|Jo picked the post up from the doormat. Walking into the lounge, she sat down on the sofa to look through it. They were nearly all for her today and she recognised the handwriting of a few of her friends in the pile. Starting at the top, she opened one from her sister-in-law. There was the usual news of her family and what they were doing. Laying it to one side for Jack to read when he came home, she picked the next letter up from the pile. This was from Mary Burnett and contained nothing particularly exciting. Jo’s attention wandered and she looked down at the pile at her side. A small envelope caught her attention and she saw it was a typewritten letter addressed to Jack. She’d not noticed it when flicking through the pile. |
Jo placed it on the mantelpiece next to the clock. It was flimsy and Jo had a sudden nagging feeling at the back of her mind. The only thing which distinguished this envelope from any number of other typewritten envelopes which arrived for Jack were the four letters, OHMS. Jo had a sudden thought about what it might contain. Going back to the sofa, she picked up her own letter once more and tried to concentrate on what Mary had to tell her. It didn’t work.
War had been declared three weeks previously. Jo knew that Jack was the right age and, as a doctor, his skills would be needed at the front. There was little chance that the War Office would allow him to continue to work at the Sanatorium when Jem was there and the island already had doctors in general practice. This meant that he was a prime candidate to be conscripted. As Jo stared at the envelope sitting on the mantelpiece, the more she became convinced that it contained his call-up papers.
Jo's imagination began to whirl. Where would they send him? Would he be fighting in trenches like she'd read about in the Great War? What would happen if he was captured? Jo knew that he would never leave someone alone to die, especially out on the battlefield. She knew that Jack felt responsible for anyone under his care. If he was captured, he'd be determined to stay with the men he was caring for at the time.
Jo's thoughts went off on a tangent. If he was captured what would happen to him? He'd already spent time being questioned by the Gestapo when they were still living in Austria. The Nazis were known to have long memories. Would they remember him? Jo was sure they would. She guessed that they probably had a file on him after he’d escaped. They’d be determined to find out all they could about the others who escaped, too.
Jo stood up and went to get her coat and put on her shoes. She needed to get out of the house and try to banish the thoughts from her head. Locking the door behind her, she set off towards the coastline. She walked quickly, ignoring the slight pain in her chest. She knew she needed to try and sort her thoughts out and think logically about what was going to happen but, as always, the thoughts were coming too quickly for her to be able to do anything other than walk.
Jo worried about what would happen to Jack and about what would happen to her. They'd had barely a month of married life together and, already, he was being taken away from her. Maybe he’d never come back. Jo was aware that he could be killed and that she would be left a widow at the age of twenty-one. The thought of that made her walk even faster.
She walked along the cliff path, watching the stormy sea and thinking about all they had gone through to get to where they were today and that one small envelope bearing the letters OHMS could tear their whole lives apart once more.
Darkness began to fall and Jo reluctantly turned back for home. She looked at the coastline in the dimness and tried to concentrate on following the path. She hadn’t how realised much distance she’d covered in her efforts to banish the thoughts from her mind. As she walked, her breathing became more ragged and she had to stop more frequently to rest. She was thankful to see the lights of the cottage finally looming into view. Jo slipped in through the front door and hung her coat up. She was exhausted, yet reluctant to stay still. Jack appeared in the hallway, anxiety plain to see on his face.
“Jo? Where have you been? I was worried about you.”
“I needed to walk,” she gasped out.
“Go and sit down. I’ll make you a drink.” Jo obeyed, going slowly into the lounge. She dropped onto the sofa and curled up in the corner, her head on the arm. Her thoughts resurfaced once more as she saw the letter had disappeared from where she had placed it earlier. Tears came to her eyes and she attempted to fight them. She saw Jack as if from a distance as he came to crouch in front of her.
“That letter. You’ve been called up, haven’t you?” she whispered.
“Yes. I have to report in the next few days. Is that why you went walking?” Jo nodded.
“I couldn’t stay here. I needed to clear my head.”
“By walking yourself into this state? That won’t help either of us.” Jo’s tears began to fall, and Jack gently wiped them away. “Don’t cry, Joey. You knew it might happen.”
“Not so soon, though.”
“We saw what was happening when we were still in Austria. I had a small taste of it that week I was taken to Innsbruck. If I can help the people fighting that regime, then I should go.” Jo didn’t answer. She knew he was right. She managed to sit up and picked her drink up. Jack watched her, anxiously.
“You ought to go to bed. You’re exhausted.” Jo just nodded, but, she made no attempt to move. Her efforts at banishing her thoughts had caught up with her and she had no energy left to even stand. Jack got her to her feet and, with his arm firmly round her for support; he helped her upstairs and into bed.
Jo lay in the dark room and stared at the ceiling. Her walk had done its job and she was so exhausted that her thoughts were becoming harder to distinguish. Jo’s eyes closed and she slept.