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The Colonial

The student news site of Freehold High School

The Colonial

The student news site of Freehold High School

The Colonial

The Protector

Image designed and drawn by Maahum Alvi
Image designed and drawn by Maahum Alvi

Ford stared in the mirror. Even after months, the boy looking back at him was unrecognizable. The slash across his face was no longer the blood red it had once been, yet it startled him every time he saw it. Inevitably, that spark of fear would calm and transform into a fixation. He would stare in the mirror, trying to recognize himself. But what was there left to recognize?

 

He walked through the house, trying to get some work done. Yet he found himself distracted in each and every single thing that he did. Ford decided to get some fresh air. He put on his one black glove, pulled on his old leather jacket, slipped into his white shoes, grabbed the key off its hook, and left. As he started towards the park, Ford tried to ignore the stares he got from the neighbors. 

 

They should’ve known better than to stare. They knew what he had done. They knew what had happened. They should’ve known to leave him alone. 

 

As he walked through the park, the brightly colored playground caught his eye. He watched the children playing there and his hard gaze softened. Suddenly, he felt a light thump at his foot. He bent down to pick up the soccer ball. A young boy of about seven or eight ran up to him.

 

“Excuse me,” the boy said. “Could I have my ball back? I didn’t mean to kick it so far.”

 

Ford stared at him, hardening his gaze again. “Haven’t you heard, little guy? I’m the guy with the scar across his face. I did something bad. Didn’t your parents tell you not to talk to me?”

 

“No, not really,” the boy said. “Though that would explain why my friends didn’t want to ask you for the ball.”

 

“Exactly,” Ford said, trying to ignore the feeling in the pit of his stomach. “So, let’s make a deal. I’ll give you your ball back if you promise to stay away from scary guys from now on. You could get seriously hurt.”

 

“I promise,” the little boy said. Ford handed him the ball. “Of course, I don’t have to stay away from you.”

 

“I thought you just promised to stay away from guys like me,” Ford said, watching the boy carefully. Maybe this was some kind of prank on the outcast of town.

 

“I promised to stay away from scary guys,” the boy amended. “You’re not scary.”

 

With that, the boy ran back to his friends to continue their game. Ford felt a single tear roll down his cheek. He brushed it aside with his gloved hand and sucked in a breath. Decisively, he turned away from the playground and left the park.

 

Ford remembered that he didn’t have anything to eat for dinner that night. After becoming uncomfortable in restaurants, he decided to stick with getting ingredients from the grocery store. As he picked up a box of pasta to cook, he noticed a little girl talking to a tall man. She seemed scared. Too scared to call for help. The man reached out to grab the little girl, but Ford dropped the macaroni and put himself between the girl and the man. The man looked shocked. A woman ran into the aisle, presumably the girl’s mother. The tall man tried to reach around Ford to get the little girl, but the young man was too quick. 

 

In a flash, he had pushed the little girl away towards her mother and shifted his hand to catch the man’s arm. He twisted the arm back and grabbed the other arm before pushing the would-be kidnapper to the ground. The security guard ran over. After an explanation from Ford and testimony from the woman and her daughter, the guard escorted the tall man outside in handcuffs, where the police were waiting for him.

 

“Thank you so much,” the woman said. For a moment, Ford continued to walk away. Then he realized that there was no one else in the aisle. He turned around to the woman in surprise. He pointed at himself, eyebrows raised.

 

“Yes, I’m talking to you,” the mother said. “You saved my daughter. I owe you, young man. Thank you.”

 

Ford shrugged awkwardly. “Don’t mention it, ma’am.”

 

The little girl waved at him with a little smile. She couldn’t have been older than five or six. Her mother smiled at him as he walked away. He finished his grocery shopping and went to the checkout. 

 

In front of him in line stood the woman and her daughter. The little girl smiled at him. He returned a fraction of the smile before averting his gaze. He opened his wallet to find that he only had five dollars in his wallet. Ford’s heart sank. He probably wouldn’t even be able to afford the pasta until the end of the week.

 

After what seemed like forever, the woman and her daughter left and he moved up in line. He cleared his throat and took out his money.

 

“Excuse me, sir, I-” Ford began.

 

“I saw what you did back there, kid,” the cashier interrupted. “Incredible.”

The cashier scanned all of Ford’s items. When Ford tried to hand him the five dollars and explain, the cashier put his hand out in the universal sign for ‘stop’. “On the house, Stinton.”

 

Ford left the grocery store with his dinner items and went home, confused. Just because he did what he always did, he was having dinner for free. He wondered why they had been kind to him. The woman was one of his neighbors and the cashier saw him regularly. They knew who he was and what he had done. He was grateful for the kindness that the people had shown him in the store. However, he could not bear to face the world the way he once had. How could he after what had happened?

 

He took out his dinner ingredients and turned on the flame. He boiled pasta and made a simple sauce from what he had mindlessly bought. His subconscious had done the work of selecting ingredients. The aroma of the spices reached his nose and made him feel better than he had felt in a while. The kitchen felt almost like the way it had felt before. But the most important part was missing. Another stray tear threatened to fall. He brushed it away and served himself dinner. When the first bite entered his mouth, he realized what he had cooked. He realized what his subconscious had bought from the grocery store. He forced himself to swallow the one bite in his mouth and pushed the plate away slightly. He suddenly lost his appetite and began to feel queasy. Just as he was about to stand up and offer the pot of food to someone else in the neighborhood, his doorbell rang. 

 

For a moment, he froze completely. No one had rung his doorbell in months. He snapped out of his stupor and put the plate back down. He rushed to open the door, but when he saw who was behind it, he considered closing it again.

 

“Ford,” the man at the door said, seeming at a loss for words.

 

“Matt,” Ford croaked, his throat suddenly dry as the Sahara Desert. He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry. About your son. About Edmund. I tried to- to-” But words failed him. Tears streamed down his eyes. His breath came out in shudders.

 

“It’s your fault he died,” Matt said calmly. Even though Ford had tried to prepare for this moment, and had been prepared to take Matt’s harsh words quietly, his stepfather’s quiet demeanor struck him harder than any physical punch. “He lived with you, Ford. He went on that escapade with you. You were supposed to take care of him.”

 

“You were his father,” Ford dared to say. “You were supposed to take care of him too. But you didn’t. After my mother died, you sent him to live with me. You didn’t do any of the things a father is supposed to do! For either of us.”

 

Matt stared at him for a second. “You are not my son. You never have been and you never will be. I am not your father.”

 

“And I don’t ask you to be,” Ford said in between sobs that rattled his entire body. “I never asked you to be. You know that. What would you have done for me when you couldn’t even take care of your real son? When you couldn’t take care of my little brother?”

 

Ford let his grief out. The grief that he had kept bottled up since his younger brother’s funeral. He cried even though someone was watching. He stopped ignoring the pain. After he calmed down a bit, he saw that even Matt’s eyes shimmered with a few held-back tears.

 

“You left him with me. You told me to take care of him, and that’s exactly what I did. It hurts me more than anyone, what happened to Ed. You never cared about your son when he was alive. He never knew you. And yet, after he dies, you come back and blame me? You never bothered to stay in touch with him. Maybe Ed’s lucky that he never had to meet such a selfish father. You never took the time to raise your own son, and yet you come back here and you cry over his death? And you’re not crying because you never knew him or you feel sorry for what you did. You’re crying for show. You’re crying to make it seem like you cared,” Ford said furiously. Matt’s tears began to roll down his cheeks.

 

“But you never cared about either of us. Your son was a hero. He sacrificed himself against the Dark Dragon to save everyone else, even though he was only seven! But instead of coming to honor his courage, to apologize for cutting yourself off from him until it was too late, you came here to play pin-the-blame on the brother. You came here to take the blame off of yourself. But no one needs you to confront me. Everyone knows. I know. It’s my fault Edmund’s dead. Happy?” Ford’s voice cracked on the word ‘dead’. “I told you what you wanted. Now stay out of my life, Matt!”

 

For a moment, everything was still aside from Ford shaking. Then, Matt said, “You’re right about one thing. I could never have been a good father to Edmund. He was lucky that he had you instead. I’m not sorry that I stayed away from him. But I’m sorry for your grief, Ford. Take care.” With that, Matt walked away. Ford stood in the doorway, watching the retreating figure of his stepfather until the last hint of its silhouette faded into nothing. 

 

Ford glanced down at his glove. With his bare hand, he touched the drying tears on his face and moved to touch one of his moist fingers to his gloved hand. Still staring at the glove, Ford entered his house and sat at the dinner table, mindlessly eating the cold food. As he looked at the glove, his expression of grief and anger softened into sadness before reaching a melancholy smile.

 

After dinner, as he gazed at himself in the mirror, he began to recognize himself again.

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About the Contributor
Maahum Alvi, Staff Writer
Maahum is a freshman at Freehold High School. This is her first year on The Colonial. She is passionate about writing, especially creative writing. Maahum loves reading, robotics, and spending time with her siblings. 

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