Page 4 of Make You Mine

Font Size:  

“I’m sorry. She never woke up,” was all his bubbe told him. “It’s just us now,boychik.”

Noah closed his eyes again and hoped the pain wouldn’t last as long as it had when his father hadn’t come home. He wasn’t sure he’d miss her, though.

Adam asked for their mom a couple of times after Bubbe brought Noah home, but he was more fascinated by the cast on Noah’s leg and the places along his arm, jaw, and eyebrow that had been stitched together with ugly black thread.

Noah was on crutches during the funeral, the ringing in his ears from trying to manage the pain in his leg and in his heart overwhelming him. He barely heard the rabbi speaking over the din, barely understood what was going on, only that it was almost over. Strangers from the temple kissed him on the cheek and hugged Bubbe and promised to be there if they ever needed anything, but Noah didn’t really believe them. He was young but not so young he couldn’t hear the polite lies in their tone.

It was easier to just go home. To sleep above the bakery and wake to the smells of fresh things baking and know that this was his life. He’d sit at his window at night and work on his Hebrew because his bar mitzvah was coming the same time as the anniversary of her death, and he’d tried not to think about how small it would be. None of his friends wanted to come—and he didn’t blame them, not that he had many he could have blamed. But the affair would be quiet, and somber, and a little cruel because it wasn’t just the ritual that was making him the man of the house but that God was slowly but surely whittling away at his family until there was nothing left.

A small tug on his pant leg roused him, and he let Adam clamber into his lap. His soft curls tickled the underside of Noah’s chin as his chubby fingers curled into the front of Noah’s shirt.

“Are you sad?”

Noah almost laughed. He felt too old for such young bones. “I’m just tired, Adam.”

“Wanna sleep in my bed?”

Noah clung a little tighter, and a part of him did. A part of him fought back waves upon waves of crashing anxiety that if he let Adam or Bubbe out of his sight for even a second, they’d be taken from him. Then he remembered Ema had been sitting just an arm’s reach away when her life ended, and he knew then it didn’t matter what he did.

Nothing was permanent.

“I’ll be okay. Do you want a story?”

“The rabbits,” Adam told him with a sleepy yawn.

He took his brother’s hand and walked him to the room next to his. Adam’s bed was covered in101 Dalmatianstoys with matching pillowcases, and he tugged his Pongo close as he burrowed into the covers like a small nest. Noah selectedWatership Downand fought back a sort of anguished laugh at how morbid and sweet his brother was, all wrapped up in bright, wondering eyes and wild curls.

He sometimes wondered—more than he wondered about himself—what Adam would be like when he grew up. He was so much like their bubbe—free spirted and without fear. He rushed headfirst into anything, and he had tiny burn marks all over his arms that he didn’t care about because they were the marks of his early baking triumphs that he’d accomplished at Bubbe’s knee since he was old enough to walk. Adam was still so young, but already Noah could tell this was where he thrived.

The last thing in the world Noah wanted was to be stuck here—in this little apartment, sweating in that kitchen, toiling his life away.

Bubbe said it was his legacy, though, and every time she said it, it felt like someone pressing a pillow to his face. But he’d do it if she needed him to. He’d do it if it meant that Adam got to race headfirst into the wildness of real life and free himself from the chains of this small town.

He cleared his throat and started to read, and six sentences in, Adam’s breathing turned even and deep. Noah was pretty sure they’d never get through the book. Adam could never keep his eyes open when Noah read to him, but it was worth it. He set the book back on the shelf and leaned in to kiss his brother’s forehead. Adam murmured and turned over, and Noah wondered what it would be like to sleep without the heaviness of life pressing in on him.

* * *

It wastwo days after his eighteenth birthday when his college acceptance letter came. He almost hadn’t applied out of state, terrified of the cost because Bubbe wasn’t exactly raking in millions with her small bakery. But when he’d hesitated, she took him by the cheeks, and kissed him on the nose, and let her eyes convince him as much as her words.

“Do something that makes you happy, Noah. It’s not forever. It’s just for a little while.”

He understood she mistook his fear of leaving this place for fear of being alone. That wasn’t it, not at all. Adam was heading into middle school, and he was wild and had grown from curious to reckless, but Noah knew it was just the age. All the same, he craved silence. He craved a space where all the corners were filled with him and not the echoes of dead parents, and a struggling grandmother, and a brother who was just growing wilder by the day.

In the end, he turned in four applications, and the one acceptance letter took him two thousand miles to the West Coast—a journalism program with a vague idea of working with words, something he’d been good at as long as he wasn’t speaking out loud. Bubbe couldn’t afford to take time off for the campus tour, but she presented him with a set of keys, and his first tuition check, and a warm kiss the day he set out to leave her.

On the first stretch of empty miles, he cried, but by the time he made it through New Mexico, it felt like the entire world was ahead of him. If he’d known that it was all going to crash down in three years, he might have stopped to appreciate it more. Or hell, he might have just stayed home and not tried to seek freedom at all.

But it was what it was, and that was something he was coming to learn with a ferocity that consumed him. No matter what he did, what bargains he made, Hashem had plans for him. Even if, deep down, Noah wasn’t sure He existed at all.


Sitting in the dark,Adriano stared at the faint glow of his laptop screen. His Twitter feed was stale, the little alert at the top telling him to refresh, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. His verified account offered him the ability to ignore tweets and retweets weighing in on Eric’s infidelity and their separation, but he didn’t want to deal with sympathy or blame from strangers.

His fingers shook, and he reached for his bourbon, the easy burn as he swallowed only slightly distracting him from the fact that he wasn’t hurting the way he probably should have been—not after this many years. His dad would laugh himself stupid if he was there. After all, he’d looked Adriano right in the eye fifteen years before and said with both words and sign, “That man is not right for you.”

Adriano had spent so many years doing what his parents told him not to—or vice versa—that it was habit. He no longer knew if he was with Eric to piss them off or because he really liked him. Eric had become something like a bad habit after a while. Eric had become his blind spot and his excuse. He was a shitty interpreter and a shitty advocate, and for some reason, Adriano had come to his defense when the man needed to be dragged.

He’d cut off Deaf friends and hearing colleagues all because his boyfriend was kind of a dick, and he’d allowed it. He let out a frustrated groan, feeling the way it ripped at his throat, and he dragged a hand down his face. He didn’t really expect to be crying, but he expected a little more than this vague apathy that settled in his bones.