“Get out of my face!” a tall boy with dark brown hair growled.
“Don’t start something you aren’t willing to finish, pretty boy!” replied back a boy with black hair and the start of a scruffy beard.
A moment later, two other boys, just as tall and just as angry approached, looking to enter into the fray. “Oh, so the bad boy wants to fight, eh?” the third one commented with relish.
The first, and scruffier, boy snarled at the two newcomers. “This isn’t your fight,” he snapped. “Stay out of it.”
One of the newcomers, the one with the Russian accent, growled, “You should have thought of that before last night.”
Scruffy boy took a swing and that was the end of any restraint. Four boys entered into the brawl, later joined by a fifth. All were angry, but desperately eager to ease their internal pain with physical exertion.
There was no pattern, no plan, and definitely no finesse to the battle. From an outsider’s perspective, there were just arms and legs swinging, bodies falling, heads popping back up and wicked grins when a good punch was leveled.
This was the sight Headmaster Charles Evans stepped into, shielding his young, vulnerable niece as best as possible while still trying to stop the fight. “Stop it! Stop it right now! All of you stop it!” He clapped his hands, stomped his foot and, when the boys’ only response was more grunts and groans of pain, he sighed with frustration and defeat. “I will put every one of you on quarters if you don’t stop this instant!”
Five year old Scarlett had no idea what that threat meant, but she noticed that there wasn’t even the slightest reduction to the intensity of the fight. Bodies continued to bang into walls and doors, chairs fell over and benches were knocked out of the way. To her five year old mind, these boys were disobeying her uncle and she stepped forward, not wanting anyone to get hurt, least of all her uncle’s feelings because these bad boys were ignoring him. He was a good man. He’d come to get her the moment she’d started to feel scared, so it was her turn to help him.
“Stop!” she called out.
Charles gasped when the tiny blond girl yelled, her quivering chin tucked up almost to her chest and her periwinkle eyes glaring sternly at the ruckus. But miracle of miracles, the boys, all five of them, froze at her command.
One by one, five heads turned, peered out from arms or legs, twisted into a seemingly impossible tangle, to see where the tiny, female voice came from. It was distinctive mostly because girls were forbidden on school property. That had been drilled into their heads from the moment they’d stepped foot on the campus.
“Get up!” the tiny female said, a bit more softly, but still with the Voice of Authority.
Scarlett’s Uncle Charles, known to everyone on the campus as Headmaster Evans, was astonished when five boys stood up and dusted themselves off. He recognized each one and was furious that they’d once again been caught fighting. He suspected that none could actually articulate what the fight had been about. It seemed that this particular group of boys, angry and hurt at their parents’ rejections, were lashing out at each other as often as possible. He understood their feelings. They didn’t want to feel the pain of loneliness, so they fought, thinking that even the pain of a bloody nose or a bruised rib would be easier to endure than the seemingly endless pain of wanting to be part of a family.
All the other students went home for the holidays, were visited regularly at the school by their parents and received calls, letters, or care packages.
Not these five boys. It was almost as if their parents had forgotten that they had given birth fifteen years ago.
And what was worse, this group of young men were brilliant. Absolutely brilliant! Each one of them had an intelligence that Charles couldn’t even comprehend, which was one of the main reasons he hadn’t expelled them already despite their repeated violations of the school code of conduct. He sincerely wanted them to succeed, but to be honest, he was running out of ideas on how to help them.
Until now. Until his little niece, also battling the pain of loss, had demanded and won their attention. Her parents had only been buried this past weekend; a tragic car accident had left her orphaned and not really understanding her new world.
He’d received word from the hospital last Wednesday about the accident and hadn’t even had a chance to say goodbye to his lost brother. He’d raced to help, only to find that his brother and sister-in-law had already passed away, leaving their only daughter, little five-year old Scarlett, in his care. She hadn’t said a word since he’d picked her up from school that day. She’d just stared up at him, those enormous blue eyes not even crying. Just staring at him. He knew she was lost, scared, in pain, and desperately worried about what was going to happen next. All of those emotions were in her pretty, blue eyes as they looked to him for help. It had been the most heartbreaking weekend in his life.
Until this moment, he’d been at a loss. But she’d finally spoken to these boys: five fifteen year-old boys, four of them from wealthy families and the fifth a scholarship student who was lashing out at what he termed the “rich kids who looked down on him”.
It truly was a miracle.
Charles watched in relieved fascination as each boy dusted himself off, presenting himself to the tiny, blond general. One of them wiped his bloody nose on his white shirt, another stuffed a torn pocket underneath his arm, as if he were trying to hide it from Scarlett.
Scarlett, adorned in a yellow dress and white frilly sweater, stepped forward, not saying anything more. His little niece just stared up at each of the boys, her huge, blue eyes transfixing each and every one of them.
The first one wiped his hand on his pants, cleared his throat and stepped forward. “I’m Harrison Aimsworth, Duke of Selton,” he said, extending his hand to the blond child. His British manners demanded nothing less of him, and Charles breathed a sigh of relief. Scarlett took the boy’s hand and shook it, her tiny hand getting lost in the abnormally tall boy’s handshake. “And you are?”
“Scarlett,” she whispered. She reached up and Harrison instantly bent down on one knee. “You’re hurt,” she said, one tiny hand still enfolded in Harrison’s while the other reached out and touched his lip that was bleeding. “I’m sorry.”
Harrison smiled, cringing when his lip stung. “I’m okay.”