|During the next week, Jo and Jack spent the time organising their new home. They walked into the village each morning to buy necessities and a newspaper. The rest of the day was taken up with unpacking. |
“There! That’s the last thing in that box,” Jo announced as she took out a book and placed it on the shelf, triumphantly.
“And that was the last box. There’s only Robin and Daisy’s stuff left, now.” Jack picked the empty box up and took it out to the garage, whilst Jo wielded a stiff brush and swept the floor in the lounge. When Jack returned, he took the brush from her and pulled her down on to the sofa with him.
“What do you think? Have we made it our home?”
“Yes. Especially since you’re here, too, Jack.” Jo kissed him and he pulled her closer.
”I’m glad you’re here, as well. I don’t think it would be home, otherwise.” They sat in silence for a while, both thankful for the chance to be alone together.
“Let’s go for a walk, shall we? We’ve only seen the village so far, and it’s too nice to stay indoors.”
“Okay.” Together, they went to collect coats and put on walking shoes, before heading out into the summer sunshine. They turned in the opposite direction to the village and were soon wandering through fields. Jack slowed his pace to match Jo’s as they walked along, hand in hand.
After an hour, Jo was tiring, but she was loath to admit it. Jack noticed, though, and he casually steered them back towards their cottage. When they reached home, they went into the kitchen, Jo flopping thankfully into a chair. Jack made them both something to eat. Jo realised she was hungry and ate what he set before her quite happily. He then suggested that she go and lay down. When he went upstairs ten minutes later, she was sound asleep on the bed. He threw a blanket over her and went to the study to look through some papers Jem had given him when he had collected Jo. He was soon engrossed and it wasn’t until he went to make himself a drink that he realised Jo hadn’t reappeared. He turned the ring on underneath the kettle and went upstairs to check on her. She was still sleeping. Sitting on the bed beside her, he saw she was still quite pale. He hoped he hadn’t let her overdo it, then realised that she needed to take some responsibility for her own health and she should have told him if she was tiring. He shook her, gently. She grunted and rolled away from him. He shook her again, harder this time.
“Jo? Do you intend to sleep all afternoon?”
“Huh?” She wasn’t fully awake, yet.
“It’s turned half past four, Jo. Do you feel all right?”
“Yes. I think I may have walked too far this morning, though.”
“Why didn’t you say you were tired when we were out?”
“I didn’t feel tired until we were on our way back home. There wasn’t much point saying, then”
“Of course there was. We could have stopped to rest somewhere. Or found a shorter route back.” Jack paused, debating whether to say anything else to her. The whistling of the kettle prevented it. “Come on down and have a drink.” He left her to get up and follow him downstairs.
Jack had made a pot of tea when Jo arrived in the kitchen. He poured them a cup each as Jo sat down at the table. She looked a little better for the hasty wash she had had, but there were still dark circles under her eyes. Jack wondered about sending her back to bed, but knew she would object.
“What are we having for dinner, tonight?” he asked, instead.
“I was going to make a cottage pie.”
“Sounds good. Do you need a hand?”
“No, thank you. It’s easy enough to make.”
“In that case, I’ll let you get on. I’ll be in the study if you need me.” Jack drained his cup and went off, leaving Jo alone in the kitchen. She watched him go and sighed to herself. As much as she loved Jack, she sometimes wished he wasn’t a doctor. She shook her head. She knew that if he wasn’t a doctor she would probably have never had the opportunity to fall in love with him. Standing up, she took their cups to the sink and washed them through, before starting on dinner.
In the study, Jack was staring at the papers on his desk. He wasn’t paying any attention to what was written there, though. His mind was full of the brief conversation he had had with Jo when he woke her. As much as he wanted her to feel able to tell him everything, he knew that she still sometimes thought of him as her doctor first and her husband second. He could understand why she might think that, since he had been called up within weeks of their marriage and they were just friends when she had first been admitted as a patient on the Sonnalpe. They had gone through so much together during that terrible flight from Austria, that he had hoped it might help her to overcome the problem of him being one of her doctors, but she had succumbed to a return of the illness and had taken so much longer to recover the second time around. He saw that her vivid imagination was something which she had to try and fight against, especially if she allowed it to take hold. He knew he had to back away from trying to look after her too much, but his instincts as a doctor caused him to take charge before he realised he was doing it. He sighed out loud and tried to clear his mind. Staring blankly wasn’t dealing with the paperwork Jem had asked him to look through whilst he was home. He wanted to get it done before Jo called him to dinner, so he could spend the evening with her.
When Jo finally came to fetch him to dinner he had just finished. He smiled up at her as she stood in the doorway to the study. Standing up, he followed her back to the kitchen, where the aroma of cooking made him feel hungry. They sat down to eat and their plates were soon empty. Once they had washed up, they went to sit in the lounge. Jo curled up on the sofa and Jack joined her, placing his arm around her shoulders. They sat in silence for a short while, before Jack turned the radio on to listen to the news.
Just as he did so, the air raid siren blared out. Jo froze. She felt sick. She was incapable of moving. Jack gently hauled her to her feet. Wrapping his arm around her, he led her down to the cellar. Everything seemed to be in slow motion. She sat down on the camp bed. Jack just enveloped her in a hug. He could feel her trembling violently.
“It’s all right, Jo. I won’t let them get you.” He noticed the trembling lessen, slightly. “They don’t know you’re here. They won’t find you, I promise.” He continued to hold her tightly, knowing she needed the comfort of someone familiar. Eventually, he felt the trembling stop. Jo pulled back from him and managed a watery smile.
“Thank you, Jack.”
“No problem.” He kissed her and she leaned back into his arms where she felt safe. “What scared you?”
“I don’t know. It’s just… just… when the siren goes off, I suddenly think we’re back in Tyrol, trying to escape. But this time they’re going to catch us… me.”
“That’s not going to happen, Jo. You’re safe here.”
“I know, but I can’t stop myself.” Jack looked thoughtful. He needed to find a way for Jo to stop going through this every time the air raid siren went off.
“Do you think writing about it, might help? You haven’t written anything for a while, now, and it might be a good outlet for you.”
“Maybe.” Jo looked unsure. Jack said nothing else about it, knowing she needed time to absorb the idea. Instead, he went over to the cupboard they kept some supplies in and produced some biscuits.
Jo had fallen asleep on Jack’s shoulder when the All Clear came through. Gently, he managed to pick her up and carry her upstairs to bed. He made her comfortable and hastened to climb in beside her, falling asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. He had been asleep barely two hours, when a piercing scream broke through his dreams. It was followed by another one. Jack came to with a jolt and realised it was Jo, who was deep in the throes of a nightmare.
“Jo? Jo?” He shook her, but she continued to scream. It seemed to take forever to finally wake her. When she finally opened her eyes and looked at him, she immediately burst into tears, clinging onto him as if her life depended on it. Jack comforted her as best he could. He allowed her to cry on for a while until he noticed her struggling to breathe properly.
“Jo. Stop crying now, please.” Jo gulped, trying to stem the flow, but this made her breathing worse. “Try and breathe slowly, Jo.” He pushed a couple more pillows behind her to prop her up slightly and ease her breathing. Eventually, she was calm enough to see her surroundings and Jack’s concerned face next to her.
“There’s nothing to be sorry for. Are you all right?”
“I don’t know. Was I screaming again?”
“Yes. Can you tell me about it?”
“I-I’m not sure.”
“Why don’t you try?” Jack lay his head next to hers, and placed his arm protectively over her. “Start at the beginning.”
“I’m walking alone up on the Sonnalpe, when I suddenly hear them. They have dogs, big dogs that are baying loudly and following my trail. I can hear the whistles as well. I start walking faster to try and reach somewhere safe. I don’t know how they know where I am. I hadn’t told anyone where I was going. I start running as I realise they’re gaining on me. I’m running alongside the rock wall when I notice a cave opening. I run inside, into the darkness and try to find somewhere to hide. I stumble over a cairn or something and manage to hide behind it. I can hear the dogs outside. They must have followed my scent, because they don’t move on. I hear a couple of the men come into the cave and I try and look round for another way of escape, but I can’t see one in the darkness. I stay perfectly still, hoping they won’t find me, but one of them trips up over my foot. He shines his torch on me and grabs me. He drags me out of my hiding place and pulls me outside. I’m shoved to the ground and the dogs surround me immediately, growling and snarling. I can feel their breath, they’re so close.” Jo paused and shuddered as she drew in a long breath. Jack instinctively tightened his arm around her. He wasn’t surprised she was screaming, but he said nothing, knowing there was more to come.
“Then one of the men hits me. Hard. He asks me where you and the others are. I tell him I don’t know, because I don’t. I don’t know where any of you are. He hits me again, laughing as he does so. He tells me that he doesn’t believe me. Then he says that if I don’t show him where you’re hiding he’ll shoot me. He holds his gun to my neck and cocks it. The dogs are still snarling round me, and the others laugh at me. They think it’s funny. I try and tell him I don’t know where you are, again. Then the gun goes off.”
Jo was shaking, now, the nightmare still all too real to her. Jack just held her closely. He was shocked by the vividness of her dream and the violence. He propped himself up on one elbow to look at her. He could see how pale she was and that what little sleep she had had was not enough. Outside, dawn was breaking and Jack made a decision.
“I’m going to go and make us a drink, Jo. I won’t be long.” He quickly climbed out of bed and, shrugging his dressing gown on, made his way downstairs to the kitchen. He turned the ring on under the kettle and disappeared into the study before returning to make the drinks. Taking them upstairs he saw that Jo hadn’t moved and was still looking tense and scared.
“Here, Jo. Drink this.” He handed her a mug of coffee and she drank it, slowly. “I think you should have something to help you sleep.”
“No. I don’t want anything, Jack. It’s not going to help me to get rid of the nightmare. I need to deal with it, now.” Tears slid down her cheeks, as she realised just how real it could have been. Jack sat down on the bed next to her.
“You need to sleep, though. If you don’t sleep, you’ll end up back in bed because you aren’t taking proper care of yourself. I don’t want you to have to go through all that again, especially when I won’t even be able to be here with you. I love you, Jo, but I need to know that when I go back, you’re all right. Have something to make you sleep and, when you wake up, I promise I’ll try and help you to deal with the nightmare. You’re in no fit state to do that at the moment.”
Jo slowly nodded. She was defeated by Jack’s logic. She knew he was trying to help her, but she couldn’t make her mind work properly to argue back. Maybe she was just overtired like he said. She jolted back from her thoughts, as she realised Jack was holding out a couple of pills for her. She took them and lay back down. Jack lay with her, holding her in his arms as they started to take effect and she knew no more.