Disclaimer: I do not own Animorphs.
I bought a house for my folks and finally moved out on my own. Tom was gone. My hanging around my parents' house till I was thirty wasn't going to bring him back.
Everything was packed and technically nothing was keeping me here but I still lingered in the kitchen. Maybe if I stayed here long enough I could just forget about the whole thing and pretend that so very many things simply weren't real. It was impossible, of course, but the impulse to try remained. I would have thought I'd be done with vain hopes by now but I can see now that that was itself a vain hope.
I was moving out of my parents' home and into my own place and, in a way, this was a refreshingly normal rite of passage. Only in a way, however. Like everything – or nearly everything – that had happened me since that fateful night I took a galaxy-altering shortcut through that construction site so very long ago (four years wasn't so long depending on how you looked at it. It was one presidential term, for instance, but it felt like eternity to me), it wasn't entirely normal.
The differences were obvious. The first difference was the fact that I was doing it and apparently anything I do, no matter how mundane, isn't the same as when 'normal' people do it. Even going for a drive in my car.
I don't have to worry about gas prices and my first car wasn't one that my parents bought me. Perhaps that's not so strange but I had no car payments as I didn't even have to buy it myself (though I could have fully paid for it).
No, instead the company just gave it to me. Partly out of gratitude, I suppose, but I wasn't so naïve as to think that it had nothing to do with publicity. Jake the Animorph drives a Jaguar. And most kid's first car is something crappy and second-hand that maybe didn't always start up right away or had a broken heater. My car was read and shiny and pristine.
I knew that Marco would kill me if I turned it down and I wasn't so far gone that I didn't want it. It was the ultimate symbol of freedom and only flying makes you feel more liberated. But I don't really morph anymore so the car will have to do.
I just wish that it wasn't a Jaguar, though. I never saw it but Tom – the Yeerk in his head – had told me that he could morph one. I didn't say anything, though, just forced a smile and accepted it.
Everyone moves out eventually but unless they have a horrible home life or are a trouble teen or the family can't afford them then it's usually done sooner than eighteen and sometimes, depending on their finances and schooling, some years later.
I'm seventeen right now and I'm not going off to college anytime soon. Maybe I will later but I'm just not feeling it right now and I don't want to waste anyone's (including my own) time or anyone's money if I'm not going to appreciate it. My home life isn't bad and it's been so good to have my parents back this past year after all those weeks of fearing that I'd never see them again. I don't' think I'm a 'troubled teen' either and if anyone disagrees then, well, I have cause.
The thing is that I don't want to be one of those pathetic thirtisomethings living in their parents' basement. Seventeen is a long way away from that but I doubt I'll ever really want to leave. There's no difference in leaving today and leaving never so why put it off?
And unlike most kids who move out and into a dorm or a crappy apartment, I'm moving into a nice house that I've paid for with money that people have just sort of thrown at me for that book that I wrote. Well, I guess I might as well get something out of saving the world since I didn't manage to get anything that I really wanted out of this war. Not that this really mattered, either.
I bought my parents' new house, too, and that's another difference. Not everyone moves out of a beloved childhood home but enough do. I had always sort of thought that I would, too, (in the time before I'd accepted that I'd die before I got the chance to grow up) but it just wasn't to be.
I would miss seeing my parents every day but the house itself? I was rather indifferent to it, actually, and could almost say that I disliked it. There was nothing wrong with this house but it's just not mine.
My real house was destroyed by the Yeerks on the day that they stole my parents from me and killed any realistic prospect of saving my brother. Every mark on the wall from playing basketball inside the house or the timeline of how tall we were was gone. Every little quirk like the door to my parents' bedroom that sometimes had hinge issues was eradicated. Things that I never thought that I'd miss like those bushes that always grew too far out during the warmer months and made it damn near impossible to go out our front door still found their way into my thoughts from time to time.
This new home was brand-new and it had not only none of our history but no one else's either. I know why we couldn't go back to our own, destroyed house and that losing it wasn't even a priority when compared to everything else but it was just one more bit of the past that the Yeerks had been determined to take from me and I resented it.
Tom had never stepped foot in this new house, had never even heard of it. He never would and that alone made the three of us living here just too much. I had thought that maybe one day when he was off at college or something it might just be the three of us, not when he was dead. Maybe it will be easier for my parents to not have me around as a reminder and they can pretend they're just nice and normal empty nesters and our lives haven't been trying their hardest to turn into a tragedy.
I doubt it but I don't want the guilt of devastating my parents by leaving on top of everything else.
My mom poured me another cup of coffee. I don't even like coffee but I can appreciate that it's just the excuse to keep the gathering going. "Are you sure you have to go?" she asked again.
I sighed. My parents – both of them – had been asking me this every day since the war ended and I found them again. It usually wasn't verbal but I could feel the weight of their question anyway. No, I suppose technically I didn't have to go but it was the decision I'd made and I was going to stick to it. Besides, wasn't it 'healthier' to do something instead of just lounging around? I know everyone's so very concerned about that.
To their credit, though, no one has actually brought up the idea of a shrink. I've thought about it myself but never seriously. Even excluding my negative experience with that shrink I had to go to following Ax's attempts at being me that time I got infested, I know that no psychiatrist in the world could possibly understand what I'd been through and what I had done and so they wouldn't be able to help me. Not that I really need help, exactly. It's just…complicated.
"I already bought the house," I reminded them. "And most of my things are over there."
"I know," my mom said, looking wistful. "It's just…my baby's all grown up."
I smile like I know I should and don't mention that as far as growing up goes this is probably one of the things that made the least impact on me doing it. I grew up a great deal over the years. The first time I killed somebody. The first time I saw Tobias trapped. The first time I asked myself if I could ever kill my brother. The time I lost control of everything. The first time I could kill someone and feel no guilt over it. The first time I got us all killed. The first time I realized that my friends – my own cousin! – had become tools to be used. The first time I knew that, if it came to it, I could destroy my own brother. The first time I realized that my incompetence meant that my parents were lost to me. The first time I decided who was going to die to win this war. When I watched Rachel kill Tom mere minutes before being murdered herself by someone she had already beaten but had had the chance to remorph while she had not. Compared to that, what was changing my address? And it wasn't like I hadn't already lived apart from them with Marco's family.
"We always knew that this day would come," my dad said, trying to be stoic but I could tell that he didn't want me to go either. It's not like I wanted to leave, either. It just felt like something that I had to do.
"You guys are acting like you're never going to see me again," I complained, rolling my eyes. Trying to figure out what to say to dispel some of the melancholy in the air.
"Well, you never know," my dad replied seriously. "You're moving right next door to Marco, right?"
"If by 'next door' you mean 'half a mile away' then yeah, I suppose so," I confirmed. "I am the closest house to his."
"I've heard the stories of what he gets up to these days and if he starts dragging you into things like he always does then it might be months before we even hear from you," my dad actually managed to joke.
Of course, while Marco had always dragged me into things when we were younger, when it mattered – with the war – it had been me leading the way.
"I'm sure Jake's security will let us in when we stop by to make sure that he still remembers us," my mom said dryly.
I groaned. "I forgot about the security."
"Well I'm sure you'll grow to appreciate it in time," my mom said optimistically. "Soon you probably won't even notice that it's there at all."
"I can't even imagine," I admitted, shaking my head.
"Ask Marco," my dad advised. "I'm sure he can tell you."
I nodded absently. It was subtle and hard to define but I knew that it was time to stop stalling. The moment had come.
My parents didn't let me go without at least a dozen hugs and kisses between them and a few parting words. I wasn't sure how to feel about that. Awkward, mostly, with a large serving of guilt. But what else was new? And since they'd never have this chance with Tom, I couldn't ruin it for them with me. There were a lot of normal experiences they'd never get to have with Tom that I knew that I could never give them, after all.
Then I was back in my car and staring up at the house that I'd called my dwelling (it could never be a home and I doubt this new place will be either) and felt nothing.