The moonlight reflected dully off of Atara's green pelt, giving it a lustrous shine that it normally didn't have. Perhaps it was the light hitting her scales just the right way... or maybe it was the tears streaking from her eyes. The Yoshi drew in her breath softly, letting it out again in a shaky exhale. Above her, the stars shone through the forest canopy from her windowsill like pinpricks of light in a horribly dark world.
It had been nearly a year since her
daughter had gone a-missing. She and Raymond, her husband, had employed
the help of everyone they could to find Karma after the Mario Brothers
had upended the land with
turmoil. Yoshi scouts had been sent out on night-long excursions over Cookie Mountain to find her; Raymond had even pulled a few favors with his remaining allies in the Koopa Troop to keep an eye out for the hybrid while they were patrolling. Everyone had turned up with empty hands, and eventually the search was abandoned.
Every once in awhile, like tonight, Atara awoke with visions of Karma's dead body hidden beneath a tree somewhere, one of her milky eyes pushed out of the socket so other creatures could make her head their home... and when this happened, she did just what she was doing now. Huddled at the windowsill and cried. As a crystalline drop ran down her sizable muzzle as all Yoshis had, she sniffled... a lot more loudly than she had meant to. From behind her there was a groan and a rustling of sheets.
"Mnnn... Atara?" a sleepy voice inquired. "Love, are you still awake?"
"I was just looking at the stars," she replied to her husband in the darkness. "They're- very bright at this time of the night." Immediately she knew her mistake. The sound of her tears still hung in her voice and Raymond would know immediately that she hadn't been looking at the stars. There was more rustling as he got out of bed and then the soft padding of his feet and the tikking of his claws on the floor as he approached her.
"What's the matter, love?" he asked, his voice brimming with concern as his hands found her shoulders in the darkness. Atara didn't reply, wondering what she'd tell him. Not a month ago, they had agreed to simply place Karma in the past and remember her fondly instead of lying awake mourning someone they didn't even know was dead. She was unable to help it and, with a shuddering sigh, burst into tears, laying her head on the plastron of her husband's shell. His arms immediately folded about her, holding her and comforting her as she cried. "Itís Karma again, isn't it?"
Unable to reply, Atara nodded sullenly, misery enfolding her heart like a burning bramble. The idea that Karma was dead somewhere or being held captive wouldn't leave her mind. Raymond sighed quietly, running a hand up and down his wife's trembling back in a comforting sweeping motion.
"Atara, love, she's gone... we can't change that," he told her, giving her forehead a gentle kiss. "You and I... we need to get on with our lives."
"I know..." she said in a weak voice. "But... but can I still love her?" Atara inquired. Her husband gave her a long gentle squeeze in return.
"Shhh, Bright Eyes, we'll always love her," he assured her. They held one another for a long moment in the moonlight, the stars outside raining their gentle light upon the two. Somewhere off in the forest, a bird screeched a discordant melody in the dead of the night.
"Karma, for crying out loud..." Ludwig scoffed as he stepped out onto the balcony where his would-be mate was gazing balefully up at the stars, clad in only a purple nightgown. "What are you trying to do, give the night guards a cheap thrill?" He closed his hand around her upper arm and gently pulled her back.
"Eh?" she asked distantly, looking over her shoulder at the wild-haired Koopaling and immediately clearing her throat. "Oh... I was just looking at the stars before bed." she replied matter-of-factly. "Problem?"
"None." He shrugged. "But itís nearly curfew and you know how King Dad feels about us lurking around after dark." He paused a minute. "And... well... especially you." The Yoshi/Koopa hybrid sighed and drew back from the windowsill. "What do you do out here at night, anyway?"
"I'm just thinking. That's all," She replied defensively as though daring him to tell her she couldn't.
"About?" he pried.
"I left a lot behind when I left my tribe," she explained. "My mother and father..." her voice trailed back into a dreamy monotone. "I wonder if they ever made it..." An uncomfortable silence held between them for a long moment. "Feh... you're right. Let's go in," she sighed dismissively as she gently shoved past Ludwig and back indoors. "Itís getting cold outside anyway."
"Yeah..." he smirked and followed her
in. "It is." As the two of them passed down the corridor toward their respective
bed chambers, Karma closed her eyes, allowing herself to conjure up the
image of her mother
and father in her mind. If there were any sort of higher power at all, he'd keep them alive. And someday they'd all be a family again. Someday.
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