|Jack shivered and closed his eyes. He felt as if his head would explode if he moved and even shivering caused the pain to ricochet around. The room was in darkness, save for a sliver of sunlight which slanted through a small chink in the curtains and threw light on the wall above him. He cautiously moved onto his side to face the wall, pulling the blanket up over his head in an attempt to block out the light and wished he could sleep.|
Jem slipped into the room and closed the curtains properly. He saw Jack had finally fallen asleep and he was loath to disturb him unnecessarily. The blanket had slipped from Jack’s head and Jem could see the pain etched across his friend’s face. He wished he could do more for Jack, but, he knew that the influenza needed to take its course. He was aware that Jack had been burning the candle at both ends during the past few weeks, covering shifts for other staff as they succumbed to the epidemic. He’d done double shifts and had very little sleep in between, determined to ensure that the patients continued to get the care they needed. Now, he was paying the price for his efforts and by the looks of it, Jem realised, his migraines had returned in full force as well. Jem checked that the glass of water was full and beside it, he gently placed a small pot containing some tablets. He slipped back out and returned to his office to see what he could do with the rota.
Jem tapped his pen absently against the desk as he looked over the sheets of paper in front of him. Closer scrutiny had shown him just how many names had been crossed out during the epidemic and where Jack had scrawled his own above. Not just on the doctors’ rota, but also on that of the nurses too. Although Jack hadn’t done any of the actual nursing, Jem could see that he’d made a note for those left on duty to call him if they needed help at any time. Sighing to himself, Jem could see that even when he had succumbed to the ‘flu, Jack had covered his clinic to make sure no patients were neglected.
“No wonder the he’s as bad as he is,” Jem said to himself. “I think a week off is in order, as well.” Pushing the previous rotas to one side, he picked up the current week and resolutely crossed out Jack’s name on each shift, before trying to re-arrange the remaining names. After half an hour of furious crossing out and re-writing, he pushed the sheet to one side and began on the next one. When that was also done, he stretched and rose from the desk. He rang for some tea before going into Jack’s office and retrieving the clinic schedule, taking it back to his own desk to look over.
When Jack woke again, the chink of sunlight was no longer in the room. His migraine had ceased to throb quite so much and he found he could move his head without pain as long as he was careful. He managed to prop himself up on one elbow and stretched for the glass of water beside him. His hand brushed a small pot and he heard the faint rattle of tablets. After quenching his thirst, he picked up the pot and peered inside, just about able to make out three tablets in the gloom. Not caring what they were, he swallowed them and picked up the water again, emptying the glass this time before laying back down and staring vacantly at the ceiling. His energy was gone and he knew that even an air raid wouldn’t move him from his current position. He vaguely thought about Jo and that he ought to ring her, but, before he could think any further, his eyelids drooped and oblivion took over once more.
Jem went to look in on Jack during the early evening. He’d delayed ringing Jo until he had to, hoping that he could give her better news of her husband. Although he knew she would be worrying, he was hoping that Stephen was keeping her fully occupied and that she had had little time to fret. He’d rung his wife earlier, informing her of Jack’s indisposition and suggested that it might help if she called in on her sister. Madge had agreed, though she had other commitments that evening, telling Jem that she would call round the following day. Jem saw that Jack had woken at some point during the afternoon since the glass was now empty and the pot was on the floor, where it had dropped after Jack had taken the tablets. Jem picked up the glass and went to refill it, hoping that Jack would keep up his fluid intake. Since he had no idea of what time Jack had taken the tablets, he decided against leaving any more for now, hoping that he would sleep on through the night. He withdrew once more and went back to his office to ring Jo.
Jem listened to the incessant ringing on the line and wondered why Jo wasn’t answering. He was about to put the receiver down when she finally answered. He could tell immediately that she was out of breath.
“Jo? It’s Jem; get your breath back first.”
“Oh, Jem! How is Jack?” He heard Jo attempting to bring her breathing under control and decided to impart his news first before trying to find out why she’d been rushing about.
“He’s sleeping at the moment. He looks better than he did yesterday, though he seems to have a worse dose than the rest of us have had. He’s been covering so many shifts that it’s hit him harder. I’m sure he’ll be back up again in a couple of days once he’s had chance to rest properly. Why are you so out of breath?”
“I was upstairs when you rang. Stephen’s been grumpy all day and I was trying to get him to sleep when you rang. Anna is out, so there was no one else to answer the ‘phone.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realise it was his bedtime, or I would have rung a little later. Is he asleep now?”
“Not yet, I can still hear him.”
“In that case I’ll let you get back to him. I’ll ring at a different time tomorrow.”
“Thanks for ringing me with news. I have to go. Bye, Jem.” Jem heard Stephen’s cries becoming more incessant in the background as Jo slammed the phone down. He turned back to his desk and hoped that Stephen wasn’t starting with influenza as well.
Jo ran back upstairs and had her hands full for the next hour with Stephen, who was hot and fractious. Wishing heartily that Jack wasn’t indisposed and Jem wasn’t at the Sanatorium, she concentrated on attempting to calm him down enough to sleep. Eventually, his eyes closed through sheer exhaustion and Jo was able to lay him gently in his cot. She was worried by his temperature and gently put her finger in his mouth to see if she could feel any teeth. On feeling nothing she gave up and turned out the lamp, leaving him to sleep. She went downstairs to turn the kettle on and found Anna at the kitchen table with her head in her hands.
“Anna? What’s wrong?”
“I feel so tired and have no energy.” Anna looked up and Jo could see that she looked pale and drawn.
“Go on up to bed, Anna. I’ll make you some tea.” She turned the ring on underneath the kettle and then gave Anna a hand up to her room, helping her to undress and into bed. Returning to the kitchen, she made two mugs of tea, and ensured the house was locked up before taking them upstairs. Depositing one in her own room, Jo took the other one upstairs and handed it to Anna, telling her to stay where she was in the morning if she still felt ill.
Jo was soon tucked up in her own bed and sleeping. She had the feeling it was going to be a long night and she ought to rest while she had the chance. Anna was obviously poorly but, it was Stephen who worried her most. Knowing that she had to deal with him alone, she needed to ensure she had the energy she required as she had the feeling her night would be broken by him.
She wasn’t wrong.
Author's Chapter Notes:
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