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Jo Bettany was fed up. She’d been stuck inside the house for the past three days as the weather had simply been too wet to be able to go anywhere. Now, the rain had finally stopped and she was aching to go out for a walk. She went in search of her sister, eventually unearthing her in the nursery. Madge smiled up at her as she entered.

“I’m going to take Rufus for a walk along the alm,” Jo said as she crouched down to hug the younger members of the nursery.

“Are you going alone?”

“Yes. I won’t be more than an hour. I just want to get some fresh air.” Madge looked closely at Jo and noted the dark circles under her eyes as well as the determination in them. Jo had been back at home for a few months, now and Madge was still inclined to worry over her, despite Jem’s assurance that Jo was so much better and needed new challenges to face. She knew her sister well enough to know a refusal would end in rebellion so she reluctantly nodded her agreement.

“Make sure you wrap up well and wear your boots. The paths won’t be very pleasant. Are sure you don’t want someone to come with you?”

“I’ll have Rufus with me. Don’t fuss, Madge.” Aware of the children listening to their conversation, Madge sensibly let the conversation drop, merely warning her to stick to the alm and to take her time. She watched Jo depart and soon saw her walking across to the shed where her St Bernard dog, Rufus lived. Turning back to the children in the nursery, she picked up the book she had been reading to them and continued with the story.

Meanwhile, Jo had collected Rufus and set off along the alm with him bounding along at her side, glad to be out with her once more. Jo wandered slowly along, knowing that she couldn’t rush about, but relishing the chance to be outside at last. The solitude was just what she needed after being stuck indoors. As much as she loved all the people who inhabited Die Rosen, she now found them too much on occasion. Times like this, when it was just her and Rufus, were rare and she wanted to make the most of her hour alone. As she passed the entrance to the Sanatorium, she glanced up at it and felt glad she was no longer stuck within the confines of a bed having to rest. She knew she was one of the lucky ones. She had improved and been able to go home but, many others she knew in there would never leave again.

Continuing on past, Jo began to tire and spotted a fallen log a few yards further on. She made for it and sank down thankfully. Rufus sniffed the ground and began to follow a trail nearby. He didn’t go far and Jo let him explore. She allowed her thoughts to wander as she sat looking out at the view, never hearing footsteps approaching from behind.

“What are you doing out here, Jo?” Jo jumped and then smiled as she saw who was standing beside her.

“Oh! Hello, Jack. I wasn’t expecting to see you.”

“So I see. May I join you?”

“Of course.” Jack sat down beside Jo and ruffled Rufus’ head as the dog came over to investigate the newcomer. Jack repeated his question.

“I wanted some fresh air so I brought Rufus out for a walk. I was just having a rest before setting off back, that’s all.”

“You looked as if you were in a world of your own when I arrived.”

“I was just thinking. It’s so noisy at Die Rosen that I don’t get much chance for some peace and quiet.”

“I thought you had your own sitting room for that?”

“I do, but it’s right below the nursery so when everyone’s inside, it’s not that quiet even in there.”

“I can see that. You look tired, Jo. Is something wrong?” Jo shook her head but didn’t reply. Looking keenly at her, Jack saw tears in her eyes and was concerned. “What is it? What’s bothering you?” As the tears began to fall, he pulled her into his arms and just held her as she cried. Whatever it was that was bothering her, Jack knew he wanted to help, but first, he had to just be a shoulder for her to cry on. When the tears finally slowed, he pulled back and produced a clean handkerchief for her. “What’s brought this on?”

“I don’t know, I just...” Jo trailed off as she tried to form her thoughts into words. Jack stayed silent allowing her the space she needed. “I don’t know why I’m upset, I shouldn’t be. I have family who look after me and love me, but, I feel like I’m constantly being watched. It’s as if they don’t trust me to do anything alone anymore. Madge wanted someone to come with me now, rather than let me just have some time alone away from everyone. I was never bothered by it before, so why am I now?”

“It’s just a transition process you’re going through since you’ve just spent the past part of the past year pretty much in isolation. You’ve become used to the space you had there, so I’m not surprised you crave it every so often. It’s normal to feel that way and it will get easier.”

“I know I’m using my sitting room less, but that doesn’t explain why Madge won’t let me come out alone.”

“She’s just concerned for you and doesn’t want anything to happen to you. Look at it from her point of view. You’ve been in the Sanatorium with a serious illness and she knows how long it takes to recover. She’s just concerned that you might try to do too much. You know, yourself, that you have a tendency to get carried away on occasion.”

“That was when I was younger. I was sensible enough to stop and rest here for a while before I set off back home today.”

“Madge doesn’t know that, though. For all she knows, you’re running about making yourself ill again and she doesn’t want you to have to go through it all again. You’ve only been back at home for a few months, she’s still learning how much you’ve had to grow up whilst you were in the Sanatorium. You’ll have more freedom, Jo. Today is a big step in that direction since you have been allowed out alone.”

“Speaking of which, I’d better be going back. I said I’d only be about an hour and I have to walk back, yet. Thanks for listening, Jack.”

“Anytime. I can give you a lift if you want? I’m on my way home.”

“I think I’d rather walk, since there’s Rufus as well. Thank you for the offer, though.”

“No problem.” Jack rose and pulled Jo to her feet. “I was planning to go to Spartz in the morning. Would you like to join me?”

“That sounds good. I’d love to come if you’ll have me.”

“I’ll pick you up about nine, then?”

“Yes. Thank you for inviting me.” Jo called Rufus to her and the dog came bounding out from behind some nearby bushes. Jack ruffled his head again and watched as they set off for home. He retrieved his car from near the Sanatorium gates and headed for his own home.

Jo arrived back home just over an hour after she’d left. She felt much better for the fresh air and the brief talk with Jack and more able to understand her sister’s reluctance to allow her the freedom she’d had before all that had happened to her. She let herself back in through the door just as Madge came back downstairs. She smiled up at her sister as she removed her outer garments, hanging them up neatly.

Madge returned the smile, noticing that Jo looked much better for her walk. She had a little pink in her cheeks and she looked less pale than normal. She realised that she was becoming over-protective of her sister and that she had to allow her the freedom she both needed and wanted. Reaching the bottom of the stairs, Madge greeted Jo properly and together, they went towards the Salon talking of Jo’s plans for the next day and beyond.

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