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He is 5 and his big sister is teaching him how to swim. She is 3, and people are screaming threats and slander until a door slams with a certain finality that she will always remember. He's 6 and watching the rabbi read the burial service for his sister, knowing it's his fault she's dead. He doesn't learn to smile again until he's 8. She awakens one morning when she is 6 to find that her eldest brother had gone so far away it's the next day there already. At 9, he traces blue numbers tattooed indelibly into his grandfather's arm while he sits awkwardly in the older man's lap, listening to his first explanation of hatred and ignorance. He's 11 and chasing Miriam Cohen around the parking lot after Temple because she made fun of his new tie and embarrassed him. She is a 9-year-old foster child with a broken collarbone. He stands as tall and straight as he can and reads slowly from the Book of Numbers at his Bar Mitzvah when he's 13. She is 12, rescued by a man who is her brother in blood, but not spirit. He's 15 and giving up the swim team for his newfound love, the debate team. Two years later, he sits on a front porch eating ice cream with his parents in celebration of the first argument he ever won against his father. She recoils one evening when she is 14 and finds her not-brother lying dead on the floor of the bedroom next to hers. The next year, she stands uncertainly in a dim hallway in Barstow, California, suddenly realizing that she has no choice by to trust a father she barely remembers. At 19, he pulls an all-nighter as the reason for his procrastination sleeps in his bed across the room and thinks futilely about breaking up with her because he's going to miss the dean's list for the second semester in a row. She's 17, looking warily at her new college roommate, who is so much more sophisticated, and so much more outgoing than she is. She clutches an ER nurse's hand at the age of 19 and contemplates the irony of miscarrying a baby she had intended to abort in 48 hours. He's 23, studying for an ethics exam while his new girlfriend lays her head on his lap and tries her best to distract him. Determined to be one of the youngest to receive a masters at graduation, she reads her way through age 21, pausing only to eat and sleep when the no longer intimidating Grace makes her. When he's 27, he gets a job in the Senate majority leader's office, and people come to notice him. She's 25, sleep deprived and slamming a staple gun home on the palm of her hand as she tries to impress an older man who will become a friend. He's 29 when he meets a young lawyer who has a gift for imagery and persuasion and the two become fast friends. She's standing crying at Grace and Jack's funeral, feeling lost and alone at 27. He jumps ship at 31, going to work for a Senator from Texas, who has a shot at bigger and better things. She's 29 in LA, wondering when she'll stop falling for jerks who waltz into her life for six weeks, then stop calling. In Sacramento, she's 30 and suddenly shy when a nice guy asks her out to dinner. Feeling lost, torn and confused, he's rescued at age 34 by an old friend of his father's and in turns rescues his lawyer friend from the shackles of corporate law. She's 31 when she makes the long drive back to LA, wiping tears away and trying not to choke on the certainty that she has just lost her only chance at marriage. Later that year, she's fired from her first salaried job. Eighteen hours later, she's on a plane to some town in New Hampshire that she's never heard of, where it's freezing to her California acclimated blood. 35 is a year of unmeasured joy and sorrow as he loses his father, but gains a sister while electing the real thing to the presidency. While she's 32, she accomplishes quite a lot, including electing a president and finding people who care for her, including a new brother. She spends most of her 33rd year wondering if she'll have a job the next day. At age 34, she's shoved roughly to the ground, cracking her head on the pavement as a window in a police car explodes over her head. The pain and adrenaline from that experience is the only thing that holds her together as she deals with crisis after crisis all the while praying that her best friend- her brother- will survive fourteen hours of surgery and the resultant aftermath. He almost dies- twice- when he's 37. That same year, he discovers the tarnished humanity of his President, but grips the hand of the woman who has become his sister in hope and love when his boss turns out to be the real thing all over again. She's still 34 when the sky falls, but she's 35, her birthday forgotten in the tide of events, as she stands in an overcrowded room and watches a good man stick his hands in his pockets, smile and look away in response to the question she told him not to answer first.

She'd fought her way up from nothing, and when she reached the summit of the mountain, she found that the drive that had propelled her up the rocky road had been exhausted. It was not strong enough to meet the buffeting winds of the peaks, and as such, she found herself blown backwards and sideways against the rocks. He'd climbed through the valleys and over ever increasing hills until he reached the same summit. But although he seemed to have gained more strength and endurance from his journey, he was almost powerless to prevent the winds from sweeping her completely away. He could not stop her from dashing against the stones, from falling, despite his best efforts. As he prepared to try again, he wondered if in this, the last chance he might get, if his best would be good enough.



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