Alina's heart leaped at the peace she saw in Alexander's eyes. It is finished, her mind whispered. Leaning down to kiss Alexander, her heart finally rested. Despite the heartache of Alexander's almost-death, she knew joy in that moment. Redemption.
"Alina," Alexander whispered, the very word spoken with more beauty than Alina had ever known in her entire lifetime, "when I'm with you, my deathly secrets don't matter anymore. In another life, I could've had you. In another life, I wouldn't live another day without making you my wife. But not in this life. I want you to move on, Alina. I want you to be happy. I want you to lay me to rest and seek another love. Don't grieve for me!"
"You're speaking as though you're going to die!" Alina trembled.
"Alina." Alexander's voice was resigned and calm. "I'm going to die. But you're right. This isn't goodbye."
Alina's former peace was replaced with immense sorrow. "No, Alexander. No!"
"I want you to find a husband worthier than I have ever been. I want you to have children and be happy and always trust God. I want you to let go of me." Alexander's words were interrupted by violent coughing. His grasp on Alina's hand grew far weaker, and Alina knew it wouldn't be much longer. "I love you, Alina."
Alina knew there was no fighting the inevitable. "I love you, Alexander." Her eyes were blurred with tears, and she rested her head against Alexander's. "I love you."
With his final spurt of energy, Alexander reached up and stroked Alina's hair. "You make me feel beautiful."