|It was Christmas Eve and Jo, Robin and Daisy were busy decorating the Christmas tree in the lounge. Jack had brought it in early that morning and then gone off to work, leaving them decorate the house and prepare for Christmas Day. |
This would be Jo and Jack’s first Christmas together. Last year, Jack had been away at war and Jo, Robin and Daisy had spent a quiet morning alone, before joining the Russells for Christmas dinner and staying until evening. This year, they planned to join in the Christmas meal again. Madge had offered to have Robin and Daisy for the whole holiday, but Jo had refused, stating that they were her family and she wanted to share Christmas morning with them. Jack had agreed with his wife and had suggested that they stay on at the Round House after their Christmas meal, returning home the day after Boxing Day.
The three of them sang Christmas carols as they adorned the tree with baubles and tinsel. When they had finished, they stood back to admire their handywork.
“What do you think?” Jo asked.
“It looks lovely, Jo,” Robin replied, slipping her arm around her adopted sister. “It’s going to be a special Christmas this year, with Jack being home as well.”
“I know. Our first Christmas as a family.”
“Shall we put the presents under the tree, Auntie Jo?” Daisy asked.
“Good plan. Come on, let’s go and fetch them in. No feeling which ones are for you, though, Daisy-girl.” Daisy laughed and followed Jo through to the study to help move the presents whilst Robin arranged them around the base of the tree. Once they had finished, they went into the kitchen to prepare dinner. Jack wouldn’t be eating with them, though he was expected later, as he, Jo and Robin would be attending Midnight Mass together and Daisy was going to the Protestant service with the Russells.
The evening was spent quietly in the lounge as they waited for Jack to arrive back. At ten o’clock, the telephone rang, startling them all. Jo went to answer it.
“Jo? I’m sorry, I’m not going to make it home in time to go to Midnight Mass, I’m afraid. I have a really ill patient and I daren’t leave him at the moment.”
“Oh, Jack! That’s awful!”
“These things happen, Jo. Jem has offered to collect Daisy on his way for theirs, but you and Robin aren’t going be able to get into Armiford for Mass.”
“I’ll speak to Robin and see if she wants to attend the service in the village church.”
“If you decide to go to that, Jem will drive you. Don’t wait up for me, though. I have no idea what time I’m liable to get away. I have to go, I’m needed.” Jack hung up and Jo slowly replaced the receiver and went back into the lounge to break the news. Robin was amenable to attending the Protestant service and they all joined the others at the village church. When they arrived back, there was no sign of Jack, so the three of them went quickly to bed.
It was the early hours of Christmas morning when Jack finally crept in through the door. He was tired and dejected as his patient had slipped away barely two hours ago. He made himself a hot drink and something to eat, before creeping upstairs to bed. As he changed he looked down at Jo, who was sleeping in the middle of the bed and realised how much he needed her. Sliding into bed, he snuggled up to her and she unconsciously turned towards him, draping her arm across his chest. He kissed her hair and smoothed it gently from her face allowing her presence to comfort him. He soon fell asleep, exhausted from the long hours at work.
He was woken the next morning by a kiss from Jo.
“Merry Christmas, Jack!” He rolled over and opened his eyes to see her smiling down at him.
“Merry Christmas, Jo.” He pulled her back for another kiss and they lay in each other’s arms, just enjoying the quiet and the closeness of each other. He was just beginning to doze off again, when he heard Robin and Daisy moving about, singing Christmas carols.
“Go back to sleep, Jack. You don’t have to get up, now, just because they’re up. They can look after themselves, you know.” Jo stroked his hair and he allowed himself to relax into her arms once more. He was soon sleeping, never hearing Jo slip out of bed to warn Robin and Daisy to be a little quieter.
The three of them were soon dressed and downstairs eating breakfast. Daisy was wildly excited and Jo had to warn her on more than one occasion to calm down a little. She left Jack to slumber on until an hour before they needed to leave for Mass, when she took a cup of tea up to him.
“Jack! Time to get up!” She shook him and he reluctantly opened his eyes. “I’ve brought you a drink.”
“Thanks, Jo. What time is it?”
“It’s nine o’clock. We need to leave in an hour, if we’re to get to Armiford in time for Mass.”
“Okay. Move out the way, then, so I can get up.” Jo obligingly got back up from the edge of the bed and Jack climbed out. He gave her a kiss as he headed towards the bathroom, leaving Jo to pull the covers back to air.
After Mass, they drove back to Howells, collecting Daisy on their way through the village. Once they had all shed their outer garments, and Jo had made a pot of tea, they settled in the lounge. Jack sat on the floor next to the tree and doled out each present to its owner. Soon, each of them had a pile of presents to open on the floor in front of them. The actual opening was done with much merriment and many a thank you as they each found something that they had been wanting. Before they knew it, the mantle clock was chiming one and they had to hurry to get ready to go to the Round House if they were to arrive on time for the meal. Jack elected to drive, since the weather was freezing and Robin and Daisy also had bags to take with them for their stay.
As the car pulled up outside the Round House, the front door was opened and Madge was there to welcome them in. She quickly directed Robin and Daisy to the rooms they were to use, before leading Jo and Jack into the drawing room. All the children were there and there were shouts of joy as they surrounded their aunt and uncle, dragging them off to show them their presents. Eventually, order was restored and Jo and Jack were allowed to sit down and accept a drink each. There had been a joyful reunion between Daisy and her small sister, Primula, who was overjoyed to be sharing a room with her for the next two nights.
The meal itself was a riotous affair, with everyone talking over each other and at least seven separate conversations going on at any one time. Jo looked around the table in a brief lull in her own conversation and smiled happily. Jack caught her eye from across the table and winked at her.
“Happy?” he mouthed across to her. Her grin widened and he returned it, before continuing with his own conversation.
As the afternoon wore on, Jo found the number of people beginning to overwhelm her a little. She wasn’t used to so many people all at once anymore, and she slipped out, unnoticed. Jack saw her go, but said nothing, understanding her need for a little solitude. When she hadn’t re-appeared half an hour later, he slipped out to look for her.
He eventually found her sitting on the stairs to the attic rooms, her head in her arms. Sitting down next to her, he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into his chest. Jo leaned into him, finally allowing herself to relax a little. They stayed in the same position for quite a while, until Jo finally pulled back.
“You don’t have to thank me. I missed you, so I came to find you.”
“It was all getting too much down there. I just needed a little space.”
“Do you want to go home, now?”
“No. I think I’ll be all right again, now I’ve had a break from everyone and I don’t want to spoil the children’s fun.”
“Let’s see how you go. If it gets too much again, we’ll go home. I’m sure Madge and Jem will understand if we leave a little earlier than planned.” Jo nodded her agreement and they headed back to the drawing room, where they were soon dragged into playing board games with everyone.
An hour later, Jack looked over at Jo and saw that she had clearly had enough. As soon as the game they were playing was finished and Rix had been declared the winner, he stated that he and Jo should be getting back home. Jo flashed him a thankful smile as she began to help tidy the game away. Madge duly fetched their coats and, once they had said their goodbyes to everyone, she and Jem accompanied them to the door and waved them off.
Jack soon drove them back to their cottage. Jo was thankful for the peace and quiet and was more than happy to flop onto the sofa, whilst Jack put the kettle on. When he came back with the tray, Jo was trying her hardest to keep her eyes open. Passing her a cup of tea, he came to sit beside her on the sofa.
“Has it been a good Christmas?”
“The best ever! We’ve been married for over a year and yet, this is our first Christmas together.”
“I know. Let’s hope it’s the first of many.”
“I hope so, too. I also hope you don’t get recalled anytime soon, so we can spend even more time with each other.”
“So do I, Jo, but if it happens, there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“Merry Christmas, Jack.”
“Merry Christmas, Jo.” Jack removed her cup from her hand and placed it onto the tray, along with his own and pulled her into a hug. Jo flung her arms around him and returned it, lifting her face up to kiss him as she did so. They stayed in each other’s arms for a long time, just happy to be together.
Well, this is it, folks. The last chapter of Part V. Thank you all for your wonderful and encouraging comments throughout, as I haven't been confident about how this story would work all the way through. I'd also like to give Mary R an extra large thank you and a big hug for all her patience in proofing this for me.
Part VI will follow at some point in the near future....