XX.

"Everett, dear…" Everett's mother stands beside the sink, dishtowel still in her hands, and the look of shock on her face is enough to make Everett wish he hadn't brought it up. "What do you mean you've found an apartment in the south borough?"

It is common knowledge that the south borough is not a very safe place to live, or even to travel. The crime rate for that part of the city is at least twice that of the east borough, where Everett's family lives. He doesn't bother bringing up his ability to protect himself—while that was one of the points Jonas made when trying to sell Everett on the idea of renting the apartment, it wasn't something that would help to calm anyone else's nerves. He can't even mention that he has a paranoid hobo friend to sleep in the living room and act as an effective alarm system.

"Mom, it's really not even that far from home…" Everett is sitting at the table, it is late, and he has a cup of his mother's hot chocolate. "The door is very secure," he adds before he has a chance to realize the implications and think better of it.

"Everett, couldn't you have waited just a little longer? I'm sure some very nice apartments closer to home will turn up shortly…"She moves from the sink to the counter and leans on it. "Oh, dear… I'm not ready for you to leave, you're my baby boy…"

"I'll still be home for dinner, just like you asked," he tells her, reaching out to clasp one hand over hers. "Mom, I just need to do this… I need to go."

"But you don't… I know things have been cramped a little with David back for a while, and I know things have been hard between you and dad…" she puts her face into her hands, and Everett thinks she might be crying. "But you don't have to go, Everett… You know, you can always have Melissa over here, she's always welcome… Sweet girl that she is… You don't have to move out for privacy, Everett…"

"It's not really about that, mom." Besides not getting along with his father, his mother can't possibly understand any of his reasons for leaving. Everett feels bad, for hurting her like this, but she must know that he would have left someday. "It's…" he tries to find a way to explain that won't make him sound like a nutcase but also won't hurt her feelings. "It's just something I want to try, Mom… For just awhile, to see what it's like. I'll probably come back, or I'll start my own life and visit you all the time… But for now, I just want to live on my own, do things on my own… Maybe it will show dad that I can."

"Can you?"

Secretly, this has been something Everett's been wondering about as well. He knows that he can make money on his own, that he will be able to pay his rent and buy his clothes and food and pay his bills… But he isn't sure whether or not all of that actually adds up to being able to live on his own, to be independent. He'll still have his mother to come home to if anything goes wrong, he'll have Jonas there, watching him and making sure he doesn't do anything stupid, he'll be able to have Melissa over. He supposes that most people have these things… these other people that help them sometimes just by being there, and thinks that nobody is really independent. "Yeah, mom… I can do this." For her sake, and perhaps his own as well, he hopes that he sounds confident. "Come on, you promised to help me pack," he reminds her then, and she seems to be drawn out of her shell. Of course, he thinks, as long as she can still be my mom.

"David's going to be so bored without you here…" she muses, and Everett is glad to hear that she is going to try to accept his decision, no matter how much she wants him to stay with her. I'll see her every day, he tells himself, to ease the slight ache of his heart. "We'll have to find get him a pet…"

"Or a girlfriend," Everett jokes. His mother laughs with him as she grabs the folded cardboard boxes from the pantry.

"It is about time he settles down, that boy…"She shakes her head in pretend disapproval, and Everett wonders how he is going to cope with living alone.