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It was mid-afternoon when Jo finally woke. She found she was alone in the room and wondered what had happened. Then the memory of the nightmare came flooding back to her.

“Jack?” There was no answer, so she tried again, louder this time. “Jack?” She still heard nothing and began to panic, thinking that the nightmare had somehow turned into reality. She managed to sit up and pull her dressing gown on but, upon attempting to stand, she found her legs wobbling and sat back on the edge of the bed with a bump. She attempted standing again, and managed to stagger through the door and onto the landing.

“Jack?” He suddenly appeared at the bottom of the stairs and bounded up them when he saw her wobble and hang onto the bannister.

“Go on back to bed, Jo. You should have called me.” Placing his arm around her waist, he tried to guide her back to the bedroom, but she resisted his efforts.

“No. I’m not going back to bed. I can’t.”

“Come down to the kitchen, then.” Jo nodded at this, and allowed herself to be guided downstairs and to a chair in the kitchen. Whilst Jack busied himself making her something to eat and drink, Jo leant against the table and tried to sort her mind out. She still felt groggy from the sleeping pills, but knew she needed to be awake to deal with her nightmare. Jack placed a sandwich and a cup of strong tea in front of her, before sitting down opposite with his own drink. Jo pulled a face at the sandwich, but knew better than to argue. She managed to choke down half of it, but didn’t attempt to try the rest. Jack said nothing, he was happy that she had at least eaten something.

“Why didn’t you call me from the bedroom?”

“I did. You didn’t answer and I started to think the nightmare had turned into reality.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. It hasn’t turned into reality, I’m still here and we’re all safe. How are you feeling?”

“A bit groggy, still, but I can’t avoid it forever. I need to work out what I’m going to do now.”

“Would you like me to help?”

“I don’t think so. I need to do this by myself, or I’ll never be rid of it.”

“What do you plan to do?”

“Write.”

“Do you want the study?”

“No. I can write here. Is there some paper around?”

“I’ll fetch it.” Jack disappeared into the study and came back armed with Jo’s fountain pen, ink, blotting paper and a large pile of writing paper. “Here you go. I’ll be in the study. Just shout if you need me at all.” He dropped a kiss onto Jo’s hair and left her alone. Jo looked at the sheets and picked up her fountain pen. She stared into space for a few minutes, before slowly starting to write a few sentences. She found these the hardest but, suddenly, things started to drop into place and her mind was racing, her pen scratching away as she tried to keep up with her imagination. She filled sheet after sheet as she feverishly wrote, unable to stop herself.

After two hours, she dropped her fountain pen and laid her head on her arms as sobs overtook her. Jack heard her and came quickly into the kitchen. Sitting beside her, he gathered her into his arms and tried to comfort her as best he could. He saw the table was littered with paper covered in her handwriting. When the sobs died down, he continued to hold her for a while longer, until she pulled away to look at him.

“Th-Thank you.”

“Do you feel a little better?” Jo nodded. “I’ll make us a drink. You must need one after that.” Jack went over to fill the kettle and put it on to boil. “Why don’t you go and run yourself a bath? I’ll bring your drink up to you.”

“I’ve not finished yet, though.”

“You need to take a break from it, Jo. If you don’t, you’ll just defeat the object of the exercise. Go and have a bath and see how you feel afterwards.” He pulled her to her feet and pushed her gently towards the door.

Jo reluctantly headed upstairs and ran herself a bath. Sinking into it, she allowed the water to cover her completely as she held her breath. The silence around her still felt too loud. She tried to blank her mind to everything and allow herself to just be part of the water surrounding her. She surfaced, gasping for breath and realised that she probably shouldn’t have done it. She lay there, trying to take slow, deep breaths to bring it back under control before Jack found out. The silence and concentration on breathing helped her mind to relax more and she found herself starting to doze. She started to slide lower into the water.

Meanwhile, Jack tidied the sheets up that were strewn across the kitchen table. He was glad to see that Jo had the sense to number her pages, as he discovered just how much she had managed to write in those two hours. He stacked them neatly and took them into the study, placing them carefully onto a shelf and putting a paperweight on top. He returned to the kitchen and looked at the state of the table. Jo had managed to get ink everywhere. Finding a cloth, he started to clean the table. He had removed the worst just as the kettle started to whistle. When he had poured the water into the teapot, he started peeling potatoes and carrots ready for dinner. Once they were done, he poured a drink for Jo and headed upstairs with it.

Jo woke with a jolt as she heard a knock on the door and Jack’s muffled voice from the other side.

“I’ll just be a few minutes.”

“I’ll leave it in the bedroom for you.”

“Thank you.” She sat upright and then climbed slowly out of the bath, wrapping herself in a big towel. She padded across to the bedroom to find Jack had left her tea on the bedside cabinet. She took a sip and then dried herself and put on some clean pyjamas. She realised she was tired and climbed into bed, falling asleep as soon as her head touched the pillow. Jack found her there when he came looking for her half an hour later. He had wondered what had happened to her, but was relieved to see her in bed. He quietly left the room and went back downstairs leaving her to sleep on.



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