Page 3 of Make You Mine

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This was his reality, and there was no better time than now to accept that he would never have anything more. But it was worth it. For Adam to live a life happier and longer than his own, it was worth it.


The forty-year-old virginthing was an accident. Noah Leib hadn’t planned on reaching histwentieswithout having an orgasm at the hands of another person. He certainly didn’t plan on making it to his midthirties in that same state. Maybe it was an ugly twist of fate that he went from a happy-go-lucky kid running the streets with his friends while his bubbe sold bread at her little stall at the Forsyth market to this anxious, disaster of a man who couldn’t keep it together for ten minutes on a date let alone enough time to get laid. And maybe it was always meant to be.

Noah was young when his ema and bubbe packed up everything they owned, swaddled his brand-new brother, and boarded a plane for a place he’d only read about in schoolbooks. It was terrifying at first to be ripped from his home and settled in a little apartment above a bake shop, where no one spoke his language. He didn’t understand why he was there, just that his mother was crying a lot, and Bubbe woke up for all Adam’s feedings, and Noah had to spend hours and hours with a stranger trying even harder at English because he hadn’t been any good at it in school before they’d left Tel Aviv.

It was six weeks before he understood that his father was dead. His mother appeared in his doorway in the middle of the night, staring at him until she realized he was awake. She looked haggard, hair a mess and unwashed for weeks. Her eyes were red-rimmed and dry only because he was pretty sure she didn’t have tears left.

She didn’t say anything right away. She just stared at him, then padded with soft, bare feet across the worn carpet and climbed into his small bed. There wasn’t space for the two of them, but she took him into her arms, and there was the tiniest sliver of the mother she’d been before everything was turned on its head.

“Ema,” he whispered.

She shook her head and sniffed. “He’s not coming back,boychik.” She stroked the top of his curls with shaking fingers.

“Who isn’t?” he asked.

Her voice cracked, and she cleared her throat. “There was a raid. Abba didn’t get out in time.”

That was all she said, and Noah was barely eight, but he knew what that meant. Most of the kids his age there knew what that meant. Noah was born into violence and turmoil. He was born into the strangest juxtaposition of peace and love and violence and death. He knew what bomb drills were, and he knew what it was to be carefree on the beach thinking he would live forever.

But life was fleeting, and it was a hard lesson for a small boy to learn so quickly. His father had been a good man. He was tall, larger than life, with an infectious laugh he used against his mother whenever she was angry. Later, she’d remember it. She’d tell him, “I could never stay mad at your abba. He’d just smile at me, and wink, and chuckle, and my anger would fly away like a little finch.”

Noah stopped missing him so hard by the time he was nine. Adam was just starting to walk, and his mother was starting to stay out all night. The kids at school still mocked him because he hadn’t lost his funny accent, and he had to count in Hebrew to remember his multiplication tables. Bubbe was working to keep their family going, and when his mother did come home, she was like a storm cloud.

He forgot quickly what it meant to be a kid. He forgot what it was like to have real friends or real freedom. His mother was never around, but when she was, all she’d do was scream. “I don’t want Noah all alone here!” Her voice would rise and carry through the house, and Adam would whimper, and Noah would hold him a little tighter like he could protect him from the wrath of the grieving woman.

“You leave Noah alone all the time,” Bubbe would shout back. “You go out, you drink, you sleep around. What’s next, Maya? Another baby? Some goyishe seed growing in your belly?”

His mother swore at her, something shattered on the floor, and then she was crying again. She was always, always crying. “I can’t let anything happen to him.”

“And what about Adam?”

She never had any answer to that.

Late at night, she’d come into the bedroom, and he’d watch her stand over the crib and stroke her fingers through Adam’s baby-soft curls.

“Do you love him, Ema?” he’d ask her.

She wouldn’t look over, but she would pull her hand away and curl it against her heart. “He looks just like your abba.” That’s all she’d ever say.He looks just like your abba.

Noah thought Adam looked like a baby—chubby cheeks and wide dark eyes and drool on his chin. Noah thought he’d like his mother to be there in the mornings to feed him his oatmeal or at dinner to make sure he ate his smashed vegetables.

But she never was.

Six days after his twelfth birthday—one year before his bar mitzvah—his mom was taking him and Adam to Atlanta when everything changed again. Hashem—or the universe, he wasn’t even sure anymore—decided to rip everything apart again.

He didn’t remember the crash. He just remembered his mother yelling at him because he’d mouthed off. He remembered her crying—and she was always,alwayscrying. He remembered her saying she wished he was more like his father, braver, kinder, able to make everyone smile.

He didn’t remember the way she swerved into oncoming traffic because she’d turned around to yell instead of paying attention. At least not until much later. All he knew was fear and exhaustion. Then tires squealed on the pavement, and there was a horn blaring. And then he knew pain. And then darkness.

Noah woke in a hospital bed—aching from every inch of his body. Bubbe was there when he first opened his eyes. She brushed back hair from his forehead, and he could tell she’d been crying. He knew that look. He knew that expression of grief and loss. She had never gotten along with her daughter, not after Elisha died, but she had loved her, and Noah knew in that instant she was gone.

“Where’s Adam? Where’s…” He tried to sit up, but his body wouldn’t obey, every inch of him screaming with an unrelenting pain.

Her warm hand on his forehead soothed him but only just. “He’s fine. He was in his car seat, and he was fine. Not a scratch.”

Noah swallowed, his throat painfully raw. “Ema?” he croaked.