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Jo slowly toiled up the mountainside. She was tired now, but determined to reach the top and see the view once more. Jack followed on behind. He knew how much she had needed this day out and the challenge. He had noticed how she was becoming restless with being restricted to the Sonnalpe and had offered to take her walking. This route had been chosen as it was a relatively easy walk compared to the other direction and there were plenty of places where they could stop and rest along the way. Eventually, the summit came into view and Jo made a determined last effort to reach it, dropping onto the grass in triumph.

“Well done, Jo!” Jack dropped down beside her as she closed her eyes and concentrated on trying to regain her breath. He was happy to sit quietly with her and wait until she was breathing normally once more. Finally, Jo opened her eyes and smiled up at him.

“I made it!”

“You did well. We’ll have a drink and rest for a while before we set off back down.” Jo nodded her agreement. Jack pulled her to her feet and they walked along to a rocky outcrop where there was more shelter from the light breeze. Jack eased the rucksack from his back and poured them both a mug of coffee. Jo accepted hers with a smile and sipped it slowly as she looked out across the vista before her. Jack allowed the companionable silence to linger between them, happy to see Jo beginning to feel comfortable back in the real world once more. Once they’d finished their coffee, Jack packed the mugs away and stood back up once more.

“Going down should be easier than coming up,” Jo observed as she scrambled to her feet beside him. Jack grinned.

“That all depends on whether you manage to keep your feet on the scree.”

“Well, I can but hope.”

“Come on, let’s go.” He held out his arm and Jo linked up with a smile as he led them towards the downward path.

They were soon at the top of a scree slope and Jack went down first, sliding in places as he tried to find his footing. Jo waited until he reached the bottom before setting off herself. She carefully picked her way across, trying to avoid the spots where Jack had skidded as he watched from below. Suddenly, her foot began to slide from under her and she found herself sliding dangerously closer towards a jutting rock. Jack watched as she hit the rock with a thump, winding herself completely. He quickly scrambled back up the scree towards her.

“Jo? Have you hurt yourself?” As Jo nodded, he continued, “Don’t move, just concentrate on breathing for now.” He waited patiently, until she was able to answer his questions. “Where have you hurt yourself?”

“My wrist.” Jack gently drew her arm towards him and Jo gasped in pain. “Hmm, it’s not broken, but you’ve given it a nasty wrench.” He eased the rucksack off his shoulders and produced a bandage, binding Jo’s wrist well. “Try not to use that hand. I’ll help you up.” He managed to get Jo back to her feet and down the rest of the scree without incident. However, he could see she was looking paler than normal and was also limping a little. Once they were away from the scree, Jack made Jo sit down on a rock and drink some more coffee. She did in silence, before placing the mug on the ground and bursting into tears. Alarmed, Jack moved beside her and drew her into his arms as she cried.

“What’s brought this on?” he asked when she finally stopped.

“I can’t even manage a walk without doing something silly. No wonder no one trusts me to go out alone.”

“It was an accident, Jo. There was nothing you could have done to stop yourself. I slipped on the scree as well.”

“But you didn’t manage to hurt yourself. Jem’ll never let me out again if I can’t look after myself.”

“Of course he will! You need the challenges and it’s not as if you go walking alone. You’ve done really well today, considering it’s your first attempt in over a year. I’m not going to allow you to quit and go backwards just because you slipped on scree. We’ll go for a walk somewhere else next time I have some time off and together, we’ll get you back to full health before you know it.” Jo managed a weak smile.

“Thank you. I don’t know what I’d do without you, sometimes.” Jack smiled back at her.

“I’m sure you’d manage perfectly well. Now, if you’ve finished that coffee, how about we set off back home?” Jo nodded and handed her mug back to him to re-pack. She climbed to her feet and waited for Jack to re-shoulder his rucksack, before they set off back down the mountain towards the Sonnalpe. They stopped frequently to allow Jo to regain her breath, and the sun was just beginning to sink when they finally reached the grassy ledge at the edge of the village. Jack was about to turn them towards Die Rosen, but Jo stopped him.

“Let’s watch the sunset first,” she suggested. “I haven’t seen one from outside for so long.”

“Put your coat on, then. It’ll turn cold quickly once it’s set and you don’t want a chill.” Jo did as she was told before wandering across to the edge of the shelf. Jack followed her, waiting a few paces off and not wishing to intrude on her thoughts. As the last rays lit up the mountains, he moved across to her and placed his arm around her, turning her gently towards home. She smiled up at him and didn’t attempt to break away.

“Thank you. I’ve missed being able to see that. My room faces north so I don’t even see the sunrise.”

“Glad you could enjoy it. Let’s get you home now. It’s getting dark and you really shouldn’t be out any longer.” They walked along towards Die Rosen in a companionable silence. As they reached the gate, Jo felt reluctant to say goodbye.

“Thank you for taking me out today.”

“My pleasure. We’ll go out again next time I get some time off. If you want to, that is?”

“I’d like that.” Jo felt almost shy as she replied. Jack smiled.

“Look after yourself, Jo. I’ll see you in a few days.” He turned and headed on along towards his rooms while Jo slowly walked up the path and let herself in though the door. She was looking forward to seeing Jack and going walking again. Her life was back on track and, deep down, she hoped that Jack would continue to feature in it.



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