|Before Jo realised, she was saying goodbye to Daisy, Flora and Fiona as they began a new term. A week later, Robin went back to Oxford and the family was back down to the three of them and Anna once more. The weather had turned decidedly wintery and Jo was thankful for the warmth of the fire in the lounge during the day. Jack was busy at the Sanatorium and she barely saw him between shifts since they were short-staffed, thanks to an outbreak of influenza in the doctors and nursing staff. Luckily, Jack had managed to avoid catching it so far.|
Jo was busy tidying the lounge one morning when the telephone rang. She replaced the ornament she was holding and went to answer it. She wasn’t expecting anyone to ring, so she was surprised to hear Jack’s voice on the other end of the line.
“Jo? It’s me. Could you do me a favour?”
“Of course. What is it?”
“I want you to pack a few things for me to have here at the Sanatorium. I seem to be starting with a cold and I’m not going to bring any infection near you or Stephen.”
“Jo, you know you can’t afford to catch any sort of cold and I don’t want to risk… Atishoo!”
“Jack?” Jo heard rustling on the other end of the line before Jack’s voice returned.
“Sorry, darling. I’m still here. Look, please pack me enough clothes to last for the next week. Jem will call in and collect them for me. I don’t want you to be worrying, either. I’ll ring every day, but I don’t want you coming anywhere near until this epidemic has run its course.”
“What about my appointment on Friday?”
“It’s only X-rays this month isn’t it?”
“I’ll speak to Jem and rearrange it for you. I need to go, Jo. Someone is calling for me. Pack that bag and have it ready for Jem when he calls round. I’ll ring you tomorrow. I love you.” He replaced the receiver before Jo had time to reply and she found herself listening to the dialling tone. Slowly, she returned her receiver to its cradle and walked over to the lounge to warm back up by the fire. She shivered slightly; as if she felt something was going to happen which she had no way of preventing. Only once she felt warm enough, did she make her way upstairs to the bedroom and pull out a bag to begin packing some things for Jack. She knew she had to do it now since she had no idea when Jem would turn up. Once she had finished, she took it downstairs and left it by the front door, before returning to collect Stephen who had just woken from his nap.
Jo bent her energy into entertaining Stephen that afternoon, hoping that it would keep the worry at bay. She knew that looking after him was her main priority and that he wouldn’t understand if she neglected him. It was the best thing she could do since Stephen decided that today should be the day when he walked unaided for the first time. With much encouragement from Jo, he managed to walk across the room just as Jem entered, Anna having let him into the house. When Jo clapped, Jem joined in and Stephen set off towards his uncle now he had another target. Jem crouched down and caught him as he tripped over, picking his nephew up in his arms.
“Well done, Stephen!” Feeling in his pocket, Jem produced a penny and handed it to the small boy. “I think all that walking deserves a reward. Make sure you put it in your money box.”
“Ta!” Stephen announced as he clutched the penny tightly in his hand. Jo crossed the room and picked up a piggy bank from a shelf.
“Here you are, Stephen. Put it in here, where it’ll be safe.” She watched as he proudly dropped the coin in with a clatter, and then returned it to the shelf once more. Jem put his nephew back on the floor near his toys and turned to greet Jo properly.
“How are you, Jo?”
“Fine, thank you. How is Jack?”
“I have no idea. I haven’t seen him since he took over this morning. All I’ve heard is the same as you so far.”
“He’ll be okay, won’t he?”
“Of course he will. He’s just being cautious as none of us want you to catch cold. Hopefully, that’s all it is, but, if he does end up with the ‘flu, then there’s nothing we can do about it, I’m afraid. He’s bound to be susceptible since he’s been working all hours to cover for everyone else. It’s not so bad an epidemic as the one a few years ago, so he’ll be back up and about within a few days.”
“I can’t help worrying, Jem.”
“I know, Jo. Don’t let your imagination go into overdrive. You concentrate on looking after yourself and Stephen. You’re more than likely going to have your hands full with him now he’s discovered how to walk unaided.”
“That’s all we ever ask. Now, I really ought to get on since I need to take over from Jack and let him get some well-deserved sleep. I’ll ask him to ring you once he’s finished his shift.”
“Thank you. The bag’s by the door.” Jo turned to cross the room, but Jem stopped her.
“I’ll find it, Jo. You stay here in the warmth with Stephen. I’ll see you soon.” He kissed Jo and then left the room. Jo stood in the middle of the hearth rug debating what she should do, when she felt a pair of arms wrap themselves around her leg. Looking down, she smiled at Stephen and made her decision.
“Shall we go and show Anna how clever you are and see if your dinner is ready?” Stephen nodded and Jo held out her hand to him. He grabbed it and, together they went over to the kitchen to show Anna Stephen’s latest accomplishment.
When the telephone rang again two hours later, it was Jem on the other end.
“I though Jack was going to ring me, Jem. What’s happened?” Jem heard the panic rising in Jo’s voice and hastened to reassure her.
“I’m afraid Jack’s cold is the ‘flu, Jo. I’ve sent him off to bed in the staff quarters with strict instructions to stay there for the next three days, at least. He’s going to be fine.”
“Are you sure? I don’t like not being able to check for myself.”
“I know, Jo. He wanted to ring you himself, but I promised I’d speak to you. He sends his love and asked me to tell you that he’ll ring as soon as he’s back up and about.”
“Please look after him for me, Jem.”
“Of course I will. I’ve cancelled your appointment on Friday and rearranged it for a fortnight later. Jack is the last to go down so, hopefully, we’ll be free of infection by then.”
“Have you had it?”
“Yes. I had it the other week, which is why I know that Jack will be fine.”
“Madge never mentioned it when I spoke to her.”
“Didn’t she? I thought she would have done. I was only really ill for the first twenty-four hours, but drained for the next two days, hence why I’m sure he’ll be back up and about again in a few days.” Jem refrained from mentioning that Jack looked worse than he had felt and that his friend had admitted to fighting a migraine at the same time. He knew that Jo would only worry all the more if she were told everything.
Author's Chapter Notes:
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