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It was the middle of May and Jo had been in the Sanatorium for six weeks, now. Since she had received that first letter from Jack, she had slowly improved. Jem had not had to carry out his threat to place her back on bed rest, though he was still keeping a close eye on her. She still had off days where she was inclined to eat little, but these were slowly becoming further apart.

Jem came to find her in the garden one afternoon. He sat down with her, glad to have a few minutes rest in the sunshine.

“How would you like to have a day out, tomorrow?”

“That would be lovely, Jem. Where, though?”

“I thought you might like to spend the day at our house. Everyone is longing to see Auntie Jo again.”

“I hope I don’t disappoint them, then.”

“I’m sure you won’t. I’ll collect you straight after breakfast, so make sure you’re ready.”

“Okay.” Jem left her and headed back towards his office. He hoped the day would go well. Jo had been improving, but he knew she wasn’t quite ready to go home, yet. A day with her family might help.

Jo was waiting for Jem when he came to collect her the next morning. He drove her through the leafy lanes to the house where he and Madge had made their home. He pulled up outside the front door and Jo slowly climbed out of the car. Jem came round and smiled at Jo.

“Welcome to the Round House. I know it isn’t your own home, but I hope you’ll feel as welcome here as you did in Guernsey and on the Sonnalpe.”

“Thank you. It looks a lovely house, Jem. A lot bigger than Bonne Maison.” They went inside and Jem showed her to the drawing room, where her sister was waiting. Once the greetings were over, the sisters sat down together and Jem left them alone, knowing that they would only have a short time before the others returned. It was a Saturday and all the children were home for the weekend. Robin and Daisy had taken them out for a walk so that Jo could have the chance to get used to her new surroundings before they returned.

“Where is everyone?” Jo was sitting on the sofa and her sister was in the comfortable chair next to her.

“Robin and Daisy have taken them out for a walk. They’ll probably be another half an hour. They were all so excited at the prospect of seeing you again, that we thought a walk might shake the fidgets out of them.”

“Oh.”

“Why don’t I show you around and then you’ll feel more at home.” Jo nodded. Madge showed her around the lovely old hunting lodge which was her new home and Jo was suitably impressed.

“I hope my new home is just as nice,” Jo said, wistfully, as they went back into the drawing room.

“It isn’t as large as this, obviously, but it has it’s own charm. Yours is situated just on the edge of Howells village, only a ten minute walk from the shops.”

“What’s it like?”

“It’s made of the local stone, with a slate roof. Downstairs, there is a lovely large lounge, which stretches from front to back. There is also a dining room, a kitchen and a study. Upstairs are four bedrooms and a bathroom and there is quite a lot of space up in the attic.”

“It sounds lovely. I can’t wait to see it for myself.”

“You will do soon, Jo.” The sound of running footsteps interrupted their conversation at this point and the door suddenly burst open to admit Robin, Daisy and all the others. Jo found herself surrounded by them, all asking questions at once. Madge took pity on her sister and clapped her hands, loudly. Everyone fell silent at the noise, and turned to look at her.

“That’s better. If you keep up that noise, I shall send you all up to the nursery until you learn some manners.” Knowing that she would carry out her threat, they looked at each other in consternation.

“Sorry, Auntie Madge,” Peggy Bettany said. “We’re all so excited to see Auntie Jo that we forgot about keeping quiet.”

“Then, we’ll say no more.”

“Why don’t you come and tell me your news, one at a time?” Jo asked. “Let’s start with the youngest, first, for a change.”

“Good idea, Jo. Josette, you’re the youngest, so you get to go first.” Two year old Josette came shyly up and scrambled onto Jo’s knee. Madge shooed the others away to the other side of the room, telling them they would all get a turn.

By the time the gong went for lunch, Jo had had some time alone with each of the younger children. Only Robin and Daisy were left. Jo was shown to the pretty guest room so she could rest immediately after lunch, and she promptly fell asleep on the bed. Jem came to wake her when she hadn’t reappeared three hours later. He looked at her for any tell-tale signs and was relieved to find none. He shook her.

“Jo? Do you intend to sleep all afternoon?” Jo slowly opened her eyes and looked at him.

“What time is it?”

“It’s half past three. If you stay in bed all afternoon, you’ll have no time to talk to Robin and Daisy before you have to leave.”

“Okay. I’ll be down in a few minutes.” Jem smiled and left her.

Jo appeared in the drawing room just as tea was being served. She gratefully accepted a cup and a cake from the selection on the tray. Once they had all finished, Jo went to sit with Daisy in the corner of the room. They talked animatedly, Daisy telling her all about what she was doing at school and about her new friend, Gwensi Howell. Eventually, Robin came over to join them and, after a few more minutes, Daisy left them alone.

“Time to go, Jo.” Jem had wandered over to the corner where they were sitting. Jo reluctantly stood up and turned to hug Robin. She wished she could stay longer, but she knew Jem would not allow it. Madge followed them to the door and waved them off.

They drove back to the Sanatorium, neither speaking. Jo was lost in thought, as she watched the landscape go past the window. Jem glanced across at his sister-in-law, noting the faraway look on her face. He knew that taking her home for the day had been a risk, especially when she was so easily upset by anything, still. He was glad he had taken it. Jo wasn’t quite ready to go back home, yet, but he had seen how much happier she had been during the day with her family. He was half-tempted to discharge her the next day, on the proviso that she stayed at his home for a few weeks, but he reasoned that she wouldn’t want that. She wanted her own home and needed the quiet that it offered her, something he knew was in short supply at his own home.

They drew up outside the main entrance of the Sanatorium and climbed out of the car. Jem walked Jo back to her room.

“Thank you for taking me home, Jem”

“You’re very welcome, Jo. Did you have a good day?”

“Yes. It was nice to have some time alone with everyone. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.”

“When you go home, you could keep that idea going. I think they all appreciated some time alone with you, too.”

“When do I get to go home?”

“Soon, Jo. I promise. Let’s see how you are after today’s excursion, and you have pneumothorax the day after tomorrow, as well. Once that’s over, I’ll see about getting you home as soon as possible.” He hugged Jo at this, then turned and left the room. Jo went to sit in the chair and thought about what she had just been told. She realised that he hadn’t actually answered her question properly. Sighing, she picked up her pen and writing paper and started to write a letter to Jack. She knew it was his turn to write, but she needed to do something to stop herself brooding over when she would finally be allowed home.



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