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The days and weeks passed very slowly for Jo. She was becoming accustomed to the routine of being a tuberculosis patient once more. She was having regular pneumothorax again, and was concentrating on trying to forget the pain it gave her. She had another chest X-ray a month later. It was Jack who came to tell her the results, this time. He came in immediately after rest hours one afternoon, and sat down beside her. Jo had been sleeping, but his arrival woke her.

“I’ve just gone through your latest X-rays,” he told her. Jo didn’t reply, but she watched him steadily. “They don’t show much improvement from the last lot, so I’m afraid you’ll have to stay on complete bed rest for another month.” Jo felt tears pricking her eyes, but she was determined not to let them fall. Jack noticed, but refrained from saying anything. He appreciated how hard it was for her. He stood back up and started towards the door. When he reached it he turned and spoke again. “I’ll come back later, Jo, when I’ve finished.” Jo nodded and he left her alone.

Jack kept his word and, once he had handed over, he duly went back to Jo’s room. She was lying quietly when he entered. Though she smiled faintly at him as he came to sit by her, she said nothing. He took her hand in his, showing her that he was no longer her doctor.

“How are you feeling?” he asked her. She just shook her head and looked at the wall beyond his shoulder. She knew that if she spoke, she wouldn’t be able to stop the tears from falling. Jack realised that she was only just holding herself together. He clasped her hand tighter and spoke again. “It’s going to be all right, Jo. It will take time, that’s all.” At these words, Jo found the tears falling. Jack just held her hand tightly in his, wishing he could take her in his arms. When the tears finally slowed, Jack passed her a tissue and she blew her nose.

“S-sorry,” she mumbled.

“Don’t be,” he replied. “We’ll get there. We just have to be patient. You’ve only been here for three months, and most of that has been spent letting your body recover from the journey. That week I disappeared was the same for me. All I wanted to do was sleep, to the exclusion of everything else going on around me. When Jem knocked on my door, I think he was surprised to see the state of me. It’s just taken you longer to recover because of your illness. Hopefully, you’ll turn the corner now and start to improve again.”

“I hope so,” Jo whispered. She was struggling to stay awake.

“Get some sleep,” he said. He gently stroked her hair from her face, continuing to do so as Jo closed her eyes and drifted off. When he was sure she was sound asleep, he reluctantly stopped and headed for the door.

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