“Bless you, Jo.”
“Thank you.” Jo Bettany blew her nose loudly and sighed. She knew all too well what that sneeze meant. Summer had just begun and she was already facing the prospect of spending the next week or so in bed with a severe cold. She knew a cold wasn’t something to be trifled with, even though she was so much healthier than she had been as a child.
“Atishoo! Atishoo!” This time her sister looked up at her and she saw the worry immediately appear on Madge Russell’s face. Jo tried to suppress a shiver, even though the day was hot.
“Jo Bettany! You’re starting with a cold! Quickly, take yourself off to bed and I’ll find the hot water bottles.” Jo reluctantly moved from her seat and dejectedly set off towards the chalet and her bedroom.
She was soon between the covers and her sister tucked hot water bottles around her, telling her to stay where she was for the foreseeable future. In a way, Jo felt glad since she was already beginning to feel tired and aching. She was soon sleeping, but it wasn’t refreshing. Her dreams were all too vivid and she cried out. She didn’t hear her sister’s soothing voice next to her as her dreams chopped and changed, each becoming stranger than the one before.
Madge was sitting at the bedside, watching her young sister anxiously. She tried to soothe Jo as she cried out in her sleep, but she could tell that Jo was dreaming and she couldn’t hear her. Placing her hand on Jo’s shoulder, she could already feel the heat as the cold took hold. She wished her husband was home to reassure her, but he was busy at the Sanatorium. She knew he was due back soon, and she wished he would hurry up. She could already hear Jo’s breathing becoming more ragged; a sure sign the cold was on her chest. Jo roused slightly, and Madge leaned forwards. She slipped an arm under Jo’s shoulders, lifting her slightly.
“Here, Jo, drink this,” as she held a cup of water to Jo’s lips. Jo swallowed a little of the water. “Let me put another pillow behind you.” She slipped a spare pillow under Jo’s head, then laid her gently back down. She heard the front door close and slipped out of the room to greet her husband.
“Oh, Jem, thank goodness!”
“What’s wrong?” Jem saw the anxiousness on his wife’s pretty face and drew her into his arms.
“Jo’s started with a cold.”
“A cold? In this weather?”
“Yes. Will you have a look at her, please?” Jem went upstairs to Jo’s room and entered quietly. He could hear the rasping breaths from the door and was unsurprised at his wife’s worry. All her life, Jo had had to be careful with colds, since she had a tendency towards pneumonia. He quickly examined her as she slept. She was restless, constantly moving about in the bed and muttering. Slipping back outside, he spoke to Madge.
“We need to try and get her temperature down. She’s burning hot and that’s making her restless. Go and fetch a bowl of cold water and a sponge, and start with that. I’ll go and see if I have any cooling mixture we can give her if she rouses.” Madge went to do his bidding and was soon sponging her sister’s forehead.
When Jo next roused, Jem managed to get some cooling mixture into her, but he saw a long night ahead as they battled to bring her temperature down. He took the first shift, sending Madge to get some sleep at ten o’clock. He watched her carefully for any signs of improvement, but there were none. Jo was well and truly in the throes of a severe chest cold and, to add to her woes, she had begun to cough as well.
Jem alternately watched and sponged Jo until he could feel himself beginning to doze. He rose and went to wake Madge. She took his place in Jo’s room whilst he climbed into bed, falling asleep as soon as his head touched the pillow.
This routine continued for the next four days. Each time Jo roused, she was given the cooling mixture and water to drink, until the temperature finally began to return to normal and Jo’s breathing became easier, though the cough still remained.
On the fifth day, Jo roused properly. She stared around the room for a few minutes, before noticing her sister in the chair beside her bed.
“Madge?” she whispered, her voice sounding as if it were coming from far away.
“Hello, Jo. How are you feeling?”
“Tired. How long have I been out for?”
“Four days. Do you want a drink?” Jo nodded, and Madge slipped an arm under her to raise her slightly as she held a glass to her lips. Jo drank thirstily. Her throat felt dry and it hurt. “Easy, Jo. I’m not going to take it away from you.” She slowed down though continued to drink. When the glass was empty, Madge laid her back down and stood up. “I’ll just fetch Jem, Jo. I won’t be long.” She departed, to return a few minutes later with her husband, who looked Jo over silently.
“Glad to see you back with us again, Jo. Get some sleep, now, there’s a good girl.” Jo obediently closed her eyes and was soon slumbering peacefully. Jem drew Madge out into the corridor. “She should sleep for a few hours, now. Go and get some sleep yourself, darling. You look exhausted.”
“Will she be all right now, Jem?”
“Once she’s had some proper sleep, I’m sure she’ll be fine. Knowing Jo, she’ll be back up and about in no time. You know how quickly she recovers from any illness.” He kissed her and gently pushed her towards their bedroom, where she was quick to join her sister in slumbering, relieved that Jo had pulled through once more.