|It was early July and Jo was sitting in the garden of her cottage, enjoying the afternoon sun. Her husband was at work and Robin and Daisy were at school. She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes. She was much improved in her health, nowadays, though she still had to take care of herself. The past year and a half had seen her Sanatorium appointments lessening in number as she began to win the battle with tuberculosis, which she had been fighting since she was eighteen. Jack had been temporarily released from the army to work at the Sanatorium and she had finally had the chance to settle into married life with him, sharing the highs and lows as a couple at last. Their family was complete with Robin and Daisy continuing to live with them, although Jem and Madge had offered to have them back to live at the Round House once Jack was home.|
Jo dozed in the sunshine, blissfully unaware of the car pulling up outside the cottage. She was woken by someone noisily setting up another chair next to her. Opening her eyes, she saw Jack smiling at her as he sat down.
“Oh, you’re awake! How about you go and make us a cup of tea?”
“I wasn’t, until you just made that racket at the side of me. Why don’t you go and make it?”
“I’ve just got home, and I’m pretty certain it’s your turn.” Jo sighed and got up to go to the kitchen. She felt unaccountably tired this afternoon. She had no idea why, since she hadn’t done anything strenuous the previous day or that morning. She splashed her face with cold water as she waited for the kettle to boil, hoping it would wake her up a little.
When she took the tray out to the garden, she found that Jack had set the table up and placed it between the chairs. Jo put the tray down before sitting back down to pour. Jack accepted his cup and leaned back in his chair, content to enjoy the afternoon sun in silence. Jo closed her eyes again, unable to keep them open any longer.
Half an hour later, she was disturbed once more. This time it was Robin and Daisy arriving home from school. They came out into the garden chattering away about their day and dropped onto the grass nearby. Supressing another sigh, Jo made the effort to join in their chatter. Jack looked askance at her, but she ignored him, instead asking Daisy what she had been doing.
It was late before Jack had chance to tackle Jo. She had managed to avoid being alone with him all evening but, now, Daisy was in bed and Robin had just departed.
“Jo? Do you feel alright?”
“I’m fine, Jack.”
“You seemed tired this afternoon. Are you sure?”
“Yes. I think I must have overdone it in the past few days and it’s caught up with me.”
“Maybe a few early nights might help.” Jack came over to the sofa to sit with her. He was worried, but could see she wasn’t willing to talk about it. He resolved to keep a close eye on her and make sure she didn’t overdo it for the next few days. He pulled her into a hug and Jo laid her head on his chest, glad for his comforting arms around her.
“Let’s go to bed shall we? You go on up and I’ll make us a drink each.”
“Okay.” Jo was happy to fall in with this suggestion and she was soon tucked up in bed. By the time Jack arrived with a steaming mug in each hand she was almost asleep. She roused up enough to take her drink from him, but he saw how quickly she dropped back off again.
Jack watched her sleep in the soft glow of the bedside lamp and wondered what she was hiding. He knew from experience that she would only tell him when she was ready, or if her hand was forced. He didn’t want to do that, yet, since he knew she would resent the intrusion. Even now, after three years of marriage, she still sometimes found it hard to tell him things. He turned the lamp off and lay down behind her, laying his arm protectively across her waist.
When Jack woke the next morning, Jo was still sleeping. He slipped out of bed and dressed quietly. As he came out onto the landing, he was just in time to hush Robin and Daisy.
“Try to be quiet, girls. Jo is still asleep and I’d like her to stay that way for now.” Daisy nodded and headed to the bathroom.
“Is she alright?” Robin looked concerned, and Jack was quick to reassure her.
“She’s just tired, Robin. I think a good sleep will help.” Robin seemed satisfied with this explanation and Jack continued on his way downstairs to the kitchen. He was working a late shift today, so he decided to make sure Jo rested as much as she could this morning. Once he had waved Robin and Daisy off, he went to check on Jo and found she was still sleeping soundly. He crept back out and went downstairs to the lounge. It was a cool morning, so he stayed indoors and listened to the radio.
It was mid-morning by the time Jo finally woke. She stretched and glanced at the clock, gasping when she saw the time. Just as she was about to climb out of bed, Jack appeared in the bedroom with a cup of tea for her.
“Why did you let me sleep for so long?”
“You needed it.”
“I have things to get done, though.”
“They can wait. You need to rest, occasionally, otherwise you’ll be going backwards again.” Jack sat down next to her and looked down at her pale face. “Stay in bed this morning, and make the most of the quietness.”
“But, Jack…” He leaned down and kissed her.
“No arguments, please. I’ll go and get you something to eat, while you drink that tea.” He left Jo alone again. She rolled onto her side and stared at the curtains, reluctantly acknowledging that Jack was right and she had needed the sleep. Sitting up, she drank the tea he had brought up for her and looked for her book, which appeared to be missing. Jack came back in with some toast for her, just as she flung the covers back to go searching.
“What’s wrong, Jo?”
“I can’t find my book. Have you seen it?”
“It might be in the lounge. Here, you eat this and I’ll go and look.” He handed her the plate and headed back downstairs in search of her book. Finding three different ones containing bookmarks, he took them all upstairs to her. “Is it one of these?”
Jo looked at them and nodded.
“All of them.”
“All of them? Just how many have you got on the go at the moment?”
“About four. I must have taken the one I was reading up here downstairs, yesterday.”
“How on earth do you manage to read them all at the same time? I’d get confused if I did that.”
“Oh, it’s easy. It saves me having to look for a book if I have them in each room, as well.” She picked the top one off the pile he had brought up and put it back on the bedside cabinet. Jack sat down on the bed next to her whilst she finished her breakfast. He was secretly pleased to see that she still had her appetite, despite the tiredness. He said nothing about it to Jo, preferring to just observe and watch for any symptoms without causing her to worry. Since he had been back home, she hadn’t had any recurrences of the worry cycle she had gone through when Robin had been ill. He knew that it would be all too easy to tip her into one, if he wasn’t careful, though. Her temperament and imagination were finely balanced and he had seen what happened to her when they were upset on a number of occasions.
When she had finished eating, Jack took the plate from her and she settled down to read for a while. Soon, the words blurred on the page and Jo was sleeping again. Jack found her when he checked on her not long after and carefully laid her down properly, before lying next to her.
“Oh, Jo, I wish you’d talk to me and tell me what’s wrong,” he muttered to himself. “I hate not being able to do anything for you, when something is clearly not right. This is what happened the first time you were ill, on the Sonnalpe. I don’t think I could watch you go through it all again.”