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A week after Jo’s appointment, Jack came home from work one afternoon to find a letter waiting for him. It was his call-up papers. The war had been going on for three weeks, now. He had hoped that he would avoid at least the first round of conscription, but it wasn’t to be. He went to find Jo. She had obviously picked the letter up and placed it on the mantelpiece for him. She wasn’t in the house. This was unusual, as she generally left him a note if she went out. He quickly checked all the obvious places, in case he had missed one, but none was to be found. He went outside to check she wasn’t in the garden. Nothing. He was extremely worried, now, it was so unlike Jo to just disappear. Going back indoors, he put the kettle on. He was just about to go and phone her sister to see if she was there, when he heard the front door open. Going into the hall, he saw Jo slowly hanging her coat up, breathing heavily.

“Jo? Where have you been? I was worried about you.”

“I needed to walk,” she gasped out.

“Go and sit down. I’ll make you a drink.” Jo obeyed, going slowly into the lounge. Jack went to the kitchen and made them both a drink. He returned a few minutes later, to find Jo curled up in the corner of the sofa, her head on the arm. Setting their cups on the table next to her, he crouched down so he could see her face. Her eyes were bright with unshed tears, and she was still breathing quite heavily.

“That letter. You’ve been called up, haven’t you?” she whispered.

“Yes. I have to report in the next few days. Is that why you went walking?” Jo nodded.

“I couldn’t stay here. I needed to clear my head.”

“By walking yourself into this state? That won’t help either of us.” Jo’s tears began to fall, and Jack gently wiped them away. “Don’t cry, Joey. You knew it might happen.”

“Not so soon, though.”

“We saw what was happening when we were still in Austria. I had a small taste of it that week I was taken to Innsbruck. If I can help the people fighting that regime, then I should go.” Jo didn’t answer. She knew he was right. She managed to sit up and picked her drink up. Jack watched her, anxiously. When she replaced the cup, he suggested she go up to bed. She just nodded, but made no attempt to move. She was exhausted. He hauled her gently to her feet, placing his arm quickly around her waist when she swayed. Once he got her up to the bedroom, he helped her into her pyjamas and tucked her into bed. Kissing her, he left her to sleep.

When Jack woke the next morning, he rolled over and looked at Jo. She was still sleeping, and looked even paler than normal. He knew that she would be spending the next few days in bed to recover. He wasn’t at work until later on, so he could look after her until he had to leave. He slipped out of bed and quietly dressed. Going downstairs, he made himself some breakfast. He checked on Jo an hour later and found she had just woken up.

“How do you feel?” he asked, sitting down on the bed.

“Tired.”

“Stay where you are and rest for today. You did too much, yesterday. Would you like something to eat?” Jo shook her head.

“Just a drink, please.” Jack looked keenly at her. He knew she needed to eat, but wasn’t going to force her, yet. He went off to the kitchen, quickly returning with a drink. She had dozed back off, so he gently placed it on the bedside cabinet, in case she woke. When he appeared at lunch time with a sandwich for her, she was still sleeping. He woke her and told her to sit up.

“I’m not hungry,” she protested.

“You have to eat, otherwise you’ll end up back in the Sanatorium,” he told her. He passed her the plate and picked up the now-cold drink from earlier. “I’ll go and get you a fresh drink. When I get back, I want that plate to be empty.” He walked off at this, leaving Jo alone again. When he reached the kitchen, he dropped heavily into one of the chairs, rested his elbows on the table and put his head in his hands. He hated having to be so authoritative to his wife. She was impulsive in her nature, though. He knew the reason for her walk yesterday. She hadn’t thought about how easily she could make herself ill again. Jack worried how she would cope when he was gone. He decided to have a word with Jem, when he got to work. He had to tell him about the call-up papers, anyway. He stood back up and made a drink for himself and Jo, slowly returning to the bedroom. Jo had managed to finish the sandwich, and he smiled at her. Setting the cups down, he sat down beside her, pulling her into his arms.

“I’m sorry,” Jo said into his chest. “For yesterday. I didn’t mean to worry you. I just needed to stop myself from thinking about all the awful things that might happen to you. Walking was the only way I could do it.”

“I know, Jo. I can’t help worrying, though. You mean the world to me and I don’t want you to make yourself ill again. You could so easily have set yourself back, by walking like that. I understand why you needed to do it, but it hasn’t helped. You’ve ended up having to spend today in bed, and tomorrow, too.” Jack held her tighter, wishing he could stay with her, but he needed to get to work. He reluctantly let her go, and she lay back down. “I have to go to work, now. You get some more sleep. Your sister is coming over, so you won’t be alone.” He kissed her and left her to sleep.

Jo slept all afternoon. Her sister came to sit with her, but didn’t disturb her. When Jack had rung her that morning he had just told her that Jo was unwell, and could she come and sit with her, while he was at work. It wasn’t until Jem came to the cottage on his way home from his own shift, that she discovered the reason why. Madge let him in and they went into the kitchen, where they would be unlikely to disturb Jo, as the bedroom was above the lounge.

“Jack’s been called up,” Jem said, as he sat down in one of the chairs.

“That’s awful news. When does he have to go?”

“In a few days. He found out yesterday. Apparently, Jo guessed when the letter dropped through the door and she picked it up.”

“Is that what’s wrong with her? Jack just said she was unwell on the ‘phone this morning.”

“She went walking to try and stop her imagination running wild. She was in a terrible state when she finally arrived back home.”

“Why didn’t she just ring me? If she didn’t want to be alone, I could have come over.”

“You’d have to ask Jo that question. All I know is that she’s now exhausted herself, and Jack’s making her stay in bed whilst she recovers.” Madge just nodded. Her thoughts alternated between anger at Jo for going walking when she wasn’t up to it, and feeling sorry for her as she had had such a short time to enjoy married life with Jack.

“Is she still sleeping?” Jem asked.

“She was when I checked an hour ago. Do you want me to go and see?” Jem nodded and Madge quickly ran upstairs, returning a minute or so later. “Still fast on. I don’t think she’s even moved since last time I checked.”

“Good. Jack also asked me if we could think of anything to keep Jo occupied, while he’s gone, so she doesn’t fret. I told him I would ask you.” Madge looked thoughtful for a few minutes, before going to turn the ring on underneath the kettle. When she had placed a drink in front of her husband, sitting down opposite him with her own, she had an idea.

“What about if Robin comes to stay here, with her? She’s missing Jo, now she doesn’t live with us,” she asked.

“Hmm. That may be an idea. She isn’t noisy and would be at school during the day, so Jo can still rest properly.”

“The only thing is that Daisy would miss her company. Unless Daisy comes here, too.”

“It’s certainly much closer for them to cycle to school from here. Daisy is so much more boisterous than Robin, though. I don’t know if Jo could cope with her as well as Robin.”

“It’s mainly the weekends that Jo will struggle with her. We could insist that they both spend Saturdays at our house, so Jo can have a break.”

“We could always try it. If it’s obvious that Daisy is too much for her, she can come back to us. I’ll suggest it to Jack and see what he thinks.” He stood up at this. “I’ll just have a quick look at Jo, and then I’ll get off home.” He disappeared upstairs and was gone a good ten minutes. Madge concluded that her sister had woken, and set about preparing something for her to eat. She had just put the meal onto a tray, when he came back in. He smiled at her, but she could see he wasn’t happy.

“Make sure she eats it,” he told her. He kissed her goodbye, and left. Madge took the tray up to Jo. She was sitting up in bed, but looked very tired and pale. Placing the tray across her knee, Madge smiled at her. Jo returned it with a wan one of her own.

“I’m not hungry, Madge.”

“Jem says you have to eat it. If you don’t, you’ll be facing his wrath, as well as Jack’s.” Knowing Jem’s wrath all too well, Jo reluctantly picked up her fork and tried to make an effort. She managed to eat most of it, though she refused anything else. Madge didn’t push her. She was just relieved to see she had eaten something. She took the tray from Jo, who immediately lay back down, and was soon asleep once more. Madge departed back to the kitchen to wash up. Just as she had finished, and was putting the last plate away in the cupboard, Jack came in through the door.

“How is Jo?” he asked her.

“She’s just eaten something and gone back to sleep again.” Madge replied.

“Good. Thank you for staying with her.”

“You’re welcome. Do you need me to come tomorrow?”

“No. It’s my day off, so I can manage.”

“Just ring me if you need me. I don’t mind coming to sit with her.” Madge picked her coat up at this. Jack escorted her to the door, and watched her climb into her car and set off for her own home. Climbing into bed as quietly as he could, so as not to disturb Jo, he was soon asleep.

Jo stayed in bed for the next two days. Jack finally allowed her up again the day before he was due to present himself at the recruiting office. Jem had given him the day off so he could spend the time with Jo. They didn’t go out since Jo wasn’t allowed to do anything strenuous. Jack could see she was trying to keep her emotions in check, so she didn’t spoil his last day at home. Towards the end of the afternoon, they were sitting on the sofa, Jo curled up next to him, her head on his chest and his arms around her.

“Jo?” he murmured.

“Mmm?”

“I want you to promise me something.” Jo didn’t reply, so he carried on, “Promise me you won’t go walking again, like you did a few days ago and that you’ll try not to worry too much. I don’t want to come back and find you back in the Sanatorium.” Jo made no sound, but he could feel her body shaking as she sobbed silently into his shirt. He tightened his grip on her, allowing her to cry. Eventually, he moved, forcing her to sit up. He wiped her tears away, and held her face up to his. He could see love and anguish in her eyes, and felt tears pricking the back of his own eyes. “Promise me, Joey.”

“I-I promise,” she whispered.

“I love you, Joey Maynard. I love you more than anything, and I’m going to come back to you as soon as I possibly can. I want you to be here when I do come back.” He drew her back into his arms again at this, his tears falling on her hair.



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