|the other end continued to ring, but no answer was forthcoming. Madge put the receiver down and went in search of her husband. She found him busy in the study. He looked up at his wife as she entered and noted her worried frown.|
“What’s wrong, dear?”
“I’ve just tried to ring Jo and got no answer.”
“She’s probably gone into the village to buy something.”
“She’s usually home at this time, and it’s the third time I’ve tried to ring today and got no answer.”
“At what other times did you try?”
“I rang this morning and again after lunch”
“She normally writes in the mornings, so maybe she was just engrossed and didn’t hear it, and she could well have been asleep when you tried after lunch. Why don’t you try again after dinner?”
“Yes. Maybe I will.” Madge left her husband, still frowning. She wasn’t convinced by his explanations, as logical as they were. She knew her sister and had a feeling something wasn’t right, but she couldn’t put it into words.
After they had eaten dinner, Madge went to try and telephone her sister once more. Again, she listed to the incessant ringing at the other end and got no answer. When she returned to the drawing room, Jem could see she was worried.
“No. It’s not like Jo to not answer the telephone. I left it ringing for ages, too. I’m going to go round and check she’s all right.”
“Would you like me to come with you?”
“Yes, please.” Jem stood up and came across the room to where his wife was standing. He placed his arm around her as they went to fetch their coats. He hoped his wife was wrong and that Jo was fine, but he knew from experience that Madge wasn’t often incorrect when it came to her sister.
They were soon driving towards Jo’s house. As soon as Jem pulled up, Madge was climbing out of the car. He quickly followed her, only pausing to lock the door. Madge knocked on the front door. No answer. She tried again. Still no answer. Jem peered through the window into the lounge and found nothing amiss in there.
“See if the door is unlocked,” he suggested. Madge twisted the handle and found it yielded to her push. They entered the hall.
“Jo? Are you home?” They heard a slight sound from above. Jem ran up upstairs and found his sister-in-law in bed, shivering violently. She had her eyes closed and was muttering under her breath. He placed a hand on her forehead and found it was burning hot. He crouched down so he was level with her.
“Jo?” He spoke quietly and was glad to see her eyes open and look at him. “What’s wrong?”
“S-so c-cold,” she managed to whisper.
“Let’s get you warmed up, shall we? Have you got a hot water bottle somewhere?” In reply, Jo kicked the one she had out of bed. It landed with a thump onto the floor. Jem picked it up and found it was freezing cold. He stood back up and went to the door, where he found his wife hovering anxiously. He spoke in an undertone to her.
“Go and refill this and find Robin’s and Daisy’s, too. Also see if there’s any milk and warm some up for her. She’s caught cold somehow and we need to get her warmed up.” Glad of something to do, Madge disappeared to the kitchen to do his bidding. She was worried for her sister, but knew she was in good hands with her husband. Jem went back to crouch by Jo again.
“What happened, Jo?”
“G-got c-caught in the r-rain, y-yesterday.”
“What did you do when you got home?”
“H-hot d-drink, h-hot bath and c-came to b-bed.”
“That’s good. You should have rung me as well.”
“W-was g-going to, b-but c-couldn’t g-get out of b-bed this m-morning.” Madge came back into the room at this point with some hot milk. Jem took it from her and handed her the car keys.
“Will you fetch my bag from the boot, please?”
“Of course.” Jem slipped his arm under Jo and lifted her enough to allow her to sip the milk. When his wife re-appeared with his bag, he rummaged around in it and produced some tablets, which he made Jo take with some more of the milk. The shivering lessened as the warmth of the milk flowed through her, but Jem was glad when Madge brought in the hot water bottles and helped him to tuck them around her. The warmth of these, coupled with the tablets and hot milk caused Jo to doze off. Jem drew Madge out onto the landing, where they wouldn’t disturb her.
“What happened, Jem?”
“She said she got caught in the rain yesterday. Luckily, she had the sense to get herself warm and into bed, so she might avoid anything worse. I had hoped she would avoid anything like this for a few years. I’ll stay with her tonight, to make sure she’s all right and it doesn’t develop into anything worse.”
“Do you think it will?” Madge looked worriedly at her husband.
“I hope not, for her sake, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. It might be best to see if I can get her to the Sanatorium where she can be watched properly.”
“She’s not going to like that, Jem. If anything, you’ll make her more anxious that something is seriously wrong.” Jem looked thoughtful.
“Hmm. That’s true. I can’t stay here to look after her, though, and you have the children to look after as well.”
“What about taking her to our house? At least she won’t feel as if she’s being re-admitted again.”
“Let’s see how she gets through the night, first. Then I’ll be better placed to decide which is best. You take the car home and I’ll ring you in the morning.” He escorted Madge downstairs and out to the car. “Don’t worry, darling. I’m sure she’ll be fine.” He kissed her and waved as she drove off, before heading back inside to check on Jo.
Knowing that Jo was likely to sleep for a few hours, Jem went and lay down in the guest room, leaving the doors open so he could hear if she should wake. He had a feeling that it was going to be a long night as he listened to her breathing. He knew she had only just recovered from her last pneumothorax operation and he fervently hoped that the cold wouldn’t go onto her chest. If it did that, he knew he would have to re-admit her regardless of how she felt about it. He couldn’t take any risks with her health.
It was after midnight when movement from Jo’s room disturbed him. He rose and padded through to check on her. She was completely stuck in the bedcovers. One of the hot water bottles landed on the floor as she thrashed about, becoming more desperate as she struggled to untangle herself from them, as her arms were caught tight, as well. Her breathing was becoming more laboured the more she fought it.
“Jo? Let me help you.” Jo didn’t hear him. He spoke again, louder this time. “Jo! Stop squirming!” He placed a hand on her and she flinched. Jem noticed and looked down to see scared eyes looking at him through the gloom. “It’s all right, Jo. Lie still. I’m going to untangle the covers.” He spoke softly, trying to reassure her as he gently managed to unravel the sheet and blankets from around her. When she was free once more, he went and pulled the blackout down, before turning on one of the bedside lamps. Jo blinked and finally focussed on Jem’s concerned face watching her.
“What happened, Jo? Were you dreaming, again?” Jo just nodded. She was still recovering from her ordeal with the covers and was trying to get her breathing back under control. Jem picked the hot water bottle up from the floor.
“I’ll go and refill this for you and get you something to drink. I won’t be long.” He disappeared to the kitchen, returning ten minutes later with a hot drink and the newly refilled hot water bottle. He placed the cup down and passed the bottle to Jo. “Give me the others and I’ll refill them for you as well.” She managed to locate the others in the bed and kicked one to the floor and passed him the other one, which happened to be next to her. They were soon hot, too, and Jem came to help Jo have some of the drink he had made for her.
“Can you tell me about the dream?”
“It was similar to last time, when Jack was home.”
“Being tangled in the covers probably didn’t help you, did it?”
“I couldn’t move my arms. I thought I had been captured and they’d tied me to something. Then when you tried to help me I thought they were going to beat me.” Silent tears slid down Jo’s cheeks as she said this. Jem could see she had been badly frightened by the violence in her dream. She looked as if she thought they still might appear in the room at any moment. The dark circles under her eyes were vivid against the intense paleness of her skin. He could see that she needed to sleep, but that she was scared to do so. He looked in his bag and found her some tablets out.
“Here, Jo. Take these to help you sleep again.”
“I don’t want sleeping pills, Jem”
“You need to sleep. You’re not in any state to try and stay awake. You’ve caught a bad cold and the last thing you need is for it to go to your chest. If that happens, you’ll be back in the Sanatorium and on bed rest again. Is that what you want to happen?”
“No!” Jem saw a glimmer of panic in Jo’s eyes and realised that she was genuinely scared that he would send her back without another thought. He sat down on the bed and looked at her, concern in his own eyes.
“Take the tablets, Jo, and sleep. You have to trust me. I won’t do anything without your consent, I promise. You need to sleep to fight this cold. If you don’t, it could set you right back. I don’t want that to happen any more than you do. That’s why I want you to take the tablets.” Jo nodded, reluctantly. She was tired and felt unwell. She knew that Jem’s logic, like Jack’s, had won out and she had no argument left in her. She swallowed the tablets along with the rest of her drink and lay down again. Jem tucked the covers round her and sat down to watch as the tablets took effect and she slept. Only when he was sure she was sound asleep, did Jem go back the guest room. He, too, was soon sleeping.
Jem woke early the next morning. He went to check on Jo, before heading downstairs to see what he could find for breakfast. When he had eaten, he made a tray up and returned upstairs in time to see Jo waking.
“How do you feel?” Jo shrugged. She was still groggy from the sleeping pills. “Sit up and eat this.” Jo dragged herself upright and he pushed some pillows behind her back for support before placing the tray across her knee. Jo managed to eat most of the food in front of her. Once she had finished, Jem removed the tray.
“I want to examine you, to see whether that cold has settled onto your chest.” Jo just nodded. She suddenly felt resigned to being sent back to the Sanatorium. However, once he had finished, Jem smiled at her. “I think you’ve been lucky, Jo. Your chest seems pretty clear, though I think we should keep to monthly X-rays to be sure.”
“Yes. You had enough sense to get warm quickly when you got home and I think that has stopped you from being any worse. I don’t want you to stay here alone though, whilst you’re still poorly so, I propose that you come and stay at the Round House for a few days to recover. It’s pretty quiet there now that most of the children are at school.”
“What about the weekend though? Everyone is home at the weekend, and there’s Robin and Daisy, too.”
“I’m sure they can all stay at school for one weekend. You’ll be back up and about next week if I know you.” Jo managed a wan smile at this prediction. “I’ll just ring Madge and ask her to bring the car over. Lie back down and see if you can sleep some more for now.” Jo obediently did as she was told but sleep wouldn’t come. She tried to blank her mind to everything, but the memories of the nightmare kept on returning. Jem kept looking in on her and noticed she was unable to rest properly. He was loath to give her anything more to help her to sleep though, knowing natural sleep was best for her. He hoped that would happen once he got her to the Round House.
Madge arrived with the car an hour later, having arranged the guest room for her sister. Jem came to greet her with a kiss.
“How is she, Jem?”
“She’s better than I hoped for. She seems to have managed to keep it off of her chest for now, but she had a bad nightmare. I wish I could do something to prevent them, since they aren’t allowing her to have the rest she needs. Hopefully, a few days at our house, where we can keep a close eye on her will help.”
“May I go up?”
“Of course. You’ll need to pack some things for her as well.” Madge nodded and ran lightly upstairs to Jo’s room. Her sister was lying with her back to the door, but Madge guessed she was still awake. She came round the bed and knelt where Jo could see her.
“Jo? How are you feeling?”
“You’ll feel better, soon. Jem says you’re going to come and stay with us for a few days. Do you have a bag handy so I can pack some clothes for you?”
“In the bottom of the wardrobe.”
“Is there anything you particularly want?”
“No.” Madge went to the wardrobe to find the bag out. She quickly packed a few clothes for Jo and disappeared to the bathroom to find her washing things. Whilst she was alone, Jo felt on the bedside cabinet and located Jack’s rosary. He had given it to her when she had first been admitted to the Sanatorium on the Sonnalpe and it had brought great comfort to her many times during the past four years. She allowed the beads to slip through her fingers, as she wished her husband could be at home to look after her. Madge came quietly back into the room and placed the last few things into the bag, just as Jem appeared to see if she had finished.
“Excellent. I’ll take the bag down and you refill the hot water bottles. We need to keep Jo as warm as possible.” He disappeared and Madge came across to the bed for the hot water bottles. Jo obligingly kicked one out and handed another to her.
“I’ll fill these first, Jo, then come back for the last one.” She went off with them, quickly returning to tuck them in by her sister and took the last one. Jem passed her on the stairs. When she arrived back, Jem was helping Jo into her dressing gown and slippers. He then wrapped a blanket around her before lifting her in his arms and carrying her down and out to car. Madge followed and he took the hot water bottles from her, tucking them around his sister-in-law. Madge climbed in next to her sister and he closed the door. He quickly locked the front door and slid in behind the wheel and headed for home.
It wasn’t a long journey, but Jo was glad to reach their destination. Jem speedily carried her up to the guest room and soon had her between the sheets. She lay quietly staring at the ceiling for a while, until she felt herself drifting off to sleep once more. When Madge looked in on her half an hour later, she was fast asleep.
The next few days passed in a blur of sleeping, as Jo battled with her cold. Jem was pleased that they had managed to prevent it from settling on her chest, and hoped she wouldn’t have any lasting effects from it. The quiet and loving care from her sister also allowed Jo to relax and the horror of the nightmare subsided. At the weekend, Jem allowed her to sit up for a few hours, as long as she was well wrapped up. By the following Thursday, she was practically back to normal, though Jem warned her to take it easy for a while longer. He allowed her to go back to her own home, the following day, ready for Robin and Daisy arriving for the weekend. The three of them had a quiet weekend, heading back to school on the Sunday, happy in the knowledge that Jo was much better.
Author's Chapter Notes:
I think you've all been sitting on the edge of that cliff for long enough, now, so here's what happens to Jo....
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