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“It’s okay, Al,” Mom said softly. “It’s okay.”

Epilogue

SIX WEEKS LATER

Los Angeles, California

Dad leaned on his cane and led the way.

He had lost twenty pounds since the open-heart surgery. Myron had wanted him to use a wheelchair to get up this hill, but Al Bolitar would have none of that. He would walk to his son’s final resting place.

Mom was with them, of course. And Mickey too. Mickey had borrowed a suit from Myron. The fit was far from perfect. Myron was last in line, making sure, he guessed, that no one fell too far behind.

The sun beat down at them with a fury. Myron looked up and squinted into it. His eyes watered. So much had changed since Suzze had first come to his office for help.

Help. What a joke when you thought about it.

Esperanza’s husband had not only sued for divorce, but he was indeed going for sole custody of Hector. Part of his claim was that Esperanza kept long hours at her job, neglecting her maternal duties. Esperanza had been so freaked out by the threat that she asked Myron to buy her out, but the thought of working at MB Reps without Esperanza or Win was too disheartening. In the end, after much discussion, they agreed to sell MB Reps. The mega-agency that bought it decided to merge companies and get rid of the MB name.

Big Cyndi was using her severance package to take some time off and write a tell-all memoir. The world awaits.

Win was still in hiding. Myron had only gotten one message from him in the past six weeks—an e-mail with a short, simple message:

You are in my heart.

But Yu and Mee are in my pants.

Win.

Terese, his fiancée, was still not able to leave Angola, and now, with all the sudden changes in his life, Myron couldn’t go back there. Not yet. Maybe not for a very long time.

As they neared the burial plot, Myron caught up to Mickey. “You okay?”

“Fine,” Mickey said, quickening his pace and putting some distance between himself and his uncle. He did that a lot. A minute later, they all came to a stop.

No headstone marked Brad’s gravesite yet. Just a placard.

For a long time, no one spoke. The four of them just stood there and stared off. Cars from the adjacent highway zoomed by without a care, without the slightest concern that just yards away a devastated family grieved. Without warning Dad started reciting the Kaddish, the Hebrew prayer for the dead, from memory. They were not religious people, far from it, but some things we do out of tradition, out of ritual, out of need.

“Yit’gadal v’yit’kadash sh’mei raba . . .”

Myron risked a glance at Mickey. He had been in on the lie about his father’s death, trying to find a way to keep some semblance of his family together. Now, standing where his father’s body lay, the boy remained stoic. His head was up. His eyes were dry. Maybe that was the only way to survive when the blows kept raining down on you. When Kitty had finally come home from rehab, she’d bolted from her son in search of a fix. They found her passed out in a seedy motel and dragged her back to the Coddington Institute. She was getting help again, but the truth was, Brad’s death had broken her, and Myron really didn’t know whether she could ever be fixed.

When Myron first suggested that he take custody of Mickey, his nephew had unsurprisingly rebelled. He would never let anyone other than his mother be his guardian, he said, and if Myron tried, he would sue for emancipation or even run away. With Myron’s parents heading back to Florida and the school year starting up on Monday, Myron and Mickey had finally come to something of an understanding. Mickey would agree to live in the house in Livingston with Myron as an unofficial guardian. He would attend Livingston High School, his uncle and father’s alma mater, and in turn, Myron would agree to stay out of his way and make sure that Kitty, despite everything, maintained sole custody of her son.

It was an evolving and uneasy truce.

With his hands clasped and his head lowered, Myron’s father finished the long prayer with the words, “Aleinu v’al kol Yis’ra’eil v’im’ru Amein.”

Myron and Mom joined in for that final amein. Mickey stayed silent. For several moments, no one moved. Myron looked down at that churned ground and tried to picture his little brother beneath it. He couldn’t.

He flashed instead to the very last time he had seen his brother, on that snowy night sixteen years ago, when Myron, the big brother who had always tried to protect him, broke Brad’s nose.

Kitty was right. Brad had been on the fence about quitting school and running off to parts unknown. When Dad found out, he sent Myron to talk to his little brother. “You go,” Dad told him. “You apologize for what you said about her.” Myron argued, pointing out that Kitty was lying about the birth control pills and had a reputation and all the crap Myron now knew was not true. His father had seen through it, even then. “Do you want to push him away forever?” his father asked. “You go and apologize and you bring them both home.”

But when Myron arrived, Kitty, in her desperation to escape, made up the story about Myron hitting on her. Brad went crazy. Listening to his brother scream and rant, Myron realized that he’d been right about Kitty all along. His brother was an idiot for getting involved with her in the first place. Myron started arguing back, accusing Kitty of all kinds of treachery and then, he screamed the final words he would ever say to his brother:

“You’re going to believe this lying whore over your own brother?”

Brad took a swing. Myron ducked it and, enraged himself, threw a punch back. Even now, standing at Brad’s final resting place, Myron could still hear the sick, wet squelching sound as his brother’s nose collapsed under his knuckles.

Myron’s final image of his brother was Brad on the floor, looking up at him in shock, Kitty trying to stem the blood pouring from his nose.

When Myron got home, he couldn’t tell his father what he’d done. Even repeating Kitty’s awful lie might give it credence. So instead Myron lied to his father. “I apologized, but Brad wouldn’t listen. You should talk to him, Dad. He’ll listen to you.”

But his father shook his head. “If that was Brad’s attitude, maybe this is what’s meant to be. Maybe we need to let him go and find his way.”

So they did. And now they were all back together for the first time, at a graveyard three thousand miles from home.

After another silent minute had passed, Al Bolitar shook his head and said, “This should never be.” He stopped and looked up at the sky. “A father should never have to say the Kaddish for his son.”

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