Lola S. Cubish
He gave him a ringing slap, and he cowered further into the corner.
Raphael wanted to start crying, too. This just...one of the few solid things in his life, one of the things he could always depend upon, was slipping away right before him.
His eyes were clouded as he listened unwillingly to the whimpers arising from the bundled-up figure.
"Please...let me die, go away..."
"No. No way! Get ahold of yourself!" Raphael was desperate. "You're not my brother! This isn't the guy I knew!"
"That's right..." The answer came, numbly. "I'm not your brother. Now go away..."
"Get up and fight, you little moron! What the hell has happened to you?!"
He didn't answer, and in frustration, Raphael kicked him. "Get up, damn you!"
The response was barely a twitch.
Raphael ambled across the room and slumped against the wall. He exhaled and inhaled a few times, his eyelids low as he regarded the creature in the corner. This was bizarre. It was almost as if it was a different person.
He felt like breaking something, but there was nothing around. He didn't dare to keep anything around him, in case he'd do something stupid. Though, Raph didn't put it past his brother to be able to think of another way to do it.
After all, he was the most skilled one...
"I always knew you'd end up like this," he muttered viciously, glancing over to the body. There was no answer, but something vague... had definitely changed. "You...bloody overworked, ain'tcha...knew you'd never hold out."
He looked down for but a second, but that was enough. He was already on him, pinning him to the floor; both with his arms, and the terrifyingly mad look in his bloodshot eyes.
"There you go," Raph hissed, "there's the old Leonardo." He reached up and wiped some blood off Leo's mouth, who twisted his face away, let go of Raph and stood up.
"Shut up," he whispered hoarsely. "Leonardo is dead."
"Seemed pretty alive to me," Raph said quietly, rubbing the back of his head. He could already feel a bad bump there.
Leo started to sit down again, but Raphael grabbed his arm. Leo looked down at his arm, then at Raph, his eyes dead, his voice tired.
"You're coming with me, and we're going to have some breakfast. Period." Raph said harshly, his grip increasing on Leo's arm. They both knew Raphael was much more fit than Leonardo right now, but still...Leo had started using dirty tricks, and he was so desperate, sad and angry now--
Raph regarded him in silence, still clutching his arm. "You know, outta you and me, everybody always figured I was the one to crack in the end, but I always knew it'd be you," he said solemnly, "Heck, I cracked on a daily basis, while you...how the hell could you go on like that? You're the one who never opened up, not me. You don't have to always have control, ya know.
It's good...it's nice to lose yourself sometimes..."
Leonardo glowered at him, then his expression lost all energy and was just a blank. "As long as it's not scrambled eggs."
Raph grinned. "That's my good little pasient."
Raphael cried. His brother sat in the garden, playing with a puzzle. There was no way to make contact with him.
Not even violence he responded to, didn't even try to swat Raph away anymore. One morning he had just stopped talking.
At times, Raph couldn't control himself. He was aggrivated, and had no idea what to do. And it had never been any real
harm in beating up Leo before, he'd done it his whole life, it was so natural, but when he didn't fight back...
Leonardo looked even more like a wreck now. Bruised all over, dried blood on his body.
Raph feared he was going to become a vegetable, completely out of touch with his surroundings. Man, he could even feel himself starting to crack up. He needed to talk to someone. But Leo was all he had left.
There was one thing he could try. He dialed, and waited.
No one picked up the phone. He tried a few hours later, then the following half hour...nothing. He growled in anger and desperation, but tried one more time, and this time he got through.
"Yeah, 'llo, is April home?"
"No, there's nobody here by that na--"
"Just tell her it's Raph, okay?" He pressed on.
"Look, sir, I'm sure th--"
Raphael interrupted the voice, repeating the number he had dialed and asked if this was the right number.
"Yes, that's my number, sir,"
Raphael asked again, and again the voice confirmed. He breathed heavily, then hung up.
Could she have moved? Died? Could she have given them the wrong number on purpose? No, that couldn't be it...
It was four days later, and the person with April's phone number was now threatening to call the police if Raph didn't stop his harassing.
Raph gave up. He just plain gave up. He walked out into the garden and called for Leo. He didn't move. He sat still under the
apple tree, looking at the sky. Raph had somehow managed to cool down these last few days, and had cleaned Leo up a bit. He hadn't beaten him in days, he'd just tried to talk to him, to get through. But it was impossible.
If you looked at Leo from a short distance now, you wouldn't think there was anything wrong with him. You'd think you could go over to him and lead a reasonable conversation. He had his old facial expression back, not the one of childish wonder.
It pained Raph immensely to know the truth.
At noon, Leo lifted his head and sniffed the air. He frowned, and got up, walking briskly inside the house.
Raphael was dangling from the kitchen ceiling, choking. He regarded him for a short while. Eventually something started to connect inside of him as Raphael's face turned red, then blue; something started to flow again. His hand shot out, grabbed the knife on the kitchen counter and threw it at the rope. Raph fell down on the floor, gasping.
Leo walked over to the small phone table and studied the notes lying there.
Raph rubbed his sore neck. "Thanks a lot," he managed to wheeze.
Leo picked up the pen. "This is the wrong number," he said quite calmly, and started to scribble on the small note which already had Raph's angular, sharp writing on it.
Then he walked out into the garden again. It dawned on Raph that Leo wasn't his own self after all. The old Leo would've made sure he was all right before even thinking about going anywhere. But there had been a short flash of the real Leonardo...enough to give him hope.
He hobbled across the floor to the phone. He dialed the number. It was worth a shot.
"Hey, April," Somehow, Raph wasn't surprised. But how the hell did Leo know the number? There was no way he could've.
He hadn't been there, and April hadn't called. He glanced out at Leo, sitting peacefully in the grass. He looked almost serene. Something strange must've happened to his mind...he must've received much more than usual, in one way or another, since his mind was not occupied with its usual tasks...there was something not right...Raph didn't want to think about it...
"Raph? Is that you?"
"Yeah. Listen, think we could come to Australia for a while?"
April took a breath. "What's happened?"
"The guys are dead and Leo's gone mental," Raph said bluntly.
Raph's voice cracked a little. "I'm sorry, I don't know how else to say it...it's been a rough time, to say the least. God, you should see how Leo acts, he..." Raph paused, "I just tried to hang myself from the lamp in the kitchen. You know, that old, crummy thing with the dog-ugly flowers on it?"
April's end of the line was silent. "Raph..." She said, hurt in her voice.
"If this is a joke--"
"Trust me, April, it ain't."
April sighed. "I should've never left you guys, should I?"
"I dunno if the outcome woulda been any different. Except that you mighta been dead, too."
April shuddered, then rallied. "I'll come and pick you up, I promise. It seems you need some help with Leo."
"You got that right..."
"As soon as possible," April added.
"A.S.A.P," Raph said distantly, "over and out."
He hung up the phone.
Raphael started to believe that he had just dreamt the whole conversation with April, but strangely enough, when he asked Leonardo about it, he actually answered. No, he said, she will come.
Like he knew it for a certainty, as if he could feel it. Raph had seen him do katas in the meadow last night, extremely late.
Even if it was already dark enough, he had worn a blindfold, and his movements were even more graceful than usual.
Raph sat down with his back against the barn wall and watched Leo until he fell asleep.
He woke up well after noon, and Leo wasn't around. He went into the house, he looked inside the barn, and in the small tool shed, and he ran through most of the forest, but there was no sign of him.
April was brushing her teeth, thinking about what Raph had said.
She had felt detached when he had told her the bad news, but now she felt even more lost.
It was just unreal.
She rinsed her mouth and put the toothbrush back in the glass. Her reflection troubled her. She picked up the picture she had laid on the toilet lid. She looked so different then...not really physically, but there was something...and how did Raph and Leo have to be looking right now? Leonardo...man, if what Raph said was true...she just couldn't-- she couldn't even image it.
This was Leo, for goodness sake! One of the most calm, smart and together people she knew...
A perfect picture...her and the guys in the meadow, smiling, holding around each other's shoulders...and now half of them were gone and one of the remaining two wasn't really there, either...
April felt like smashing the bathroom mirror.
She arrived at the farm later that day, and found him on the livingroom floor. He looked like he had passed out from pure exhaustion. April prodded his face gently.
"I can't find Leo," he whispered, without opening his eyes.
Oh, no... "I'll help you, Raph. It'll be okay."
"It will?" Raph said, in a disturbingly hopeful voice. It dawned on April that he had probably been waiting for her
to come and just take care of all his problems for him. He was tired, mentally and physically drained.
"Oh...I hope so, Raph, but I can't promise. I'll be here for a while, anyway."
Raph finally opened his eyes. "Are you going back to Australia?"
April made an elusive grimace. "In a while, yeah..."
Raph closed his eyes and lay still on the floor. "We have to find him,"
"Yeah--" April began.
"We have to find him," Raph went on, his voice hard, "cause if not, I'll have no one when you leave."
April's face had a painful look. "Raph..."
Leonardo reached the top of the hill and stood there, his back straight.
A light wind played over his face and body. He had nothing on. As the dark crept across the landscape, the chill came with it, and after a while; rain, and more wind. But Leonardo didn't sense it at all. If you had seen him standing there, you would've thought he was looking at the distant mountain, or the lake. He wasn't.
He remained like that for three days.
Leonardo was waiting for himself to come back.
But he wasn't sure what he'd do if he did return. If he really wanted him to.
What was the meaning of his leaving in the first place? There had to be a meaning. Or did there?
That was what the old Leonardo thought. Destiny. There Is A Meaning.
Leonardo didn't know if he even was a new Leonardo now, but he felt different somehow. Like he had immense problems connecting with his surroundings. He saw, he felt, he tasted, he heard, he thought...but it didn't really register with him.
It was there, vaguely, then his brain told him it hadn't been. Nothing important, Leo, don't worry. But it also left room for other things...he got messages. He saw stuff he had only received in small amounts before...
What was this? What was the purpose? Was it just some sort of complete shock-induced trauma?
He had heard some of the things Raph had said, but they were fading even now. He had accused him of turning into a vegetable, of slipping away...Raph had been scared.
Somewhere in his foggy mind, the thought that Raphael needed him, floated lazily about. It bounced off the walls a few times, but never settled down. It was beginning to dissolve, even. Who was Raphael?
There was a flash of a kitchen lamp and a knife. Where did that come from?
There was a voice...You're losing it, it said...the voice was familiar, he knew it from somewhere-- You're losing it!
You're losing it, Raphael...
Was it-- no...he couldn't even remember their names. They had died. And their names had gone with them. It was probably his fault.
But he knew his own. Didn't he? It was Leonardo. It was Leo. He was Leonardo. He had to be.
Or else he didn't...he had to be. It was him.
You're losing it, Raphael...
It was him. He had said it. Imagine. He, Leonardo, had said that to Raphael. But...but. No more arguments did he have.
Leonardo sat down on the wet ground. "You're losing it, Leonardo," he said, quietly. He breathed.
April and Raph had fallen asleep when he got back, April slumped in a chair, and Raph halfly on the floor, halfly on the couch. Two coffeemugs, both half-empty, stood on the table.
Leo didn't close the door behind him, and a couple of moths flew in after him. They started circling the kitchen lamp.
He padded silently past the two sleeping figures, and sat down on the floor a few feet away from them.
He watched them unblinkingly, watched them sleeping.
After half an hour, Raphael stirred. Then he froze, stood bolt upright, and stared at Leo.
April woke up as he walked across the floor over to where Leo sat.
Leonardo got up, in a manner too carelessly for Raphael's liking. He swung his open hand at Leonardo.
"Where have you been? Who the hell do y--"
But Leonardo caught his wrist. April stepped out on the floor, and hovered watchfully in the background.
Raph looked a long while at Leo, then a genuinely warm smile started spreading across his face. Neither April nor Leo had seen him this happy in quite some time.
Raph grabbed him tightly in a hug. Leo didn't respond, but somehow, it was okay. April hugged them both.
"Let's go to sleep,"
They went up the stairs, and led Leo to his room.
"Look, bro, we're gonna hafta lock your door tonight...I hope you understand,"
"We're really concerned about you,"
Leonardo looked them in the eyes for the first time that night. His eyes were a little moist, but he wasn't crying.
His head bobbed faintly.
"I'm...it's gonna take time, whatever this is." They almost didn't hear what he said.
They regarded him silently, then said they'd do what they could.
Leonardo sat on the floor in his room, and started to carefully pick the rug apart, sorting all the threads into piles according to their lenght and color. He was done when the sun rose.
But change itself
Like a bird you'd sooner fly away
But you're stuck in yourself
As everything changes
We stay the same
But we stay the same
You keep turning
Before long you're gonna find out
What's in a name
So you look for the answer
Then pull it apart
Tear it up 'til there's nothing there
'Cause it hurts your heart
"Everything Changes," - Matthew Sweet