Continuation of Jack's life after Jo's death on the trek out of Austria.
Ste Therese's House Characters:
Gisela (Marani) Mensch, Gottfried Mensch, Jack Maynard, Jem Russell, OC
Alternate Universe, Angst, Friendship
12 Mar 2017 Updated:
10 Sep 2017
This follows on immediately after Jack's War.
1. March 1957, Part I by Vick
2. March 1957, Part II by Vick
3. March 1957, Part III by Vick
4. July 1957 by Vick
5. December 1957 by Vick
6. February 1958 by Vick
7. April 1958 by Vick
8. June 1958, Part I by Vick
9. June 1958, Part II by Vick
10. June 1958, Part III by Vick
11. July 1958, Part I by Vick
12. July 1958, Part II by Vick
13. September 1958, Part I by Vick
14. September 1958, Part II by Vick
15. November 1958, Part I by Vick
16. November 1958, Part II by Vick
17. February 1959 by Vick
18. April 1959, Part I by Vick
19. April 1959, Part II by Vick
20. June 1959 by Vick
21. August 1959, Part I by Vick
22. August 1959, Part II by Vick
23. August 1959, Part III by Vick
March 1957, Part I by Vick
So, after a 2 year hiatus, Angstabunny finally returned to finish this story. Apologies in advance for any inaccuracies, melodrama and general angst which is about to occur....
Jack walked slowly along the corridor towards Dr Mensch’s office. He was deep in thought and paying no attention to his surroundings. His thoughts had taken him into the realms of ‘what if?’ What if Jo had survived? Would they be living out here in Switzerland? Would he have become head of the Sanatorium he was currently walking through? He knew he had refused to come out to Switzerland and Jem had handed the post of head of the Swiss Sanatorium to Gottfried Mensch. Jack wasn’t jealous of his friend and colleague, but, he realised it was a slight regret in his life. As much as he enjoyed the challenges of his job, he found that he was no longer excited by them. This dawned on him as reached his colleague’s door and knocked. A voice was heard inviting him in and he had to enter, his thoughts still half formed.
“Jack! Take a seat and I’ll ring for coffee.” Gottfried smiled as Jack entered. Jack dropped onto the sofa in the corner of the room and looked around as his friend rang for refreshments. Would this have been his office? He shook his head to clear his thoughts and concentrated on the conversation between Gottfried and one of the other doctors who worked with him. Jack couldn’t remember his name, though he knew he’d been introduced.
Just after the refreshments had arrived, Jem appeared, accompanied by Matron Graves. She smiled around the room before taking a seat next to Jack. He returned her smile and attempted to pay attention to the conversation going on around him. Jem glanced across at him as they talked on a couple of occasions and, noting his faraway expression, wondered what was going through his mind.
Once the meeting dispersed, Jack collected his coat and hat walked back towards the main entrance. He wanted some fresh air after the stuffiness of the office. Following a path to the left of the building, Jack found himself overlooking a vista of mountains stretching endlessly before him. He saw a bench not far from where he was standing and moved across to sit down. He had the feeling someone was watching him, but, there was no one else in view. As he sat there, watching the sunset, someone joined him on the bench.
“You’ve been distant all afternoon, Jack.” Jack turned his head in surprise.
“Jem! I didn’t expect to see you out here.” Jack regained his composure as Jem made himself comfortable, pulling his hat further down on his head.
“I came to see where you were since we’re meant to be meeting some of the board in a couple of days. That’s what we were discussing in Gottfried’s office.”
“Oh. Sorry, I wasn’t paying much attention. Did you want me to speak?”
“Yes. I need you to be the representative for the English branch.”
“I can manage that. Why aren’t you the representative, though? It’s your company after all.”
“That’s why. It’s my company and the board have requested someone else to represent the English branch. You’re here and are the ideal candidate. You know as much as I do, if not more, since I don’t have time to be on the ground there anymore.”
“I can only really speak from my own department. I know a little about the others, but not everything.”
“I know. I have reports from the other department heads, so you might like to have a look through them before the meeting. This was all arranged while you were away, so I couldn’t let you have them in advance.”
“When is the meeting?”
“It’s at three o’clock on Thursday. I’ll give you them now, if you like?”
“Thanks. It’ll give me time to prepare some notes. Is there a spare office I can borrow to look over them?”
“I’m sure Gottfried will find you one somewhere. The notes are in his office at the moment.” Jem rose and Jack reluctantly followed him back inside. The notes were retrieved and Gottfried showed Jack an empty office he could use. Thanking them, Jack dropped the notes onto the desk along with the pen and notebook he’d also borrowed. Once he was alone, he made himself comfortable and began to look through the reports.
Gottfried found him in the same position three hours later.
“Abendessen will be ready in an hour, Jack. We need to set off for home in a few minutes.” Jack just nodded absently as Gottfried withdrew to collect his own things. He joined Jem in the corridor and they made their way towards the entrance to wait for Jack. When he hadn’t appeared fifteen minutes later, Jem turned to Gottfried.
“You did tell him we needed to leave, didn’t you?”
“Yes. He nodded in reply.” Jem sighed.
“He won’t have heard you. I’ll go and fetch him, otherwise he’ll be here all night.” Jem set off back along the corridor and turned into the office Jack had borrowed. He crossed the room and casually removed the pen from Jack’s hand. Jack looked up in surprise.
“Come on, Jack. We’ve been waiting for you for fifteen minutes. We’ll be late for Abendessen if you don’t come now. This can wait until tomorrow morning.”
“You haven’t given me much time to look at them, though. I’m only part way through the first one and I already have a page of questions.”
“I’ll answer them tomorrow. Right now, I’m hungry and Gisela will be upset if we aren’t on time.” Jem passed Jack his coat and ushered him out of the office before he had chance to protest any further. He knew that Jack was still reticent when it came to the social side of his life. Jem generally had to persuade him to come to dinner at his own home, even now. He wondered if the fact that they were staying with Gottfried and Gisela was something with which Jack was struggling. He had been quiet most evenings and was generally the first to depart to bed. Casting a sidelong glance at his friend as they walked towards the main entrance, Jem saw he looked pale and tired. He was reminded of the time when Jack had first returned to work at the Sanatorium. He wondered if Jack was sleeping, or if he was battling another bout of insomnia. He knew he couldn’t question Jack directly as he would be rebuffed out of hand. Jem decided to shelve the matter for now and see what transpired.
Once they had all eaten and were comfortably sitting in the Salon, Jack slowly sipped his whisky and wondered how quickly he could excuse himself from everyone. He longed to be somewhere alone. He had spent the past nineteen years alone. The one person he had loved was dead and he knew he wouldn’t love again. He had no heart to give to another. He quickly downed the rest of the contents of his glass before standing up. The memory of Jo was too close to the surface this evening.
As Jack thanked Gisela for the lovely meal and said his goodnights, Jem watched him go without comment. He knew that Jack had just been on a trip to his recent past and that he was probably patching up wounds he hadn’t realised he had opened until now.
March 1957, Part II by Vick
Many thanks for your kind reviews, welcoming this back. :-D
Jem was woken by a slight sound in the next room. Glancing at the clock, he saw that it was half past four in the morning. He heard the sound again and realised it was coming from Jack’s room. Rising quietly, Jem slipped into the corridor and saw a chink of light underneath the door. Out here, he could clearly hear Jack pacing up and down the length of the room. He wondered whether to go in, but, decided against it, suspecting that Jack wouldn’t appreciate his intrusion. He returned silently to his room and was soon sleeping once more.
Jack was pacing about in an effort to tire himself into oblivion. The thoughts which had surfaced during the afternoon were continuing to haunt him and he wished there was a way he could escape them. He never heard Jem’s door softly open and close, so deep in his despair was he. Eventually, he picked up his coat and crept downstairs, exiting the chalet by the front door.
The moon was high in the sky and Jack could see his way quite clearly once his eyes had adjusted to the dimness of the night. He walked down the drive and turned along the road which followed the edge of the Görnetz Platz. He walked quickly in the chill air, not wishing to stop as that would allow his thoughts back in and he wanted to avoid them. He soon reached the railway and noted a small path going down alongside the tracks. He decided to follow it and see where it led. The dawn was approaching rapidly now and Jack could see the way much more clearly.
The path led downhill for a short while before turning sharply left and along the edge of a smaller shelf below where the Sanatorium was situated. Jack continued along until the path forked. He woke up to the fact that he had no exact idea of where he was and that he may end up lost if he continued in the aimless way he was currently walking. He sat down on a convenient boulder to stop himself and to regain his breath as he hadn’t realised quite how tired he was. The lack of sleep was beginning to catch up with him.
Footsteps approached Jack from behind as he looked out at the vista before him. A young man came past walking with an air of purpose. He looked curiously at Jack perched on the boulder and raised his hat in salutation, wishing him “Grüezi” as he passed by. Jack automatically replied and then looked after him, a small frown on his face. The features had looked vaguely familiar in the half-light. Shaking his head, Jack decided he must be imagining things. He rose and turned back the way he had come, walking more slowly this time.
When he reached the station, Jack turned towards the Sanatorium. It was still early but, he knew that those notes in the spare office needed his attention. He could spend an hour at them and then return in time for breakfast.
Three hours later, Jem peered through the glass on the door of the small office to see Jack engrossed in the reports from the English branch of the Sanatorium. He noted that Jack looked tired and suspected that he hadn’t eaten yet that morning. Jem went in search of Matron Graves to request breakfast and coffee before returning to see if he could answer the long list of questions, he knew Jack would have for him. This time Jem knocked heartily on the door and entered before Jack had time to answer.
“So, this is where you got to. Gisela missed you at breakfast this morning.” Jem crossed the room and cleared the spare chair of papers. “I’ve ordered Frühstück for you and then you can start on that list of questions you have.”
“Thanks.” Jack spoke almost absent-mindedly, before becoming engrossed once more in the report he was reading. Jem, used to his friend’s ways, just moved the chair and sat down to patiently wait until Jack should realise that he was there. Luckily, Frühstück arrived not long afterwards and Jem was able to gain Jack’s attention by the simple means of placing the tray right in front of him and over the notes he was reading. At this, Jack finally looked up and acknowledged Jem’s presence.
“How long have you been here?”
“Not long. Since you missed breakfast at Gottfried and Gisela’s, I ordered some for you here.”
“Thanks.” Jack looked down at the tray and picked up one of the croissants. “I could do with some coffee.” Jem poured a mugful from the pot and handed it to Jack, who nodded in acknowledgement.
“What time did you come in this morning?”
“About six, I think. I couldn’t sleep any longer.”
“Did you sleep at all, last night? I heard you moving about in the early hours.”
“I didn’t wake you, did I?”
“No.” Jem had his answer, proving his suspicions that Jack was battling insomnia again. He changed the subject. “How far through have you got?”
“Just one more to read.”
“How many questions do I need to answer?” Jem knew that Jack had a habit of questioning small things, so he was fully expecting to spend the next few hours attempting to answer obscure questions. He wasn’t wrong. Jack produced a notebook with many pages covered in his scrawl and passed it over for Jem to begin while he finished his breakfast.
When Gottfried knocked on the door just after midday, Jem had just finished discussing what was wanted from Jack at the board meeting. He smiled up at his colleague, thankful for the interruption.
“I thought you might like a break from this for a while. Why don’t you both join me for Mittagessen in the canteen? I’m going on duty at one o’clock, so it will only be a quick meal.”
“Thank you. I’m ready for a break. Coming, Jack?” Jack would have refused, but, he recognised that he needed a break, too. He nodded his agreement, though the thought of a meal in the Sanatorium canteen didn’t appeal to him. Picking up his jacket, he followed the others out of the office and towards the canteen.
After the meal, which Jack had eaten in silence, he looked across at Gottfried.
“Where does the path down the side of the railway lead to, Gottfried? I spotted it this morning, but didn’t go further than where it forks.”
“If you stay to the right at the fork, you’ll reach the Auberge a couple of kilometres further on. The left fork takes you on to Ste Cecilie. It is a much nicer walk than along the road. Both are fairly easy paths and it would be hard to lose yourself on them.”
“I may find the Auberge this afternoon. I could do with some fresh air.”
“Abendessen is at twenty o’clock tonight.” Gottfried glanced down at his watch before standing. “I must go. I start my shift in twenty minutes. I’ll see you at Abendessen, Jack. What do you plan to do this afternoon, Jem?”
“I need to catch up with the accounts, so I’ll borrow the office Jack’s been using if I may?”
“I’ll clear you a space.” Jack rose as well. The three of them walked back to their offices, Gottfried leaving the two Englishmen at the door of theirs. Jack quickly cleared the detritus from the desk and dumped it on the coffee table in the corner. Jem, who liked organisation, shuddered inwardly at the papers scattered anyhow. He knew that Jack preferred the organised chaos which had covered the desk only moments ago, and that he would be able to produce a required paper from one of the numerous piles without effort if asked.
“Shall I meet you back at Gottfried’s house this evening?” Jem asked.
“Yes. I shouldn’t be too late. From the sounds of it, the path is only about three kilometres long. It should give me enough distance to stretch my legs and hopefully tire me out.”
“Jack, if you need something to help you sleep….” Jem left the rest of the sentence unspoken. He didn’t want to push his friend if he wasn’t willing to speak. Jack just nodded, avoiding Jem’s searching gaze.
“I know. Thanks, Jem.” Jack picked up his coat and slipped out, closing the door softly behind him. Jem dropped into the chair behind the desk and sighed. He hoped that Jack would sleep tonight, or ask for something. He couldn’t last on no sleep without consequences.
March 1957, Part III by Vick
Many thanks for your comments. Much apreciated as always. :-D
The board meeting finished late. Jack made his escape from the stuffy room as quickly as possible. He had had enough of the formalities and just wanted some space to breathe. He knew that he ought to stay and answer any further questions the members might have, but he also knew that if he didn’t leave he might say something he might later regret. He walked swiftly through the corridors and collected his coat from the office he and Jem had been using, before heading outside to the bench near the edge of the grounds. Once he had composed himself, he intended to return, but, for now, he just wanted to be alone.
Jem saw Jack exit in the corner of his eye. He had been watching him during the meeting and could see that, although Jack had given his report and answered questions, he was impatient to be away from the meeting. Jem was becoming concerned about his friend once more. He knew Jack still wasn’t sleeping since he’d heard him pacing about in his room at night despite their brief conversation a couple of days before. Jem hoped that he would return shortly since one of the directors wanted to speak to him.
Jack dropped onto the bench in the grounds and breathed slowly. He knew he needed to return to the boardroom, but first he wanted to just sit and think of nothing if possible. It was cold and dark outside. He turned his collar up and pulled his hat further down on his head in an attempt to keep out the chill air. He had the strange feeling he was being watched again. Looking around, he could see no one and he shivered. He wished he knew who or what was watching him, or if it was just his imagination playing tricks on him in his exhaustion. He knew he needed something to help him sleep, but was loath to ask, having been through it before. He shivered again and reluctantly stood back up to go into the warmth once more.
Jem saw Jack slip back into the room and stand quietly to one side as if he hoped to not be noticed. He concluded the conversation he was having with one of the board representatives and moved across to where Jack was standing.
“Glad you came back. One of the directors wanted a word with you.”
“I just needed some fresh air. Which director?”
“Herr Ziegler. He’s over in the corner with Gottfried.” Jack nodded and moved off towards the corner Jem had indicated. Jem stayed where he was and watched. He knew about what was going to be discussed and wondered if Jack would be interested. All he could do was to wait and see. Another of the directors came up to speak to him and Jem turned his attention to the conversation.
It was late when the three men returned to the chalet where Gisela and Gottfried lived. The majority of the other board members had left for the valley, though a couple were staying overnight at the hotel in the village. Jack excused himself and disappeared to his room almost as soon as they arrived. Jem and Gottfried went into the Salon to enjoy a whisky and discuss the meeting in comfort.
“It seemed to go well tonight,” Jem said as he stared into the bottom of his glass.
“Yes. Jack’s speech was particularly good considering that he had hardly any time to prepare.”
“I know. I wonder if he’s accepted Herr Ziegler’s proposal.”
“I do not know. I suspect he has asked for time to consider it, first. Personally, I think it will be good for him. His talents are being wasted as just a departmental head.”
“I know. If it wasn’t for what happened in the war, I’m sure he’d have been poached years ago. His eye for detail is well known and admired by many people. Unfortunately, being stuck behind enemy lines and unable to account for those years is against him in many more ways than just his career.”
“It would be nice to have him out here, helping with the new developments. I’m sure we could work well together again and he need not have to deal with all the social niceties as I can do that.”
“I think that might be the thing that sways him one way or the other in the end, Gottfried. He still doesn’t cope well in those situations. Look how he’s gone to bed early every night while we’ve been staying here with you. This has come on top of his first return to Austria in almost twenty years and I know he’s not sleeping again since he’s admitted that much to me. I’ll speak to him tomorrow and see if I can find out how he feels about the idea. Personally, I think it will do him good, however, it’s his decision.”
“I agree. Now, I think it is time we sought our beds, too. We have a lot of things to sort tomorrow before you return to England at the weekend.” Jem acquiesced and the two men departed to sleep.
Jack lay in bed and thought back over the conversation he’d had with Herr Ziegler. He was interested in the offer which had been made, though he was unsure whether he was capable of dealing with the social situations he’d have to attend. He’d found it a struggle just to stay with Gottfried and Gisela, both of whom he knew well and were understanding of how his past had affected him. Others would not be so sympathetic. He had to admit that the prospect of a secondment to Switzerland to help implement changes and be a Deputy Head of the Sanatorium was something he found attractive, but, he needed time to think over the proposal before he gave a definite answer. Herr Ziegler had given him a few days to consider the request and, if he wanted, to discuss it with his colleagues. He turned over and wished he could sleep on it, but sleep was elusive once more.
Jack heard Jem and Gottfried come upstairs and the house quieten down for the night. He turned over again and lay facing the wall, closing his eyes and trying to blank his mind. It was unsuccessful. He continued to toss and turn for the next four hours until, in desperation; he rose and went to knock on Jem’s door. After what seemed an age to Jack, it was opened and Jem looked out. On seeing Jack standing there, he just motioned his friend inside before going to rummage around in his medical bag. He turned back with a bottle and handed it to Jack.
“Thanks.” Jack turned to go, but Jem stopped him a moment longer.
“Be careful with them, they’re stronger than you’ve had before.”
“I will. Sorry for disturbing you.”
“It’s no problem. Go and sleep, Jack.” Jack nodded and returned to his room, leaving Jem to climb back into his own bed, glad that Jack had finally accepted he needed the tablets.
On returning to his own room, Jack perched on the edge of the bed and read the label on the bottle. He realised that Jem had been correct when he had warned him they were stronger than those he had taken before. He shook two tablets into his hand and purposely placed the bottle on the dresser at the opposite side of the room, where it could clearly be seen. He then swallowed the tablets and lay down to wait for the oblivion he hoped would come.
When Jem rose next morning, he quickly washed and dressed before tapping lightly on Jack’s door. On hearing no answer, he quietly opened it and peered round at the bed. He saw Jack was flat out and breathing deeply. He withdrew as silently as he had entered, noting that the bottle had been left in a prominent position on the dresser, well out of reach from the bed. He knew that was a deliberate action which Jack had made. If he couldn’t reach them, he wouldn’t be tempted to take more too soon. Jem closed the door and made his way down to Frühstück. When he arrived in the Speisesaal, only Gottfried was present.
“Grüss Gott, Jem. Gisela is just making the coffee. She should be here shortly. Is Jack up, yet?”
“Grüss Gott. Jack is sleeping. He woke me in the small hours for sleeping tablets, so I don’t expect him to wake until Mittagessen.”
“He has finally given in then?”
“Yes. I’m glad as the lack of sleep was beginning to show in his actions and I’d hate for him to make a mistake because of it.” Gisela walked in with the coffee jug at this moment, so Gottfried let the conversation drop. Jem rose to greet her with a smile and briefly explain Jack’s absence from Frühstück. Nodding her understanding, Gisela proceeded to pour out the coffee and turned the conversation to general matters as the children arrived at the table.
It was almost noon when Jack finally woke. He looked groggily around the room, confused by his surroundings at first. As his memory returned, he realised where he was. Glancing at the clock on the bedside cabinet, he flung back the covers and swung his legs over the side. He perched on the edge of the bed for a few minutes as he fought the dizzying sensation which overwhelmed him. Eventually, he felt able to stand up properly. He managed to reach the bathroom without staggering and leaned against the sink whilst he ran the water. He hated the complete disorientation and dizziness he had when he woke from a drugged sleep.
Once he had dressed, Jack went downstairs to the Salon, where he found Gisela sitting doing embroidery. She looked up at him with a smile as he entered.
“Grüss Gott, Jack. You’re just in time for Mittagessen.”
“Grüss Gott, Gisela. Where is everyone?”
“The girls are at school and Gottfried and Jem went to the Sanatorium this morning. Jem said to tell you he’d be there all day, if you wanted him.” Gisela rose and led the way to the Speisesaal. They sat down to a light meal and Gisela kept the conversation on neutral topics. She could see that Jack was still tired, though he seemed to be a little more forthcoming than he had been so far on this visit. Once they had finished, Jack thanked her and went to find his coat.
The walk to the Sanatorium was long enough to enable Jack to begin to feel as if he was beginning to function properly once more. He hoped he could manage without having to take the tablets again that night. He reached the entrance and nodded a greeting to the receptionist as he passed. Upon reaching the office he and Jem were using, he found no one there. He removed his outer garments and went in search of coffee, returning just as Jem came from the other direction. They both entered the office and made themselves comfortable in armchairs set in the corner.
“Did you put Herr Ziegler up to that proposal?” Jack asked, bluntly.
“No. He wrote to me a few weeks ago, suggesting that a Deputy Head may be something worth looking into. He thought that the post could cover both here and Wales until I pointed out that it wouldn’t be practical since it would involve too much travelling between them.”
“Yes, that would be rather impractical, especially if the person appointed had family. Why was here chosen in preference to the Welsh branch? I’d have thought it would make more sense to have a Deputy there since it’s the larger of the two.”
“There’s too much red tape involved to be able to just put a deputy in place there. Here, we have much more control, provided the board agree, which is why it was suggested we try it out here first.”
“Why me, then?”
“Because you’d be good at the job. It was only because you were so adamant at the time that you weren’t placed as Head here when we opened it. I know you had your reasons and that you needed the stability of being in England, which was why I didn’t force the issue and sent Gottfried out here instead. Now, well, time has moved on and I think you need a new challenge.”
“I’m still not sure I’m the right person to do the job. I’m useless at social niceties and I’d be expected to take them on, as well as the fact that I still suffer from bouts of depression and insomnia.”
“They’re becoming less frequent though. Gottfried and Gisela would continue to handle the social side of the job and you’d only have to attend when necessary. It would be a secondment, initially. If it proves to be worthwhile, then it may become permanent and we’d look at establishing something similar at the Welsh branch. If you decide it isn’t for you, then you’d return to your current position.”
“I see.” Jack lapsed into silence. He needed to think over the proposal and consider what he had just been told before he committed himself. Eventually, he looked directly at Jem. “Okay. I’ll take it on. You’re right that I need a new challenge, though I’m not sure if this is the right one. At least if I do it as a secondment for six months, you’ll be able to see if the position is a tenable one, whether I stay in it or not.”
“That sounds fair enough to me. I’m sure Herr Ziegler will be happy with the proposal you’ve just made.”
“When do you expect the post to begin?”
“It’ll probably take a couple of months to sort out everything out. You’ll need accommodation out here for a start. Paperwork will need to be done, as well as you handing over the department in Wales. I’m sure Gottfried will happily search out somewhere for you to live, so you don’t need to be back and forth.” Jack rose and walked over to the desk to pick up the calendar. He studied it for a few moments, mentally noting dates in his head.
“Make it July. That gives us enough time to make sure there’s a proper handover.” Jem looked shrewdly at Jack, suspecting that there was more to the request than just a handover period. However, he didn’t push the point, just agreed easily before suggesting that Jack contact Herr Ziegler to let him know what was happening. Jack agreed and both men went their separate ways to begin making the Deputy Head position a reality.
Many thanks for your reviews.
Jack walked to the entrance of the Bahnhof in Interlaken and looked around for his lift. He wasn’t sure who would be collecting him, as he knew Gottfried was at a conference until Sunday. A car pulled up and Phil Graves climbed out. He waved at Jack and beckoned him over. Jack picked up his things and walked across to him.
“Nice to see you. Is this everything?” Phil smiled as Jack placed his things in the boot of the car.
“Yes. Thanks for collecting me.”
“It’s no problem. Let’s get going.” They both climbed into the car and Phil set off towards the Görnetz Platz. The road was steep with hairpin bends, but, Phil knew the road well and half an hour later, they rounded the final bend and began running along the shelf. The talk in the car had mainly been about work until now. Phil changed the conversation as they approached the village.
“We just need to stop and collect the keys for your place first. I came straight from work so didn’t have chance to pick them up before I set off.”
“Of course.” Phil parked the car outside a large chalet and climbed out.
“I won’t be long.” He ran up the path and inside, returning a few minutes later. Jack saw a woman appear at the door to wave him off. As he watched, dim memories began to form. He was sure he knew her. Before he had chance to try and think where he might know her from, Phil was jumping back into the driver’s seat and setting off once more. He continued through the village, turning towards the pine trees which cover the slopes round about, before he pulled up in front of a small chalet set slightly back from the road.
“Here you are. This area is pretty quiet as it’s away from the main road. Not that we get too much traffic. However, when the school buses come through, they make quite a bit of noise.” Phil handed Jack a set of keys. “Would you like a hand to get everything inside?”
“Yes, please.” They both climbed out and unloaded the car, carrying everything up to the door. Jack unlocked it and Phil dumped his burden just inside the entrance. Once they’d finished, Phil turned to go.
“There should be some basics in the kitchen for you. There’s a handful of shops in the village where you can get most supplies, though if you want anything specific, it’s worth taking a trip down to Interlaken. I’ll see you on Monday.”
“Thanks.” Phil left and Jack slowly closed the door. He was in Switzerland and he wasn’t entirely sure what to think, yet. He walked down the hallway and opened a door at the back. This led to a kitchen, with just enough room for a small table and chairs at one end. A bag of groceries was sitting on the table. Jack glanced inside, and then left them where they were as he continued to explore his new abode. Another door led into a sitting room which was large enough for a desk in one corner as well as a sofa, an armchair and a coffee table. There was a second door which led back into the hallway, where the stairs were located. Jack picked up his suitcase and carried it up to the first floor where he found two good-sized bedrooms and a bathroom. He dumped the case on the bed in the largest of the two rooms. Looking out of the window, he saw he had a view across the village towards the front of the Platz. He wandered through to the back bedroom and saw that the window overlooked the pines which clad the slopes round about. Returning to the front bedroom, he proceeded to unpack his case before going back downstairs to make himself something to eat.
When he went to bed that evening, Jack found it hard to sleep. He knew he was tired, but a dim memory of the woman he’d seen earlier in the day kept nagging at him. Eventually, the memory returned and he saw himself setting off on the journey which had ended in tragedy. The woman was there with him, Jo and the others. Jack sat up in bed with a bang.
“Hilary Burn! Why didn’t Jem tell me she was here?” He lay back down and rolled over to face the window. Closing his eyes, he attempted to sleep, but the image of Jo on the roadside appeared before him and he was unable to banish it from his mind. He turned the lamp on and climbed out of bed. That image was the last thing he wanted to deal with. Going downstairs, he dug the bottle of sleeping tablets out from his bag and swallowed two before returning to bed.
Jack spent the next morning in unpacking his boxes. He’d sent them on before he’d left England since he’d decided to let his cottage for the six months he would be living in Switzerland. Once he’d finished, he decided to walk around the village and get his bearings a little since the chalet was in an unfamiliar area. He soon discovered the village centre with its handful of shops. He quickly established that Phil Graves had been correct in telling him that he would need an occasional trip to Interlaken. There was a grocery, a butchers, a newsagent and a bakers, as well as a small store selling other necessities. Jack looked at the opening times for each shop and realised he would need to remember to do his shopping in a morning if he was to be able to eat. He turned away from the village centre and followed the road along until he reached the edge of the shelf. Here, he saw that he was about a mile away from the Sanatorium. He wandered along and was pleased to come across another road which led towards the rear of the village, back towards his new home. This route would save him some time until he had chance to buy a car. He had decided to sell his car in England and buy a new one in Switzerland. He knew he would be on the rota for emergency care and any home visits once he’d found his feet. His car in England was old and rather battered, and he suspected it wouldn’t have withstood the journey over, much less the steep gradients and hairpin bends.
As he wandered back towards his new home, his mind on Monday’s meeting with Gottfried, he almost bumped into a lady pushing a buggy. He automatically apologised in English, before remembering that he was no longer in England and switched to German. The lady laughed and replied in English.
“No harm done.” She paused a moment before deciding to continue. “You don’t remember me, do you?” Jack looked at the woman in front of him properly for the first time and realised just who it was he’d almost knocked over.
“Yes, I do. It’s been a long time, Hilary. I didn’t know you were living out here.”
“We’ve been out here since just after the Sanatorium opened. I’m married to Phil Graves.”
“I thought I recognised you yesterday, when he stopped off to collect my keys. I didn’t place who you were until late last night, though.”
“I’m sure you’ll recognise a few faces around, since the school is also based out here, now.”
“Yes, so I hear.” An impatient cry came from the small boy in the buggy, and Hilary bent down to speak to him.
“This young fellow is complaining he’s hungry, I’m afraid. It’s nice to see you again, after all this time.” Jack nodded in response, and watched as she strolled off back towards the village. He turned and walked slowly back towards his own home.
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Jack walked slowly back towards his office after a busy shift, relieved to be going home shortly. His secondment to the Swiss branch of the Sanatorium was drawing to a close and he now had to make a decision whether he wanted to stay in Switzerland or take his old post as head of department back up in England. Jem had written to him the previous week, inviting him over to England to meet and discuss the future of the post. He’d been invited to spend Christmas with them too, though he was unsure if he could take the time off then. He realised he also needed to speak to Gottfried and find out his opinion on the secondment, too.
Upon entering his office, Jack heard the telephone ringing and hastened to answer it.
“Dr Maynard speaking.”
“This is Matron Graves. Please could you come down to the boiler room? There’s been an accident.”
“I’m on my way.” Jack grabbed his bag and set off at a run down to the boiler room in the basement. He entered and immediately saw what had happened. A step ladder had fallen and the arm of a young handyman was trapped. Matron was relieved to see Jack enter and cross the room to assess the problem. He asked a few questions and then turned to Matron.
“Can you support his arm while I move the ladders?”
“Of course.” She turned to the handyman. “Are you ready Hansi? This is probably going to hurt.” Jack concentrated on carefully removing the stepladder as Matron supported Hansi’s arm. Once he’d finished, Jack swiftly placed the injured limb in a sling for support before helping Hansi to his feet.
“Let’s get you up to X-ray and get that arm looked at properly. How did it happen?”
“I was trying to mend the light when I overbalanced. I grabbed the ladder as I fell.” Hansi spoke in German, knowing that he would be able to express himself more easily as he tended to struggle in English. They entered the X-ray department at this point and Jack casually steered them to the front of the queue and requested some papers from the nurse on duty.
“I’ll take a few details first then we can get that arm X-rayed and see what the damage is.”
“I can do that,” Matron stated, having accompanied them up to the X-ray department.
“I know you’re busy, Matron and I’ve finished for the day. I don’t mind staying a little longer to deal with Hansi.” Matron smiled.
“If you’re sure?” Jack nodded. “Thank you. Shall I take your bag back to your office for you?”
“Yes, please.” He handed his bag to her with a smile. She took it from him before she turned and walked swiftly back down the corridor, leaving Jack to gesture Hansi into a seat. Jack felt around in his pockets for a pen before remembering it was behind his ear. He removed it and wrote Hansi’s first name in the box.
“I’m afraid I don’t know your surname, Hansi. I haven’t had much chance to get to know everyone in six months.”
“It’s Lang.” Jack looked surprised and stared at Hansi. “Is something wrong, Herr Doktor?” Jack mentally shook himself.
“No, no.” He bent his head over the papers as he wrote out the familiar name. “How old are you?”
“I’m eighteen.” Jack somehow managed to keep his features under control as his memory began to work overtime. Surely it was just a coincidence? There must be plenty of people called Hansi Lang who were eighteen. Jack rose and went over to the reception desk again. After a quick conversation, he called Hansi over.
“We’ll get an X-ray of that arm now, and then I’ll take you to the plaster room and set it properly.” A nurse escorted Hansi off and Jack dropped back into a chair, allowing his thoughts to wander while he waited.
Jack smiled and rose when Hansi returned. Together, they set off for the plaster room, Jack holding Hansi’s X-rays. When they arrived, Jack held the films up to the light and examined them, showing Hansi a small fracture in his arm.
“You’re going to need a cast for a few weeks while that heals, I’m afraid. Luckily, it’s not a bad break. Have a seat and I’ll find the stuff.” Jack disappeared into a cupboard, reappearing with what he wanted.
“How long have you worked here?” Jack asked as he began.
“Three years, now. I left school at fifteen and got the job here a month later. I’m still learning, though, and go down to college in Interlaken once a week.”
“You’ll be able to put a lot of what you learn to the test, then? It’s always worth making sure what you’ve learnt is relevant.”
“Yes. I like it here because I have the opportunity to do that. I’ve also started to learn English. I knew a few phrases when I was small, but now, I’m managing to understand much more, though I’m not very good at speaking it, yet.”
“We can practice now, if you’d like?” Jack smiled and switched to English. “Knowing a second language is always useful.”
“Thank you.” Hansi returned the smile and continued in slow and halting English. “Did you find it hard to learn German?”
“I did at first. I learnt at school, but, didn’t really have time to keep it up while I was at medical school. When I moved to Austria before the war, I struggled for a good few months.”
“Have you lived in Austria? That is where I come from.”
“Really?” Jack bent his head over Hansi’s arm.
“Yes. We came to Switzerland after the Gestapo took Papa away. We lived in a hotel in Zurich for a while. That’s where I learnt a little bit of English. An English doctor lived in the same hotel and he always talked to us.”
“Can you remember the name of the doctor?”
“No, not now. I was only five at the time. I know he looked after me for the day when Mutti had to take Maria to hospital. We went to the park.” Jack raised his head and smiled.
“I knew your name was familiar.” Hansi looked puzzled as he stared at Jack for a long moment before a vague memory stirred in his mind. Jack turned back to his task and finished encasing Hansi’s arm in plaster before standing to wash his hands.
“Are you…?” Hansi paused, his English being inadequate to complete what he wanted to ask. In fact, he decided his native German was inadequate, too and didn’t complete his question. Jack nodded as he dried his hands.
“That cast needs to dry, now.” Jack returned to his seat and began to clear the detritus from the table. Switching back to German, so he knew that Hansi would understand him, he explained. “During the war, I lived in a hotel in Zurich for two years and befriended a young family by the name of Lang. Like you, I was a refugee and had no way of getting back to England until the war finished. I often wondered what had happened to you all after you left the hotel, but all the owner could tell me was that you’d moved to the mountains for Maria’s health.”
“We’ve been here since then. Mutti tried to find out what had happened to Papa when the war ended, but she found no trace. Since Maria seemed better, she decided we should stay here, rather than go back to Austria. Did you go back to England?”
“I did, once the war finally ended.” Jack checked Hansi’s cast and then placed his arm into a sling for support. “That should be fine now. Try not to get it wet and someone will have a look at it in a few weeks.”
“Thank you.” Hansi rose from his seat and smiled. “I’m glad you made it back home and to have finally met you once again.”
“You, too, Hansi.” Jack showed him out and watched as the young man walked down the corridor. Retreating back into the room, he made sure everything was clean and tidy before he returned to his office to retrieve his things and leave for home.
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Jack reached the entrance to Armiford station and glanced round before he began to cross the yard towards the bus stop. A call from his left stopped him and he turned to see Jem climb out of a car and beckon him over. The rain was pouring down so Jack was glad to climb in the passenger seat once he’d stowed his case in the boot.
“Thanks for collecting me,” Jack said as he removed his hat and placed it on his knee.
“Glad to see you, at last.” Jem pulled into the traffic and concentrated on getting out of Armiford before he continued, “I thought you would have been over before now.”
“I couldn’t get away any earlier. I needed to meet with Gottfried before I came, which proved to be harder than you’d think, considering we work in the same building.”
“Isn’t that always the case? Apart from shift changeover, I bet you’ve both been like ships in the night, passing in the corridors as you concentrated on your own jobs.”
“Something like that,” Jack admitted with a smile.
“Anyhow, you’re here now. Madge asked me to give her apologies for not being at home to meet you, but, she’s had to attend a meeting for something or other and won’t be back until late.”
“That’s a shame.” Jem just smiled, knowing his friend well enough to understand that Jack was relieved not to have to deal with his wife for one evening at least. He turned the car into a narrow lane and drove along it until it widened out into a courtyard. Jem pulled up in front of a Victorian house with a smaller cottage and garages a short distance further on. Both men climbed out and Jem opened the door, ushering Jack into the hallway.
“Leave your case here. Marie is about somewhere and I have no idea what room you’ve been given. Come into the lounge and we’ll have a drink and find out that information.” Jem led the way across the entrance hall and through a door into a room which had windows in two walls, letting in the evening sun. When Marie, Jem’s housekeeper arrived in answer to the bell, she informed them that Jack was to sleep in the green room and that Andreas would take his things upstairs when he returned from collecting the children from school. Jem thanked her and requested coffee.
The two men made themselves comfortable once Marie had brought in the coffee. Jem kept the conversation on general topics and discovered that Jack seemed much more relaxed than he had been before he took up the secondment in Switzerland.
The next morning, Jem and Jack set off for the Sanatorium after a leisurely breakfast. Jem wanted to discuss how Jack had got on in Switzerland before he met some members of the board and decided on the future of the position. Jem parked the car in his usual spot and both men climbed out and walked into the building together. As they crossed the reception, Jack was greeted warmly by a couple of nurses and Miss Jones, Jem’s secretary. Jack replied to their questions, pleasantly, though he was relieved to reach the privacy of Jem’s office and drop into a comfortable chair.
“You didn’t warn me that everyone would want to stop and speak to me when I returned,” Jack announced as he pushed some papers to one side of the coffee table. Jem came and removed them, knowing that Jack would take over the whole table with his own papers.
“You haven’t been here for the past eight months, what else did you expect?” Jack just grunted in return as he rose to remove his jacket and hang it on the coat stand. He fished his pen out of his pocket and shoved it behind his ear before beginning to remove some of his own papers from his bag.
“Did you order some tea? I could do with a cup while we go through this lot.”
“Yes, I asked Miss Jones on my way past. She said she’ll bring some through shortly.” Jem picked up a file and a pen from the desk and dropped into the chair opposite Jack with a smile. “Shall we start?”
“Ask away.” Jack replied as he bent his head over his papers and began to sort through them.
Three hours later, Jem decided a break was in order. They had covered virtually everything which was needed for the meeting the next day. The only thing left was to ask Jack what his own plans were and Jem thought that he would be better placed to do that on a full stomach.
After they’d eaten in the canteen, Jem suggested some fresh air, to which Jack agreed easily. They set off walking towards the edge of the grounds, intending to walk along the treeline at the boundary. The Sanatorium had a lot of open space and Jem knew that they could have a decent walk. They walked in silence at first, both content to listen to the birdsong and enjoy the peace of the countryside. It was Jack who finally broke the silence.
“You never told me that Hilary Burn was living on the Platz and married to one the doctors I’d be working with.”
“Didn’t I? I suppose I didn’t really think about it. I’d forgotten that she was with you when you left the Sonnalpe. What happened?”
“Phil picked me up from Interlaken and he had to call home to collect my keys. She waved him back off and I couldn’t place where I knew her from at first. I suddenly realised who she was when I’d gone to bed that night. Then I literally bumped into her as I was exploring the village the next day.”
“Well, you seem to have managed to deal with it, since you’ve never mentioned it until now.”
“I didn’t have a lot of choice, really. I was so busy the first month or so, I didn’t really have chance to dwell on the encounter. I’ve spoken to her a few times since and we seem to have a mutual understanding that we don’t mention what happened.”
“You can’t hide from it forever, Jack. You know that as well as I do.”
“I know, but, you’ve seen me when I’ve been in the depths and I don’t want to go back there again.”
“Fair enough.” Jem knew better than to argue the point. He changed the subject. “How do you like it out in Switzerland?”
“It’s not so bad. I don’t feel completely out of place and get on well with everyone I’ve worked with so far. The job itself has also been interesting and has challenged me in new ways.”
“Well, from the reports you and Gottfried have submitted, it looks like it may well become a permanent post if the Board agree.”
“Possibly.” Jack stayed non-committal; after all, it wasn’t his decision to make. He would only find out his options once the Board had made a decision on whether to keep the post or not.
Jem suspected that Jack was playing his cards close to his chest. A quick glance at his friend’s face showed him that Jack wasn’t going to be drawn into revealing what he’d decided about his own future until after the Board announced their decision. He did wonder if he would return to England or maybe even move on to completely new pastures. The silence fell between them once again as their walk took them back towards the entrance of the Sanatorium.
The board meeting broke up early and Jem felt relieved to be able to escape to his office. He was pleased with the results and now just needed to make a couple of calls to Switzerland before he tackled Jack. As he entered his office, he noticed that the coffee table was no longer littered with Jack’s papers and that his bag was missing. Puzzled, he called to his secretary, asking her if he could have a few moments of her time. Miss Jones came in, notebook in hand.
“Did you see Dr Maynard come in here this afternoon?
“Yes, he told me he was just going to collect his things. He was in here for ten, fifteen minutes at most before he came back out with his bag. He smiled and wished me a good afternoon before he left.”
“Did he say where he was going?”
“No, he didn’t, I’m afraid. He didn’t say whether he would return, either.”
“Thank you, Miss Jones. If you see him before I leave, please let me know.”
“Of course.” She went back out, closing the door softly behind her and Jem crossed over to his desk. A cursory glance showed nothing was out of place and that Jack hadn’t left him a note. Pushing the worry to one side, he concentrated on the task at hand and began to make his calls.
Jack was sitting on a chair in one of the summerhouses dotted around the grounds where he was out of the wind. He’d collected his things from Jem’s office and come outside to think through what he was going to do next. He knew that Jem would be asking him what his plans were and he wanted to be able to give him a proper answer. He had been offered a position at another clinic in Switzerland, but he was unsure about taking it up, simply because he couldn’t be sure that the job was the right one for him. He knew he didn’t want to return to being head of department at the Welsh branch, which left him with few options if the secondment he’d been doing wasn’t tenable. He closed his eyes as he thought.
“Don’t be silly, Jack. Of course the post at the Swiss branch is yours.” Jack’s eyes flew open and he looked around him. The voice had been Jo’s.
“How do you know it is, Jo? It was a secondment, that’s all.” Jack spoke quietly, almost to himself.
“It has your name written all over it. You made it yours as soon as you accepted it and you’ve shown that in the reports you gave to Jem yesterday.”
“I don’t know if I should take the other job, though.”
“You don’t really want it, do you? You just went for the interview to see if you still had the knack. Well, you’ve proved that you still do and now you need to find out what Jem is prepared to offer.” Jack nodded, and then shook his head as if to rid the voice inside.
“I’m hallucinating again. I must be.” He looked around him and noticed Jem step outside the doors of the Sanatorium. Rising, Jack knew he could put off the conversation no longer, so he whistled loudly and waved when Jem looked over in his direction. He wasn’t going to discuss this inside an office; he wanted the space he had here to be able to move about freely. He smiled as Jem approached.
“Shall we go back inside?”
“I’d rather be out here. I’m sick of stuffy offices and want some fresh air.”
“Okay. I’ll find a chair.” Jem disappeared for a few minutes as he hunted up another seat from a nearby summerhouse, returning with it and setting it up alongside Jack, who had returned to gazing at something unseen in the middle distance.
“What did the Board have to say?” Jack asked as Jem made himself comfortable.
“Exactly what I expected. The position is obviously necessary in light of the findings in the reports you and Gottfried produced. They think it should become permanent and that we should consider creating a similar post here in the future.”
“What do you think about the decision?”
“I agree with them. I know you felt pressured into taking the position, which is why you only agreed to do it as a secondment in the first place. However, I think you’ve made it your own and have done a very good job into the bargain.”
“Thank you. I’ve enjoyed the challenge.”
“The Board has asked me to put someone into the position permanently. They wanted to know my opinion on the best person for the job.”
“What did you say?”
“That the best person was already in the position, but he needed some incentive to stay in it. They agreed and have offered you a good package.” Jem passed over an envelope from his pocket. Jack took it and smoothed it out on his leg, leaving it unopened for now.
“What about if I told you I’d been offered a position at another clinic in Switzerland?” Jem smiled. He had suspected that Jack had been hiding something like this, hence why he’d been keen to negotiate a good offer to place on the table.
“I think you’re in two minds as to whether to leave what you know and love for something you aren’t sure about.” Jack rose and walked away from the shelter, the envelope in his hand. Jem stayed in his seat. He’d placed the ball firmly in Jack’s court and he knew that only Jack could make the decision on his future.
Jack wandered a short distance away from the summerhouse, out of Jem’s view and leaned on a fence overlooking a field. He studied the blank envelope for a long while, before finally turning it over and ripping it open. He read the contents and looked out towards the sheep grazing at the other end of the pasture.
“You were right, Jo,” he murmured to himself. “I was always going to accept this. It’s just a shame you aren’t here to enjoy the future with me.” He closed his eyes for a brief moment, allowing his emotions to cross his face before drawing in a deep breath and lifting himself up to his full height.
Jem watched Jack return to the summerhouse and drop back into the chair beside him. His expression was carefully guarded and Jem had no idea what he was thinking. There was no sign of the envelope. Jack allowed the silence to linger for a short while, content in the knowledge that his decision had been made and that Jem would be happy with the outcome. Eventually, Jem broke the silence.
“The other clinic made me a damn good offer. You were right though, I was unsure about taking it. I applied on a whim to see if I could do it and the offer showed me that I could. It also proved to me that people will take me on my qualifications and experience now, not what I didn’t do in the war.”
“That’s not answering the question,” Jem responded. Jack smiled. He was enjoying dragging out the agony and debated asking for more time to consider. He looked sidelong at Jem and decided to answer him properly.
“I’d like to accept the position on a permanent basis and at the terms you’ve set out. Thank you.” Jem rose and Jack stood with him. They shook hands and Jem smiled.
“I’m glad you accepted. You’re the best person for the job. Now, can we go back into the warmth?”
“Of course. I'm sure you have people to inform and I need to pick up any odds and ends I’ve left here which I’ll need in Switzerland.” Together, they set off back to the entrance.
Jack had just finished a particularly long night shift and was tidying his papers when a knock came at his door. Sighing, he called out, hoping it was nothing urgent. The night receptionist entered; a piece of paper in her hand.
“What is it, Fraulein Betts?”
“I’m sorry to disturb you, but I’ve just had a lady on the line asking if a doctor could come to her daughter. She’s just collapsed and is in need of medical attention. The lady was quite upset, so it was difficult to get much more than her address from her. Do you think you could call in on your way home, or shall I call out one of the other doctors?”
“There’s no need to ring up whoever’s on call. I’ll probably get there quicker than them. Give me the address and I’ll call on my way home.” He took the proffered piece of paper and slipped it into his pocket after a quick glance. “Thank you.” Fraulein Betts nodded and disappeared back to her post. Jack collected his things together and checked he had everything he might need for a home visit in his bag. He turned off the light and closed the door firmly behind him before going out to his car and setting off in the direction of Ste Cecilie.
Jack pulled up outside the chalet and went to knock on the door, asking the lady who answered if she had rung for a doctor.
“Yes. Thank you for coming so promptly, Herr Doktor. Please, come this way, Maria is upstairs.” She led him inside and upstairs to a small room where her daughter lay on the bed. Jack examined her, only asking questions when necessary, since he could see she was struggling for breath. When he was finished, he adjusted her pillows so she would find it easier to breathe before sitting in the chair to make a few notes.
“I think we need to get you to the Sanatorium, Maria. I need to do some tests.”
“What’s wrong with me?” Maria asked, fearfully.
“I don’t like the sound of your chest, and the fact that you’re coughing up blood is an indicator of tuberculosis. The tests will confirm if I’m correct and we’ll be able to give you the best treatment at the Sanatorium.”
“She had it when she was small,” Maria’s mother said. “That’s why we moved here in the first place. The doctors said she was so much better and discharged her ten years ago.”
“She may well have been, then. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s returned. How long have you been coughing like that, Maria?”
“Most of the year, I suppose. It’s got worse in the past few months.”
“In that case, the sooner we get you to the Sanatorium, the better. I’ll go and send an ambulance to collect you. Don’t try to move yourself. The stiller you are, the easier it will be for you to breathe. You also need to be checked out, Frau…?”
“Lang. There’s also my son, Hansi. He’s at work at the moment.” Jack had started slightly at the name, but he quickly regained his composure. Now, his first priority was for his patient.
“Is Hansi one of the handymen at the Sanatorium?”
“Yes. How did you guess?”
“I set his arm for him when he broke it last year. If you come with Maria, Frau Lang, we can get you checked out as well. I’ll find Hansi when I get back to the Sanatorium and let him know what’s happened, as well as sending him to be checked, too.” Jack rose from his seat and turned to the door. “Try to sleep for now, Maria. You’ll need your energy for the journey.” Maria nodded in response and closed her eyes. Jack walked back downstairs to the front door, Frau Lang following him.
“Hansi told me that you knew us during the war, when we lived in Zurich.” Jack opened the door.
“Yes, I did. I was the one who sent you to the hospital with Maria.”
“I don’t think I ever got chance to thank you properly for doing that.”
“I didn’t want thanks; I just wanted the best for Maria, the same as I do now. I’ll go and send that ambulance.” Jack hastily left and went to climb into his car. He gripped the steering wheel hard as he banished memories best left buried, before turning on the engine and setting off back to the Sanatorium.
Gottfried was passing Jack’s office, when he noticed the light burning. Thinking that Jack had forgotten to turn it off when he left, he pushed open the door and poked his head in to look for the switch. He was surprised to find Jack sitting in one of the comfortable chairs, his head in his hands. Entering fully, he softly closed the door behind him and crossed to the other chair.
“I thought you’d finished hours ago, Jack?”
“I took on a home visit just as I finished my shift. She’s just been admitted for further tests, so I stayed to complete everything and make sure her mother and brother went to be checked as well. I was just gathering my wits again before I felt able to drive back home.” Jack lifted his head and looked at his friend.
“Who is it?”
“Maria Lang. Her brother, Hansi is one of the handymen here. I knew them when I was living in Zurich.”
“So, your past has resurfaced and you feel shaken by it?”
“Something like that. I need to sleep, I think. It might look better when I’m not overtired and trying to supress memories I don’t need to deal with right now.”
“Are you due back in tonight?” Jack nodded.
“Luckily, I’m not on the rota, just as auxiliary.” He glanced at his watch, surprised to see how late it was. “I’d better go.” Gottfried watched as he rose and gathered his things once more, shrewdly guessing that sleep was a long way off. They both exited the room and Jack set off for home, leaving Gottfried to return thoughtfully to his own office.
Jack turned over in bed for the umpteenth time. Sleep was elusive, despite his exhaustion. This was the third day in a row when he’d been unable to rest. He knew he had a couple of days off after the next shift and he reluctantly decided he would need to take something before he made any mistakes. He was glad he’d been on the night shift and that he wasn’t the main doctor in charge, as it meant he was only needed in an emergency. He looked at the clock and rose, going to sluice his tired face in the bathroom before walking downstairs and turning on the kettle.
Rifling through a cupboard in the kitchen, Jack discovered that he must have finished the bottle of sleeping tablets he kept in there. Slamming the door so hard, the glasses in the next cupboard rattled, he made himself a hot drink. He needed to get a prescription for some more and he didn’t really want to bring the fact that he needed them to the attention of anyone else. He dropped into a chair at the table and thought about the rota as he drank his tea. Realising that Gottfried was covering the shift before his, he rose and went to the telephone in the hallway. He was lucky and Gottfried was in his office. A brief explanation soon solved Jack’s problem and that he could expect a bottle to be in his desk when he arrived for his shift later that day. After thanking his friend, he dressed and set off for a walk.
June 1958, Part I by Vick
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Jack was busy with his paperwork when a knock came at his office door. Upon his call, a nurse entered and asked him to come to a patient who was worrying her. Jack nodded and, pulling on his coat, he followed her along the corridors. When they stopped outside a door, Jack entered and crossed over to the bed to examine his patient. He had been called out too late to be able to do much for Maria Lang, despite his best efforts. As he rose to go and speak to the nurse, Maria stalled him with her hand on his arm. Her touch was light, but, Jack felt it and turned back to the bed.
“What is it, Maria?”
“I want Mamma.” Her voice was barely a whisper.
“We’ll find her for you. Try to rest for now. You’ll need your strength when she arrives.” Jack nodded across at the nurse, who promptly slipped out to ring Frau Lang and request her to come to the Sanatorium. Five minutes later, she returned shaking her head. Jack rose and moved to the door, where he could talk to the nurse without Maria hearing.
“Is Hansi at work, today?”
“I’m not sure, but I’ll go and check. Shall I send him here if he is?”
“No, just find out if he’s in the building and come back here. Try Frau Lang’s number again as well.” The nurse nodded and disappeared once more, leaving Jack to return to the bedside. He knew this was the last rally and he wanted to find her family before it was too late. Pushing unbidden thoughts from his mind, he concentrated on his task until the nurse returned.
As the nurse slipped back into the room once more, Jack crossed quietly to her. Maria was sleeping and he didn’t want her disturbed.
“Did you find him?”
“Yes, he’s down in the boiler room.”
“Stay with Maria and I’ll go and talk to him. She’s sleeping at the moment. Hopefully, we can find her mother before she wakes again”
Jack set off to find Hansi, hoping that he may know where Frau Lang might be found. He was discovered in the boiler room, tidying tools away into a cupboard. He looked up in surprise as Jack appeared around the door.
“Hansi, do you know where your mother may have gone?”
“She may have gone to Frau Ritter’s. She mentioned something about it this morning at breakfast.”
“Is there any way of contacting her there?”
“No. They have no telephone.” Hansi looked at Jack, his features clearly showing his puzzlement, as to why the Herr Doktor was asking about his mother. Jack explained.
“Maria is asking for her. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but, I’m afraid she may be slipping away from us. I’d like to find your mother before it happens.” The colour had drained from Hansi’s face as Jack spoke, but he quickly recovered his composure.
“I can go. I know which way she walks to the farm.”
“Can we get there in the car? It’ll be quicker.”
“No. The path isn’t wide enough. I’ll be as quick as I can and will bring her straight to Maria.”
“Thank you, Hansi. Don’t worry about the mess down here. I’ll speak to Herr Blinker.” Hansi nodded before leaving the room and, only stopping to collect his coat, he was soon running out of the Sanatorium in search of his mother. Jack found Hansi’s superior and explained what had happened before returning to Maria.
Jack quietly watched the small body of Maria Lang as she fought for breath. His shift had finished an hour ago, but, he was reluctant leave her, knowing she didn’t have much longer left. A slight whisper roused him from his reverie.
“What is it, Maria?”
“She’s on her way. Hansi, too.”
“Thank you.” She managed a ghost of a smile for him, before her eyes closed once more. Jack checked her pulse and continued his waiting. He’d done all he could for her, now he just hoped for her family to arrive in time to say their goodbyes.
Jack walked across to the window and looked out over the grounds, oblivious to the activity happening below. His thoughts were elsewhere. He turned back to the room at the sound of the door opening and was relieved to see Frau Lang and her son enter the room. Crossing over to them he quietly explained to Frau Lang that Maria had asked for her and that she didn’t have much time left, before returning to the window where he was away from the situation, yet close enough to respond.
Jack stared out, unseeingly, as the sky darkened and the rain began to fall steadily. Although he was listening to what was happening at the bedside behind him, he wasn’t paying any attention. As the final sigh escaped Maria’s lips, he turned back to the scene in the room and approached the bed. A nurse slipped through the door and he motioned for her to help Frau Lang who had begun to weep silently. Once he was alone with Maria, he removed his white coat, draping it over the back of the chair before sitting down to fill out the final notes and necessary forms. Once he had finished, he rose and covered her face gently with the sheet. One of the priests from the Sanatorium chapel came into the room and sat down beside the bed. Jack nodded acknowledgement before walking out, notes in hand.
As he passed the nurses’ desk, Jack dropped the notes on top of the pile and continued walking towards the front entrance and outside into the grounds. Not heeding the rain which was still falling heavily, he walked on through the gates and followed a path away from the Sanatorium, his hands deep in his pockets and his head bowed.
June 1958, Part II by Vick
Many thanks for reviewing & reading.
Gottfried looked at the clock for the third time in twenty minutes and frowned. He rose from behind the desk and crossed to the door to check the corridor before returning to pick up the telephone and dial a number. Listening to the incessant ringing at the other end, he checked the rota on the wall before gently replacing the handset and trying another number. This remained unanswered, too. Picking up his jacket, Gottfried left his office and went to find Matron Graves. Knocking on the door to Matron’s office, he heard her call out and entered, closing the door firmly behind him.
Helen Graves looked up with a smile as she saw Gottfried enter, but she was surprised to see the frown across his brow.
“Is something wrong?”
“I’m sorry to disturb you like this, Helen, but do you have a few minutes to spare?”
“Of course. Please, sit down and I’ll make some coffee.” She bustled around as Gottfried sank into a comfortable chair and soon had two mugs of coffee ready. She placed them on the small table before him and seated herself in the other comfortable chair.
“Thank you.” Gottfried sipped the hot coffee and turned to face her. “Have you seen Jack at all today?”
“No, he’s not been around for a few days so I assumed he was off.”
“He was due to meet me at eleven o’clock today for an update meeting.” Helen looked at the clock and frowned herself.
“But it’s past twelve, now. Has he been delayed?”
“That is what I wondered, but, when I tried to ring his extension, there was no answer. Nor is there any answer on his house number.”
“It’s not like Jack to forget a meeting. If anything, he’s more than likely to be early for it.”
“I know. This is why I’m worried. He’s not on any of the call out rotas, so I would have expected him to be about since he’s due to start work at two. Do you know if any of the staff seen him at all?”
“I can ask around for you. I’ve not heard anyone mention him though.”
“Thank you. I’m going to check his office, just in case he’s left a note. Will you let me know if you find any information out, please?”
“I’ll come and find you in twenty minutes.” Gottfried nodded and rose from the chair. Helen rose with him and together, they left her office to begin the search.
Helen Graves walked swiftly along to the nurses’ desk. The duty nurse looked up from her paperwork and rose as she saw Matron standing before her.
“Have you seen Dr Maynard today, Nurse?”
“No. I saw his car when I arrived this morning, though.”
“Thank you. If you see him, would you tell him I’m looking for him please?”
“Of course, Matron.”
“Thank you.” Helen nodded at the nurse and set off to search the laboratories in case Jack was doing some research and had not noticed the time. Since his car had was in the car park, she assumed he must be somewhere in the building. A fruitless search through all the staff areas finally brought Helen to the door of Jack’s office. She knocked and entered to see Gottfried behind the desk.
“Have you found him, Helen?”
“No. No one’s seen him at all, though apparently, his car is in the car park.”
“His bag and coat are here, too. It is most unusual for him to leave his things behind. If he had been called away, he would have taken his bag with him.”
“Have you tried his home again?”
“Yes. There is still no answer. I will go around there and double check. It is not like Jack to disappear like this.”
“Is there anything I can do?” Gottfried stared at the wall for a few moments, formulating his answer.
“Not at the moment. I’ll go and check his home first and see if he’s there. Do you have a key to this office?”
“Yes, I have a master key for all the offices.” Gottfried rose and went to the door.
“Lock this office up for now. I don’t want anyone coming in and taking his things.” Helen nodded and went to collect her key as Gottfried turned out the light and returned to his own office to retrieve his car keys.
Arriving at Jack’s chalet, Gottfried turned off the engine and stared up at the windows. He climbed out and walked up the path to the front door, knocking loudly. He waited, and then knocked again. There was no answer. He tried the door, but found it to be locked, so he peered in through the front window. He could see nothing amiss. Piles of paper littered the desk and books were piled precariously on the coffee table. Gottfried walked around to the back of the chalet and tried the kitchen door. That, too, was locked and nothing seemed out of place in the kitchen either. Confused, he walked back to the front and knocked again. Still there was no answer. Gottfried returned to his car and drove back to the Sanatorium.
Upon his return, Gottfried asked Matron Graves to come to his office.
“I’m worried, Helen. The last time Jack disappeared so thoroughly, it was just before the war and there were many reasons for that disappearance. We need to search the Sanatorium fully and try to piece together his last known movements.”
“I’ll speak to the nurses and see what I can find out. How are you going to search the Sanatorium without arousing any suspicion?”
“I’m going to speak to Herr Blinker. He knows this place inside out. He is also very discreet so I can trust him to say nothing. If the search is unsuccessful, I’m afraid it may mean the Polizei, though I want to avoid that if I can.”
“It may be worth ringing Sir James. He knows Jack as well as you, doesn’t he? He may be able to shed some light on where he may be if we don’t locate him.”
“Yes, that is a good idea. I’ll do that if we find nothing after a thorough search.”
“I’ll go and see what I can discover from the nurses.” Helen left to begin her enquiries and Gottfried rang Herr Blinker in the handyman’s office. A quick conversation sent the old fellow on a search through the whole of the Sanatorium and the grounds outside, though it was to no avail. Jack was nowhere to be found.
An hour later, Helen returned to the office.
“Jack was last seen three days ago. Nurse Schmitt called him to a patient in the early afternoon.”
“Does she remember who it was?”
“Yes, it was that young girl, Maria Lang. She recalls him asking her to locate Hansi, one of the handymen as they couldn’t get hold of Maria’s mother. I think he must have been some relation to them.”
“I remember her. She was admitted with advanced tuberculosis a couple of months ago. Hansi is her brother. How is she doing? I have yet to check all the files since I only returned from Innsbruck yesterday.”
“She died three days ago. Jack was in attendance at the time.” Gottfried glanced at the rota on the wall beside his desk
“It was mid-afternoon, I think. I know one of the priests stayed in the room until the body was moved.”
“Jack must have stayed on after his shift to attend. He was due to finish at twelve.”
“That’s nothing unusual. He’s often stayed when he’s been needed.”
“Why would he disappear after that, though?”
“I have no idea. It’s not as if he knew them well. Maria had only been here for a couple of months.”
“That is true.” Gottfried looked thoughtful. “Yet, something has triggered this disappearance. I think we need to speak to Jem and see if he can help us to shed any light on the mystery.” Gottfried turned to the telephone and requested a call to be put through to the Sanatorium in Wales as soon as possible. “Could you bring me Maria’s file, please. I think I need to look at it.”
“Of course. I’ll fetch that and request some food as well.” Helen disappeared to do her errands.
When the telephone rang half an hour later, Gottfried had looked through Maria’s file, but was none the wiser as to what could have triggered Jack’s disappearance. He picked up the receiver and spoke absently.
“It’s Jem. I wasn’t expecting a call from you, Gottfried.”
“No, I know. However, I hope you can help. Jack has disappeared.”
“Disappeared? What do you mean? Be quick and tell me before they cut us off.”
“I mean he’s disappeared. His car and his belongings are here, but he is not. Nor is he at home. He was due to meet me at eleven o'clock today and he never turned up. It is most unlike Jack to miss a meeting.”
“Hmmm. You’re right.” Jem’s eyes strayed to the calendar on his desk. He stared blankly at it for a moment until the date came into focus. “Gottfried, when was he last seen?”
“Three days ago. As far as we can determine, he disappeared not long after he attended the death of one of our patients. It is odd that he disappeared immediately afterwards.”
“Who was it?”
“A young girl by the name of Maria Lang. She was admitted a couple of months ago with advanced tuberculosis.”
“Lang? I recognise that name. I’m sure Jack mentioned it once or twice in connection with when he was living in Zurich.”
“Of course! I knew something was familiar! He knew Maria and her family from the war. He mentioned gathering his wits and his past resurfacing on the day she was admitted.”
“I think I can guess where he may have gone. I’m coming over on the next available plane. The dates fit together. I’ll explain further when I arrive, but until then, I need you to get him off the rota for a few weeks and if anyone asks, just say he’s had to take some urgent leave.” Jem hung up before Gottfried could ask any further questions.
June 1958, Part III by Vick
Gottfried was in the middle of covering Jack’s shift when a knock on his office door disturbed him. Jem’s appearance was unexpected, but also a relief. Gottfried rang for some refreshments after he had greeted his friend.
“I didn’t expect you to arrive so soon. How was your journey?”
“Fine, thank you. I managed to get a cancellation, hence why I’ve arrived sooner than expected.”
“I’ll need to let Gisela know you’re here. She was going to prepare a room for you tomorrow since we thought that would be the earliest you could get here.”
“Have you managed to find out any more information about Jack?”
“No. It is so unlike him to disappear in this way that I’m at a loss to even guess where he may be, or why Maria’s death was the trigger.”
“May I have a look at Maria’s file? I’d just like to double check a couple of things before I tell you what I suspect.”
“Of course.” Gottfried rose from the comfortable chair he had occupied and crossed to the desk to retrieve the file. He handed it to Jem. “I’ll give Gisela a ring while you look through it.” Jem nodded and turned to the file. A quick glance through the notes showed him that Maria had been too ill for them to do more than make her last months as comfortable as possible for her. The final notes were in Jack’s unmistakeable scrawl and Jem studied them carefully. There was nothing missing, Jack had done his job thoroughly, but the actual date of death was what he noticed. As Gottfried resumed his seat once more, Jem looked across at him.
“The date of Maria’s death is the key. It’s the same date as Jo died.”
“Yes. Not only that, Maria was twenty, the same age as Jo was. My guess is that Jack was dealing with more than one death that day, though the other had occurred twenty years earlier. Most of us have forgotten the date unless we think about it, but it’s etched on Jack’s memory like a tattoo. Even though he was working, he’ll have been thinking about what happened. Dealing with the death of Maria, who was another link in his past is what’s caused his disappearance.”
“I ought to have noticed.”
“How could you? You know Jack. He’s a closed book when it comes to his past. He’ll talk about his home life and when we were in Austria until the Anschluss. Anything after that and especially the war is a taboo subject, even now. I think he still struggles to accept what happened to him, despite the fact that everything was well beyond his control. He’s learnt to hide it, even from those of us who know what happened.”
“Where do you think he may be?”
“I think he’s gone to Faggen.”
“Yes. That’s where Jo is buried. It’s a tiny village not far from Landeck.”
“Will he appreciate us going to find him?”
“No, but it’s necessary. It’s too late to set off tonight, but we can set off first thing tomorrow if you don’t mind driving. Can you get someone to cover here without arousing any further suspicion?”
“I’ll ask Phil. He’s discreet enough and he has a good idea of what happened to Jack, thanks to Hilary.”
“In that case, the best thing we can do is get some sleep. Tomorrow may well be a long day.”
“I’m not due to finish for a few more hours, but I’m sure Gisela would appreciate seeing you, if you want to set off.”
“I will do, if you don’t mind. I was on the early shift today and I’m tired. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Goodnight.” Jem nodded and departed for Gottfried’s home.
The next morning, the two doctors were up before many people were about their business. It would take them most of the day to travel to Landeck and then they had to find Jack. Although Jem was certain this would be where Jack was, he wasn’t entirely sure he’d made the correct guess. His logic told him that he would be correct though, so he had decided to go with his instinct. They called in at the Sanatorium first and a quick search through Jack’s belongings showed that he had his wallet with him. Collecting a blanket and some medical supplies as well as Jack’s coat and house keys, they returned to the car. They called round to Jack’s chalet first to collect some spare clothes, before Jem made himself comfortable in the passenger seat and Gottfried set off in the direction of Austria.
When they finally reached Landeck, both were relieved to climb out of the car and seek a hotel for the night. They realised it was too late to start searching for Jack now and both were ready for some food. Jem engaged rooms in a hotel near the centre of town and they quickly changed and went down to Abendessen. Remembering his conversation with Jack just over a year ago, Jem suspected that Jack wouldn’t be staying in Landeck, which meant they would need to search nearby towns and villages if they didn’t find him in Faggen.
Jem was up first the following morning. He had almost finished breakfast when Gottfried joined him. Their conversation languished as both contemplated whether they would find their friend. Neither expected the challenge to be easy. Once Gottfried had finished, they collected their coats and climbed into the car once more. Half an hour later, they drove into the village and looked around for the church. Eventually, they found it and parked on a side road nearby. They walked into the churchyard, Jem leading the way around towards the back of the church.
As they approached, Gottfried saw an old yew tree sheltering a lone gravestone and shivered. His own memories of that awful trek twenty years ago re-surfaced. He remembered hearing the shots and physically holding Jack back from attempting to go to Jo’s aid immediately. He had known that if he had allowed his friend to move, their hiding place would have been revealed and that the safety of the rest of the group would have been jeopardised. Gottfried didn’t remember the village itself, but he had recognised the outskirts as they had drove past.
A flash of colour beneath the tree caught Gottfried’s eye. At almost the same time, Jem saw it too and darted forward. Huddled by the base of the tree and shivering uncontrollably, they found Jack. His clothes were wet through and he was clammy to the touch when Jem placed his hand on his friend’s arm.
“How long have you been here, Jack?” Jem crouched down before his friend, worry etched across his face. Jack shied away, shaking his head and unable to look at his friend. Gottfried moved a few paces off allowing Jem to talk to Jack alone. As he read the inscription on the gravestone, someone else approached him and spoke quietly in German.
“Is this your friend?” Gottfried turned to the newcomer.
“It is. Do you know how long he’s been here?”
“For the past three days. I’ve tried to persuade him to leave the grave and come into the warmth, but he refuses.”
“Has he said anything at all to you?”
“Very little. All he says is “she is dead” but this grave has been here for twenty years, and the occupant isn’t a local girl.”
“No, I know she isn’t. However, it isn’t my story to tell.”
“I live just across the square. If you can persuade your friend to move, you are more than welcome to bring him over. I can provide hot drinks for you all.
“Thank you. That is most kind of you. If you care to wait a moment, I will give my colleague a hand with our friend and then we will follow you.” Gottfried bent down to Jem and quickly murmured the gist of his conversation in his ear. Jem nodded his agreement before turning his attention back to Jack.
“Come on, Jack. Time to get you into the warmth.” Jem spoke with authority, before moving to one side of Jack and positioning himself ready to rise. Gottfried did the same on Jack’s other side. Between them, they got him to his feet and managed to walk him out of the graveyard and into the cottage of the kindly stranger. Once there, Jem requested hot water and blankets before stripping the wet clothes off his friend and getting him warm and dry once more so he could examine him properly.
The diagnosis was not good.
July 1958, Part I by Vick
Many thanks for your lovely reviews. They're very much appreciated.
Apologies for all medical inaccuracies & inplausibilities in the next couple of chapters, but it fitted the plotline.....
Jack woke to find himself in an unfamiliar room. His body ached all over and he felt as if he’d been through several rounds in a boxing match. He could hear a noise nearby, but he was too tired to try and place what it was or where it was coming from. His eyes closed as sleep overwhelmed him once more.
When he finally woke again, Jack felt more like himself, though he had chest pain and was struggling for breath. He turned his head towards the slight noise and noticed the curtains drifting to and fro in the breeze. The noise he could hear was the curtain rings as they rattled gently on the pole. He tried to move, but found the covers were tightly tucked in around the bed, effectively pinning him in one place. His arms were free, though when he lifted them, he noticed one hand was attached to a tube, thus hindering him further since he couldn’t see where the drip was hanging. Sighing, he closed his eyes once more and wondered where he was. The door gently opened and someone slipped into the room. He looked up to see the familiar face of Gottfried Mensch.
“How are you, Jack?” Gottfried asked, as he pulled up a chair and seated himself beside the bed.
“Where am I?”
“In the Sanatorium. This room is rarely used as it is so out of the way. We thought it would be ideal for you since it is quiet here.”
“Why am I here at all?”
“You’ve had a bout of influenza which has developed into pleurisy.” Jack stayed silent as he digested this information. He now knew why he was experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath. What he was struggling to understand was what had happened for him to have ended up as a patient in the Sanatorium. The last thing he remembered was updating Maria Lang’s notes. After that – nothing.
Gottfried watched his friend sigh and rub his forehead with his free hand. He wanted to help, but knew that he needed to wait for Jack to make the first move. Pushing him to talk would only make Jack retreat further into himself and Gottfried didn’t want that to happen. Jack’s eyes closed once more as he gave up the fight to stay awake. Once he was sure that Jack wasn’t going to wake again anytime soon, Gottfried rose and left the room quietly.
Returning to his office, Gottfried dropped into the chair behind his desk and placed a call to Jem in Wales. The conversation was short, but Jem was relieved to hear that his friend had finally come round, even if he was confused. He hoped that Jack would recover from this latest blow.
Jack woke again and this time found Helen Graves beside him.
“So you’re back with us?”
“It would seem so. Not that I remember anything much.”
“Concentrate on getting yourself back on your feet first, then you can worry about remembering.”
“Can you loosen the covers a little for me? I can barely move.”
“They’re tight to stop you moving about and to make you rest. If I loosened them, you’d be trying to do too much before you’re able.”
“I’m a doctor. I’m not going to do too much since I know how much pain I’ll end up in if I’m not careful.”
“That’s as may be, but, at the moment, you’re my patient. Until Dr Mensch says you can sit up, you’re staying as you are.” Jack opened his mouth to protest, but Helen stopped him. “Jack, you’ve been in here for over three weeks, and have only just come round. You aren’t well enough to even try sitting up yet.”
“I know.” Jack sighed and rubbed his face, feeling the stubble on his chin. “What did I do to end up in here, Helen? Why do I have the feeling that I’ve done something so stupid, that I’ve lost all respect and people are going to be laughing at me? Or worse?”
“No one knows what happened, Jack.” Helen seated herself on the chair beside the bed and looked at him. “All they’ve been told is that you’re ill and will be off work for a while. I don’t even know the full story. All I’m concerned about, is that you rest and let yourself heal again. You’ve just said that you’re the doctor. If our current positions were reversed, what would you be saying to me?”
“To rest and sleep. To concentrate on those and not worry about anything else.” A faint smile crossed his face, which Helen returned. “I know. I need to follow my own advice. I just wish it was that simple.” He yawned.
“Get some more sleep. You’ll find it easier to think and solve your worries when you’ve slept. I’ll continue to look in on you, as will Gottfried.” She rose from the chair and checked the drip, as well as making sure the covers were still firmly tucked in around him.
“No need for thanks. Concentrate on getting yourself back to full health again.” She pulled the curtains to and turned off the light, leaving Jack alone in the darkness.
July 1958, Part II by Vick
Many thanks for your lovely reviews. Glad it came across well.
Apologies for not posting at all last week, but real life has been a bit horrible lately. However, I've now returned from a lovely week in Italy with my family & am ready to carry on regardless......
A week after he had first roused, Jack was struggling to rest properly. He was unable to sleep for much more than an hour or two at a time before vague, haunting dreams woke him. It was after one of these that he finally snapped at his restriction. He hauled at the covers until he’d knocked them to the floor, ripping the needle out of his hand in the process and dripping blood everywhere. When Gottfried entered the room, he found Jack sitting in the chair, his head in his bloodied hands. He was struggling for breath and shaking uncontrollably.
Taking the situation in at a glance, Gottfried quickly exited the room and found Helen Graves to help him. Whilst Helen changed the bedclothes, Gottfried cleaned up his friend and tried to find what had happened. Jack was unable to answer just shaking his head and, in the end, Gottfried had to give him something to calm him down and make him sleep. He then reattached the drip, taping it on well so Jack couldn’t pull it out easily again.
When Jack finally woke from the sedative, he found himself in bed once more. He was groggy and disorientated, feeling as if he’d just come up for air from the depths of the sea. He felt someone place a hand on his wrist to check his pulse. He kept his eyes closed, trying to avoid the bright harshness of the light. A familiar voice cut through his thoughts.
“I know you’re awake, Jack.”
“Turn the light off then. It’s too bright.” He listened to the footsteps as they crossed the room and plunged it into a dim gloom before returning to the bedside.
“Is that better?” Jack nodded in response and finally opened his eyes. He watched as his friend made himself comfortable in the chair.
“Why are you here, Jem?”
“Because I’m worried about you. What happened?”
“I wish I knew!” Jack saw the scepticism on his friend’s face and closed his eyes once more. He rubbed his hands across his eyes, feeling the cannula in his hand as he did so. “I mean it. The last thing I remember is updating some patient notes.”
“Do you remember which patient?”
“Maria’s, I think. Did I do something wrong?”
“No. They’re in perfect order and very thorough as always.”
“Then what is it? I’m sick of people avoiding my questions and not giving me a straight answer. Just tell me what I’ve done and then I can write my resignation and be out of your way.” Jack was becoming frustrated and Jem sought to calm him.
“This has nothing to do with your capability to do your job, Jack. You don’t need to write your resignation for I shan’t accept it anyway. Do you remember what you wrote in Maria’s notes?”
“No. I assume it was just a normal check and her vital signs.”
“You wrote her death certificate and final circumstances. Maria died four weeks ago.”
“She’s dead?” Some dim memory stirred in Jack’s mind. “What date is it?”
“The twelfth of July.”
“So that means…” Jack’s voice faded as he attempted to do calculations in his head. He groaned in frustration as he lost count. “Just tell me, Jem. My brain is still groggy from that sedative.”
“Maria died on the same date as Jo. You were in attendance, despite having finished your shift, and you made sure her family were with her at the end. After you’d written up your final notes and the death certificate, you walked out of the Sanatorium and disappeared.”
“Then how am I back here?”
“You were missed. Gottfried and I managed to piece together what had happened and work out where to find you.” Jem watched as memories returned to Jack. His eyes closed and he placed his hand over them as he tried to stop the tears. Jem rose and walked across to the window, allowing his friend space to bring himself back under control. A rustling behind him made Jem turn back to the room in time to see Jack struggling to sit upright. He quickly crossed the room to give his friend a hand, remaining silent as he banked cushions behind Jack and allowed him to regain his breath.
“Do you think you ought to be sitting up, yet?”
“No.” Jack’s answer was short, but Jem detected a note of frustration and let the matter lie. After all, he thought, Jack is a doctor and should know his own body.
“Helen won’t be pleased to see the mess you’ve made of her neat corners.”
“I’m sure she won’t, but I can’t cope with lying still any longer. It’s not beneficial since I’m not sleeping for much more than an hour at a time.”
“Is that why you were given the sedative?”
“I have no idea. I think you know more about that than I do. How strong was it?”
“Strong enough. Gottfried felt that he had no choice at the time, which is why he asked me to come. Why has the death of a patient thrown you into this position?”
“I assume you’ve read Maria’s notes?” Jem nodded and Jack continued, “Then you’ll also know that not only did Maria die on the same date, but, she was the same age as Jo. I’ve dealt with death for so long and yet, the coincidence completely threw me. I have no proper memory of what happened, but I can guess.”
“When we found you, you’d been missing for over three days.”
“How do you know it was that long?”
“You didn’t turn up to a meeting with Gottfried. You’ve always been diligent at turning up to meetings, so it was unusual enough to be noticed.”
“That doesn’t explain why I’m now in here with pleurisy.”
“You’d been sitting by Jo’s grave for three days by the time we reached you. A local resident had tried to help you, but, to no avail. It had started raining the day you walked out of here and continued for the next week. You had no coat or jacket, so you were completely soaked through. Gottfried and I got you dried off and brought you back here. You started with ‘flu which developed into pleurisy because your immune system was so low.”
“I see. Thank you.” Jack lapsed into silent contemplation of the wall beyond where Jem was sitting. Jem allowed the silence to linger, knowing that Jack needed to sort things in his mind at his own pace. He glanced down at his watch and the movement brought Jack back to the present.
“You don’t need to stay with me. I’m not going to do anything rash.”
“I never thought you would.”
“No, but I wouldn’t blame you for thinking it. After all, my stupidity is the reason why you’re sitting there and I’m in here with pleurisy.”
“Would you rather be alone?” Jem decided to ignore his friend’s comments, noting the tiredness and pain in his eyes, something Jack was generally so good at hiding from everyone. There was also something else, which Jem suspected was grief.
“I’m not good at small talk at the best of times. I don’t mean to be rude, Jem, but yes, please.”
“Do you want a hand to lie back down before I go?”
“You might take a couple of pillows. I think I’ll be more comfortable at an angle for now, rather than being flat.”
“Of course.” Jem did as he was asked before walking across to the door. “Don’t rush it, Jack. Take as much time as you need before you come back to work. I’ll call in again before I go home.” Jem then slipped through the door and Jack was alone.
Jack stared at the door for a few moments, wondering why he’d sent his friend away when he had been prepared to stay. In a way, he hoped that someone else would come in to keep him from his thoughts, despite the need to be alone. The trouble with Jem was that he was too good at allowing Jack the space to think and then listening to whatever he had to say. He knew it was why Jem was such a good doctor and why he was so successful. His eyes closed, he was unable to keep them open any longer. As he drifted into sleep, he saw Jo walking ahead of him, talking to someone who looked like Maria.
September 1958, Part I by Vick
Many thanks for your lovely reviews. They're much appreciated, as always.
Jack walked to the edge of the shelf and looked over. The scenery spread out below him was breath-taking, but he didn’t see any of it. His vision blurred and he hastily stepped back. Moving across to a convenient rock, he perched on the edge and stared ahead. He’d been released from the Sanatorium three weeks after he had sent Jem away, though he had yet to return to work. The depression which had overtaken him had prevented him from feeling able to do his job properly. Jack loved his job, but he knew he needed to be able to deal with everything if he was to do it to the best of his ability. He didn’t feel as if he was able to do that yet. Just before Jem had returned to England, he had reminded Jack to take his time and to make sure he was ready to return to work. Although he felt guilty at staying off, he knew that Jem was right.
A cloud moved across the sun and Jack shivered. Rising, he continued on his way, turning back towards the village and his home. He had deliberately been avoiding walking through the village as he had no wish to encounter people while he was still trying to bring himself back onto an even keel. He wished he could escape back to Pretty Maids, where he knew the area and had the isolation which had helped him last time, but, he had reluctantly sold it after the deaths of his parents as it was too large for him to maintain alone and his sister was still living in New Zealand. He was paying no attention to his surroundings and was considerably surprised to be stopped by a voice. He brought himself back to the present with a start.
“Herr Doktor? May I speak to you?” Jack turned to see Frau Lang beside him. He had been trying to avoid bumping into her, but today, his walk had crossed near to her chalet. He realised what had happened too late to avoid a conversation. He stopped and greeted her courteously.
Hannah Lang was surprised to see how thin and haggard the doctor looked. She knew he’d been off work as when she’d asked to see him at the Sanatorium, Matron had simply told her he was on leave. Now, she saw that he must have been ill. There was also a fragile air about him, something she remembered seeing in the war, when Hansi had first pointed him out to her in the hotel. She rushed on with her speech before she lost confidence.
“I just wanted to say thank you for what you did for Maria. Thanks to you, she died knowing we were with her at the end. She wouldn’t have lived so long if you hadn’t persuaded me to take her to the hospital all those years ago.”
“Please don’t thank me. I didn’t manage to save her in the end. All I could do was try and make her as comfortable as possible, so she wasn’t in pain.”
“You did that. You also took the time to find me and make sure both Hansi and I were with her. When I came to look for you afterwards, you weren’t around. Matron just told me you were on leave.”
“Yes. I’m sorry, I need to go…” Jack left the sentence hanging. He couldn’t cope with the small talk any longer. Luckily, Frau Lang took the hint.
“Of course. I’m sorry to have kept you.” Jack nodded and walked quickly away in the direction of the village, leaving Hannah looking after him, confused and concerned. She slowly turned and walked back to her own home.
Once inside, Hannah automatically began to prepare the evening meal for herself and Hansi. She didn’t pay much attention to her task, her thoughts being on the very brief conversation she’d just had. Her heart had gone out to the doctor when she’d realised he’d obviously been ill. She knew he wasn’t married and lived alone, Hansi had told her as much one evening after they’d returned home from visiting Maria. She wanted to know more about him, despite his obvious reluctance to speak to her.
Jack returned to his chalet and slammed the door behind him, angry with himself for rebuffing Frau Lang’s thanks. After all, he knew she wasn’t to blame for his current position. He was. As he paced up and down the living room and kitchen, he talked out loud, trying to understand the thoughts which were running through his mind and why he seemed unable to move himself away from what had happened twice on the same date, albeit twenty years apart. It was late when Jack finally collapsed onto the sofa, his thoughts no nearer a solution to his problems. He lay back and stared at the ceiling, his eyes closing in exhaustion since he’d had very little to eat during the day.
Jack woke with a start, feeling stiff and wondering where he was. As his surroundings came back into focus, he realised he was still in his living room. Sighing, he pulled himself upright and went into the kitchen to make himself a hot drink. Looking through the cupboards for something to eat, he realised he needed to go shopping. He glanced at his watch and saw that he would have to wait another hour until the local shops opened. He sat down at the table with his coffee and concentrated on making out a list. At least it was a distraction from his thoughts.
As Jack exited the butchers, he almost bumped into Frau Lang. He made a hasty apology and was about to walk off when she stopped him.
“How are you, Herr Doktor?” Jack was taken aback by the question. After the shortness of his replies the previous day, he hadn’t expected her to try and strike up a conversation again. As he looked at Frau Lang, he felt guilty for his previous rudeness. He managed a smile.
“I’m well, thank you. How are you and Hansi?”
“We’re managing. Hansi has been busy of late, but he is enjoying his work.”
“I’m glad to hear it. He’s a hard worker and does his job well.” Frau Lang smiled.
“I’m sure he’ll be pleased to know that.” She paused a moment, before rushing on. “Forgive me but, you don’t look as well as before.” Jack was unsure how to answer this comment. He looked away briefly as he realised that he was unable to hide away in such a small community. He turned back to Frau Lang, deciding that he owed her some sort of explanation.
“I’ve been ill. Are you in a rush, or do you have time to walk on a little?”
“I was about to go back home if you care to walk in that direction.”
Jack nodded in assent. They turned and walked away from the few shops in the village, following the path along the back of the shelf. Jack stayed silent until they were away from the village. Once they’d left everyone behind and were strolling along the path towards Ste Cecilie, he finally broke his silence.
“I owe you an apology for my rudeness yesterday.”
“There’s no need to apologise. I could see I’d surprised you and you were uncomfortable speaking to me.”
“My silence for so long during the war and events which happened before I ended up in Zurich have caused me many problems when it comes to small talk. I’m sorry I couldn’t save Maria.”
“You did everything you could for her and for that, I’m grateful. If you hadn’t taken her to the Sanatorium, she would not have survived for as long as she did.”
“I just wish I could have done more for her. It was the same with Jo.” Jack turned off the path and walked towards a fallen log. Hannah followed, intrigued by his last comment. She sat beside him on the log and spoke softly, almost afraid to ask.
“Who is Jo?”
“Jo was my fiancée. She was shot and killed by the Nazis when we were trying to escape Austria shortly after the Anschluss. Maria died on the same date.”
“I’m sorry. I had no idea.” Hannah paused a moment before she continued with another question. “Is that why you’ve been ill? I don’t mean to pry but, the last time I saw the look you have now was when we were living in Zurich.”
“Maria and Jo were both the same age when they died. There were too many coincidences for me to cope with that day. Once I’d completed my job I disappeared. When I was found, I went down with a bout of ‘flu and ended up with pleurisy.” Jack paused. “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. You have no interest in my woes and you have enough to deal with, with your own grief.” He rose and walked away from the log. He paused as the quiet voice reached his ears.
“If I wasn’t interested, I wouldn’t have stopped you in the street a second time. Surely being able to talk to someone who has been through similar experiences is beneficial to both of us?”
“I’m sure it is, however, I’m not very good at talking, even now.”
“Maybe that’s because you’ve never had to try before. Your profession makes you a good listener, and you encourage your patients to talk about their hopes and fears. Perhaps you ought to take some of your own advice.” Jack turned back to the log where Hannah was still seated and smiled.
“Perhaps I should.”
“Why don’t you come to dinner tomorrow evening? Hansi is working and I find the time gives me too many opportunities for thought when I’m alone.” Jack was surprised at the offer.
“I’m not sure…” He began, hesitantly. Hannah rose and stood before him.
“I’m offering out of friendship. I may have known you in the past, but it was a brief acquaintance. You look like you need a friend who doesn’t have some association with work and I’m offering my friendship.”
“Is half past seven too early?”
“No, it’s perfect.” Hannah nodded and smiled.
“I must get on. I’ll see you tomorrow. Do you remember the house?”
“I do. Thank you for the invitation.”
“My pleasure.” She smiled again before setting off along the path towards her home. Jack watched her go before he turned towards his own home, oddly comforted by the encounter.
September 1958, Part II by Vick
Thanks for reviewing as always.
Punctually at half past seven, Jack knocked on the door of Frau Lang’s chalet. He was beginning to wonder if he’d done the right thing in accepting her invitation. He was used to his own company and knew he would find it difficult to carry on a conversation with a relative stranger. He was just contemplating whether he could turn and leave without being seen when the door was opened. Hannah stood there, and smiled when she saw him.
“Good evening, Herr Doktor.” She ushered him inside and took his coat and hat, hanging them on the stand by the door. “Come through to the kitchen. Dinner is almost ready.” She led the way to the back of the house, which Jack saw was similar in layout to his own chalet, though the kitchen was larger. He was invited to take a seat at the table whilst Hannah replaced her apron and began to put out the meal she had cooked.
Jack looked down at the plate placed in front of him and thanked his hostess with a smile. Hannah had decided to keep the meal simple and had cooked Älplermagronen. As he ate, he discovered the dish contained cheese, potatoes, onions, macaroni, cream and apples and was delicious. Hannah kept the conversation on general topics whilst they ate, divining that her guest would prefer to stay away from the past for now. As they talked, Jack found himself beginning to enjoy the evening and he relaxed slightly. After they’d finished a dessert of Apfeltorte, Hannah made coffee and then turned the conversation.
“Hansi told me you’d lived in Austria before the war.”
“Yes, I was working at a Sanatorium about an hour away from Innsbruck. It was based on the Sonnalpe, above the Tiernsee.”
“The Tiernsee? I remember spending family holidays there as a child. We had relatives who owned a hotel nearby and would go to stay with them for the summer months. I come from Schwaz, though we were living in Feldkirch when Anschluss was declared. My husband worked for the local newspaper. He didn’t agree with many Nazi policies and when they took him away, I fled with the children before they could take us too.”
“I don’t know Feldkirch.”
“It’s a town on the border between Austria and Switzerland. We went back after the war to see if my husband had returned.”
“Did you find out what had happened to him?”
“No. He never came home. All we can hope is that he didn’t suffer. Maria was ill again while we were there, so we decided to make our home out here in Switzerland instead. She was much healthier up here.”
“Yes, the air is so much better at this altitude. Do you ever go back to Austria?
“Yes. Luckily, most of my family survived and we go to visit them each year. Have you ever returned?”
“Once. Twice, if you count my disappearance a few months ago.” Jack paused, but Hannah said nothing. He took a deep breath. “I finally went back last year, but, I struggled to deal with it all. Being back in Landeck was worst.”
“Why Landeck? You said you’d lived above the Tiernsee.”
“I did until after the Anschluss. Then things happened. The result was that I was left behind in Austria as the group we were with had continued without us for their own safety. I spent four years in Landeck, hiding in full view of the Nazis before I had to flee again. That’s when I finally made it to Switzerland.”
“And then, you were still unable to make it home because most of Europe had fallen.” Jack nodded in response.
“I didn’t get home until after the war had ended. Then the effects of seven years of silence sent me into a deep depression. I still suffer from bouts even now.”
“Maria’s death being the cause of the latest,” Hannah observed, shrewdly.
“Yes.” Jack drained his cup and replaced it on the table. “Thank you for inviting me to dinner. I should be going though. I’ve encroached on your time for long enough.” He rose and Hannah did the same. She saw that he wasn’t prepared to say anything further. She retrieved his hat and coat and showed him to the door.
“Thank you for coming tonight. Take care on your way home.”
“I will. Thank you again.” Jack nodded to her and, placing his hat on his head, he turned and walked in the direction of his own home. Hannah watched him until he was out of sight, before she closed the door and returned to the kitchen to wash up.
Jack walked slowly. His mind felt a little lighter for having spent the evening in the company of someone. He realised that Frau Lang had been correct when she had stated that talking to someone who had been in a similar position might help. He hoped he’d done the same for her, too.
Once he reached home, Jack made himself some tea and went to sit in the living room. He nursed his cup as he stared at the photograph of Jo on the shelf. She was smiling up at the camera whilst holding her St Bernard, Rufus. It had obviously been taken before the Anschluss and Jo looked so happy, unaware of what was to come just a few short months later. He briefly wondered what she was thinking when it had been taken and his thoughts turned back to his evening. He had managed to spend time in the company of someone else and had also revealed more about himself than he had to anyone else since before the war. He felt his eyelids begin to droop and realised he was tired. The mental strain of the evening had finally caught up with him. He took his cup through to the kitchen, checked the doors and turned out the lights before going upstairs to bed, where he slept properly for the first time in months.
For those of you intrigued enough about Älplermagronen, here's where I found it in the first place....
November 1958, Part I by Vick
Thanks for taking time to review, Pauline & Kathryn. :-D
A short update tonight...
The alarm rang loudly, shattering the quietness and jolting Jack out of a vaguely disturbing dream. He reached out in the darkness and hit the clock, effectually silencing the alarm. He considered snuggling back under the covers and returning to oblivion, but, realised he would be late for work if he did that. Stretching his arm back out from under the plumeau, he turned on the lamp, blinking in the sudden brightness. He lay on his back, staring at the ceiling for a few minutes, as he let himself wake up more fully before finally throwing back the covers and going into the bathroom for a wash. Once he was dressed, he made himself a strong cup of coffee and some toast. It was barely five o’clock and still dark outside. The weather had closed in over the past few days and he could hear the rain beating against the windowpane as he sat at the table to eat his breakfast.
Pulling his coat over his head, Jack locked the front door and ran to his car, unlocking it and climbing in as quickly as possible. He was already wet and he could feel the bitterness of the wind, indicating that winter wasn’t far away, now. He drove quickly towards the Sanatorium where he parked as close to the entrance as possible so he could try and avoid getting any wetter as he ran inside the building. Once in the warmth, Jack walked sedately along to his office and deposited his coat, hat and bag before going in search of more coffee. When he finally returned to his office, he dropped into the chair behind the desk and looked at the pile of paperwork on there. He was beginning to go through everything when a knock came at the door.
“Come in,” he called out, absently, his mind already on what was in front of him. Someone slipped into the room and crossed to stand before the desk.
“It’s good to see you back.” Jack looked up to see Gottfried standing before him. Rising, Jack shook his friend’s hand and gestured for him to sit down. Once they were both comfortable, Jack picked up his drink as he waited for Gottfried to continue.
“How are you?”
“Much better, thank you. I’ve been sleeping better over the past few weeks and feel ready to be back at work again.”
“I’m glad. Don’t go pushing yourself too quickly, though.”
“I won’t. Is there anything I need to know before I take over?” Gottfried took the hint that Jack had no wish to discuss himself any further and moved onto other matters which Jack needed to know. When they had finished, Gottfried rose and went to the door.
“Jem mentioned he may come over in a couple of weeks. A few members of the board have requested a meeting.”
“Do I need to attend as well?”
“Not as far as I know. I’m sure Jem will let you know if you do.”
“Okay.” Jack’s eyes strayed back to the papers before him and Gottfried opened the door. “I’ll leave you to it, then. Have a good day, Jack.”
“Thanks,” Jack replied, absently. Gottfried just smiled as he exited the room, knowing that his friend rarely acknowledged anyone when he was absorbed.
Jack’s shift flew by. The enforced break had been good for him and he was grateful for being given the time to bring himself back onto an even keel once more. He was looking forward to the challenges again, something he hadn’t been able to contemplate a few weeks earlier. As he studied some notes, his mind strayed and he found himself thinking about the evening he had spent with Frau Lang. Staring into space, he realised that it was after that evening that he had finally turned the corner once more. Her quiet conversation and the simple fact that she hadn’t judged his actions had made an impact on him. He realised that, despite his reservations, he had enjoyed the evening, even though he had left abruptly when she hit the truth of his last bout of depression. He made up his mind that he would apologise for his abrupt departure when he next bumped into her.
This happened two days later, when he was in the village. Frau Lang caught him up as he was leaving the bakery. He smiled down at her as she fell into step beside him.
“You look much better than the last time I saw you, Herr Doktor,” she remarked.
“I am, thank you. I also owe you an apology for my rather abrupt departure, as well.”
“Not at all. You had reached the limit of what you were prepared to say and you’d already warned me that you struggle with small talk.” Jack smiled once more at this comment.
“I do, that much is true, but it doesn’t excuse my rudeness. I would like to thank you for listening, though.”
“It is no trouble. I found it interesting that we had places in common, not just being refugees in the war.”
“That is true. Maybe we can talk of happier times next time.” Jack paused at a footpath as he spoke. “I turn up here. It was nice to speak to you again.”
“And to you, too. I’m sure I will see you again. Take care, Herr Doktor.”
“Goodbye.” Jack smiled and turned up the footpath, feeling vaguely happy after the encounter. Frau Lang smiled after him before continuing on her way home, too.
November 1958, Part II by Vick
Many thanks for commenting, they're always much appreciated.
The days passed as Jack returned to his routine of working shifts. He threw himself back into his work, enjoying the challenges presented to him, as well as the research he did when he had time. Gottfried had been watching from afar and was pleased to see his friend seemed much more at ease than he had ever been since the war. He mentioned this to Jem when he arrived two weeks later. They had both returned to Gottfried’s home and were enjoying a drink before bed. Gisela had already departed, leaving them alone.
“Have you seen Jack since you arrived?” Gottfried asked as he poured them both a whisky. He handed a glass to Jem and they made themselves comfortable.
“No, not yet. He’s been working nights, hasn’t he?”
“Yes. I think he finishes tonight and has a couple of days off before he comes back onto days.”
“In that case, I’ll catch up with him when he’s back in. I don’t need him to attend any meetings this time so he may as well enjoy his days off in peace. How is he doing?”
“You know Jack. He won’t answer questions directly, but he seems well. If anything, he looks much better than I’ve seen him in a long time. I think that making him take a longer break than he would have liked has been beneficial for him. He’s dealing with everything at work in his usual efficient way.”
“I’m glad. I know he told me that he had finally closed that chapter of his life over eighteen months ago when he had been back to Landeck and Zurich, but I’m not so sure he did.”
“Maybe he had closed some parts, but others remained raw. When you told me that Maria had died on the same day as Jo, it made sense. He’d dealt with other deaths and not flinched; the fact that she was also the same age was the trigger. He didn’t need to stay with her until the end as he’d finished his shift, anyone else could have taken over.”
“You know that isn’t Jack, though. He’s always stayed on beyond his shift for that type of thing. He regularly attended until the end when we were at the Sonnalpe, whether he was on shift or not. I agree, though, Maria’s age, the date of her death and also the fact that he had known her in the past triggered this last setback.” Jem yawned and glanced at his watch. “I ought to go to bed really. I have an important meeting tomorrow with Herr Ziegler.” He rose and, wishing Gottfried goodnight, departed for his bed.
Three days later, Jem knocked on Jack’s office door, entering when he heard a muffled answer. He smiled as he closed the door. Jack was sitting with his feet on the desk, surrounded by papers and making notes on a precariously perched notepad. There was an empty coffee cup balancing perilously on the edge of the desk and Jem caught it as fell. Jack looked up at the noise and realised he was no longer alone. He moved the notepad, pushed his pen behind his ear and rose from his seat to greet Jem.
“Hello! I didn’t realise you were still over here. How are you?” He held out his hand to shake Jem’s, and noticed the cup. Casually removing it from Jem’s hand, he placed it back on the desk and then they shook hands properly.
“Hello, Jack. I’m very well, thank you. How are you? I think the last time I saw you, you were just recovering from pleurisy.” Jack smiled, ruefully.
“That and the all the rest of it. I’m much better now, thank you. I should also thank you for coming to find me.”
“There’s no need. Why don’t we order some coffee and I’ll get you and Gottfried back up to speed with what’s been happening while I’ve been over here?”
“Of course. Shall we invade Gottfried’s office? His is much tidier than mine, as well as larger.” They set off towards Gottfried’s office as they talked.
“I don’t know how you manage to work in all that chaos,” Jem grinned. “I think it’s just a ploy so you don’t have to entertain anyone. What do you do on clinic days?”
“Oh, I use a different room then, so I don’t have to tidy it all up. I’d rather keep all my paperwork here since I don’t have a lot of space at home. If I did any work there, my living room would be covered in five minutes. It means my house is generally reasonably tidy.” They reached Gottfried’s office at this point, Jack knocking before they entered.
After the meeting, Gottfried invited Jack for Abendessen that evening. Jem was surprised at the ease with which he agreed, knowing how much effort it had taken to persuade Jack to have dinner at his own home. Once he had left, Jem turned to Gottfried.
“Well, that’s a turn up for the books. I always had to spend days trying to persuade him to come to dinner.”
“It is rare that he accepts our invitations. In fact, this is the first one he’s accepted since he came back to work. Gisela will be happy. She has seen him occasionally in the village, but she was upset that he hadn’t been to Abendessen for such a long time. I didn’t like to ask him while he was off work and he needed the space away from us all.”
“It was probably a wise decision. He wouldn’t feel pressured into returning too soon either. When he first arrived back in England, he needed the isolation his family home afforded him. This is such a small place; he’ll have struggled to find that here.”
“Yes. I know he did do a lot of walking once he was back on his feet again, as I sometimes spotted him in the distance on my way to or from work.”
“He did a lot of walking in England, too. It was something he quite often did to help tire himself out enough to sleep.”
“I suspect he was doing it for the same reason here, too. He still occasionally asks for a prescription of sleeping tablets, though the last time was not long after Maria’s death.”
“I think he’ll always suffer from bouts of insomnia, probably depression, too. All we can do is be there for him when they happen, even though he pushes us away constantly.” Jem glanced at his watch. “What time is Abendessen?”
“At twenty o’clock. I’ll ring Gisela and let her know Jack will be coming as well. He should have finished his shift by now if you want to remind him.”
“I will. I know he was fathoms deep in something when I went to his office, earlier. Shall we wait for you?”
“No, go on ahead. I need to speak to Phil before I leave and he’s only just come on shift, so I’ll be another half an hour or so.”
“We’ll see you back at home, then.” Jem took his leave and walked back to Jack’s office where, as he suspected, Jack was engrossed in his papers once more. Jem employed his usual trick of removing the paper in Jack’s hand and reminding him that he was joining them for Abendessen that evening. Taking the hint, Jack rose from his chair and took the paper back from Jem, placing it on a pile at one side of the desk before collecting his coat and hat. They both exited the Sanatorium together and Jem was about to set off walking back to Gottfried’s when Jack stopped him.
“I want to drop my car off at home first. If you don’t mind waiting at mine while I change, we can walk on to Gottfried’s together?”
“Okay.” They both climbed into Jack’s car and he quickly drove them the short distance to his chalet. Once there, Jack showed his friend into the living room before excusing himself to run upstairs and wash and change.
Alone, Jem wandered around the small room, noting that there were very few personal possessions around, other than the detritus on the writing table. When he reached the shelf, he saw the picture of Jo. Picking it up, he smiled; remembering that Jo had been almost flattened by Rufus a few seconds after he had taken the photograph. Jem realised that Jack’s life would have been completely different had she not been killed. He understood why his friend suffered, now. What might have been is so very different to what has been. He replaced the frame, gently and wandered to the stove, warming himself as he waited.
When Jack returned a few minutes later, he held a bottle and two glasses. Placing them on the coffee table, he gestured Jem to the chair and dropped onto the sofa.
“We have time for a quick drink before we have to set off. It’s only a ten-minute walk from here if we go the back way.” He leaned forward and poured the whisky into each glass before handing one to Jem.
“Thank you. It’s not a bad sized chalet that you have.”
“It’s just big enough for me. There’s a large kitchen behind this and two bedrooms and the bathroom upstairs, which is more than plenty for what I want. I don’t think anyone has ever stayed over since I’m not particularly sociable and my sister is too far away to visit.”
“You don’t have much on display.”
“No. I’ve never bothered. There’s a couple of trunks of stuff in the spare bedroom, but I got rid of most things when I sold Pretty Maids. There was far too much for me and Mollie didn’t want anything since she’s in New Zealand. I just kept a few things and packed them into the trunks for safety. I’ve never unpacked them since.”
“I see.” Jem drank his whisky. “Shall we go? I still have to change yet.”
“Of course.” Jack rose from his seat and put on his hat and coat, whilst Jem did the same. They then set off for Gottfried’s house, Jack locking the door behind him.
They walked in a companionable silence, Jack actually enjoying being in the company of his friend. He hoped the evening would go well. Although he had been to Abendessen at Gottfried’s before, he had always wanted to leave almost as soon as the meal was finished. Tonight, he felt as if he may even manage to stay a little longer afterwards, though he knew better than to make any intentions.
Jack did enjoy his evening and stayed much longer than he expected, even managing to join in the conversation after the meal had finished. He finally reached home around midnight and went to bed without thinking about whether he would sleep or not for the first time in a long time.
Many thanks for your reviews as always.
Jack set off in the crisp snow. He was glad the blizzard had finally stopped and he was able to walk somewhere again. He hated being cooped up indoors and having to use his car to get anywhere, including doing his shopping in the village. Now, the sun was shining again and he adjusted his snow goggles as he turned onto the path.
As he neared his destination, the sun was beginning to sink in the sky and the shadows were lengthening. Five minutes later, he reached the door and knocked. It was answered by Hannah Lang. She smiled as she greeted him.
“Hello, you’re just in time. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes.” She stepped back from the door and ushered him inside. Smiling, Jack moved into the hallway and removed his outer garments. Hannah took them from him and hung them on the hooks near the door before leading him into the kitchen.
“Please, have a seat.” He obeyed, sitting in the chair she indicated to him. “Hansi is working tonight, so he won’t be joining us.” Jack just nodded in response. He wondered if she had even told her son that she had invited him to dinner.
Jack had bumped into Hannah quite often over the last few months and they had talked each time, discovering that they had more than just being refugees in the war in common. He had found himself drawn to her, even though he had never intended a friendship to form between them. The last time they had met, they had ended up speaking at length as they wandered along through the village. The result of that conversation was an invitation to dinner and Jack had found himself accepting before he had chance to think about it.
Hannah smiled as she placed the food onto their plates and sat down opposite Jack to eat. She was amazed that he had so easily accepted her invitation to dinner. She had not told Hansi about her conversations with the Herr Doktor, or of her dinner invitation, surmising that he wouldn’t understand her need for companionship.
As they ate, Hannah told Jack about what she had been doing during the bad weather.
“I’ve not been anywhere, really. The snow has been so bad, that I didn’t dare go far in case another blizzard came on and I couldn’t get back home safely. Luckily, Hansi has been able to buy most things we’ve needed when he has been out to work. He knows the path between here, the Sanatorium and the village so well, that he can generally even manage in a snowstorm.”
“Yes, it’s not been a pleasant few days. I’ve had to use the car to get everywhere as I didn’t trust the snow to stay away long enough. I’m impressed that Hansi managed to walk in during the snow we’ve just experienced.”
“He had no choice. If he doesn’t go to work, he doesn’t get paid and may even lose his job. We need his wage to help pay the bills as the little I earn isn’t enough.”
“I never realised you worked. What do you do?”
“It’s nothing exciting, I’m afraid. I clean for a few families round about and run the occasional errand for those who struggle to get out. I spend time with the older folk too, as some of them are quite lonely and appreciate the company. It doesn’t pay much, but is rewarding work.”
“I can imagine it is. Sometimes, having someone to talk to is all they need. I know I’ve made house calls, only to find that there was nothing really wrong with the person and they just wanted someone to talk to.”
“Yes, I’ve heard that has happened. I try to make regular visits to those I know about, but I can’t be in more than one place at once so I have to restrict my time with them.”
“Still, an hour each week is better than no contact at all.”
“It is.” Hannah rose to clear their empty plates and serve dessert. “I’m sure the little I do manage is appreciated by the families as well.” Jack nodded his agreement as he tucked into the contents of his bowl.
Their conversation continued through coffee, both feeling comfortable in each other’s company. It was not until Jack had taken his leave and was strolling back towards his own chalet, that he realised how much had enjoyed her company. He wondered at himself. It was less than a year since he had been at his lowest ebb in twenty years and he was suddenly spending his free time wanting to talk to other people. This was something he’d never contemplated happening again. He neared his chalet, but decided he needed to walk a little longer. Pulling his hat further down on his head, he continued past and along the shelf towards the other end. He wanted to think.
As he walked, Jack thought he heard someone speak to him. It came from far away but, when he turned to look there was no one in sight. He shook his head and continued onwards. The voice came again and this time he stopped to listen.
“I told you to live life, Jack. You haven’t done that, have you?”
“I don’t know what you mean, Jo. I’m still alive, aren’t I? Isn’t that living life?”
“It’s not been very fulfilling, though, has it? You’re lonely. You need her friendship. Jem and Gottfried will always look out for you; they’ll be there to pick the pieces back up each and every time you need their help. Enjoy your life, Jack. Enjoy her friendship.”
“I don’t know. How do I know it’s right?”
“You don’t. Isn’t that the point of life? Make mistakes and learn from them. I suspect she wants your friendship as much you want hers. Why not try?”
“What about the next time I go through hell? I can’t put her through that. I’m better off alone.”
“She’ll understand, Jack. She knows what it’s like to lose a loved one. She’ll know that you sometimes need time and space and she’ll give you that. She’ll do it because she cares, the same as Jem and Gottfried care. Don’t push any of them away.”
Jack shook his head. He was talking out loud to his own imagination. Looking around him, he realised, he’d walked further than he intended and turned his steps back towards home once more. He glanced up at the sky, noting that clouds were building below the full moon and quickened his pace since he had no wish to be caught in a blizzard in the dark.
The first snowflakes began to whirl gently down as he reached home. He entered quickly and locked the door behind him before discarding his outer garments and moving into the warmth of the living room. He stoked the fire back up in the stove and went to turn the kettle on. Once he had a hot drink and had made himself comfortable on the sofa, he gave himself up to his thoughts.
The liquid spilling on his chest woke Jack and he realised that he had fallen asleep in the living room. He placed his mug on the coffee table and went up to bed, swiftly climbing in between the covers. He hadn’t expected to sleep much after his conversation with Jo, but he was soon fast on, never waking until the alarm pierced his dreams the next morning.
April 1959, Part I by Vick
Many thanks for your lovely reviews, folks.
Gisela Mensch was walking through the village when she spotted Jack ahead of her. She sped up, intending to catch him up and invite him to dinner. However, before she could reach him, he was joined by a lady. As she watched, Gisela noted that she was much smaller than Jack and that he walked on with her. Shelving her thoughts, she turned into the bakery to buy her bread and continued with her shopping.
Once she had finished, Gisela turned back towards home, a heavy bag in each hand. She was just starting along the road when she saw Jack and his companion a little distance before her. As she approached, she saw them part and noted that Jack had a smile on his face.
Jack spotted Gisela coming towards him and he waited for her to reach him, the smile still evident. He spoke in English, knowing that Gisela would understand him and enjoyed the practice since she didn’t have chance very often. He also enjoyed the opportunity to be able to talk in his own language for a change as few of the staff at the Sanatorium were fluent enough to hold a full conversation without him having to switch to German halfway through.
“Hello, Gisela. I didn’t expect to meet you today. How are you?” He took her bags from her and fell into step beside her.
“I’m very well, thank you, and you?”
“Good, thanks. Looking forward to a few days off as I’m not back in work until Friday.”
“Do have any plans for your days off?”
“I shall probably go walking one day and maybe go down to Interlaken as well. Otherwise, I have nothing fixed as such.”
“Why don’t you come to dinner one evening? It has been a long time since we saw you.”
“That would be lovely, thank you. Which day would you prefer?”
“Would Tuesday be suitable?”
“Of course. I can arrange my plans around that easily.” They reached Gisela’s home at this point and Jack stopped, handing the bags back to her with a smile.
“Then we will look forward to it. Thank you for carrying my bags; it is most kind of you.”
“My pleasure. I’ll see you on Tuesday.”
“Goodbye.” Gisela watched Jack set off back in the direction they’d come before turning to the door and entering her home. She was thoughtful as she did her housework and helped the children with their homework.
When Gottfried arrived home, he found her distant but was unable to question her until the children were all in bed. Once Gisela had made herself comfortable, he looked across at her with a smile.
“You’ve been most thoughtful this evening, Liebling.”
“I bumped into Jack this morning.”
“He seemed fine when I took over from him. What is it about our friend that has interested you?”
“I’m not sure it is anything for us to worry about. He seemed very happy and even accepted an invitation to dinner on Tuesday evening.”
“That is good. It will be nice to see him out of our normal environment. Something else has intrigued you, though.”
“Yes. I saw him in the village and was going to catch him up when he fell into step with another lady. He was laughing with her and looked completely at ease.”
“I understand why you are intrigued, now. Jack hasn’t been at ease with other people for so long that we aren’t used to seeing it. Did you know the lady?”
“I didn’t see her properly, but, she certainly lived locally. She turned down the path towards Ste Cecilie before I reached them and then Jack carried my bags back for me.” Gottfried laughed.
“Always the gentleman. I suspect you also took the opportunity to practice your English too.” Gisela smiled as she replied.
“It is always worthwhile to practice and I don’t have as many opportunities to keep up my language skills as you do. I also think that Jack would like to speak his own language occasionally.”
“That is probably true. He mainly speaks German at the Sanatorium since the majority of the staff and patients are Swiss. I admit that I also do most of the time.”
“In that case, I propose that we speak English on Tuesday evening. It will enable me to practice and allow Jack the chance to speak in his native tongue.”
“I agree. However, that is moving away from my original question. You said she went in the direction of Ste Cecilie?”
“Yes. Jack was still smiling after she left, so she must be a friend of some sort. I wonder if you know who she may be?”
“I don’t know many people who live in that direction, apart from a couple of nurses and one of the handymen. In fact, Jack knows the handyman and his mother. Hmmm, I wonder…” Gottfried tailed off as he thought. Gisela waited patiently until he continued once more.
“Was she much smaller than Jack?”
“Yes, she barely reached his shoulder as they walked along ahead of me.”
“I wonder if it is Frau Lang. She is the only person from that direction with whom Jack might make time to talk.”
“Wasn’t she the mother of the girl who died?”
“She was. Jack knew the family when they were in Zurich during the war. I know she came to the Sanatorium to speak to him while he was ill, but we managed to put her off at the time.”
“I think I may have seen them together at other times when I’ve been in the village. It has never really occurred to me until now.”
“Then they have talked since he was discharged. I’m surprised he has developed a friendship with her after what happened with Maria.”
“Maybe that’s why. They have a shared past and have also both lost loved ones. They are both things which draw people together.”
“That is a valid point. Let’s not begrudge him this opportunity. It may be just what he needs in order to move forward and enjoy the future.”
“Of course. He will tell us in his own time if he wishes us to know anything. It is over twenty years since Jo died and he deserves to enjoy some happiness.” Gottfried agreed with his wife’s sentiment. The clock chimed eleven at this point and they departed to bed.
April 1959, Part II by Vick
Many thanks for your lovely reviews.
Hansi Lang was eating breakfast when his mother entered the room. He looked up and nodded towards the coffee on the side. Smiling, Hannah filled a cup and sat in the chair opposite him. She watched as he cleared his plate and then picked up his own coffee cup.
“What time are you working until, today?” Hannah asked.
“I finish at seventeen today.”
“I may not be home when you arrive back. I’ll leave you something to warm up on the side.”
“Thank you. Where are you going?”
“I’m going to Interlaken for the day. I have a few errands to run and requests for things which I can’t pick up from the village.”
“I can come and meet you from the train if you know which one you’ll be coming home on.”
“I’m not sure yet. Nothing I need to get is particularly heavy so I’ll manage. The walk isn’t too far.” Hansi nodded and rose from the table. He placed his crockery in the sink and bent to kiss his mother on his way past.
“I need to go now, or I’ll be late. Take care in Interlaken, Mutti.”
“I will. Have a good day.” Hannah watched him leave the kitchen and heard him close the front door a few minutes later. She made herself some breakfast and another mug of coffee before cooking something for Hansi to eat when he arrived home that evening. She washed up after she had finished, and then went to dress. Once she was ready, she collected her handbag and a shopping bag before donning her coat and hat and departing for the station.
As Hannah arrived at the little wooden shelter, she saw Jack was already there. Smiling, she joined him on the bench. They talked easily as they waited for the train to arrive and boarded quickly when it pulled into the station.
When they arrived in Interlaken, Jack and Hannah went to a small café first. They enjoyed a coffee and a pastry each as they planned what they wanted to do during the day.
“I need to buy a few things while I’m here,” Hannah told Jack as she sipped her coffee. “I can’t get them in the village, so today is an ideal opportunity.”
“Of course. We can do that this afternoon since we don’t want to be carrying it around with us all day.”
“As long as we manage to do it before the shops close. I don’t want to go home without my shopping, or I’ll end up having to make another trip.” Jack nodded.
“What else would you like to do today?”
“I don’t mind. Why don’t we be tourists for the day and just explore? I’m sure there are places I haven’t found yet.”
“That’s a good plan. I know I’ve never ventured much further than the main shops as I usually just come to get the things I need and then go straight home again. Exploring on my own just hasn’t appealed to me for various reasons.”
“It’s been many years since I brought the children here. Then we went on the lake as they were too boisterous for me to take to any museums. Also, Maria always ended up ill if we stayed in the town for too long.” Jack just nodded, knowing exactly what Hannah meant. He changed the subject.
“Perhaps we should find a museum or a church to investigate.”
“That sounds like a good idea, Herr Doktor.”
“My name is Jack. If we’re going to spend the day together, it’s going to be a long one if you keep on calling me Herr Doktor.” Hannah smiled.
“It seems strange to be so informal when we’ve only spent a little time together.”
“I’ve never liked being formal, even when I’m working. I’ve always been Dr Jack to children and even some adults, it makes them more comfortable and I don’t feel so distant to them when I’m working.”
“That is a nice ethic to have. If you insist, then I will call you Jack and you must call me by my given name too. I’m Hannah.”
“That’s a lovely name. It will make our day much more pleasant.” Jack stopped a waitress, asking for the bill before they donned their coats and headed back outside to begin their exploration.
Jack and Hannah both enjoyed their day out. They made their way out to Unterseen and explored the historic church and buildings round about before making their way back towards the Höheweg and investigating the covered bridge across the river. They did their shopping during the afternoon and, once they had finished, selected a restaurant for their evening meal before they finally caught a train back up the mountainside to the Görnetz Platz.
It was dark when the train finally pulled in at their station. Once they had alighted and collected their bags together, they set off in the direction of Ste Cecilie. Their walk was mainly in a companionable silence, neither feeling the need to talk. Jack was lost in his thoughts about how this day might have been had Jo survived the trek out of Austria. Hannah’s voice suddenly cut across his thoughts.
“You can’t live in the past forever, Jack.”
“How did you know what I was thinking?” Jack was surprised at Hannah’s astuteness.
“I’ve seen that look on your face before. Not very recently, but certainly when I bumped into you while you were off work and back in Zurich.” Jack sighed.
“Sometimes, thoughts are unbidden and I don’t realise until I’m too far in to stop them.”
“Hence why you don’t like social situations very much. You have some very good friends around you who will always support you when you're down. Don’t push any of them away.”
“I know. Thank you for noticing tonight. It is appreciated, even if I don’t show it, as those friends you mentioned know, too.”
“I’m glad to hear it. I’d like to be one of those friends. We both have a history which will always haunt us at various times.”
“I think you already are one. I’d like to reciprocate the gesture though. Please don't feel as if you need to hold in your own thoughts and fears. I’ve been at the bottom and I know what it’s like. If I can ever help when things are tough, please say so. I think we can both get through with each other’s support.”
“I’m sure we can.” Hannah smiled as they reached her door. “Thank you for a lovely day and walking me home. Take care on the last bit of your own journey.”
“I will. Goodnight, Hannah.”
“Goodnight, Jack.” She turned and opened the door, slipping inside as Jack turned towards his own home.
Hannah was closing the door when Hansi appeared in the doorway to the kitchen. He watched her hang up her outdoor things and collect her bags before he spoke to her.
“You’re late home, Mutti. I was beginning to worry.”
“I’m sorry, Hansi. I didn’t mean to worry you.” Hansi took her bags from her and placed them on the table, helping her to unpack some of the items.
“Where have you been all this time?”
“I’ve been in Interlaken. We caught the twenty o’clock train back home.”
“We? Who have you been with all day?”
“I spent the day with Herr Doktor Maynard.”
“We enjoy each other’s company. Why so many questions, Hansi?”
“You’ve been out all day and come back late with no explanation. You never sought out company before, Mutti. Why are you doing so now? What does the Herr Doktor want?”
“Nothing. We are just friends. Where is the harm in that?”
“There isn’t, I suppose. I just don’t understand why you’ve chosen to make friends now.” Hannah turned the kettle on and busied herself making coffee for them both.
“Sit down, Hansi. I think we need to talk.” Hansi reluctantly did as he was told, accepting the coffee placed before him. Hannah took the seat opposite him. She sipped her coffee in silence for a few moments.
“Do you remember much about when we lived in Austria, before the war?”
“A little. I know we lived in Feldkirch and it was a large town. I barely remember Vater.”
“No, I don’t expect you to, really. You were only just five when we had to flee to Switzerland. Vater was taken by the Nazis because of what he wrote in the local paper. He was too dangerous for them as he didn’t agree with their policies and the way they ran Austria. When we returned to Feldkirch after the war, I was hoping to find out if Vater was still alive. Unfortunately, I could find no trace of him. All I can tell you is that he probably perished in one of the concentration camps.”
“I remember going back. Maria was ill again while we were there.”
“Yes. That’s why we came back to Switzerland. Maria was always much better here in the Oberland and we seemed to have settled somewhere where our past wasn’t known.”
“What has this to do with the Herr Doktor?”
“He also lost a loved one when he had to flee Austria. We have more than a hotel in Zurich in common. The day Maria died also happened to be the same date as his fiancée had died twenty years earlier. He has struggled to deal with what happened then and sometimes his past still haunts him.”
“Is that why he’s still single? Some of the maids have wondered why.”
“What I’m telling you is not to be repeated, Hansi. I’m more than sure that the Herr Doktor would not appreciate his personal life being gossiped about.”
“I know, Mutti. I won’t gossip, I promise. It just explains the reason why he has never married.”
“He and I have become friends over the past six months or so. He needed someone to talk to, as did I. There is nothing more to it than that. I doubt that either of us wants anything more than friendship and to enjoy each other’s company.”
“I understand. I just want what’s best for you. You’re all I’ve got, now, and I don’t want to lose you.”
“You won’t ever lose me, Hansi. You’re all I have left, too. However, you’re nearly twenty, now, and soon enough, I hope you’ll be looking at marriage and starting a family of your own. I’ll be left alone, then, even though I hope you continue to live close enough for us to see each other often. Don’t begrudge me a friendship, whatever you do.”
“I won’t, Mutti. I’m glad we could talk together like this and thank you for explaining it to me.” Hansi glanced at the clock on the wall. “I need to go to bed. I start at seven tomorrow. Goodnight, Mutti.” He rose and bent to kiss Hannah on the cheek as he passed her. She returned it with a smile.
“Goodnight, Hansi. Sleep well.” She watched him leave the kitchen before washing up their mugs and turning out the light as she also sought her bed.
Many thanks for your reviews as always. They're much appreciated. :-D
Hannah Lang was walking along the village street when she realised that she hadn’t seen Jack for a couple of weeks. She knew he had been working a string of night shifts of late, but she normally bumped into him somewhere in the village. As she bought her bread, she debated whether she ought to call in the Sanatorium and ask after him, but realised that she probably wouldn’t find out anything from there. She left the bakery still debating this thought when she almost bumped into Gisela Mensch.
“I’m so sorry,” Hannah apologised. “I didn’t see you there.”
“It’s no problem,” Gisela replied, smiling. She noticed the other woman looked troubled. “Is something wrong? Can I help at all?”
“You may be able to, actually. I don’t believe we’ve ever been introduced. Are you Frau Mensch?”
“I am. If you can wait a moment while I buy my bread, we could maybe get a coffee?”
“Of course.” Hannah waited outside the shop whilst Gisela went in and quickly bought what she needed. Once she had paid, she returned to Hannah and the two women walked along to the small café which had recently opened further down the street. Once they were settled at a table and had ordered their coffee, Hannah introduced herself properly.
“I’m Hannah Lang. My son, Hansi, works as a handyman at the Sanatorium.”
“I’ve noticed you around in the village on several occasions. I believe you’re friends with Herr Doktor Maynard?”
“Yes, he and I have become friendly over the past year. I know you’re also a friend of his and probably know him much better than I do.”
“It is nice to know he has friends other than his work colleagues here on the Platz. I’m sure you know a little of his history so you will understand that we try to look out for him.”
“Yes. It was when he was off work last year that he told me about his fiancée. We had known each other briefly when we were in Zurich during the war.”
“Of course. He has mentioned you briefly in relation to that time. He isn’t very forthcoming about himself during the war, even to those of us who have known him a long time.”
“That is what is troubling me at the moment. I know he’s been working nights recently, but I would normally bump into him in the village. I realised today that I haven’t seen him for a few weeks and was beginning to wonder what has happened to him.”
“I may be able to shed a little light on that. It is June. It is always difficult to speak to him during this month.”
“I know he has bouts of unhappiness. He was unhappy when we met in Zurich and also when I first approached him after Maria’s death. He isn’t ill again, is he?”
“No. As you said, he is working nights. June is the month his life was changed completely and he always tries to forget what happened by throwing himself into his job and avoiding everyone else, ourselves included.”
“I see. I suppose it is his way of dealing with his grief.”
“Yes. Even we have been unable to stop him from retreating into himself during June.”
“Thank you for telling me this. It puts my mind at ease a little. If you see him, please tell him I was asking after him, won’t you?”
“Of course I will.” Gisela drained the last of her coffee and began to gather her bags together. “It was nice to meet you, Frau Lang. I’m sure we’ll see each other again soon.”
“Thank you for listening. If ever I can return the gesture, I will be happy to do so.” Hannah smiled and, once they had paid the bill, they left the café together before going off in their own directions.
Hannah felt a little reassured after her talk with Gisela. She now understood a little more about why Jack seemed to have so thoroughly disappeared of late. She just hoped he hadn’t dropped back into the depression she had seen him in last September.
It was late afternoon on the anniversary of Maria’s death when Hannah went along to the little graveyard by the church. She knelt to say a brief prayer for her daughter before she began to arrange the flowers she had brought with her. As she picked up the vase on the gravestone, she noticed a piece of paper sticking out of it. Intrigued, she pulled it out and unravelled it, reading what was written there.
I’m sorry I’ve been elusive of late. As I’m sure you’ve found out from Frau Mensch, I’m not particularly good company during this month, hence why you haven’t seen me around. I’d like to be able to make it up to you by taking you out for dinner on 3rd July. If you would like to come, please drop me a note at the above address.
I hope that today goes well for both you and Hansi and that you can remember Maria with fondness and happiness. As much as I’d like to be here with you today, I know that I’m not the right person for it and I have my own visit to make elsewhere.
Hannah read the note through twice before she slipped it into her pocket and returned to arranging her flowers. She understood his meaning and silently hoped that he was managing to get through the day. Once she had finished, she ran her fingers over the inscription on the stone before rising and walking back home.
Hansi was back from work when she returned and he hugged her when she entered the kitchen. He made her sit down at the table while he made them both a drink of coffee. Once this was done, he sat opposite her and they talked on into the night about Maria as well their futures.
Hannah was grateful for her son that evening. She realised that Jack would never be able to be around on this date. However, she knew that he was alone, with no one to talk to about his memories. She found this hard to understand, as she knew he had friends who would have gladly spent time with him if he would let them. She suspected that he had become used to being on his own and had no wish to drag anyone else down in his melancholy when they had families to look after. After Hansi had departed for bed, she pulled the note out from her pocket and read it through again, before finding some paper and scribbling a reply.
Hannah pushed her note through Jack’s door the next morning. She observed that his car was missing and suspected that he was either at work or still away. She set off back towards the village and her errands for the day, sure that he would approach her once more when he felt able.
August 1959, Part I by Vick
Thanks for your lovely reviews as always.
Jem walked through the airport and collected his case from the conveyor belt. As he passed through the doors, he spotted Jack waiting for him on the main concourse. He greeted his friend and together, they walked out to Jack’s car.
“I wasn’t expecting you to meet me, Jack. To what do I owe the honour?”
“Gottfried and Gisela have had to go to Innsbruck. Herr Mensch was taken ill late last night.”
“Is it serious?”
“No idea. Gottfried just said he was in hospital and asking for his children. As he was on his way out the door, I didn’t press him any further.”
“I’m sure he’ll let us know when he has time.”
“Yes. In the meantime, I’m afraid you’ll have to put up with me as I’m the only person with a spare room available.” Jem laughed.
“Are you sure you don’t mean that the other way around, Jack? You hate having to be social at the best of times.”
“That’s true. However, I might manage with you, since you already know my ways.” Jack stopped talking as he reached a particularly tricky part of the road. He negotiated a series of hairpin bends before he continued. “You’ll also have to put up with my cooking as well, so I’d advise you to eat at the Sanatorium canteen when you can.”
“I’ll take that on board. Surely you don’t eat out all the time, do you?”
“Of course not. I live alone, so I fend for myself most days, hence why I know how bad my cooking is. I normally go out for dinner on a Wednesday, depending on my shifts. Luckily for you, Hannah has offered to come and cook at mine this week when I told her I was putting you up.”
“Hannah?” Jem was intrigued. This was the first time he’d heard any mention of someone else in Jack’s life other than his work colleagues. Gottfried and Gisela had not told anyone of Jack’s burgeoning friendship, preferring to leave Jack to tell people in his own time. As Jem lived in England and hadn’t been out to Switzerland since the previous November, he had no idea who Hannah was and what she had to do with Jack.
Jack remained silent for a short while, concentrating on driving. Jem allowed the silence to linger, knowing his friend would only give more information when he was ready. They reached the Görnetz Platz and drove slowly along to Jack’s chalet.
“Hannah is a friend. You’ll have heard me mention Frau Lang before.” Jem nodded and Jack continued. “She and I got to know each other a little when I was off work last year. We’ve both been through a lot and discovered we had things in common, other than death and the war.”
“I’m glad. You’ve been alone for far too long, Jack. It’s more than time you found some happiness.”
“It’s just a friendship. I doubt it’ll ever be more than that, if I’m perfectly honest. I’m too used to my own company, now and I’m happy as I am.” Jack came to a halt outside his chalet and turned off the engine. Both men climbed out and Jem retrieved his case from the boot whilst Jack went to unlock the front door.
“Yours is the back bedroom if you want to go and tidy up. I’ll put the kettle on.”
“Thanks. I won’t be long.” Jem sensed that Jack wasn’t going to be drawn any further. He carried his case upstairs and deposited it in the back bedroom, as instructed, before going to the bathroom for a quick wash. Once he was clean and tidy once more, he made his way back downstairs to find Jack sitting at the kitchen table, a pot of tea before him.
“I don’t suppose you remembered to bring me any tea, did you?” Jack asked as he poured their cups.
“I did as a matter of fact. Madge reminded me that you would probably like some. She raided the kitchen yesterday and handed me a large packet. It’s in my case, so I’ll bring it down later.”
“Thanks. I’m almost out and Swiss tea just doesn’t taste the same. I only get it when I’m at home as no one else drinks it over here. Even Gottfried and Gisela don’t make it properly, despite having lived in England for however many years.”
“But they aren’t English. Tea is a very English thing to drink.”
“True. It’s the one thing I miss about living in England. I don’t miss the weather, nor my home, but a good cup of tea is hard to come by unless I make it myself.”
“That’s probably the one thing where you and Jo differed, then. She preferred coffee every time.” Jack just smiled and picked up his cup.
“Oh, we had our differences. She was always much more outgoing than me. It was very rare she wasn’t with her friends or family and I’m quite content with my own company. If she were still alive, she’d have made friends with everyone she met out here.”
“I’m sure she would have. She loved people and wanted to get to know them. She’d have dragged you along for the ride at the same time.”
“I’ve no doubt about that. However, discussing what might have happened generally ends badly for me and it also doesn’t make us anything for dinner.” Jack drained his cup, poured himself another and then rose from the table. Jem took the hint and emptied the teapot into his own cup.
“Do you need a hand? Not that I’m any good at cooking. If anything, I’ll be worse than you since we have Marie to cook for us at home.”
“I can manage. You can clear the table and wash the teapot out if you like.” Jem did as he was asked, rolling his sleeves up as he filled the sink. The two men settled into a companionable silence as they worked.
The next morning, Jack and Jem drove over to the Sanatorium early. Jack was due to start a shift and Jem was meeting one of the board members. He wanted to look over some paperwork beforehand and asked Jack if there was a spare office he could use while he was there. Jack showed him to a small room down the corridor from his own office.
“I know it’s tiny, but it’s either here, or I can see if Matron has a key to Gottfried’s office if you prefer? I hated this office as I couldn’t spread my papers enough. You’re a lot tidier than me, so you won’t clutter it up in two minutes.”
“Here is fine. I’ll use the board room for my meeting, if I may?”
“Of course. I need to get going as I’m due to start shortly. Shout me if you need me, or see if Matron is about.” Jack left Jem alone.
Jem was soon busy with his paperwork and was surprised when the telephone on the desk trilled. He answered it in English. The halting reply reminded him that German was the predominant language and he hastily switched language so the receptionist understood him. Once he’d put the phone down, he straightened his tie and went down to greet Herr Ziegler.
Jack was passing as Jem and Herr Ziegler were walking towards the board room. He paused momentarily to greet them, but carried on quickly. He was in the middle of something and didn’t have time to chat.
After his meeting, Jem knocked on Jack’s office door, before pushing it gently and peering around it. Jack wasn’t there, though the presence of his jacket indicated he was still in the building somewhere. Jem went in search of some coffee and returned to his own office to begin a report he’d been asked to compile.
When Jack knocked on the door an hour or so later, Jem was surprised to see the time. He answered and smiled as Jack entered.
“I’ve ordered coffee, by the way,” Jack informed Jem, as he made himself comfortable in the chair before the desk.
“That sounds good. Aren’t you still on shift though?”
“I am. Matron knows I’m here if anything urgent crops up. It’s pretty quiet at the minute, so I thought I’d come and see how your meeting went.”
“It was useful. Herr Ziegler is impressed by how well this place is running and with the changes you and Gottfried have implemented recently. He was a little concerned that I’m still employing more than a couple of tuberculosis specialists.”
“Well, I don’t think Gottfried and I can count as more than one between us, really. Half of our time is take up with running the place. Neither of us is on the rota as front line staff.”
“That’s what I pointed out to him, along with the fact that, though there have been massive steps in curing the disease, there are still too many cases being diagnosed. I also added that Gottfried and Phil Graves provide the general practice service to the school and local area.”
“That’s true. Quite often, it’s emergency care as well. I need to get on, really.” Jack rose from his chair and returned his cup to the tray which had arrived during their conversation. He changed the subject. “I have hardly any food left at home since I wasn’t expecting to put you up, so I suggest we eat here tonight. I’ll go shopping in the morning as I have a list of things to get for Hannah, too.”
“That’s fine. What time do you finish?”
“I should be done by six. I’ll come and get you if you like?”
“Thanks. It’ll give me chance to finish this report I’ve been asked to do. Then I can spend tomorrow doing observations.”
“I’ll see you later.” Jack departed to continue his shift and Jem turned back to his papers.
August 1959, Part II by Vick
Many thanks for your reviews as always.
Jem was impatient by the time he had finished his observations on Wednesday. He had not felt able to press his friend for any further information about Frau Lang, knowing that Jack would just retreat away again. He shuffled his papers into a file and placed it on his desk ready to pass onto his colleagues at the staff meeting tomorrow. Checking his watch, Jem noted that it was almost time to leave. He collected his belongings and walked along the corridor towards Jack’s office. He knocked on the door and opened it at the muffled reply.
“Shouldn’t we be getting off now?” Jem asked as he entered.
“Hmmm?” Jack was absorbed in something and took little notice. Sighing, Jem crossed to the desk and placed his hand across the papers before Jack.
“We ought to be going, Jack.”
“Oh! I wasn’t expecting you, yet. What time is it?”
“It’s almost six. What time did you say dinner was tonight?”
“I said I’d collect Hannah at six. I’d hoped to finish this first, though.”
“No time left, I’m afraid. Come on, Jack. I’m hungry and am ready to go home.” Jack reluctantly replaced his pen and picked up his jacket.
“I’m coming. I’ll run you back first, then go and collect Hannah.” They walked through the Sanatorium and out to Jack’s car. Jack quickly dropped Jem outside his chalet. He handed his keys over and drove off again, leaving Jem to let himself in and go upstairs to wash and change.
Jem was just putting on a clean shirt when he heard the car pull up outside once more. Voices sounded in the hallway as Jack and Hannah entered and went into the kitchen. Quickly, Jem finished dressing and walked downstairs. As he reached the hallway, he heard laughter and was surprised. He’d not heard Jack laugh for a long time. He approached the kitchen slowly, almost reluctant to intrude on what was obviously a comfortable evening for the two people beyond the door.
Opening the kitchen door quietly, Jem noted that Jack had removed his jacket and tie and was sitting at the table as his companion prepared food opposite him. He could only see the back of her, but Jem noted that Frau Lang was small and had light coloured, shoulder-length hair, styled quite simply.
Jack looked up and spotted Jem in the doorway. He smiled and rose from the table.
“I was beginning to wonder where you’d got to, Jem. Come on in and have a seat.” Jem obliged and Jack switched back to German, knowing that Hannah’s English was negligible at best and Jem’s German was fluent, despite having lived in England for the past twenty years.
“This is Frau Lang, who has been kind enough to cook for us tonight. Hannah, I’d like you meet Herr Doktor Russell.”
“It is nice to finally meet you, Herr Doktor,” Hannah smiled. “I have heard plenty about you.”
“Not all bad, I hope,” Jem responded. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Jack moved across to the kitchen side and poured two cups of tea. He placed one cup before Jem, dropping into another chair with his own. Jem looked quizzically at his friend.
“It’s okay, I discovered Hannah hates tea about five minutes ago, and made her a coffee.”
“That would explain the laughter I heard, then,” Jem replied with a smile. “Did he make you try it, Frau Lang?”
“Thankfully, no. I think my comments were enough for him.”
“They weren’t complimentary, I agree,” Jack added. “Luckily, I haven’t forced my cooking on you, Hannah.”
“I’d advise you to steer clear. I know you warned me, Jack, but your skills in the kitchen leave a lot to be desired. I’m glad we have Marie to cook for us at home.”
“I did warn you. Why do you think I suggested that we ate at the Sanatorium last night?”
“You should have told me. I could have made a stew for you to put in the oven when you arrived home.” Hannah stated. She rose from the table and turned on a couple of rings on the cooker. “Where are your pans?”
“Here.” Jack opened a cupboard for her. “I didn’t want you to spend your time cooking for us when I knew we could manage perfectly well. I’m going to wash and change.” Jack picked up his cup and exited the room abruptly.
The silence lingered for a few minutes before Hannah broke it again.
“I have upset him.” It was a statement rather than a question.
“He can be very touchy, sometimes. I’m sure he’ll be fine when he comes back.”
“Was he always like this?”
“How do you mean?”
“I mean his mood swings. I’m not so sure how to react when he is suddenly abrupt.”
“I think his experiences during the war brought them on. My advice is to just leave him be and he’ll come round in his own time.”
“I see. I will ignore what has just happened then. Tell me a little about yourself, Herr Doktor. All I know is that you are an English friend and colleague of Jack’s.”
“That’s correct. We first met as I was finishing medical school. Jack was in his first year and we got talking one afternoon. Once he qualified, he came out to Austria to work for me at the Sanatorium I’d recently opened on the Sonnalpe.”
“What about family? Do you have children?”
“Yes, I have six children. Three boys and three girls. The eldest three are all grown up now and the youngest three are still at school.”
“That is a large family. There is only myself and my son at home, now.”
“Oh, we provided a home for quite a few relatives as well. My nieces made their home with us after their parents died and my brother-in-law lived in India for many years, so he left his eldest children with us. There were others as well.”
“That is a very busy household. There were just the four of us and, after the Nazis took my husband, we fled to Switzerland for our own safety. We’ve lived here ever since.”
“Did you ever go home after the war?”
“Briefly. Maria was ill while we were there, so I made the decision to live here. I could find no trace of my husband and have concluded that he was probably killed in one of the camps.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Thank you. It is in the past now and I had my children to focus on as they grew up.” Hannah concentrated on cooking for a few minutes and Jem allowed the silence to linger. He now understood why Jack was drawn to her. Her openness was refreshing, showing she had accepted her past and moved onto the future.
Jack came back into the kitchen during the lull. Jem noted that he looked a little more relaxed than when he had left and concluded that some time alone had been needed. Hannah smiled at him, before requesting he found some plates and set the table.
The three of them were soon tucking into Hannah’s delicious meal. Jem watched Jack as he replied easily to Hannah’s questions. They both seemed relaxed in each other’s company. He hoped this friendship would continue and that Jack wouldn’t push her away if he slipped into another cycle of depression and insomnia. Jack interrupted his thought as this point and he pushed them to one side and joined in the conversation.
After they had eaten and drunk the coffee Jack made, Hannah rose and moved towards the sink. Jack stopped her.
“Leave the washing up, Hannah. I’ll do that. I might not be good at cooking, but I’m pretty sure I can manage to wash up.”
“Are you sure? I don’t mind.”
“In that case, I ought to be going home. Hansi will be back soon and I’d like to spend some time with him before I go to bed.”
“I’ll run you back.” Jack rose and collected Hannah’s things for her as well as his jacket and car keys. He helped her with her coat and walked towards the door. “I won’t be long, Jem.”
“It was nice to meet you, Herr Doktor.” Hannah said to Jem, holding her hand out to him.
“You too, Frau Lang. Many thanks for cooking such a lovely meal tonight.” Jem shook her hand and smiled. She returned it and followed Jack through the door. Jem heard the front door bang and found himself alone once more. He turned to the sink and began to fill it, intending to start on the washing up while he was alone.
August 1959, Part III by Vick
Well, this is the last part of the saga. Many thanks for reading it & special thanks to all of you who took the time to comment, they're very much appreciated and encourage me to carry on writing.
When Jack returned fifteen minutes later, he found Jem had almost finished and was precariously balancing pans on the draining board. He picked up a tea towel and came across to help.
“You didn’t need to wash up, Jem.”
“I don’t mind. It gave me something to do while you were out.”
“Thank you.” They finished their tasks in a companionable silence. Jem emptied the bowl and wiped his hands on a towel as Jack dried the last of the cutlery and returned it to the drawer. He hung the tea towel up and turned to a cupboard. He produced a bottle of whisky and two glasses, then led the way into the living room.
“May as well be comfortable,” Jack stated as he poured and handed a glass to Jem. “Cheers!”
“Cheers!” Jem responded as he made himself comfortable in the chair. They sat in silence for a few minutes.
“Frau Lang seems nice.” Jem eventually broke the silence. “She made a lovely meal, too.”
“She did. She’s a very good cook, actually. I’ve enjoyed everything she’s made for me.”
“How long have you known her?”
“That depends on how you want to look at it, I suppose. I knew her when I lived in Zurich. We lived in the same hotel for about a year.”
“I know that. She was more of an acquaintance then though, wasn’t she?”
“I suppose so. I was too busy trying to make ends meet and myself together to take a lot of notice. After that, well, I first met her again when I was called out to attend Maria.”
“So, about a year or so then?”
“Something like that. I was off work when she first approached me to thank me for looking after Maria. I think I was rather rude.” Jack finished his drink and refilled his glass, before passing the bottle across to Jem.
“It’s understandable, though. You weren’t in a place to deal with thanks.”
“She wasn’t to know that, though. She persisted and spoke to me a second time, despite my rudeness.”
“She looks to be a determined lady,” Jem smiled. “I would imagine that you’d intrigued her. Gottfried told me that you looked quite fragile whenever he saw you. If it was anything like the first time round, I know exactly what he meant.”
“Yes, I suppose so. Anyway, we got talking and it ended with her inviting me to dinner and I found myself accepting before I realised it. I think I probably revealed more of myself to her in that short space of time than I’ve ever done to anyone else.”
“You’ve never been particularly forthcoming with information, I’ll give you that. She must have had some impact on you to get you to accept a dinner invitation so easily.” Jack just smiled at this comment, knowing he’d always been a reluctant guest despite Jem’s numerous invitations to dinner.
“We got to speaking whenever we passed each other in the village, which seems to have culminated into what you now see. I go to dinner each Wednesday and we spend a day out together when we both happen to have the same day off.” Jack stared up at the picture of Jo on the shelf for a few moments. “I don’t know what Jo would have made of it all. Hannah is so completely different to her.”
“You had to change after Jo’s death for your own safety. You’ve never returned to being the person you were before the war and I doubt you will now. Maybe that’s why you’re drawn to her. Frau Lang fits the life you have now, not the life you and Jo had planned together.”
“I suppose so. We enjoy each other’s company and at this stage of my life, I didn’t expect any sort of friendship from anyone, never mind a woman I’d had a passing acquaintance with fifteen years ago.”
“You’ve always had friends, Jack, despite pushing them away so often.”
“I know and I’m forever grateful to you and Gottfried for putting up with me through everything. If it wasn’t for the pair of you, I’d probably not be here now. Mollie wasn’t able to do what you’ve both done for me, despite her being my twin sister.”
“That’s not fair on Mollie. She was at the other side of the world and had her own family to deal with. She couldn’t just drop everything and travel however many thousands of miles, even though she wanted to.”
“You’re right and I know that, now. It’s easy to see things after the event. I hurt her any number of times when I was at my lowest and yet she still persisted in writing to me each week regardless of my lack of replies or angry screeds.”
“There you go, then. She did what she could despite the distance. If she didn’t care, she wouldn’t have continued writing, regardless of whether you replied or not.”
“She still writes every week and I still either don’t reply or I send a screed, though it’s not angry anymore.” Jack poured them both another glass of whisky before rising and walking across to the shelf. He picked up the photograph and looked at it for a moment.
“Where was this taken?”
“At the back of the garden. She’d just arrived back from walking Rufus somewhere and was taking him back to his shed. I’d been taking pictures of something nearby and wanted to finish the film off so got her to pose with him. A few seconds after I took it, he almost flattened her as he went bounding off after some butterfly which flew past his nose.” Jack smiled at this anecdote.
“There was always some drama when Rufus was nearby. How she never broke any bones, I’ll never know. He was a big dog and almost flattened her on numerous occasions.”
“Oh, he was gentle enough with her. He was a big softie really. I don’t know what happened to him after we left. We just didn’t have time to sort out anything since we had to leave in such a hurry.”
“I doubt we’ll ever know.” Jack replaced the photograph and paced the length of the room a couple of times. Jem just watched him, quietly. When the silence threatened to continue, he spoke.
“Something’s bothering you, Jack.”
“Hmmm?” Jack roused from his reverie. He stopped pacing and turned back to Jem.
“Something’s bothering you.”
“I pushed Hannah away in June. I still find that month difficult and it was worse this year.”
“I’m sure she understood.”
“I’m not sure if she did. I avoided her completely and the only contact was a note I left for her on Maria’s grave. A bit rude of me, really, when you think about it.”
“I agree, it’s probably not your finest idea, but then, I know you hate that month. At least you made some contact. Have you spoken to her about it?”
“Maybe you should.”
“Maybe.” Jack glanced at his watch, then finished his drink. “It’s late. We ought to get some sleep before this meeting tomorrow. Thanks for listening, Jem.”
“It’s no trouble.” Jem placed his glass on the table and rose. “For what it’s worth, I think you’ve found a good friend in Frau Lang and the pair of you will pull each other through. Make the most of the opportunity you have and enjoy life. Maybe the past year or so has been difficult for you so you could finally find some happiness.”
“I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. You always looked on the bright side.”
“No point looking for the negatives. Enjoy the good times and you’ll find the dark times will become less. Ask for help when you need it and let your friends in to pull you back up from the depths. I think the time is right to try living in the present and maybe look to the future once more.”
Jack smiled and turned to the door, Jem following him. He allowed his friend to pass through first as he had a final look around at the room. As he glanced at the photograph he thought he saw Jo nod in agreement as Jem’s words lingered. He flicked the light off and closed the door, then ascended the stairs.
“Maybe you’re right, Jem. It’s worth a try anyway. Goodnight.” Jack smiled at his friend and they sought their beds, both knowing that the future finally looked bright once more.
I though this was the end of the story, but Angstabunny has bitten once more. There will be a proper conclusion when he finally stops hiding in the Pennines & returns to finish the saga properly......
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