London, England, 1914
The Church bells pealed brightly in the morning. The sun was shining down on the Church and all the members exiting; men and women dressed in their Sunday best. Women grasped at their hats as a rather gusty wind attempted to blow them away. Children raced out ahead of their parents, chasing each other in the Church courtyard. Jonavon Collins stood atop the steps, breathing in the morning air. He smiled to himself as the sun kissed his face. He had just made it off the steps when a voice stopped him.
He turned. His sister, Arabella, rushed out of the Church and into his arms. Her six-year-old face burst into a smile that could compete with the sun. She laughed and giggled as Jonavon scooped her up and swung her around. She spread her arms like she was a bird ready to take flight. Her chestnut hair reflected the golden sunlight making it appear as though she was an angel sent from Heaven above. Her eyes, the color of chocolate, were wide and eager. When Jonavon set her down, she stumbled and twirled until she fell upon the soft, grassy blanket.
“Arabella, do get up. You’ll ruin that pretty dress of yours.” Ms. Collins had exited the Church and stood at the steps, gazing down at her children. Arabella stood up, still laughing, as a blush crept across her cheeks. Whether from embarrassment or excitement, Jonavon couldn’t tell.
“Ready to go, love?” Ms. Collins asked.
“Yes, Mum,” Jonavon replied. “C’mon, Bella.” Arabella placed her hand in her brother’s and the three of them made their way to the car. Joseph, their driver, was waiting by the door, ready to open it at a moment’s notice. Jonavon first offered his hand to his mother as she stepped inside the vehicle, then to Bella as she delicately followed suit. Jonavon hoisted himself in and closed the door behind him.
It was quite a drive from the Church of All Saints to the Collins’ home just outside Kingston upon Thames. Arabella was constantly craning her neck to get a peek outside of Jonavon’s window. She loved to watch the city, and eventually, the countryside fly by.
The Collins’ home was a rather large estate that had served as the family home for generations. The house itself was enormous; a large second story balcony and many windows decorated the front. Even though the home was nearing a hundred years, hardly any physical sign could be found. The car rattled down the long driveway, kicking up dirt and pebbles in its wake. The lane was lined with elegant maple trees which cast frequent shadows over the car. Once out of the driveway, the car pulled onto a stone path and parked in front of the mansion. Behind the parked car, a small fountain bubbled gleefully. Joseph and Jonavon both exited and Joseph headed up the steps to wait at the large front doors. Jonavon opened the door so his sister and mother could leave the automobile. Arabella skipped happily up the steps and into the grand house. Jonavon hung back with his mother, his hand ever present on her elbow.
“You go on ahead, dear; I’ll be fine,” Ms. Collins said, giving her son a good natured pat.
“Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure. Why don’t you make sure Bella isn’t getting into the snacks I laid out?”
“Yes, Mum.” Jonavon glanced at Joseph indicating that when he was gone, Joseph should help Ms. Collins. Jonavon kissed his mother on the cheek before entering the house in search of Bella.