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Jo spent the following week quietly. She missed Jack, but knew he was at home with his family, where he was safe. She had seen her sister each visiting day, but did not wish to see her friends for the moment. Jem didn’t push the matter. He knew she was struggling to adjust to being back on complete bed rest and that she was sleeping a lot as she recovered from her trek across Europe. Once she had reached the safety of her family, her nightmares had begun to subside, much to his relief.

One afternoon, when her sister came, she brought with her a few things she had managed to rescue from Jo’s bedroom and sitting room in Tyrol. She asked Jo if she wanted to have them with her whilst she was in the hospital. Jo was very unsure. She was still raw from the nightmare journey. Madge was understanding, though she did take one item out and insist she have it. It was Jack’s rosary. Tears clouded Jo’s eyes as she looked at it. She managed a watery smile at her sister and thanked her.

When Jack had been gone for just under two weeks, Jo was taken for a chest X-ray. Jem came to see her later on that day.

“You’ll be pleased to know it is still only on your right lung, Jo,” he told her. “The haemoptysis you had when you arrived in Switzerland has done more damage to it, though. You’ll have to continue on compete bed rest and we need to start pneumothorax again. Then, we’ll see what it’s like in another month.” Jo just nodded and Jem left her. She picked the rosary up off the bedside cabinet and toyed idly with it until she fell asleep, the beads tangled around her fingers.

Three days later, Jo was dozing while she waited for her sister to arrive. The door opened quietly and someone slipped into the room and came to sit with her. When she opened her eyes a few minutes later, she looked straight into those of Jack. He smiled at her, and tears pricked the back of her eyes.

“Jack! You’re back.”

“I am, indeed,” he replied, taking her hand and squeezing it. Jo held on, tightly, wishing she could hug him.

“How was everyone?”

“They are all doing well, though they were relieved to see me. They send their love to you, by the way.” Jo managed a smile at this. “How are you doing?”

“Another month of this, Jem says.” He didn’t question her further, as he didn’t want to spoil her sudden happiness. He changed the subject and they talked at length until Jack glanced at his watch.

“I have to go, now.” He stood up, reluctantly. “It’s well after visiting hours officially ended and I have to get to a meeting.”

“Are you going back to work, then?” Jo asked him.

“I’ll find that out at this meeting. Look after yourself, Jo. I’ll see you in a day or two, I expect.” Jo nodded. He gave her hand a final squeeze and then left for his meeting. Jo lay staring at the ceiling for a while, before she picked the rosary up once more and fell asleep again.

When Jack had finished his meeting, he poked his head around the door to Jo’s room, intending to say goodnight to her. She was fast asleep, so he silently withdrew again and headed for home. He would see her the next day. Jem had finally allowed him back to work. He had been off for nearly three months and was glad to be going back. He had been through a terrible experience during his escape from Austria and he had needed the time to recover from both that and the shock that Jo’s tuberculosis had returned. The two weeks he had spent at his family home in the New Forest had helped him to regain his equilibrium and he was now ready to deal with whatever new challenges were presented to him. He realised that he had been lucky in his life, so far. He had a loving family, a job he enjoyed and was now engaged to someone he had loved for a long time. He didn’t think there was anything else for which he could possibly ask.

When Jack arrived to start his shift the next day, he was shown a tiny room which was to be his office and given a rather large pile of paperwork and patient files to trawl through. He thanked Jem, who had passed them to him, and checked if there was anything urgent in them. When he found out there wasn’t, he dumped everything onto his desk and sought a cup of coffee, before returning to sit down and look through the pile. He dealt with the patient files first, working out what stage each one was at in their treatment and how they were reacting to it. He was relieved to find they only had a handful of patients at the moment, thanks to the small amount of space they currently had in the hospital wing.

Eventually, he reached Jo’s file. He opened it apprehensively. He had no idea what to expect, having not been party to any of her treatment so far. He had a sip of his coffee and tried to clear his mind, determined to try and look at it as impartially as he could. He had to treat it the same as the other patient files and try to forget that his fiancée’s name was on the front of it. The first few pages were in German, dating from the time she was in the Swiss hospital, before it changed to English and Jem’s unmistakable scrawl. When he had finished reading, he picked up the accompanying envelope and slid out the last X-rays. He studied them at the light before putting them back with a sigh. He sat back in his chair and finished his coffee, which was lukewarm by now.

Setting the mug down on his desk, he stood up and set off to check on his patients. He deliberately left Jo until last. It was quite late when he finally entered her room, but she was still awake. He sat down beside her, but didn’t take her hand. He knew he needed to distance himself when on duty and had decided that not touching her would be the best way for them both to be able to understand this. He gently told her of his decision, before stating he had to get on and that she ought to get some sleep. Promising he would come and say goodbye, he left her alone and went back to his office.

Jo watched him leave, then rolled over and picked the rosary up from the bedside cabinet. She was upset by the distance he had deliberately put between them. Deep down, she knew she was being irrational. Jack had to do his job and she just happened to be one of his patients when he was on duty. She let the beads on the rosary slip through her fingers, as her thoughts swirled around.

She didn’t sleep well that night. When Jack checked on her in the early hours, he could hear her muttering in her sleep. He hoped it wasn’t a recurrence of the nightmares she had been having when she was in Switzerland. He sat with her for a while, but she didn’t stir, much to his relief. He left her just before dawn came creeping in and went back to his office, where he sank heavily into his chair. He put his head into his hands and tried to re-order his thoughts, before he finally picked up his pen to update the records.

When Jem came in to take over the next morning, Jack was a very relieved man. He handed the files over and answered Jem’s questions in a non-committal way. He paused outside Jo’s room on his way past, unsure whether to go in. Remembering his promise, he poked his head around the door to see if she was awake. She had her eyes closed, but he knew that didn’t mean she was asleep.

“Jo?” he asked, softly. As he suspected, she was awake. “I’m going now. I’ll see you later.” Jo just nodded. Jack withdrew and left the hospital. He drove quickly home. Once there, he let himself in and slumped into a chair in the lounge. He was tired out. He went into the kitchen and made himself some coffee and a sandwich, taking them back into the lounge. When he had finished, he dumped the pots in the sink to wash later and headed upstairs to his bed. He undressed and climbed in, falling sound asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

Back at the Sanatorium, Jem was dealing with Jo. He had read Jack’s notes and went to see her.

“How did you sleep last night?” he asked, sitting down next to her.

“All right,” she replied. Jem looked carefully at her. He noted dark circles under her eyes, which hadn’t been there the day before.

“You don’t look as well as you did.” Jo didn’t reply. “You’re worrying about something, aren’t you?” Jo looked away at this. She felt foolish for fretting about something she knew was right. Jem guessed it had something to do with Jack. He had no wish to interfere with their relationship, unless it affected his patient but, at the moment, it was doing just that, because Jo wasn’t resting properly.

“Did Jack come to see you last night?” Jo nodded. “I’m guessing that he said something which you aren’t happy about.” Jo nodded once more. “What was it? I don’t want to interfere, Jo, but something has upset you. You should be resting - and fretting isn’t doing that.”

“H-he told me that he couldn’t hold my hand and had to stay at a distance when he was working,” she whispered, not looking at him. Tears welled up, once more.

“He needs to do that so he doesn’t blur the boundary line between his personal and professional life, Jo. He’s in an uncomfortable position. He wants to spend time with you, but he also has to look after you as part of his job. It’s the same for me. I can’t take care of you and help you to get better, unless I separate out the fact that you are my sister-in-law and treat you as any other patient. Jack is just doing the same thing. Think yourself lucky. At least you’re getting to see him nearly every day. Other patients only get to see their loved ones twice a week.” Jo looked a little happier at this explanation, although she said nothing. She yawned, and Jem decided to leave it at that. He got up from the chair. “Try to sleep, now. I’m sure Jack will call in to see you before he comes on duty later.”

Jem left her alone at this. She slept for a few hours and felt better for it, though she was still worried. This time, she worried she had made trouble for Jack. She felt as if everything was going wrong, and her imaginings spiralled out of control. In the end, she felt under her pillow, looking for the rosary to comfort her. It wasn’t there. Nor could she feel it on the bedside cabinet. In desperation, she felt down the bed in case she was lying on it and hadn’t noticed, but had no success. This was too much for her and she burst into tears, just as Jack entered the room.

“Jo? What’s wrong?” he asked, concerned, and he quickly crossed the room. He couldn’t understand the incoherent things she was trying to tell him. “Stop crying first, and then tell me.” He handed her some tissues and she blew her nose, calming down slightly. “Now, tell me, slowly, this time.”

“I can’t find it,” she gulped. “I had it last night and, now, I can’t find it.”

“What can’t you find?” Jack was confused. He couldn’t think what she had managed to lose, when she had so few possessions with her.

“Your rosary,” she whispered. “Madge brought it in for me and, now, I can’t find it.” Tears started to fall again.

“Don’t cry again,” he said, tenderly. “Let me have a look for it.” He had a quick look on the bedside cabinet and around it, in case it had fallen off. He bent down and looked under the bed, suddenly dropping onto his hands and knees and reaching underneath. He handed it back to her, before sitting down. She managed a watery smile as she took it.

“Th-thank you.” She just looked at it, unable to meet Jack’s steady gaze.

“Something else is bothering you, isn’t it?” he ventured, as the silence between them continued. Jo didn’t answer. “What’s wrong, Jo?” Still, she didn’t speak or look at him. He heaved a sigh and glanced at his watch. He had to go and start his shift in ten minutes, but he didn’t want to leave her like this. He leant forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “If you won’t tell me, then I’ll have to guess. Does it have anything to do with what I said last night?” Jo just nodded, she didn’t trust herself to speak without crying again. “Oh, Jo. I didn’t mean to upset you. I thought you’d understood why I have to do it. I love you, but, as your doctor, I have to step back. I want you to get better, so that you can come home and we can spend the rest of our lives together. Don’t you think it’s a small price to pay?”

“I suppose so,” Jo admitted, in a small voice. “I-I know you’re right, but I’m just finding it hard to accept. We’ve just gone through so much and you’ve been there with me, every day. Now, you aren’t and I don’t think I can cope alone.” Jack clasped her hand in his at this admission. He had never meant to upset her, or to leave her thinking she was alone with her illness.

“You’ll cope, Joey. You’re a fighter. You’ve come through this once. Yes, we’ve had a terrible experience, but that’s all over. You have to concentrate on this battle, now. Every time I come to see you, remember that I love you, even when I’m working and have to be your doctor. It’s just as hard for me, you know.” He squeezed her hand at this, before rising from the chair. “I have to go. I’m due to start work now. I’ll always be here for you, Jo, no matter what. If you just want to talk, please, tell me, and I’ll make sure I’m here.” He let her hand drop at this and quickly departed. Jo watched him go, a little comforted by his words. She absently toyed with the rosary as she allowed them to sink in, until she fell asleep. When Jack came to check on her during his rounds, he saw she was sleeping properly, and was relieved. He noticed that the rosary had fallen to the floor again, so he picked it up and placed it on the bedside cabinet, where she would easily reach it the next time she wanted it.



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