Within the hour, Miriam wanted Alexander to come back, so Alexander did her bidding. When he entered the room, his heart melted at the sight of Miriam holding the sleeping Shaliste.
"She's beautiful," Alexander said, taking a seat beside Miriam's bed and bending down to kiss his daughter.
Miriam's eyes were troubled. "She must've gotten it from me," she said, jokingly, but Alexander could tell there was something on her mind.
"What is it, Miriam?"
"I just...I don't think I'm ready," Miriam whispered, leaning her head back against the bedpost and closing her eyes. "I don't think I can ever give you another chance. You've left me not once, but twice."
"The second time was an accident," Alexander offered.
"The second time was because you were put in prison!" Miriam exclaimed. She shook her head. "Nevermind. I don't think I'm ready to talk right now."
Heart breaking, Alexander reached out to smooth some tresses from Miriam's face, but she caught his hand and shook her head. "Don't touch me," she whispered.
"May I hold her before I leave?" Alexander asked, eyes filled with tears.
"Just once," Miriam replied. She carefully transferred the sleeping infant from her arms to Alexander's, a look of pure worry on her face. She watched Alexander nervously.
If Alexander's heart had melted before, it was practically mush now. Overcome with emotions that he couldn't even label, Alexander cradled his precious daughter in his arms, trying and failing to keep the tears from pouring down. Seeing her in Miriam's arms had been beautiful enough...but holding Shaliste for himself...it was unspeakable.
Unable to speak, Alexander tried to form some words, but nothing would come. All he could do was weep as he held his dear child. How is it possible to love someone so much? Alexander thought.
And then, it struck Alexander. He wasn't supposed to love anyone or anything. The objects of his affections always ended up in shambles. It was then that Alexander came to a decision.
Placing Shaliste back in Miriam's arms, Alexander stood. "I'll be leaving tomorrow morning," he said.
Hesitating, Alexander allowed his eyes to fall on last time upon mother and child. His heart was rent even further as he struggled to restrain his emotions. How could he leave behind such a tiny, helpless infant? I'm doing it because I have to. I'm doing it because I love them...
And then, Alexander left the room without another word.