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The next morning, Jack drove Jo to the Sanatorium for her appointment. They parted at the entrance, Jack promising he would be waiting when she returned. He disappeared into his office, to find a pile of papers sitting on his desk. Once Jem had found out Jack was home on leave, he had left them there, knowing he would bring Jo to her appointment. Jack sat down and started to trawl through them, working out what he could take home and what he needed to look through there. He had been there an hour, when a knock came at his door and Jem appeared round it. The two men greeted each other, Jem glad to see his friend and colleague.

“How long are you home for?”

“I have to set off back on Monday. I have ten days leave, but it took me a full day to get here. I suggested to Jo that it may be a good idea to move to the mainland. The way things are going, she would be safer there.”

“I agree. I’m already looking for new premises over there for the Sanatorium. I don’t want to lose any more money, if possible. We lost enough over the Sonnalpe.”

“I thought you might be. Jo was saying she has no idea where she would go if she did move back. She hasn’t lived in England since she was twelve and doesn’t really want to go back to Taverton. I don’t think she would be willing to go to Pretty Maids, either, though my parents would love to have her.”

“As soon as I know where we’ll be going, I’ll let you know. It would be easier for me to keep an eye on her if she’s nearby.”

“Thank you. She would be happier if she could be near her family.”

“Has she told you about what happened just before Christmas?”

“Yes. I don’t think we’ll be able to prevent her from worrying, however much we try.”

“I know. You didn’t see her, though. She lost weight quite rapidly. If I hadn’t intervened, you’d have come back to find her in here again.”

“So I gathered. She also admitted that she hasn’t been out for a proper walk since I’ve been gone. I went for one with her yesterday, but she needs some encouragement to go out. I’ve said that I’ll go with her while I’m home, but do you think you or Madge or anyone else could try and go with her too?”

“Of course we will. She needs to start building her stamina back up, now. She’s taking far longer to recover this time, but I suppose the circumstances are completely different from last time.”

Jack glanced at his watch. He gathered some of the papers together and dropped them into his bag. Jem watched him.

“Are you going already?”

“I promised Jo I would be waiting for her. I can deal with this lot at home, while she rests this afternoon. I need to spend my time with her. I don’t know if or when I’ll next get chance.”

“I understand. Why don’t you both come over for dinner on Saturday?”

“That would be lovely. I’ll ask Jo and we’ll confirm it tomorrow.”

They both stood and shook hands, before parting. Jem went back to his own office and Jack to reception. Since he had spent the last hour talking to Jem, he knew that Jo wasn’t going to be awarded any more time up.

Five minutes later, Jo was pushed into reception. She smiled wanly at Jack when she saw him waiting for her. He drove them home and helped her up to their bedroom, where she was soon tucked up in bed. Jack checked on her regularly during the afternoon, spending the rest of the time going through the papers he had brought home.

Robin and Daisy found him sitting at the kitchen table, surrounded by paperwork, when they returned from school.

“Hello. Did you have a good day?” he asked as they entered the kitchen.

“Yes, thank you. I seem to have a huge pile of prep, though,” Daisy replied, before adding, “Where’s Auntie Jo?”

“She’s upstairs in bed. She was at the Sanatorium this morning.”

“Oh. I’d forgotten about that.”

“You would, Daisy. Do you not remember her telling us it was our turn to cook, tonight?” Robin joined in the conversation.

“No. I’ve had such a busy day, it had gone clean from my mind,” Daisy retorted.

“Never mind,” Jack told her. “I would appreciate it if you could cook tonight, though. Give me ten minutes to finish up and then you can get your prep done before you start on dinner. Be quiet while you change, please. I don’t want Jo to be disturbed.”

“We will. Come on, Daisy.” Robin led the way upstairs, Daisy following. Jack smiled after them, before turning back to his own work. Five minutes later saw him shuffling his papers together and putting them into his bag. He turned the ring on under the kettle and made a pot of tea. Just as he was getting the cups out, Robin and Daisy re-appeared. Robin poured for him, and he departed upstairs to check on Jo. She was still sleeping, so he went back down to the lounge to listen to the radio until he was called to dinner.

“It’ll be five minutes, Uncle Jack,” Daisy announced, suddenly appearing in the room. Jack smiled at her and turned the radio off. He followed Daisy into the kitchen, where Robin was just starting to fill their plates.

“Do you mind eating alone tonight, girls?” he asked them.

“Not at all. We generally do when Jo has been for her appointment,” Robin replied. Daisy swiftly produced two trays from a cupboard and Robin placed the plates onto them. Jack took them upstairs. Jo had just woken and sat up in bed when she saw Jack enter. He placed one of the trays across her knee, before sitting next to her with his own. When they had finished, Jack took the trays back down to the kitchen. Robin was just filling the teapot. She offered to bring their drinks up, which Jack happily accepted. He went back up to sit with Jo. She was grateful for his company. She found the day always went slowly after her visit to the Sanatorium, even though she slept most of the time. She snuggled up to Jack, once Robin had brought their drinks.

“Jem is looking for somewhere to relocate the Sanatorium,” he told her. “He’s going to let me know once he finds somewhere.”

“Okay.” Jo was still feeling a little breathless.

“I’ll probably have to spend my next leave looking for somewhere for us to live. Do you mind?”

“I’ll manage.”

“That’s not what I asked, Jo”

“I know.” Jack sighed, understanding what she meant.

“I may only get three days, next time. That’s barely enough time to get here for a day.”

“Find us somewhere to live, then.” Jack looked down at her and saw tears in her eyes. He lay down next to her and pulled her gently into his arms.

“Oh, Jo. I wish we could just stay here, but I don’t want to risk it. If you’re in England, I’ll know you’re relatively safe. You could go to Pretty Maids until I find somewhere, if you want. I know Mother and Father would be happy to have you stay with them.”

“No. Prefer my own house. Have to think about girls, too.”

“They can board for now, or go back to Madge and Jem, temporarily.” Jo just shook her head and Jack let the matter drop. He could see she wasn’t up to discussing it further. He just lay quietly, stroking her hair until she fell back to sleep.

The next morning, Jo was up and about, though she didn’t try to do too much. Jack joined her in the lounge after he had helped Daisy fix the chain on her bicycle and waved her and Robin off.

“Jem has invited us to dinner tomorrow night, if you feel up to it?”

“That’ll be nice.”

“I’ll drop the girls round in the morning, then they can come back home with us.”

“Okay. It will save them cycling both ways.”

“I need to have a look at Daisy’s cycle. She had a problem with her chain this morning.”

“What about our walk?”

“We can do that when I’ve dropped them off. Then we can have a lazy afternoon together.” Jo smiled her agreement. She curled up on the sofa and laid her head on him. A few minutes later, she was asleep. Jack just smiled and picked his book up.

When Jo finally woke, she was apologetic. Jack told her to move so he could stretch out. Jo stood up and headed towards the kitchen. Jack followed a minute later.

“Let me do it. You should still be resting today.”

“I can make a pot of tea, Jack. How do you think I manage when you aren’t here?”

“I’m sure you manage perfectly well.”

“Then leave me to do it.”

Seeing she was determined, Jack just sat down at the table and waited. Jo made the tea, and then joined him at the table. She said nothing, just poured two cups and passed one across to Jack.

“Thank you.” They drank in silence. Jo was unwilling to break it and Jack was trying to work out how to.

“Jo? You don’t have to prove anything to me, you know.”

“I know.”

“Then why won’t you let me do things for you?”

“Because I have to prove it to myself. Every month, I go through this rigmarole and spend the next two days doing very little because I don’t have the breath. I just get back to normal, then I’m straight back to square one. It’s so frustrating. I spend so much time trying not to overdo things, yet I have to keep busy so I don’t start worrying about what’s happening to you. I feel as if I’m stuck in a vicious circle and I can’t get out of it.” Jo stopped at this point as tears overtook her. Jack quickly came round the table to sit next to her. He drew her into his arms, holding her close as she started to cry in earnest. She had been holding her feelings in for so long, that now she had started, she couldn’t stop. When the tears threatened to get out of control, Jack spoke.

“You have to stop crying, Jo.” She valiantly tried to stop, but it took Jack a good five minutes to calm her down. When she was finally quiet, he gently put her from him and poured another cup of tea for them both. “Drink this, please.” Jo obediently drank it, shakily, so thorough was her outburst.

“I wish you’d told me before, Jo. I had no idea how much all this is affecting you.”

“We’ve barely spent any time together. How could you know?”

“That doesn’t stop me from caring. I know our current circumstances aren’t perfect, by any means, but we still have each other. You’re just recovering from a very serious illness and need to take care for the next few years. You don’t have to prove to yourself or anyone else what you can or can’t do. I wish I was here to look after you. Unfortunately, I can’t stop the war or prevent you from worrying about me being there.”

“I know. I just don’t find it easy to cope alone.”

“There are many other women who are coping without their husbands. Don’t think you’re alone. There is always someone to listen to you.” Jo just nodded and Jack kissed her. He busied himself making a sandwich for them both. When they had finished Jo went upstairs to rest. Jack came to check on her a few minutes later.

“Stay with me, Jack,” she whispered.

“Of course I will.” He lay down on the bed next to her and she cuddled up to him. He could feel her trembling and just held her tighter. “It’s going to be all right, Jo. I promise.”

They lay holding each other on the bed until Jo finally slept. Jack watched her, wishing he didn’t have to go in three days’ time. He had seen how vulnerable she still was and he wanted to be there for her. She was trying to rebuild her life, but was thwarted by his absence. As much as Robin and Daisy provided company for her, they weren’t old enough to be able to provide the emotional support she needed from him.

Saturday and Sunday passed all too quickly to Jo. She was enjoying having Jack back at home and wasn’t looking forward to his departure. She stayed in bed on Monday morning whilst Jack had breakfast with Robin and Daisy. They were rather subdued, knowing that he wouldn’t be there when they returned from school that afternoon. When they were ready to go, he came out to the gate with them.

“Take care of yourselves, girls.” He hugged them both in turn.

“We’ll miss you, Uncle Jack,” Daisy said.

“Look after yourself and come back soon. We’ll look after Jo for you,” Robin replied as she hugged him.

“Thank you.” He stood back and they set off to school, waving to him as they went. He watched them go, and then went back inside to Jo. She was just coming downstairs as he shut the door. He waited for her to reach him, before leading her into the kitchen for breakfast.

They spent the morning at home. Jo was quiet most of the time. She was barely holding herself together. Jack just held her closely, hoping that she would be all right when he left. He had refused to let her come into St Peter Port with him, preferring to say his goodbyes in the privacy of their own home. When the mantle clock chimed twelve, Jo went into the kitchen to make them a sandwich. Once they had eaten, Jack disappeared upstairs to change into his uniform. When he was ready, he went to find Jo. She was in the lounge, staring into the fire.

“I have to go, now, Jo, or I’ll miss the bus.” She came across to him. He held her closely in his arms, before tilting her face up to his. He kissed her gently and she returned it, before stepping back.

“I love you, Jack.”

“I love you, too, Joey. Look after yourself. I’ll be back soon, I promise.” He gave her another kiss and then turned and left abruptly, not trusting himself any longer. Jo followed him to the door and watched him leave, tears falling freely. When she could no longer see him, she closed the door and went upstairs to the bedroom, where she lay crying into her pillow for a good half an hour, until she fell asleep.

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