Henry had never seen such wonder in his brother’s eyes. The cake was plain vanilla with no decoration, but to Jet, it was the finest birthday present he could have asked for. The little boy ate a third of the cake himself that night. It was also the first time Henry had seen the canary smile. It was an exhausted, strangely aged-looking smile, but there was a certain calm about it that Henry appreciated in this difficult time in their lives.
“Why don’t you smile more often, miss?” He had not realized how potentially rude it sounded until it had escaped his mouth.
The woman finished serving the first slice to Jet and looked to his older brother. “I guess I just haven’t felt that I’ve had much to smile about lately. But tonight we have something to celebrate!” she chirped. “Yes, if it weren’t for you boys, I’m not sure what I would have to smile about.”
“I got you a present too, Jet. But we’ll wait until after the cake,” Henry smiled.
“Oh, I think it’s alright if you’d like to show it to him now,” said the canary.
“Yeah, I want to see it!” Jet interjected.
“Ah, that’s fine,” Henry’s voice shook a little and the woman knew he was hiding something. “We can wait, can’t we Jet?”
“Well I think you should give it to him now,” the canary said somewhat sternly, raising her brows. “Are you trying to hide something from me, Henry?”
Henry sighed and stomped over to his satchel, bringing out a revolver. “I brought it home from the factory.” He could see wonderment in one pair of eyes , but it was eclipsed by the somberness of the other.
“Do you mean to say you stole this weapon?”
“Well… alright, yes. Yes I did. But who’s going to miss it, anyway?” Henry tried to shift his attention to avoid the issue. “Look Jet, I even found real, working bullets for it!”
The canary stood, her chair screeching as she rose. “Firstly, this boy is six years old,” she motioned to Jet. “What do you suppose he will do with live ammunition? And I think you ought to know perfectly well just how fortunate you are to not have been caught. They would have fired you, or worse. What do you think your father would say to you if he were here now?”
Henry’s eyes fell down to the creaky floorboards below him. Jet’s eyes began to water.
“I… I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean that! You know I didn’t, I’m just so displeased that you would do something like this. Henry....”
He slammed the only door in the house as he pretended to leave, just to hurt her. The last thing he heard from inside were Jet’s sobs. He walked around the corner and out of sight, getting soaked by rain in the process. He peeked around the corner and saw her open the door and yell his name. Just a few minutes and she’ll know to never mention my father like that again, Henry thought.
“Yes, I made my fair share of mistakes when I was young. I upset her so much even after those few minutes that she was drenched in tears when I returned. She gave me a hug that night and promised to never say anything like that again. I think Jet was the most hurt by the situation, though. The munitionette took the gun and hid it from us. She was too worried that, if it were returned to the factory, one of us might get in trouble, and she didn’t think I deserved that. Maybe I did deserve to get locked up, but Jet certainly didn’t deserve the pain it might’ve caused him.
“Winter began in London and our little haven took a hellish turn. We were getting tight financially, mostly because of the expense of winter clothes and wood to keep the fire going. I remember the worst night of my life was covered in the black of night and the white of snow, and our broken little family was broken for good.” Henry thought he heard a sob, but continued as if he’d heard nothing.