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A week after her talk with Jem, Jo was finally up and about once more. She was under strict orders to take it easy and not do anything strenuous for another week. She spent most of her time outside in the garden as summer had arrived with a vengeance. The days were hot and Jo felt the heat more than normal. She was quite content to sit in the shade and doze, using the heat as an excuse for her lethargy. She had an idea for another book bubbling and made the most of the enforced rest to formulate her ideas. By the end of the week, she was ready to begin writing and disappeared into the study whenever she had the opportunity to do so.

Jem was busy at the Sanatorium and didn't notice his sister-in-law was avoiding him. Jo was still struggling to shake the cough she had developed. She tried to avoid doing anything which meant she needed to exert herself, generally using the excuse of her writing.

One evening, Jo was showing Jack Maynard out after dinner, when he asked a casual question.

"It's my day off tomorrow, do you fancy coming for a walk?"

"I'm sorry, I can't, I'm afraid. I'm in the middle of my new book and can't leave it at the moment." Jack looked quizzically at her. She'd never used the excuse of her writing to turn him down before.

"Another time, then. It seems ages since we last went out for a walk."

"Yes. Thank you for asking me.” Jo felt awkward, but knew she couldn’t risk a walk without the cough returning. She missed Jack’s company, but she knew he would question her if she started to cough and she didn’t want that. She didn’t want to be hauled back off to bed by anyone for a simple cough which she hoped would probably disappear soon anyway.

What Jo hadn’t realised was that the cough she had was a sign of much worse to come.

*****

July faded into August and Jo continued to struggle valiantly on. She was still feeling tired, but was determined to put on a brave face. She was glad that the summer was so hot this year, so the constant fatigue she was suffering was not as noticeable. She laughed and joked with the younger members of the household and helped them in their games when she wasn’t busy writing. She enjoyed spending time with them as they didn’t constantly worry about her health. They loved her as she was and she knew that if she was tired, she could coax them to sit down quietly and listen to a story without them wondering if she was sickening for something.

Jack had asked her to go walking a few more times and each time she had made up some excuse to avoid going. She felt guilty each time she refused, as she enjoyed his company and friendship. The population on the Sonnalpe was quite small and she had few friends living there. Her three closest friends lived further afield now that they had left school, though Frieda Mensch was nearby in Innsbruck. There were others near to her in age, they were busy with their own affairs and Jo had no wish to intrude on them.

One afternoon Madge decided to organise a picnic. Jo wondered how she could avoid joining, but realised her sister would need help to look after the smaller members of the party. This was to Jo’s advantage since she knew that she could easily keep up with the slow pace necessary. As they strolled along the alm towards their usual picnic spot, Jo felt glad she had decided to come. She flopped onto the grass quite happily with her sister and began to make a daisy chain for Primula. This activity kept her occupied without the need for any exertion. When it was time to eat, everyone gathered around the baskets and chattered happily as they ate. Jo wasn’t feeling particularly hungry though she managed a roll and a piece of cake, hoping her lack of appetite would go unnoticed. She was out of luck.

“Aren’t you hungry, Jo?” her sister asked as the children ran off to play once more.

“Not really. I think it’s just the hot weather. I don’t think it’s been this hot since we moved here.”

“It is hot this year, I agree. I’ve never noticed it affect your appetite before, though.” Jo shrugged. She didn’t want to worry her sister. Madge let it pass, though she resolved to try and keep an eye on Jo. She suspected her sister was trying to hide something, but knew from experience that Jo would not be forthcoming if she was pushed.

Jo was on her guard, now, and knew that she had to try her best to eat properly in her sister's presence; otherwise Madge would worry, and maybe involve Jem. That was something Jo wanted to avoid at the moment. Her continuing lethargy and lack of appetite were beginning to take their toll on her, but she wasn’t ready to tell anyone about it, yet. She hoped that she could still beat it. She thought that she had her cough under control, now, and that it was finally beginning to clear. As long as she didn't try to do anything which made her out of breath, the cough didn't seem so bad.

Jo was glad to retire to her room that evening. She felt exhausted from the stroll along the alm and having to pretend that all was well. Deep down, she knew it would be much easier if she did tell someone that she was still feeling unwell and that the after-effects of the cold she'd had were still lingering. She didn't want to feel as if she was a burden on anyone, though. She knew that both Jem and Jack were extremely busy with some bad cases at the Sanatorium and that if she told her sister, the old worry would return. She hated to see her sister worrying about her, so she kept quiet and continued to battle on alone.



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