Disclaimer - Finally, this is it, the beginning of the end, the final draft, update, and chapter. This is the epilogue, but in truth, it is only the prologue of a life worth living. May each of you find within, a spark of hope, that no matter the trials, no matter the struggles, that it's all worth while. You never know who will be waiting just around the corner, if you only have enough faith that it will happen, and courage to take steps in that direction.
I own only Beth, the story, and any possible future sequels. No, I'm not saying I'm going to write a sequel, but - there is an open-ended conclusion that leaves room for it. Oh, and no turtle was damaged in the writing - I SWEAR!
Of course, whatever damage Raph does to Don is entirely his doing and not mine.
And I give full credit to Splinter for the phrase - "A slow ninja is a dead ninja."
Oh, and thanks to everyone who stuck with me throughout this long journey titled, Butterfly. Without your encouragement (and nagging me about when the next update will happen) I wouldn't have made it this far. Thanks so very much!
(For those who are more into a happily-ever-after-with-Leo ending to Butterfly, go to my Stealthy Stories account for that version of chapte 47. However, on that site Butterfly is NOT finished. I still have one more chapter to write - possibly two.)
Chapter 47 - And It Begins
"Well, it's about time, m'lady; the show's not gonna wait for us, you know." Stan huffed, and then smiled as his date came out of the apartment.
"We got to talking, okay? And it hasn't been that long and you know it. We have plenty of time." Beth gave him a playful grin and then sidled up next to him to wait. As he wrapped an arm around Beth's shoulders, she explained, "Ellie's trying to find her opera glasses."
"Oh, of course," Stan rolled his eyes, "Can't forget those." He suddenly chuckled, "You know, if it weren't for you two, I would never consider going to the theater…not ever…just not my…"
"Yes, I know, Stan," Beth remarked, turning her face to him, "it's not your 'cup o' tea'. But, you have to admit, you always have a good time."
"Only because of you," he smiled, giving her nose a peck. Beth blushed in response and ducked her head, giggling.
"My, my, just look at the two lovebirds."
The couple turned, wincing in embarrassment, as Ellie emerged from her apartment, smiling at them. With a sweater hanging over her arm, she gave a light laugh at their obvious discomfort.
Stan challenged good-naturedly, "And what's so funny about that, Mrs. Andrews?" as he took the woman's wrap.
Closing the door behind her and locking it, Ellie shrugged, as she allowed Stan to help her with the sweater, "Nothing, I think it's sweet…and I keep telling you to call me Ellie…" she said forcibly and then winked at the man. As she tucked her opera glasses into her purse, "…but maybe I ought to stay home, so that the two of you can have a nice, romantic evening together."
"Nope, not on your life, Mrs. Andrews," Stan declared, offering an arm to the elderly woman. She eagerly took it, as Beth slipped her arm around Stan's other one, "You keep us honest," the man continued brightly, "But, maybe to save time, we ought to keep your spy glasses in my car, that way…"
"It's ELLie," Ellie interrupted sternly, "and I've never had to question the way you treat Beth. Besides, keeping my opera glasses in your car would risk having someone from your office finding out that our big, tough Detective Horowitz is cultured. That wouldn't do, now would it, Detective?" Ellie smiled smugly, as she squeezed her escort's arm.
"No, I guess not, Mrs. Andrews."
"It's ELLIE! My goodness, you'd think as smart as you are…"
Stan chuckled as he led both Beth and their friend down the steps, his pace slow and careful, so as not to rush the older woman. All the way, Ellie admonished him for ignoring her requests how best to address her. After a few minutes with working their way down the four flights of stairs, they finally reached the first floor hallway. Ellie then paused for a moment to catch her breath.
Stan sighed and shook a finger at her, "You know, Mrs. Andrews, you're one very stubborn lady. How many times must we insist that you move in with Beth? An elevator would be far easier than having to tackle Mt. Everest every time you want to go out."
Ellie glared at her male escort for moment and then reached up to pat Stan's cheeks, suddenly smiling, "I like my independence. Besides, I've been doing these stairs for far longer than you've been alive, and it beats having to join a gym to keep in shape." She gave a hearty laugh as the man rolled his eyes. "And please call me Ellie! You keep adding years to this old woman's bones each time you address me as 'Mrs. Andrews'."
Stan quirked a brow and smiled, "I'll consider correcting that if you'll consider moving in with Beth."
The woman's face narrowed suspiciously, her brow crinkling. As she studied the young man beside her, a slow smile began to spread across her face. She then murmured, "Hmm…smart AND manipulative. No wonder you're in law enforcement." Ellie finally huffed, "I'll give your offer some consideration, but you know I don't like the busy affair of downtown."
"Living in the penthouse will put you steps away from the theater district, it's be worth the hassle…" Beth challenged, meeting her friend's curious expression, "...and you won't have to pay for a thing, and the museum district is not too far, either. You can go every weekend, or even every day, if you want."
"Money isn't a problem, you know that, and…" she shrugged, "it might become status quo and that might take all the fun from going out." Ellie then smiled, "Of course, they always need docents; so maybe I can volunteer. It would be a good way to share my knowledge from my eighty-odd years of life…it would be nice to find something useful to do, too, other than playing the part of chaperon."
"We don't need a chaperon, Mrs. Andrews…" Stan saw the look of consternation on Ellie's face, "…and you haven't agreed to our offer, yet, so until you do, I'll continue addressing you - as - Mrs. Andrews."
"Upstart!" she hissed, "Fine, then," she straightened her five-foot frame as much as she could and sniffed, "maybe I will take up your offer, then when you call me Mrs. Andrews, I can bop you one on the head!"
"Only if you can reach it, Ellie," the detective chuckled, and grinned as he saw a grin of approval on the woman's face, "Now, I think we better make haste; the show won't wait for us, you know."
As the threesome stepped outside the complex and made their way slowly down the front steps of the brownstone apartment, Beth thought about the past year and marveled over how much her life had changed. As she held onto Stan's arm and reveled in the late summer weather, she recalled another arm she had leaned upon, one belonging to a mutant turtle named Leonardo.
The brief friendship she enjoyed with him and his family had altered her life in more ways that she could ever imagine. And it saddened her that she hadn't seen any of them since that fateful night, when Leo said goodbye, and for a moment, Beth's mood saddened. She wondered how they were doing, if they were still protecting the general populace of New York City. Even though their greatest enemy was now a history lesson rather than a present concern, Beth knew there was still an element of evil residing in New York City. She was certain her friends would have more than enough to do.
Just the same, Detective Horowitz had been correct. The Foot did indeed vacate the Big Apple for better 'hunting' grounds. There had been rumors that they had moved northwest to Chicago, with another rumor saying they had gone south to the warmer climate of Ft Lauderdale. Fortunately, with warnings from New York's police and with the FBI's help, as well as information provided by disposed members of the clan, whatever faction had tried to gain a foothold, was overwhelmed quickly enough. After that, the crime syndicate seemed to have disappeared all together, more than likely returning to their island home of Japan.
At least, Beth certainly hoped so.
Still, she wished she could call her friends, to find out how they were. Beth clearly remembered the phone they kept in their lair. Sadly, at the time she didn't think to get their number. It was quite frustrating to realize how easy it would be to have acquired it then, but not more so than having to keep secret their existence. It was hard not to tell someone, where they were such fantastic beings, and she was certain people would accept them, if given a reason to. Yet, Beth never did tell anyone, not Ellie or Stan, not even the local grocer. The only time she came close was that first night after Leo had said his goodbyes.
As she recalled, it was two hours after Leo left. Beth had pretty much cried herself dry. She had considered going to bed, too tired to stay up any longer, hoping that come the morning, she would see some wisdom in her friend's decision. Then, she heard a knock on her front door and cringed, realizing who it could be.
It was her neighbor, Ellie Andrews.
As it turned out, Ellie hadn't been able to sleep, so she decided to clean her kitchen, to get herself tired out. Where one wall was common with a wall in Beth's living room, she had easily heard the girl's crying. Fortunately, her timing with cleaning her kitchen happened shortly after Leonardo left, so she had missed the heated conversation he had with her neighbor. Therefore, Ellie was none the wiser about Beth's strange friend.
In any event, when Beth's crying went on longer than Ellie thought was normal, it didn't take much to get the elderly woman's concern up and brave a midnight visit to Beth's.
And Beth had to admit that it turned out to be a good thing her friend came over, too. Ellie had comforted her and in a way, that only a mother might do. It was like a healing balm for Beth, to have someone care for her like that. After Beth explained as best she could about her loss, without divulging whom Leonardo was, Ellie had imparted a bit of wisdom regarding such matters, "True love is the willingness to walk away, to put the other person's well-being before your own, even if your heart is feeling differently."
Yes, Beth had to agree that her heart was indeed feeling differently and for the longest time she wondered if Leo regretted making the decision he did. Yet, over time her anger and disappointment cooled. As the weeks went by, with much encouragement from Ellie, Beth found her balance once again and a purpose to her life.
As she stepped down to ground level, arm in arm with Stan, Beth recalled how Ellie talked her into joining a counseling program for those suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. It was a hard task to do, to sit in a room full of strangers. Considering Beth's own adversion to such gatherings, she mustered through it. It helped that Ellie accompanied her to the first few sessions, yet after a few months and as healing began to take root, Beth finally felt ready to tackle her next goal, to enroll at Ithaca University. Where the school was in upstate New York, it required moving closer to campus and as hard as it was, she managed well enough. And it seemed to give her strength, too. As she settled in and regained a bit of her old confidence, she began her quest to become a lawyer, like her father. Every other weekend, though, she would find herself returning to New York City to see Ellie and to continue with her counseling sessions. Both became a mainstay to her mental and emotional health.
Then, when she returned to New York City for the Christmas break, her life took another turn. After inviting Ellie to a holiday dinner at her father's Park Avenue penthouse, Beth was chagrined to find herself talked into allowing her friend to bring a 'guest'. "They'll provide my transportation so you don't have to ride the subway to get me," the woman reasoned.
Despite her trepidation and unable to refute such logic, Beth had relented, albeit reluctantly.
As Stan led her and Ellie to the car, Beth mused, "Trust issues, how many great opportunities did I miss because of them?"
In any event, as the girl thought back to the moment Ellie and her escort stepped inside the penthouse and announced, "Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah", therein began Detective Horowitz's courtship of Beth Shapiro.
Beth smiled and looked over at her friend and then at the man who was slowly winning her heart. In so many ways, Stan was much like Leonardo. He was honest, fair, chivalrous, and kind. He worked hard and sometimes his job kept him too busy for the type of event they were going to enjoy this evening, but he always made up for those long stretches between dates - like now. Yes, Beth knew that if Leo had been willing, she probably would have had to make similar adjustments, but - at least with Stan - she could have friends such as Ellie. And Ellie had more than certainly proved herself a good friend, too.
Nevertheless, it was slow at first, for Beth to let Stan into her life. She had many issues to resolve. Surprisingly, he understood and it made her heart leap when he told her he would be there for her, no matter how long it took. Overall, his commitment and demeanor reminded her of Leonardo and it was that which made it difficult for Beth to refuse him. With Leo's family apparently out of contact with her, Beth felt the pull to move on with her life - and so she did.
Now, with a year's worth of classes behind her and her counseling sessions easier to bear, Beth was beginning to feel as if she had conquered her old demons. Moreover, her relationship with Stan Horowitz was growing closer with each passing day and it was because him that she switched colleges, enrolling at Columbia University for the coming fall semester. In this way, she could stay in New York City at her penthouse, thereby allowing her relationship with Stan to grow, and to keep in closer contact with her friend, Ellie. Both gave her a sense of family, of belonging, something her strange mutant friends had impressed upon her.
Stepping up to his car, Stan released his two dates to open the passenger doors. When done and with a grand, flourishing sweep of an arm, he announced, "Your royal highnesses, your carriage awaits!" and then gave a formal bow.
"Stan, you're impossible!" Beth gushed.
"Impossibly in love with you, my dearest!" he cooed, smiling up at her.
As Ellie availed herself to the front seat - for Stan always insisted that the woman sit beside him - Beth closed her eyes against a cooling breeze as it blew across her face. She tilted her head back to take it in, sighing. Her life was full, complete, and the past five years seemed so very far away. She glanced upwards at the evening sky and then…instinctively…turned to look towards the building across the street from where she used to live. It wasn't the first time she had done so, as Beth always hoped that she would see something, anything that would tell her Leonardo still watched over her. But, per usual, as she studied the familiar building, she saw the same thing she did with all the other times - nothing…nothing but the inky blackness of shadows and the ghostly outline of the shadow-rich roof.
Yet, just for a moment, Beth found herself transported back to a time more than a year ago, when she and four mutant turtles huddled together, far above the streets, all of them watching her apartment. How fearful she was, then, how insecure, compared to how she felt now. Yes, Beth still had her moments and maybe she always would, but Beth also knew that the man who courted her and her friend who gave her a bit of mothering would be there for her, too.
After assisting Ellie into the car, Stan turned to help Beth.
Beth hesitated, though, her heart hoping, her eyes fixated on the very spot where she had crouched nearly sixteen months earlier. Maybe this night, she whispered softly and then, in the next breath, berated herself. What if she did see him; would it matter, would it change the way things were for her now? She was going to college and she had a boyfriend who was gentle and considerate. And she had a friend, maybe even a substitute mother, in Ellie. No, it wouldn't matter; for Beth's life was on track and that was exactly what Leo had wanted for her.
"What's wrong, Beth?" Stan asked, effectively interrupting her private musings.
"Hmm?" she replied vaguely and then she blinked catching herself, "Oh, nothing, I…was just thinking of something." Satisfied that nothing was there, she prepared to drop into the back seat and join Ellie in the car.
Then, just before she looked away, a sudden silvery flash streaked along the familiar roofline. It was quick and bright, yet very brief. Her breath caught in her throat and she waited, watching - hoping. Once again, she thought of her friends and an eerie feeling of deje vu came over her. A memory of a crowded sidewalk, a ribbon of yellow tape, and a handsome detective asking her questions wafted through her mind.
"Beth?" Stan asked worriedly, afraid she had zoned out. Stan knew she had this problem, of going catatonic, but had only seen it happen once. And that one time, almost immediately, Beth had come out of it. Now, though, she seemed transfixed by something. He followed her gaze to the building across the street and then up to the roofline, but saw nothing of concern. He queried as he looked back at Beth, "Is something wrong?" He furrowed his brows and studied the building again and, still seeing nothing, he leaned in to nuzzle at Beth's neck, to distract her, prodding her to answer him, "Hon, what's up?"
"I - I thought I saw a shooting star," Beth lied, biting her lip, still pondering her thoughts, still staring, expectant.
Stan glanced up at the sky, this time, and shook his head, "Here, in the middle of New York City? It's too bright out with all the lights, how can you…"
"It was a very - bright - shooting star!" Beth insisted, offering Stan a determined look and a small, shy smile. Stan knew the look and so he shrugged and decided not to pursue it. Instead, he motioned for her to climb into the vehicle. Again, Beth hesitated, staring at the building, wanting - hoping - to see the flash again.
"Okay, what's going on? Something's wrong, Beth, I know it," Stan was sounding a mite impatient, now, and he straightened his posture, sighing with one hand on hip.
When nothing more came from the roof across the street, Beth sighed with a finality that surprised her. "Stan, there's nothing's wrong," she turned to him and smiled wide, a cry in her throat that went unsung, "everything is…finally right," and then declared with all sincerity, "I love you, Stanley Horowitz," and she kissed him. Like a butterfly struggling to free itself from its cocoon, Beth finally realized that through all her struggles, the five years of hiding, fearing, all of it had brought her here to this moment, to this man, to this life worth living.
As their lips parted, "And I love you, too, Elizabeth," Stan replied, "but we can star gaze after the show is over, okay. You know once they start…"
"Yes, I know; once they start the show, the ushers won't let us in, I know, dear, and you are right, as always." She kissed him quickly before easing down into the car and her seat. After Stan closed the door the passenger door and skipped around the front of the car to the driver's side, Beth offered a silent 'thank you' to the shooting star across the street.
As the car pulled away from the curb, four shadows watched its progress from the rooftop across the street. Two huddled closer to the edge, while the remaining two stayed further back, biding their time, quietly discussing their plans for the evening. Yet, despite the four's proximity to the well-lit area below them, the quartet still found themselves within the night's dark embrace, four bandanna tails fluttering in the breeze, unnoticed by the human population.
As the car traveled south down Greenwich and made a hard right onto Seventh Street, only to disappear around the corner, one shadow grumped, "Stupid thing t'do, bro."
"Yeah, yeah, build a bridge and get over it, Raph."
"You said we're not t'contact her," Raphael challenged.
"I didn't, I just - gave a thumbs up, is all."
"It's the same thing…"
"Hey guys, not here, 'kay? So, what's next, Leo?"
"Mikey, why don't you lead tonight?"
"Hey, little brotheh, ya never know when Leo's gonna need replacin' again and I've already done that gig."
"Aw, Raphie, I don't wanna lead, why not let Donnie do it this time, he's the one with all the good ideas!"
"Hey, hey, just shut it, Mike; I have enough to do fixing what you break all the time."
"Aw, Donnie, ya wanna a straw? Suck it up, bro."
"Raph, you're not helping."
"Do I eveh?"
"Fine, have it your way…I'll lead…"
"So, where to, Don-san?" Mikey cheered, relieved over his relief of duty.
Donnie grinned and chuckled evilly, then broke into a run as he raced across the roof.
"Ah, not the junk yard again," Leonardo groaned, turning to race after his purple-masked brother, as his other two brothers followed likewise.
"Should have had Mikey lead, Leo," a distant voice called back, "Remember, a slow ninja is a dead ninja!" Donatello sounded as if he was already half-way up the block.
"Yer gonna be a dead ninja if I get m'hand on ya…" Raph declared, as he, too, picked up speed.
Faintly and even further away, "Gotta catch me first, Raph!"
"You're on, dipwad!" and the chase was on.
The End… Fin…Uiteinde… Finire… Utløpe…Final… Sluta… Mwisho… Musubi
(And if that's not enough ways to say it, I'm done, over, kaputz, finished).
Now, to explain why I titled this story as 'Butterfly'. Here are the poems that inspired it. They are both public domain, author unknowns, which means anyone can use them, abuse them, misuse them. However, I hope I've done enough justice in applying them to this story where they fit. It's up to you to decide how best it applies to my story.
A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. He cut down the branch it was on and brought it home. One day, a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours, as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then, it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no further. So, the man decided to help the butterfly.
He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. However, it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly, because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to support the swollen body, and the body would then contract in time.
In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings.
It was never able to fly.
What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand, was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through that tiny opening, were God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings. It would then be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
Like the butterfly, sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us; we would not be as strong as what we could have been.
We would never fly.
I asked for Strength ...And God gave me Difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for Wisdom ...And God gave me Problems to solve.
I asked for Prosperity ..And God gave me brain & brawn to work.
I asked for Courage ...And God gave me Danger to overcome.
I asked for Love ...And God gave me Troubled people to help.
I asked for Favors ...And God gave me Opportunities.
I received nothing I wanted ... I received everything I needed!