Splinter stood in his son's doorway watching his chest rise and fall and listening to the lulling sound of his light snores filling the dark room. It was only two o'clock in the afternoon, but Splinter surely couldn't blame Raphael for choosing to sleep at the rather inappropriate time. There wasn't much else to do when one was confined to one room for the majority of their day.
He quietly moved into the room and sat beside his snoozing son. It was then that he noticed the shell-shaped cell phone secured under the boy's giant hand against his slowly moving chest. His cell phone was the only privilege that he hadn't taken away. He must have fallen asleep texting, he assumed.
Splinter carefully moved the sheltering hand and removed the cell phone. He wasn't surprised that the movement hadn't woken Raphael, having always known him to be a heavy sleeper. He could recall several incidents in which his hardiest infant slept through abrupt movements and sounds that would have easily disturbed any of his brothers. A nostalgic feeling pulled the father's mouth to a fervent smile – after fifteen years that was one of few things that hadn't changed.
The phone vibrated in his hand and the screen lit up.
“Text message from Casey”
A strong urge to read his son's private messages reared up in Splinter's mind. He wondered if perhaps Raphael had been too cooperative.
Just like his own son, Casey Jones was not a saintly young man and Splinter wouldn't put it past him to try and lure Raphael into trying something sneaky. What if he was plotting to help Raphael sneak out? What if it had already been done, he wondered.
Yet in his wonder there was fear. His former worry of his son becoming a monster had been eased in the passing days and that little device may wield the power to bring all that worry back – a symbol of his own naivete as a father. He had found Raphael to be trustworthy, but what if he had been wrong? What if Raphael had only been acting out privately?
Privacy was something that teenagers valued – the right to speak to and do things with others without interference from their parents or family members. Privacy was also the issue that caused distance between his two oldest sons.
Splinter ruefully recalled a recent incident in which Raphael had left his phone sitting on the kitchen table and a curious Leonardo had discovered it. Leonardo proceeded to read through an entire conversation that Raphael had had with Casey, which happened to be a long rant about himself.
Leonardo was furious over what Raphael had said and called him out over having called him an “asshole” and countless other nasty names along with accusing him of being, ironically, a “nosy snitch”. He had even gone to Splinter and told him of the foul language that Raphael had been using in his messages, which had been without a doubt, an attempt to get their father on his side.
It hadn't really worked. Certainly Splinter was not happy to hear that his son had been swearing, but he felt that he couldn't really complain since Raphael had always had the decency not to curse in his father's presence. He appreciated his respect. However, he was rather disappointed to hear that he had been saying nasty things about his own brother behind his back.
Naturally, he confronted Raphael anyway, to which he had argued that he had simply been blowing off steam and as a side note, he mentioned that he hadn't said anything about Leonardo to Casey that he hadn't pretty much said to his face. He reasoned that texting Casey all of that had just been an outlet for his frustration and it was better for him to do that than to lash out at Leo.
Splinter found that he could not argue with him. What he had done was harmless and he had a right to let out his own frustrations in private conversation with a friend. He proceeded to scold Leonardo for having violated his brother's privacy and told him that there are some things that he is not meant to hear or see. If he had not wished to find something that could upset him, then he should not go through his brother's phone.
He sighed. Perhaps the same rule should apply to him.
He placed the phone on the bedside table and returned to watching his son. He placed a hand on his arm and shook him lightly.
“Raphael,” he whispered, “wake up, my son.”
Raph only stirred and rolled over onto his side.
Splinter grinned at the action nostalgically. He considered for a moment allowing the boy to sleep even longer, but overrode it. He should be at least given the option to better entertain himself.
He shook him more firmly.
“Raphael,” he repeated, “Raphael, wake up. I would like to speak with you.”
Raph groaned as his eyelids cracked open, revealing his glassy emerald hues.
“What is it?” He asked, his voice hoarse. He sat up and rubbed his heavy, sticky eyes.
“I just wanted to praise you for all of your cooperation throughout your punishment,” Splinter began.
Raph yawned. “That's...you're welcome...”
Splinter lay a hand on his shoulder. “I mean it. You have been so humble in accepting your punishment, my son. I have not heard you once complain nor try to get out of anything.”
Raph could not fight the modest grin when his father squeezed his shoulder tighter.
“I am so proud of you,” he said. “That is why I wish to lift one of your punishments.”
Raph's gaze rose again curiously. “Which one?”
“You are now allowed to to spend time with your friends.”
Raph beamed. “Really?”
“Yes, in the meantime,” he emphasized. “However, I still expect you to complete your chores and not watch any television or play games, understood?”
Raph's smile faltered slightly and he shrugged. “Yeah I guess that's still fair.”
Splinter reached to the bedside table, picked up Raph's cell and placed it in his hand.
“Now I think you have a friend that would like to spend some time with you,” he smirked.
Splinter hadn't expected Raphael to throw his arms around his neck and squeeze him, but he gladly returned the gesture.
My name is Hamato Hiroyuki Michelangelo and I'm 15 years old, but everyone calls me Mikey. I am your youngest grandson. I'm thrilled to have found you and would really love to get to know you. Yoshi, or pop, is doing well here in America, but I know he misses you. He has told us countless stories of our soba; how beautiful and warm you are. I hope to hear back from you, and I love you.
P.S. Can I call you baa-baa?
It had to be some cruel joke. Some sort of internet scam. What was that called again? Using social media to create a fake identity and scam unsuspecting people out of their money?
Catfishes. They were called catfishes. Internet scammers that aimed straight for their unsuspecting victims' hearts, whether their weakness be, most commonly, loneliness, an obsessive need for attention, or in her case, a lost child.
Her dear Yoshi, along with his young wife and baby daughter, had died when he was twenty-six in a fire that was reportedly started by a fallen candle. She never in all her years could have guessed that a tiny little flame could grow into a giant blaze that would leave a lifelong wound on her heart. A wound that still throbs fifteen years later.
But if this was a joke, a catfish scam, who in the world would have wanted to toy with her this way? A well-liked woman in her community, she had no enemies. Surely, there were few people that she did not particularly care for, but none of them knew her intimately enough to know of her late son. That was just what she had thought anyway.
The incidents in which a loved one turns sour and tries to harm you she was no stranger to. Oroku Saki, the former best friend of her son, had turned on him out of jealousy over his wife. She had loved and often cared for the boy almost as a second son since the boy's father was absent and his mother worked long hours. Then one day it all changed when her boy fell in love with Tang Shen – Saki had loved her too and a bitter rivalry festered.
After Yoshi's death, she tried to reach out to him, to draw comfort from someone who had also known and loved him well in his lifetime, but to her already great grief, he had rejected her. He had returned none of her calls nor her letters and it was not long before she gave up trying to contact him. She assumed he still, even in death, despised her son and wished to wipe him clean from his life, which included shunning her.
If Saki could have bitterly turned against Yoshi, then any one of her friends could as well. It could also not be a friend at all. What if she had a stalker? Whoever this person was, the chances of it being her so-called “long-lost grandson” was slim to zero, and whatever they were up to was intolerable.
She thought to not even dignify it with a reply, but her rage over someone using her lost child as leverage to take advantage of her was too great. This person needed to know that she was no fool.
I do not know who you are or what you want, but it is not going to work. How dare you use my lost son as a pawn to get whatever it is that you want from me! Losing my son is the worst thing that has ever happened to me and for you to toy with me and try to tell me that you are some nonexistent grandchild and that my dear boy is still living after fifteen years is just despicable. Please do not contact me again and if you do, I will track your IP address and report you for harassment.
Casey Jones leaped over the turnstiles, practically jumping over the stairs with his hockey stick in hand.
“Alright guys, where's the jailbird?”
Three green heads turned to him with incredulous glances.
“He's...grounded, Casey,” Leo responded. “He's actually not allowed to hang out with anyone.”
“No, no, he texted me and said that Splinter gave him permission.”
Leo stood up and crossed his arms.
“He got off already?”
Casey shrugged. “I guess.”
“He did not,” Splinter cut in when he entered the room. “He is still punished, but he has earned back his privilege to spend time with friends.”
“But Sensei,” Leo argued, “don't you think it's too soon? I mean, he did break Mikey's arm...”
Splinter raised a silencing hand. “I will be the parent, Leonardo.”
Leo sighed. “Hai, Sensei.”
“Raphael is in the kitchen, Casey. I believe he is finishing the dishes and when he is finished, you boys may 'hang out'.”
Casey gave Splinter a playful salute. “Thanks, Master Splinter. Yo, Raph! I'm here, bro!”
Once Splinter was out of earshot, Leo turned to Mikey watching the television and glared.
“Mikey, aren't you bothered by that?”
Mikey arched an eyeridge.
“Bothered by what, dude?”
Leo scoffed. “Are you kidding? Raph breaks your arm and he gets off in, what, three days?”
Mikey shrugged. “He didn't completely get off. He's just allowed to hang out with Casey now, and even if he did, it's whatever. He's sorry for what he did.”
Leo rolled his eyes. “I'm sure he's sorry, but we can't be so sure he's learned his lesson.”
Mikey chuckled. “I'm sure he's learned his lesson. Have you seen his butt?”
Leo cringed. Growing up, he had always thought it would be comical to see (or hear) his most rivaled brother get switched, but when he actually heard it the other day, it sent chills up his shell. The crack of the bamboo hitting bare, scaled flesh, the stifled grunts of agony growing louder with each swat until they became full blown cries – the sounds were retched enough to make his imagination expect the marks on his thighs to be much worse.
Then he thought of the sounds of Mikey's cries when Raph broke his arm. He couldn't remember the last time he'd heard his youngest brother cry that way, if ever. To make matters worse, Mikey had not done a single thing to deserve the injury. All sympathy for Raph washed away. He deserved the welts and bruises.
“Have you seen your arm?” Leo retorted.
“Yeah,” Mikey jumped to his feet and presented his cast, pointing directly at the red writing, “he wrote an apology with his signature. It's legitimized.”
“Mikey,” Donnie groaned, “an apology is not a legal document.”
Mikey threw his head back with exasperation.
“Ugh, it doesn't matter, dudes! I forgive him. I just want peace again!”
He stomped off down the hall toward his bedroom.
Donnie and Leo exchanged curious glances at one another until Mikey poked his head back into the room.
“Oh, and Don, could I borrow your laptop for a few?”
Don sighed. “Yeah, go ahead.”
Mikey gave him a thumbs up. “Thanks, bro.”
“Wait, wait, he's doing what?” Casey sat perched atop the counter.
Raph placed the wet plate in the drying rack.
“You heard me. He's trying to find Splinter's mom on the internet.”
Casey laughed. “Why?”
Raph shrugged. “I don't know. I guess he wants a grandmother.”
Casey's gaze dropped. “That's kind of sad. I mean, grandparents are cool. No one should miss out on that.”
Raph shrugged. Even with his best friend, he wasn't one to enjoy deep, intimate conversations.
“Nah, it's stupid. I mean, what are the odds that this is the right woman?”
“I don't know, man. It could happen. You guys have never even had a mother. Haven't you ever wondered what it would be like?”
Raph turned on the faucet to rinse another plate.
“Of course I have, but I'm fifteen now. It's not like it'll have much impact at this point.”
Casey shrugged. “I've had grandparents my entire life so I wouldn't know.” He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly, hoping to think of a new topic. “So, uh, speaking of Mike, are you guys on good terms now?”
Raph fought back a smirk. “Yeah, yeah, he forgave me. I, uh...apologized.”
“Did you hug?” Casey teased.
Raph turned and chucked a fork at him.
Casey dodged it and laughed out loud.
“So he just accepted it? Was it easy?”
Raph pulled the plug from the drain and dried his hands with the dish towel hanging from the oven.
“Actually yeah,” he sighed. “It's just getting everyone else's forgiveness that's difficult. Leo and Don will barely say two words to me.”
Casey hopped down from the counter and patted Raph firmly on his shell.
“No worries, dude. They'll come around soon enough.”
“If they ever stop being tight-asses,” Raph groaned.
From the moment he read 'Dear Creep' his eager enthusiasm diminished nearly to tears. He must have reread it five times to make sure he had even read it correctly.
She didn't believe him and he hated to admit it to himself, but Raphael and Splinter had been right. This woman on the other side of the globe was not likely to believe that her long lost son that she thought to be dead was living and raising adopted children in a foreign country.
Had she believed that firmly that her only son was deceased? Splinter disappeared from Japan almost sixteen years ago. By now she must have come to terms with the loss to the degree that the idea of her son still living sounded like a complete impossibility like that of a fairy tale. It was too good to be true.
Mikey was not going to give up though. He knew he was credible – he had nothing to hide, no intention to deceive, and all the means and information to confirm his proclaimed identity. If he was going to do it though, he was going to need guidance.
He picked up his T-Phone and speed-dialed April.
“April? Hey, I'm gonna need your help again.”