A week later, Jem was busy in his office, when the telephone rang. Upon answering it, he was pleasantly surprised to hear the voice on the other end of the line. After a brief conversation, he put the receiver back into the cradle and grinned broadly to himself, before finding some papers and heading towards Jo’s room. He entered to find Jo reading in the chair. She looked up at him with a smile.
“I’ve got good news for you, Jo. You can go home tomorrow.”
“Yes, tomorrow. You just need to sign these papers and then you can go home, ready for when Jack gets back.” Jo jumped up and hugged him. “There is a catch, though.” Jo let go and looked suspiciously at him.
“What is it?”
“That you promise to tell me if you’re struggling at any point. I don’t want to have a repeat of what happened when you arrived here.”
“Good. Now, sign these, please.” He handed her the papers he was holding along with a pen and pointed out where she needed to sign. She dashed off her signature, and handed them back to him with a smile.
“Make sure you’re all packed and ready to go after lunch.”
“What about Robin and Daisy? Will they be coming back to mine tomorrow, too?”
“I don’t think we’ll have time to sort it for tomorrow, but they will do soon.” Jem was deliberately evasive in his answer. “I need to go and finish these off properly, now. Otherwise, you won’t be going anywhere.” He left quickly and returned to his office, where he smiled to himself again.
The next morning saw Jo packing her suitcase. She was glad to be going home, although she hadn’t seen it, yet. She was looking forward to sorting it out, ready for when Jack should arrive. Once she had finished, she went along to the dining room for lunch. She returned to her room and sat out on the balcony with her book to wait for Jem to arrive. She was soon absorbed in it and never heard the door open. Someone slipped inside and came across the room to the balcony door. Jo glanced up and her book dropped to the floor, unheeded, as she sprang up.
“Jack!” Flinging herself into his arms, Jo couldn’t stop her tears from flowing. Jack held her close, just as pleased to see her. Eventually, he tilted her face to his and kissed her, gently. She returned it, but didn’t let go.
“Shall we go home, darling?” Jo just nodded, unable to speak. Together, they went back into the room and Jack picked up her case, as Jo put on her coat. Her book lay, forgotten, on the floor of the balcony. Holding hands, they descended the stairs to reception and walked out into the sunshine.
Jack was soon driving the little car he had borrowed from Madge along the roads towards their new home. He had spent the previous night in a hotel in Ledbury, the train having been delayed. Madge had collected him from the station in Armiford that morning and taken him to her own house, where he had cleaned himself up and collected the keys for their house. He had then driven to the Sanatorium to collect Jo.
When they reached Howells village, he slowed down as they started to search for their new home. They eventually found it at the other side of the village, down a small side road. Jack parked the car outside the garage and they both climbed out. They went slowly to the front door and Jack pulled a set of keys from his pocket. He finally managed to unlock it with the third key he tried.
They found themselves in a wide entrance hall, with stairs leading to the next floor. There were four doors opening off it and Jo opened the nearest one. Beyond it was a dining room, which was furnished with table and chairs and an old dresser along one wall. Jack opened the next door and peered into a kitchen. The furthest door opened into a study and the final one led into a large and spacious lounge.
“This is lovely. Look, Jack, it has a gorgeous view from the French windows.” Jack came across the room to stand next to Jo, putting his arm around her. They stood in silence for a few minutes as they drank in the view across to the hillside.
“It’s a nice sized garden, too. Shall we have a look upstairs? We need to work out where we’re going to sleep as well as Robin and Daisy.”
“Good plan.” Jo led the way upstairs, where they found four good sized bedrooms and a small bathroom. They chose the largest for themselves, which also overlooked the same view as the French windows in the lounge. They decided the two smallest bedrooms would be suitable for Robin and Daisy and the last one would become a guest room.
The boxes and furniture from their home in Guernsey had been left where the removal men had put them. Jo went to open one of the packing boxes, hoping it was the one containing the bed linen. Jack stopped her.
“No, Jo. Let’s have a drink first. Then we can work out what needs to be done.” Taking her hand, he led her back downstairs to the kitchen. There was a small bag of essentials on the table, which Madge had kindly left for them the day before. “You find the kettle and I’ll go and look for the milk.” Jo obligingly looked in the cupboards, until she unearthed a kettle. Filling it with water, she placed it on the hob and turned the ring on underneath, before hunting through the boxes for the teapot and cups. Jack returned with the milk just as she was opening the second box.
“What are you doing, Jo?”
“Looking for the teapot. I’ve found the cups, but it isn’t in the same box as them.”
“Do you remember which box you packed it in?” Jo shook her head, as she started to empty the contents of the second box. Jack started on the third box. “I didn’t realise we had so much kitchen equipment. Ah! Got it!” He brandished the teapot triumphantly, just as the kettle started to whistle. Jo took it from him and threw some leaves in it, then poured the water over. Once they both had a drink each, they surveyed the mess they had created.
“We may as well start by putting this lot away,” Jo suggested. “Then we really need to find the bed linen and air it through.”
“Okay. We’ll have to go into the village, too, and get some food, if we’re to eat tonight.” They fell to and soon had the kitchen tidy once more. Jo went upstairs and delved in the boxes to find the bed linen, while Jack opened windows to air the house through. When he came upstairs he found Jo sitting on the bed, surrounded by linen and towels, a photograph in her hand and tears pouring down her face. He came swiftly across to sit with her, pulling her in to his arms. He glanced at the photograph she was holding and saw it was a picture of Jo and her dog, Rufus. Taking it gently from her, he placed it on the bedside cabinet.
“Where did you find that?”
“In the towels. Oh, Jack. I know it’s silly to cry over a dog, but he was mine. I rescued him from a watery death and loved him. I hope he found a good home.”
“I’m sure he did, Joey.” Not for worlds, would Jack tell her that he suspected Rufus would probably have been shot by the Nazis. Wiping her tears away, he gave her a kiss, and then changed the subject. “Did you find the linen?”
“Yes.” She stood up and picked a bundle up from the bed. “If we hang it on the line, it will be aired by the time we get back from the village.”
“Come on, then. Let’s do that. Time’s getting on and we’ll have to walk there since there isn’t much petrol in the car.” He took the bundle from her and carried it downstairs. Together, they hung it out and then set off to the village to buy some food.
When they returned with their shopping, Jack instructed Jo to go and sit down. He put the kettle on to boil whilst he unpacked the groceries they had managed to buy. When he went into the lounge, he found Jo had fallen asleep on the sofa. He gently threw a cover over her and left her to sleep, realising that she hadn’t had her normal rest. He went into the study and made a start on the boxes in there. He felt safe in being able to do this room, since most of the boxes contained his medical texts and items relating to his job. He was quickly absorbed in his task, and soon had most of the room arranged. He had positioned the desk so that he could look out of the window when he was sitting at it. He only had one box left to unpack, but when he opened it, he saw it contained things belonging to Jo. He decided to let her unpack it, knowing she would use the study when he wasn’t there. Leaving the box in front of the desk, he headed back into the lounge, where Jo was just waking up. She yawned and stretched, then looked at Jack.
“What time is it?”
“It’s half past four. Why?”
“I wanted to get the boxes in our bedroom unpacked before tea. Why did you let me sleep for so long?”
“Because you needed it, Jo. You didn’t rest after lunch. Come and help me fetch the bedding in from the line, I don’t like the look of those clouds spilling over the hill.” Jo untangled herself from the cover and stood up. Together, they went and fetched the bedding inside. They were just in time, the first drops landing on them as they reached the back door.
“I’ll make the bed, while you put the kettle on.” Jo took the bedding from Jack’s arms and headed upstairs with it. Jack turned the ring on and followed her upstairs. They made the bed between them and then Jack made her go back downstairs with him.
“We don’t have to get everything sorted out today, Jo. We have somewhere to sleep tonight and we’ve sorted the kitchen. Everything else can wait.”
“What about the lounge? Can’t we try and sort that out, so that we at least have somewhere to sit comfortably?”
“The sofa is clear. That will suffice for tonight. We can do the rest of it tomorrow.” Jo realised she wasn’t going to be allowed to do anything more that day, so said nothing. She drank her tea in silence. Jack watched her, knowing that if he didn’t stop her, she would do too much.
When they had finished, Jo prepared the vegetables for dinner. Jack left her to it and went outside to put the car in the garage. He came back inside carrying Jo’s case and took it upstairs to the bedroom for her, before returning to the kitchen.
“Let’s have dinner early, tonight, Jo. Then we can relax and have an early night.”
“Okay.” Jo was happy to fall in with his suggestion and was soon cooking their meal. They ate at the kitchen table, before heading into the lounge when they had finished washing up. Jack sat in one corner of the sofa and Jo curled up next to him, leaning her head on his chest. They sat in silence for a short while.
“I’m glad you’re home, Jack.”
“So am I, Jo. I’m even happier that you’re home, too.”
“I wanted to be at home to greet you when you got leave. I didn’t want you to have to collect me from the Sanatorium again.”
“I know. I’m just glad that you’re well enough to be home, now. I was hoping that you weren’t much worse and unable to come home at all. You were very evasive in your letters.”
“I didn’t want to worry you. And…and, it very nearly was much worse.” Jack hugged her tighter. He guessed she was building up to telling him something, but knew better than to push for her confidence.
“Not telling me just made me worry about you all the more. Especially after your first letter arrived.”
“I think I was still in a bit of a state when I wrote that.”
“I guessed you were still upset. Jem wrote to me at the same time.”
“Why?” Jo sat up and looked at him.
“Because he was concerned about you. What happened, Jo?” Jo was silent as she tried to gather her thoughts. Jack just waited quietly.
“I-I was very nearly back on bed rest again.” Jo paused, before rushing on, “I couldn’t eat anything. For a few weeks.”
Jack inwardly cursed Hitler for causing him to be away from his wife when she needed him. He knew the main reason behind her lack of appetite was anxiety. He also knew that Jem would have had no choice in issuing her with the ultimatum of eat properly or bed rest. She was still recovering from tuberculosis and any matters with her health had to be taken seriously. He looked at her and saw unshed tears in her eyes as she anxiously waited for his response. Even now, he realised, she was sometimes quite childlike in her outlook and needed reassurance. He drew her into his arms once more.
“It’s okay, Joey. These things happen, sometimes.” They sat in silence for a few minutes, until Jack glanced at his watch. “It’s getting late. I’ll make us a drink and we should go to bed.” He gave her a final squeeze and then stood up. Pulling Jo to her feet, he led her from the lounge and gently pushed her towards the stairs. He disappeared into the kitchen for a few minutes before, he too, headed up to bed.