|Jack walked slowly along the corridor towards Dr Mensch’s office. He was deep in thought and paying no attention to his surroundings. His thoughts had taken him into the realms of ‘what if?’ What if Jo had survived? Would they be living out here in Switzerland? Would he have become head of the Sanatorium he was currently walking through? He knew he had refused to come out to Switzerland and Jem had handed the post of head of the Swiss Sanatorium to Gottfried Mensch. Jack wasn’t jealous of his friend and colleague, but, he realised it was a slight regret in his life. As much as he enjoyed the challenges of his job, he found that he was no longer excited by them. This dawned on him as reached his colleague’s door and knocked. A voice was heard inviting him in and he had to enter, his thoughts still half formed.|
“Jack! Take a seat and I’ll ring for coffee.” Gottfried smiled as Jack entered. Jack dropped onto the sofa in the corner of the room and looked around as his friend rang for refreshments. Would this have been his office? He shook his head to clear his thoughts and concentrated on the conversation between Gottfried and one of the other doctors who worked with him. Jack couldn’t remember his name, though he knew he’d been introduced.
Just after the refreshments had arrived, Jem appeared, accompanied by Matron Graves. She smiled around the room before taking a seat next to Jack. He returned her smile and attempted to pay attention to the conversation going on around him. Jem glanced across at him as they talked on a couple of occasions and, noting his faraway expression, wondered what was going through his mind.
Once the meeting dispersed, Jack collected his coat and hat walked back towards the main entrance. He wanted some fresh air after the stuffiness of the office. Following a path to the left of the building, Jack found himself overlooking a vista of mountains stretching endlessly before him. He saw a bench not far from where he was standing and moved across to sit down. He had the feeling someone was watching him, but, there was no one else in view. As he sat there, watching the sunset, someone joined him on the bench.
“You’ve been distant all afternoon, Jack.” Jack turned his head in surprise.
“Jem! I didn’t expect to see you out here.” Jack regained his composure as Jem made himself comfortable, pulling his hat further down on his head.
“I came to see where you were since we’re meant to be meeting some of the board in a couple of days. That’s what we were discussing in Gottfried’s office.”
“Oh. Sorry, I wasn’t paying much attention. Did you want me to speak?”
“Yes. I need you to be the representative for the English branch.”
“I can manage that. Why aren’t you the representative, though? It’s your company after all.”
“That’s why. It’s my company and the board have requested someone else to represent the English branch. You’re here and are the ideal candidate. You know as much as I do, if not more, since I don’t have time to be on the ground there anymore.”
“I can only really speak from my own department. I know a little about the others, but not everything.”
“I know. I have reports from the other department heads, so you might like to have a look through them before the meeting. This was all arranged while you were away, so I couldn’t let you have them in advance.”
“When is the meeting?”
“It’s at three o’clock on Thursday. I’ll give you them now, if you like?”
“Thanks. It’ll give me time to prepare some notes. Is there a spare office I can borrow to look over them?”
“I’m sure Gottfried will find you one somewhere. The notes are in his office at the moment.” Jem rose and Jack reluctantly followed him back inside. The notes were retrieved and Gottfried showed Jack an empty office he could use. Thanking them, Jack dropped the notes onto the desk along with the pen and notebook he’d also borrowed. Once he was alone, he made himself comfortable and began to look through the reports.
Gottfried found him in the same position three hours later.
“Abendessen will be ready in an hour, Jack. We need to set off for home in a few minutes.” Jack just nodded absently as Gottfried withdrew to collect his own things. He joined Jem in the corridor and they made their way towards the entrance to wait for Jack. When he hadn’t appeared fifteen minutes later, Jem turned to Gottfried.
“You did tell him we needed to leave, didn’t you?”
“Yes. He nodded in reply.” Jem sighed.
“He won’t have heard you. I’ll go and fetch him, otherwise he’ll be here all night.” Jem set off back along the corridor and turned into the office Jack had borrowed. He crossed the room and casually removed the pen from Jack’s hand. Jack looked up in surprise.
“Come on, Jack. We’ve been waiting for you for fifteen minutes. We’ll be late for Abendessen if you don’t come now. This can wait until tomorrow morning.”
“You haven’t given me much time to look at them, though. I’m only part way through the first one and I already have a page of questions.”
“I’ll answer them tomorrow. Right now, I’m hungry and Gisela will be upset if we aren’t on time.” Jem passed Jack his coat and ushered him out of the office before he had chance to protest any further. He knew that Jack was still reticent when it came to the social side of his life. Jem generally had to persuade him to come to dinner at his own home, even now. He wondered if the fact that they were staying with Gottfried and Gisela was something with which Jack was struggling. He had been quiet most evenings and was generally the first to depart to bed. Casting a sidelong glance at his friend as they walked towards the main entrance, Jem saw he looked pale and tired. He was reminded of the time when Jack had first returned to work at the Sanatorium. He wondered if Jack was sleeping, or if he was battling another bout of insomnia. He knew he couldn’t question Jack directly as he would be rebuffed out of hand. Jem decided to shelve the matter for now and see what transpired.
Once they had all eaten and were comfortably sitting in the Salon, Jack slowly sipped his whisky and wondered how quickly he could excuse himself from everyone. He longed to be somewhere alone. He had spent the past nineteen years alone. The one person he had loved was dead and he knew he wouldn’t love again. He had no heart to give to another. He quickly downed the rest of the contents of his glass before standing up. The memory of Jo was too close to the surface this evening.
As Jack thanked Gisela for the lovely meal and said his goodnights, Jem watched him go without comment. He knew that Jack had just been on a trip to his recent past and that he was probably patching up wounds he hadn’t realised he had opened until now.
This follows on immediately after Jack's War.
Author's Chapter Notes:
So, after a 2 year hiatus, Angstabunny finally returned to finish this story. Apologies in advance for any inaccuracies, melodrama and general angst which is about to occur....