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The next month passed slowly for Jo as she continued to rest in bed. Jack came to sit with her whenever he could, but he never stayed long. Jem also stopped by when he had a few minutes, and brought the news that she had a new niece. She was happy for them, but knew she would be unable to see her sister for a while. She made Jem promise to bring in pictures of his newest daughter for her to see. Jem also brought the sad news that his sister had died. Jo was upset to hear this, but she knew how much his sister had gone through, both in Australia and then having to leave Austria.

When she had more X-rays at the end of October, she steeled herself for the worst. She fully expected to be told that she would have to continue on complete bed rest for yet another month. She was, therefore, surprised when Jack came in one afternoon, holding a book and pen and paper. He deposited them onto the bedside cabinet, smiling as he did so.

“I said you would start to improve,” he told her. Jo managed a smile at this, before Jack continued, “you only get half an hour for now, but it’s better than nothing.”

“Thank you,” she said.

“My pleasure.” He left her to investigate the book he had brought.

She found time moved slightly faster, now she had something to do each day. She spent the first week writing letters to her friends and to her brother in India. After that, she read for the allotted time each day. Jack saw that she was much happier, now she had some small occupation. He had posted her letters for her and eventually brought the replies back to her.

Jo’s next lot of X-rays showed yet more improvement, and Jem came to see her one afternoon, after rest hours.

“You may have an hour sitting up now, Jo,” he told her.

“Really?” Jo beamed at her brother-in-law, happy that she would, at last, be able to sit up for longer than just her meals.

“Yes. You’ll have to work up to the full hour ten minutes at a time, though. Your body is used to being flat after five months of bed rest. If you feel anything is wrong when you sit up, make sure you tell us. We don’t want you to be set back again.” Jo nodded. Jem smiled at her and left to continue his rounds.

When Jack came in just before he started work, she was still smiling. He came to sit with her.

“Why so happy?” he asked, pleased to see her smiling for a change.

“Jem’s just told me I can have an hour sitting up,” she replied. Jack clasped her hand in his at this news. He was genuinely happy for her, though she still had a long road ahead of her.

“That’s great news, Jo. Let’s hope it continues to be good.”

It was a week before Jo was finally sitting up for the full hour each day. When she woke up on her birthday, she realised that she was twenty-one, now. She had finally reached her majority. She didn’t feel as if it was something to celebrate, though. She thought back to her birthday last year. It had been so nice to have a few friends to dinner. This year, she was lying in a bed in a Sanatorium, only allowed to sit up for one hour and to read and write for half an hour each day. She sighed, and picked her book up from the bedside cabinet. It didn’t hold her attention for long, though. It fell from her hands, and she stared blankly at the wall. Jem had called in briefly to wish her many happy returns, but otherwise, she had been left alone. She was beginning to think that Jack had forgotten, and felt tears forming. She resolutely drove them back, determined not to cry on her birthday. She ate her lunch and went to sleep.

A few hours later a noise disturbed her. She briefly opened her eyes, but didn’t register that her fiancÚ had just seated himself by her bed. She rolled over and went back to sleep. Jack just sat with her, until she finally woke properly.

“Happy Birthday, Jo,” he said, when she looked at him.

“Thank you,” she murmured. She was still a little groggy.

“Since I can’t take you out to dinner, I thought we could have it here, instead.” Jo smiled faintly at this suggestion. She was feeling a little happier, now Jack was there. “Have you had your hour up, today?” Jo shook her head. “Good.” He went across the room and dragged a folding table to the bed. On it was a board game. “I managed to borrow this from Rix.”

“You must have been very persuasive,” she remarked. “Rix is very possessive of his games.”

“I know. I’m under strict orders not to break it and to make sure it’s returned to him by tomorrow lunchtime.” Jack laughed, and Jo joined in, stopping quickly when she thought she might start to cough. He came and gave her a hand to sit up, before passing her a wrap for her shoulders. They spent the next hour joyfully playing Sixty-four Milestones, until dinner was brought in. They ate in companionable silence, and when they had finished, Jo was obliged to lie back down once more. Jack stayed with her for a while longer, but he could see she was starting to tire.

“I’m sorry we couldn’t do anything else for your birthday. Hopefully, next year, we’ll be able to have a meal out in a restaurant.”

“That sounds lovely,” Jo replied, sleepily.

“Don’t try to stay awake for me, Jo. I should get going, anyway. I have to start work in fifteen minutes.” He stood up at this and collected the game, intending to pass it onto Jem to take home. “Goodnight.” Jo just smiled at him, then rolled over and was asleep before he had left the room.



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