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The day dawned bight and cold, the sun rising in a plethora of pink and red, a sure sign of rain to follow. As the final tinges of colour faded from the mountains, a door was silently opened and someone crept outside. Shivering slightly, she set off down the path and turned out of the gate, walking swiftly along towards the road. As she reached the junction, she turned to the right and followed the track around the edge of the mountain, away from the village. The path continued onwards, but she stopped at a rocky outcrop and quickly climbed up it to a small ledge where she could sit and think things through without the fear of being disturbed.

Walking home after a long shift at the Sanatorium, Jack Maynard was surprised to see a flash of colour dart past ahead of him. Curious, he set off to find out who could be up at this time of the morning. He wandered along the track, suspecting that the person he thought he had seen wouldn’t stay on the path for long. He was right. He noticed her sitting on a ledge six feet from the ground not far ahead. He stopped below and smiled up at her.

“Penny for them, Jo?” Startled, Jo Bettany looked down at him in surprise.

“How did you know I was here?”

“I spotted you as I was walking home. It’s rather early for you to be out, isn’t it?”

“Couldn’t sleep any longer.”

“What’s wrong? You look most serious.”

“Nothing, I was just thinking, that’s all.” Jack scrambled up beside her.

“A problem shared is a problem halved and all that. Why don’t you tell me and we can work a solution out.” Jo stayed silent for a while, trying to put her thoughts into some sort of order. Jack just waited quietly beside her. When she finally spoke, the question was unexpected.

“Did you always want to be a doctor?”

“Yes. Certainly from about the age of fourteen, anyway. Before that, I was more interested in being outside as much as possible and lessons were things I had to do to stay out of trouble.”

“What made you decide?”

“An accident which happened in the summer holidays that year. I watched the local doctor when he was called out to one of my friends and realised that that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be able to make people better.”

“It must have been a shock when you returned and found out how much work it would be.”

“It was. I think I gave the staff a shock as well. I went from not caring about lessons and being happy halfway down the form lists to suddenly being in the top three each week. The year after, I ended up as form prefect and then, eventually, Head Boy.”

“Did you enjoy being Head Boy?”

“On the whole, yes. Some parts I hated, but, I took them as part of the job. I needed that responsibility to help me to grow up and learn there was more than me in the world.”

“Did it do that?”

“Yes. Being the youngest in the family, admittedly by only an hour, meant that until then, I’d never needed to think about being responsible because there was always someone watching out for me. I had to learn quickly about how to deal with others.”

“Mary has left and I’ve been told that I’m to be Head Girl next term. I don’t want the position. I don’t have the patience that Mary and everyone else before has had with the younger ones. A lot of the middles are my friends. How can I tell them off when I would have joined in at their age?”

“I think you’ll do fine, Jo. You’ll know how to deal with everyone because you’ve probably already been in their position. You’re willing to learn from any mistakes you make. None of your friends have a strong enough personality or the wide friendships you have to be able to do the job as well.”

“I suppose so. I was just looking forward to being able to sit back and enjoy myself for this last year, though. Now, it looks like I won’t be allowed to because I’ll always have to be on my best behaviour.”

“Everyone has off days, even me. Just be yourself and don’t try to do the job in any way but your own. I bet you’ll even find it fun at times.”

“I’ll try. Thanks, Dr Jack.”

“My name is Jack. I think we can drop the formality when there’s no one else around. After all, we see a lot of each other when you’re up here.” Jo smiled, her seriousness gone for now.

“I’d like that. Thanks for listening too.”

“Glad I can help. Now, how about we walk back? It’s not that warm out here yet. Also, I’m tired and ready for my bed since I only finished work an hour ago.”

Jack scrambled back down to the ground and caught Jo when she stumbled, setting her back on her feet. She smiled her thanks and together, they walked back towards Die Rosen, Jack leaving her at the gate as he continued on towards his own rooms. He hoped he had been some help to her and that she would now begin to accept her position in life. After all, he thought, she was sixteen now and she couldn’t expect to stay a child forever.

On her own part, Jo was glad to have encountered Jack. He had listened to her and patiently answered her questions, however personal. She realised that the next year wouldn’t be so difficult when she had friends like him to listen when she needed them.

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