“You. Jethro,” the woman pointed at Jet to follow her outside where he could meet a young couple, interested in adopting.
“Wait!” Henry cried. “You told us we would stay together. You promised,” his eyes were wild and insistent.
“Mind your tongue, boy. We decide what is best for you brats!”
“Well if they want him then they have to take me, too,” he murmured, looking down. Still a child, he was constantly reminded that he ought to be seen and not heard, a rule that rarely sat well with him.
He could see the prospective parents through the open door. They looked like they had money. The man was missing a leg. A war wound, Henry thought. He found himself wishing that his father had come back to him this way; anything seemed better than his being dead.
He could see Jet walking cautiously toward the couple, and though his brother’s back was turned, Henry knew his eyes must have been fixed on that man’s missing leg.
“Hello, young man!” the wife flashed a charming smile at the boy, but he was not paying attention.
“Where’s your leg? What happened to it?” Jet asked, finally looking up to the man’s face in perplexity.
The man laughed nervously. “Well, son, I lost my leg fighting the war. But I’ve got a neat wooden one at home that I can show you!”
Henry couldn’t hold his silence. He stepped out into the garden to say his piece. “Hi there, sir, m’am.” He nodded at each respectively. “I’m Jet’s big brother. I thought I would just let you know that the orphanage has promised me--”
“Shut your mouth, young man!” the woman from the orphanage ordered.
“No, no. Let the boy speak,” the wife insisted.
“Jet’s not leaving without me. We’ve lost a lot over the last month and we’re not going to lose each other.”
“Well… young man. You have to understand our situation, we’re not looking for someone who’s just about grown. We would take such good care of your brother.”
Jet had teared up when he fully realized the situation. “I don’t want to leave my brother! I’m not leaving Henry! You can’t take me!”
“Now Jet,” the man carefully leaned down and took a knee while supporting himself with his crutch, his eyes now across from Jet’s. “Your brother here would probably be better suited for people who need a little help on their farms, perhaps. Those are the kind of people who would love to take in your brother.”
“Then I want to go to a farm,” Jet said through tears.
The man rose, now frustrated, frowning at the orphanage worker.
“The couple decided not to adopt Jet, but I realized then that the chances of my brother and I staying together were slim in a place like that. Fear had taken us from our father and fear would keep us moving. Jet and I decided to leave the orphanage, to stay together at any cost. We snuck out at night, penniless, having no idea where to go. We were such fools… or, I suppose, I was a fool. None of what happened was Jet’s fault.
“We just tried to distance ourselves as much as possible from the orphanage. As fate would have it, we ended up settling that night just outside of a munitions factory on the edge of the city. We just slept out in the street that night, we so were exhausted. I don’t know how long we’d been asleep before we met the canary.”