This is a story of love lost. Of devastation, heartbreak, anger and cowardice. This is a tragedy. This is the story of how my heart…died.
It all started twenty-two years ago. Back then we were the best of friends. It was the classic dilemma: two girls and one boy. I was young and foolish. An eighteen-year-old, head-over-heels in love.
The three of us were inseparable. Clarissa, my best friend, my sister, as I called her then. And Wayne: the love of my life. We did everything together. We laughed and joked and spent practically every moment of the day together. Sometimes we would all climb into Wayne's van and drive out to the country on a moments' notice. We'd laze about his parent's farm, sitting by the lake and skipping stones or in the fields staring up at the stars. Those were the best days.
And then, that all ended.
Our relationship faded. Wayne began to look more at Clarissa than he did at me. It wasn't long before Wayne came to inform me that he wanted to end our relationship because he'd fallen in love with Clarissa. Honesty had always been one of his greater virtues. But that was of little comfort. In the long-run, all it did was hurt.
It hurt to be around them. It hurt to see them. The pain of broken heart had overwhelmed me. So I left to pursue my career.
Three years passed. And then…the letter. I recognized the handwriting on the envelope immediately. To this day I can still remember the way my hands shook as I ripped it open. With every word, a weight was added to my chest. I felt as though I was being smothered and crushed.
My fist clenched and I slammed it into the table, tears running rapidly down my cheeks. I bit back my sobs and silenced them. It wasn't difficult. I'd had a lot of practice over the past three years.
Despite my anguish and initial rejection of the letter, I found myself coming back to it and reading it again. Out of respect for the past, I finally sat down and wrote a reply.
The wedding was beautiful. I had to leave early because it was too much like what I had dreamed of back when I was dating Wayne.
I decided to stay in the city. I kept in loose touch with my old friends, but tried not to see them any more than necessary. Even after all those years, the wound in my heart still stung.
A few more years flew by.
Clarissa was pregnant. But there were complications. She died in childbirth. Wayne was devastated. I was the only one who could comfort him. We slowly began to spend more time together.
It wasn't until six more years had passed that I realized I had fallen in love again.
Wayne worshiped the very ground his daughter walked on. Though it made sense that he would. She looked exactly like her mother: wavy brown hair and soft, brown eyes. I couldn't help but resent her. It was as though even now, Clarissa was posthumously maintaining her hold over Wayne. But I pushed that aside as best I could.
I told Wayne what I wanted. I offered him my love.
He refused. He said that he had to do what was best for his daughter. Despite all of my efforts he must have somehow sensed the grudge I held towards her. He said that he wanted me to leave and to disassociate myself from him.
"Get on with your life," he said. "All you've done since Clari died is try to replace her! Well, you can't! So stay away from my daughter, and stay away from me!"
He didn't mean it. I knew that he still loved me. He just couldn't bring himself to accept that he had always loved me, not her. He didn't mean it.
I came back the next evening, only to hear a commotion in the alley behind his apartment building. I peered around the corner. Terror tied a knot in my stomach.
"NO!" I yelled as I heard a shot and saw Wayne fall to the ground, jumping in front of a small, delicate figure. The sound of glass breaking filled the air and I watched as a strange, glowing ooze fell on the little girl's head and arms. She screamed. Those robots tried to grab her, but something shoved them away. Wayne!
They shot him in the chest and he crumpled. He fell limp on the pavement and I could feel my heart being ripped viciously from my chest. I jumped up from my hiding place and jostled a few tin cans in my haste. The robots scurried off.
I stared at the little creature now standing by Wayne's side. My eyes narrowed and I shoved her away violently. She let out a startled cry. Tears ran down the sides of my face and I glared angrily at her.
This is all her fault! The stupid little freak! At least now I can see her for the monster she is! He wouldn't be dead if it wasn't for her! The little witch! She took everything from me! Just like her mother!
I died that day. As I watched the little monster run off into the night, I vowed revenge on all freaks of nature. I will see them all exterminated. Starting with that little lizard.
I swear it.
Green eyes latched onto the tall, lanky turtle as soon as Donatello entered the main room. Raph hadn't spoken for hours. He sat on the couch in quiet contemplation, a deep, worried crease etched in his face. His elbows rested on his knees and his shoulders were uncharacteristically bowed.
Michelangelo had tried to get the red-masked turtle to eat something, but Raphael had refused to acknowledge him. For the first time in weeks the lair was absolutely silent and it was very disconcerting.
Don met Raph's probing gaze with a soft stare and a gentle sigh. "I performed a full medical examination. She's fine."
Raphael released a long breath that he hadn't even realized he'd been holding.
Donatello went on. "I'm guessing that whatever happened in that nightmare of hers really derailed her."
Raph nodded, his eyes disturbingly vacant. Then they cleared a little as he returned his attention to his purple-masked sibling. "Can I see her?" He asked hesitantly with a brief glance at the lab door.
The eldest turtle glanced over at his hothead sibling softly.Truth be told, Leonardo was acting as Raphael's rock for the time being. It had taken the leader almost half and hour to calm Raph down after Donnie had kicked him out of the lab. Since then they'd sat side-by-side in a rare bout of companionable silence.
Behind his mask of neutrality, Leo was worried. Really worried. Raphael was beside himself with worry. Not only that, but Leo was pretty sure that Mona Lisa wasn't the only one in shock.
Strong, muscular shoulders trembled as a violent shiver ran down Raph's spine. Leo frowned and plucked a blanket up off the couch to lay it over Raph's shoulders.
The emerald green head whipped around and vibrant green eyes glared defensively.
Leo sighed and placed a placating hand on his stubborn brother's shoulder. "Relax Raph. I think it's pretty obvious by now that Mona's not the only one having trouble here." Dark blue eyes noted the way that Donatello, who had previously been rather terse, softened and immediately began sizing up the red-masked turtle's condition. Leo nodded his approval. Raph was stressed practically to the breaking point, both mentally and physically.
When he noticed Don's probing gaze, Raphael's eyes narrowed until they were practically slits. He jumped to his feet and yanked the blanked off of his shoulders, tossing it pointedly to the ground.
"Raphie…" Mikey murmured softly, coming forward and trying to wrap the hothead in a tight hug. Said turtle narrowly and deliberately avoided the youngest turtle's grasping arms.
"Stop it, Mike. I just wanna see Mona." Raph hoisted himself over the back of the couch and headed straight for the lab. Two sets of strong arms gabbed him and held him back. He turned to glare at them. "Let me go! I said let go of me!" They didn't respond. "Leo, Don, I swear if you don't let go of me I'll—"
Don held up a hand. "Save your threats, Raph. And just listen to what we have to say. Mona's going to be fine. You aren't doing anyone any good by ignoring your own health! Please, Raphael, stop fighting us!" At any other moment, Raphael would have thrown his brothers off. He was more than capable of it, after all. But right now…the slight waver in Donnie's voice told him that it was serious. So he backed down.
Leo stared at Donatello in awe as Raphael actually stopped struggling. I wish I could get Raph to listen to me like that. He thought dryly.
Donnie faced the hothead and gave him a good once-over. There were dark rings under Raph's eyes. "Hey Raph?" the hothead's eyes sluggishly moved up to meet Donnie's and the brainiac went on. "Did you get any sleep last night?"
Raph refused to meet the genius' searching gaze. Leo leaned forward and put a gentle arm around Raph's shoulders as they sagged dejectedly, pulling him into a one-armed embrace.
With a sigh the emerald green turtle finally answered. "No…I-I couldn't sleep. I was worried about Mona. I mean, I know she acted all brave in front of April and all, but I know that it definitely brought up painful memories for her. I was about to fall asleep when I heard—" Raphael shuddered again and they all knew what he meant. "I just—I can't believe she actually…"
Leonardo hugged his immediate younger brother tighter. The eldest turtle had never heard his younger brother sound so hurt, so helpless. Suddenly, with that one small revelation, everything became clear. It wasn't just the shock and Mona's terror that had upset Raphael. It was also the fact that he couldn't do anything to help her. Raph was tearing himself apart.
The next thing the hothead knew he was stuck in the middle of a four-way hug. Raph said nothing. He couldn't find the words. Suddenly, his brothers pulled abruptly away and Raph was left a little dazed. He slowly realized that Splinter was standing in front of him, arms-open. Much as he wanted to throw himself into his father's embrace, that wouldn't condone his tough-guy image, so Raphael stepped slowly into the old rat's arms.
Raph ignored his brothers and whispered for his father's ears only. "I need to see her Sensei. Please, Father…." His eyes glowed in earnest.
Even though his brothers couldn't see it, the old rat noticed that there was a slight buildup of moisture in the corners of the red-masked turtle's eyes. Slowly, Splinter pulled his emerald green son into one last loose embrace before letting go and putting a hand on Raphael's shoulder. "Go, my son."
Michelangelo began to trail after Raphael as the hothead stormed into the lab, but a soft hand held him back. The youngest turtle turned and looked over his shoulder to see Donatello frowning sadly at him. "Don't Mikey." The brainiac nodded towards the door of the lab and Mikey glanced in the direction indicated just in time to see Leo follow Raph silently into the lab.
Baby-blue eyes sparkled softly as he nodded and headed to the kitchen to make dinner. Despite all of Mikey's qualms, Raph couldn't be in better hands.
Mona's nightmare last night really rattled Raphael. He's really upset. Goodness knows, Raph's always been sensitive, much as he tries to convince us otherwise. Heck, Mona's screams last night got us all rattled.
I'm worried about her. We all are. Especially Raphael. I hope that he'll be able to help her though this.
I have to admit, I thought she was doing well. And then this happened.
Raph hasn't eaten at all today. And that doesn't bode well. Sometimes when he's upset my immediate younger brother stops eating. I don't really know why. I don't even know whether it's actually a conscious decision or whether Raphael doesn't even realize that he's refusing food. Either way, it's worrisome.
I was surprised that Sensei agreed to let Raph see Mona. Honestly, I was hoping that we'd be able to make him eat something first. But…if Sensei agreed than he must have had his reasons. Still, Raph's riding on a bit of an emotional tidal wave right now, so I'm just gonna stay nearby just in case.
After all, he's one of my little brothers. And I'd do anything to make sure that my little brothers are okay.
I put distance between Raphael and myself as we entered the lab. He knows I'm here, of that I'm sure.
For once in his life, the hothead is letting down that tough-guy mask of his. I watch in fascination as Raph crosses the room to stand at Mona Lisa's side, gently rubbing their foreheads together before pressing a gentle kiss to the side of her face.
It suddenly dawned on me that Raph and Mona had a long way to go in terms of conquering her fears. And her past is going to be their biggest obstacle.
Mona will get through this, though. She has to.
Not only that, but we'll find the scientist responsible for all the pain she's endured.
And I'll see to it that she gets taught a thorough lesson. By the time we're through, that scientist will know the true meaning of the word family.
Because like I said: I'll do anything for my brothers. And I know that Raph would do the same.
With a gentle smile, I watched my immediate younger sibling grabbing Mona's hand softly in his own as the lizard mutant began to stir. I turned and left the room to fetch Donnie.
On the way, another thought came to mind. Much as I loathe frightening Mona Lisa any more than need be, I'll have to talk to the guys about doing another intel-raid on that human research center. That way we can find out exactly who was responsible for Mona's suffering.
As leader, I'd be more than happy to 'bust the heads' of those responsible myself, but I'm afraid I'll have to take a step back on this one. After all, Raph's interest is much more personal. My eyes narrowed.
But that doesn't mean I won't be there to make sure that the scientist really gets what's coming to her.