|It was a Wednesday morning and Josette had been deposited at Jo’s for the morning. She was generally a good little girl, happy to play with her dolls and listen to the endless stories Auntie Jo could produce. This morning, it was raining outside, so they had been obliged to stay in the lounge. Stephen was playing on his rug and Josette had created an imaginary land nearby from some old boxes. Jo had left them alone for a few minutes whilst she made a pot of tea for herself and Jack, who was busy in the study. |
It was as Jo entered the room bearing the tray that disaster struck. Josette had rearranged her boxes on the floor right in front of the coffee table. Jo didn’t spot them until it was too late and she tripped over a stray box. Unable to keep her footing, she dropped the tray she was carrying, complete with the teapot and china. Her scream as she fell brought both Jack and Anna onto the scene in short order. Even as Jo’s scream faded, two more screams were heard and Jack leapt across the room to see both Stephen and Josette covered in boiling hot tea. He picked Stephen up and demanded that Anna bring Josette along to the bathroom immediately.
Once there, Jack started to fill the bath with cold water. Whilst the bath was filling, the children were both quickly stripped and plunged into the bath. He could already see the skin on his son beginning to blister, though Josette seemed to have escaped more lightly having been to one side of Jo when she tripped.
“Anna, ring Jem and tell him to come immediately. Bring my bag from the study and then I want you to stay with Jo. If she’s hurt, take her into the kitchen and Jem must deal with her when he arrives. I don’t want her to come upstairs.” Anna nodded mutely and went to do his bidding, whilst Jack concentrated on trying to calm Josette and his son. He was worried by the incessant screaming and hoped that help would arrive soon.
Jem arrived in short order, slamming the front door after him. He was about to bound up the stairs, from where the sound of the screams was emanating, when he caught sight of Jo. She was white and shaking and he saw she was in shock. Abandoning his first instinct he took her arm and escorted her to a chair in the kitchen. Sending Anna for a blanket, he sat Jo down and checked her over. She was slightly bruised, but, otherwise had come off relatively unscathed. Wrapping her firmly in the blanket Anna brought, he told her to stay where she and requested Anna to stay with her before running upstairs.
Here, he found a different story. Jack had managed to calm Josette and she finally ceased to cry, though the mark on her leg was still red and angry. Stephen was another matter altogether. Kneeling down beside Jack, he gently took the baby from him. Jack reluctantly relinquished his son and turned to help Josette out of the bath. Wrapping a towel around her, he took her into the bedroom where he carefully dried and dressed her leg, before cuddling her to him. Josette soon fell asleep in her uncle’s arms and Jack was still in the same position when Jem came into the room with Stephen. His cries had turned to whimpers now and Jem gently bandaged up the small boy as quickly as he could.
“We need to get him to the Sanatorium. He needs to be where we have better facilities. Take Josette and put her to bed. Anna can sit with her until Madge arrives.” Jack obeyed, tucking the small girl into Robin’s bed and returning in time to see Jem walking towards the stairs, Stephen in his arms. Jack followed him downstairs and out to the car, where he dropped into the passenger seat and took his son from Jem. Jem returned to the cottage to retrieve his bag and request Anna to sit with Josette until Madge arrived. He was about to close the door when Jo stopped him.
“Wait! I’m coming, too.”
“No, Jo. You need to go to bed and rest. You’ve just had a shock.”
“No. I need to be with my son.” Jo paused long enough to change her shoes and pick up her bag before stalking straight past Jem and out to the car. Jem followed her. He needed to get Stephen to the Sanatorium quickly and arguing with Jo would only delay them. He climbed in behind the wheel and started the engine as Jo climbed in the back.
The journey there was silent, with the exception of the whimpers coming from Stephen. Jem drove as fast as he possibly could, reaching his destination in record time. He parked anyhow in front of the entrance and jumped out, taking Stephen from Jack and going straight indoors. Jack was left to deal with Jo and lock the car before escorting his wife through corridors to the burns unit. Jo was breathless and tired by the time they reached the unit and Jack made her sit down and rest whilst he went to find out what was happening.
When he returned he sat down in the chair beside Jo and pulled her in to him. He just held her as she began to cry, knowing she needed the release.
“It was an accident, Jo. It could have happened to anyone.”
“It didn’t, though. It happened to me. I’ve just nearly killed my own child and hurt Josette as well. How can anyone trust me to do anything again?”
“Shhh, Jo. Of course people will trust you. I trust you. Stephen will be all right, as will Josette. Jem and the other doctors will take good care of him.” Jack held her closely, stroking her hair. She was still in shock and her incoherent words were the result. As desperate as he was to know what was happening with Stephen, he knew that he needed to calm and reassure his wife. She was blaming herself for what had happened and he needed to ensure she understood that she wasn’t at fault.
Jack and Jo were kept waiting for an hour before Jem returned to them. He didn’t smile when he reached them, though he sat in the vacant chair on the other side of Jo. Jo just looked mutely at him, her eyes full of unshed tears.
“He’s not out of the woods, yet. We’ve stabilised him and he’s been sedated to help with the pain.”
“I want to see him.”
“I don’t know, Jo. I don’t want him being disturbed.”
“He’s my son, Jem. I need to see him.” Jo stood up and walked determinedly towards the door. Jem reluctantly rose and went after her, Jack following. Jem led them to a small room with a cot inside. A nurse was sitting nearby, but, she rose and left the room as they entered.
Stephen was lying in a cot, his tiny body covered in bandages and tubes surrounding him. Jo crossed the room and dropped into the chair the nurse had just vacated. She laid her hand across the top of his head, stroking her thumb gently on his forehead. Jem slipped out of the door as Jack went to Jo’s side and crouched beside her. He knew they needed to be alone with their son.
Jem crossed to the nearest office and picked up the telephone. He needed to speak to Madge, relieved that Josette was relatively unscathed compared to her cousin. He still had no idea of exactly what had happened, but, he hoped that it didn’t end in tragedy.
When Jem returned to Stephen’s hospital room an hour later, he found Jack pacing up and down outside and no sign of Jo.
“What’s happened? Where’s Jo?” Jem asked as Jack almost bumped into him.
“She refuses to leave Stephen.”
“Let me try.” Jack nodded and Jem entered the room to see Jo still in the same position as when he’d left.
“Jo? Come, you need to rest as well.”
“No. I’m not leaving him.” Jo spoke quietly, determination in her voice.
“He doesn’t know you’re here, Jo. He’s been sedated to stop the pain”
“No. What if I leave him and he gets worse? He’s my child. I brought him into the world and I couldn’t live with myself if I wasn’t here and that happened. I’ll rest as much as you like afterwards, but I’m not leaving him now.” Jem sighed. Jo in this mood was impossible to deal with. He turned and left Jo alone with Stephen.
“It’s no use, Jack. She’s not going to leave him regardless of what we say. She’s feeling guilty at what’s happened and is terrified that if she leaves, something will happen to him.” It was Jack’s turn to sigh as Jem continued, “Don’t worry about work. We’ll cover your shifts. Concentrate on Stephen and Jo for now. They’re more important.”
“Thanks, Jem. I’m sorry Josette got caught as well.”
“She’ll be fine. She’s a strong girl and wasn’t as badly hurt as Stephen. She’ll be back on her feet in no time.” Jack nodded and walked back to the room. Jem stayed where he was and watched him go; glad he wasn’t in the position of his friend.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Many thanks for all your lovely reviews.
Thanks to PaulineS for reading this section & checking my facts for me. *desposits update & skedaddles*