It was the spring of 1915 in London, and Leonard Barnett had known that it was only a matter of time before he’d be forced into this war one way or another, so he volunteered. Saying goodbye to his young sons was difficult but necessary. His eldest, a boy of thirteen, looked over to his father with concern. He already understood that many men never came back from fighting in wars.
Leonard saw the boy’s discomfort. “It’ll be alright, Henry. I’ll be back before you know it. Your Aunt Beatrice is going to take great care of you until then.”
The small hand of his youngest son, Jethro, squeezed his own. “Papa.”
“I’ll miss you,” the five year old hugged his father’s lanky legs.
Leonard ran his hands through the boy’s hair in reassurance. “I’ll miss you too, Jet. I’ll miss both my boys!” He put his other hand on Henry’s shoulder.
After the third knock, the door to Aunt Beatrice’s house opened abruptly. “Yes, who on Earth is it? I haven’t any time for-- oh, Lennie. The boys, of course.” the middle-aged woman’s smile looked more like a sneer.
“What I remember most about Aunt B was that she was foremost frail, and secondly, a witch of a woman. She would have us do all the housekeeping, and I remember her howling at Jet about how he hadn’t washed the dishes to her liking. When I tried to stand up for my little brother, she answered me with the sting of her palm on my cheek, threatening to put us out on the street. She liked to do that. She had never married because of her heart condition, and we hadn’t lived with her for a month before it claimed her. I still wonder if we had had something to do with it, putting her in a state so many times.
“I hadn’t told Jet yet, but only days before Aunt B died, she had told me, without a hint of sympathy in her eyes, that our father had been killed in action. There was no hiding the sad news from him now and our plight kept worsening. With no one to care for us, Jet and I were forced into a London orphanage, a very hostile and unloving environment to say the least. Jet was distant from me a while after he found out about our father, but then I think he realized we were really all each other had left.”