Page 77 of Make You Mine

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Noah touched the edge of the photo. “Sometimes, yeah. I mean, Abba’s grave is there. It might be nice to lay some stones.”

Adam nodded, chewing on his lower lip for a minute. “It never did feel real to me. I mean, I was born there, but it was never mine.”

“You’d like it,” Noah told him. “I hated it for a long time after we got here. I was angry. There were days like this, but there were raids, and bomb threats, and people dying all the time. And the conflict killed Abba. I never understood it.” Noah closed his eyes and could just picture his father—the spitting image of the man Adam was now—the same smile, same eyes, even the same laugh. It didn’t hurt him the way it hurt their mother, though. Adam was a way of getting to keep those pieces he’d lost.

Adam sighed. “Do you think he would have liked me?”

“I don’t know.” Noah wanted to lie just to make Adam happy, but that’s where all his problems had started with his brother. “He wasn’t around much. Sometimes I thought he’d rather be doing anything else besides being home with us and Ema.”

Adam closed his eyes in a slow blink. “Then I’m glad I got you instead of him.”

Noah’s insides hurt, deeply and profoundly. He’d never felt like enough, but this was Adam’s way of telling him it was okay. He glanced over, and Adam was holding another photo. Noah was twelve. He knew because of the cast on his leg and stitches in his cheek from the crash. He was reclined on the sofa, and Adam—the chubby-faced toddler—was fast asleep on his chest. In the photo, Noah’s eyes were closed, and he held on possessively.

Adam made a small noise in the back of his throat. “You loved me.”

Noah laughed, the sound a little harsh. “Yes, Adam.”

“You loved me more than she ever did.”

Noah closed his eyes and breathed. The answer was yes. Yes, he loved Adam more than their mother had and maybe even more than Bubbe. He loved Adam as an extension of himself, though that wasn’t quite true. He loved his brother more than he’d ever loved the reflection that stared back at him in the mirror.

Clearing his throat, he looked down at his hands. “Did you find everything you wanted to keep?”

Adam sighed, then dropped the photo back into the box. “Yeah. The apartment doesn’t have a lot of room. You sure you don’t mind storing it all?”

Noah laughed. “I’m not taking a lot with me. We’re only staying four months.”

“Until people recognize you for the star you are,” Adam said, and Noah’s face erupted into a blush. Adam swore he and Talia hadn’t watched the videos, but he wouldn’t put it past his brother to peek just to be a shit. “Promise me you won’t be gone forever?”

Noah gave him a flat look. “I don’t want to be gone at all, but I wanted to do this. I don’t know what the hell to do after, and please don’t say porn.”

“What?” Adam defended as he climbed to his feet. “It makes good money. Though I guess you have your sugar daddy for that.” Noah scoffed and turned away, but Adam caught him by the arm and turned him slowly. “Let’s go see them.”

“It’s not time, Adam. It’s not…”

“Noah,” Adam breathed out. “Don’t. You’ll be in LA for yahrzeit.”

“You know I was planning to come back for it,” Noah started to argue, but Adam gave him a flat look.

Noah knew the truth. He knew he was deflecting because standing over the graves of his mother and grandmother was always a lot for him. But he’d been collecting stones over the past few months, and he knew Adam had done the same. He detached himself from Adam’s fingers, then walked into the kitchen and opened the one drawer he hadn’t packed. One of the stones looked almost black, polished by the little stream out by Will’s house. The other was in the shape of a crescent for Bubbe.

He clutched them in his fist, then showed them to Adam who nodded, jaw set. “I brought mine. I want to do this with you in case, for whatever reason, you don’t make it back.”

“I will,” Noah told him fiercely. It was a promise he intended to keep, even if he did stay away longer than four months. He’d been thinking of doing some traveling, and Adriano wasn’t opposed. “But just in case,” he added.

“What time do you have to meet the squatter?” Adam asked.

Noah narrowed his eyes at his brother. “Please don’t make Wilder feel unwelcome. I like him. He’s nice.”

“You like him because he’s hot, and Adriano likes him because he’s Deaf, and meanwhile, I’m going to lose all my damn business to this hipster.”

Noah laughed and pulled Adam close. “He’ll be here at four. We have time to drive down and back. And he sells gluten-free cupcakes. You’ll have plenty of people who want your brie croissants and Blue Moon custard sufganiyot.”

Adam wrinkled his nose, but he didn’t argue as he followed Noah down the stairs—for one of the last times together—and to the car.

The drive to the cemetery was almost an hour long. Bubbe insisted their mother be buried in an all-Jewish cemetery instead of the Jewish section in Bonaventure, and finding one had taken some time. But both his mom and Bubbe had been permitted, and Noah had never worried about the cost because Bubbe had been nothing if not thorough before her death.

He knew Adam came more often than he did, and Noah liked to blame it on his faith, but in truth, he was never able to divorce himself from the grief of losing them both. He wanted to be better about it, and maybe Adam was on to something when it came to facing what hurt most head-on. But he was about to put thousands of miles between him and what was left of his ragged past.