July. August. September.
The months rolled by without any happenings of significance. Every Sunday, unless she was ill, Auntie Lala came to visit Alexander. At random, Clarence and Marla, Pastor Follows, and various church members came to visit, as well. Their visits were the only bright spots in Alexander's life.
And then...then, came that terrible day.
It was a dreary September Sunday, and Auntie Lala hadn't yet arrived for her weekly visit with Alexander. It wasn't the first time Auntie Lala had been late, but Alexander had a sinking feeling in his bones that something was dreadfully wrong.
The door that led to the cells clanged open, and Alexander sat up, hoping Auntie Lala had arrived. Even though he couldn't explain why, he had a pit in his stomach that had with it a sense of doom.
But instead of Auntie Lala, Pastor Follows walked in, shoulders slumped. Concerned, Alexander stood and walked to the edge of his cell.
"Where is Auntie Lala?" Alexander asked.
Pastor Follows' face was pale, and he was clutching a Bible in his hands. "Alexander..."
There was silence, during which Alexander could guess what Pastor Follows was about to say.
"She passed on, Alexander. She went to be with our Lord."
Swallowing, Alexander fought to control his emotions. He found he was unable to say anything at all for awhile. Finally, he whispered, "It isn't fair."
"She was ninety-one. She wanted to go home. She wanted to be with our Lord. She was growing weak." Pastor Follows' voice was shaky, and he cleared his throat. "Auntie Lala wanted you to have this."
Alexander found a note being held in front of him. After a nod from the guard, he reached out and took the piece of paper.
"Pastor, I - "
"You were the only reason she hung on for so long. What none of us knew was that she was suffering from a chronic illness that no doctors were able to understand or treat. She should have died months ago, but she stayed alive because of you. You were like a grandson to her. On her deathbed, her parting words were for you."
Alexander swallowed again and looked away. He gripped the bars of his cell until his knuckles turned pure white. God, why did You have to take her?
"She said, 'Watch over that boy. Make sure he doesn't give up. Let him know that the Truth is true for him, too.' We all knew who she was talking about without having to ask. She had a heart to get you saved. I think you reminded her of her son, the one who she lost to the ways of the world. She didn't want to see you struggle."
Blinking rapidly so as to keep tears from falling, Alexander turned away, unable to look Pastor Follows in the eye.
"Alexander, I have to go now to be with Miriam. She's distraught. But let me make one request of you."
Alexander nodded, still finding it impossible to speak without breaking down.
"Don't waste Auntie Lala's last words."