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Stains to A Broken Heart This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

The house was locked. Though rather a simple safety procedure, it wasn’t one that he followed often. The neighborhood wasn’t in the slightest bit dangerous so Todd found it acceptable to leave the door unlocked, and usually even open completely. Especially in the morning, he felt comfort in the chill of the autumn air. Somehow, it just seemed to connect with the smell of fresh coffee. But now, with his wife gone, nothing really was the same. And for some reason Asher couldn’t figure out, the door was never left open anymore. Which is why the Collin’s front door now served as a symbol. Before the recent loss, Todd was social, a charismatic sort of man whose only struggle was to connect with his son, who had, to say the least, changed since the day he doused 13 candles from the cake. Since then, Rebecca had always been the one to help Asher with his schoolwork, drive him wherever he needed to go, or even communicate with him in a way that wasn’t awkward. But now that his wife was gone, Todd’s heart diminished with grief and after spending late nights trying to come up with the answer regarding what to do with his son, he found no other option but to leave him be; Closing that door from anyone else who came across his path of isolation, including his own son.

Asher threw his backpack over his shoulder, reaching for the key beneath all of his papers. It wouldn’t have been much of a struggle if the routine weren’t so new to him.


The house was a wreck, as it had been for the past several weeks. Todd was standing in front of the sink in the kitchen. Dirty dishes piled the countertops, stretching from both ends of the sink and though he could have easily been hand washing the silverware, (Rebecca never had desire for a dishwasher) Todd was just staring through the window, mumbling something incomprehensible beneath his breath.

“Dad?” Asher questioned.


Todd turned to greet his son. His eyes were bloodshot and his hands shook, still firmly holding the granite. If it wasn’t enough evidence already, he could smell his dad from where he was positioned, a good 10 feet away and it was clear he had been drinking.

Asher just nodded and left the room. There really was nothing he could say.

Later that night the screams accelerated. It wasn’t anything unusual for Asher. His dad normally expressed his grief during the nighttime hours. Todd had to go to bed knowing he wasn’t waking up in the morning for a purpose. That was what Asher supposed was the reason for the timing of the moments. Routinely, the ear-splitting shriek that the cry held eventually died out and became a wail. But this time was unlike most. Along with the scream there was the sound of something crashing. Like his dad was throwing objects against the cold tile on the floor, or, possibly, the wall. Whatever it was, the noise was unbearably loud and though Asher attempted to block the rampage out with his headphones, he still couldn’t stand it.

Stuffing his sweatshirt into a small bag, Asher ran downstairs from his room to see the house completely destroyed. Some might have argued to say it was caused by a tornado. Asher would be the only one to know the real truth. Lamps, plants, vases, and paintings were all thrown around the carpet that was covered in a bed of glass. Cushions were strewn across the floor, as if some kind of protection from the shards of glass. Todd was sitting on the ground, clutching a picture of his wife.

It was the only one he hadn’t broken.

As his son came in, Todd looked up from an abnormally red, tear-stained face. He appeared scared. A gun might as well have been pressed against the side of his forehead. Asher blinked the sight away, he couldn’t bear to see it; what his father had become.

Neither of them spoke a word as Asher walked out the door.

As soon as it closed, he heard another scream from outside the house and when he turned back around to catch a glimpse before the window, Todd was out of sight.

He slept on the grass once a long time ago and it didn’t really bother him. Sure his back hurt a little but it beat sleeping in a bed if he had to listen to the sound of his father’s screams all night long. Honestly though, he was scared to go back home and as the school day progressed, with each ring of the bell, (Asher now hated the sound) he only began to get more nervous.

Faster than he had hoped, the day came to a close and Asher was now walking home. He rode the bus every afternoon (at least since his mom died) and with his house being on the very end of the street, still had to walk several blocks after being dropped off. His footsteps grew heavy as he pushed forward, rubbing the key between his hands. It was the first day he remembered to take the key out on the bus so he wouldn’t have to search for it on the porch. It was also the first day that fear directed him away from home.

With his hands shaking, hastily he unlocked the door. Though he would have rather just ran straight upstairs, Asher threw a glance around the room. His heartbeat no longer thundered inside his chest as he saw that his father was asleep on the couch. He didn’t recall a wine stain on his dad’s chest the night before, but for now, Asher didn’t want to disturb him. For once it was peaceful and quiet. The screams were no more.





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