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Author's Chapter Notes:

Thanks for the lovely reviews.  :-D

A week later, Jo was sitting in the lounge when she heard the letterbox rattle. She was engrossed in her book, so paid little heed to it, thinking she would pick the post up next time she got up from the chair. It was an hour later when she finally stood up to go and make herself a drink. She picked up the post to sort as she went past, placing it on the kitchen table whilst she turned the kettle on. Sitting down at the table, she began to sort through it, making piles for each of them, when a letter addressed to Jack caught her eye. She recognised the envelope as being the same as when he had been called up the first time. With shaking hands, she placed it on his pile and tried to continue sorting, but was incapable of doing so. She couldn’t remove the sight of that envelope from her mind. Her imagination began to run away with her and she knew she needed to get out of the house. The whistling of the kettle pierced her thoughts and she automatically turned the ring off below it. She quickly put on her shoes and coat and set off towards the fields, not caring about anything other than getting the image of that envelope out of her head.

When Jack returned home from work three hours later, he found the house to be empty. A cursory look in each room and round the garden, confirmed his fears. Jo was missing and he had no idea why. Going into the kitchen to see if she had left him a note on the table, he saw the half-sorted post and on top of one pile was the fateful envelope. Recognising it, Jack snatched it up and tore it open to see his recall papers. He dropped them onto the table and grabbed his coat. He had to find Jo.

Setting off towards the wheat field, he hoped she was all right. Sometimes, he wished he could just shake her irrationality out of her, but he knew it was impossible. He couldn’t hide her from everything in life. He just wished that he could find some way of helping her to cope. As he turned into the field, he saw her huddled in the edge, her head on her knees. He crossed to the corner and knelt beside her, enveloping her in his arms. He could feel her shaking.

“Jo? How long have you been here?”

A slight shrug of her shoulders was the only reply. Jack sighed. It was a cool day for July, and he knew she had no reserve strength to cope with any more illness.

“Let’s go home. It’s not warm enough for you to stay here any longer.” He pulled back and waited for Jo to lift her head. When she finally did so, he could see the worry already etched across her face, as well as the tearstains. Inwardly cursing the war for taking him away from her when she was vulnerable and in need of his love and assurance, he helped her to her feet and, with his arm firmly around her waist, he turned them in the direction of home.

He was practically carrying Jo when they reached their cottage. He took her straight upstairs and tucked her up in bed, along with a couple of hot water bottles to be on the safe side. When he returned with a cup of tea, he found her curled up, but awake. When she saw him enter, a steaming mug of tea in each hand, fresh tears sprang to her eyes. Jack put the mugs down and lay down on the bed with her. He pulled her into his arms and she curled into him, laying her head on his chest. They lay quietly for a short while, Jo drawing comfort from him. Jack broke the silence.

“I take it you worked out what that letter was, Jo?" She nodded.

“How long?”

“I have two weeks before I have to go.”

“Where are they sending you?”

“Somewhere to the East. That’s all I know.” He felt Jo shaking as her tears fell, soaking his shirt. He stroked her hair off her face. “Please don’t cry, Jo. It isn’t helping you or the baby.” He continued as Jo made a valiant effort to check her sobs. “We knew it might happen, especially after the attack on Pearl Harbor. We have to put on a brave face and deal with the separation, again. I know it’s not going to be easy for you, but Madge and Jem are still here to support you, and there’s Robin and Daisy, too. They all want to help you if you’ll let them. I need to be able to go without worrying that you’re ill. You’re carrying our child, now, and you and our baby are the two most important people in my world.”

“You can’t expect me to just not worry, Jack. You’re going back to war and I don’t know how long it might be until I next see you. Or even if I’ll see you again. You’re my world, too, you know. When you aren’t here, it’s as if part of me is missing.”

“I know. I wish I didn’t have to go, but we both know it’s necessary.” Jo drew in a shuddering breath and Jack held her close, listening to her trying to bring her breathing back under control. He could tell that she’d had enough, both physically and mentally. He also suspected that she hadn’t eaten all day, either.

“When did you last eat something, Jo?”

“I had a biscuit about ten o’clock, I think.”

“You should eat something. I’ll go and see what I can rustle up.” Jo reluctantly rolled back to her own side of the bed and allowed Jack to get up. He bent over to kiss her before departing to the kitchen. When she was alone, Jo curled back into a ball and closed her eyes, forlornly hoping the thoughts swirling around her head would go away.

She was still in the same position when Jack came back with a sandwich for her. He looked down at her, concern on his face.

“Sit up, Jo and eat this.”

“I’m not hungry, Jack.”

“You have to eat, Jo. The baby needs the food as much as you do.” Jo opened her eyes and rolled onto her back. She saw that Jack wasn’t intending to move until he’d seen her eat something. Sighing, she sat up and took the plate from him. “Eat all of it, as well. I want to see an empty plate when I come back.” He departed to make them another drink each and to speak to Robin and Daisy who had just arrived home. When he returned, Jo had managed to choke down half of the sandwich, but couldn’t face any more. Jack just moved the plate to the side without comment before sitting back on the bed with her.

“Tell me what’s worrying you, Jo.”

“I’m not sure I can.”

“Please don’t push me away. I can’t help you if you won’t tell me”

“I’m scared of what’s going to happen to you. What if you’re captured? Or hurt? Or even killed?”

“Jo, we have to trust in God to take care of me. I hope it doesn’t happen but, if it should, you still have family to help take care of you. You’re borrowing trouble, thinking like this.”

“I can’t stop them, though. They’re crowding into my head and pushing everything else out.”

“If Jem finds you in this state when I’ve gone, you know what’ll happen. He won’t hesitate, either. He wants you to be well and fit enough to have the baby. You won’t just be re-admitted, you’ll be on complete bed-rest again, until he thinks you’re well enough to cope.” The look of pure horror in Jo’s eyes as he said this made Jack wonder if he’d said the right thing. He knew he had to pull her out of the cycle of thoughts going through her head, but he could see no other option. He needed Jo to grasp the implications of what might happen. He knew he would never be able to send her back to the Sanatorium, unless he had no other choice, nor did he want to be put in that position. He disliked it when he had to make her eat something or stay in bed and rest, even when he knew it was for her health. He felt safe in his assumption that Jem would have no such qualms.

“Oh, Jack! No!”

“Shhh, darling. I know it’s harsh of me to say that, but you need to be aware of what could happen if you continue in this current train of thought. You need to think of good things to keep you going, and maybe pick your writing back up to occupy the time again. You’ve barely done any since I came back home. It’s been therapeutic for you before, so it might work again.”

“Maybe.” Jo sounded dubious.

“Look how it helped with those nightmares. You only get them very rarely, now. You even cope with air raids without much problem. Writing occupies your mind and gives you the chance to work through the problems.”

“That’s true, I suppose. Do you think it would work, though?”

“I’m sure it will. Look, stay in bed for the rest of today, and tomorrow, once the sickness has passed, go and have a try. If it works, all’s well and good. If not, then we’ll have to see if we can find another solution.”

“Okay.” Jo yawned, tiredness catching up with her, now Jack had offered her a solution and comfort.

“Lie down and get some sleep. I’ll bring you some dinner up when it’s ready.” He pulled the pillows out from behind her and she snuggled back under the covers. Jack kissed her and lay down next to her until she should doze off.

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