Thursday morning dawned brightly and Jo groaned to herself as the sun streamed into the bedroom. She looked at the clock and realised it was barely five o’clock. It was far too early to get up, but Jo knew she would struggle to sleep in the brightness. She reluctantly climbed out of bed and pulled the blackout down, thus creating enough darkness for her to doze back off for a while longer. She was suddenly woken by the ringing of the telephone. Jo struggled out of bed and made her way towards the noise. She was halfway down the stairs when it stopped.
“Drat it! I wonder who it was.” She sat on the stairs and waited a few minutes, hoping that it might ring again, but it didn’t. She sighed and went back upstairs to see what time it was. When she looked at the clock she was surprised to see it was after eight o’clock. She was going to have to rush if she was to be ready for her lift at nine.
Jo was just ready when the doorbell rang. She grabbed her coat and bag and opened the door. It was one of the nurses, who was due to start her shift. Jo greeted her and they were soon driving along the country lanes towards the Sanatorium. When they arrived, Jo thanked her and they parted ways. Jo headed towards the X-ray department and, once she had finished there, was told to go to Jem’s office before she went for pneumothorax. Jem was just escorting another patient out when she arrived there. He smiled at her and she patiently waited for him to finish. He asked his secretary to bring in some tea and then ushered Jo into his office and led her to the comfortable seats, rather than the desk. Once they were settled and his secretary had brought in the tea, Jem turned the conversation.
“How are you getting on at home now Robin and Daisy aren’t there?”
“Fine. Though it’s a bit lonely in the evenings.”
“Are you eating properly?”
“You still look a little too thin, Jo.” Jo sighed at this comment. She had always been slender in build and, no matter how much she ate, she didn’t seem to put on much weight. Jem knew this, but, to his eyes, she still looked thinner than normal. “I had a look at your last two sets of X-rays and, provided the ones you’ve had done today are as good, I think you can start having pneumothorax every three months from today onwards.”
“Are you sure?” Jo didn’t know whether to believe it.
“I’m sure, Jo. You’ve been improving every month since you left here at the beginning of June. It’s been a long time but, hopefully, you’ve finally turned the corner. As long as you take care and keep to the routine you already have, you’ll continue to improve. I know you’re still worrying about Jack, but at least you know he’s relatively safe and in this country, now.”
Tears trickled down Jo’s cheeks as she listened. She could barely comprehend that the horrors of the past few years were finally beginning to diminish. Jem came to sit next to her and pulled her into his arms as she cried. He knew that her battle with tuberculosis had been hard fought. Having thought she’d beaten it once, she then had to flee from the home she loved and for her life. The stress of the wild trek through Nazi-occupied Austria to the safety of Switzerland had taken her to the limits of her endurance. Her subsequent break-down and the return of tuberculosis had come as no surprise. Her imagination was something which she had to fight hard to control and when her husband had been called up within weeks of her second discharge and their marriage she had been lucky not to be re-admitted as she lost weight rapidly through worry.
Jem loved his sister-in-law, having seen her grow up from the thirteen year old child she was when he had begun courting her sister. He knew she still had a long way to go, but he was much more hopeful, now. He allowed her to cry on for a short while, knowing that the release would be good for her. When he thought she had cried for long enough, he spoke again.
“Come, Jo. There’s no need for all these tears. It’s good news.” Jo gulped and managed to calm down a little. Jem handed her a couple of tissues and poured some more tea, whilst Jo blew her nose. He passed her a cup and she drank it. “When you’ve had your pneumothorax, I’m going to take you home to the Round House. You can stay with us tonight, so that you don’t have to try to do anything, and you’ll have some company.”
“Th-thank you. What about my night and washing things, though?”
“I’m sure your sister can lend you whatever you need. It’s only for one night. You’ll be going back to your own home tomorrow, ready for when Robin and Daisy arrive.” He glanced at his watch and saw that his next patient was due in a few minutes. “Go and tidy yourself up, then go and have your pneumothorax. I have another appointment, now, so I’ll collect you from reception when I’ve finished.” Jo got to her feet and Jem gave her another hug, before showing her out. She went to the nearest bathroom and washed her face, before walking to the operating theatre to have her pneumothorax. When she was finished, a nurse pushed her back to reception in a wheelchair.
Jo was waiting for a good fifteen minutes before Jem finally appeared. He wheeled her out to his car and drove home as quickly as he could. He saw she was uncomfortable, so as soon as they reached the Round House, he helped her up to the guest room and left her in the chair whilst he sought out his wife and requested her to find some night things and take them to Jo. When Madge appeared, Jo was thankful for the proffered help and was soon tucked up in bed.
Madge sat with her sister until she slept. She divined that Jo didn’t want to be left alone, and she was worried. When she was sure Jo was fast asleep, she went in search of her husband, finally locating him in the dining room eating a sandwich. She came to sit down with him.
“Is she sleeping?”
“Yes. She’s fast on. Is she all right, Jem? She looked a little upset to me.”
“She’s fine. She’s feeling a bit lonely, since Robin and Daisy are boarding through the week, now. I also gave her some good news about how well she’s doing and she was a little overwhelmed by it all.”
“She’s had a lot to cope with over the past few years, hasn’t she?”
“Yes. She’s had a tough few years, with everything she’s had to go through. Hopefully, she’ll keep on improving. All that’s missing, now, is for Jack to be back at home with her, not that we can do anything about that at the moment.”
“Maybe I should go and spend an evening with her each week, so she’s not entirely alone. I’m sure Marie and Rosa will cope for one evening. It must be difficult for her since she doesn’t have many friends round about. Those she does have, have small families to deal with, so they can’t call in the evening.”
“That’s a good idea. It might stop her from being quite so lonely. I know Robin and Daisy have only been gone a week but, it’s obvious she’s missing their company. She admitted it was lonely in the evening. She’ll stay here tonight since she won’t be doing much else apart from sleeping and we’ll run her back home tomorrow after lunch. I want to make sure she’s still eating properly, so I’ll take her tray up at dinner.”
“I’ll sit with her this afternoon then. If she wakes, then at least she won’t be alone.”
“I doubt she’ll wake for a few hours, yet. You may as well continue with whatever you were doing when I arrived. I’ll be in the study if you need me.” At this, Jem stood up and kissed his wife before heading off to deal with his never-ending pile of paperwork. He sat down at the desk and sighed to himself. He wished Jack Maynard was back home, not just for Jo, but to help him at the Sanatorium. He had started to expand into other areas of medicine when he had taken over the building and now, the authorities were sending some of the worst casualties from air raids to him for recuperation. He decided to contact them to see if it was possible to release any doctors to help with the higher number of patients.
Meanwhile, Madge had taken Jem’s empty plate back to the kitchen and washed it. She went along to the nursery to spend an hour with Sybil and Josette, before she went to check on Jo. She was still sleeping, so Madge just deposited a book on the bedside table for her and slipped back out as quietly as she had entered.
It was late afternoon when Jo finally woke. She stared around the unfamiliar room, wondering where she was for a few moments before her memory returned. She sighed and then noticed movement out of the corner of her eye. She turned her head and saw her sister sitting the chair nearby.
“How do you feel, Jo?”
“Do you want something to eat?”
“Not hungry. Just a drink, please.”
“I’ll go and get us some tea. I won’t be long.” Madge quickly left the room. She went down to the kitchen and made a pot of tea as Marie was busy preparing dinner. She was just heading back upstairs with it when Jem came along the corridor. Seeing the tray in her hands, he came to take it from her.
“Go and fetch another cup and I’ll join you for a drink.” He glanced down at the tray in his hands. “Did you ask her if she wanted anything to eat?”
“Yes. She said she wasn’t hungry. It’s not that long until dinner, though.”
“See if we have any biscuits. She hasn’t eaten since breakfast.”
“Okay.” Madge went off back to the kitchen, whilst Jem took the tray up to Jo’s room. She had her eyes closed and was trying not to think about the dull ache in her chest. Jem set the tray down and came over to her.
“Does it hurt, Jo?” Jo just nodded in reply. “I’ll get you some painkillers.” He disappeared and was soon back. “Here, Jo. Take these.” Jo sat up and took the tablets and glass of water he held out to her. When she had swallowed them, Jem took the glass and pushed a few pillows in behind her, just as Madge appeared with a plate of biscuits and another cup. She smiled at her husband and sister and went to pour the tea. Once everyone had a drink, she offered the biscuits around. Jo would have refused but, under Jem’s watchful gaze, she reluctantly accepted one and nibbled it slowly. Jem said nothing, though he had seen the look Jo had given him. He kept the conversation light, though Jo didn’t speak much. When they had finished, Jem stood back up to leave as Madge collected the cups and loaded the tray to take back to the kitchen.
Once she was alone, Jo lay back down again and closed her eyes. She was soon asleep and never heard her sister slip back into the room. Tucking the covers more closely around her, Madge sat back down, intending to continue with her book. Just as she made herself comfortable, she heard a commotion outside the room. She went to investigate and found her daughter Sybil arguing with her cousin Jackie Bettany. She quickly stopped their argument and took them both off to the nursery. As she was returning to Jo’s room, the gong went for dinner. With a sigh, she turned and headed towards the dining room.
Jem took Jo’s tray up once they had finished. He put the tray down and went to pull the blackout down before switching the light on. Jo blinked in the sudden brightness.
“Dinner time, Jo. Hurry up and sit up before it goes cold.” Jo reluctantly dragged herself upright and Jem laid the tray across her knee. She looked at the plateful in front of her, and sighed.
“I’m not that hungry, Jem.”
“You need to eat. You’ve only eaten that biscuit since this morning. How often do you skip lunch?”
“Not often. Only if I’ve been so engrossed I forgot the time.”
“You shouldn’t do it at all. If you want to keep improving, you need to eat properly. That’s just as important as routine and resting properly. I don’t want to lecture you, Jo, but you do need to take responsibility for your own health, especially while you’re living alone. You aren’t a child any longer, you said that yourself a few months ago. I know today is an exception, since you always end up in bed when you’ve had pneumothorax. That’s why you’re here, so we can look after you. Now, eat up, otherwise it’ll be cold.” Jo did as she was told and Jem was rewarded when she cleared her plate. He removed the tray and smiled. “What do you intend to do, now?”
“I might read for a while.”
“Will you be all right on your own? I have some things I need to get done urgently and your sister is in the nursery at the moment.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“In that case, I’ll leave you to your book. I’m sure Madge will come up later, once the children are in bed.” Jem picked the tray up and departed, leaving Jo to look at the book on the bedside cabinet. She was fathoms deep in it when Madge finally appeared in the room, armed with a warm drink for her sister. Jo put her book down and accepted it with a smile.
“Have you read that one before?”
“Yes, but it’s addictive once you get into it.”
“I wasn’t sure if you had or not, but you read so many books, I can’t keep up.”
“There isn’t a lot else to do when you’re stuck in a bed, unable to do anything.”
“That’s true. I thought I might come to visit next Wednesday evening, if I may?”
“Of course you may. Come for dinner. Not that it’ll be anything exciting.”
“That’s sounds lovely. I can cycle over and I’m sure Jem will pick me up on his way home.”
“What about the children?”
“Marie and Rosa will manage for one night. If I’m eating at yours, they’ll only have to see to the children’s dinner and there’s only Sybil, Josette and Jackie at home, now.” Jo tried to smother a yawn, but her sister noticed. “You’re tired. Lay down, Jo and I’ll let you get some more sleep. Do you want the blackout up?”
“Then snuggle down and I’ll turn the light off and move it.” Jo did as she was told and lay down. Once Madge was sure she was comfortable and had all she needed, she turned off the light and pulled the blackout away. “Goodnight, Jo.”
“Night, Madge.” Madge made her way to the door and left her sister to sleep.