|Two days later, Jack found that his constant headaches were beginning to lessen in intensity. The quiet of the cottage combined with being back in familiar surroundings helped him to relax more. He had spent most of the time sleeping, something he had struggled to do in the hospital when people were continually moving around him. He had spoken to the specialist from the Sanatorium and had been told that he could expect the persistent headaches to last another couple of weeks. The migraines might recur over a longer period, but wouldn’t be quite as debilitating as they had been. He was due to go before the army medical board in a week’s time and he hoped that they were going to discharge him. He was still unable to drive, so Jem had offered him a lift. |
Jack was sitting up in bed when Jo came into the room with a drink for them both. She handed him his and put her own on the bedside cabinet before sitting on the bed next to him. Jack noticed her breathing was slightly laboured.
“Are you all right, Jo?”
“Yes. Those stairs are getting harder to climb, that’s all.”
“Try to rest more. I’m sure the girls will happily help out if you’d let them.”
“I can’t keep putting things onto them. They already do more than enough for me.”
“What did Jem say at your last appointment?”
“He reduced my time up back to eight hours with two hours rest after lunch. I’m having monthly X-rays as well.”
“Eight hours? What happened, Jo?”
“A telegram saying you were dead.” Jack could guess the rest.
“So you fled and made yourself worse.”
“I take it he reduced you back to eight hours as a consequence of that?”
“He said it was to stop me from overdoing things and getting too breathless.”
“You’re still overdoing things. Coming up and down those stairs every two minutes isn’t helping. Stay here and keep me company for a while.”
“I have things to get done, though.”
“They can wait. I’m bored of my own company and I want to spend some time alone with you for a change.” Jo sighed. She was tired, but was loath to admit it. Jack suspected this and was determined to try and stop her from getting carried away. He slid down the bed, so he was lying down and held his arms open to her. Jo snuggled down into them, laying her head on his chest. He stroked her hair away from her face tucking it behind her ear. He stayed silent, allowing the warmth and relative dimness of the room to calm her. Eventually, her breathing became more regular and he knew she was sleeping.
As he lay there, with Jo asleep in his arms, he realised that she was unlikely to reach the end of her pregnancy without being re-admitted. He appreciated Jem’s efforts to try and keep her at home as long as possible. He knew he had to get himself back up and about so he could try and reduce the burden of responsibility on her. At least when school started at the end of January, the twins would be boarding and would only come back for odd weekends. Robin and Daisy looked after themselves and provided company for her, so he wasn’t as worried about them being around. Jack closed his eyes and dozed.
When he woke again, Jo had disappeared. He pulled himself upright and saw her curled up in a chair by the fire. She was staring into the flames, not noticing her surroundings. Jack climbed out of bed and went over to where she was sitting. He reached the other chair and collapsed into it. As he placed his hand on her arm, he saw the tearstains on her face.
“Jo? Tell me what’s bothering you.”
“I don’t think I can do this, Jack. I don’t think I can cope with it all. I couldn’t manage to look after Elisaveta and her baby for two days. How am I going to manage to look after this baby as well as you, the twins and Robin and Daisy?”
“Of course you’ll manage, Jo. Robin, Daisy and I don’t need looking after. The twins will be at school most of the time, so that leaves you to concentrate on the baby.”
“They still need support and guidance. They’re only eleven and have been thrust into a completely different world to the one they’ve been used to all their lives. I’ve neglected them woefully as well and I’m supposed to be their guardian.”
“No, you haven’t neglected them. They seem to be two very level-headed little girls who think the world of you. Whilst they’re at school, they’re the responsibility of Hilda and Nell and their form mistress.”
“But I could have helped them more last term. I should have had them home for the weekend more often than I did.”
“They’ll have been happier at school, where they had friends their own age to play with, rather than spending the weekend here. I’m sure you preferred to be with friends than stuck at home with adults, at that age.”
“When I was eleven I spent the best part of the year confined to my bed with various illnesses and ailments.”
“Hmm, yes, maybe you aren’t the best example of a normal eleven year old. I know when Mollie and I were eleven, we much preferred to be outside with our friends than stuck at home with our parents.”
“That still leaves Robin, Daisy and you to look after.”
“I’ve told you, Robin and Daisy and I are capable of looking after ourselves. In fact Robin and Daisy have been doing that for the past couple of years, now. They’re most responsible young ladies and are technically under Jem’s and Madge’s guardianship. They just happen to make their home with us as space is at a premium at the Round House.”
“They still need helping sometimes.”
“Not as much as you think. Robin is eighteen, now and Daisy is sixteen in a couple of months. They’ve both taken on more responsibility and are thriving on it.”
“That still leaves you.”
“I’m also capable of looking after myself.”
“You’ve just come home with your head in bandages and have spent the last two days in bed.”
“I admit that I might not be at my best this minute, but I know it’s only temporary. I’ll be back up and about in the next week or so.”
“You aren’t to go rushing back up, just for me. You’re worse than you’re letting on. I’ll manage somehow. I just have moments when I find everything is getting on top of me and I don’t know how to deal with it.”
“It isn’t just a moment, is it, though? You’ve been bottling everything up and trying to carry on as if nothing’s wrong. I’m home now and I want to help you with the responsibilities you’ve taken on. You’re right, I’m not feeling great at the minute, but I know this constant headache I have is going to recede eventually.”
“It should be me looking after you, not the other way around.”
“Jo, you’re almost eight months pregnant and not in the best of health. You need to stop worrying about other people and concentrate on yourself, now. Stop trying to do everything and rest more. You can’t keep on like you are doing, or you’ll end up collapsing.”
“I just want everything to be perfect.”
“Everything is perfect, Jo. You just have to concentrate on bringing our baby safely into the world and keeping yourself healthy.”
“I’ll try, Jack.”
“Good.” Jack leaned over and drew Jo in for a kiss. A tap came on the door and Jo called out. Flora came shyly into the room bearing a tray.
“Robin thought you’d both like to eat lunch up here.”
“Thank you, Flora, it’s very kind of you to bring it up for us,” Jack smiled as she placed the tray on the dressing table.
“It’s no trouble, Dr Maynard.”
“Dr Jack if you please. I don’t like being so formal when you’re living under the same roof as me.”
“But we’ve only just met you!”
“That makes no difference. You live here as much as I do.” Flora subsided and Jack grinned at her. He liked what he’d seen of the twins so far and was looking forward to getting to know them now he was home.
“Thank Robin for sending the tray up, Flora,” Jo said as she hauled herself out of her chair. The small girl nodded and made her escape. Jo went over to the tray and picked up the plates. Handing one to Jack, she sank back down again and they began to eat in silence. Jack saw that Jo didn’t finish hers, but said nothing. He knew she was still recovering from all that had happened over the past few months and it would take time for her appetite to return to normal. Once they’d finished, Jo replaced the plates and then picked the tray up. Jack stopped her.
“What are you doing, Jo?”
“I’m just going to take the tray back down and see what everyone is up to before I have my rest.”
“You’ll do no such thing. Put the tray back down. Someone will come and fetch it for you.”
“I can’t rely on them to do everything for me. I won’t be long.”
“Jo, did you listen to anything I said earlier?” Jack stood up too quickly and brought about his own undoing as the room began to spin and he dropped to his knees. It stopped Jo in her tracks. She replaced the tray and moved over to him.
“Jack? What’s wrong?” He didn’t answer immediately, which worried Jo even more. “Jack? Please? Speak to me.” Jo placed her hand on his arm. He managed to move his hand to squeeze it, hoping she understood. She stayed holding his hand, until he finally felt safe enough to lift his head. Jo saw the lines on his face and saw he was struggling to fight the pain.
“Come back to bed, Jack.” She moved as if to try and help him stand.
“No, Jo. Give me a few more minutes and I’ll be able to do it. You can’t help me up.” Jo subsided and retreated to the other chair to wait. Jack waited until he was sure the room was no longer spinning before slowly getting to his feet. He swayed slightly, and grabbed the chair for support, sitting in it once more. He realised he’d have to move in stages. He glanced up to see the worry etched on Jo’s face and hastened to try and reassure her.
“I’ll be fine again, soon. I just went dizzy because I stood up too quickly.”
“You’re trying to do too much.”
“I think that’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black, Jo. I stood up to try and stop you doing too much.”
“I suppose it is. You’ve just confirmed that you aren’t as well as you claim to be, though.”
“I’ll manage, Jo. I promise not to rush things. I felt fine until I tried to stop you, so I am improving. Let’s get both of us into bed for some rest for the next couple of hours.”
“Are you sure you can get there?”
“I’m sure. I just need to take it slowly, that’s all.” He managed to stand up and, after steadying himself on the chair, walked back to the bed. Jo watched him. He sat down on the edge of the bed and smiled across at her. “See? Your turn, now.” Jo made her own way across the room and they both climbed into bed.
“I still worry, Jack. I can’t help it after you’ve been on the brink of death.”
“I know. I’m home, though. Hopefully, I won’t be going back to war.”
“I hope not. I don’t think I could let you go again. Not after what happened last time.”
“It’s over, now, Jo. Let’s not think about the past. Let’s look to the future.” They curled up together and the quietness lulled them both to sleep.
Well, this is it, the last chapter of this section. Thank you so much for all your reviews and encouragement along the way. It's so nice to know that people do still want to read this and want more.
Special thanks to MaryR for her proofreading during the first half of this, PaulineS for her patience when I've bombarded her with random questions and Kathryn who I bounced ideas off at random points. There will be more to come, but RL needs to take over for a short while before I start posting it.