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Two weeks after Jack had returned home, he was beginning to feel more like himself again. The constant headache he’d had since recovering consciousness was almost gone, though he knew he would have to be careful he didn’t overdo things. Reading or listening to the radio for prolonged periods was still out, since his headache returned when he tried, but he was finding that as long as he took things slowly, he was managing. Since his conversation with Jo two days after he had arrived home, he had made sure that she spent most of her time keeping him company. He could see that she was still worrying about how she would manage once the baby was born and he wanted to be able to reassure her. As soon as he had felt able to, he had got himself out of bed and begun to spend time downstairs each day. He kept the same hours as Jo, knowing that he still needed to rest if he wanted to be able to return to work. He had been thankful to have been invalided out of the military, though it meant they had little income until he started back at the Sanatorium.

Jack had had a long conversation with Jem about returning to work and knew that he would be unwelcome until he was able to do his job properly. Jem had also spoken quite frankly to him about Jo and he was well aware that she was struggling with her pregnancy and her illness on top. Jem wanted him to make sure she rested as much as possible.

Jo was finding things more difficult now. Even walking through the house was making her breathless, though she tried to hide it from everyone. Jack wasn’t fooled, though. He knew the time had come to talk to her about the possibility of being re-admitted. Jem wasn’t going to be able to put it off any longer when she next went for X-rays. Her appointment was in a couple of days and he suspected that Jem would only allow her to stay at home until the girls had started school on Thursday.

Jack picked up the tea he had just made and took it into the lounge, where Jo was sitting on the sofa. The girls had gone over to the Round house for the day, so they were alone.

“Here, Jo.” He passed her a cup and sat down next to her with his own cup.

“Thanks.” Jo was silent again and Jack drank his tea as he decided how to broach the subject. As he sat there, Jo suddenly spoke.

“Jem’s going to re-admit me isn’t he?”

“It’s quite likely. You’re struggling to even walk across the room without getting breathless, now.”

“I don’t want to go back, Jack. I’d rather stay here with you. I’ve only just got you back and I don’t want to be separated from you again.”

“I know, but you need to be on complete bedrest so that you have some strength for the birth. If you stay here, you won’t have the energy to manage it.” Jack gently brushed a tear from Jo’s cheek with his thumb. “I don’t want us to be separated again, either, but I’m afraid it’s necessary. It won’t be like the first time you were admitted. You’ll be able to have visitors each day and I’ll make sure I come as often as I can.”

“Why can’t I just stay here?”

“It’s better to be where you can be looked after properly by trained nurses. It’s only for a couple of months as Jem will want to check your progress after the baby is born.” Tears slid down Jo’s cheeks as the reality sank in. Jack pulled her close, allowing her to cry for a short while. It hurt him to see her so upset, even when he knew it was the best thing for both her and the baby. When the tears threatened to get out of control, he pulled back to look at her.

“Please stop crying, Jo. I hoped you’d make it through without having to be re-admitted, but it’s looking very unlikely. I don’t think my being swept overboard helped you stay well, either.”

“It wasn’t your fault. You were just doing your job. I brought some of it on myself before that telegram arrived. I always do stupid things, even when I don’t mean to.”

“That’s not true. Yes, you’re impulsive but, your heart’s always in the right place. I wouldn’t change you, either. It’s what makes you so unique and why I knew I wanted to marry you before you were even aware of it.” He saw a faint smile cross Jo’s face, but it was soon gone. He wished he could bring back the old, impulsive Jo. This Jo was unhappy and finding things hard to deal with. He hoped that once the baby was born and they’d settled into a routine, he’d have chance to see more of the old Jo again.

“But I must have hurt you any number of times. Especially that summer when…” Jo paused, unable to express what she wanted to say. Jack understood her meaning.

“You did. I was confused. You pushed me away, built up barriers and refused to do anything with me, which was strange, especially as I thought you considered me a friend at the very least. Looking back, I can see why you did it, now. You were scared and trying to hide what was obviously the beginnings of your illness.”

“It wasn’t just you I pushed away that summer. I hid from pretty much everyone. Even Frieda, and she’s one of my closest friends. I discovered writing that book was a good excuse and used it to stay out of everyone’s way as much as possible.”

“I did wonder if there was a reason behind it. Everyone I spoke to said you were distant and you were busy with your book. You even managed to fool Jem and Madge.”

“I didn’t see much of Jem at all that summer. He was often out and it was easy to avoid him when he was home. I managed to avoid Madge quite often as well. She was busy with all the children and Robin and Daisy, so didn’t have much time to spend with me.”

“Jem was upset that you’d said nothing. He couldn’t understand how none of us had noticed anything. It was only as we pieced things together that we realised you had avoided everyone.”

“You must still have felt hurt that I’d done it.”

“I did, until I worked out why. Then I saw you in that bed and how upset you were. I knew I couldn’t be angry with you. You needed a friend and someone who would listen to your fears without judging you.”

“I was so scared. I thought I was going to die. I’m still scared. What if it’s back and it kills me this time?” Tears trickled down her cheeks as she finally confessed her deepest fear. Jack just pulled her close. He hadn’t appreciated that she was so afraid. Looking back, he realised that it had been the same each time she’d ended up in the Sanatorium. He silently berated himself for not picking up on her fear and reassuring her.

“Shhh, Jo. Jem’s been extra vigilant with you to try to stop it coming back. The main reason you’re so breathless is because the baby is pushing up into your chest. You have a reduced lung capacity because of the pneumothorax and the two combined are what’s causing the breathlessness at the moment.”

“Are you sure?”

“I am. It’s going to be all right, Jo. Bedrest is a precaution to stop you making yourself any worse. Other women get put on bedrest towards the end of their pregnancy to help them gain the strength they need for the birth.” Jo looked unconvinced and Jack saw that she was tired. Glancing at the clock, he saw that it was almost lunchtime. “Let’s have some lunch and then we’ll go upstairs.”

Jo ate very little of the sandwich Jack brought in for her and he was worried. He hoped she would sleep once they were back in the bedroom. She had dark circles under her eyes and seemed even paler than normal. He knew she was struggling to get comfortable in bed and that she wasn’t sleeping very well due to her pregnancy. There was little he could do to help until after the baby was born. He made sure she was as comfortable as possible before climbing in beside her. Jack was soon sleeping, his arm across Jo.



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