Daisy peeled potatoes and daydreamed about hats, or at least one in particular; a stylish black hat with a large feather plume that she saw in the window at Eaton’s Department Store on her day off. Daisy pictured herself wearing the hat as she strolled down King Street, dressed to the nines, with her head held high and her dainty nose in the air. Gentlemen would tip their Homburgs and say Good Morning, Miss Webb, while women draped in pearl would huff with jealousy.
Just as she was about to stick her tongue out at Mrs. Jenkins, a loud knock at the front door yanked Daisy back to the kitchen. Wiping her hands on her dirty white apron, Daisy hurried to the front of the stately house where she worked as a domestic servant. A cool morning breeze off Lake Ontario chilled Daisy as she opened the door. Should have grabbed my shawl, she thought.
A young boy, no more than 15 years old, stood on the front steps. In his dark wool uniform with brass buttons down the front, the boy could easily pass as a young soldier. Only the red bicycle at the foot of the stairs and the small pouch attached to his belt said otherwise. The telegram messenger, an omen of bad news, was an all-to-frequent visitor in the upscale Ontario neighborhood.
“Telegram for Miss Daisy Webb,” he said. His outstretched hand held a pale envelope, imprinted with a small red cross.
Uncertainty echoed in her voice. “I’m Daisy.” As she reached for the envelop she noticed a heaviness in the boy’s eyes. Although the Great War was less than a year old, Daisy suspected this boy had delivered many such messages.
The envelope felt heavy in Daisy’s hand. Instinctively she already knew what it said. After 10 long years, Daisy had received another unexpected message late last summer from her brother George. In it, he told of his long search for her. The home in Peterborough had given him her current address, he wrote. He had wanted her to know he would soon go to France to fight in the war. Would she write to him, he asked? Once settled, he promised to send her his address.
George’s letter never mentioned their last day together. Daisy had been 10 years old, George 12, when authorities had abducted them from their grandmother’s London home. Grandmother could not care for them anymore, they said. The authorities had placed her in a school where she learned domestic skills. At 16, they sent her to Canada as an indentured servant until she was of age. Until the letter arrived, Daisy thought George was dead. Daisy understood. They were Home Children. Some things were best tucked away and forgotten.
She never received George’s address and Daisy thought it just as well. Daisy lost her brother 10 years ago. The George who went to war was a stranger.
Daisy gently folded the unopened envelope and placed it in the pocket of the dirty apron and went back to peeling potatoes.