Percy J. Burnes had apparently known Audrey Hartman since June 1917, but they did not begin a serious relationship until around May 1918. In August 1918, they were married in a civil ceremony, even though they were devout Catholics. The marriage was kept secret from their parents, who viewed their relationship as without church sanction. Eventually, after Percy assured them of his intention to marry in a church service and after he assured Audrey's mother of his Catholicism, their parents accepted the relationship.
On August 17, two days after their marriage, Percy accepted a job in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as a clerk in a U.S. Army quartermaster office dealing with the arrival of supplies. He did this in order to avoid being drafted into the U.S. Army, which would have meant a longer separation from his wife. He applied for exemption from the draft, on the basis of his work at the Halifax port of embarkation.
In the meantime, his plan was to have his wife, a nurse, join him in Halifax in October 1918, and for her to find work at a hospital. However, she became ill with the flu (the 1918 "Spanish pandemic flu"). With the help of her sister, also a nurse, she survived the sickness and began to recover. Toward the end of October, though still not fully recovered, she resumed making plans for her move to Halifax in November. However, with the threat of being drafted by the U.S. Army, Percy changed his plans. He intended to return to New York, where they would (re)marry. In November 1918, he was granted a deferral and planned to resign his job.