|The next day, Jo was taken over the channel to Guernsey and straight to the hospital there. She was given a single room at one end of the building, where it was quiet. Jem intended to build a self-contained sanatorium but, until he had permission from the authorities, he had been given a small side wing in the hospital.|
Once she had been settled into the bed, Jack came to sit with her for a while. She smiled at him, holding out her hand. He took it and returned the smile.
“At least you know what to expect this time around,” he said. Jo just nodded. She also knew how long the hours seemed when she was unable to do anything for herself. She yawned.
“Go to sleep, Jo. You don’t need to stay awake for me.” Jo obediently closed her eyes and slept. Jack just stayed there, watching her and wishing he could do more for her. At least she was safe now, he thought vaguely to himself. He slumped in his chair, his head on the bed, and fell asleep, too.
When Jem came to check on Jo an hour later, he found them both fast asleep. He woke Jack, quietly. When they had left the room, Jem told him to go home and sleep properly. Jack looked at him, questioningly. He had no idea where home was. Jem realised this and offered him a lift, which was gratefully accepted. He drove Jack to a small cottage not far from the hospital. He handed him a set of keys, telling him that Madge had made a bed up and there were basics in the kitchen. Jack thanked him and went to the door. Once inside, he quickly found the bed and dropped into it. He was asleep again immediately, never waking for the next twenty-four hours.
When he finally woke, it wasn’t because he had had enough sleep; it was because someone was knocking on the door. He climbed out of bed and slowly made his way downstairs to answer it. Jem was standing there. Jack just held the door open and stepped back to let him inside, closing the door behind him.
“Did I wake you?” Jem asked him. Jack just nodded. He was still tired and wanted to go back to sleep. “I just dropped by to invite you to dinner with us.”
“Thank you, but no. I don’t think I’ll be particularly good company at the moment.”
“Of course. We understand. Another time, maybe?” Jack nodded again. Jem took the hint and left. Jack went into the kitchen and made himself a drink, taking it back up to the bedroom. He drank it and then lay back down to sleep again.
Jack did very little else for the next week. He was exhausted. He had spent so much time looking after Jo, that he had neglected himself. He ate little and slept most of the time. He didn’t even have the energy to clean himself up and had not shaved since he had arrived at the cottage. Even Jo was pushed to the back of his mind as he tried to concentrate on getting as much sleep as possible.
Back in the hospital, Jo was starting to worry. Her sister had visited, whom she was overjoyed to see, but Jack hadn’t been for over a week now. When Jem came to check on her during his rounds late one night, he found her wide awake. He came into the room and sat down.
“What’s wrong, Jo?” he asked her. She looked at him, tears in her eyes.
“I’m worried about Jack,” she confided. “He hasn’t been in over a week. Is he okay?”
“I’m sure he’s fine,” Jem replied. He was also beginning to worry at Jack’s disappearance. It was so out of character. “He’s probably been busy trying to get himself settled in and work out the island. I’m sure he’ll come and visit you soon.” Jo didn’t look convinced by this.
“That doesn’t sound like Jack. Will you go and check on him for me, please?”
Jem nodded. “I’ll go round tomorrow afternoon and see him.”
“Try to sleep now. It’s far too late for you to be awake.”
“I’ll try.” Jem left her alone once more. She tried to sleep, but found she couldn’t. She was desperate to know that Jack was all right. She stared into the darkness, watched the dawn come creeping around the edges of the curtains, and still she did not sleep. When morning arrived, Jem looked in before leaving for home.
“Have you slept at all, Jo?” he asked her. She just shook her head. Her imagination had been working overtime and she was beginning to fear the worst. Jem realised that, until she knew Jack was okay, she would not be able to rest properly. He quickly left the room, re-appearing a few minutes later with some tablets for her.
“Take these, Jo,” he told her, handing her them and some water from the bedside cabinet.
“What are they?” she asked him, suspiciously.
“Sleeping pills. If you don’t rest properly, you won’t be able to see anyone, let alone Jack.”
“I don’t want them,” she said, shaking her head at him. Jem continued to stand there, unmoved.
“Fine. If you don’t take them, then you won’t be in a position to have a visitor tomorrow. Nor will I tell you how Jack is, when I find out.”
“Jem! You can’t mean that!” she cried.
“I mean every word. If you want to make yourself worse, and end up in complete isolation, then carry on as you are. If you don’t, then take them and go to sleep and I’ll bring you news of Jack this evening.” Jo knew she had lost. She reluctantly choked the tablets down, knowing that Jem would carry out his threat if she didn’t. Jem didn’t comment further. He just pulled the covers up a little further and left, informing the nurse on duty to let her sleep and to give her something to eat when she finally woke.
It was late afternoon when Jem finally knocked on the door to Jack’s cottage. He waited a few minutes before knocking again, louder this time. He was about to knock for a third time when he finally heard movement from inside. Eventually, the door was opened and Jack stood there, wearing a dressing gown and unshaven. He looked haggard, despite the beard covering his face. Jem was worried. He had never seen Jack look anything but respectable, even when he went to fetch Jo back from Switzerland. The man standing in front of him wasn’t the same person. Jack just opened the door further and motioned him inside. Once he had closed the door, he led the way to the kitchen and sank into one of the chairs there. Jem followed him, sitting down opposite.
“How are you?” Jem asked.
“Exhausted,” Jack replied, shortly.
“Have you eaten today?” Jack shook his head. “Do you know how long you’ve been here?”
“A few days?” Jack hazarded. His brain was still foggy and he couldn’t work out where this conversation was leading.
“Over a week,” Jem told him. “No one has seen you in that time and people are starting to worry about your disappearance.” He didn’t specify who, leaving Jack to work that out for himself. Jack rested his head in his hands as he tried to work out how he had managed to lose a week and who would be worrying about him. Jem watched, silently. Eventually, Jack rose from his chair and busied himself making a drink for them both. When he had finished, and was sitting back with a strong coffee in his hand, he finally looked at Jem once more.
“How is Jo?” he asked.
“Worried about you,” Jem replied, bluntly. Jack just nodded. He understood Jem’s meaning. “It’s visiting day tomorrow. I think she would like to see you,” he added.
“I’ll be there. When do I start back at work?”
“You’re not ready to come back, yet. You need to make sure you’re fully fit first.” Jack looked ready to argue this point, but decided against it. He knew that Jem was right.
“In that case, I should go home for a few days and see my family.”
“Good idea, but clean yourself up a bit first, eh?” Jack ran his hand through his beard, and nodded. Jem’s intervention had made him realise he had been neglecting his own health. Jem stood up at this and prepared to leave. Jack thanked him, promising he would go to see Jo the next day.
Once Jem had left, Jack went slowly back upstairs and into the bathroom. He ran himself a bath and sank into it. Once he had finished, he shaved and felt much better for it. He discovered he was hungry and went to look for something to eat. On finding nothing in the kitchen, he decided to go and investigate his surroundings, in the hope of finding a hotel restaurant. Just as he was getting ready to leave, a knock came at the door. He opened it to find Marie, the Russell’s maid, standing there, her arms full of groceries. He immediately tried to take them, but she refused, stating that she could manage and to go and sit down until she called him for dinner. She bustled off to the kitchen and he heard the rattle of pots and pans. He was thankful that she had appeared, saving him from having to search for somewhere to eat. Eventually, she called him in, and set a lovely meal in front of him. He ate everything she gave him and he thanked her, gratefully. She just smiled at him and left once she had finished washing up.
The next afternoon saw Jack walking to the hospital to see Jo. He hadn’t seen her in over a week and he felt guilty about staying away so long. It had suddenly occurred to him the previous evening that if she had been worrying about him, she may have made herself worse. He hoped not, since Jem hadn’t mentioned it. He realised that he needed to buy himself a car, as well. When he did go back to work, he wouldn’t be able to walk all the time, in case he was needed in an emergency. He had spent the morning sorting his affairs out at the bank, so he had access to some money. He didn’t expect to receive anything whilst he wasn’t working and he needed to be able to pay someone to come and cook and clean for him.
When he arrived at the hospital, he felt better for the fresh air. He walked rather slowly towards Jo’s room, suddenly feeling a little apprehensive. He hoped she was improving, but didn’t dare raise his hopes too much. If she had been worrying about him, he knew she wouldn’t have been doing much resting. He reached her room at this point. Slowly, he opened the door and peered round it. Jo was lying quietly and had her eyes closed. He came in and sat down by the bed, examining her face as he did so. He noticed faint circles under her eyes and was concerned about her.
“Jo?” he whispered. She opened her eyes and looked at him. As she realised who it was, he saw tears forming. “Don’t cry, darling. I’m sorry, I haven’t been sooner.”
“Are you all right?” she whispered. “I’ve been so worried about you.”
“I’m fine. I just needed to sleep and sort myself out. I didn’t mean to worry you.” He gently wiped her tears away.
“I can’t help worrying when you disappear for so long with no explanation. I couldn’t even come looking for you.”
“I know. It won’t happen again.” He took her hand in his, and gently squeezed it, the only way he could show affection for now. “How are you doing?”
“I’m okay. Happier for seeing you, though.” Jack managed to move the conversation on to other things after that, spending the time telling her about where he was living and what he had seen of the island so far. When it was almost time to go, he changed the subject again.
“I won’t be here for the next week or two,” he told her. “I have to go home. I need to let my family see that I’m all right.”
“I wish I could come with you,” she replied, wistfully.
“I’ll take you when you’re better,” he promised. “You need to concentrate on getting yourself well again, for now.” He stood up. “Look after yourself and I’ll come and see you as soon as I get back.” Jo nodded. He squeezed her hand once more and departed.
As he was walking through the hospital, Jem caught him up, walking out with him.
“How was Jo?” Jem asked him.
“She was upset that I hadn’t been to see her, but I suppose I asked for that,” he answered.
“You needed time to sort yourself out, too. She needs to understand that you can’t be with her constantly.”
“She does understand, but I didn’t need to cause her to worry by my disappearing act.”
“Will you come to dinner, tonight?” Jem asked him, changing the subject.
“Yes. That would be lovely, thank you.”
“I’ll send Andreas to pick you up about seven o’clock.”
“Thanks. That should just give me time to pack.”
“You’re going home, then?”
“Yes. I’m catching the ferry tomorrow morning.”
“Andreas will give you a ride to the port. Just tell him what time you need to be there. Have you told Jo?”
“Yes. She was upset that she couldn’t come as well, but she accepted that I needed to go.”
“Good.” They reached Jem’s car at this point. “Do you want a lift home?”
“No, thank you. I’d rather walk, as it’s a fine day.”
“I’ll see you at dinner.” Jack nodded and left Jem to climb into his car and drive off, whilst he set off on the walk back to his cottage.
The next morning found him at the port, waiting to board the ferry for England and his family home.