

Shivering though it wasn't cold out, Auntie Lala was silent again. "No," she said after a long pause. "No, I don't think she'd even consider it."

"Then can you tell me why she isn't doing well?"

"Why would she be doing well, Alexander? You betrayed her. I think she has a right to suffer a broken heart."

"It's not all my fault!" Alexander shot back, then instantly felt bad for speaking to Auntie Lala in a sharp tone.

"Then whose fault is it?" Auntie Lala asked, firmly but not unkindly.

Alexander hesitated. He wanted to say "Eve," but he knew the blame couldn't entirely fall upon her shoulders. "I'm sorry. I'm just really concerned. And I'm going to go stir crazy if this doesn't get any easier."

By "this," Auntie Lala understood Alexander was speaking about his alcoholism. Tone gentle, she stopped and said quietly, "I think you're alot stronger than you allow yourself to believe."

"Strong?" Alexander swore. "The only strong part about me is my addiction. That's it." He swore again.

 "Watch your language, young man."

The thunderclouds rumbled, and Alexander felt the first of the rain fall down upon him. The guards motioned for Alexander to follow them back to his cell.

Auntie Lala made a move to embrace Alexander, but Alexander did not allow himself to accept the frail old woman's hug. He nodded to her. "Thanks for visiting."

And then they led him away.

The End

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