|The next morning, Jo woke to find her sister reading in the chair beside her. As her memories of the night before began to emerge, she made a slight movement. Madge noticed and leaned towards her.|
“Morning, Jo. How are you feeling?”
“What happened to your eye?”
“It happened when I was trying to wake you from your nightmare last night.”
“I did it? Oh, Madge! I’m so sorry!” Her eyes brimmed with tears.
“It was an accident, Jo. You were still sleeping when it happened and had no idea it was me when you lashed out.”
“I shouldn’t have done it, though.”
“Jo, you were in the middle of a nightmare. You were trying to defend yourself against something in your dream and had no idea I was there. Don’t blame yourself, for it. It could have happened to anyone in the same position.”
“Do you think so? No one else seems to have the nightmares I have.”
“I’m sure of it. Don’t dwell on it. Now you’re awake, you really should eat something. I’ll just run down and ask Robin to make you a tray up. I won’t be a minute.” Madge stood up to leave, but Jo caught her hand, forcing her to turn back to the bed.
“Don’t leave me alone, Madge! Please? Stay with me. I don’t think I can cope with being alone.”
“Shhh, Jo. I’m not leaving you alone. I won’t be more than a minute, I promise.” She bent down and kissed Jo to reassure her, before extracting her hand and disappearing through the door. Jo was alone. She stared hard at the door, willing it to open and for someone to come through it so she could avoid her thoughts.
Madge was as good as her word. She ran downstairs and bumped into Robin at the bottom. She put her request to the younger girl who was more than happy to make something for Jo. Madge then dashed back up to her sister, re-appearing around the door two minutes after she’d left. As she approached the bed, she saw the relief in Jo’s eyes and realised that the younger woman was genuinely scared to be left alone. Wishing Jem was awake to be able to help reassure Jo, she dropped back into the chair and smiled at her sister.
“I told you I wouldn’t be long. Robin is making you some breakfast and will bring it up when it’s ready.”
“I thought she and Daisy would be at school by now. It’s gone ten o’clock.”
“No, they aren’t going in this week. They’ve had a shock too and Jem thought it best for them to stay at home rather than being forced to work when their minds aren’t on it.”
“Have you told the school what’s happened?”
“Only Hilda. She’s promised to say nothing to the rest until you say so. She had to be told when I rang to tell her that Robin and Daisy wouldn’t be in.”
“Thank you. I don’t think I could deal with dozens of well-wishers at the moment.”
“You won’t have to, Jo. Even if the others are told, they won’t be allowed to visit without your express permission. Jem wants you to rest properly and streams of people wouldn’t allow you to do that.” A tap on the door interrupted them. Robin came in bearing a tray and put it on the dressing table. “Thank you, Robin.”
“My pleasure. Is there anything else either of you need while I’m here?”
“No, thank you. You’ve already done enough for now.”
“Will you come and sit with me later, Robin? Madge can’t spend all her time in here with me,” Jo asked.
“Of course I will, Jo. I’ll come back in a couple of hours if I may?”
“That’s fine. I need to wake Jem up then, so it’s most helpful if you have the time to spare,” Madge replied. Robin smiled and left them alone once more. Madge gave Jo a hand to sit up, pushing some pillows behind her for support. Then she investigated the contents of the tray, passing a plate to Jo who grimaced as she looked at the food on it.
“Oh, Madge, do I have to?” She turned imploring eyes on her sister.
“Yes, Jo. At least make an attempt. You know you have to eat.”
“I’m not hungry, though.”
“That makes no difference. You wouldn’t argue like this with Jem. I’d rather you didn’t argue with me.” Jo saw the determination in Madge’s eyes and reluctantly took the cutlery she was holding out to her. She picked at the food on her plate, spending more time swirling it around than eating.
Madge watched, realising that Jo wasn’t going to eat any more. She took the plate away and removed the pillows to allow Jo to lie down again. As Jo yawned, she picked up a book and opened it.
“I’m going to read to you, Jo. It might help you to relax a little.”
“Sounds good.” Jo closed her eyes and Madge began to read. As she read, Jo’s breathing became more regular and she realised that her sister was sleeping. Seeing no need to continue, she quietly closed the book and picked up her knitting.
Robin came into the room later that morning, and Madge gave up her chair to her.
“Let her sleep, Robin. Try and keep to neutral topics if she does wake and wants to talk. I’m going to go and wake Jem, now.”
“I’ll try my best.”
“That’s all I ask.” Madge kissed her and left to go across the landing to the guest room. Jem was snoring gently as she entered. Sitting on the bed, she shook him. He woke immediately, his doctor’s instinct making him alert at the slightest shake.
“Jem? It’s twelve o’clock, darling.”
“Thank you. How is Jo doing?”
“She’s sleeping at the moment and Robin is sitting with her.”
“Yes, Jo asked her when she brought breakfast up. She said I couldn’t spend all my time with her.”
“At least she’s acknowledging that you won’t be here forever.”
“She didn’t want me to leave her when I went to ask Robin to make some breakfast for her. She’s not ready to be alone, yet.”
“No, it’s too soon. How much did she eat for breakfast?”
“Very little. She spent most of her time moving it around the plate.”
“That doesn’t surprise me. As long as she managed something. She needs to eat at each meal for the baby’s sake as well as her own. I wouldn’t be quite so adamant about it if it wasn’t for that. Let’s hope the chance to write a little this afternoon helps her.”
“I hope so, for our sake as well as hers. Those nightmares are keeping all of us awake, and it isn’t good for the girls.”
“I know. By the way, she was a little upset that I knew the reason for her writing, so it might be best if you say nothing about it unless she mentions it first.”
“You’re being a brick through this, Madge. I hope Jo realises that when she’s recovered a little.”
“She’s my sister, Jem. I couldn’t do anything else for her. Dick would do the same if he were here. You’ve been the biggest brick, though. She wouldn’t be here at all if it wasn’t for you.” She leaned over to kiss him and he returned it.
“She’s my sister as well as yours, has been since I married you. I don’t like seeing her in this position any more than you do. I can only do so much for her, even though I wish I could do more. She’s had a tough few years, what with her illness, having to leave Tyrol and now this.” Jem pushed the bedcovers away and climbed out of bed.
“I know. It never rains, but it pours for her. Come on downstairs when you’re ready and I’ll make some lunch.” Madge stood back up and left him to dress.
Once alone, Jem quickly washed and dressed before going to look in on Jo. She was still sleeping, so he just smiled at Robin and retreated, closing the door softly behind him. He made his way downstairs and found Madge in the kitchen with Daisy helping her. He sat down at the kitchen table and was presented with a cup of tea and assured that lunch would be ready in a minute.
“Daisy, do you know where Jo keeps all her writing things?” he asked.
“They’ll be in the study, Uncle Jem. Do you want me to go and look for them?”
“Not this minute, but you might give me a hand to find everything after lunch. Thanks Madge,” as his wife put a plate in front of him. The three of them ate their lunch in silence. When they had finished, Jem stood up and asked Daisy to come and help in the study. As they entered, Jem closed the door behind them.
“How are you managing, Daisy?”
“I’m all right. It’s just all a bit too close to home, that’s all. Especially after Mummy.”
“I know. You still miss her don’t you?” Daisy nodded as she tried to keep the tears back. Since Margot Venables had died four years previously, Daisy had regarded Jo and Jack more or less as parents. Now, Jack was dead and she was feeling the loss keenly. She had been old enough to remember her father’s death in Australia and had grieved for both him and her mother when she died after they had reached Guernsey. Jem understood his niece’s upset and just held her close as she gave in to her grief over her own parents and Jack. She was generally such a happy, sunshiny person, that it was easy to forget that she was now an orphan. She had fitted in so well with Jo, Jack and Robin and they had been happy to have her as part of their family group.
When the tears stopped, Daisy drew back and looked up at her uncle.
“Th-thanks, Uncle Jem.”
“It’s all right, Daisy-girl. You’ve been amazing these past few days. I’m glad you were here and able to help as much as you have done. Go and wash your face, then you can help me find the writing things for Jo.” Daisy did as he bid her and returned looking better for the cold water she’d splashed on her face. Together, they found Jo’s fountain pen, paper, and ink as well as a large book to lean on. They took it all up to Jo’s bedroom, where they found she was just rousing. Jem sent Robin down to have some lunch and asked Daisy to wait with her while he fetched his bag.
Dropping into the chair, Daisy was unsure what she should say to Jo. She’d barely seen her since the telegram had arrived. Jo smiled at her when she opened her eyes.
“Hello Daisy. How are you?”
“I’m fine, thank you, Auntie Jo. Do you feel all right?”
“I don’t know, to be honest. I’m just numb at the minute.”
“Yes. It’s a horrible feeling isn’t it? I didn’t know what to feel after Mummy…”
“Oh, Daisy! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to bring all those memories back to you.”
“It’s all right. I still miss Mummy and Daddy and the boys, but they’re mainly happy memories, now. Primula doesn’t remember much about any of them, so it’s nice to be able to tell her stories about them when we’re alone.”
“I’m glad. Primula should know about her family, and you’re the only one who can tell her. It must be hard, living in different houses.”
“It’s not so bad. When we go to the Round House on a Saturday, I try and spend some time alone with her. She’s happy there since she’s with Peggy and Bride who aren’t much older than she is.”
“That’s good.” Jem returned at this point and shooed Daisy back out, with a request to bring a sandwich and a drink up for Jo. She stood up and kissed Jo, then ran off to Jem’s bidding. Left alone with his sister-in-law, Jem examined her, and then sat back in the chair.
“That sleep seems to have helped, Jo. You don’t look quite so tired, now.”
“I feel a little better for it.”
“Once you’ve had something to eat, you can have an hour to write in, if you’d like?”
“Here comes Daisy with your sandwich. I want you to eat it all, as well.” Jem gave her a hand to sit up and took the plate from Daisy, as she came in with it. He passed it to Jo, who grimaced at him before beginning to eat. Jo managed about half before she gave up. Jem said nothing, but removed the plate. He was just relived to see her eat something and knew her appetite would take time to return.
“Here you are, Jo.” He passed her the things he and Daisy had collected from the study. “Do you want me to stay with you, or would you prefer to be alone?”
“Alone, I think.”
“I’ll come back in an hour, unless you need me before, then.” He left her alone, ensuring the door was left ajar. Jo looked at the door and then at the things in her lap. She tidied the paper into a neat pile and picked up her pen. Checking it was full, she picked up the book to lean on and the top sheet of paper. Then she paused. She was unsure about beginning, now she had the paper in front of her. She glanced around the room and she caught sight of a picture of Jack and herself on the dressing table. In direct defiance of Jem’s orders to stay in bed, she climbed out and crossed the room to pick it up. She stroked her finger over the image of her husband and felt the tears pricking the back of her eyes. Taking the picture back to the bed, she climbed in and picked up the book and paper once more. This time, she began to write, slowly at first, then faster as the words flowed. She paused every few minutes to glance at the picture next to her, but then continued on, her tears mingling with the ink on the paper.
When Jem returned an hour later, he found her still writing furiously and with tearstains on her face. He saw paper was littered across the bed and a few sheets had fallen to the floor. Picking them up, he passed them over to her as she paused for a second.
“Time to stop, Jo.” He spoke quietly, but Jo recognised from his tone that he wasn’t prepared to argue the point. Reluctantly, she replaced the cap on her pen and he took it from her. “Sort your sheets, while I fetch you a sponge to wipe your face with.” He disappeared off to the bathroom, putting the pen in his pocket as he went. Jo picked up the sheets of paper, putting them into order as she did so. When they were in a neat pile she placed them on the book and put the picture on top, ready to pass to Jem when he came back. Then she changed her mind and picked the picture off the pile intending to stand it on the bedside cabinet. Jem came back into the room as she was trying to find a space for it and took it from her.
“Where do you want it?”
“On the cabinet, please. You might have to make space for it.” Jem looked at the clutter on her bedside cabinet and piled the books up to make room. When he’d stood the picture up, he passed her the sponge he’d brought in with him.
“Wipe your face, Jo. You’ll feel better for it and then you can lay back down and rest.” Jo obeyed and she was soon tucked up under the covers again. Jem took the pile of papers from the bed and placed them on the dressing table, out of Jo’s reach, before coming back to sit beside her.
“Has writing helped a little?”
“I don’t know. I know it worked when I was having those nightmares when we first came to Howells, but it took a few weeks before I realised.”
“I’ll let you spend an hour at it each day for now, and we’ll see how you go on. You really need to be resting properly after that last mad flight of yours. Those nightmares you keep having aren’t helping you to rest. The only reason I’m allowing you time to write is because I think it’ll be beneficial to you in the long run.”
“Do you want someone to sit with you this afternoon?”
“I’d like Robin if she’s not busy, please. She promised to come and sit with me.”
“I’ll ask her. She came to sit with you while you were sleeping this morning, so she may have other things to do this afternoon.” Jo nodded her acceptance and Jem departed to seek Robin. She was happy to go and sit with Jo again and went off upstairs whilst Jem dropped into a chair in the lounge.
Author's Chapter Notes:
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