A week later, Jo was reading when she heard the letterbox rattle. She heard footsteps in the hall as Robin picked up the post and took it through to the kitchen to sort. Jo knew that she would be putting the kettle on to make them a drink, before she brought the mail upstairs.
Robin came into the room fifteen minutes later. Jo put her book on the bedside cabinet and accepted the drink Robin handed to her. As they drank, they chatted about what had been happening at school and Robin told her about the expulsion of Betty Wynne-Davies after she’d given vital information to a Nazi spy. She also told Jo about Flora and Fiona’s unintentional involvement through careless talk about the chart. Jo felt sorry for them, realising that she had neglected her small charges woefully over the past few weeks.
“We should have them home for the weekend. I’ve not paid enough attention to them of late and I might have been able to help them.”
“We break up for Christmas on Friday, Jo. They’ll be coming home anyway. You’ve had enough to deal with these last few weeks. They’ve both been fine at school. Daisy and I have kept an eye on them for you.”
“Are you sure, Robin? Is Christmas really that close?”
“Yes. It’s the nineteenth today, so less than a week to go.”
“I haven’t even begun to do any Christmas shopping, yet. I’m never going to have chance either if Jem won’t allow me to get up.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll take Daisy on Saturday and we’ll go and do it for you. I’m sure Madge will have the twins for the day.”
“But they’ll have only just come home. They can’t be sent away again the next day. I’m sure I can manage to look after them.”
“I don’t think so, Jo. You’re not in any state to look after them, yet.” Jem’s voice suddenly joined in the conversation and the two occupants of the room turned to see him standing in the doorway. “Robin is right. They can come to us for the day. We’ll make sure they’re home for dinner. That’ll give you time to get back and wrap everything, shouldn’t it?”
“Yes. If we get up early and get into Armiford for when the shops open, we should have plenty of time. We’ll drop the twins off on our way, if we may?”
“Of course. If you’ve both finished, I’d like a word with Jo.”
Robin stood up and collected the cups. As she placed them back on the tray, she remembered the post and handed a small bundle of letters to Jo. Picking the tray up, she set off back downstairs, leaving Jem alone with Jo.
Jo glanced through the pile, taking little notice until she suddenly recognised the familiar handwriting on one near the bottom. Dropping the rest onto the bed, she held it with shaking hands, unable to do anything more. Jem noticed and came across to her.
“What is it, Jo?”
“It’s Jack’s writing,” she whispered, holding it so he could see the address.
“It certainly looks like his scrawl. Open it and see. Looking at the envelope won’t give you any more information.”
“What if it’s just his final letter before he died? It might not be one telling me he’s alive.”
“Jo, you have to face it and open the letter. Would you like me to stay or would you prefer to be alone?”
“I don’t know.”
“How about I give you ten minutes and then come back?” Jo nodded at this idea and Jem rose, leaving the door ajar as he left the room. Jo stared at the envelope for a few more minutes before turning it over and ripping it open. The letter fell onto the covers and Jo dropped the envelope to pick it up. Her hands were shaking and the writing danced before her eyes for a moment. Then she focused on the words and read:
‘My darling Jo,
I’m so sorry I haven’t been able to write before now. I hope you received my cable telling you I had a head wound…’
The words blurred once more as Jo realised she was crying. Jack was alive! The strain of the past few weeks when she believed he would never come back home to her engulfed her and she rolled over to sob into the pillow. This time they were tears of joy. Jem found her in the same position when he returned ten minutes later.
“Jo? What is it?” He was suddenly anxious, but his fears were removed when Jo’s muffled voice replied from the pillow.
“That’s wonderful news! What else does he say?” Jo pushed herself back upright revealing red eyes. Jem adjusted her pillows so she found it easier to breathe.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, read it and see.” Jo picked the letter back up from the covers and read the letter, slowly. Jack’s handwriting was hard to decipher at the best of times and this letter was no exception. It was possibly even worse thanks to his injury. Eventually, Jo looked up at Jem and smiled. It was the first time he’d seen her smile properly for a long time.
“He-he says he’s on his way home. He says not to write as he’ll probably reach England before this letter. Oh, Jem, I can’t believe it. He’s coming home!” Her tears fell unheeded as she handed the letter to Jem.
“May I read it?” Jo just nodded as she searched for a handkerchief. Jem passed her a clean one, and then settled into the chair to read the letter. He looked serious as he read between the lines and realised that Jack was lucky to be alive. He also grasped that, reassuring as the letter was to Jo, his friend was still not completely out of the woods. He would need medical care himself for some time to come. Jem decided now was not the time to inform Jo of how ill Jack still was. Time enough for her to find out once they knew that he was safely back on English soil. He folded the sheets and gave them back to Jo.
“We’d best see about getting you fit enough to be able to see him when he arrives in England. I came to tell you that you have an appointment at the Sanatorium tomorrow. If your X-rays show some improvement, I’m going to allow you to get up.”
“Really? Oh, Jem, I hope so. I’m sick of being stuck in here.”
“There’s a catch though, Jo. If I do allow you to get up again, you are not to go walking anywhere. You’ve risked yourself too many times and I’m not going to allow you to set yourself back again. If you do, I shall re-admit you until after the baby is born, whether Jack is at home or not.” Jo reluctantly nodded her agreement. “Do you have a headache, Jo?”
“A small one.”
“Lay down then, and I’ll get you some painkillers. You can rest for a few hours before you have your writing things.” Jo did as she was told and Jem gave her a couple of tablets. Once she had swallowed them, he drew the curtains and left her to sleep.