|Jo continued to worry on for the next week, even though the news of Robin continued to be positive and her sister was also on the mend. She had continued with her normal routine as best she could, diligently going into the study each morning, though she had written very little. She had not been able to keep her mind off her sister and Robin and the fact that they were both ill and she was unable to look after them. She had been sleeping badly, too, spending the majority of the nights tossing and turning. She had mentioned nothing of this to Jack, not wishing to burden him with her worries, though he would have gladly listened and tried to help her. She was also struggling to adapt to him being back home and found herself looking for space to be alone. She felt guilty when she realised that she was doing it, but couldn’t bring herself to talk to him about it.|
Jack watched what was happening with growing dismay. He could see that she wasn’t sleeping properly from the dark circles under her eyes and she was still not eating properly, despite his attempts to persuade her. He also sensed she was avoiding him, though he had no idea why. The doctor in him decided it was time to confront her and take action. He went through to the kitchen and made them both a sandwich for lunch. He was determined she was going to eat it all, however much she might protest and then she was going to talk to him.
“Jo!” he called out. “Lunch’s ready!” He set the plates on the table and filled the teapot up before putting it in between them. He waited patiently for a few more minutes, before heading to the study to fetch her. What he saw when he entered had him across the room and by her side in short order. Jo was sitting at the desk, her head in her arms silently sobbing her heart out. He pulled her to him, but she continued to sob on, unable to stop. Jack just held her close, hoping his presence would help her. He could hear her beginning to struggle breathing.
“Joey? You have to stop this, now. You’re making yourself ill.” He spoke gently and was rewarded by Jo wildly attempting to check her sobs. Slowly, she calmed down enough for him to pull back slightly and look at her, worry clearly showing on his face. He saw she was in no fit state for anything except bed. He guided her upstairs and soon had her tucked between the covers. He disappeared back downstairs and poured her a cup of tea, returning to the bedroom with it. He made her drink it and then lay with her until she fell asleep, exhausted.
Once he was sure she was sleeping, Jack went back downstairs to eat his own lunch. He would talk to Jo once she woke again, though he hoped she would sleep for the next few hours. He checked on her regularly throughout the afternoon, but she slept on. Towards evening Jack came to sit on the bed with his book and was reading when she finally woke up and rolled over.
It took Jo a few minutes to realise she was in her own bed. She lay quietly, trying to work out what had happened and why she was in bed at all. She had a vague idea that she had been in the study this morning, but couldn’t think what had happened to cause her to be in bed, now. She glanced up at her husband, taking in his serious expression, and realised how much she had been pushing him away over the past week.
Jack noticed she was awake, but continued to read on, waiting for her to break the silence. He wasn’t looking forward to having the conversation they needed to have.
“Jack? What happened this morning?” Jack glanced down at Jo and saw puzzled eyes looking back at him. He put his book down and turned so he could see her properly.
“I found you sobbing in the study at lunchtime. You weren’t in any fit state to do anything other than sleep, by the time I’d finally calmed you down.”
“Oh.” Jo lapsed into silence as she contemplated what he had just told her. Jack watched her, wishing he could just take her in his arms and forget the past week but, he knew it wasn’t possible. He had to allow her get her thoughts into order and help her to work through them before they could move on.
“Please talk to me, Jo. Tell me what’s worrying you so much.”
“I don’t know if I can.”
“Try. I want to help you, but I can’t if you won’t talk to me. You can’t bottle it all up like this, it’s making you ill.” Jo closed her eyes, wondering how she could even begin to tell him about the thoughts which kept flowing through her mind, preventing her from eating and sleeping properly.
“I can’t stop myself. I start to worry about one thing and the next thing I know, it’s consumed me. I can’t control it anymore. I get sucked into a vicious circle of what ifs. What if Robin doesn’t make it? What if Madge is worse than Jem is telling me? What if they die? I can’t get them out of my head. They spiral round and round, getting larger and larger until they smother everything else. I can’t even go and check for myself, to make sure everything is all right, so they continue to crowd in my head, making everything else seem insignificant and unnecessary.”
“Was this what happened before you left Guernsey? When I went back after that sick leave?” Jo nodded.
“I was so worried about what was happening to you and how you were, but I couldn’t check on you for myself. All I had were a few letters and they didn’t tell me enough to be able to settle the worry.”
“I couldn’t write anything more in my letters, Jo. They’re censored before they get to you. I wish I could have done, but you would have had even less from me than you already had.”
“I know, but I was already in that circle by then. The only way it was broken was by Jem threatening to re-admit me if I didn’t sort myself out.”
“Is that why you’ve been pushing me away? In case I do the same?” Jo nodded and looked away. She couldn’t bear to see how she’d hurt him. Jack gently turned her face back to his. He was hurt that she could think he would threaten her with re-admission, but he now understood her reasons for trying to avoid him. He realised she needed his reassurance and love more than anything else.
“Jo, I would never threaten you with that. I love you too much to want to send you back there.”
“Really.” Jack leaned in and kissed her, gently. “I can’t ignore your health, but I know even suggesting that to you would be wrong. We both know what it’s like to be there, even if it is from different points of view, and I don’t want to ever have to see you go through that again.” Jo managed a wan smile at this as Jack continued. “What we need to do is see how we can get you out of this current cycle of worry.” He fell silent as he tried to think of a solution to the problem.
Jo lay quietly, wondering if he could help. She was at the end of her tether, now, and just wanted to be able to see both of them to settle her mind, but she didn’t see how that was going to be achieved when Jem wouldn’t let her anywhere near them. She closed her eyes and let her mind wander.
Jack looked down at her and saw she had dozed off again. He could see how pale she was, as her face blended into the pillow, her black hair a shocking contrast. Stroking a few stray locks away, he disappeared downstairs to make a telephone call.
When Jo woke an hour or so later, she was alone. She climbed out of bed and dragged on her dressing gown. Heading downstairs, she eventually found Jack in the lounge. He looked up as she entered and smiled at her. She came to sit on the sofa with him.
“How are you feeling?”
“Still worrying.” Jack placed his arms around her and she snuggled into them, laying her head on his chest. They were both quiet, enjoying the closeness for the first time in a long while. Jack was glad that she had finally opened up and felt able to trust that he would never allow his profession to come between them. Jo was relieved that he understood how she felt and wanted to help her to overcome the problem.
They were still in the same position when the telephone rang. Jack got up to answer it, and soon called Jo to it.
“It’s for you,” he said as he passed her the receiver.
“How are you, Jo?”
“Madge! How are you?” Tears trickled down her cheeks as she heard her sister’s voice on the other end of the line. Jack left Jo to talk to her sister and went into the kitchen to make a start on dinner.
“I’ve been worse, but I’m much better than earlier this week. How are you coping, Jo?”
“I’m managing. I’ve been worried about you, though, as well as Robin.”
“There was no need to worry about me. I’ve only had a mild case, though I have to admit it knocked me for six. I’m just about up and about again, now. Even Robin is doing well, now, Jem says.”
“I can’t help worrying. It’s so rare you’re ill and I wasn’t allowed to come and help look after you.”
“Don’t be silly, Jo. Of course you couldn’t come here. We’ve all had it, apart from Jem and he’s kept well away as well.”
“Where’s he been staying?”
“He stayed at the Sanatorium. He’s been looking after Robin for us, and she’s going to be coming home soon, too.”
“Have you seen her, Madge? How’s she doing?”
“She’s much better, now. Jem took her to the Sanatorium because she was having difficulties breathing and he was afraid it might turn to pneumonia. She’s been lucky, though and is now on the mend as well.”
“When will she be able to come home?”
“Jem says she’ll be discharged on the next couple of weeks, so you’ll get to see her very soon. I’ll let you know as soon as I know.”
“My pleasure. I’ll speak to you soon, Jo.” Madge rang off at this, leaving Jo to replace the receiver at her end. She stood by the telephone for a long time, just staring at it. Jack came to find her and held her close as she finally broke down and cried. He allowed her to cry on for a short while before he pulled back and looked at her.
“Come and have some dinner, Jo. You can tell me what Madge had to say while we eat.” He led her into the kitchen and deposited her on a chair, before placing a meal in front of her. She looked dubiously at it but, under his gaze, picked up her cutlery and began to eat. Jack ate his own meal, and was satisfied when he saw her clear her plate. He said nothing, just removed them and put the kettle on to boil.
“How is Madge?” He spoke casually, as if it had just been a normal call between sisters.
“She’s much better and is up and about again.”
“That’s good news. Did she tell you how Robin is doing?”
“Yes. She’s on the mend as well and, apparently, will be discharged in a couple of weeks.”
“Thank you, Jack. For organising that.”
“My pleasure. I just want you to be happy, Jo. I know it’s hard for you to deal with being unable to see it all for yourself. I just wish you’d told me earlier and hadn’t pushed me away. I want to share everything with you, whether it be good or bad.”
“I know that, now. I’m sorry for pushing you away. I didn’t realise I was doing it. I’ve had to deal with everything else alone, so far, and I don’t know how to share my problems, yet.”
“I know. We’ve not had much chance to spend time as husband and wife and learn about each other, have we? Hopefully, now I’m back, we might get the chance to do so, though I think I shall still be away quite often since the Sanatorium is so short staffed. At least you’ll know I’m only a short drive away and will be home much more often. We’ll get there, Jo, I know we will.”
“I’d like that. I’m glad you’re home, too. I don’t think I would have survived this week without you, even if I haven’t been the nicest of people to be around.”
“Let’s concentrate on what’s going to happen from now on, and put this time behind us. Just promise me one thing, though.”
“That if you start to head back into that worry cycle, you tell me and let me help you through it. It’s what I’m here for, to be able to share your burdens and for us to go through life as a partnership, not as two separate individuals.”
“I promise.” Jack leaned over her and kissed her hair, knowing she would try her hardest to keep that promise and he was determined to be there for her when life next threw something bad at her.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Thank you for your lovely reviews, Elder & Kathryn.