Jo is on the move again. This time from Guernsey to England.
Ste Therese's House Characters:
Daisy Venables, Jack Maynard, Jem Russell, Jo (Bettany) Maynard, Madge (Bettany) Russell, Robin Humphries
Armishire, GuernseySchool Name:
Alternate Universe, Domestic, Family, War
Jo's Biggest Challenge
06 Jun 2011 Updated:
06 Aug 2011
1. Chapter 1 by Vick
2. Chapter 2 by Vick
3. Chapter 3 by Vick
4. Chapter 4 by Vick
5. Chapter 5 by Vick
6. Chapter 6 by Vick
7. Chapter 7 by Vick
8. Chapter 8 by Vick
9. Chapter 9 by Vick
10. Chapter 10 by Vick
11. Chapter 11 by Vick
12. Chapter 12 by Vick
13. Chapter 13 by Vick
14. Chapter 14 by Vick
15. Chapter 15 by Vick
16. Chapter 16 by Vick
One Monday afternoon in late February, Jo Maynard was sitting in the lounge, reading, when she heard the front door open. Expecting it to be Robin and Daisy arriving home from school, she continued with her book. She was, therefore, somewhat surprised, when a shadow fell across her. She glanced up to see her husband standing in front of her, smiling.
“Jack!” Jo dropped her book and jumped up to hug him. “What are you doing here? When did you get back? How long are you home for?”
Jack returned the hug, kissing her.
“Give me chance, Jo,” he protested. “I have ten days leave, though it’s taken me a full day to get here.”
“That’s wonderful.” Jo stood on tiptoes to kiss him once more, before letting go. “Go and change and I’ll put the kettle on.” Jack acquiesced and departed upstairs to change out of his uniform. Jo went through to the kitchen and turned the ring on under the kettle, before dropping some leaves into the teapot and getting the cups out. Jack came in and sat down at the table with a sigh. Jo brought the pot over and sat down opposite him.
“Are you all right, Jack?” Jo looked at him, concern in her eyes.
“I’m just tired, Jo. I’ve been travelling for the past twenty-four hours and had very little sleep.”
“Are you sure it’s just tiredness?”
“I’m sure.” Jack took her hand in his across the table. “I’d tell you if there was anything else. I don’t want us to have secrets from each other. Now, how about you pour that tea? I’m thirsty.” Jo did as she was asked, though she still looked unconvinced. Just as they finished, the front door opened again, this time to admit Robin and Daisy. They chattered away as they shed their coats and hats, before entering the kitchen.
They both shrieked at the same time as they saw him sitting at the table. Jack smiled at them, pleased to see their excitement. However tired he was, the happiness he had created by being back was worth the effort. Here, he knew he had a loving wife and an adopted family, who would always welcome him with open arms. Jo poured more tea and the girls told them about what they had been up to at school that day.
“Daisy and I will cook tonight,” Robin announced as Jo poured the last dregs from the pot.
“Yes. You two can be waited on tonight,” Daisy added, enthusiastically.
“Will it be safe to eat?” Jack asked.
“Of course.” Robin looked a little offended at this comment.
“I’m sure it will be lovely, Jack.” Jo hastened to reassure them. “They generally cook a couple of times each week and it’s very tasty. Don’t you two have some prep to do first, though?”
“Yes. We’d better get that out of the way. Grab the bags, Daisy, while I clear the table.” Robin picked the teapot up and took it over to the sink, whilst Daisy went to fetch their school bags.
“We’ll wash up. You two go and change first, or your clothes will be in a state tomorrow, and I have no wish to feel Matey’s wrath when you turn up in crumpled uniforms,” Jo told them. She stood up and flung a tea towel at Jack, who deftly caught it, then came over to the sink and waited patiently for Jo to start. Once they had finished, they left the girls to do their preparation at the kitchen table. Jack sat down on the sofa in the lounge, wrapping an arm around Jo as she curled up next to him. They sat in silence for a short while.
“What would you say about maybe moving over to England?”
“A number of reasons. It would be easier for me to get home on leave, to start with. It takes me a whole day to travel here, and that’s if I’m in time to catch the boat. I have ten days leave, now, but I only get to spend eight of them with you at the moment. If you were in England, it would be a lot easier for me to get home.”
Jo remained silent, thinking this over. Jack looked at her, noticing she didn’t look as well as she should. She had been out of the Sanatorium for the past seven months, but he had been called up almost immediately after war broke out, barely two months after her discharge and only a few weeks after their marriage.
“They’re probably going to try and invade France, soon. If they do that, we are only a few miles away from there. Since we had to flee Austria, it would be far safer for you to be in England.”
“Do you really think they will?” Jo looked worried at this. Jack held her tighter as he realised the implications of what he had just told her.
“I hope they won’t, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.”
“I wish you hadn’t told me that, Jack. I’m already worrying enough about you, without worrying about myself as well.”
“That’s why I think you should be in England. I’m willing to bet that your sister will be going soon, and the school too.” Jo didn’t answer immediately.
“But where would I go? I haven’t lived in England since I was twelve and I don’t feel as if I want to go back to Taverton.”
“I’ll have a word with Jem. He’ll have to move the Sanatorium somewhere. Since that’s where my official job is, we should move to within a reasonable distance of that. You’ll also be near your sister, then.” Jo just nodded. She felt a little overwhelmed by it all and needed time to try and make sense of it.
“Dinner’s ready,” Daisy announced, appearing in the doorway. Jo stood up, relieved at the intrusion.
They enjoyed the meal Robin and Daisy had prepared for them and, once they had washed up, they all sat chatting in the lounge for a while. Jo suddenly noticed the time and told Robin and Daisy that it was time for bed. Daisy tried to argue, but Jo was adamant, stating that they had school the next morning. Robin pulled Daisy up and they went upstairs to bed, after wishing Jack and Jo goodnight.
“How long do you have up, now, Jo?”
“Twelve hours. Jem finally allowed it last month.”
“It’s taken you a long time to reach that. What happened?”
“You went to war. I couldn’t stop worrying when you went back just before Christmas. Especially since you’d been home on sick leave. Jem threatened to re-admit me when he found out I wasn’t eating properly.” Jack pulled her into his arms at this confession. He knew she worried and that her vivid imagination sometimes carried her too far, but he hadn’t realised things had got so bad.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“What could you have done? You were in France. That was the problem.”
“That doesn’t mean I don’t care what happens to you, Jo.”
“I know. But I didn’t tell Jem, either. He has his own methods of finding things out.” Jack smiled to himself at this comment. He had a shrewd suspicion how Jem had found out, though he wasn’t going to tell Jo that. The clock chimed ten and Jo stood up to go to bed.
“Are you coming, too, Jack?”
“I’ll just make us a drink, first.” He went into the kitchen and Jo slowly mounted the stairs. She was soon ready and was sitting in bed, when Jack appeared with a drink in each hand. He passed one to Jo and placed his own on the bedside cabinet. Once she had finished her drink, Jo snuggled under the covers and Jack was quick to follow. They curled up together, Jack laying his arm protectively over Jo, before they were both sound asleep, only waking when Robin and Daisy disturbed them the next morning.
Jo climbed out of bed to go and check they had both eaten breakfast and had all they needed for school. She waved them off, before making a tray up and taking it back up to the bedroom. Jack sat up as she came back in and took the tray from her. She climbed back into bed and they ate in a companionable silence.
“Did you have any plans for today, Jo?
“Only to go into St Peter Port. We need to buy some food, especially since we don’t have enough in to feed you, as well.”
“Shall we do that this morning? Then we can have a lazy afternoon alone, until Robin and Daisy get back.”
“Good plan. They’re bound to have passed on the news that you’re home and I won’t get you to myself again for the rest of the week,” Jo said, lightly, but Jack heard the bitter note in her voice.
“Of course you will, Jo. I’ll make sure of that. I came home to spend my time with you, not with everyone else.”
“But I’ve had so little time with you. Even last time, when you were home on sick leave, you always seemed to be busy, and spent an awful lot of time with Jem.”
“I’m a doctor. My time is never my own. You should know that.”
“But you aren’t doing that at the moment. Or, at least, you aren’t doing it here.” Jack understood her meaning, even if it wasn’t clearly expressed.
“I have to keep up to date with medicine, though. If I don’t, I’ll have no idea what’s happening when I do go back to my proper job.” Jo was silent as she digested this information. “I promise I won’t spend all my time at the Sanatorium.”
“You can spend a couple of hours there on Thursday, since I have my next appointment, then.”
“Fair enough. Now, if we want to get to St Peter Port and back before lunch, we really should get ready.” Jo agreed and started to fling the covers back. “Hang on a minute, Jo. You’ll have tea everywhere if you’re not careful.” He picked the tray up and Jo moved with a little more caution.
They spent the morning as planned. Jo managed to get what they needed and they were soon heading back home. Jo made them a sandwich and departed upstairs to rest after they had eaten. Jack paced around downstairs for a while, before going upstairs to lay on the bed with her. Jo rolled over and snuggled up to him, falling asleep with her arm across his chest. Jack just lay there, quietly. He was glad to be home again, but he found it strange. He loved Jo. Of that, he had no doubts, but they had spent such a short time together as husband and wife. They had barely had chance to get to know each other in those few weeks before he had been called up. He wished the war hadn’t happened, but then realised that if Hitler hadn’t annexed Austria, their engagement may never have come about, or certainly not so quickly. His eyes closed and he slept.
When Jo woke an hour later, she saw Jack sleeping next to her. She watched him, glad he was back home, even if it was for such a short time. She missed his company when he wasn’t there and she worried about him being in France. She slipped off the bed without disturbing him and went downstairs to make a drink.
When Jack woke, it was late afternoon. He glanced at the clock and groaned. He slowly got up from the bed and made his way downstairs. He looked in the lounge and saw it was empty. He found Jo at the kitchen table, preparing vegetables. She looked up at him with a smile as he entered. He came and sat opposite her, helping himself to a handful of carrots that she had just chopped.
“They’re for dinner!” she exclaimed. He just grinned and ate the few he had managed to grab. “If you want to be useful, go and put the kettle on.” Jack did as he was told, making a pot of tea for them. Once Jo had finished, she wiped the table clean and they went to sit in the lounge together.
“What do you want to do, tomorrow, Jo?”
“I’d quite like to go for a walk if it’s fine. I haven’t been out in a while and could do with some fresh air.”
“Fair enough. As long you don’t try to overdo it, while we’re out.”
“That’s not very likely, if I’m with you, is it? And I have my appointment the next day, so I don’t want Jem’s wrath, as well.” Jack just smiled at this retort. He suspected that she hadn’t been out walking since he had received his call up papers. He didn’t want her to stay cooped up indoors all the time, but knew she would be wary of doing too much.
The next morning, they set off not long after Robin and Daisy had departed for school. Jack matched his normally fast pace to Jo’s much slower one. They wandered along towards the cliffs, enjoying the chance to be out in the fresh air. It was a fine morning, but cold and breezy. Jack saw that Jo looked a little less pale, the wind having stung some colour into her cheeks. When they reached the cliffs, he suggested they sit down for a brief rest. Jo agreed easily. She was tiring, but didn’t want to admit it and have to go back home so soon. They sat on some rocks, Jack wrapping his arm around her shoulders. Jo leaned into him as she concentrated on catching her breath. When he was sure that she was breathing normally again, he stood back up. Hauling Jo to her feet, they continued along the cliff path for a little way.
“I think we should turn back, now. I don’t like the look of those clouds out to sea,” Jack said.
“It does look rather ominous. I hope we can make it to shelter before it rains.” They turned and started to retrace their steps, Jo linking her arm into Jack’s. He smiled down at her, glad to be able to have some time alone with her. They made it back to the cottage just as the first drops started to fall.
“I’ll put the kettle on.” Jack disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Jo to go slowly into the lounge. She stoked the fire back up and then dropped onto the sofa, relieved to be back home. She felt tired, but was determined not to show it. Jack came in and sat down alongside her. They drank their tea, before Jack pulled her into him.
“That was the first time you’ve been out for a walk since I got called up, wasn’t it?” Jo just nodded. She had been scared by how quickly she had ended up back in bed through her own recklessness. She didn’t want to repeat that experience, especially now Jack was away. She knew Jem would have no hesitation in taking her back to the Sanatorium. Jack understood her reluctance, but knew he had to encourage her to start going out again.
“Let’s build slowly on today. I know you won’t be up to much for the next couple of days, but we could go out for a short walk on Saturday and see how you go. If you go out every day, you’ll build your stamina back up.”
“But what if I do too much again? I don’t want to end up back in bed. I’ve seen enough of that to last a lifetime.”
“I’ll be with you for the next few days. I promise not to let you get carried away, but you have to be honest and tell me when you’ve had enough.”
“Once I’ve gone, I’m sure someone will come with you, if you don’t want to go on your own.” Jo nodded her agreement and Jack smiled at her. “You’ll get there, Jo. I know you will.” He dropped a kiss onto her head and she leaned back into him.
The next morning, Jack drove Jo to the Sanatorium for her appointment. They parted at the entrance, Jack promising he would be waiting when she returned. He disappeared into his office, to find a pile of papers sitting on his desk. Once Jem had found out Jack was home on leave, he had left them there, knowing he would bring Jo to her appointment. Jack sat down and started to trawl through them, working out what he could take home and what he needed to look through there. He had been there an hour, when a knock came at his door and Jem appeared round it. The two men greeted each other, Jem glad to see his friend and colleague.
“How long are you home for?”
“I have to set off back on Monday. I have ten days leave, but it took me a full day to get here. I suggested to Jo that it may be a good idea to move to the mainland. The way things are going, she would be safer there.”
“I agree. I’m already looking for new premises over there for the Sanatorium. I don’t want to lose any more money, if possible. We lost enough over the Sonnalpe.”
“I thought you might be. Jo was saying she has no idea where she would go if she did move back. She hasn’t lived in England since she was twelve and doesn’t really want to go back to Taverton. I don’t think she would be willing to go to Pretty Maids, either, though my parents would love to have her.”
“As soon as I know where we’ll be going, I’ll let you know. It would be easier for me to keep an eye on her if she’s nearby.”
“Thank you. She would be happier if she could be near her family.”
“Has she told you about what happened just before Christmas?”
“Yes. I don’t think we’ll be able to prevent her from worrying, however much we try.”
“I know. You didn’t see her, though. She lost weight quite rapidly. If I hadn’t intervened, you’d have come back to find her in here again.”
“So I gathered. She also admitted that she hasn’t been out for a proper walk since I’ve been gone. I went for one with her yesterday, but she needs some encouragement to go out. I’ve said that I’ll go with her while I’m home, but do you think you or Madge or anyone else could try and go with her too?”
“Of course we will. She needs to start building her stamina back up, now. She’s taking far longer to recover this time, but I suppose the circumstances are completely different from last time.”
Jack glanced at his watch. He gathered some of the papers together and dropped them into his bag. Jem watched him.
“Are you going already?”
“I promised Jo I would be waiting for her. I can deal with this lot at home, while she rests this afternoon. I need to spend my time with her. I don’t know if or when I’ll next get chance.”
“I understand. Why don’t you both come over for dinner on Saturday?”
“That would be lovely. I’ll ask Jo and we’ll confirm it tomorrow.”
They both stood and shook hands, before parting. Jem went back to his own office and Jack to reception. Since he had spent the last hour talking to Jem, he knew that Jo wasn’t going to be awarded any more time up.
Five minutes later, Jo was pushed into reception. She smiled wanly at Jack when she saw him waiting for her. He drove them home and helped her up to their bedroom, where she was soon tucked up in bed. Jack checked on her regularly during the afternoon, spending the rest of the time going through the papers he had brought home.
Robin and Daisy found him sitting at the kitchen table, surrounded by paperwork, when they returned from school.
“Hello. Did you have a good day?” he asked as they entered the kitchen.
“Yes, thank you. I seem to have a huge pile of prep, though,” Daisy replied, before adding, “Where’s Auntie Jo?”
“She’s upstairs in bed. She was at the Sanatorium this morning.”
“Oh. I’d forgotten about that.”
“You would, Daisy. Do you not remember her telling us it was our turn to cook, tonight?” Robin joined in the conversation.
“No. I’ve had such a busy day, it had gone clean from my mind,” Daisy retorted.
“Never mind,” Jack told her. “I would appreciate it if you could cook tonight, though. Give me ten minutes to finish up and then you can get your prep done before you start on dinner. Be quiet while you change, please. I don’t want Jo to be disturbed.”
“We will. Come on, Daisy.” Robin led the way upstairs, Daisy following. Jack smiled after them, before turning back to his own work. Five minutes later saw him shuffling his papers together and putting them into his bag. He turned the ring on under the kettle and made a pot of tea. Just as he was getting the cups out, Robin and Daisy re-appeared. Robin poured for him, and he departed upstairs to check on Jo. She was still sleeping, so he went back down to the lounge to listen to the radio until he was called to dinner.
“It’ll be five minutes, Uncle Jack,” Daisy announced, suddenly appearing in the room. Jack smiled at her and turned the radio off. He followed Daisy into the kitchen, where Robin was just starting to fill their plates.
“Do you mind eating alone tonight, girls?” he asked them.
“Not at all. We generally do when Jo has been for her appointment,” Robin replied. Daisy swiftly produced two trays from a cupboard and Robin placed the plates onto them. Jack took them upstairs. Jo had just woken and sat up in bed when she saw Jack enter. He placed one of the trays across her knee, before sitting next to her with his own. When they had finished, Jack took the trays back down to the kitchen. Robin was just filling the teapot. She offered to bring their drinks up, which Jack happily accepted. He went back up to sit with Jo. She was grateful for his company. She found the day always went slowly after her visit to the Sanatorium, even though she slept most of the time. She snuggled up to Jack, once Robin had brought their drinks.
“Jem is looking for somewhere to relocate the Sanatorium,” he told her. “He’s going to let me know once he finds somewhere.”
“Okay.” Jo was still feeling a little breathless.
“I’ll probably have to spend my next leave looking for somewhere for us to live. Do you mind?”
“That’s not what I asked, Jo”
“I know.” Jack sighed, understanding what she meant.
“I may only get three days, next time. That’s barely enough time to get here for a day.”
“Find us somewhere to live, then.” Jack looked down at her and saw tears in her eyes. He lay down next to her and pulled her gently into his arms.
“Oh, Jo. I wish we could just stay here, but I don’t want to risk it. If you’re in England, I’ll know you’re relatively safe. You could go to Pretty Maids until I find somewhere, if you want. I know Mother and Father would be happy to have you stay with them.”
“No. Prefer my own house. Have to think about girls, too.”
“They can board for now, or go back to Madge and Jem, temporarily.” Jo just shook her head and Jack let the matter drop. He could see she wasn’t up to discussing it further. He just lay quietly, stroking her hair until she fell back to sleep.
The next morning, Jo was up and about, though she didn’t try to do too much. Jack joined her in the lounge after he had helped Daisy fix the chain on her bicycle and waved her and Robin off.
“Jem has invited us to dinner tomorrow night, if you feel up to it?”
“That’ll be nice.”
“I’ll drop the girls round in the morning, then they can come back home with us.”
“Okay. It will save them cycling both ways.”
“I need to have a look at Daisy’s cycle. She had a problem with her chain this morning.”
“What about our walk?”
“We can do that when I’ve dropped them off. Then we can have a lazy afternoon together.” Jo smiled her agreement. She curled up on the sofa and laid her head on him. A few minutes later, she was asleep. Jack just smiled and picked his book up.
When Jo finally woke, she was apologetic. Jack told her to move so he could stretch out. Jo stood up and headed towards the kitchen. Jack followed a minute later.
“Let me do it. You should still be resting today.”
“I can make a pot of tea, Jack. How do you think I manage when you aren’t here?”
“I’m sure you manage perfectly well.”
“Then leave me to do it.”
Seeing she was determined, Jack just sat down at the table and waited. Jo made the tea, and then joined him at the table. She said nothing, just poured two cups and passed one across to Jack.
“Thank you.” They drank in silence. Jo was unwilling to break it and Jack was trying to work out how to.
“Jo? You don’t have to prove anything to me, you know.”
“Then why won’t you let me do things for you?”
“Because I have to prove it to myself. Every month, I go through this rigmarole and spend the next two days doing very little because I don’t have the breath. I just get back to normal, then I’m straight back to square one. It’s so frustrating. I spend so much time trying not to overdo things, yet I have to keep busy so I don’t start worrying about what’s happening to you. I feel as if I’m stuck in a vicious circle and I can’t get out of it.” Jo stopped at this point as tears overtook her. Jack quickly came round the table to sit next to her. He drew her into his arms, holding her close as she started to cry in earnest. She had been holding her feelings in for so long, that now she had started, she couldn’t stop. When the tears threatened to get out of control, Jack spoke.
“You have to stop crying, Jo.” She valiantly tried to stop, but it took Jack a good five minutes to calm her down. When she was finally quiet, he gently put her from him and poured another cup of tea for them both. “Drink this, please.” Jo obediently drank it, shakily, so thorough was her outburst.
“I wish you’d told me before, Jo. I had no idea how much all this is affecting you.”
“We’ve barely spent any time together. How could you know?”
“That doesn’t stop me from caring. I know our current circumstances aren’t perfect, by any means, but we still have each other. You’re just recovering from a very serious illness and need to take care for the next few years. You don’t have to prove to yourself or anyone else what you can or can’t do. I wish I was here to look after you. Unfortunately, I can’t stop the war or prevent you from worrying about me being there.”
“I know. I just don’t find it easy to cope alone.”
“There are many other women who are coping without their husbands. Don’t think you’re alone. There is always someone to listen to you.” Jo just nodded and Jack kissed her. He busied himself making a sandwich for them both. When they had finished Jo went upstairs to rest. Jack came to check on her a few minutes later.
“Stay with me, Jack,” she whispered.
“Of course I will.” He lay down on the bed next to her and she cuddled up to him. He could feel her trembling and just held her tighter. “It’s going to be all right, Jo. I promise.”
They lay holding each other on the bed until Jo finally slept. Jack watched her, wishing he didn’t have to go in three days’ time. He had seen how vulnerable she still was and he wanted to be there for her. She was trying to rebuild her life, but was thwarted by his absence. As much as Robin and Daisy provided company for her, they weren’t old enough to be able to provide the emotional support she needed from him.
Saturday and Sunday passed all too quickly to Jo. She was enjoying having Jack back at home and wasn’t looking forward to his departure. She stayed in bed on Monday morning whilst Jack had breakfast with Robin and Daisy. They were rather subdued, knowing that he wouldn’t be there when they returned from school that afternoon. When they were ready to go, he came out to the gate with them.
“Take care of yourselves, girls.” He hugged them both in turn.
“We’ll miss you, Uncle Jack,” Daisy said.
“Look after yourself and come back soon. We’ll look after Jo for you,” Robin replied as she hugged him.
“Thank you.” He stood back and they set off to school, waving to him as they went. He watched them go, and then went back inside to Jo. She was just coming downstairs as he shut the door. He waited for her to reach him, before leading her into the kitchen for breakfast.
They spent the morning at home. Jo was quiet most of the time. She was barely holding herself together. Jack just held her closely, hoping that she would be all right when he left. He had refused to let her come into St Peter Port with him, preferring to say his goodbyes in the privacy of their own home. When the mantle clock chimed twelve, Jo went into the kitchen to make them a sandwich. Once they had eaten, Jack disappeared upstairs to change into his uniform. When he was ready, he went to find Jo. She was in the lounge, staring into the fire.
“I have to go, now, Jo, or I’ll miss the bus.” She came across to him. He held her closely in his arms, before tilting her face up to his. He kissed her gently and she returned it, before stepping back.
“I love you, Jack.”
“I love you, too, Joey. Look after yourself. I’ll be back soon, I promise.” He gave her another kiss and then turned and left abruptly, not trusting himself any longer. Jo followed him to the door and watched him leave, tears falling freely. When she could no longer see him, she closed the door and went upstairs to the bedroom, where she lay crying into her pillow for a good half an hour, until she fell asleep.
The end of March saw Jo packing the last of her belongings into boxes, ready to be transported to her new home. Jem had been lucky enough to find premises for the Sanatorium near to the border between England and Wales. He had been busy transporting equipment and patients over there during the past month. He had located a house for himself and had also taken a cottage in Jack’s name a few miles away in Howells village. Her sister had already left Guernsey and the school was to follow in two weeks. Jo was departing today, along with Miss Wilson, who had also had to flee Austria. Jem would cross with the last of his patients the following day. Robin and Daisy were boarding at school for the last week of term and would cross with the staff.
Jo checked around the cottage to make sure nothing had been left behind, before heading down to wait for Jem in the lounge. He was to take her to the Sea Witch, the yacht in which she would be crossing the English Channel. Suddenly, she heard the sound of a car horn outside. She grabbed the few belongings she was taking with her and opened the door. Jem came to take the small case from her and carried it out to the car. Jo locked the door and handed Jem the key as he would oversee the removal of the boxes later that day.
“Thank you. Is everything ready for the men?”
“Yes. I’ve labelled all the boxes in each room for you.”
“Good. Hurry up and get in. Willoughby wants to get off as soon as possible.”
“There are U-boats about.”
“Why are we going today, then? Surely we should wait till it’s safer?”
“You can’t stay here any longer, Jo. You need to get to the mainland and U-boats will be about whether you cross today or tomorrow.” Jo remained silent as she digested this information. Jem concentrated on getting the car down to the small bay where the Sea Witch was moored. Eventually, he pulled up and Jo saw a steam yacht out in the bay. A small dinghy was waiting at the shore to take her across to it. Jem helped her with her luggage. Nigel Willoughby, the yacht’s owner, took Jo’s belongings and placed them in the dinghy. Jo turned to Jem and gave him a hug.
“Look after yourself and I’ll see you in a couple of days, Jo.”
“I will. Bye.” Jo gave him a final hug, then she was being helped into the dinghy and they were pulling out to the yacht. Once there, Jo was instructed into her life jacket and shown to the cabin. She found Miss Wilson waiting for her there. They talked quietly as they listened to the shouts and orders going on around them and felt the swell of the waves passing under the yacht.
Suddenly, there was a loud crash and the yacht veered violently, causing them both to hang onto their seats in an effort to stay upright.
“What’s happening?” Jo asked. In answer to her question, Nigel Willoughby appeared at the door of the cabin.
“There’s a U-boat about. You need to come up on deck.” What little colour Jo had drained from her face at this news. They followed him up onto deck, and he left them near one of the lifeboats. Both women waited silently, crouched down, ready to get into it at a moment’s notice. There was a loud banging from the bows of the yacht. A German fighter plane had spotted the yacht and was shooting at them from above. More gunfire sounded, as a British fighter joined in the battle.
“Surely, this can’t be happening to us? Not after everything else.” Jo cried, her distress evident. Miss Wilson had no reply. She grimly thought about all they had already gone through and silently prayed for their safety.
“Go back to the cabin. You’ll have more shelter there.” Nigel suddenly appeared alongside them. He didn’t wait to see them there, he needed to get back to the wheel. Miss Wilson put her arm around Jo and they stumbled back to the relative safety of the cabin. Jo’s face was flushed and when Miss Wilson felt her hand, it was abnormally hot.
“Lay down, Jo. You need to try and keep calm.” Jo didn’t answer. She felt light-headed and the room was looking decidedly odd. Miss Wilson busied herself in making Jo as comfortable as possible. She fell into an uneasy slumber, muttering all the while. Miss Wilson was concerned, but could do nothing else for her. She looked up with relief when Nigel came into the cabin.
“We’re using the engines, now, so we should hopefully make port late tonight.” He heard the muttering and saw Jo asleep, but very flushed. “Is she all right?”
“The stress of this journey, on top of everything she’s been through, isn’t helping her.”
“We’re going as fast as we can, now. Hopefully, we won’t have any more incidents.”
“Thank you.” Nigel left them alone once more and went back to the wheel house. A little while later, a British Naval destroyer signalled him to stop. Upon discovering that he had women on board and that one of them was ill, he was told that the destroyer would take them to the mainland and he could aim for port in his own time.
Jo barely registered that she was being moved. The destroyer arrived at Plymouth and Jo was quickly taken to a small boarding house. Miss Wilson stayed with her until Jem could come.
Jem finally arrived two days later. Jo’s fever hadn’t broken in that time and she still lay in bed, occasionally muttering to herself. Miss Wilson was thankful to see him.
“How is she, Nell?”
“Not good. She hasn’t roused yet. The local doctor is rather worried about her.”
“Let me take a look at her.” She led the way up to Jo’s room and left Jem at the door.
“I’ll wait down in the lounge.” Jem just nodded and entered. Jo lay on the bed, her head propped up a little by pillows. She was muttering to herself, but he couldn’t make out any words. He felt her forehead and was alarmed by how hot she was. He realised that he could not move her anywhere until the fever broke.
“Oh, Joey. You are having a time of it, aren’t you?” He spoke out loud, hoping his voice might reach her. There was no response. He sighed. All he could do was wait, as he knew he couldn’t return home without her. Madge was worried as it was, and if he left Jo alone in this state, she would never forgive him. She had wanted to come with him, but he knew she was needed at home with the children. He stayed with Jo until tea time, when he went to speak with Miss Wilson.
“The fever must break soon. She can’t stay like that for much longer. If you could sit with her this evening, I’ll watch her overnight.”
“Of course. The local doctor said he would come and check on her about six o’clock.”
“I’ll speak to him when he gets here. I can’t move her until this fever breaks, though I want to get her to the Sanatorium as soon as I can.”
“She won’t like that.”
“I know, but she can’t stay alone when she does come round, and our house is far too noisy for her.” Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the local doctor. Jem went off to Jo’s room with him and Miss Wilson collected her book to read whilst she sat with Jo for the evening.
When the two doctors came back downstairs, she headed up to sit with Jo. The muttering had stopped for the moment, so she settled down to read. Jem appeared to relieve her at ten o’clock. She left him with Jo and went off to her own room, where she was quickly asleep.
Meanwhile, Jem was watching Jo. He saw she looked a little less flushed than earlier, and her eyelids were fluttering slightly. He waited, and was eventually rewarded by seeing her eyes slowly open.
“Hello, Jo. How are you feeling?” Jo blinked a few times as her eyes adjusted to the lamplight.
“That U-boat! Did it get us? What’s happened? Where am I?”
“Shhh, Jo. You’re safe, now. The U-boat didn’t get you. You’re in Plymouth.”
“Jem?” Tears flowed as she realised he was sitting with her.
“Don’t cry, Joey. I’m here and I’m taking you back with me. I promise. Get some sleep, now, and we’ll see how you are in the morning.” Jo closed her eyes and was soon sleeping once more, though this time she slept properly.
A day later saw Jo being helped into Jem’s car and, along with Miss Wilson, he set off to drive to Howells village. It was a slow journey, which they broke halfway, staying overnight south of Bristol. They eventually reached their destination late the following afternoon. Jem drove straight to the Sanatorium, pulling up outside the main entrance.
“I’ll just go and have a walk to stretch my legs,” Miss Wilson said to him as soon as he put the handbrake on. Jem nodded, appreciating that she had no wish to be drawn into Jo’s re-admittance. She climbed out and disappeared across the grass. Jo had slept on the back seat nearly all the way, though she roused when he stopped the engine.
“Are we home?”
“Sort of.” Jo looked out of the window and saw the large building in front of them.
“No, Jem. I want to go to my own home.” Tears formed as she realised what was happening. Jem climbed out of the car. He came and opened her door and crouched down so he could see her properly.
“You’ve just gone through a very traumatic experience and have barely eaten for the past week.”
Jem sighed. He knew it would be a challenge to get Jo to accept going back into the Sanatorium, even if it was for a short time.
“Jo, I don’t think you should stay on your own and you know how noisy our house is. This is the best place for you to be able to rest quietly and recover from the journey. It’s not like last time. I need to make sure you’re all right and I’ll know you’re being looked after properly, if you’re here. I promise it’ll only be a short while. ”
Jo was silent. She could see Jem’s point, but she wasn’t ready to accept it, yet. She just wanted her own home, with her own things around her. She wanted to be there to welcome Jack when he next got leave. If she was here, she couldn’t do that. Jem watched her as she tried to sort her thoughts out. He tried the one argument that might sway her.
“I’m sure that Jack would rather you spent a short while here, than be at home alone, making yourself ill, again. If that happened, you wouldn’t be there to welcome him to your new home.”
Jo knew she had lost, and she slowly nodded. Jem smiled at her, but she didn’t return it. He gave her a hand to climb out and they went in through the entrance. Showing her to a small room, he left her alone, whilst he fetched her suitcase. Jo dropped into the chair. She felt as if her world was collapsing in around her, again. She had been doing so well, and now she was back in the Sanatorium. She wished she was back on Guernsey, with Jack at home with her. She thought about her promise to him to take care of herself. She couldn’t even manage to do that. She thought about how disappointed he would be when he found out. This proved too much for her and she burst into tears. When Jem returned a short while later, he found her sobbing into her hands. He quickly came across the room to sit with her.
“Here, Jo.” He passed her some tissues from the bedside cabinet. She took them, but continued to sob on. “This has to stop, now. You aren’t helping yourself by crying like this.” Jo made a valiant effort and managed to stem the worst of her tears. She blew her nose and finally looked at Jem. “Go and wash your face, Jo.” She went to the little bathroom and did as she was told, sitting back in the chair when she returned.
“I’m not going to put any restrictions on you, Jo. You had a high fever when I came to fetch you from Plymouth, so I just want you to try and rest over the next few days. You can go and eat in the dining room and sit out on the balcony, if you like. Do you have a book in your case?” Jo nodded. “Read if you want, but not for too long. I’ll get some writing paper for you as well.”
“What about visitors?”
“Your sister will come tomorrow. I don’t think there is anyone else, nearby, at the moment.”
“What about Robin and Daisy? Where will they go if I’m stuck in here?”
“They will stay with us until you go home. Now, how about you unpack while I go and see about something for you to eat?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“That’s why I brought you here, Jo. You have to eat, and your appetite is always the first thing to go. If I had taken you to your own home, you wouldn’t try to eat properly.” Jo said nothing. She knew he was right. “I won’t be long.” He departed and Jo stood up and opened her case. She found out her toiletries, a pair of pyjamas and her dressing gown, then closed her case again. She didn’t want to unpack since it meant that she would be staying in the Sanatorium. She still didn’t want to admit that to herself, yet. She went out onto the balcony and stood looking out at the gathering gloom, until Jem came back with a tray for her.
“Here you go. I need to get off now, but I want to hear that you’re eating everything you’re given when I’m next in.” He came over to her and gave her a hug, before leaving abruptly. Left to herself, Jo just looked at the tray and reluctantly started to eat. She managed half of what he had brought her, before changing into her pyjamas and climbing into the bed.
Jo woke in the early hours of the morning. She stared into the darkness, at first wondering where she was. Then it dawned on her that she was back in the Sanatorium again. She sighed and rolled over, but found it impossible to go back to sleep. She sat up in bed and turned the little light on above her. She saw a pile of writing paper had been left on the bedside cabinet. Deciding to write to Jack, she picked up the paper, and a pen which was lying beside it.
She paused, pen poised. How was she going to tell him? Normally, she found writing a release and filled pages in her letters to him. This time, she couldn’t think of anything to say, but she had to let him know she was safe.
I have arrived in England, safely. Nigel Willoughby brought Nell Wilson and I across in his yacht. We had a rather eventful journey over and were attacked by a U-boat. Luckily, he was able to escape and we reached Plymouth.
I’m afraid I’ve been a little ill from the journey. Jem came to fetch us from Plymouth and drove us back to Howells. At least, he drove Nell there. Oh, Jack, he’s re-admitted me. I tried not to be ill, I promise, but I couldn’t help it. I know I’ve let you down and I’m sorry.
I love you,
Jo put her pen down and folded the letter. She found an envelope and addressed it, before putting her letter inside. She then put everything back on the bedside cabinet and lay back down. She lay looking at the shadows cast from the light above her, wondering what Jack would say when he received her letter. She fell into an uneasy slumber, only to be woken by Jem.
“Jo? Jo?” She slowly opened her eyes to look at him. “You’ve been screaming. What on earth were you dreaming?” Jo just looked at him and slowly shook her head. She had no idea. The last thing she remembered was watching the shadows on the wall, having written her letter.
“I don’t know.”
“Never mind. You may as well get up, now. There’s only an hour until breakfast.” He glanced at the bedside cabinet and saw the envelope addressed to Jack. “Would you like me to post this for you?”
“I’ll make sure it goes this morning.”
“Thank you.” He smiled at her, then turned and left her alone.
Jem returned to his office, where he hastily wrote his own note to Jack, explaining what had happened in more detail. He copied the address out and placed both into the new envelope. He would post it on his way to fetch Madge later that morning.
Jo spent the morning sitting out on the balcony. She had her book with her, but didn’t feel inclined to read. She was brooding. Deep down, she knew Jem was only making her stay here whilst she recovered from another eventful journey, but she wasn’t yet ready to acknowledge this. She wanted to be at home, unpacking boxes and arranging the new house, ready for when Jack might next be home. She wanted the company of Robin and Daisy. None of this was possible in the Sanatorium. She had eaten little at breakfast, not caring that Jem would be forced to take action if she continued to eat poorly.
Jo spent the next week in a state of nervous anticipation. She wanted to hear from Jack, though she didn’t want to know how disappointed he was in her. Her appetite was not noticeably improving. Jem suspected it was, in part, to do with anticipating a letter from Jack. He hadn’t said anything to her, yet. He knew he would have to talk to her the next day, though, whether a letter came or not.
The following afternoon, Jo had just woken from her rest, when Jem suddenly appeared. He came to sit by her as she sat up in bed. She smiled at him, but he didn’t return it.
“What is it, Jem? Is everyone all right? Is Jack…?”
“Everyone is fine. It’s you that’s the problem.”
“Yes. You still aren’t eating properly, despite what I told you when you arrived here. It can’t go on, Jo. If you don’t start to eat more than a few mouthfuls at each meal, I’m going to have to put you back on bed rest, as a precaution. I don’t want to do that to you, but you aren’t giving me much choice.”
“No buts. That’s the situation you’re in. I know you’re waiting for a letter from Jack and that may be part of the problem, but I’ve left it as long as I can.”
“You promised me I would only be here a few weeks.” Jo’s eyes were misty behind a film of tears.
“I know I did. And it will only be a few weeks if you start eating properly and put the weight you’ve lost back on. You have a pneumothorax appointment in three days. I’ll give you until you’ve had that to start improving, but if you haven’t, then I’m afraid you’re back in bed.” He stood back up and left the room. Jo just stared at the wall, as the reality of her predicament sank in.
The day before her pneumothorax appointment, Jo was sitting out on the balcony, wrapped in a blanket when Jem came out to her.
“Are you warm enough, Jo? It’s bitter out here, today.” Jo nodded. “Let me feel your hands.” She took her hands out from underneath the blanket for him to feel. He went to fetch another blanket and threw it over her. “I don’t want you catching cold on top of everything else.”
“Did you want something, Jem?” He had left Jo severely alone since he had told her what would happen if she didn’t start to improve. She was suspicious of why he was talking to her again.
“This landed on our doormat this morning. I hope it’s what you’ve been so anxiously waiting for.” He pulled a letter out of his pocket and handed it to her. “Mind you come back inside if you feel cold.” He left her to her letter.
Jo looked at the letter. Recognising Jack’s writing, she turned it over and ripped it open. The letter fell out onto her lap and she picked it up with trembling hands. She was glad to finally hear from him, but she was nervous about the contents. She was desperate to read it, yet reluctant at the same time. She smoothed the sheets out and waited for the writing to settle down in front of her eyes.
My darling Jo,
I apologise for the delay in replying, but things have been a bit hectic. I was so glad to hear you had made it to England, safely. It’s sounds as if you have managed to find adventure, again, however unintentionally.
Don’t be so silly, Jo. You haven’t let me down, at all, nor is there any need to be sorry. Your encounter would have been a very stressful experience. I’m sure Jem has a very valid reason for re-admitting you and it’s only temporary. If you’ve been ill from the journey, he just wants to make sure that you’re fully recovered before letting you go home to fend for yourself. Just promise me that you’ll take care of yourself and do everything within your power to get well again. Try not to worry and I’m sure you’ll be back at home very soon.
All my love,
Jo read it through twice, tears dripping down her face. She was relieved to know Jack wasn’t disappointed in her, but she couldn’t help thinking of the conversation she had had with Jem two days ago. She knew Jem meant what he said, but she still hoped he wouldn’t carry out his threat. If he did, she knew she would be here for much longer than the few weeks she had been promised. She may even still be in the Sanatorium when Jack next got leave. This was something she couldn’t bear to think about. She shivered. Untangling herself from her blankets, she picked them up and went back inside the room. She placed the letter on the bedside cabinet and dumped the blankets on the bed, then went to the bathroom to wash. Her watch told her it was lunchtime, so she walked slowly to the dining room. She managed to eat a little more than she had been doing previously. She walked back to her room, determined that she was not going to be kept in any longer than she had been promised.
It was the middle of May and Jo had been in the Sanatorium for six weeks, now. Since she had received that first letter from Jack, she had slowly improved. Jem had not had to carry out his threat to place her back on bed rest, though he was still keeping a close eye on her. She still had off days where she was inclined to eat little, but these were slowly becoming further apart.
Jem came to find her in the garden one afternoon. He sat down with her, glad to have a few minutes rest in the sunshine.
“How would you like to have a day out, tomorrow?”
“That would be lovely, Jem. Where, though?”
“I thought you might like to spend the day at our house. Everyone is longing to see Auntie Jo again.”
“I hope I don’t disappoint them, then.”
“I’m sure you won’t. I’ll collect you straight after breakfast, so make sure you’re ready.”
“Okay.” Jem left her and headed back towards his office. He hoped the day would go well. Jo had been improving, but he knew she wasn’t quite ready to go home, yet. A day with her family might help.
Jo was waiting for Jem when he came to collect her the next morning. He drove her through the leafy lanes to the house where he and Madge had made their home. He pulled up outside the front door and Jo slowly climbed out of the car. Jem came round and smiled at Jo.
“Welcome to the Round House. I know it isn’t your own home, but I hope you’ll feel as welcome here as you did in Guernsey and on the Sonnalpe.”
“Thank you. It looks a lovely house, Jem. A lot bigger than Bonne Maison.” They went inside and Jem showed her to the drawing room, where her sister was waiting. Once the greetings were over, the sisters sat down together and Jem left them alone, knowing that they would only have a short time before the others returned. It was a Saturday and all the children were home for the weekend. Robin and Daisy had taken them out for a walk so that Jo could have the chance to get used to her new surroundings before they returned.
“Where is everyone?” Jo was sitting on the sofa and her sister was in the comfortable chair next to her.
“Robin and Daisy have taken them out for a walk. They’ll probably be another half an hour. They were all so excited at the prospect of seeing you again, that we thought a walk might shake the fidgets out of them.”
“Why don’t I show you around and then you’ll feel more at home.” Jo nodded. Madge showed her around the lovely old hunting lodge which was her new home and Jo was suitably impressed.
“I hope my new home is just as nice,” Jo said, wistfully, as they went back into the drawing room.
“It isn’t as large as this, obviously, but it has it’s own charm. Yours is situated just on the edge of Howells village, only a ten minute walk from the shops.”
“What’s it like?”
“It’s made of the local stone, with a slate roof. Downstairs, there is a lovely large lounge, which stretches from front to back. There is also a dining room, a kitchen and a study. Upstairs are four bedrooms and a bathroom and there is quite a lot of space up in the attic.”
“It sounds lovely. I can’t wait to see it for myself.”
“You will do soon, Jo.” The sound of running footsteps interrupted their conversation at this point and the door suddenly burst open to admit Robin, Daisy and all the others. Jo found herself surrounded by them, all asking questions at once. Madge took pity on her sister and clapped her hands, loudly. Everyone fell silent at the noise, and turned to look at her.
“That’s better. If you keep up that noise, I shall send you all up to the nursery until you learn some manners.” Knowing that she would carry out her threat, they looked at each other in consternation.
“Sorry, Auntie Madge,” Peggy Bettany said. “We’re all so excited to see Auntie Jo that we forgot about keeping quiet.”
“Then, we’ll say no more.”
“Why don’t you come and tell me your news, one at a time?” Jo asked. “Let’s start with the youngest, first, for a change.”
“Good idea, Jo. Josette, you’re the youngest, so you get to go first.” Two year old Josette came shyly up and scrambled onto Jo’s knee. Madge shooed the others away to the other side of the room, telling them they would all get a turn.
By the time the gong went for lunch, Jo had had some time alone with each of the younger children. Only Robin and Daisy were left. Jo was shown to the pretty guest room so she could rest immediately after lunch, and she promptly fell asleep on the bed. Jem came to wake her when she hadn’t reappeared three hours later. He looked at her for any tell-tale signs and was relieved to find none. He shook her.
“Jo? Do you intend to sleep all afternoon?” Jo slowly opened her eyes and looked at him.
“What time is it?”
“It’s half past three. If you stay in bed all afternoon, you’ll have no time to talk to Robin and Daisy before you have to leave.”
“Okay. I’ll be down in a few minutes.” Jem smiled and left her.
Jo appeared in the drawing room just as tea was being served. She gratefully accepted a cup and a cake from the selection on the tray. Once they had all finished, Jo went to sit with Daisy in the corner of the room. They talked animatedly, Daisy telling her all about what she was doing at school and about her new friend, Gwensi Howell. Eventually, Robin came over to join them and, after a few more minutes, Daisy left them alone.
“Time to go, Jo.” Jem had wandered over to the corner where they were sitting. Jo reluctantly stood up and turned to hug Robin. She wished she could stay longer, but she knew Jem would not allow it. Madge followed them to the door and waved them off.
They drove back to the Sanatorium, neither speaking. Jo was lost in thought, as she watched the landscape go past the window. Jem glanced across at his sister-in-law, noting the faraway look on her face. He knew that taking her home for the day had been a risk, especially when she was so easily upset by anything, still. He was glad he had taken it. Jo wasn’t quite ready to go back home, yet, but he had seen how much happier she had been during the day with her family. He was half-tempted to discharge her the next day, on the proviso that she stayed at his home for a few weeks, but he reasoned that she wouldn’t want that. She wanted her own home and needed the quiet that it offered her, something he knew was in short supply at his own home.
They drew up outside the main entrance of the Sanatorium and climbed out of the car. Jem walked Jo back to her room.
“Thank you for taking me home, Jem”
“You’re very welcome, Jo. Did you have a good day?”
“Yes. It was nice to have some time alone with everyone. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.”
“When you go home, you could keep that idea going. I think they all appreciated some time alone with you, too.”
“When do I get to go home?”
“Soon, Jo. I promise. Let’s see how you are after today’s excursion, and you have pneumothorax the day after tomorrow, as well. Once that’s over, I’ll see about getting you home as soon as possible.” He hugged Jo at this, then turned and left the room. Jo went to sit in the chair and thought about what she had just been told. She realised that he hadn’t actually answered her question properly. Sighing, she picked up her pen and writing paper and started to write a letter to Jack. She knew it was his turn to write, but she needed to do something to stop herself brooding over when she would finally be allowed home.
Jo was sleeping when the air raid siren blared out. She had had pneumothorax that afternoon and was feeling a little breathless and under the weather from it. The noise of the siren jolted her awake and she lay in bed for a minute, wondering what on earth was happening. As the siren sounded again, a nurse appeared in her room.
“You need to come down to the air raid shelter! Now!” Jo slowly climbed out of bed and the nurse handed Jo her dressing gown and found her slippers. Fear washed over her. Were the Nazis still going to find her? How could they know where she was? She started towards the door, but found herself grabbing onto the bed in an effort to stay upright. The nurse came to her side and helped her. When she reached the top of the stairs she stopped to catch what little breath she could. The nurse lit the stairs with her torch as Jo stumbled down them. Another nurse appeared with a wheelchair. Jo sat in it, thankfully. She was quickly wheeled along the corridor. She stumbled down the next flight of stairs into the shelter. Her path was lit by a torch again and she finally made it to a bed. Sinking onto it, she curled up into a ball. She took no notice of her surroundings, not even noticing when a blanket was thrown over her. She was exhausted by the unexpected exertion and soon fell into an uneasy slumber.
She was running as fast as she could, looking in vain for somewhere to hide. Men in Nazi uniforms were pursuing her. She saw a small opening and dived into it. Finding herself in a small cave she quickly hid behind a cairn of stones. They were getting closer to where she was hiding. She could hear the dogs barking near to her hiding place. She frantically looked round for another way out, but could see none. The dogs were getting closer to her. They had her scent now and were honing in on her hiding place. Suddenly, she was face to face with them and she screamed in terror. A man dragged her out of the cave, and she was thrown to the ground, the dogs snarling around her. One of the Nazis shook her roughly, threatening to shoot her if she didn’t tell them what they wanted to know. She shook her head. She tried to say she knew nothing, but the Nazi didn’t believe her.
The shaking came again and she opened her eyes. She looked straight into those of Jem. She had been dreaming again. She clung to him like a frightened child, sobbing as the nightmare began to subside.
“Jo? Tell me about your dream.”
“I-I can’t.” She was shaking uncontrollably.
“You need to, Jo. You need to tell me what happened. If you don’t talk to someone, it will keep on returning.” Haltingly, she began to recount the nightmare to him. He listened quietly, letting her talk herself out. Eventually, she ran down and lay, trembling, on the bed. Once he had heard her vivid description, Jem wasn’t surprised she had been screaming in her sleep. Especially after all she had been through during her flight from Austria, and then from Guernsey. He thought he would be doing so, too.
“Is it the same nightmare, you’ve been having since you escaped to Switzerland?” Jo nodded. “When was the last time you had it?”
“I’m not sure. It might have been when I arrived here. I just remember writing to Jack and lying watching the shadows on the wall. Then you woke me up, telling me I had been screaming in my sleep, but I don’t remember.”
“It seems to be triggered each time you have to deal with a stressful experience. Hopefully, now you’ve told me about it, it might not happen again. In the meantime, let’s get you back upstairs to your room. You seem to be almost the last person left down here and the All Clear went ages ago. He moved out of the way to allow her to stand up, placing his arm around her when she swayed. They slowly made their way back to Jo’s room, where he tucked her back up under the covers and bade her to sleep some more. Just as he was about to leave the room, Jo spoke again.
“Is Madge and everyone else all right?”
“Yes. A little tired, but otherwise, everyone is fine. Don’t worry about them, Jo. They were safe enough. Now, try and get some sleep.” Jem left at this and Jo’s eyelids drooped as she fell back to sleep.
Two weeks after the air raid, Jo was sitting on the balcony reading a book, when Jem came out to her, a letter in his hand.
“Post, Jo.” He dropped it into her lap, and then sat in the chair next to her.
“Thank you.” Jo glanced at the envelope, ripping it open as she recognised Jack’s writing. Jem waited patiently whilst she read the contents, a huge grin spreading across her face.
“Jack’s getting leave in the next couple of weeks”
“That’s lovely news, Jo. Does he say when he’ll get home?”
“No. He just says about two weeks, and that he has a month’s leave.”
“We’ll have to see about getting you home, then. I think you’ll be able to go in a week or so.”
“Yes. The main reason you’re still here is because of that air raid. You didn’t get much rest that night and you’d just had pneumothorax, as well. It all combined to give you a bit of a shock, hence the nightmare returning.” Jo didn’t reply. She understood Jem’s motives and was quite glad she hadn’t been at home on her own that night. Even now, she worried about the next air raid coming and how she would cope with it. Jem glanced at his watch and stood back up.
“I’d best get on, or someone will be looking for me.” He left Jo alone once more. She stared unseeingly out at the view, her mind already at home with Jack at her side. She finally came back to reality when she shivered. Looking around her, she realised that the sun had disappeared behind clouds and the darkening gloom heralded rain. She picked her book and the letter up and went back indoors, just as the first drops began to fall.
The last 3 updates from the CBB are in this chapter.
A week later, Jem was busy in his office, when the telephone rang. Upon answering it, he was pleasantly surprised to hear the voice on the other end of the line. After a brief conversation, he put the receiver back into the cradle and grinned broadly to himself, before finding some papers and heading towards Jo’s room. He entered to find Jo reading in the chair. She looked up at him with a smile.
“I’ve got good news for you, Jo. You can go home tomorrow.”
“Yes, tomorrow. You just need to sign these papers and then you can go home, ready for when Jack gets back.” Jo jumped up and hugged him. “There is a catch, though.” Jo let go and looked suspiciously at him.
“What is it?”
“That you promise to tell me if you’re struggling at any point. I don’t want to have a repeat of what happened when you arrived here.”
“Good. Now, sign these, please.” He handed her the papers he was holding along with a pen and pointed out where she needed to sign. She dashed off her signature, and handed them back to him with a smile.
“Make sure you’re all packed and ready to go after lunch.”
“What about Robin and Daisy? Will they be coming back to mine tomorrow, too?”
“I don’t think we’ll have time to sort it for tomorrow, but they will do soon.” Jem was deliberately evasive in his answer. “I need to go and finish these off properly, now. Otherwise, you won’t be going anywhere.” He left quickly and returned to his office, where he smiled to himself again.
The next morning saw Jo packing her suitcase. She was glad to be going home, although she hadn’t seen it, yet. She was looking forward to sorting it out, ready for when Jack should arrive. Once she had finished, she went along to the dining room for lunch. She returned to her room and sat out on the balcony with her book to wait for Jem to arrive. She was soon absorbed in it and never heard the door open. Someone slipped inside and came across the room to the balcony door. Jo glanced up and her book dropped to the floor, unheeded, as she sprang up.
“Jack!” Flinging herself into his arms, Jo couldn’t stop her tears from flowing. Jack held her close, just as pleased to see her. Eventually, he tilted her face to his and kissed her, gently. She returned it, but didn’t let go.
“Shall we go home, darling?” Jo just nodded, unable to speak. Together, they went back into the room and Jack picked up her case, as Jo put on her coat. Her book lay, forgotten, on the floor of the balcony. Holding hands, they descended the stairs to reception and walked out into the sunshine.
Jack was soon driving the little car he had borrowed from Madge along the roads towards their new home. He had spent the previous night in a hotel in Ledbury, the train having been delayed. Madge had collected him from the station in Armiford that morning and taken him to her own house, where he had cleaned himself up and collected the keys for their house. He had then driven to the Sanatorium to collect Jo.
When they reached Howells village, he slowed down as they started to search for their new home. They eventually found it at the other side of the village, down a small side road. Jack parked the car outside the garage and they both climbed out. They went slowly to the front door and Jack pulled a set of keys from his pocket. He finally managed to unlock it with the third key he tried.
They found themselves in a wide entrance hall, with stairs leading to the next floor. There were four doors opening off it and Jo opened the nearest one. Beyond it was a dining room, which was furnished with table and chairs and an old dresser along one wall. Jack opened the next door and peered into a kitchen. The furthest door opened into a study and the final one led into a large and spacious lounge.
“This is lovely. Look, Jack, it has a gorgeous view from the French windows.” Jack came across the room to stand next to Jo, putting his arm around her. They stood in silence for a few minutes as they drank in the view across to the hillside.
“It’s a nice sized garden, too. Shall we have a look upstairs? We need to work out where we’re going to sleep as well as Robin and Daisy.”
“Good plan.” Jo led the way upstairs, where they found four good sized bedrooms and a small bathroom. They chose the largest for themselves, which also overlooked the same view as the French windows in the lounge. They decided the two smallest bedrooms would be suitable for Robin and Daisy and the last one would become a guest room.
The boxes and furniture from their home in Guernsey had been left where the removal men had put them. Jo went to open one of the packing boxes, hoping it was the one containing the bed linen. Jack stopped her.
“No, Jo. Let’s have a drink first. Then we can work out what needs to be done.” Taking her hand, he led her back downstairs to the kitchen. There was a small bag of essentials on the table, which Madge had kindly left for them the day before. “You find the kettle and I’ll go and look for the milk.” Jo obligingly looked in the cupboards, until she unearthed a kettle. Filling it with water, she placed it on the hob and turned the ring on underneath, before hunting through the boxes for the teapot and cups. Jack returned with the milk just as she was opening the second box.
“What are you doing, Jo?”
“Looking for the teapot. I’ve found the cups, but it isn’t in the same box as them.”
“Do you remember which box you packed it in?” Jo shook her head, as she started to empty the contents of the second box. Jack started on the third box. “I didn’t realise we had so much kitchen equipment. Ah! Got it!” He brandished the teapot triumphantly, just as the kettle started to whistle. Jo took it from him and threw some leaves in it, then poured the water over. Once they both had a drink each, they surveyed the mess they had created.
“We may as well start by putting this lot away,” Jo suggested. “Then we really need to find the bed linen and air it through.”
“Okay. We’ll have to go into the village, too, and get some food, if we’re to eat tonight.” They fell to and soon had the kitchen tidy once more. Jo went upstairs and delved in the boxes to find the bed linen, while Jack opened windows to air the house through. When he came upstairs he found Jo sitting on the bed, surrounded by linen and towels, a photograph in her hand and tears pouring down her face. He came swiftly across to sit with her, pulling her in to his arms. He glanced at the photograph she was holding and saw it was a picture of Jo and her dog, Rufus. Taking it gently from her, he placed it on the bedside cabinet.
“Where did you find that?”
“In the towels. Oh, Jack. I know it’s silly to cry over a dog, but he was mine. I rescued him from a watery death and loved him. I hope he found a good home.”
“I’m sure he did, Joey.” Not for worlds, would Jack tell her that he suspected Rufus would probably have been shot by the Nazis. Wiping her tears away, he gave her a kiss, and then changed the subject. “Did you find the linen?”
“Yes.” She stood up and picked a bundle up from the bed. “If we hang it on the line, it will be aired by the time we get back from the village.”
“Come on, then. Let’s do that. Time’s getting on and we’ll have to walk there since there isn’t much petrol in the car.” He took the bundle from her and carried it downstairs. Together, they hung it out and then set off to the village to buy some food.
When they returned with their shopping, Jack instructed Jo to go and sit down. He put the kettle on to boil whilst he unpacked the groceries they had managed to buy. When he went into the lounge, he found Jo had fallen asleep on the sofa. He gently threw a cover over her and left her to sleep, realising that she hadn’t had her normal rest. He went into the study and made a start on the boxes in there. He felt safe in being able to do this room, since most of the boxes contained his medical texts and items relating to his job. He was quickly absorbed in his task, and soon had most of the room arranged. He had positioned the desk so that he could look out of the window when he was sitting at it. He only had one box left to unpack, but when he opened it, he saw it contained things belonging to Jo. He decided to let her unpack it, knowing she would use the study when he wasn’t there. Leaving the box in front of the desk, he headed back into the lounge, where Jo was just waking up. She yawned and stretched, then looked at Jack.
“What time is it?”
“It’s half past four. Why?”
“I wanted to get the boxes in our bedroom unpacked before tea. Why did you let me sleep for so long?”
“Because you needed it, Jo. You didn’t rest after lunch. Come and help me fetch the bedding in from the line, I don’t like the look of those clouds spilling over the hill.” Jo untangled herself from the cover and stood up. Together, they went and fetched the bedding inside. They were just in time, the first drops landing on them as they reached the back door.
“I’ll make the bed, while you put the kettle on.” Jo took the bedding from Jack’s arms and headed upstairs with it. Jack turned the ring on and followed her upstairs. They made the bed between them and then Jack made her go back downstairs with him.
“We don’t have to get everything sorted out today, Jo. We have somewhere to sleep tonight and we’ve sorted the kitchen. Everything else can wait.”
“What about the lounge? Can’t we try and sort that out, so that we at least have somewhere to sit comfortably?”
“The sofa is clear. That will suffice for tonight. We can do the rest of it tomorrow.” Jo realised she wasn’t going to be allowed to do anything more that day, so said nothing. She drank her tea in silence. Jack watched her, knowing that if he didn’t stop her, she would do too much.
When they had finished, Jo prepared the vegetables for dinner. Jack left her to it and went outside to put the car in the garage. He came back inside carrying Jo’s case and took it upstairs to the bedroom for her, before returning to the kitchen.
“Let’s have dinner early, tonight, Jo. Then we can relax and have an early night.”
“Okay.” Jo was happy to fall in with his suggestion and was soon cooking their meal. They ate at the kitchen table, before heading into the lounge when they had finished washing up. Jack sat in one corner of the sofa and Jo curled up next to him, leaning her head on his chest. They sat in silence for a short while.
“I’m glad you’re home, Jack.”
“So am I, Jo. I’m even happier that you’re home, too.”
“I wanted to be at home to greet you when you got leave. I didn’t want you to have to collect me from the Sanatorium again.”
“I know. I’m just glad that you’re well enough to be home, now. I was hoping that you weren’t much worse and unable to come home at all. You were very evasive in your letters.”
“I didn’t want to worry you. And…and, it very nearly was much worse.” Jack hugged her tighter. He guessed she was building up to telling him something, but knew better than to push for her confidence.
“Not telling me just made me worry about you all the more. Especially after your first letter arrived.”
“I think I was still in a bit of a state when I wrote that.”
“I guessed you were still upset. Jem wrote to me at the same time.”
“Why?” Jo sat up and looked at him.
“Because he was concerned about you. What happened, Jo?” Jo was silent as she tried to gather her thoughts. Jack just waited quietly.
“I-I was very nearly back on bed rest again.” Jo paused, before rushing on, “I couldn’t eat anything. For a few weeks.”
Jack inwardly cursed Hitler for causing him to be away from his wife when she needed him. He knew the main reason behind her lack of appetite was anxiety. He also knew that Jem would have had no choice in issuing her with the ultimatum of eat properly or bed rest. She was still recovering from tuberculosis and any matters with her health had to be taken seriously. He looked at her and saw unshed tears in her eyes as she anxiously waited for his response. Even now, he realised, she was sometimes quite childlike in her outlook and needed reassurance. He drew her into his arms once more.
“It’s okay, Joey. These things happen, sometimes.” They sat in silence for a few minutes, until Jack glanced at his watch. “It’s getting late. I’ll make us a drink and we should go to bed.” He gave her a final squeeze and then stood up. Pulling Jo to her feet, he led her from the lounge and gently pushed her towards the stairs. He disappeared into the kitchen for a few minutes before, he too, headed up to bed.
During the next week, Jo and Jack spent the time organising their new home. They walked into the village each morning to buy necessities and a newspaper. The rest of the day was taken up with unpacking.
“There! That’s the last thing in that box,” Jo announced as she took out a book and placed it on the shelf, triumphantly.
“And that was the last box. There’s only Robin and Daisy’s stuff left, now.” Jack picked the empty box up and took it out to the garage, whilst Jo wielded a stiff brush and swept the floor in the lounge. When Jack returned, he took the brush from her and pulled her down on to the sofa with him.
“What do you think? Have we made it our home?”
“Yes. Especially since you’re here, too, Jack.” Jo kissed him and he pulled her closer.
”I’m glad you’re here, as well. I don’t think it would be home, otherwise.” They sat in silence for a while, both thankful for the chance to be alone together.
“Let’s go for a walk, shall we? We’ve only seen the village so far, and it’s too nice to stay indoors.”
“Okay.” Together, they went to collect coats and put on walking shoes, before heading out into the summer sunshine. They turned in the opposite direction to the village and were soon wandering through fields. Jack slowed his pace to match Jo’s as they walked along, hand in hand.
After an hour, Jo was tiring, but she was loath to admit it. Jack noticed, though, and he casually steered them back towards their cottage. When they reached home, they went into the kitchen, Jo flopping thankfully into a chair. Jack made them both something to eat. Jo realised she was hungry and ate what he set before her quite happily. He then suggested that she go and lay down. When he went upstairs ten minutes later, she was sound asleep on the bed. He threw a blanket over her and went to the study to look through some papers Jem had given him when he had collected Jo. He was soon engrossed and it wasn’t until he went to make himself a drink that he realised Jo hadn’t reappeared. He turned the ring on underneath the kettle and went upstairs to check on her. She was still sleeping. Sitting on the bed beside her, he saw she was still quite pale. He hoped he hadn’t let her overdo it, then realised that she needed to take some responsibility for her own health and she should have told him if she was tiring. He shook her, gently. She grunted and rolled away from him. He shook her again, harder this time.
“Jo? Do you intend to sleep all afternoon?”
“Huh?” She wasn’t fully awake, yet.
“It’s turned half past four, Jo. Do you feel all right?”
“Yes. I think I may have walked too far this morning, though.”
“Why didn’t you say you were tired when we were out?”
“I didn’t feel tired until we were on our way back home. There wasn’t much point saying, then”
“Of course there was. We could have stopped to rest somewhere. Or found a shorter route back.” Jack paused, debating whether to say anything else to her. The whistling of the kettle prevented it. “Come on down and have a drink.” He left her to get up and follow him downstairs.
Jack had made a pot of tea when Jo arrived in the kitchen. He poured them a cup each as Jo sat down at the table. She looked a little better for the hasty wash she had had, but there were still dark circles under her eyes. Jack wondered about sending her back to bed, but knew she would object.
“What are we having for dinner, tonight?” he asked, instead.
“I was going to make a cottage pie.”
“Sounds good. Do you need a hand?”
“No, thank you. It’s easy enough to make.”
“In that case, I’ll let you get on. I’ll be in the study if you need me.” Jack drained his cup and went off, leaving Jo alone in the kitchen. She watched him go and sighed to herself. As much as she loved Jack, she sometimes wished he wasn’t a doctor. She shook her head. She knew that if he wasn’t a doctor she would probably have never had the opportunity to fall in love with him. Standing up, she took their cups to the sink and washed them through, before starting on dinner.
In the study, Jack was staring at the papers on his desk. He wasn’t paying any attention to what was written there, though. His mind was full of the brief conversation he had had with Jo when he woke her. As much as he wanted her to feel able to tell him everything, he knew that she still sometimes thought of him as her doctor first and her husband second. He could understand why she might think that, since he had been called up within weeks of their marriage and they were just friends when she had first been admitted as a patient on the Sonnalpe. They had gone through so much together during that terrible flight from Austria, that he had hoped it might help her to overcome the problem of him being one of her doctors, but she had succumbed to a return of the illness and had taken so much longer to recover the second time around. He saw that her vivid imagination was something which she had to try and fight against, especially if she allowed it to take hold. He knew he had to back away from trying to look after her too much, but his instincts as a doctor caused him to take charge before he realised he was doing it. He sighed out loud and tried to clear his mind. Staring blankly wasn’t dealing with the paperwork Jem had asked him to look through whilst he was home. He wanted to get it done before Jo called him to dinner, so he could spend the evening with her.
When Jo finally came to fetch him to dinner he had just finished. He smiled up at her as she stood in the doorway to the study. Standing up, he followed her back to the kitchen, where the aroma of cooking made him feel hungry. They sat down to eat and their plates were soon empty. Once they had washed up, they went to sit in the lounge. Jo curled up on the sofa and Jack joined her, placing his arm around her shoulders. They sat in silence for a short while, before Jack turned the radio on to listen to the news.
Just as he did so, the air raid siren blared out. Jo froze. She felt sick. She was incapable of moving. Jack gently hauled her to her feet. Wrapping his arm around her, he led her down to the cellar. Everything seemed to be in slow motion. She sat down on the camp bed. Jack just enveloped her in a hug. He could feel her trembling violently.
“It’s all right, Jo. I won’t let them get you.” He noticed the trembling lessen, slightly. “They don’t know you’re here. They won’t find you, I promise.” He continued to hold her tightly, knowing she needed the comfort of someone familiar. Eventually, he felt the trembling stop. Jo pulled back from him and managed a watery smile.
“Thank you, Jack.”
“No problem.” He kissed her and she leaned back into his arms where she felt safe. “What scared you?”
“I don’t know. It’s just… just… when the siren goes off, I suddenly think we’re back in Tyrol, trying to escape. But this time they’re going to catch us… me.”
“That’s not going to happen, Jo. You’re safe here.”
“I know, but I can’t stop myself.” Jack looked thoughtful. He needed to find a way for Jo to stop going through this every time the air raid siren went off.
“Do you think writing about it, might help? You haven’t written anything for a while, now, and it might be a good outlet for you.”
“Maybe.” Jo looked unsure. Jack said nothing else about it, knowing she needed time to absorb the idea. Instead, he went over to the cupboard they kept some supplies in and produced some biscuits.
Jo had fallen asleep on Jack’s shoulder when the All Clear came through. Gently, he managed to pick her up and carry her upstairs to bed. He made her comfortable and hastened to climb in beside her, falling asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. He had been asleep barely two hours, when a piercing scream broke through his dreams. It was followed by another one. Jack came to with a jolt and realised it was Jo, who was deep in the throes of a nightmare.
“Jo? Jo?” He shook her, but she continued to scream. It seemed to take forever to finally wake her. When she finally opened her eyes and looked at him, she immediately burst into tears, clinging onto him as if her life depended on it. Jack comforted her as best he could. He allowed her to cry on for a while until he noticed her struggling to breathe properly.
“Jo. Stop crying now, please.” Jo gulped, trying to stem the flow, but this made her breathing worse. “Try and breathe slowly, Jo.” He pushed a couple more pillows behind her to prop her up slightly and ease her breathing. Eventually, she was calm enough to see her surroundings and Jack’s concerned face next to her.
“There’s nothing to be sorry for. Are you all right?”
“I don’t know. Was I screaming again?”
“Yes. Can you tell me about it?”
“I-I’m not sure.”
“Why don’t you try?” Jack lay his head next to hers, and placed his arm protectively over her. “Start at the beginning.”
“I’m walking alone up on the Sonnalpe, when I suddenly hear them. They have dogs, big dogs that are baying loudly and following my trail. I can hear the whistles as well. I start walking faster to try and reach somewhere safe. I don’t know how they know where I am. I hadn’t told anyone where I was going. I start running as I realise they’re gaining on me. I’m running alongside the rock wall when I notice a cave opening. I run inside, into the darkness and try to find somewhere to hide. I stumble over a cairn or something and manage to hide behind it. I can hear the dogs outside. They must have followed my scent, because they don’t move on. I hear a couple of the men come into the cave and I try and look round for another way of escape, but I can’t see one in the darkness. I stay perfectly still, hoping they won’t find me, but one of them trips up over my foot. He shines his torch on me and grabs me. He drags me out of my hiding place and pulls me outside. I’m shoved to the ground and the dogs surround me immediately, growling and snarling. I can feel their breath, they’re so close.” Jo paused and shuddered as she drew in a long breath. Jack instinctively tightened his arm around her. He wasn’t surprised she was screaming, but he said nothing, knowing there was more to come.
“Then one of the men hits me. Hard. He asks me where you and the others are. I tell him I don’t know, because I don’t. I don’t know where any of you are. He hits me again, laughing as he does so. He tells me that he doesn’t believe me. Then he says that if I don’t show him where you’re hiding he’ll shoot me. He holds his gun to my neck and cocks it. The dogs are still snarling round me, and the others laugh at me. They think it’s funny. I try and tell him I don’t know where you are, again. Then the gun goes off.”
Jo was shaking, now, the nightmare still all too real to her. Jack just held her closely. He was shocked by the vividness of her dream and the violence. He propped himself up on one elbow to look at her. He could see how pale she was and that what little sleep she had had was not enough. Outside, dawn was breaking and Jack made a decision.
“I’m going to go and make us a drink, Jo. I won’t be long.” He quickly climbed out of bed and, shrugging his dressing gown on, made his way downstairs to the kitchen. He turned the ring on under the kettle and disappeared into the study before returning to make the drinks. Taking them upstairs he saw that Jo hadn’t moved and was still looking tense and scared.
“Here, Jo. Drink this.” He handed her a mug of coffee and she drank it, slowly. “I think you should have something to help you sleep.”
“No. I don’t want anything, Jack. It’s not going to help me to get rid of the nightmare. I need to deal with it, now.” Tears slid down her cheeks, as she realised just how real it could have been. Jack sat down on the bed next to her.
“You need to sleep, though. If you don’t sleep, you’ll end up back in bed because you aren’t taking proper care of yourself. I don’t want you to have to go through all that again, especially when I won’t even be able to be here with you. I love you, Jo, but I need to know that when I go back, you’re all right. Have something to make you sleep and, when you wake up, I promise I’ll try and help you to deal with the nightmare. You’re in no fit state to do that at the moment.”
Jo slowly nodded. She was defeated by Jack’s logic. She knew he was trying to help her, but she couldn’t make her mind work properly to argue back. Maybe she was just overtired like he said. She jolted back from her thoughts, as she realised Jack was holding out a couple of pills for her. She took them and lay back down. Jack lay with her, holding her in his arms as they started to take effect and she knew no more.
Thanks for your comments.
It was mid-afternoon when Jo finally woke. She found she was alone in the room and wondered what had happened. Then the memory of the nightmare came flooding back to her.
“Jack?” There was no answer, so she tried again, louder this time. “Jack?” She still heard nothing and began to panic, thinking that the nightmare had somehow turned into reality. She managed to sit up and pull her dressing gown on but, upon attempting to stand, she found her legs wobbling and sat back on the edge of the bed with a bump. She attempted standing again, and managed to stagger through the door and onto the landing.
“Jack?” He suddenly appeared at the bottom of the stairs and bounded up them when he saw her wobble and hang onto the bannister.
“Go on back to bed, Jo. You should have called me.” Placing his arm around her waist, he tried to guide her back to the bedroom, but she resisted his efforts.
“No. I’m not going back to bed. I can’t.”
“Come down to the kitchen, then.” Jo nodded at this, and allowed herself to be guided downstairs and to a chair in the kitchen. Whilst Jack busied himself making her something to eat and drink, Jo leant against the table and tried to sort her mind out. She still felt groggy from the sleeping pills, but knew she needed to be awake to deal with her nightmare. Jack placed a sandwich and a cup of strong tea in front of her, before sitting down opposite with his own drink. Jo pulled a face at the sandwich, but knew better than to argue. She managed to choke down half of it, but didn’t attempt to try the rest. Jack said nothing, he was happy that she had at least eaten something.
“Why didn’t you call me from the bedroom?”
“I did. You didn’t answer and I started to think the nightmare had turned into reality.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. It hasn’t turned into reality, I’m still here and we’re all safe. How are you feeling?”
“A bit groggy, still, but I can’t avoid it forever. I need to work out what I’m going to do now.”
“Would you like me to help?”
“I don’t think so. I need to do this by myself, or I’ll never be rid of it.”
“What do you plan to do?”
“Do you want the study?”
“No. I can write here. Is there some paper around?”
“I’ll fetch it.” Jack disappeared into the study and came back armed with Jo’s fountain pen, ink, blotting paper and a large pile of writing paper. “Here you go. I’ll be in the study. Just shout if you need me at all.” He dropped a kiss onto Jo’s hair and left her alone. Jo looked at the sheets and picked up her fountain pen. She stared into space for a few minutes, before slowly starting to write a few sentences. She found these the hardest but, suddenly, things started to drop into place and her mind was racing, her pen scratching away as she tried to keep up with her imagination. She filled sheet after sheet as she feverishly wrote, unable to stop herself.
After two hours, she dropped her fountain pen and laid her head on her arms as sobs overtook her. Jack heard her and came quickly into the kitchen. Sitting beside her, he gathered her into his arms and tried to comfort her as best he could. He saw the table was littered with paper covered in her handwriting. When the sobs died down, he continued to hold her for a while longer, until she pulled away to look at him.
“Do you feel a little better?” Jo nodded. “I’ll make us a drink. You must need one after that.” Jack went over to fill the kettle and put it on to boil. “Why don’t you go and run yourself a bath? I’ll bring your drink up to you.”
“I’ve not finished yet, though.”
“You need to take a break from it, Jo. If you don’t, you’ll just defeat the object of the exercise. Go and have a bath and see how you feel afterwards.” He pulled her to her feet and pushed her gently towards the door.
Jo reluctantly headed upstairs and ran herself a bath. Sinking into it, she allowed the water to cover her completely as she held her breath. The silence around her still felt too loud. She tried to blank her mind to everything and allow herself to just be part of the water surrounding her. She surfaced, gasping for breath and realised that she probably shouldn’t have done it. She lay there, trying to take slow, deep breaths to bring it back under control before Jack found out. The silence and concentration on breathing helped her mind to relax more and she found herself starting to doze. She started to slide lower into the water.
Meanwhile, Jack tidied the sheets up that were strewn across the kitchen table. He was glad to see that Jo had the sense to number her pages, as he discovered just how much she had managed to write in those two hours. He stacked them neatly and took them into the study, placing them carefully onto a shelf and putting a paperweight on top. He returned to the kitchen and looked at the state of the table. Jo had managed to get ink everywhere. Finding a cloth, he started to clean the table. He had removed the worst just as the kettle started to whistle. When he had poured the water into the teapot, he started peeling potatoes and carrots ready for dinner. Once they were done, he poured a drink for Jo and headed upstairs with it.
Jo woke with a jolt as she heard a knock on the door and Jack’s muffled voice from the other side.
“I’ll just be a few minutes.”
“I’ll leave it in the bedroom for you.”
“Thank you.” She sat upright and then climbed slowly out of the bath, wrapping herself in a big towel. She padded across to the bedroom to find Jack had left her tea on the bedside cabinet. She took a sip and then dried herself and put on some clean pyjamas. She realised she was tired and climbed into bed, falling asleep as soon as her head touched the pillow. Jack found her there when he came looking for her half an hour later. He had wondered what had happened to her, but was relieved to see her in bed. He quietly left the room and went back downstairs leaving her to sleep on.
Jo slept the clock round, with no sign of the nightmare. When she finally woke the next morning, Jack had just returned to the bedroom, a cup of tea in each hand. He smiled as he deposited the cups on the bedside cabinets and climbed back into bed next to her. Jo snuggled up to him and he placed his arm around her.
“You look much better this morning, Jo. How did you sleep?”
“I feel much better. I barely remember getting into bed, I was so tired.”
“I’m not surprised. You were exhausted when you stopped writing yesterday. Let’s have a lazy day today and just see what happens.”
“Okay.” Jo closed her eyes and dozed again, whilst Jack picked up his book. Suddenly the telephone bell pealed through the house. Jo groaned at being disturbed by Jack as he jumped out of bed and ran downstairs to answer it. Jo could hear a muffled conversation, but took no notice as she closed her eyes once more. Normally, she was loath to stay in bed once she was awake but, today, she was feeling rather lazy and determined to make the most of the chance. That was spoiled, however, when Jack re-appeared in the room.
“That was Jem. Apparently, you have an appointment at the Sanatorium in two hours.”
“Two hours? Do I have to go?” Jo’s good mood evaporated and she felt as if everyone was conspiring against her being able to enjoy the time alone with Jack.
“I’m afraid so. You can’t afford to miss appointments.” Jack sat down on the bed and put his hand on her shoulder, but she rolled away from him to face the window. She was trying not to give way to her tears. Jack watched her, concerned. He realised that she was retreating away as she found herself back in the position of patient once more. He wished he could have put the appointment off for another day, but he knew it wasn’t possible.
“Do you want to use the bathroom first?”
“Joey? You can talk to me, you know.”
“I know. I just want to be alone, for now.”
Sighing, Jack went to the bathroom. He wished Jo would talk to him instead of withdrawing into herself. He had tried to persuade Jem that she would be better to have pneumothorax in a couple of days, but Jem had been adamant that today was the only appointment available. As Jack wasn’t currently working at the Sanatorium, he had been unable to check for himself and had reluctantly agreed to it. He knew that Jo would not be up to doing much for the rest of the day and that she would be out of sorts the next day, too. He thought of something to brighten up the next day for her and smiled to himself.
When he had finished in the bathroom, he returned to the bedroom and saw Jo still lying in the same position. He went and knelt down so he was on a level with her. He gently wiped the tears away from her cheeks and kissed her. When he pulled back, she managed a watery smile and he grinned back at her. Jo was suspicious at once.
“What are you plotting, Jack Maynard?”
“Me? Nothing. Come on, up you get. The quicker we get there, the quicker it’s done.” He pulled the covers from her and dressed, leaving Jo to get up and go to the bathroom.
They were soon both downstairs eating breakfast. When they were finished, Jo washed the pots, whilst Jack got the car out. Soon, they were on their way to the Sanatorium. Jack glanced over to Jo and saw her face darken as they neared their destination. He parked up and they both climbed out and went inside.
“I’ll be waiting here for you when you’re finished, Jo.” He kissed her and left her to find her own way to X-ray.
When Jo finally returned to reception, Jack was waiting as he had promised.
“How was it?”
“Just take me home, Jack.” She was breathless and in no mood for any of his questions. Seeing this, Jack helped her out to the car and drove quickly home in silence. Jo stared moodily out of the window. She hated having to go through X-rays and pneumothorax every month and resented the fact that she was then reliant on someone else to help her for the rest of the day as she recovered. They reached home at this point in her thoughts and Jack was helping her inside and upstairs, where she soon found herself back between the sheets. Jack lay with her until she fell asleep, hoping his presence was a comfort to her.
It was mid-afternoon when Jo woke. She lay in bed and wondered what to do. She had no breath to move, but she knew she wouldn’t sleep any more. She picked her book up from the bedside cabinet and started reading, but it didn’t hold her attention for long. She let it drop onto the bed and fell to brooding. When Jack came to check on her, he found her staring vacantly at the wall, her book unheeded on the bed. He came to sit with her.
“How long have you been awake?”
“An hour or so.” Jo didn’t move her gaze.
“You should have called me. If I’d known you were awake, I would have come up.” Jo didn’t reply. “What’s wrong, Jo?”
“Something’s bothering you. You’re not normally like this.”
“I’m just fed up of it all, Jack.”
“Being ill. War. You not being here.” Jo was struggling to hold back her tears. Jack pulled her into his arms and she let them fall.
“It’s all right, Joey. You’re allowed to feel fed up sometimes. You’ve had a tough three years or so. The war can’t last forever. And you will get better. It’ll just take time, that’s all.”
“Will I? It doesn’t feel that way at the moment.”
“Of course you will. The stress of the last few years haven’t helped but, now, we’ve got a lovely home and family nearby. You are improving, though it may not feel like it at the moment. You’re bound to have times when you feel down and nothing looks positive. Today is one of those days. You’ve had an emotional few days, what with the air raid and then having to go for pneumothorax today.” Jack held her gently, careful not to cause her any more discomfort than she was already in. He wished he could help her more, but he knew that being there for her when she had days like this was the most important thing. He wished he didn’t have to go back in two weeks’ time. He looked down and realised Jo had fallen back to sleep, worn out by her emotions. He gently extricated himself and went to fetch a drink and his book. He wanted to be there when Jo woke again.
The pealing of the telephone woke her an hour later. Jack went to answer it as Jo allowed the room to come into focus. When he came back, he was smiling broadly.
“How do you feel, now?”
“My head aches.”
“Do you want some painkillers?”
“Yes, please.” Jack obligingly fetched the required painkillers for her and she took them, thankfully. I need to make a start on dinner, now, otherwise we won’t be eating tonight. Will you be all right for half an hour or so?”
“I’ll be fine.”
“Okay. I’ll wake you when it’s ready. Is there anything else I can get you?” Jo shook her head, and then winced as the pain moved. Jack kissed her and left her to sleep whilst he prepared something for them to eat.
When he returned to the bedroom with their dinner, Jo was still sleeping. Jack woke her and she sat up and took the tray from him. They ate in silence, then Jack took their trays back downstairs and washed up. When he returned to the bedroom, Jo was reading. She smiled up at him as he sat down beside her. He returned the smile.
“You look happier, Jo.”
“I feel it. Thank you, Jack. I don’t know how I would have managed to get through the last few days without you.”
“I’m glad I could help. I know it’s hard for you to deal with it all, sometimes, but don’t think you have to go through everything alone. I want to be able to help you and support you, but you have to tell me when you feel unhappy or fed up. I’ll always listen so, please, don’t block me out. I love you, Jo and I want to share your pain and happiness. I want you to be able to think of me as your husband, because that’s what I am.”
“I know. It’s just that, sometimes, I find it hard to forget you’re my doctor.” Jack just hugged her. He saw she was still tired and allowed a companionable silence to fall on them as he held her in his arms. Soon, Jo was sleeping again.
The next morning, Jo woke to see a note from Jack on the bedside cabinet.
Gone to shop. Back soon. Jack xxx
Jo climbed out of bed and went to the bathroom. When she was dressed she went down to the kitchen. Turning the ring on underneath the kettle, she then found some cereal for breakfast. She had just finished when she heard the front door bang closed and footsteps crossing the hallway. Jack poked his head into the kitchen and smiled when he saw Jo sitting at the table.
“Good. You’re up. I have a surprise for you.” He crossed the kitchen and gently pulled her to her feet. “Close your eyes and no peeking.” Jo looked suspiciously at him.
“Just what do you plan to do with me?”
“Nothing. Close your eyes.” He smiled persuasively and Jo sighed. She really wasn’t in the mood to be surprised, when she was still feeling low. She did as she was told, though, and allowed Jack to lead her out of the kitchen. He led her slowly across the hall and into the lounge. He stopped her once they were inside the room. “Okay. You can open them now.” Jo opened her eyes and was immediately grabbed by two sets of hands.
The voices cried out simultaneously, and Jo found herself being pulled into a hug with Robin and Daisy. She returned the embrace, glad to see the two girls. Jack stood to one side, pleased he had thought of inviting them over for the day. Jo was the first to recover herself.
“It’s lovely to see you, girls, but shouldn’t you be at school?”
“Miss Annersley has allowed them the day off to visit you,” Jack replied, as he put his arm round Jo’s waist and led her to the sofa. “You’ve had a rough few days and I thought they might cheer you up a little.”
“Thank you, Jack. It’s a lovely surprise.”
“I’ll leave you girls to it as I’ve a few things to do this morning.” Jack departed, leaving the three of them to sit down and catch up.
“We’ve missed you, Auntie Jo,” Daisy told her as she came to sit next to Jo on the sofa.
“I’ve missed you, too, Daisy-girl. I can’t believe how tall you’re getting. Do you ever intend to stop growing?”
“I can’t help it. Uncle Jem says I’m going to be tall like him.” Jo laughed.
“Yes, you probably will be, but you’ll have no clothes to fit you soon, if you keep it up at this rate.”
“How are you, Jo?” Robin asked, seriously. “Jack just said you needed cheering up.”
“I’m fine, Robin. I had an appointment at the Sanatorium yesterday and it just put me down in the dumps a little, that’s all.” Not for worlds would Jo tell them what had really happened over the past few days. She could barely bring herself to think about the nightmare again, never mind relate it to two schoolgirls. It was still too vivid in her mind. Robin looked shrewdly at Jo, but said no more on the subject. She guessed it was more than just the appointment that had upset her. At sixteen, she was beginning to see a lot of things her elders hadn’t told her about. She said no more on the subject.
The three of them spent a lovely morning together, catching up on all the news. Jo listened to Robin’s and Daisy’s chatter, allowing it to wash over her and dissipate her own troubles for a while. When Jack called them to the kitchen for lunch, he was pleased to see that Jo looked much happier and she wasn’t wearing the anxious look she had had for the past few days. He kept the chatter light as they ate their lunch and suggested that Robin and Daisy might like to unpack their boxes whilst Jo rested after lunch. This was quickly agreed, though Jack made no mention of when they would actually move back in with them. Robin was wise enough to guess that Jack wanted to spend some time alone with Jo whilst he was home and she didn’t expect to move back until just before he was due to go back.
Jo slept soundly for two hours after lunch, only waking when Jack came into the room with a drink for her. He smiled as she opened her eyes and looked at him.
“Here you go. Drink that first, then come back downstairs.”
“Thank you for inviting Robin & Daisy over, Jack.”
“My pleasure.” Jack came to sit on the edge of the bed. “I thought you needed some distraction and knew you were missing having them here with you.”
“When are they going to move back here?”
“I thought they could come back a few days before I have to leave. I want to have you all to myself for once.” Jo’s face had fallen slightly at his mention of going back, but she managed a small smile at his wanting her to himself. Jack noticed, however. He said nothing and pushed it to the back of his mind. He wanted Jo to enjoy her day. He left her to her drink and went back downstairs to the lounge, where Robin and Daisy were indulging in a game of Snap.
Jo duly joined them fifteen minutes later, and the four of them spent a cosy afternoon together, playing board games. When it came to making dinner, Robin and Daisy insisted that they did it. They disappeared off to the kitchen, leaving Jo and Jack alone in the lounge. Jack came to sit with Jo on the sofa, and she curled up into his arms.
“Yes. It’s been gorgeous to see them both, though it’s a shame they have to go back tonight.”
“Their stuff is all at your sister’s house. They wouldn’t have the time to go back there before school in the morning.”
“How are they getting back?”
“Jem said he would collect them on his way home.” Jo nodded and laid her head on his chest. The day had been busier than she was expecting and she was still recovering from her pneumothorax the previous day. Jack just held her, understanding that she was making the most of the quiet to have a brief rest.
Fifteen minutes later, Daisy announced that dinner was ready. Jo sat up looking a little disorientated. She had dozed off in the quiet of the room. Jack smiled at her.
“Go and have a quick wash to wake yourself up.” He pulled her to her feet and she disappeared upstairs whilst he made his way to the kitchen.
Once they had finished and washed up, they all went back into the lounge to make the most of the time left until Jem came to collect Robin and Daisy. Jem appeared about eight o’clock and the girls reluctantly took their leave. As reluctant as Jo was to say goodbye to them, she was secretly relieved. She flopped thankfully onto the sofa, whilst Jack went and made them a drink. When he came back into the lounge, he saw she was struggling to keep her eyes open.
“Go on up to bed, Jo. There’s no point trying to stay awake just for me.” Jo yawned and stood up. She took her drink from him and started to the door.
“I think I will. I had no idea those two could be so tiring. Night, Jack.” She kissed him and departed bedwards.
Jo woke the next morning feeling refreshed and much happier than she had done over the past few days. Jack was still sleeping beside her, so she slipped out of bed and dressed quietly so as not to disturb him. Once she had crept downstairs and eaten, she went outside into the garden. It was promising to be a lovely sunny day. Jo strolled down the path towards the bottom of the garden, her mind somewhere else. She found a seat in a sunny corner and gave herself up to thinking.
Jack woke to find himself alone. He looked at the clock and saw that it was still early. Rising, he wondered where Jo was, he was so used to waking before her of late. He quickly dressed and went downstairs. He peered into the lounge on his way past, but she wasn’t in there. Nor was she in the kitchen, dining room or study. He saw the used breakfast pots and was glad to see she had at least eaten before she disappeared. There was no note either, which worried him. The last time she had disappeared without leaving a note, she had ended up in bed for three days, recovering from a walk taken to try and rid herself of her vivid imaginings. He went out through the back door and walked down the garden path to see if she was there. As he reached the bottom, he spied her sitting in the sunshine, in a world of her own. He felt relieved to see she was safe. He debated whether to disturb her, she looked so tranquil lost in her own thoughts. Jo sensed she was being watched at this point and looked up to see him standing nearby. She smiled up at him and he came to sit with her.
“I thought you’d disappeared on another mad walk, Jo.”
“No. I was awake and thought I’d make the most of the sunshine while it lasts.”
“You looked as if you were in your own world.”
“I was just thinking.”
“Anything in particular?”
“Just all that’s happened over the past few days and what I need to do now.”
“What have you decided?”
“That I need to get my life back to somewhere near normal. I know I can’t do anything about my illness, but I can do something about everything else. I think I need to start writing again. It helped last time.” Jack just put his arm around her and held her close. He could see she was determined and he admired her bravery. He knew it had been hard for her to put that nightmare into words, but it had also been therapeutic for her. If she had decided to write again, he wanted to be there to support her through it. He didn’t know where he was being posted when he returned in two weeks’ time, but he would see if he could wangle a position near to his home. That way he would be able to see her more often than he had been able to until now.
“When do you plan to start?”
“No time like the present.” She stood up and shook her skirt out, before setting off back towards the house with an air of determination about her. Jack stayed where he was and watched her go. He just hoped she was doing the right thing.
When Jack finally returned to the house, he found Jo in the study, the desk littered with sheet upon sheet of paper. She was writing furiously. Not wishing to disturb her, he went into the lounge and turned the radio on. He made sure the volume was low, so he could hear if Jo should need him. He lay on the sofa and listened to the radio for an hour or so, until he thought he heard a noise from the study. He went to check on Jo and saw her with her head in her hands, trying to stop herself from crying. He entered the study and pulled her into his arms, hoping the comfort of his presence would help her. He could feel her trembling as she allowed the tears to fall. He felt the trembling slowly lessen, then stop. Jo pulled back from him and managed a small smile.
“Come and have a drink, Jo.” She allowed him to lead her into the kitchen, where he sat her at the table and busied himself making them both a drink of tea. When he had seen her drink it, he spoke again.
“I think you might have written for long enough, today.” Jo shook her head.
“I need to finish the chapter.”
“You can continue until lunchtime, then. After that, you aren’t doing anymore. I know you, Jo, and you’ll make yourself worse if you aren’t careful. When you’ve rested, we’ll go for a walk.” Jo nodded reluctantly. She knew Jack meant what he said and it was pointless to argue. She finished her tea and kissed him as she headed back to the study. Jack looked after her and sighed to himself.
At lunchtime, Jack made sure Jo ate everything on her plate and drank the strong tea he had made her. She then went upstairs to rest. She slept for the next three hours, emotionally drained from her writing. Jack eventually woke her when he realised she would sleep all afternoon if he left her. They went for a stroll around the village, as they needed a couple of things from the shop. Jo felt much better for the fresh air. It was still warm and sunny when they returned home, so she elected to sit outside and read her book. Jack joined her on the patio and they read in a companionable silence, until Jack noticed the time.
“What are we having for dinner tonight, Jo?”
“No idea. What time is it?”
“It’s gone six.”
“Really? I didn’t think it was so late. Where has the day gone?”
“I don’t know, but I’m getting hungry.”
“I’ll go and see what I can rustle up.” Jo stood up and departed towards the kitchen, whilst Jack continued to read for a little longer. He could hear the occasional loud noise coming from the direction of the kitchen, but he chose to ignore it. Eventually, he heard Jo call him inside. He headed indoors through the French windows and to the kitchen, where Jo had just put their dinner out. The room looked as if a bomb had been dropped in it, as pots and pans were everywhere.
“Have you used every single pan we own?”
“Not quite. I think there may still be couple of clean ones in the cupboard.” Jo surveyed the state of the kitchen and sighed. “I might have made a bit of a mess, though. Frau Mieders would be disappointed if she were here.” Jack couldn’t help laughing at this understatement.
“I think she might be a little more than disappointed, Jo. How on earth did you manage to make so much mess?”
“I kept changing my mind about what to use and didn’t seem to have time to put things away.”
“Well, you can wash up, tonight. It might teach you to be a little more economical with pots and pans in future.” Jo just pulled a face at him and ate her dinner. She wasn’t noticeably crushed by Jack’s refusal to wash up since she knew she was to blame for the mess. Once they had finished, she headed to the sink to begin the arduous task. Jack went to fetch their chairs in from the garden and put them away in the garage. He read his book for a short while, before going back to the kitchen to see how Jo was getting on. He saw her still washing up, precariously balancing everything on the drainer. He took pity on her and, picking the tea towel up, he came to dry for her. When they had finished and the kitchen was spotlessly clean once more, they went to sit in the lounge. They enjoyed a peaceful evening together, talking and listening to the radio.
This routine continued for the next four days. Jo wrote during the morning and they walked in the afternoon. Jack made sure he was within hearing just in case Jo needed him but, apart from that first day, she had not broken down again. He could see she was exorcising her demons as she was looking less pale and sleeping better at night. On the fifth morning, however, all was not well. Jack had four more days left before he had to return to his regiment and Robin and Daisy were due to move back the next day. Jo woke that morning with a sense that something was not quite right. She was unable to fathom what it was she was worried about, so she decided to continue her day as normal.
Jo struggled to write that morning. Her mind was full of the things she wanted to write, but she was unable to put those thoughts into anything coherent. She found herself becoming more frustrated as the morning wore on and, as a result, her temper was shorter than normal. In the end she gave up and threw her pen down in frustration. Ink went everywhere.
“Damn!” She quickly picked up some papers and a book which were dangerously close to the quickly spreading pool and wondered what to do next. Luckily, Jack heard her exclamation and came to see what was wrong. He took in the situation at a glance and went to fetch a cloth from the kitchen. He started wiping the ink up and Jo put the papers and book down on the chair. She went to put the kettle on and got a bowl of water for the cloth Jack was using. Jack said nothing, but continued to clean the ink up, before it stained the desk. Jo hovered, watching. When he was finished, he picked the bowl up and went into the kitchen, Jo following him. The kettle was just starting to whistle, so Jo automatically made some tea. When it was done, she brought the teapot to the table and dropped into a chair with a gusty sigh.
“What’s wrong, Jo?”
“There must have been a reason for you to get ink everywhere. You don’t normally manage to make that much mess when you’re writing.”
“Well, I did today.” Jo snapped.
“Are you going to pour the tea?” Jack changed tactics. Jo poured the tea and drank hers in silence, before heading back to the study. She sat back down behind the desk and stared angrily at her papers, as if willing them to turn into something good. The pealing of the telephone interrupted her thoughts and she heard Jack answer it. The sense of foreboding came to her again, as she slowly started to rearrange the sheets before her into number order. She heard the telephone click back onto the stand and Jack’s footsteps coming towards the study. She looked at the papers in her hand and avoided his gaze as he entered the room.
“Jo? That was Jem on the ‘phone. The children have all come out in a rash and he’s had to quarantine everyone until he knows what it is. Robin and Daisy included. They won’t be able to move back here tomorrow.”
“If they’re still in quarantine when I have to go, it might be best for you to go back to the Sanatorium until they’re free again.”
“No.” Jo spoke quietly, but with conviction. She knew there was no way she was going to consent to being sent back there.
“You can’t stay here alone, Jo.”
“I can and I will. I’m not an invalid. I’m quite capable of looking after myself, whatever you and Jem may think.”
“What if there’s another air raid? You were incapable of moving last time.”
“I’ll manage. Why do you think I’ve been sitting in here, writing for the past four days?” Jo waved the papers in her hand in front of him, her temper roused. “I’ve been ridding myself of those nightmares and what I went through.”
“You don’t know if that way has worked though.”
“You’re right, I don’t, but I feel better for doing it and I’m sure I won’t be in the same state next time it happens. I’m an adult, Jack, and I’m capable of making decisions. I’m not going to be treated like a child, just because you think you know what’s best for me.” Jo stood up at this and swept past Jack. She stopped long enough to collect her coat before disappearing out though the front door, slamming it behind her. She walked aimlessly, not caring where she went, as long as it was away from home. Eventually, she reached a sheltered corner and collapsed onto the ground, gasping for breath. She lay there for quite a while, unaware of her surroundings, as she tried to concentrate on bringing her breathing back under control. She was oblivious to the time since her watch lay on the desk at home.
Jack watched Jo leave the house. He was shocked at the vehemence of her outburst. He hadn’t expected that reaction. He looked at the papers she had flung down as she stormed out and bent down to pick them up from the floor. He debated whether to go after her, but decided she would be better to have some time alone to cool down first. When he had tidied the papers, he set off in search of her, hoping she had not got carried away in her walk. He wandered round the village first, before turning towards the hills. He walked along the route they usually took when they walked, hoping that she would be somewhere along it. He spied some colour amongst the long grass up ahead of him. As he drew closer he realised it was Jo, huddled in a heap. He approached slowly, hoping that she was all right. She had her eyes closed and was breathing slowly and deliberately.
“Jo?” Jack spoke softly. He was well aware that she had left in a fit of temper and he had no wish to be on the receiving end of it again. He was worried about her, though.
“Go away!” Jo was still angry and didn’t want to see him or for him to try and help her. She knew she could do things for herself and Jack offering to help every time didn’t give her the chance to prove herself.
Jack didn’t reply, he just lay down in the long grass beside her. He had no intention of leaving her alone, but he knew she wouldn’t appreciate his help, either. He waited, patiently, as she gradually brought herself back under control.
Once she had recovered, Jo just lay there, staring at the clouds drifting slowly across the sky. She was aware of Jack’s presence beside her, but she wasn’t ready to acknowledge him yet. She had no interest in starting a conversation. She knew that Jack’s suggestion that she may have to go back into the Sanatorium had originated from Jem and she had no intention of allowing herself to be taken back there. How was she meant to gain some independence if she wasn’t allowed the freedom to prove it? Jack’s voice broke across her thoughts.
“Jo? Talk to me, please. I know you’re angry at the thought of going back there, but I don’t understand why.”
“I’m not going, Jack.” Jo’s answer was short. Jack persisted.
“It wouldn’t be for long, though. Only until Robin and Daisy come out of quarantine.”
“No. I’m sick of people making decisions for me and treating me like a child. How am I ever going to prove that I’m capable of looking after myself if I’m sent back to the Sanatorium every time I have to spend a few days alone?”
“I didn’t intend to make the decision for you, Jo. I just thought you’d rather be where there would be people to talk to since you won’t be able to go to your sister’s whilst they’re in quarantine.”
“But you did make the decision and you didn’t even ask me. You have no idea what it’s like to be in the Sanatorium for months on end, looking at the same four walls. I’ve spent the best part of the past four years doing just that. You went home at the end of each day and saw friends and family. I didn’t, and I was one of the lucky ones. I had family living near enough to be able to visit for those precious few, short hours each week.”
“That may be so, but I’m the one who has to watch many people lose their fight against the disease. I’m the one who has to inform the family that their loved one is no longer on this earth. I had to watch you go through it all, knowing I could only do so much and that I had to just hope that you recovered. Yes, I may get the chance to go home at the end of the day, but the time I spend at the Sanatorium, talking to patients, looking for a cure, is part of who I am. I don’t just go home at the end of my shift if someone needs me.”
“I appreciate that, but you also make decisions for people who may not be in a position to make them, themselves. That’s what you did for me, today. You didn’t give me the options and let me decide. You decided that going back would be the best decision so I wouldn’t be alone. I would be just as lonely, if not more so if I went back there where I wouldn’t have any contact with my sister since she is quarantined as well. If I stay at home, at least I’ll be able to talk to her on the ‘phone each day. I couldn’t do that in the Sanatorium.”
“But you’ve also just had a week of being down and easily upset. What if that happens again? I was here with you this time, but if you’re alone, there won’t be anyone to support you and help you work through your demons.”
“It’s something I shall have to learn to deal with. You said yourself that even if you were at home, you wouldn’t be there a lot of the time because of what you do. I spend the daytime alone when Robin and Daisy are at school anyway, so what difference would a few nights make? You have to let me make my own decisions. I’m not the thirteen year old child you first met at Pretty Maids, anymore. I’m an adult and I’d like to be treated as such.”
“That’s a fair point. I’m sorry, Jo. I promise not to do it again. I’ll also make sure that you stay at home, when I have to go back.”
“Thank you.” Jo rolled over to him and he held her in his arms and kissed her. They lay in the grass for a short while longer, until Jack realised that Jo was shivering slightly.
“Are you cold, Jo?”
“A little.” She spoke sleepily, the emotions of the day having tired her out.
“Let’s go home shall we? The sun has disappeared, now.”
“Okay.” Jack hauled himself up and pulled Jo to her feet, before brushing the grass off her back. Jo returned the favour and then, with Jack’s arm across her shoulder, they set off back home.
This is the last chapter of Part IV. Thank you all for you lovely comments. It's encouraged me to continue writing this.
Part V will follow when I get round to writing it.
Jack’s last four days flew by, and before Jo realised, it was his last morning at home with her. They had done some serious talking about what was going to happen when he left. The rash at the Round House had turned out to be chicken pox and they were all quarantined for at least the next week. Jack had conceded that Jo should stay at home and not return to the Sanatorium. He understood her need for independence and agreed that this was a prime opportunity for her to be able to prove she was capable of living alone. He had spoken to Jem and made sure that he knew the reason why Jo was staying alone. Jem had been reluctant to agree at first, but Jack had told him that Jo needed the challenge, if she was to continue to improve. Jem had finally agreed on the proviso that Jo speak to her sister daily and, if she was struggling at all, to speak to him. He still felt that Jo was his responsibility, especially when Jack was away, and he would find it hard to relinquish that role so she could be the adult she was.
They spent a quiet morning at home, just enjoying each other’s company and making the most of the little time left to them. All too soon, the time for Jack’s departure arrived. He had arranged a lift into Armiford and was due to meet it at one o’clock. He disappeared upstairs to change, before seeking Jo. He found her sitting at the bottom of the garden.
“Jo? I have to go, now, or I’ll miss my lift.” Jo didn’t reply. She knew that if she spoke, she would break down in tears. Jack guessed how she was feeling and sat down beside her, wrapping her into his arms. They stayed like that for a few minutes, Jo drawing strength from him. Eventually, she pulled back and they kissed.
“Take care of yourself, Joey. I’ll be home again, soon.”
“I will, Jack.” He gave her another hug before walking back down the garden. Jo watched him go, her eyes full of unshed tears. Only when he was out of sight did she let them fall. She stayed at the bottom of the garden for a long time, her thoughts elsewhere. Only when the shade came, making her feel chilly, did she move.
“Right, Jo. Time to prove yourself.” She spoke out loud, as she stood up and shook her skirt out, before heading back to the house and her independence.
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