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When Jo arrived at Die Rosen she was feeling a little nervous. Although she had been there twice in the past few months, she had always known she was going back to the safety of the Sanatorium, where she was carefully watched over. Here, she would be expected to look after herself. She knew her sister and brother-in-law would be keeping a close eye on her wellbeing, but it didn’t feel the same.

She was met at the door by her sister, Madge Russell, who drew her inside. After helping her to remove her coat, Madge led her towards the Salon. Jo followed, but really didn’t feel like being sociable. She wanted a little time alone to try and order her thoughts. Once Jo was seated in one of the chairs, Madge spoke.

“I know this isn’t the most peaceful of places to live, Jo, especially when quiet is what you need right now, so Jem and I have emptied the little sewing room out for you to use as a private sitting room when things get too much.”

Jo smiled at her sister. “That sounds lovely, Madge. Thank you for thinking of it.”

“There isn’t much in there at the moment, I’m afraid. Just a couple of chairs, a side table and a small bookshelf, but it’s all yours.”

“May I see it?” Jo asked.

“Of course,” and Madge led the way to the small room at the back of the house. It was just large enough for Jo. There was little room for anything other than the furniture already there, but it immediately felt like a sanctuary to Jo. A small watercolour was on one wall and the door and window took up two more, whilst the last one was blank. The chairs had been arranged so the occupants were looking out of the window and the table was between them. A lamp stood on the top of the bookshelves, which were positioned to one side of the furthest chair.

“It’s lovely, Madge. Just what I need,” Jo said.

“We still want you to use the Salon, but if it gets too much, you can come here and rest. Jem tells me you are up for ten hours a day now.” Madge led Jo back to the Salon as she spoke.

“Yes, Jack told me yesterday.”

“We’ve made sure that no one is visiting us for the next week, so you can get used to being back here and with us, first.”

“Thank you.” Jem came into the Salon at this point.

“I’ve put your case on your bed if you want to go and unpack,” he said. Jo stood up and thanked him, relieved to leave the room. As she closed the door behind her, he turned to his wife.

“She’s going to take time to adjust to being back here with us all,” he said. “Don’t be surprised if she spends a lot of time in that sitting room at first.”

“I know,” Madge answered, slowly. “She seems so distant at the moment. It isn’t the Jo I know, at all. It’s as if you’ve brought a different person home.”

“She’s had to do a great deal of growing up whilst she was in the Sanatorium. It’s going to take us time to adjust to the fact that she has changed. She’ll rest after Mittagessen and hopefully, we’ll all feel a little less awkward, then.”

Upstairs, Jo slowly put her things away. She left the photo on the bed to take down into her little sitting room, and picked up the rosary Jack had given her. She debated whether she ought to give it back to him, but in the end she put it on her bedside cabinet. It was something that had brought her much comfort whilst she had been in the Sanatorium, especially at first when she had been on complete bed-rest and not allowed to do anything. She was on the road to recovery now, but she knew she still had a long way to go before she was completely cured. Suddenly, the gong sounded for Mittagessen. Jo quickly put the last of her things away and went to wash her hands, placing the now-empty case outside her door on the way.

After Mittagessen, Jo was obliged to retire to her room to rest. She was glad to slip between the covers and soon fell asleep, only waking when a tap came on her door. It was her sister who poked her head round.

“Jo?” she asked, softly. Jo turned her head and looked at her sister. “You have a visitor.” Jo sat up slowly. She was still a little groggy.

“Who is it?” she asked. She didn’t particularly want visitors so soon after arriving home.

“Jack Maynard,” Madge replied.

“I’ll just have a quick wash and dress, and then I’ll come down. Where is he?”

“He’s in the Salon.” Madge withdrew at this and returned to the Salon to tell him that Jo would be down in a few minutes. They exchanged pleasantries whilst they waited for her to arrive. Ten minutes later, Jo appeared in the Salon and Madge excused herself to go on to the nursery, whither she was headed when he had arrived.

“Hello, Jo. I haven’t disturbed you, have I?” he said.

“No. It’s nice to see you,” she replied. She felt suddenly nervous at being alone with him and had no idea why. She knew him so well and generally enjoyed his company, but this time it felt different for some reason and she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. “Please, sit down and I’ll ask Marie for some coffee.” She rang the bell and requested coffee when Marie appeared.

“How does it feel to be back at home?” he asked, once Marie had brought in the tray.

“Strange,” she admitted. “I’ve only been home a few hours, though.”

“I’m sure you’ll get used to being back here in no time. Just take your time and try not to do too much at once.”

“I’ll try.” They drank their coffee in silence for some minutes, both feeling a little awkward at being in each other’s company outside the Sanatorium. Although they knew each other well, the main contact they had had over the past nine months or so had been as doctor and patient. It would take time for their friendship to return to how it had been before.

“Thank you for the coffee, Jo,” Jack said, as he replaced his cup. “I’d better get on though. I just wanted to see how you were settling in.” He stood up and Jo followed suit, accompanying him to the door.

“Thank you for coming to visit so soon,” she said to him as he left. She waved him off and returned slowly to the Salon. As she reached it, she changed her mind about going back in and went instead to the little sitting room which was now hers. Sure she would be undisturbed there, she sank down into the furthest chair and gave herself up to thinking over what she’d been through in the past year, and what would happen in the future, now she was home. She was still there when she heard the gong for Abendessen. Feeling guilty at having stayed alone for so long, she hurriedly went to wash her hands and join her sister at the table. Afterwards, she went to the Salon until the clock struck nine. At this, she bade Madge goodnight and retired to her room and to sleep.

When Jo woke the next morning, she felt quite relaxed. She lay for a few minutes, enjoying the fact that she was back in her own bedroom, before throwing back the covers and getting dressed. When she arrived in the Speisesaal, she was warmly greeted by everyone there. She smiled happily round as she sat down.

“What do you plan to do today, Jo?” Jem asked.

“I thought I might sit outside this morning. It’s a lovely day, and it seems a shame to be indoors,” Jo replied.

“Good idea. I’ll ask Andreas to put some chairs on the lawn for you.” Jo nodded her agreement at this.

Half an hour later saw Jo sitting comfortably on the lawn with a book in her hand. Always an avid reader, she now felt lost if she didn’t have one with her, as books had become her lifeline during her time in the Sanatorium. They gave her the chance to forget about tuberculosis and how ill she was and let her go to imaginary places and fantasy worlds. Her sister joined her a little later on.

“The children have gone out for a walk, but they will only be an hour, at most,” Madge told her as she settled into another of the chairs. Jo smiled at this information. She was looking forward to seeing her nieces and nephews, as she had kept away from the nursery yesterday.

“I’d best make the most of the peace and quiet then,” she said, laughing. Madge joined in, before turning serious again.

“Don’t get drawn into their games, Jo. You know how active they are, and you aren’t fully fit yet.” Jo just pulled a face at her sister. She knew she wasn’t capable of more active things at the moment, and she felt that she didn’t need reminding of this fact. Madge took the hint and said no more, reminding herself how her sister had had to grow up in the past year and that she must start to let Jo live her own life now.

The sisters settled into a companionable silence, Jo reading and Madge knitting, until voices could be heard coming round the corner of the chalet. Suddenly, there was a rush of feet and all the children descended upon them.

“Auntie Jo, Auntie Jo,” they cried out as they surrounded her. Jo dropped her book and gave them all a big hug, even manly Rix.

“Hello, where have you all been?” she asked

“We went for a walk along the alm,” Peggy replied. At six years old, she considered herself rather grown up now.

“Will you play with us, Auntie Jo?” David asked.

“That depends on what you want to play,” Jo replied, cautiously.

“Hide and seek,” Rix said. Jo shook her head slowly.

“I don’t think I can join in that one at the moment,” she told them. At their sad faces, she added, “I’ll be ‘home’ though if you like.” The children sorted themselves out and even two year old Sybil joined in. Rix was elected to be first seeker and he stood next to Jo with his eyes covered and counted out loud whilst the rest all ran to hide in various parts of the garden. When he had finished counting, Rix then went off in search of them all, and the others tried to make their way back to Jo unseen. This game lasted quite happily until they were called in for Mittagessen, after which Jo retired to her room to rest.

When Jo came back downstairs, it was almost time for Kaffee and Kuchen, which they took in the garden. Jo found she was hungry and ate plenty. Madge noticed this and was secretly pleased. She was still inclined to worry over her sister, even though she was so much better now. After the meal, Jo excused herself and went off to sit in her small sitting room. She still found it strange to be in the company of others all day long, after so many months in isolation.

This routine continued for the next week. After that, Jo noticed that visitors started to appear most days. They weren’t all visiting her, but she felt the intrusion keenly. One afternoon, she found herself fleeing to her little sitting room as soon as she heard the gate latch click. Madge jumped up and called after her, but to no avail. She turned to see Jack Maynard coming round the corner of the chalet and dropped back into her chair with relief.

“Hello,” he said, as he approached. “I thought I might find you out here.” He noticed that Madge looked upset. “What’s happened? Where’s Jo?”

“She fled as soon as she heard the gate latch. I don’t know what’s got into her today. She seems rather nervy and disappears as soon as she can when anyone comes round.”

“It’s only to be expected. She’s just spent the best part of a year pretty much in isolation. It must be hard to suddenly have to deal with people again when you’ve only seen them for a couple of hours every few weeks. Would you like me to have a word with her?”

“Would you, Jack? She’ll probably listen to you.”

“Where do you think she’s gone?”

“She’ll probably be in her little sitting room at the back of the house. I’ll ask Marie for Kaffee, shall I?”

“Yes, please. Have it out here in about half an hour or so. I’ll make sure Jo is here.” With that remark, Jack set off to seek Jo.

As Madge had predicted, Jo was, indeed, hiding in her sitting room. Jack tapped on the door and cautiously peered round it. What he saw made him enter quickly. Jo was curled up in one of the chairs, crying. He crouched down in front of her and placed a hand on her arm. She didn’t move, nor make any attempt to stop crying.

“Jo?” he asked, gently. When she made no reply, he tried again, this time in a louder voice. “Jo?” She glanced up and saw him watching her, concern on his face. She gulped, and managed to stem the tears, slightly, but she was too far gone to stop completely. Jack handed her some tissues from the bookshelf and she blew her nose loudly. After ten minutes, he had managed to calm her down, though her face was tear-stained and her eyes red and swollen.

“Go and have a wash, then we’ll talk,” he said to her, still in the same gentle tones he had been using. She stood up shakily and went to do as she was told, returning five minutes later looking a little better for the cold water she had splashed on her face. She sat back down in the chair and Jack crouched in front of her, once more. He inspected her carefully, and saw only a scared girl, not the young woman he knew so well.

“Why did you run off like that when you heard the gate?” he asked her. She shook her head, unsure how to answer. “You’ve given your sister a bit of a fright, you know.”

“I-I just couldn’t face talking to any more people today. It was getting to me, having to be nice and knowing that they were only there so they could see if I looked any different.” The words continued to tumble out, and Jack listened patiently. He was concerned that she had allowed herself to get so upset, but not surprised. She was no different from anyone else who had spent time at the Sanatorium and who was struggling to adjust to being back at home once more. Jack thought for a moment.

“It’s my day off tomorrow. How about I take you out for a picnic somewhere?” Jo smiled faintly at this suggestion.

“Are you sure you want to spend your day off taking me out?” she asked him.

“I wouldn’t ask you if I didn’t mean it,” he replied. “We used to go out walking all the time, before you got ill. Just because you aren’t up to walking again yet, doesn’t mean I don’t want to spend time with you. Now, come on back outside. It’s a lovely day and it’s a shame to be sitting in here. Your sister was murmuring something about Kaffee when I came to find you and I think we could both do with a cup.” He stood up at this and gently hauled Jo to her feet, before guiding her back outside to where her sister was waiting, somewhat impatiently.

As they approached, Madge noted Jo looked a little happier, but wisely decided not to ask questions. She simply poured the delicious coffee and bade them to help themselves to the fancy bread twists Marie had just brought out. Once they had finished, Jack stood up to leave after thanking Madge for the meal. He was due on duty in an hour and needed to go home and change first. Jo escorted him to the gate.

“I’ll pick you up about three tomorrow, then.”

“Okay,” she replied. “I’ll ask Marie for a basket, shall I?”

“Good plan. She always gives us a good meal.” He turned to go at this.

“Jack?” He turned back to her. “Thank you. For earlier.” He smiled at her.

“You’re welcome. Remember, if you ever want to talk about anything, you know where I am.” He turned again, and this time, left for home. Jo stood looking after him. She wasn’t sure what to do with herself. She knew she didn’t feel like returning to her sister, but she also didn’t want to go and sit alone in her sitting room. Eventually, she found herself walking towards the back of the chalet and the shed where her St Bernard dog, Rufus, was generally to be found. She knew she would find all the comfort she could want there. She spent an hour with him, just petting him and chatting to him and found she felt much better for it. When the light started to fade, she reluctantly went back inside the house, via the kitchen to ask Marie for a picnic basket for the next afternoon.

Jo excused herself straight after Abendessen that evening and went to her bedroom. Jem looked surprised at this, but didn’t question her. Once she had gone, he turned to his wife to see if she could shed any light on why Jo had departed bedwards so suddenly. She explained to him what had happened earlier in the day. Jem’s worry faded, when he heard that Jack had dealt with her, but he looked thoughtful all the same.

“I did wonder if this might happen,” he said, slowly. “She’s struggling to adjust to be being back at home at the moment. She feels insecure, thinking that everyone is checking up on her, when all she wants is to be left alone.”

“Can’t we do anything, Jem?” Madge asked. “If she’s feeling so vulnerable at the moment, maybe we should tell people not to come for a while longer.”

“No. That won’t help her to adjust back into a normal life. She needs to get used to seeing people and realise that they aren’t just coming to see if she is any different. The main thing is that we try and support her through this. She’ll have days like today, when she’ll just flee at the slightest hint of someone coming, but other days she’ll feel much more confident and manage to get through them. We just need to look for the signs. How many people have been over in the last couple of days?”

“About half a dozen,” Madge admitted. “Jo has managed to stay through most of them.”

“This afternoon was the straw that broke the camel’s back, then. When she heard the gate go, she knew she couldn’t cope any longer and fled to her sanctuary. Luckily, it was Jack Maynard, and he knows how to deal with her. She’ll probably be fine now, but if it happens again, let me know and I’ll have a chat with her.” Madge nodded. She had been worried about her sister, but Jem’s explanation had helped put her mind at rest. The clock chimed eleven at that point, and they decided it was more than time to retire to bed.

When Jo came down to Frühstück the next morning, she felt considerably happier than she had done over the past few days.

“Good morning, Jo,” Jem said, as she slid into her place. “How are you feeling today?”

“Fine, thank you,” Jo replied, helping herself to coffee and croissants. “Jack has offered to take me for a picnic this afternoon, as it’s his day off.” Jem raised his eyebrows at this, but refrained from commenting. He had his suspicions as to how Jack felt about Jo, but kept them very firmly to himself. It was not up to him to decide what her future was to be and he very much doubted that Jo had any ideas at all, at the moment. He just hoped that Jack was prepared for a long wait.

At three o’clock, the gate latch clicked and Jack came round the house to collect Jo. She was sitting with her sister, reading a book, as usual. She glanced up and, when she saw it was him, put her book down at the side of her chair and smiled at him in greeting. He returned the smile with a wide grin, before turning to greet Madge.

“Hello, Madge. How are you?” he asked.

“Hello, Jack. I’m very well, thank you. Yourself?” Madge replied.

“Excellent, thank you.” He turned to Jo, “Ready, Jo?”

“I just need to collect the basket from Marie,” she replied, getting to her feet as she spoke.

“I’ll get that. You head towards the car and I’ll meet you there.” Jo didn’t argue as she knew there would be no point, so she turned towards the gate.

“Have fun, Jo,” her sister said. “I’ll see you at Abendessen. Will you join us too, Jack?”

“That would be lovely, thank you.” Jack then headed towards the kitchen for the picnic basket Marie had prepared for them. She handed it over with a smile and resolved to set an extra place for Abendessen that night.

Jack quickly stowed the basket in the boot and they both climbed in the front. He had decided that they wouldn’t go too far, but that he would take her somewhere away from the Sonnalpe. They drove for about half an hour, before he stopped the car.

“I thought we could walk to a little clearing near here,” he said, as he climbed out. Jo nodded and climbed out herself. Jack retrieved the picnic and locked the car, before offering his free arm to Jo. She accepted with a smile and they strolled companionably into the woods towards the clearing.

When they reached their destination, Jack put the basket on the floor whilst Jo dug out the rug and laid it out for them to sit on. They then investigated what Marie had packed for them and were delighted with the goodies they found. She had also included some ice-cold lemonade, which they drank thirstily. There wasn’t much conversation, Jack was just happy to be in Jo’s company and Jo was happy to be away from the Sonnalpe, even for a few short hours. Once they had had enough to eat, Jack turned to Jo.

“Happy?” he asked her. Jo just nodded; she was busy watching a small bird at the other side of the clearing. When it flew off, she turned to him.

“It’s so nice to be away from the Sonnalpe, even if it is for such a short time,” she answered, honestly.

“It isn’t that bad there,” he told her. “You have a loving family and friends who care about you a lot. They just want to see you happy and well again, that’s all.”

“I know that,” she acknowledged. “It just feels a little claustrophobic there, sometimes. This is the first time I’ve been anywhere in almost a year.”

“You’ve not been home two weeks yet. You have to give yourself time to adjust. Doesn’t the school break up for summer soon?” As Jo nodded, he continued, “You’ll have Robin to talk to, then, as well as Grizel and Juliet. It won’t feel as lonely for you.” He glanced at his watch at this point, before asking, “What time is Abendessen?”

“At nineteen. Why?”

“We’d better get a move on then, if we don’t want to be late. It’s almost eighteen now, and starting to get a little gloomy in here.” Jo looked around her. It was, indeed, getting gloomy in the clearing, so she turned to and swiftly re-packed the basket. They stood up and shook out the rug, before putting it on top of the basket. Jack picked it up and they headed towards the car. Once there, they stowed the basket and headed home.

Jo absently fingered the necklace she was wearing as Jack drove. He had noticed she had his Christmas gift round her neck and was secretly pleased. He refrained from saying anything, though, as he knew she was too emotionally fragile at the moment. He felt she needed to rebuild her life first, and then maybe she would be ready for more than friendship.

Eventually, they reached Die Rosen. Jack took the basket through to the kitchen whilst Jo went to wash and brush her hair. They were warmly greeted by Jem and Madge as they arrived in the Salon and were just sitting down when the gong summoned them to the Speisesaal. They enjoyed a lovely meal before returning back there. Jo soon excused herself to go to bed, though, as she was tired.

“Thank you for a lovely afternoon, Jack,” she said to him as she stood up.

“It was my pleasure,” he replied, smiling. “Good night, Jo.”

“Good night.” She departed at this, as was glad to climb into her bed, where she was soon sound asleep.

The next two weeks passed quietly. As Jack had predicted, once the school had broken up, she had Robin, Grizel and Juliet to keep her company. She found herself feeling much happier. It felt as if life was finally starting to come together for her.

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