Chapter 1: An Introduction
A pregnant young woman stumbled to the bar door just after closing, tears staining her cheeks. Her clothes were ragged and dirty, her feet were bare, her blonde hair was so filthy it appeared brown. She kept looking around as though expecting an attack while she banged on the door.
"We're closed!" a man called out.
"J-james!" the woman gasped out. "Please!"
The door opened. Another woman stood there, her blonde hair pulled back. "Ema?"
It took Ema a moment to place the woman before her. "Jennifer. Please, let me in. I - before he finds me! Please!"
Jennifer took in the beaten woman's appearance and quickly escorted her inside, helping her to a seat. "Ema, what happened?" Jennifer was surprised at how broken, defeated the other woman looked. She remembered when the woman first came to Cape Cod. She'd been a proud and strong woman, unflinching in the face of the coldness and even hatred shown her by most the locals. Traits Jennifer already saw clearly in Ema's almost four year old son, Aslan. Even when Ema left, just a couple days after giving birth to Aslan, she'd seemed bored with her surroundings, not beaten by them. Jennifer didn't think much of Ema for abandoning her newborn son like that but she did think the woman unflappable. She also admitted that her husband of the last three years, James, was nearly as bad. He'd left Griffin, his eldest son, to raise Aslan in the old cabin while she and him lived alone in their own place. Griffin had once said he was surprised James didn't try to charge them for their meals when they ate in the bar.
James Callenreese came out of the back just then. "Ema." He didn't sound happy. "Why are you here?"
Ema broke down, crying harshly. It was some time before she gained enough control to answer. "I - I was traveling the world. After I left. And I met this … this man. He seemed so perfect. Like an angel." She hugged herself tightly, her gaze locked on the floor and her voice soft and broken. "Then he … I was trapped. I couldn't … There was no way out. And he …" Her hand brushed over her stomach. "I'm almost due. I can't … I don't have anywhere else to go."
Jennifer took her hand gently in her own. "You can stay here."
James looked displeased at this but only said, "Stay in the cabin with the boys."
Jennifer helped her up and led her out the door. "Do you have any bags?"
Ema shook her head no. "I have nothing."
"We still have your maternity clothes stored. I'll bring them over to you," Jennifer assured as they reached the cabin. Griffin stood in the open doorway, watching them.
"Hello Jennifer. Ema," the sixteen year old greeted. Though he wasn't happy to see the woman that abandoned his brother, he didn't show this. From the looks of things, Ema had been though enough already.
"Ema's going to stay with you and Aslan for a bit," Jennifer said.
Griffin frowned at that but said nothing as he let them inside. Aslan stood in his bedroom door, Griffin smiled when he saw the younger boy. "You're supposed to be in bed."
"I was, Griff," Aslan responded. "Who is that?"
Griffin didn't want to answer that, knowing the woman was unlikely to stay around long. "She's gonna stay with us awhile," he said instead.
Ema smiled down at Aslan. "Hello, little man. I'm your mommy."
Aslan looked up at her blankly for a long moment then just turned and walked back into his room, shutting the door in her face. Ema looked shocked.
Griffin said, "What did you expect? You abandoned him. The small room still has a bed in there, you can stay there until you're ready to take off again."
"Wh-what have you been telling him?" Ema questioned, looking at Griffin as though it was his fault.
"I've never said a bad word about you, Ema," Griffin said in an exasperated tone. "Aslan doesn't need someone else talking bad around him. He's a smart kid, he listens and he understands what's going on around him. Don't let his age fool you."
Time passed, Aslan slowly warmed to his mother's return. Ema spent most of her time with him, letting his innocents help her heal. She marveled at his intelligence. The first time she found him reading Griffin's school books, she'd only thought him playing. Then Griffin came into the room and questioned him on what he read. Aslan answered each question easily and asked his own. Ema didn't want to admit that she was lost in Griffin's responses when it was so obvious that Aslan understood easily. While she marveled at his skill, she wouldn't admit even to herself that the boy intimated her. Aslan's fourth birthday came and Ema gave her son the first birthday present he ever received from a parent. Aslan thanked her for the coloring book and crayons, then promptly sat them aside and started reading one of the books Griffin gave him.
Soon after, Ema went into labor. The child was born in the cabin, another boy.
"Aleric," she said when she first held the boy in her arms. "Aleric Ryu Roheline." She smiled at Aslan and asked, "Would you like to hold your baby brother?"
Aslan carefully took his newborn brother in his arms and fell in love.
It took Griffin some time to get the baby back from Aslan and get Aslan to bed that night. When the boys arose the next morning, Ema was gone and Aleric remained. Aslan was brokenhearted, Griffin was unsurprised.
Though Jennifer occasionally came over to help out, the raising of the two boys was left to Griffin. James would speak to Griffin sometimes, he would call Aslan by name if their paths crossed. Aleric, he ignored completely. But the boys were happy. Though Griffin and Aslan had different mothers, only sharing a father, and Aslan and Aleric shared only a mother, the three boys looked almost alike. All three were blond haired and green eyed, all had the lithe build that made them seem almost too pretty to be boys.
Then Griffin received his draft notice, he found himself in Vietnam before Aleric's second birthday.
Griffin wrote his brothers weekly without fail. Aslan and Aleric wrote back every night, mailing the letters once a week. Once, Aslan even took Griffin's camera out of the oldest boy's room and took a picture of him and Aleric.
Griffin became close with a man named Max Glenreed, he described him to his brothers as his only friend, the only one he trusted. Max found it hard to believe the letters Griffin wrote were for such young boys, but even more unbelievable was that the letters Griffin received were written by ones so young.
Then the letters stopped. Griffin's belongings were returned, they were told Griffin died but no body was returned. Aslan refused to believe him dead. Griffin never came home and before long, circumstances forced Aslan to take Aleric and run.
Despite everything against them, the eight year old and four year old boy survived on their own in the streets of New York City. Time passed, they learned where to avoid and where they were safest.
Then some older boys and men showed up at one of their 'safe' places, taking all the young boys that were unlucky enough to be inside when they came.
Aslan and Aleric soon found themselves forced to work in a place called Club Cod, where they stayed until the owner noticed them and decided to claim them as his own.