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Don't Ask Me Why: Chapter 31

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It was the first week of May. The sun shone brightly in a deep blue sky, and white clouds whizzed by as strong winds blew them eastward. Flowers were everywhere, and many trees were in bloom. It was rather cool from the wind, but the sun was strong enough to warm Marie as she sat feet-up on a bench outside the main entrance of the music school.
It was a Saturday, and Marie was enjoying the lovely weather. It was something that she seemed to ignore for the most part in all the stress of the months before. It was perfectly calm and quiet, as only a few students dared to come by. The only sound was the breeze stirring the trees overhead, with their small, pale-green leaves. It was now two weeks after the tragedy, but much had changed. Marie felt a lot better, as if a burden had been lifted off her shoulders.
As she sat on the bench, she caressed Tanya's phone. For the 50th time Marie opened the message that Ernest had sent to the phone, minutes before he died:
"To Marie: if you see this, forgive me. If I only knew. Alex is the one for you. Be happy."
At first this apology made Marie cry, but she soon realized that he was simply letting her go. He didn't die in anger, but perhaps sadness nonetheless. Marie no longer felt responsible for his death, and that was relief enough for her. Now she had certain proof that they weren't compatible, but it was not her responsibility to take care of him now.
"Dear God, I pray that you still had mercy on Ernest. Perhaps he submitted to you in the end, and I pray he did," she held the phone close to her, staring into space as she prayed silently. She continued.
"Lord... if I may ask a sign from you... bring Alex here today... draw him here... I think I'm ready now..."
Marie took out her iPod and began listening to the slow second movement of the Elgar Cello Concerto. It always reminded her of Alex now, and she winced at the memories she had of him performing it.
Marie became lost in her thoughts, when over a hundred feet away to her right, she saw Alex coming from the parking lot towards the front entrance. He didn't have his cello with him. About eighty feet away, he saw her, and stopped in his tracks. Marie made eye contact with him, and he looked unsure of himself, anxious. But he slowly took more steps forward until he had reached the courtyard where Marie sat. He was wearing a black summer jacket, and glasses. Avoiding eye contact with her, he finally came twenty feet in front of her, and greeted her.
"Hello, Marie," he said seriously.
"Hello, Alex," Marie said calmly. She started fidgeting with Tanya's phone.
Alex took more steps forward, and slowed down until he was in front of Marie. He sat down in a bench opposite of her own and looked at her.
"How have you been?"
"I'm feeling better," Marie replied evenly.
"That's good..."
Marie made eye contact with him again. He seemed intent on saying something to her, but he was having trouble expressing it. This made her curious.
"How are you?" she asked.
"I've been better... but surely... I've fared better than you," he frowned.
"Marie... I need to tell you something."
"Go on."
Alex took a deep breath. "On that night... I found on my phone that Ernest sent me a text. He only said 4 words: Take care of Marie. I... I'm honored that he asked that of me and... I don't force it on you but... is there any way I can help you now?"
Marie stared at him in surprise. This was a turn of events.
"You told no one about it?"
"No. I kept it secret."
"Yeah... I know... it must be hard on you... he was a great man, great character... to lose him... you must have loved him dearly."
Marie swiveled her head quickly, and put her feet on the ground.
"At the funeral, you said you prayed for him, and for your own peace. Are you a Christian?"
Alex started. "Um... yes, I am..."
"Are you ashamed of that?"
"No! I... I just don't like talking to people about it."
"Why not?"
"I'm... wanting to keep it private, to reveal it only to a few, and to the few that really need to know."
"I am one of them," Marie stared at the ground intently.
"You are?"
"Yes... and you know why? It's because what you implied from his message is not the reason why he gave you it."
Alex furrowed his brow and bent closer to her. "What do you mean?"
"He already knew I didn't love him. More than that, he knew why. And he accepted it."
Alex sat back on the bench, trying to understand what Marie was saying.
"You didn't love him back! I... I only assumed! ... Then why did he send it??"
Marie took a deep breath. It wasn't going to be easy, but now she had to say it.
"You are so modest, Alex. Do you ever think of yourself sometimes? Even once in a while?"
Alex remained silent, still confused.
"Perhaps you are rightly clueless..." Marie frowned. "And yet, you are the man of greatest character. You are better than Ernest, and maybe in time you will come to realize that... you have a passion for music like no other, but not just that... you are pure. I could see that. Nothing seemed to taint you, not the stress, the competition, the immense pressure to perform as you ought... I marvel at you," Marie laughed nervously. Alex was still watching her with confusion, but he was taking it graciously. "You are someone who I might never be, but who I want to be. I want to be like you... no, that's not it... no..." Marie looked pleadingly into his eyes, "I want to be with you. I want... you."
It was like watching ice melt as Alex's confused expression slowly evaporated, and in its place, awe. Marie stood up.
"Alex... are you listening to me? Do you understand what I'm saying?" her voice began to crack, and she knelt at his feet.
"Yes, Marie," he whispered.
"I've prayed night and day for this moment... I don't ask for anything... just for you to know... and to have mercy on me..." Marie broke into sobs, and covered her face with her hands. Alex slid to the ground beside her, but only watched. He was speechless.
Marie was free. She confessed, and did so respectfully. Her final burden was cast from her, and she breathed easily as she sobbed. It was the first time in a whole year that she felt good while crying. It didn't matter what Alex said, she would take anything now. Her freedom was enough.
"How long have you felt this way?" Alex asked breathlessly.
"A very long time," Marie replied, and looked up. He had taken his glasses off, and was crying himself. Taking another deep breath, Alex gave her a gentle hug.
"It's gonna be alright, Marie... it's gonna be alright..."
When Marie smiled, so did he.
Alex helped her up, and they walked away from the building together, his arm around her shoulder.