Continuation of Jo's life after she contracted Tuberculosis.
Ste Therese's House Characters:
Daisy Venables, Jack Maynard, Jem Russell, Jo (Bettany) Maynard, Madge (Bettany) Russell, Robin Humphries
Alternate Universe, Domestic, Family, War
Jo's Biggest Challenge
29 Aug 2011 Updated:
12 Oct 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
It was the beginning of September and Jo Maynard was busy in the kitchen. It was her turn to cook and she was desperately trying to conjure a meal out of very few ingredients.
“How I wish that Jack was home so we could get the garden dug over and plant our own vegetables.”
“Why don’t you ask Madge if you could borrow Andreas for the day to do it?” Jo jumped and turned round to see Robin standing in the doorway.
“Robin! I didn’t hear you come in! When did you get home?” Jo came across the kitchen to hug her adopted sister and Robin returned it before answering.
“Just now. I came to see if you needed a hand with dinner.”
“You can put the kettle on, if you like. Otherwise, I’m managing all right. I’m just bemoaning the lack of fresh vegetables, that’s all. It’s a shame we didn’t get the garden dug over and some vegetables planted in it this summer.”
“When would we have had the time? You didn’t come home until June and there was more than enough for you to cope with in the house, never mind all that needs doing in the garden.”
“That’s a fair point. There was no way I could have dealt with the garden whilst I was on my own for those few weeks, either. I don’t have enough energy for much of the heavier work, even now.”
“Why don’t you speak to Madge and ask her if she knows someone who could do the gardening for you?”
“That’s a good idea. With all the contacts she has, she’s sure to be able to point me in the right direction at the very least. I’ll give her a ring later. There! That’s done, now. All that’s left is to actually cook it when we’re ready to eat.” Jo placed the pan on the stove. Robin poured them both a cup of tea and they settled down at the kitchen table to chat.
“Where’s Daisy?” Robin asked.
“She’s gone up to Plas Howell to see Gwensi. She should be back soon, though. Did you have a good day?”
“Yes, thank you. Hops picking is hard work, but worthwhile.”
“Well, if you’ve finished your tea, I suggest you go up and have a bath. I’m going to put dinner on once Daisy gets home.” Robin acquiesced and disappeared upstairs.
When she came back down, she found that Daisy had returned and was laying the table for dinner. Jo was putting the meal out and they were soon sitting down to a simple dinner. The chatter was about what everyone had done during the day. Jo had been busy writing all morning and had spent a lazy afternoon in the garden. She had continued the routine she had established just before Jack had gone back to his regiment, and Jem had kept a close eye on his sister-in-law. He had not been happy about her being left alone when Jack had left, but Jo had made sure that he had no cause to try and remove her back to the Sanatorium. Jem had seen her slowly regaining her strength and had finally admitted that she was right to have stayed where she was. Even an air raid one night had not overly taxed her. True, she had been badly frightened by it, but she had managed keep her head enough to make it down to the cellar and collapse onto the bunk. When Jem had gone to check on her the next morning, he had found her still down there, fast asleep. He had woken her and sent her back upstairs to her own bed, telling her to get some more sleep.
Robin and Daisy moved back in with her towards the end of July. Jo had been glad, as she was beginning to find her own company a little boring. They had spent a lovely summer together, visiting friends and family round about as well as just the three of them spending time at home. Now, September was upon them and they had to start thinking about school again.
Once dinner was eaten, Robin and Daisy washed up whilst Jo went to ring her sister. After a short conversation, she went to wait in the lounge for the girls to finish. Madge had passed on some news for them and Jo had decided to break it to them tonight so they could get used to the idea. Once they were settled in the lounge, Jo spoke.
“Madge has asked me to pass on some news.”
“News? What sort of news, Auntie Jo?” Daisy was agog with curiosity and promptly sat up on the hearth rug, her book forgotten on the floor next to her.
“It’s going to affect all of us, really. When school starts again, you’re both going to be weekly boarders.”
“Boarders? Why ever?”
“When the winter nights draw in, you can’t come cycling home in the blackout. It won’t be safe.”
“That’s true,” Robin replied. “But the nights won’t be drawing in for a while longer yet. Why do we have to be weekly boarders immediately?”
“I don’t want you to be, but Madge says they have to allocate you cubicles and it’s easier for the school if they are occupied from the start of the term.”
“That would make sense, I suppose. What will you do though, Jo, if we’re at school all week?”
“I’ll be fine, Robin. I tend to spend my mornings writing and go out for a walk in the afternoon, so it’s only the evenings I’ll have to fill. Though once the nights draw in and the weather turns worse, I may have to rethink walking.” Jo frowned. She didn’t want them to know that she was going to find it very lonely during the week. Another thought also occurred to her. What would happen when she had pneumothorax? She was never in any state to do anything afterwards when she had been for it. She pushed the thought to the back of her mind. She would worry about that when it happened.
“Will we be coming home every weekend, Auntie Jo?”
“Yes, Daisy. You’ll come immediately after lessons on Friday and go back Sunday afternoon.”
“Won’t we be going to the Round House on Saturdays then?”
“No. Not whilst you’re boarding. I won’t see you otherwise.” Jo glanced at the mantle clock and gasped. “Look at the time! It’s high time we were all thinking about sleeping.”
“I’ll go and make us a drink each to take up.” Robin stood up and headed towards the kitchen, whilst Daisy tidied the lounge and Jo checked the doors and windows.
“You go on up, Daisy-girl. You should be asleep by now. I’ll bring your drink up for you.” Daisy hugged her aunt and bounded up the stairs to use the bathroom before she quickly wriggled out of her clothes and jumped into bed. Jo soon appeared with the milky drink and tucked her in telling her to hurry up and get to sleep.
“I will. Good night Auntie Jo.”
“Good night, Daisy.” Jo shut the door and went into her own room, where she, too, was soon tucked up in bed and sleeping soundly.
Many thanks for your lovely comments.
A week later saw Robin and Daisy putting the last items of clothing into their trunks ready for taking up to school the next day. Jem was calling round to collect them on his way as he was taking those of his own household. The three of them spent a quiet evening together, making the most of each other’s company whilst they could. In a couple of days, Robin and Daisy would be at school and Jo wouldn’t see them again until the weekend.
Jem knocked on the door early next morning. Robin answered it with a smile for her guardian when she saw him.
“Morning, Robin. Are your trunks ready?”
“Good morning. They’re all packed and just waiting to be moved. Do you want a drink? The kettle’s just boiled.”
“Thank you. A cup of tea would be nice. I’ll just fetch your trunks down and get them loaded first.” He headed upstairs and Robin followed to show him where the trunks were. They were soon downstairs and loaded into the car. Jem came into the kitchen and sat down at the table.
“Hello Uncle Jem. Do you want some breakfast?”
“Hello Daisy. No thanks. I’ve already eaten, but a cup of tea won’t go amiss. Where’s Jo?”
“I’m here. Did you want me, Jem?” Jo came into the kitchen and sat down opposite her brother-in-law. She poured a cup of tea for herself and looked quizzically at him.
“Not really. I just wondered where you were since I hadn’t seen you.” Jo laughed.
“I kept out of the way. I had no wish to be shouted at whilst you were fighting with those trunks.” Jem grinned back at her.
“They were rather heavy. I have no idea what you two have packed in them, but I’m sure they were heavier than those belonging to our crowd.”
“I thought I’d put a couple of bricks in the bottom of mine to test you, Uncle Jem,” Daisy teased.
“Cheeky brat! It’s to be hoped Matey doesn’t find them then or you will be in trouble. Speaking of which, I’d best be off or I’ll be late.” He finished his tea and stood up. Jo accompanied him to the door to wave him off.
“You have an appointment at the Sanatorium next Thursday morning, Jo. I’ll have a proper talk with you there, when I’ve more time.”
“Okay. What time do I need to be ready for?”
“Be ready at nine o’clock. I don’t know who’ll be collecting you, yet, but they’ll not want to be kept waiting. I know what you can be like if you start writing.”
“Cheek! I’m not that bad.”
“You can be and well you know it! Oh, and Madge wants to know if you’ll come for dinner on Saturday, since it’ll be the last time we’ll see Robin and Daisy for a few weeks once school starts.”
“Yes, of course I’ll come.”
“Good, I’ll let her know. Do you think you can manage the walk up to the Round House? Or shall I send Andreas with the car?”
“I think I’ll manage it.”
“Ring and let us know when you set off and someone will walk to meet you.”
“Can do. I’ll see you on Saturday.”
“I’m not sure if I’ll be there. If not, I’ll give you a ring during the week to let you know who’ll be picking you up.” At this, Jem climbed into the car and started the engine. Jo stood back and waved as he set off towards the school.
The next few days passed all too quickly and suddenly it was Monday morning. Jo was up early to make sure that Robin and Daisy were ready on time. They were going to cycle whilst the days were still light enough for them to do so safely. Once breakfast had been eaten, Robin went to fetch their cycles from the garage. Jo came out to wave them off.
“Are you sure you have everything you need? If you’ve forgotten it, it’ll have to wait until the weekend.”
“Yes, Auntie Jo. Are you ready Robin?”
“Just about. Bye, Jo. We’ll see you after school on Friday.” Robin came up and hugged her, before taking her bicycle from Daisy. Jo kissed Daisy and then stood back.
“Bye, girls. Have a good time.” They set off down the lane and Jo waved until they rounded the corner and she could see them no more. She went slowly back into the house and towards the study. Sitting at the desk, she debated whether to continue writing. She decided against it and headed into the kitchen and washed up the breakfast pots. Once this was done, and the kitchen was spotless, once more, she wandered restlessly round the house.
“This is no good,” she thought. “I may as well go for a walk now to shake the fidgets out of me. Then I may be able to settle down to write this afternoon.” She quickly changed her shoes and picked her coat off the hook. Then, locking the door after her, set off in the direction of the fields.
When she arrived home an hour later, she was feeling much happier and was quite content to settle to writing for the rest of the morning. The rest of the day passed relatively well, but when it came to evening, Jo found the time hanging over her. She tried to read, but found herself unable to do so. She realised she was missing them more than she thought she would. It was different from when she had been alone a few months ago. Then, she had only had Jack to miss, since Robin and Daisy had been in quarantine and hadn’t been living with them. This time, she realised she was missing all three of them. She paced around the lounge for a few minutes, then purposefully went back to the study and started a letter to her husband. This filled the time easily and when she glanced at the clock, she realised it was time for bed.
Many thanks for your comments.
Thursday morning dawned brightly and Jo groaned to herself as the sun streamed into the bedroom. She looked at the clock and realised it was barely five o’clock. It was far too early to get up, but Jo knew she would struggle to sleep in the brightness. She reluctantly climbed out of bed and pulled the blackout down, thus creating enough darkness for her to doze back off for a while longer. She was suddenly woken by the ringing of the telephone. Jo struggled out of bed and made her way towards the noise. She was halfway down the stairs when it stopped.
“Drat it! I wonder who it was.” She sat on the stairs and waited a few minutes, hoping that it might ring again, but it didn’t. She sighed and went back upstairs to see what time it was. When she looked at the clock she was surprised to see it was after eight o’clock. She was going to have to rush if she was to be ready for her lift at nine.
Jo was just ready when the doorbell rang. She grabbed her coat and bag and opened the door. It was one of the nurses, who was due to start her shift. Jo greeted her and they were soon driving along the country lanes towards the Sanatorium. When they arrived, Jo thanked her and they parted ways. Jo headed towards the X-ray department and, once she had finished there, was told to go to Jem’s office before she went for pneumothorax. Jem was just escorting another patient out when she arrived there. He smiled at her and she patiently waited for him to finish. He asked his secretary to bring in some tea and then ushered Jo into his office and led her to the comfortable seats, rather than the desk. Once they were settled and his secretary had brought in the tea, Jem turned the conversation.
“How are you getting on at home now Robin and Daisy aren’t there?”
“Fine. Though it’s a bit lonely in the evenings.”
“Are you eating properly?”
“You still look a little too thin, Jo.” Jo sighed at this comment. She had always been slender in build and, no matter how much she ate, she didn’t seem to put on much weight. Jem knew this, but, to his eyes, she still looked thinner than normal. “I had a look at your last two sets of X-rays and, provided the ones you’ve had done today are as good, I think you can start having pneumothorax every three months from today onwards.”
“Are you sure?” Jo didn’t know whether to believe it.
“I’m sure, Jo. You’ve been improving every month since you left here at the beginning of June. It’s been a long time but, hopefully, you’ve finally turned the corner. As long as you take care and keep to the routine you already have, you’ll continue to improve. I know you’re still worrying about Jack, but at least you know he’s relatively safe and in this country, now.”
Tears trickled down Jo’s cheeks as she listened. She could barely comprehend that the horrors of the past few years were finally beginning to diminish. Jem came to sit next to her and pulled her into his arms as she cried. He knew that her battle with tuberculosis had been hard fought. Having thought she’d beaten it once, she then had to flee from the home she loved and for her life. The stress of the wild trek through Nazi-occupied Austria to the safety of Switzerland had taken her to the limits of her endurance. Her subsequent break-down and the return of tuberculosis had come as no surprise. Her imagination was something which she had to fight hard to control and when her husband had been called up within weeks of her second discharge and their marriage she had been lucky not to be re-admitted as she lost weight rapidly through worry.
Jem loved his sister-in-law, having seen her grow up from the thirteen year old child she was when he had begun courting her sister. He knew she still had a long way to go, but he was much more hopeful, now. He allowed her to cry on for a short while, knowing that the release would be good for her. When he thought she had cried for long enough, he spoke again.
“Come, Jo. There’s no need for all these tears. It’s good news.” Jo gulped and managed to calm down a little. Jem handed her a couple of tissues and poured some more tea, whilst Jo blew her nose. He passed her a cup and she drank it. “When you’ve had your pneumothorax, I’m going to take you home to the Round House. You can stay with us tonight, so that you don’t have to try to do anything, and you’ll have some company.”
“Th-thank you. What about my night and washing things, though?”
“I’m sure your sister can lend you whatever you need. It’s only for one night. You’ll be going back to your own home tomorrow, ready for when Robin and Daisy arrive.” He glanced at his watch and saw that his next patient was due in a few minutes. “Go and tidy yourself up, then go and have your pneumothorax. I have another appointment, now, so I’ll collect you from reception when I’ve finished.” Jo got to her feet and Jem gave her another hug, before showing her out. She went to the nearest bathroom and washed her face, before walking to the operating theatre to have her pneumothorax. When she was finished, a nurse pushed her back to reception in a wheelchair.
Jo was waiting for a good fifteen minutes before Jem finally appeared. He wheeled her out to his car and drove home as quickly as he could. He saw she was uncomfortable, so as soon as they reached the Round House, he helped her up to the guest room and left her in the chair whilst he sought out his wife and requested her to find some night things and take them to Jo. When Madge appeared, Jo was thankful for the proffered help and was soon tucked up in bed.
Madge sat with her sister until she slept. She divined that Jo didn’t want to be left alone, and she was worried. When she was sure Jo was fast asleep, she went in search of her husband, finally locating him in the dining room eating a sandwich. She came to sit down with him.
“Is she sleeping?”
“Yes. She’s fast on. Is she all right, Jem? She looked a little upset to me.”
“She’s fine. She’s feeling a bit lonely, since Robin and Daisy are boarding through the week, now. I also gave her some good news about how well she’s doing and she was a little overwhelmed by it all.”
“She’s had a lot to cope with over the past few years, hasn’t she?”
“Yes. She’s had a tough few years, with everything she’s had to go through. Hopefully, she’ll keep on improving. All that’s missing, now, is for Jack to be back at home with her, not that we can do anything about that at the moment.”
“Maybe I should go and spend an evening with her each week, so she’s not entirely alone. I’m sure Marie and Rosa will cope for one evening. It must be difficult for her since she doesn’t have many friends round about. Those she does have, have small families to deal with, so they can’t call in the evening.”
“That’s a good idea. It might stop her from being quite so lonely. I know Robin and Daisy have only been gone a week but, it’s obvious she’s missing their company. She admitted it was lonely in the evening. She’ll stay here tonight since she won’t be doing much else apart from sleeping and we’ll run her back home tomorrow after lunch. I want to make sure she’s still eating properly, so I’ll take her tray up at dinner.”
“I’ll sit with her this afternoon then. If she wakes, then at least she won’t be alone.”
“I doubt she’ll wake for a few hours, yet. You may as well continue with whatever you were doing when I arrived. I’ll be in the study if you need me.” At this, Jem stood up and kissed his wife before heading off to deal with his never-ending pile of paperwork. He sat down at the desk and sighed to himself. He wished Jack Maynard was back home, not just for Jo, but to help him at the Sanatorium. He had started to expand into other areas of medicine when he had taken over the building and now, the authorities were sending some of the worst casualties from air raids to him for recuperation. He decided to contact them to see if it was possible to release any doctors to help with the higher number of patients.
Meanwhile, Madge had taken Jem’s empty plate back to the kitchen and washed it. She went along to the nursery to spend an hour with Sybil and Josette, before she went to check on Jo. She was still sleeping, so Madge just deposited a book on the bedside table for her and slipped back out as quietly as she had entered.
It was late afternoon when Jo finally woke. She stared around the unfamiliar room, wondering where she was for a few moments before her memory returned. She sighed and then noticed movement out of the corner of her eye. She turned her head and saw her sister sitting the chair nearby.
“How do you feel, Jo?”
“Do you want something to eat?”
“Not hungry. Just a drink, please.”
“I’ll go and get us some tea. I won’t be long.” Madge quickly left the room. She went down to the kitchen and made a pot of tea as Marie was busy preparing dinner. She was just heading back upstairs with it when Jem came along the corridor. Seeing the tray in her hands, he came to take it from her.
“Go and fetch another cup and I’ll join you for a drink.” He glanced down at the tray in his hands. “Did you ask her if she wanted anything to eat?”
“Yes. She said she wasn’t hungry. It’s not that long until dinner, though.”
“See if we have any biscuits. She hasn’t eaten since breakfast.”
“Okay.” Madge went off back to the kitchen, whilst Jem took the tray up to Jo’s room. She had her eyes closed and was trying not to think about the dull ache in her chest. Jem set the tray down and came over to her.
“Does it hurt, Jo?” Jo just nodded in reply. “I’ll get you some painkillers.” He disappeared and was soon back. “Here, Jo. Take these.” Jo sat up and took the tablets and glass of water he held out to her. When she had swallowed them, Jem took the glass and pushed a few pillows in behind her, just as Madge appeared with a plate of biscuits and another cup. She smiled at her husband and sister and went to pour the tea. Once everyone had a drink, she offered the biscuits around. Jo would have refused but, under Jem’s watchful gaze, she reluctantly accepted one and nibbled it slowly. Jem said nothing, though he had seen the look Jo had given him. He kept the conversation light, though Jo didn’t speak much. When they had finished, Jem stood back up to leave as Madge collected the cups and loaded the tray to take back to the kitchen.
Once she was alone, Jo lay back down again and closed her eyes. She was soon asleep and never heard her sister slip back into the room. Tucking the covers more closely around her, Madge sat back down, intending to continue with her book. Just as she made herself comfortable, she heard a commotion outside the room. She went to investigate and found her daughter Sybil arguing with her cousin Jackie Bettany. She quickly stopped their argument and took them both off to the nursery. As she was returning to Jo’s room, the gong went for dinner. With a sigh, she turned and headed towards the dining room.
Jem took Jo’s tray up once they had finished. He put the tray down and went to pull the blackout down before switching the light on. Jo blinked in the sudden brightness.
“Dinner time, Jo. Hurry up and sit up before it goes cold.” Jo reluctantly dragged herself upright and Jem laid the tray across her knee. She looked at the plateful in front of her, and sighed.
“I’m not that hungry, Jem.”
“You need to eat. You’ve only eaten that biscuit since this morning. How often do you skip lunch?”
“Not often. Only if I’ve been so engrossed I forgot the time.”
“You shouldn’t do it at all. If you want to keep improving, you need to eat properly. That’s just as important as routine and resting properly. I don’t want to lecture you, Jo, but you do need to take responsibility for your own health, especially while you’re living alone. You aren’t a child any longer, you said that yourself a few months ago. I know today is an exception, since you always end up in bed when you’ve had pneumothorax. That’s why you’re here, so we can look after you. Now, eat up, otherwise it’ll be cold.” Jo did as she was told and Jem was rewarded when she cleared her plate. He removed the tray and smiled. “What do you intend to do, now?”
“I might read for a while.”
“Will you be all right on your own? I have some things I need to get done urgently and your sister is in the nursery at the moment.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“In that case, I’ll leave you to your book. I’m sure Madge will come up later, once the children are in bed.” Jem picked the tray up and departed, leaving Jo to look at the book on the bedside cabinet. She was fathoms deep in it when Madge finally appeared in the room, armed with a warm drink for her sister. Jo put her book down and accepted it with a smile.
“Have you read that one before?”
“Yes, but it’s addictive once you get into it.”
“I wasn’t sure if you had or not, but you read so many books, I can’t keep up.”
“There isn’t a lot else to do when you’re stuck in a bed, unable to do anything.”
“That’s true. I thought I might come to visit next Wednesday evening, if I may?”
“Of course you may. Come for dinner. Not that it’ll be anything exciting.”
“That’s sounds lovely. I can cycle over and I’m sure Jem will pick me up on his way home.”
“What about the children?”
“Marie and Rosa will manage for one night. If I’m eating at yours, they’ll only have to see to the children’s dinner and there’s only Sybil, Josette and Jackie at home, now.” Jo tried to smother a yawn, but her sister noticed. “You’re tired. Lay down, Jo and I’ll let you get some more sleep. Do you want the blackout up?”
“Then snuggle down and I’ll turn the light off and move it.” Jo did as she was told and lay down. Once Madge was sure she was comfortable and had all she needed, she turned off the light and pulled the blackout away. “Goodnight, Jo.”
“Night, Madge.” Madge made her way to the door and left her sister to sleep.
Many thanks for your lovely comments. I'm afraid I have no idea who was ringing Jo, either, so it will have to remain a mystery.
The next morning, Jo was woken by the general noise of everyone going about their business. She sighed and glanced at her watch. Seeing it was half past eight, she climbed out of bed intending to see if she could borrow some washing things. Just as she stood up, there was a knock on the door and her sister came in with a tray.
“You’re up! I didn’t expect you to be up, yet. I’ve brought you some breakfast.”
“Thank you. I was just going to come and see if I could borrow some things to have a wash.”
“Of course. You eat this and I’ll go and fetch them for you.” Jo obligingly climbed back into bed and Madge set the tray across her knee, before heading off to find the requested items. When she returned, Jo had almost finished. She waited and took the tray so Jo could get up, before directing her to the nearest bathroom.
“Come down to the drawing room when you’re ready, Jo.”
“Can do.” Jo collected her things and headed off in the direction indicated whilst Madge made her way back to the kitchen with the now-empty tray.
Half an hour later saw Jo making her way to the drawing room. When she arrived there, she was immediately seized upon by three pairs of hands.
“Auntie Jo, come and help us make people chains.”
“Yes, please do, Auntie Jo. Josette can’t do it by herself.” Jo laughed.
“I’ll help, by all means, but I should warn you that I won’t be very good at it. Art and craft were never my strong point.”
“You’ll be better at it than Josette. She can’t do it at all.” Sybil was scathing of her small sister as she pulled her aunt towards the table in the corner of the room.
“I’m not so sure, Sybil. I was thrown out of art class at school because I was so bad at it.” Even so, she was happy to sit down at the table and join in with their efforts, though her sister laughed out loud at her attempts to make a chain of people.
After they had had their elevenses, the children went out for a walk, leaving Jo and Madge alone. The sisters enjoyed the time together, catching up on news and sharing a letter from their brother, which had arrived in the post that morning. Letters from him were scarce at the moment, thanks to the war, so they relished them when they did get through. When lunch time came, Jo happily ate everything put before her. Jem said nothing, but he was glad to see she had regained her appetite, realising that yesterday had indeed been an exception. Once they had finished, Jem ran her back to her own home in the car. He dropped her off and continued on to the Sanatorium, whilst Jo let herself in and went to lay down for a couple of hours.
It was three o’clock when Jo woke up. She quickly washed and made her way downstairs to the kitchen, where she turned the ring on underneath the kettle. Just as it began to boil, she heard the front door bang and Robin and Daisy appeared in the kitchen. There were rapturous greetings between the three, though Jo was careful not to let them hug her too tightly. Robin noticed her flinch slightly.
“Are you all right, Jo?”
“Yes, I’m fine, Robin. I was at the Sanatorium yesterday, so I’m a little sore, that’s all.” Jo went to fill the teapot and brought it to the table. The three of them sat down to chat. “How was your week at school?”
“It was good. I’m in a dormitory with Beth and Gwensi, so we get to spend even more time together. Beth is our form prefect, too.”
“I hope you intend to do some work, too, miss. Pass on my congratulations to Beth, won’t you. What about you Robin?”
“Oh, Jo. They’ve made me Head Girl!”
“Head Girl! That’s wonderful news! Congratulations, Robin! I knew Cornelia wasn’t coming back, but I didn’t know they were going to appoint you in her place. I wish you every success.”
“Thank you. I’m still not sure if I’m on my head or my heels, yet. It was such a shock when Miss Annersley told me. I hope I’m up to the job.”
“You’ll be great Robin.” Daisy replied. “You’re the best person for it.”
“Of course you are. Don’t worry about that. You’re more than capable of doing it. You wouldn’t have been chosen, otherwise.” Robin still looked unsure, so Jo turned the conversation, asking them about what they had been doing during the week. The three of them prepared dinner together as they chattered on, the talk taking them right through until they had washed up. They settled down in the lounge, Robin and Daisy making a start on their preparation and Jo with a book. A companionable silence fell on the room, only broken by the sound of scratching pens and the occasional turning of a page. At half-past eight, Jo went to make them all a hot drink. On her return, she told the girls to pack up their work and come and relax for a while before bed. They spent the time discussing plans for the next day, before they finally departed for bed.
The weekend passed all too quickly for the three of them and before they knew it, it was time for Robin and Daisy to head back to school. Jo waved them off and went back inside feeling a little deflated. She had had a lovely weekend, and now she was alone once more. She found it difficult to settle down to anything she tried and, in the end, gave up and found her coat and shoes. Maybe if she went for a short walk, she would feel a little better. She locked the door and headed off towards the fields, not noticing the storm clouds brewing in the other direction.
Jo had an enjoyable walk through the fields nearby and felt better for the fresh air. When she finally turned for home, she noticed the clouds above her were very dark and threatening.
“I hope it doesn’t start to rain before I make it back.” She knew she couldn’t quicken her pace without causing herself much discomfort. Unfortunately, she was only halfway home, when she felt the first drops on her head. She looked around her in the hopes of maybe finding some shelter, but there was none. She had to keep on going.
When she finally reached home, she was wet through. She made it indoors and shed her coat and shoes, before going into the kitchen to make herself a hot drink. She was starting to feel cold, now. She dug a hot water bottle out of the cupboard and filled that, before making her way upstairs to the bedroom. Tucking the hot water bottle into her bed, she undressed and wrapped herself in her dressing gown and went to run a bath. She sank into the hot water and lay there, allowing it’s warmth to heat her body back up. Only when she felt warm did she climb out and dry herself off. She quickly dressed in her pyjamas and climbed into bed, hoping she had managed to avoid catching cold. She wondered whether she should ring Jem, but she found she had no energy left to climb back out of bed to go to the telephone. She decided to see how she felt in the morning.
I think you've all been sitting on the edge of that cliff for long enough, now, so here's what happens to Jo....
Thanks for your comments.
the other end continued to ring, but no answer was forthcoming. Madge put the receiver down and went in search of her husband. She found him busy in the study. He looked up at his wife as she entered and noted her worried frown.
“What’s wrong, dear?”
“I’ve just tried to ring Jo and got no answer.”
“She’s probably gone into the village to buy something.”
“She’s usually home at this time, and it’s the third time I’ve tried to ring today and got no answer.”
“At what other times did you try?”
“I rang this morning and again after lunch”
“She normally writes in the mornings, so maybe she was just engrossed and didn’t hear it, and she could well have been asleep when you tried after lunch. Why don’t you try again after dinner?”
“Yes. Maybe I will.” Madge left her husband, still frowning. She wasn’t convinced by his explanations, as logical as they were. She knew her sister and had a feeling something wasn’t right, but she couldn’t put it into words.
After they had eaten dinner, Madge went to try and telephone her sister once more. Again, she listed to the incessant ringing at the other end and got no answer. When she returned to the drawing room, Jem could see she was worried.
“No. It’s not like Jo to not answer the telephone. I left it ringing for ages, too. I’m going to go round and check she’s all right.”
“Would you like me to come with you?”
“Yes, please.” Jem stood up and came across the room to where his wife was standing. He placed his arm around her as they went to fetch their coats. He hoped his wife was wrong and that Jo was fine, but he knew from experience that Madge wasn’t often incorrect when it came to her sister.
They were soon driving towards Jo’s house. As soon as Jem pulled up, Madge was climbing out of the car. He quickly followed her, only pausing to lock the door. Madge knocked on the front door. No answer. She tried again. Still no answer. Jem peered through the window into the lounge and found nothing amiss in there.
“See if the door is unlocked,” he suggested. Madge twisted the handle and found it yielded to her push. They entered the hall.
“Jo? Are you home?” They heard a slight sound from above. Jem ran up upstairs and found his sister-in-law in bed, shivering violently. She had her eyes closed and was muttering under her breath. He placed a hand on her forehead and found it was burning hot. He crouched down so he was level with her.
“Jo?” He spoke quietly and was glad to see her eyes open and look at him. “What’s wrong?”
“S-so c-cold,” she managed to whisper.
“Let’s get you warmed up, shall we? Have you got a hot water bottle somewhere?” In reply, Jo kicked the one she had out of bed. It landed with a thump onto the floor. Jem picked it up and found it was freezing cold. He stood back up and went to the door, where he found his wife hovering anxiously. He spoke in an undertone to her.
“Go and refill this and find Robin’s and Daisy’s, too. Also see if there’s any milk and warm some up for her. She’s caught cold somehow and we need to get her warmed up.” Glad of something to do, Madge disappeared to the kitchen to do his bidding. She was worried for her sister, but knew she was in good hands with her husband. Jem went back to crouch by Jo again.
“What happened, Jo?”
“G-got c-caught in the r-rain, y-yesterday.”
“What did you do when you got home?”
“H-hot d-drink, h-hot bath and c-came to b-bed.”
“That’s good. You should have rung me as well.”
“W-was g-going to, b-but c-couldn’t g-get out of b-bed this m-morning.” Madge came back into the room at this point with some hot milk. Jem took it from her and handed her the car keys.
“Will you fetch my bag from the boot, please?”
“Of course.” Jem slipped his arm under Jo and lifted her enough to allow her to sip the milk. When his wife re-appeared with his bag, he rummaged around in it and produced some tablets, which he made Jo take with some more of the milk. The shivering lessened as the warmth of the milk flowed through her, but Jem was glad when Madge brought in the hot water bottles and helped him to tuck them around her. The warmth of these, coupled with the tablets and hot milk caused Jo to doze off. Jem drew Madge out onto the landing, where they wouldn’t disturb her.
“What happened, Jem?”
“She said she got caught in the rain yesterday. Luckily, she had the sense to get herself warm and into bed, so she might avoid anything worse. I had hoped she would avoid anything like this for a few years. I’ll stay with her tonight, to make sure she’s all right and it doesn’t develop into anything worse.”
“Do you think it will?” Madge looked worriedly at her husband.
“I hope not, for her sake, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. It might be best to see if I can get her to the Sanatorium where she can be watched properly.”
“She’s not going to like that, Jem. If anything, you’ll make her more anxious that something is seriously wrong.” Jem looked thoughtful.
“Hmm. That’s true. I can’t stay here to look after her, though, and you have the children to look after as well.”
“What about taking her to our house? At least she won’t feel as if she’s being re-admitted again.”
“Let’s see how she gets through the night, first. Then I’ll be better placed to decide which is best. You take the car home and I’ll ring you in the morning.” He escorted Madge downstairs and out to the car. “Don’t worry, darling. I’m sure she’ll be fine.” He kissed her and waved as she drove off, before heading back inside to check on Jo.
Knowing that Jo was likely to sleep for a few hours, Jem went and lay down in the guest room, leaving the doors open so he could hear if she should wake. He had a feeling that it was going to be a long night as he listened to her breathing. He knew she had only just recovered from her last pneumothorax operation and he fervently hoped that the cold wouldn’t go onto her chest. If it did that, he knew he would have to re-admit her regardless of how she felt about it. He couldn’t take any risks with her health.
It was after midnight when movement from Jo’s room disturbed him. He rose and padded through to check on her. She was completely stuck in the bedcovers. One of the hot water bottles landed on the floor as she thrashed about, becoming more desperate as she struggled to untangle herself from them, as her arms were caught tight, as well. Her breathing was becoming more laboured the more she fought it.
“Jo? Let me help you.” Jo didn’t hear him. He spoke again, louder this time. “Jo! Stop squirming!” He placed a hand on her and she flinched. Jem noticed and looked down to see scared eyes looking at him through the gloom. “It’s all right, Jo. Lie still. I’m going to untangle the covers.” He spoke softly, trying to reassure her as he gently managed to unravel the sheet and blankets from around her. When she was free once more, he went and pulled the blackout down, before turning on one of the bedside lamps. Jo blinked and finally focussed on Jem’s concerned face watching her.
“What happened, Jo? Were you dreaming, again?” Jo just nodded. She was still recovering from her ordeal with the covers and was trying to get her breathing back under control. Jem picked the hot water bottle up from the floor.
“I’ll go and refill this for you and get you something to drink. I won’t be long.” He disappeared to the kitchen, returning ten minutes later with a hot drink and the newly refilled hot water bottle. He placed the cup down and passed the bottle to Jo. “Give me the others and I’ll refill them for you as well.” She managed to locate the others in the bed and kicked one to the floor and passed him the other one, which happened to be next to her. They were soon hot, too, and Jem came to help Jo have some of the drink he had made for her.
“Can you tell me about the dream?”
“It was similar to last time, when Jack was home.”
“Being tangled in the covers probably didn’t help you, did it?”
“I couldn’t move my arms. I thought I had been captured and they’d tied me to something. Then when you tried to help me I thought they were going to beat me.” Silent tears slid down Jo’s cheeks as she said this. Jem could see she had been badly frightened by the violence in her dream. She looked as if she thought they still might appear in the room at any moment. The dark circles under her eyes were vivid against the intense paleness of her skin. He could see that she needed to sleep, but that she was scared to do so. He looked in his bag and found her some tablets out.
“Here, Jo. Take these to help you sleep again.”
“I don’t want sleeping pills, Jem”
“You need to sleep. You’re not in any state to try and stay awake. You’ve caught a bad cold and the last thing you need is for it to go to your chest. If that happens, you’ll be back in the Sanatorium and on bed rest again. Is that what you want to happen?”
“No!” Jem saw a glimmer of panic in Jo’s eyes and realised that she was genuinely scared that he would send her back without another thought. He sat down on the bed and looked at her, concern in his own eyes.
“Take the tablets, Jo, and sleep. You have to trust me. I won’t do anything without your consent, I promise. You need to sleep to fight this cold. If you don’t, it could set you right back. I don’t want that to happen any more than you do. That’s why I want you to take the tablets.” Jo nodded, reluctantly. She was tired and felt unwell. She knew that Jem’s logic, like Jack’s, had won out and she had no argument left in her. She swallowed the tablets along with the rest of her drink and lay down again. Jem tucked the covers round her and sat down to watch as the tablets took effect and she slept. Only when he was sure she was sound asleep, did Jem go back the guest room. He, too, was soon sleeping.
Jem woke early the next morning. He went to check on Jo, before heading downstairs to see what he could find for breakfast. When he had eaten, he made a tray up and returned upstairs in time to see Jo waking.
“How do you feel?” Jo shrugged. She was still groggy from the sleeping pills. “Sit up and eat this.” Jo dragged herself upright and he pushed some pillows behind her back for support before placing the tray across her knee. Jo managed to eat most of the food in front of her. Once she had finished, Jem removed the tray.
“I want to examine you, to see whether that cold has settled onto your chest.” Jo just nodded. She suddenly felt resigned to being sent back to the Sanatorium. However, once he had finished, Jem smiled at her. “I think you’ve been lucky, Jo. Your chest seems pretty clear, though I think we should keep to monthly X-rays to be sure.”
“Yes. You had enough sense to get warm quickly when you got home and I think that has stopped you from being any worse. I don’t want you to stay here alone though, whilst you’re still poorly so, I propose that you come and stay at the Round House for a few days to recover. It’s pretty quiet there now that most of the children are at school.”
“What about the weekend though? Everyone is home at the weekend, and there’s Robin and Daisy, too.”
“I’m sure they can all stay at school for one weekend. You’ll be back up and about next week if I know you.” Jo managed a wan smile at this prediction. “I’ll just ring Madge and ask her to bring the car over. Lie back down and see if you can sleep some more for now.” Jo obediently did as she was told but sleep wouldn’t come. She tried to blank her mind to everything, but the memories of the nightmare kept on returning. Jem kept looking in on her and noticed she was unable to rest properly. He was loath to give her anything more to help her to sleep though, knowing natural sleep was best for her. He hoped that would happen once he got her to the Round House.
Madge arrived with the car an hour later, having arranged the guest room for her sister. Jem came to greet her with a kiss.
“How is she, Jem?”
“She’s better than I hoped for. She seems to have managed to keep it off of her chest for now, but she had a bad nightmare. I wish I could do something to prevent them, since they aren’t allowing her to have the rest she needs. Hopefully, a few days at our house, where we can keep a close eye on her will help.”
“May I go up?”
“Of course. You’ll need to pack some things for her as well.” Madge nodded and ran lightly upstairs to Jo’s room. Her sister was lying with her back to the door, but Madge guessed she was still awake. She came round the bed and knelt where Jo could see her.
“Jo? How are you feeling?”
“You’ll feel better, soon. Jem says you’re going to come and stay with us for a few days. Do you have a bag handy so I can pack some clothes for you?”
“In the bottom of the wardrobe.”
“Is there anything you particularly want?”
“No.” Madge went to the wardrobe to find the bag out. She quickly packed a few clothes for Jo and disappeared to the bathroom to find her washing things. Whilst she was alone, Jo felt on the bedside cabinet and located Jack’s rosary. He had given it to her when she had first been admitted to the Sanatorium on the Sonnalpe and it had brought great comfort to her many times during the past four years. She allowed the beads to slip through her fingers, as she wished her husband could be at home to look after her. Madge came quietly back into the room and placed the last few things into the bag, just as Jem appeared to see if she had finished.
“Excellent. I’ll take the bag down and you refill the hot water bottles. We need to keep Jo as warm as possible.” He disappeared and Madge came across to the bed for the hot water bottles. Jo obligingly kicked one out and handed another to her.
“I’ll fill these first, Jo, then come back for the last one.” She went off with them, quickly returning to tuck them in by her sister and took the last one. Jem passed her on the stairs. When she arrived back, Jem was helping Jo into her dressing gown and slippers. He then wrapped a blanket around her before lifting her in his arms and carrying her down and out to car. Madge followed and he took the hot water bottles from her, tucking them around his sister-in-law. Madge climbed in next to her sister and he closed the door. He quickly locked the front door and slid in behind the wheel and headed for home.
It wasn’t a long journey, but Jo was glad to reach their destination. Jem speedily carried her up to the guest room and soon had her between the sheets. She lay quietly staring at the ceiling for a while, until she felt herself drifting off to sleep once more. When Madge looked in on her half an hour later, she was fast asleep.
The next few days passed in a blur of sleeping, as Jo battled with her cold. Jem was pleased that they had managed to prevent it from settling on her chest, and hoped she wouldn’t have any lasting effects from it. The quiet and loving care from her sister also allowed Jo to relax and the horror of the nightmare subsided. At the weekend, Jem allowed her to sit up for a few hours, as long as she was well wrapped up. By the following Thursday, she was practically back to normal, though Jem warned her to take it easy for a while longer. He allowed her to go back to her own home, the following day, ready for Robin and Daisy arriving for the weekend. The three of them had a quiet weekend, heading back to school on the Sunday, happy in the knowledge that Jo was much better.
Thanks for your comments. :-D
The weeks moved onwards for Jo. Her sister made a point of coming for dinner one night every week, which broke the monotony for her. She looked forwards to the weekends when Robin and Daisy were at home and she had someone to talk to. The nights began to draw in and the weather took a turn for the worse, so she found herself stuck indoors unless she needed to go to the village. She had no wish to catch another cold since Jem had told her how lucky she had been last time. She might not be so lucky next time. She supposed taking care to avoid catching cold was something she must be extra vigilant about, now, especially if she wanted to continue improving.
A month after her cold, Jem came to collect her one afternoon. She had an appointment for a routine X-ray on her chest. She went along happily enough, knowing that she wasn’t going to have to go through pneumothorax as well. When she was finished, she had a while to wait before her lift home, so she went for a short walk in the grounds. She was just coming back inside, when Jem crossed the reception area.
“Jo! May I have a word?” Jo turned and followed him to his office. He led her to the desk and sat down, indicating she should do the same.
“What is it, Jem?” She suddenly felt fearful, as if he was about to give her bad news.
“I’ve just got your X-rays back. I know I said you could have pneumothorax every three months, now, but I think you should have it again today.”
“I want to make sure that that cold you caught hasn’t done any lasting damage.”
“You said it hadn’t settled on my chest.”
“I know. I’m just being cautious, Jo. I’d rather you had an extra pneumothorax than end up back at square one.”
“But what about my lift home? I’ll miss it.”
“You can stay here tonight and I’ll take you back in the morning when I’ve finished. I’ll let them know they don’t have to wait for you.”
“I have nothing with me, though.” Jo was desperately trying to think of excuses and Jem lost his patience with her.
“Go and have pneumothorax, Jo. I don’t have time to listen to you trying to think of excuses. I’m not going to change my mind.” He stood up and headed for the door, leaving Jo to stand and follow him. He saw her out and watched her head towards the operating theatre. He returned to his office and spent the next ten minutes on the telephone sorting out where she was to sleep and cancelling her lift home, before continuing with other matters.
Meanwhile, Jo made her way to the operating theatre, rebellion in her heart. She was upset that she had to go through pneumothorax again so soon and briefly wondered about just leaving. She sat in the waiting room contemplating this and trying to work out how she could get home without being spotted by someone. Before she had time to formulate her plans, a nurse entered the waiting room.
“Josephine Maynard!” Jo reluctantly stood up and followed the nurse through the door, where she was told to get ready. The nurse returned a few minutes later to escort her into the theatre.
“It says here that you aren’t due for this procedure for another two months?”
“I wasn’t, but J-Doctor Russell said I should have it today.” Jo had been so tempted to take the opportunity offered to her. She knew, though, that Jem’s wrath would come crashing down upon her with full force if she did so, not to mention Jack’s when he found out. She resigned herself to her fate and followed the nurse into the operating theatre.
Afterwards, Jo was left in the waiting room until a nurse came and escorted her to a small room where she was to spend the night. A pair of pyjamas were on the bed for her. She changed into them and climbed between the sheets. She was soon sleeping, never hearing Jem check on her an hour later as he went on his rounds. He made sure the blackout was up and deposited a book on the bedside cabinet for her in case she woke. He knew he shouldn’t have been short with her earlier, but she had been so exasperating, he had automatically reverted to being the father figure he had been to her for so many years.
Jem loved his young sister-in-law, and he hoped she realised that he just wanted her to be well again. He knew she had had to do a lot of growing up since the initial diagnosis four years ago, not just to cope with having tuberculosis, but also to be able to flee for her life and make it safely across the border between Austria and Switzerland. He wished he could have prevented her from having to make that awful trek, but he knew there had been no other options left to them. He had been constantly on edge the whole time, hoping and praying that she, Jack and the others had made it over the border. When his own departure had been delayed, he had still had no idea if she had made it to safety. It wasn’t until he reached Guernsey and Madge handed him Jack’s letter that he finally knew that she had. Not that the letter had done much to alleviate his worry. He had been shocked to see how ill she was when he went to collect her from Switzerland. Knowing her temperament so well, he had fully agreed when Jack had told him that he needed to get her home. Her imagination had been working against her need for complete rest and he knew that if he had left her where she was, she wouldn’t survive. That thought had been Jem’s darkest moment and one that he had kept firmly to himself, though he suspected that Jack had also known it.
He looked down at Jo’s sleeping form and silently thanked God for her survival. He was determined to do everything within his power to cure her. If that included the inconvenience of an extra pneumothorax to ensure a cold didn’t do more damage, then so be it. He gently swept her hair from her face and abruptly left the room to continue his rounds, thankful that she was still here and well on the way to recovery.
Jo slept the clock round, only waking when a nurse entered to remove the blackout the next morning. She rolled onto her back and yawned.
“Good morning, Mrs Maynard. Breakfast will be in half an hour in the dining room. When you’ve finished, Doctor Russell would like to see you in his office.”
“Thank you.” Jo sat up and swung her legs out of bed, as the nurse departed to continue her rounds. She washed and dressed, before making her way towards the dining room. She made a good breakfast and went to collect her things from her room. She had just made it down the first flight of stairs when Jem came along the corridor towards her. He was deep in conversation with another doctor, so Jo just smiled and continued down towards the entrance and Jem’s office. She sat down to await his return and opened the book she had found on the bedside cabinet.
It was an hour later when he finally returned to his office and Jo was fathoms deep in the story she was reading. Jem went into his office and grabbed his things before coming to tap Jo on the shoulder.
“Ready?” Jo jumped and looked up in surprise.
“Oh! Er, yes.” She closed the book and looked round for her bag and coat. Jem just smiled and picked them up from the floor where they had fallen, unheeded, as she read.
“Come on, then. I want to be out of here before someone else thinks of something I need to deal with immediately.” He set off towards the door at his usual pace, before remembering that Jo wouldn’t be able to keep up. He slowed down and waited for her, before continuing at a much more sedate pace. When they reached the car, Jo climbed in and Jem started the engine.
“Jem. Someone’s coming towards us.” He quickly reversed and set off before the person could reach the car. It wasn’t until they were out of the grounds that he slowed down.
“Well spotted, Jo. I’ve had enough of other people’s problems for one night.” He changed the subject. “How did you sleep?”
“Like a log. I never heard a thing until a nurse came and removed the blackout this morning.”
“Good. You were obviously in need of some rest. Make sure you take it easy for the next few days.”
“I know. I’ve been through it every month for the past four years.”
“Hmmm. That may be so, but I know you, Jo. You sometimes get carried away without realising it.” Jo stayed silent. She knew he was right. “I know you find it all frustrating, but you have to go through it for a good while, yet.”
“I know.” Jo sighed and turned to look out of the window at the scenery as it flashed past. Jem left her to her thoughts and concentrated on the road.
When he pulled up outside Jo’s house, he saw she had dozed off. He shook her gently.
“Jo? You’re home.”
“Huh?” She opened her eyes and saw they were parked outside her front door. “Oh. Thanks, Jem.” She scrambled out and walked to the door, where she scrabbled in her bag for her keys. Jem watched her go inside and close the door before driving off for his own home and bed.
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It was the beginning of October and Jo was busy writing in her study when the telephone rang. She sighed and went to answer it.
“Jo? It’s Hilda Annersley. I’m afraid Robin and Daisy won’t be coming home for the weekend as normal.”
“Why? What’s happened?”
“We have a number of juniors down with ‘flu. To be on the safe side, I’m quarantining the whole school. Hopefully, it won’t affect your pair, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.”
“They were here only yesterday. When did it start?”
“The first case was reported yesterday afternoon. They may have been in contact with it before they went home for the weekend. I’ve already rung Jem and he’s aware of the situation, but it means until the illness has run its course, you won’t be able to have your pair.”
“You’ll let me know what happens, won’t you? I know I can’t come to look after them if they catch it, but I need to know how they are.”
“Of course I will. Will you be able to cope on your own?
“I think so. I’ve been managing so far. It’s just going to be lonely, that’s all.”
“We’re only at the other end of the telephone. I’ll ask Robin to ring you later, so you can speak to her, yourself.”
“Thank you. I’d appreciate that.”
“Look after yourself, Jo.” Hilda rang off at this and Jo slowly replaced the receiver. She stared at it for a long while before picking it up and dialling her sister’s number. She wanted to talk to someone who could reassure her.
Jem was in his study when the telephone on his desk rang. He answered it, hoping it wasn’t an emergency at the Sanatorium. When he heard Jo’s voice at the other end, he was relieved.
“What’s wrong, Jo?”
“Hilda’s just rung to tell me that they have ‘flu at school and that Robin and Daisy might have been infectious when they were here at the weekend.”
“It’s possible but, so far, it’s only juniors who have come down with it.”
“What if they’ve given it to me, though? You said I should avoid anything like that.”
“I know. Sometimes it can’t be helped, though. What you need to do, now, is be extra vigilant with yourself. If you feel off colour at all, I want you to ring me immediately. Try and keep to your usual routine as much as you can. I’m afraid Madge won’t be able to come and visit, though, since she’s probably infectious, too. All of our household are in the junior section and will more than likely go down with it at some point.”
“But I can’t avoid everyone. I have to go shopping.”
“I know that, but you can minimise the risks by staying away from those we know may be infectious. At the moment, that is here and the school, as well as any of your friends with children at the school. Now, I need to go, as I have work to do.” With this, Jem rang off, hoping that he had reassured his sister-in-law. He was worried enough about it becoming an epidemic and he didn’t want Jo to become part of it if he could help it.
Three days later, Jem’s fears of an epidemic were confirmed when Miss Annersley informed him that the majority of the junior school were down and a number of the middles and seniors. There weren’t many serious cases, yet, but he was worried about a couple of them. He had sent a couple of nurses to help Matron cope with the number of patients and Doctor Chester had agreed to be the main doctor to the school, since Jem was so busy at the Sanatorium.
It was Wednesday morning when Hilda Annersley rang Jo again.
“How are you, Jo?”
“I’m coping. I seem to have avoided it so far. How are my pair?”
“That’s why I’m ringing. It’s not good news, I’m afraid. Both Robin and Daisy have succumbed to the ‘flu.”
“Both of them? How are they?”
“Daisy isn’t so bad. She seems to have a light case, and Matron thinks she’ll be back up and about fairly quickly.”
“What about Robin?”
“She’s not so good. She is very unwell at the moment.”
“The doctor is worried about her. Especially when we know how delicate she has been until recently.”
“I know. Will you keep me updated?”
“Of course.” Hilda rang off and Jo put the receiver down. She went in to the study, intending to write, but found she couldn’t concentrate. In frustration, she swept the sheets off the desk onto the floor and went to find her coat.
A short walk cleared Jo’s head and when she returned she felt much calmer. She tidied the sheets she had strewn across the floor and managed to settle down to writing for a short while. When she made her lunch, she found her thoughts returning to Robin. She wasn’t too worried about Daisy since she was a healthy girl who would bounce back soon enough, but Robin was a different story all together. She had been so delicate as a small child, that Jo was anxious for her. She hoped she would pull through but she wasn’t feeling very positive. She ate very little that meal.
It was three days later, when Jo finally heard from Miss Annersley again. Jo had tried to ring but there had been no answer. The news was not good. Robin was seriously ill and Jem was with her. She passed on a message that Jem would ring Jo as soon as he could, and with that Jo had to be satisfied. Miss Annersley could give her no further information apart from that Daisy was on the road to recovery, now.
It was evening before Jo heard from Jem. He rang just before dinner and Jo practically snatched the receiver out of the cradle.
“How is she, Jem?”
“It’s not good, I’m afraid. I’ve taken her to the Sanatorium where we can monitor her properly.”
“May I see her?”
“No, Jo. She’s very ill. I know it’s hard, but you can’t risk coming near her, for your own health. I promise to take very good care of her and I’ll ring you with updates each day.”
“But, Jem…” Jo heard the front door open as she spoke and glanced over to it. Whatever she was about to say to Jem was forgotten as she saw who entered. “Jack!” she managed to gasp out, before collapsing into his arms, the receiver falling to the floor. He quickly caught her and lowered her to the ground. He could hear Jem’s voice at the other end of the receiver and picked it up. He spoke quickly.
“Jo’s just fainted. I’ll ring later,” and he hung up, leaving Jem to smile at the phone at his end, thankful that someone was with Jo.
When Jo finally came round, she found herself looking into her husband’s face. Turning to bury her head in his shoulder, she burst into tears. It took him a while to calm her down enough to be able to understand what had happened. Then he set about trying to reassure her, knowing how much she loved Robin. Eventually, she calmed down enough to take in what he was saying.
“I’m sure she’ll be fine, Jo. It’s precautionary to make sure it doesn’t develop into anything worse. After all, she’s had the best care for the past ten years.”
“He won’t let me see her.”
“That’s because you can’t risk catching it yourself. If you were to get an infection on your chest, you would have to be re-admitted and put back on complete bed rest.”
“It’s so hard to not be able to be with her when she’s ill, though, Jack.”
“I know it is, darling, but you have to accept that you can’t be with her now. When she’s recovered, you’ll be able to spend time with her, then. She won’t be fit enough to go straight back to school. Let’s go and find some dinner, if you’re up to it. I’m famished.”
He helped Jo to her feet and they made their way to the kitchen, where Jo managed to rustle up a meal. She ate little of it, though, her worry over Robin still being at the front of her mind. Jack watched her play with her food, but said nothing. He understood her temperament well enough to realise that he couldn’t force her. He hoped a good night’s sleep would help.
Once they had washed up, he suggested Jo go and have a bath, whilst he rang Jem and found out the latest. He spoke in detail to Jem and discovered that they had managed to prevent Robin from getting any worse, but that she wasn’t out of the woods yet. When he had finished, he went upstairs to find Jo in the bedroom. She was just climbing into bed. He came to sit with her.
“How is she?”
“She’s stable. She still has a long way to go, but they’re hopeful.” He pulled Jo into his arms and they sat in silence for a long while, just praying for Robin to be well again. It was Jack who spoke first.
“I’ll just get us a drink, Jo. I won’t be long.” He went down to the kitchen and quickly made them both a hot milky drink, returning to the bedroom with a cup in each hand. “Here, drink this.” Jo accepted her cup and drank it as Jack undressed and climbed in next to her. They snuggled down together for the first time in months.
Jack was soon asleep, tired from travelling. Jo lay next to him, worrying about Robin. She tossed and turned, unable to sleep. As dawn crept closer, her eyelids finally gave up the fight and she fell into an uneasy slumber. Her mutterings disturbed Jack and he woke up, wondering where he was for a moment. As his mind came back to reality, he realised that it was Jo talking in her sleep. This worried him, knowing her reaction to stressful situations generally ended in a nightmare. He shook her gently, hoping to just rouse her enough to allow her to sleep properly and prevent a nightmare. She opened her eyes briefly, but was soon asleep once more, the muttering stopped for now. Jack hoped it would work and lay back down again, his arm protectively over her waist.
Jo was still sleeping quietly when he woke a few hours later. He slid out of bed and headed to the kitchen to make a drink for them both. Leaving the cups on the bedside cabinets, he climbed back in next to Jo. He watched her sleeping for a few minutes before picking his book up and settling to read. He noted the dark circles under her eyes and decided to leave her to sleep on. He suspected that she had not had a good night’s sleep since she had found out Robin was ill.
When Jo finally woke, she was confused for a few moments, until the events of the previous night came flooding back to her. She rolled over to see her husband sitting reading next to her. He smiled down at her, and she managed a small smile in return.
“Morning. How did you sleep?”
“Well enough. It’s nice to have you back home, Jack.”
“It’s nice to be home.”
“How long have you got this time?”
“I’m back indefinitely. They’ve released me to help at the Sanatorium, for now. I’ve not been officially discharged, though, so I may have to go back at some point, depending on what happens.” Jo flung her arms around him at this point and he pulled her into a hug. He was just as pleased as she, knowing that he wouldn’t have to leave again in a week or so.
“That’s wonderful news!” Tears slid down Jo’s face and into his pyjama top as she clung onto him. Jack just held her close. Eventually, she pulled herself together and drew back looking rather shamefaced at her outburst. Jack just smiled at her and changed the subject.
“How about we get up? That tea I brought up an hour ago will be cold by now and I’m ready for some breakfast.”
They were soon dressed and in the kitchen. Jack made them both breakfast with the few bits Jo had in. Jo managed a reasonable meal, though Jack was still concerned about her lack of appetite. He said nothing, just resolved to keep a close eye on her for the next few days. Jem had told him to spend the next week at home with his wife, since he didn’t want to risk passing any infections on to Jo whilst the influenza outbreak was still at large. Jack had agreed wholeheartedly, after hearing about her narrow escape a month or so previously.
“Shall we take a walk into the village and get some more food?”
“Okay.” Jo was happy to go along with Jack’s suggestion since walking might take her mind off Robin for a short while. She was desperate for news, but knew Jem well enough to know she must wait for him to ring her.
They were soon ambling along, arm in arm, towards the village shop. Neither spoke, just glad to be in each other’s company once more. Jo was still worrying about Robin. She said nothing, though Jack could see she was distracted. They soon reached the village store and got most of the items they needed, before turning back for home. The day was cold and rain was threatening to fall. Indeed, the first drops landed just as they reached the garden. They quickly went indoors and shed their coats and shoes. Jack unpacked the shopping and Jo put the kettle on. Curling up the sofa together, they drank their tea in silence, before Jo laid her head on Jack’s chest and dozed off. Jack looked down at her pale face and was worried. He wished he could take the burden away from her and carry it himself, but he knew that was impossible. Jo’s vivid imagination made her the woman he loved and he knew he just had to support her when things were tough. He hoped Jem would have better news when he rang again.
It was evening when Jem finally contacted them. Jo nearly knocked the telephone off the table in her haste to answer it.
“There’s good news and bad news, Jo”
“Robin is finally starting to improve. She’s not out of the woods, yet, but she’s breathing easier, now.”
“Madge has come down with it, now.”
“Madge has? How is she?”
“It doesn’t look like she’ll have a bad case, but she’s feeling very sorry for herself and has been sent to bed with strict instructions not to move from it.”
“Oh, how I wish I could be there to look after her.”
“I know, Jo, but you’re safest where you are. Now, be a dear, and put Jack on for me, please.” Jo reluctantly handed the telephone to her husband and went slowly into the lounge. Jack had a brief conversation with Jem, before following her. He came over to where she was standing staring unseeingly out of the window and put his arms around her. She didn’t move and Jack gently turned her to face him. Placing his fingers under her chin, he tilted her face to his and looked into eyes full of unshed tears.
“They’re both going to be fine, Jo.”
“I should be with them, though. I ought to be looking after them, not stuck here unable to do anything. Look how many times Madge has sat with me when I’ve been ill and I can’t even do the same for her.”
“I know, Jo, but I’m sure she would prefer you to stay away and keep well.” Tears trickled down her cheeks and Jack just drew her close to him, allowing her to cry. He didn’t let on that he was worried about her as well. She had eaten very little all day and he was beginning to grow concerned for her. Her worry was overwhelming her and her appetite had been the first casualty. He needed to try and find a way to stop it spiralling out of control.
Thank you for your lovely reviews, Elder & Kathryn.
Jo continued to worry on for the next week, even though the news of Robin continued to be positive and her sister was also on the mend. She had continued with her normal routine as best she could, diligently going into the study each morning, though she had written very little. She had not been able to keep her mind off her sister and Robin and the fact that they were both ill and she was unable to look after them. She had been sleeping badly, too, spending the majority of the nights tossing and turning. She had mentioned nothing of this to Jack, not wishing to burden him with her worries, though he would have gladly listened and tried to help her. She was also struggling to adapt to him being back home and found herself looking for space to be alone. She felt guilty when she realised that she was doing it, but couldn’t bring herself to talk to him about it.
Jack watched what was happening with growing dismay. He could see that she wasn’t sleeping properly from the dark circles under her eyes and she was still not eating properly, despite his attempts to persuade her. He also sensed she was avoiding him, though he had no idea why. The doctor in him decided it was time to confront her and take action. He went through to the kitchen and made them both a sandwich for lunch. He was determined she was going to eat it all, however much she might protest and then she was going to talk to him.
“Jo!” he called out. “Lunch’s ready!” He set the plates on the table and filled the teapot up before putting it in between them. He waited patiently for a few more minutes, before heading to the study to fetch her. What he saw when he entered had him across the room and by her side in short order. Jo was sitting at the desk, her head in her arms silently sobbing her heart out. He pulled her to him, but she continued to sob on, unable to stop. Jack just held her close, hoping his presence would help her. He could hear her beginning to struggle breathing.
“Joey? You have to stop this, now. You’re making yourself ill.” He spoke gently and was rewarded by Jo wildly attempting to check her sobs. Slowly, she calmed down enough for him to pull back slightly and look at her, worry clearly showing on his face. He saw she was in no fit state for anything except bed. He guided her upstairs and soon had her tucked between the covers. He disappeared back downstairs and poured her a cup of tea, returning to the bedroom with it. He made her drink it and then lay with her until she fell asleep, exhausted.
Once he was sure she was sleeping, Jack went back downstairs to eat his own lunch. He would talk to Jo once she woke again, though he hoped she would sleep for the next few hours. He checked on her regularly throughout the afternoon, but she slept on. Towards evening Jack came to sit on the bed with his book and was reading when she finally woke up and rolled over.
It took Jo a few minutes to realise she was in her own bed. She lay quietly, trying to work out what had happened and why she was in bed at all. She had a vague idea that she had been in the study this morning, but couldn’t think what had happened to cause her to be in bed, now. She glanced up at her husband, taking in his serious expression, and realised how much she had been pushing him away over the past week.
Jack noticed she was awake, but continued to read on, waiting for her to break the silence. He wasn’t looking forward to having the conversation they needed to have.
“Jack? What happened this morning?” Jack glanced down at Jo and saw puzzled eyes looking back at him. He put his book down and turned so he could see her properly.
“I found you sobbing in the study at lunchtime. You weren’t in any fit state to do anything other than sleep, by the time I’d finally calmed you down.”
“Oh.” Jo lapsed into silence as she contemplated what he had just told her. Jack watched her, wishing he could just take her in his arms and forget the past week but, he knew it wasn’t possible. He had to allow her get her thoughts into order and help her to work through them before they could move on.
“Please talk to me, Jo. Tell me what’s worrying you so much.”
“I don’t know if I can.”
“Try. I want to help you, but I can’t if you won’t talk to me. You can’t bottle it all up like this, it’s making you ill.” Jo closed her eyes, wondering how she could even begin to tell him about the thoughts which kept flowing through her mind, preventing her from eating and sleeping properly.
“I can’t stop myself. I start to worry about one thing and the next thing I know, it’s consumed me. I can’t control it anymore. I get sucked into a vicious circle of what ifs. What if Robin doesn’t make it? What if Madge is worse than Jem is telling me? What if they die? I can’t get them out of my head. They spiral round and round, getting larger and larger until they smother everything else. I can’t even go and check for myself, to make sure everything is all right, so they continue to crowd in my head, making everything else seem insignificant and unnecessary.”
“Was this what happened before you left Guernsey? When I went back after that sick leave?” Jo nodded.
“I was so worried about what was happening to you and how you were, but I couldn’t check on you for myself. All I had were a few letters and they didn’t tell me enough to be able to settle the worry.”
“I couldn’t write anything more in my letters, Jo. They’re censored before they get to you. I wish I could have done, but you would have had even less from me than you already had.”
“I know, but I was already in that circle by then. The only way it was broken was by Jem threatening to re-admit me if I didn’t sort myself out.”
“Is that why you’ve been pushing me away? In case I do the same?” Jo nodded and looked away. She couldn’t bear to see how she’d hurt him. Jack gently turned her face back to his. He was hurt that she could think he would threaten her with re-admission, but he now understood her reasons for trying to avoid him. He realised she needed his reassurance and love more than anything else.
“Jo, I would never threaten you with that. I love you too much to want to send you back there.”
“Really.” Jack leaned in and kissed her, gently. “I can’t ignore your health, but I know even suggesting that to you would be wrong. We both know what it’s like to be there, even if it is from different points of view, and I don’t want to ever have to see you go through that again.” Jo managed a wan smile at this as Jack continued. “What we need to do is see how we can get you out of this current cycle of worry.” He fell silent as he tried to think of a solution to the problem.
Jo lay quietly, wondering if he could help. She was at the end of her tether, now, and just wanted to be able to see both of them to settle her mind, but she didn’t see how that was going to be achieved when Jem wouldn’t let her anywhere near them. She closed her eyes and let her mind wander.
Jack looked down at her and saw she had dozed off again. He could see how pale she was, as her face blended into the pillow, her black hair a shocking contrast. Stroking a few stray locks away, he disappeared downstairs to make a telephone call.
When Jo woke an hour or so later, she was alone. She climbed out of bed and dragged on her dressing gown. Heading downstairs, she eventually found Jack in the lounge. He looked up as she entered and smiled at her. She came to sit on the sofa with him.
“How are you feeling?”
“Still worrying.” Jack placed his arms around her and she snuggled into them, laying her head on his chest. They were both quiet, enjoying the closeness for the first time in a long while. Jack was glad that she had finally opened up and felt able to trust that he would never allow his profession to come between them. Jo was relieved that he understood how she felt and wanted to help her to overcome the problem.
They were still in the same position when the telephone rang. Jack got up to answer it, and soon called Jo to it.
“It’s for you,” he said as he passed her the receiver.
“How are you, Jo?”
“Madge! How are you?” Tears trickled down her cheeks as she heard her sister’s voice on the other end of the line. Jack left Jo to talk to her sister and went into the kitchen to make a start on dinner.
“I’ve been worse, but I’m much better than earlier this week. How are you coping, Jo?”
“I’m managing. I’ve been worried about you, though, as well as Robin.”
“There was no need to worry about me. I’ve only had a mild case, though I have to admit it knocked me for six. I’m just about up and about again, now. Even Robin is doing well, now, Jem says.”
“I can’t help worrying. It’s so rare you’re ill and I wasn’t allowed to come and help look after you.”
“Don’t be silly, Jo. Of course you couldn’t come here. We’ve all had it, apart from Jem and he’s kept well away as well.”
“Where’s he been staying?”
“He stayed at the Sanatorium. He’s been looking after Robin for us, and she’s going to be coming home soon, too.”
“Have you seen her, Madge? How’s she doing?”
“She’s much better, now. Jem took her to the Sanatorium because she was having difficulties breathing and he was afraid it might turn to pneumonia. She’s been lucky, though and is now on the mend as well.”
“When will she be able to come home?”
“Jem says she’ll be discharged on the next couple of weeks, so you’ll get to see her very soon. I’ll let you know as soon as I know.”
“My pleasure. I’ll speak to you soon, Jo.” Madge rang off at this, leaving Jo to replace the receiver at her end. She stood by the telephone for a long time, just staring at it. Jack came to find her and held her close as she finally broke down and cried. He allowed her to cry on for a short while before he pulled back and looked at her.
“Come and have some dinner, Jo. You can tell me what Madge had to say while we eat.” He led her into the kitchen and deposited her on a chair, before placing a meal in front of her. She looked dubiously at it but, under his gaze, picked up her cutlery and began to eat. Jack ate his own meal, and was satisfied when he saw her clear her plate. He said nothing, just removed them and put the kettle on to boil.
“How is Madge?” He spoke casually, as if it had just been a normal call between sisters.
“She’s much better and is up and about again.”
“That’s good news. Did she tell you how Robin is doing?”
“Yes. She’s on the mend as well and, apparently, will be discharged in a couple of weeks.”
“Thank you, Jack. For organising that.”
“My pleasure. I just want you to be happy, Jo. I know it’s hard for you to deal with being unable to see it all for yourself. I just wish you’d told me earlier and hadn’t pushed me away. I want to share everything with you, whether it be good or bad.”
“I know that, now. I’m sorry for pushing you away. I didn’t realise I was doing it. I’ve had to deal with everything else alone, so far, and I don’t know how to share my problems, yet.”
“I know. We’ve not had much chance to spend time as husband and wife and learn about each other, have we? Hopefully, now I’m back, we might get the chance to do so, though I think I shall still be away quite often since the Sanatorium is so short staffed. At least you’ll know I’m only a short drive away and will be home much more often. We’ll get there, Jo, I know we will.”
“I’d like that. I’m glad you’re home, too. I don’t think I would have survived this week without you, even if I haven’t been the nicest of people to be around.”
“Let’s concentrate on what’s going to happen from now on, and put this time behind us. Just promise me one thing, though.”
“That if you start to head back into that worry cycle, you tell me and let me help you through it. It’s what I’m here for, to be able to share your burdens and for us to go through life as a partnership, not as two separate individuals.”
“I promise.” Jack leaned over her and kissed her hair, knowing she would try her hardest to keep that promise and he was determined to be there for her when life next threw something bad at her.
Many thanks for the lovely reviews, people. They're much appreciated.
Apologies in advance for this section being so poor. I'm not happy with it at all, but every time I tried to rewrite it, the worse it became, so I had to give up and just hope it works.
Jack and Jo spent the next week quietly. Jack had spoken at length to Jem and they had agreed that he needed to spend the time with Jo, to make sure she was back on an even keel. Jack had kept her quiet, and he was glad to see her gradually improve once more. She had spoken to her sister once or twice and was feeling much better. Jem had passed on the good news that Robin was improving as well and that she would be discharged in the next couple of days.
Jem had debated whether he should allow Robin to go back to Jo’s home when she was finally allowed to leave. He was unsure if Jo would be able to cope with looking after her. Jack had persuaded him that giving Jo something to do would be the best thing for her. If Robin were to go to the Round House, Jo would think that he didn’t trust her. Jem had reluctantly agreed after Jack had pointed out that he would be at home when he wasn’t working.
Jack’s first day back was a night shift and he was bringing Robin home with him when he finished the next morning. He had left an excited Jo behind as he set off for work. Jo made sure Robin’s room was ready and busied herself with tidying in an attempt to keep her mind occupied. She went to bed at her normal time, but it took her a long time to calm down enough to be able to sleep.
The next morning Jo woke early. Looking at the bedside clock, she saw it was barely six o’clock. Groaning, she rolled over, hoping to fall back to sleep for a little longer. It wasn’t to be. She climbed out of bed and went downstairs to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Taking it back to bed, she snuggled down with her book to read for a while. The weather was chilly, now that autumn was well and truly here, and she was glad to be back between the sheets, where it was warm.
Once she had finally risen and dressed, she made her way to the lounge and made the fire up. In the kitchen, she quickly ate her breakfast before going back to the warmth of the lounge. An hour later, she heard the noise of a car pulling up outside and went to the door to welcome Robin home. Robin was a lot thinner and still looked very pale, but she was glad to see Jo and they hugged each other happily. Jack followed them inside closing the door behind him. Jo led Robin into the lounge where it was warm and cosy, making her sit down in the chair nearest the fire.
“Oh, it’s nice to be home, again,” Robin said, happily.
“It’s wonderful to have you back, Robin. I’ll go and make us some tea, I’m sure we could all do with a cup.” Jo started for the door, but Jack stopped her.
“I’ll make it Jo. You stay in the warmth with Robin.” He disappeared before Jo could argue and went into the kitchen to put the kettle on and make himself a sandwich.
“How are you?” Jo asked, concern showing clearly in her eyes as she perched on the chair arm.
“I’m much better, thank you.”
“That’s good to hear. I’m so glad you’re home.” Jo’s voice was full of love for her adopted sister.
“I’m glad to be back. I missed you dreadfully, though I knew you wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near me. You don’t look as well as you did that last weekend we were here, though, Jo.” Robin laid her hand on Jo’s arm.
“I’m all right. It was you I was concerned for, especially when Jem told me he’d taken you to the Sanatorium.”
“It was just a precaution, to make sure I didn’t come down with anything worse.”
“I know, but I couldn’t help worrying about you, it’s so rare you’re ill.”
“I’m much better, now, though, and I’m to stay here until I’m well enough to go back to school.”
“Good.” Jo smiled, just as Jack came back in with a tray. She poured them each a cup and the chatter turned to other things. Jack stayed for a quick drink before making his excuses and heading off to bed.
Robin began to thrive now she was back in the comfort of Jo’s home. The quiet atmosphere helped her to recover much better that she would have done if she had gone straight back to school. Having Robin home also helped Jo and the two of them enjoyed the chance to be together again. When Daisy came home for the weekend, she was overjoyed to see everyone. They had a riotous weekend, though Jack managed to curb some of the wilder ideas Daisy had. All three of them were glad of a little peace and quiet when she went back to school on Sunday afternoon.
Two weeks later, Jack decreed that Robin was well enough to return to school though she was under strict instructions to take things slowly and if she felt tired to go to Matron immediately. He took her back on the Sunday afternoon, along with Daisy who had been home for the weekend again.
Jo felt lonely again. Jack was working long hours at the Sanatorium as they were still short-staffed and she only saw him for short periods between sleeping and working. Her sister began her weekly visits once more, so she had some company, and she resumed her routine of writing each morning and walking in the afternoon if the weather was fine. Things began to return to normal once more
Many thanks for the encouraging comments from the last chapter.
Ariel, I don't know what you mean about the last sentence being ominous.... *looks innocent* ;-)
This is the penultimate post for Part V.
Winter was here in earnest now, and one morning, Jo woke to see snow falling past her window. She had been into Armiford a few days before to do her Christmas shopping and was glad she’d managed to finish it all. She knew she wouldn’t be going very far if the snow continued. She dressed quickly in the cold room and was soon downstairs making the fire up in the lounge. She knew Jack would be home soon since he had been working the night shift and she went into the kitchen to put the kettle on to boil.
Jack came in through the front door, banging his boots as he did so, just as she poured the water into the teapot. She placed the teapot and cups onto a tray and headed towards the lounge with it.
“Morning, Jo.” Jack stopped her on her way to give her a quick kiss, which she returned before depositing the tray in the lounge. As she passed back through, he was removing his boots and she kissed the top of his head on the way past.
“Do you want something to eat?”
“A sandwich would be great. Thanks Jo.”
“I won’t be long. You go into the lounge where it’s warm.” Jack smiled after her and did as he was told. He stood in front of the fire for a few minutes to warm himself up, before going over to the sofa and flopping down on it. He’d had a busy night and this was the first chance he’d had to sit down since he’d started his shift. He removed his tie and unfastened the top button on his shirt, glad to be able to relax at last. Jo returned with a couple of plates and passed one to him.
“Thanks. Just what I need.”
“My pleasure. Do you want some tea?”
“Yes, please.” Jo poured them both a cup before she started on her breakfast. They ate in a companionable silence, the crackling of the fire the only sound in the room. When Jack had finished he put the plate on the tray ready to take through to the kitchen.
“Is there any more tea in the pot?”
“There should be,” Jo replied between mouthfuls. Jack lifted the lid and saw there was plenty left.
“Do you want one, too?” Jo passed her cup over and he refilled them both. Jo smiled her thanks as she finished her toast and put her plate on top of Jack’s. She came over to sit on the sofa with him and he pulled her into a hug.
“Yes. I’m glad to be home, now. Especially as the snow is coming down like mad.”
“Are you back in tonight as well?”
“No. I have a couple of days off, thank goodness.”
“That’s good. You’ve been there every day for the past few weeks.”
“I know. We’re so short-staffed that I’m lucky to have any time off.”
“I’m glad you have. I hardly ever see you at the moment.”
“It can’t be helped, though. Hopefully we’ll be getting some more doctors, soon, which should help lighten the load a little.”
“That sounds hopeful.”
“It is. Though if the snow continues to come down like it is now, I may have to stay there between shifts as it might be impossible to get through.”
“Oh, Jack! I hope not!”
“So do I, but it might happen, so you’ve been warned. I promise I’ll let you know if it happens.”
“I’m going to have to go and get some sleep, I think. I can hardly keep my eyes open. Will you wake me up for lunch?”
“Are you sure you want waking for lunch?”
“Yes. I want to be able to spend some time with you and when I go back I’ll be working early shifts, so I need to be able to sleep tonight.” He stood up at this point and stretched. “Night, Jo.” He gave her a kiss and departed to bed.
Jo took the tray back through to the kitchen and washed up before returning to the warmth of the lounge. She stood at the French windows for a while, watching the snow falling lazily from the sky and settling onto the garden. Then she turned back to the room and hunted out her shopping, intending to spend the morning wrapping presents.
Jo soon had presents and paper scattered across the floor and any other available surface as she wrapped the many presents she had bought for her family. When she had finished, she surveyed the mess she had created and sighed before turning to and collecting the parcels up. She deposited them in the corner of the study, where she could cover them with an old sheet and then went back to tidy the rest of the mess up. By the time she had finished, it was nearly one o’clock. She crossed the hall to the kitchen to start on lunch. When she was organised, she went to wake Jack.
“Time for lunch, sleepyhead,” she said as she shook him. He grunted and tried to roll away, but Jo grabbed the bedclothes and pulled them off him. This woke him up thoroughly since the room was cold. He opened his eyes to see Jo standing over him, smiling sweetly.
“What time is it?”
“Quarter past one. You wanted me to wake you for lunch and lunch’s ready.”
“Oh. Okay. I’ll be down in a few minutes, Jo.” Planting a kiss on his nose, Jo let the covers drop and departed for the warmth of the lounge.
Left alone, Jack yawned and debated rolling over and going back to sleep. He decided against it as he knew if he slept any longer, he would be wide awake when it came to going to bed at the normal time. He struggled out of bed and had a quick wash and got dressed, before going downstairs. He found Jo in the lounge, just finishing her sandwich. He picked up his plate and ate his own sandwich, whilst Jo poured him a cup of tea. When he finished Jo took his plate and disappeared off to the kitchen. She was gone for quite some time. Jack wondered what she was doing and went looking for her. He found her in the kitchen preparing vegetables.
“What are you doing, Jo? It’s freezing in here.”
“I thought we could have a stew for dinner, so I need to get everything prepared and put in the oven, now. If we keep the door closed, the kitchen will be warm when it’s ready, so we can eat in here without having to make the fire.”
“Fair enough. Hurry up though and come back through to the lounge. It’s far too cold for you to stay in here for long.” Jo nodded and continued with her task. When it was ready, she put the stew pot into the oven and turned it on. Closing the door behind her, she went back into the lounge and the warmth. Jack was sitting on the sofa, listening to the radio, so Jo came across and snuggled up to him, placing her cold hands up his jumper to warm them back up. As they came into contact with his skin, he flinched.
“Hey! Take them back out! They’re freezing!” Jo just laughed and he had to pull her hands back out himself. He kept hold of them so she couldn’t get away and tickled her in retaliation, before pulling her into him for a kiss. They snuggled onto the sofa together and listened to the radio until Jack realised Jo had dozed off in the heat of the room. Gently, he manoeuvred her so she was lying on the sofa and covered her with a blanket before disappearing into the study.
Once there, he shut the door and pulled some parcels out from under the desk. He quickly wrapped them and added them to the pile of presents under the cloth in the corner. Once he had finished, he tidied up and went into the kitchen to make a drink, before returning to the warmth of the lounge.
He deposited his coffee on the side table and made the fire up again. Sitting down in the armchair next to it, he found out his book to read until Jo should wake again.
Jo woke an hour or so later and stretched out along the sofa before she tried to untangle herself from the blanket. This took a bit of doing as she had somehow managed to wrap it right around her body and she couldn’t find the end. Jack took pity on her and came to help.
“Lay still, Jo. I can’t find the end if you keep on wriggling.” Jo stopped her struggles and waited patiently for him to locate it. “Ah! Got it!” He pulled and Jo nearly fell off the sofa as he did so.
“Be careful! You nearly landed me on the floor, then.”
“Did I? Ah, well, next time.” He just grinned maddeningly at her and left her to sit up properly. She stood up and departed for the kitchen to check on the stew. Once she was satisfied, she went upstairs to freshen up, before going back to the lounge. Jack had returned to his book, so Jo curled up in the corner of the sofa and picked up her own book. A companionable silence descended, broken only by the crackling of the fire. As the room began to darken, Jack suddenly spoke.
“Turn a light on, please, Jo. I’ve just got to an exciting part and I can’t see anymore.”
“Why don’t you turn the light on?”
“Because you’re nearer to the switch.”
“You’re nearer to the curtains and they need drawing first.”
“You could do that while you’re up.” Sighing, Jo rose and closed the curtains, before turning the light on. As she passed him, she glanced at his book.”
“What’re you reading? Agatha Christie? The butler did it.”
“Jo! Don’t tell me the ending! I want to work it out for myself.” Jo just laughed and curled back up on the sofa. She was soon bored of her own book and needed to do something else. She wriggled, earning herself a glare from Jack who wanted to finish his book.
“Have you worked it out yet?”
“No. I won’t be able to, either, if you keep talking to me. If you want something to do, why don’t you go and make us a drink and let me finish this in peace?” Jo did as she was told, dropping a kiss onto his head as she passed him. Jack turned the page and he became once more engrossed in the story, hoping he could finish it before Jo returned.
He was lucky. He was just closing the book as she returned, carrying the tray. Smiling up at her, he waved it triumphantly.
“I was right!” Jo just smiled at him and poured the tea.
“Dinner should be ready in an hour or so.”
Jack came over to join Jo the sofa and they talked happily on, enjoying the chance to spend time in each other’s company without any interruptions. When Jo glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece, she reluctantly stood up and went to check on dinner. Five minutes later she called Jack through to the kitchen and they sat down to stew and dumplings. Their evening continued much the same as the afternoon, until Jo yawned and they retired to bed.
Well, this is it, folks. The last chapter of Part V. Thank you all for your wonderful and encouraging comments throughout, as I haven't been confident about how this story would work all the way through. I'd also like to give Mary R an extra large thank you and a big hug for all her patience in proofing this for me.
Part VI will follow at some point in the near future....
It was Christmas Eve and Jo, Robin and Daisy were busy decorating the Christmas tree in the lounge. Jack had brought it in early that morning and then gone off to work, leaving them decorate the house and prepare for Christmas Day.
This would be Jo and Jack’s first Christmas together. Last year, Jack had been away at war and Jo, Robin and Daisy had spent a quiet morning alone, before joining the Russells for Christmas dinner and staying until evening. This year, they planned to join in the Christmas meal again. Madge had offered to have Robin and Daisy for the whole holiday, but Jo had refused, stating that they were her family and she wanted to share Christmas morning with them. Jack had agreed with his wife and had suggested that they stay on at the Round House after their Christmas meal, returning home the day after Boxing Day.
The three of them sang Christmas carols as they adorned the tree with baubles and tinsel. When they had finished, they stood back to admire their handywork.
“What do you think?” Jo asked.
“It looks lovely, Jo,” Robin replied, slipping her arm around her adopted sister. “It’s going to be a special Christmas this year, with Jack being home as well.”
“I know. Our first Christmas as a family.”
“Shall we put the presents under the tree, Auntie Jo?” Daisy asked.
“Good plan. Come on, let’s go and fetch them in. No feeling which ones are for you, though, Daisy-girl.” Daisy laughed and followed Jo through to the study to help move the presents whilst Robin arranged them around the base of the tree. Once they had finished, they went into the kitchen to prepare dinner. Jack wouldn’t be eating with them, though he was expected later, as he, Jo and Robin would be attending Midnight Mass together and Daisy was going to the Protestant service with the Russells.
The evening was spent quietly in the lounge as they waited for Jack to arrive back. At ten o’clock, the telephone rang, startling them all. Jo went to answer it.
“Jo? I’m sorry, I’m not going to make it home in time to go to Midnight Mass, I’m afraid. I have a really ill patient and I daren’t leave him at the moment.”
“Oh, Jack! That’s awful!”
“These things happen, Jo. Jem has offered to collect Daisy on his way for theirs, but you and Robin aren’t going be able to get into Armiford for Mass.”
“I’ll speak to Robin and see if she wants to attend the service in the village church.”
“If you decide to go to that, Jem will drive you. Don’t wait up for me, though. I have no idea what time I’m liable to get away. I have to go, I’m needed.” Jack hung up and Jo slowly replaced the receiver and went back into the lounge to break the news. Robin was amenable to attending the Protestant service and they all joined the others at the village church. When they arrived back, there was no sign of Jack, so the three of them went quickly to bed.
It was the early hours of Christmas morning when Jack finally crept in through the door. He was tired and dejected as his patient had slipped away barely two hours ago. He made himself a hot drink and something to eat, before creeping upstairs to bed. As he changed he looked down at Jo, who was sleeping in the middle of the bed and realised how much he needed her. Sliding into bed, he snuggled up to her and she unconsciously turned towards him, draping her arm across his chest. He kissed her hair and smoothed it gently from her face allowing her presence to comfort him. He soon fell asleep, exhausted from the long hours at work.
He was woken the next morning by a kiss from Jo.
“Merry Christmas, Jack!” He rolled over and opened his eyes to see her smiling down at him.
“Merry Christmas, Jo.” He pulled her back for another kiss and they lay in each other’s arms, just enjoying the quiet and the closeness of each other. He was just beginning to doze off again, when he heard Robin and Daisy moving about, singing Christmas carols.
“Go back to sleep, Jack. You don’t have to get up, now, just because they’re up. They can look after themselves, you know.” Jo stroked his hair and he allowed himself to relax into her arms once more. He was soon sleeping, never hearing Jo slip out of bed to warn Robin and Daisy to be a little quieter.
The three of them were soon dressed and downstairs eating breakfast. Daisy was wildly excited and Jo had to warn her on more than one occasion to calm down a little. She left Jack to slumber on until an hour before they needed to leave for Mass, when she took a cup of tea up to him.
“Jack! Time to get up!” She shook him and he reluctantly opened his eyes. “I’ve brought you a drink.”
“Thanks, Jo. What time is it?”
“It’s nine o’clock. We need to leave in an hour, if we’re to get to Armiford in time for Mass.”
“Okay. Move out the way, then, so I can get up.” Jo obligingly got back up from the edge of the bed and Jack climbed out. He gave her a kiss as he headed towards the bathroom, leaving Jo to pull the covers back to air.
After Mass, they drove back to Howells, collecting Daisy on their way through the village. Once they had all shed their outer garments, and Jo had made a pot of tea, they settled in the lounge. Jack sat on the floor next to the tree and doled out each present to its owner. Soon, each of them had a pile of presents to open on the floor in front of them. The actual opening was done with much merriment and many a thank you as they each found something that they had been wanting. Before they knew it, the mantle clock was chiming one and they had to hurry to get ready to go to the Round House if they were to arrive on time for the meal. Jack elected to drive, since the weather was freezing and Robin and Daisy also had bags to take with them for their stay.
As the car pulled up outside the Round House, the front door was opened and Madge was there to welcome them in. She quickly directed Robin and Daisy to the rooms they were to use, before leading Jo and Jack into the drawing room. All the children were there and there were shouts of joy as they surrounded their aunt and uncle, dragging them off to show them their presents. Eventually, order was restored and Jo and Jack were allowed to sit down and accept a drink each. There had been a joyful reunion between Daisy and her small sister, Primula, who was overjoyed to be sharing a room with her for the next two nights.
The meal itself was a riotous affair, with everyone talking over each other and at least seven separate conversations going on at any one time. Jo looked around the table in a brief lull in her own conversation and smiled happily. Jack caught her eye from across the table and winked at her.
“Happy?” he mouthed across to her. Her grin widened and he returned it, before continuing with his own conversation.
As the afternoon wore on, Jo found the number of people beginning to overwhelm her a little. She wasn’t used to so many people all at once anymore, and she slipped out, unnoticed. Jack saw her go, but said nothing, understanding her need for a little solitude. When she hadn’t re-appeared half an hour later, he slipped out to look for her.
He eventually found her sitting on the stairs to the attic rooms, her head in her arms. Sitting down next to her, he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into his chest. Jo leaned into him, finally allowing herself to relax a little. They stayed in the same position for quite a while, until Jo finally pulled back.
“You don’t have to thank me. I missed you, so I came to find you.”
“It was all getting too much down there. I just needed a little space.”
“Do you want to go home, now?”
“No. I think I’ll be all right again, now I’ve had a break from everyone and I don’t want to spoil the children’s fun.”
“Let’s see how you go. If it gets too much again, we’ll go home. I’m sure Madge and Jem will understand if we leave a little earlier than planned.” Jo nodded her agreement and they headed back to the drawing room, where they were soon dragged into playing board games with everyone.
An hour later, Jack looked over at Jo and saw that she had clearly had enough. As soon as the game they were playing was finished and Rix had been declared the winner, he stated that he and Jo should be getting back home. Jo flashed him a thankful smile as she began to help tidy the game away. Madge duly fetched their coats and, once they had said their goodbyes to everyone, she and Jem accompanied them to the door and waved them off.
Jack soon drove them back to their cottage. Jo was thankful for the peace and quiet and was more than happy to flop onto the sofa, whilst Jack put the kettle on. When he came back with the tray, Jo was trying her hardest to keep her eyes open. Passing her a cup of tea, he came to sit beside her on the sofa.
“Has it been a good Christmas?”
“The best ever! We’ve been married for over a year and yet, this is our first Christmas together.”
“I know. Let’s hope it’s the first of many.”
“I hope so, too. I also hope you don’t get recalled anytime soon, so we can spend even more time with each other.”
“So do I, Jo, but if it happens, there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“Merry Christmas, Jack.”
“Merry Christmas, Jo.” Jack removed her cup from her hand and placed it onto the tray, along with his own and pulled her into a hug. Jo flung her arms around him and returned it, lifting her face up to kiss him as she did so. They stayed in each other’s arms for a long time, just happy to be together.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.