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This routine continued for the next four days. Jo wrote during the morning and they walked in the afternoon. Jack made sure he was within hearing just in case Jo needed him but, apart from that first day, she had not broken down again. He could see she was exorcising her demons as she was looking less pale and sleeping better at night. On the fifth morning, however, all was not well. Jack had four more days left before he had to return to his regiment and Robin and Daisy were due to move back the next day. Jo woke that morning with a sense that something was not quite right. She was unable to fathom what it was she was worried about, so she decided to continue her day as normal.

Jo struggled to write that morning. Her mind was full of the things she wanted to write, but she was unable to put those thoughts into anything coherent. She found herself becoming more frustrated as the morning wore on and, as a result, her temper was shorter than normal. In the end she gave up and threw her pen down in frustration. Ink went everywhere.

“Damn!” She quickly picked up some papers and a book which were dangerously close to the quickly spreading pool and wondered what to do next. Luckily, Jack heard her exclamation and came to see what was wrong. He took in the situation at a glance and went to fetch a cloth from the kitchen. He started wiping the ink up and Jo put the papers and book down on the chair. She went to put the kettle on and got a bowl of water for the cloth Jack was using. Jack said nothing, but continued to clean the ink up, before it stained the desk. Jo hovered, watching. When he was finished, he picked the bowl up and went into the kitchen, Jo following him. The kettle was just starting to whistle, so Jo automatically made some tea. When it was done, she brought the teapot to the table and dropped into a chair with a gusty sigh.

“What’s wrong, Jo?”

“Nothing.”

“There must have been a reason for you to get ink everywhere. You don’t normally manage to make that much mess when you’re writing.”

“Well, I did today.” Jo snapped.

“Are you going to pour the tea?” Jack changed tactics. Jo poured the tea and drank hers in silence, before heading back to the study. She sat back down behind the desk and stared angrily at her papers, as if willing them to turn into something good. The pealing of the telephone interrupted her thoughts and she heard Jack answer it. The sense of foreboding came to her again, as she slowly started to rearrange the sheets before her into number order. She heard the telephone click back onto the stand and Jack’s footsteps coming towards the study. She looked at the papers in her hand and avoided his gaze as he entered the room.

“Jo? That was Jem on the ‘phone. The children have all come out in a rash and he’s had to quarantine everyone until he knows what it is. Robin and Daisy included. They won’t be able to move back here tomorrow.”

“Oh.”

“If they’re still in quarantine when I have to go, it might be best for you to go back to the Sanatorium until they’re free again.”

“No.” Jo spoke quietly, but with conviction. She knew there was no way she was going to consent to being sent back there.

“You can’t stay here alone, Jo.”

“I can and I will. I’m not an invalid. I’m quite capable of looking after myself, whatever you and Jem may think.”

“What if there’s another air raid? You were incapable of moving last time.”

“I’ll manage. Why do you think I’ve been sitting in here, writing for the past four days?” Jo waved the papers in her hand in front of him, her temper roused. “I’ve been ridding myself of those nightmares and what I went through.”

“You don’t know if that way has worked though.”

“You’re right, I don’t, but I feel better for doing it and I’m sure I won’t be in the same state next time it happens. I’m an adult, Jack, and I’m capable of making decisions. I’m not going to be treated like a child, just because you think you know what’s best for me.” Jo stood up at this and swept past Jack. She stopped long enough to collect her coat before disappearing out though the front door, slamming it behind her. She walked aimlessly, not caring where she went, as long as it was away from home. Eventually, she reached a sheltered corner and collapsed onto the ground, gasping for breath. She lay there for quite a while, unaware of her surroundings, as she tried to concentrate on bringing her breathing back under control. She was oblivious to the time since her watch lay on the desk at home.

Jack watched Jo leave the house. He was shocked at the vehemence of her outburst. He hadn’t expected that reaction. He looked at the papers she had flung down as she stormed out and bent down to pick them up from the floor. He debated whether to go after her, but decided she would be better to have some time alone to cool down first. When he had tidied the papers, he set off in search of her, hoping she had not got carried away in her walk. He wandered round the village first, before turning towards the hills. He walked along the route they usually took when they walked, hoping that she would be somewhere along it. He spied some colour amongst the long grass up ahead of him. As he drew closer he realised it was Jo, huddled in a heap. He approached slowly, hoping that she was all right. She had her eyes closed and was breathing slowly and deliberately.

“Jo?” Jack spoke softly. He was well aware that she had left in a fit of temper and he had no wish to be on the receiving end of it again. He was worried about her, though.

“Go away!” Jo was still angry and didn’t want to see him or for him to try and help her. She knew she could do things for herself and Jack offering to help every time didn’t give her the chance to prove herself.

Jack didn’t reply, he just lay down in the long grass beside her. He had no intention of leaving her alone, but he knew she wouldn’t appreciate his help, either. He waited, patiently, as she gradually brought herself back under control.

Once she had recovered, Jo just lay there, staring at the clouds drifting slowly across the sky. She was aware of Jack’s presence beside her, but she wasn’t ready to acknowledge him yet. She had no interest in starting a conversation. She knew that Jack’s suggestion that she may have to go back into the Sanatorium had originated from Jem and she had no intention of allowing herself to be taken back there. How was she meant to gain some independence if she wasn’t allowed the freedom to prove it? Jack’s voice broke across her thoughts.

“Jo? Talk to me, please. I know you’re angry at the thought of going back there, but I don’t understand why.”

“I’m not going, Jack.” Jo’s answer was short. Jack persisted.

“It wouldn’t be for long, though. Only until Robin and Daisy come out of quarantine.”

“No. I’m sick of people making decisions for me and treating me like a child. How am I ever going to prove that I’m capable of looking after myself if I’m sent back to the Sanatorium every time I have to spend a few days alone?”

“I didn’t intend to make the decision for you, Jo. I just thought you’d rather be where there would be people to talk to since you won’t be able to go to your sister’s whilst they’re in quarantine.”

“But you did make the decision and you didn’t even ask me. You have no idea what it’s like to be in the Sanatorium for months on end, looking at the same four walls. I’ve spent the best part of the past four years doing just that. You went home at the end of each day and saw friends and family. I didn’t, and I was one of the lucky ones. I had family living near enough to be able to visit for those precious few, short hours each week.”

“That may be so, but I’m the one who has to watch many people lose their fight against the disease. I’m the one who has to inform the family that their loved one is no longer on this earth. I had to watch you go through it all, knowing I could only do so much and that I had to just hope that you recovered. Yes, I may get the chance to go home at the end of the day, but the time I spend at the Sanatorium, talking to patients, looking for a cure, is part of who I am. I don’t just go home at the end of my shift if someone needs me.”

“I appreciate that, but you also make decisions for people who may not be in a position to make them, themselves. That’s what you did for me, today. You didn’t give me the options and let me decide. You decided that going back would be the best decision so I wouldn’t be alone. I would be just as lonely, if not more so if I went back there where I wouldn’t have any contact with my sister since she is quarantined as well. If I stay at home, at least I’ll be able to talk to her on the ‘phone each day. I couldn’t do that in the Sanatorium.”

“But you’ve also just had a week of being down and easily upset. What if that happens again? I was here with you this time, but if you’re alone, there won’t be anyone to support you and help you work through your demons.”

“It’s something I shall have to learn to deal with. You said yourself that even if you were at home, you wouldn’t be there a lot of the time because of what you do. I spend the daytime alone when Robin and Daisy are at school anyway, so what difference would a few nights make? You have to let me make my own decisions. I’m not the thirteen year old child you first met at Pretty Maids, anymore. I’m an adult and I’d like to be treated as such.”

“That’s a fair point. I’m sorry, Jo. I promise not to do it again. I’ll also make sure that you stay at home, when I have to go back.”

“Thank you.” Jo rolled over to him and he held her in his arms and kissed her. They lay in the grass for a short while longer, until Jack realised that Jo was shivering slightly.

“Are you cold, Jo?”

“A little.” She spoke sleepily, the emotions of the day having tired her out.

“Let’s go home shall we? The sun has disappeared, now.”

“Okay.” Jack hauled himself up and pulled Jo to her feet, before brushing the grass off her back. Jo returned the favour and then, with Jack’s arm across her shoulder, they set off back home.



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