That evening, though still quite drunk, Deed heard the knock at his door and stumbled to answer it. "Ah Jo!" he exclaimed.
"Can I come in?" she asked, disturbed by John's appearance. Underneath the unshaven face and the bloodshot eyes, Jo could see the pain which had driven John to this state, the pain which she had inflicted. As Jo made her way to the living room, John made his way to the kitchen counter to pour himself another drink.
"John, I really don't think you need anymore, do you?" Jo said, rushing to his side and taking the bottle of scotch from his hand.
"But it makes me feel better," moaned John with the same kind of childish petulance that Mimi displayed when she was denied a walk on the green. Jo knew, however, that this statement was far from an invention of a child's imagination.
"Come on, I think you should try to sleep this off," she said, guiding the judge to his bedroom.
"Will you join me?" laughed John, as Jo shook her head, thinking how miraculous it was that, even when this drunk, he still managed to proposition her.
When Jo was convinced that Deed was finally asleep, she headed to the kitchen to find some tea for herself and hopefully some coffee for John when he awoke. Whilst searching the cupboards, which she found had been rearranged since she last stayed the night, Jo came across a curious looking bundle of paper; secured by a delicate red silk ribbon. As a barrister, Jo often allowed her curiosity to get the better of her, and this was no exception, as she decided to untie the bundle and investigate further. She could not deny that there was a slight feeling of jealousy when she glanced at the letters and recognised the handwriting to be unmistakeably feminine. However, on closer inspection, she realised that the handwriting was hers. Now incurably intrigued, Jo began to read the letters.
Almost an hour later, Deed's ex pupil sat at his kitchen counter with tears streaming freely down her cheeks. She clutched several of the aforementioned letters to her chest, not noticing that some of them had caught her tears. Shortly after beginning to explore the letters' content, Jo had realised that she had written them many years ago when she was still John's pupil and they had been having their illicit affair whilst her husband was terminally ill. The guilt which Jo had felt over this affair was apparent in her letters, although as was her unshakable admiration and love for John. Eventually, Jo forced herself to finish her reading and so picked up the final letter and began.
I feel that there is no way to say this without hurting us both immensely and so I will just come to the point. My husband's condition is deteriorating so rapidly that I feel it is unfair to him and to my sons to continue seeing you. I know that this must seem horribly like a delayed attack of conscience on my part but yesterday, I felt myself by his bedside occupied only with thoughts of the previous night I had spent with you, rather than his well being.
I realised that such is the intensity of your hold over me, it has overshadowed any level of concern I may have shown for this dying man. John I love you so very much I feel that if I do not stop this now, I will become so utterly consumed with thoughts of you that there will be no room left for the compassion that I must show to my husband, for the sake of my sons.
I know that each time I see you in court, it will be even harder with the knowledge of what I am abandoning in saying these things but I pray that I will have the strength to deal with these feelings and hope that you will understand that for the sake of our spouses, and our children, we must forget our feelings, however painful it might be.
I do love you John and please know that I never lied to you about that. I cannot bear to think of sleeping without your arms around me, or waking without your lips on mine.
This had, of course, turned out to be a pointless letter, as after one or two visits from John, they had resumed their affair. However, it now served a very important purpose. This letter provided Jo with a painful reality check. She now realised that one of the main problems in her relationship with John was the fact that she constantly made excuses to justify why she could not be with him, when the only true reason was her perpetual fear that John would hurt her so deep that she would never recover. First it had been her husband, Mark and Tom, then their professional relationship, Charlie, Michael Hulsey, Marc Thompson; the list was endless.
In no way did Jo believe that John himself was faultless, or blameless in all of this, she knew that part of her fear was partly caused, and worsened by the pain which she felt each time she learned of his latest fling, but she did now accept that he was not the sole cause of the problems between them. The letters had also forced Jo to realise once again how much she loved the sleeping figure in the bed across the hall. She really could not bear to think of a life without him, no matter how much she had told herself otherwise. She now felt ready to accept that John Deed had possession of her heart and with this acceptance came inspiration. Jo was sure that if he knew this, John would never hurt her again.
With the intention of talking to John straight away, Jo wandered towards the bedroom, but finding him sleeping so peacefully, she decided to wait until he woke up and so made her way to the couch with the letters still clutched in her hand.
A loud consistent pounding forced John Deed to wake up and confront the fact that for the first time in years, he had a hangover. Reverting back to a caveman like species, he grumbled and slowly stumbled towards the kitchen where, after much groping around, he downed two aspiring and felt like an utter fool, when considering the shameful state of self-pity which he had forced upon himself for the last few last days.
After these few moments of contemplation and a few more moments of recovery, John's focus was brought to rest upon the sleeping form on his couch. Opening the curtains, and wincing at the pain inflicted by the sunlight, he recognised that figure to be Jo. Brief memories of the previous night somehow penetrated the fog covering John's mind, as he realised that Jo had stayed the night. He also realised in that same moment, that she had found and read through the letters which he had cherished for so many years.
Seating himself in a chair besides Jo, John took a few moments to take in every part of her, breathing in her scent and thinking how long it had been since she had allowed him to do this. It had always been an experience which he had treasured and was truly humbled by; realising each time that this one delicate woman was the woman for who he would die if he was asked.
"You know how much I hate you doing that," mumbled Jo suddenly, breaking John's reverie and causing him to smile, amazed at the woman's intuition.
"Sorry, couldn't help myself," whispered John, reaching across to move a piece of hair from her eyes and letting his hand move to caress her cheek. Jo closed her eyes and sighed at the movement of John's fingertips,
"John, we need to talk."
"You found the letters," hedged John, not sure whether the fact that Jo wanted to talk to him was good or not.
"Yes. I can't believe you still have them after all this time."
"Didn't you keep mine?" asked John, slightly offended at Jo's disbelief.
"Of course, but I'm a sentimental fool!" they both laughed at this. "Do you ever read them?" Jo enquired, suddenly curious again.
"When I'm upset…..when I need to feel good about myself. Hearing that you love me Jo, even in letters -" John moved to the couch, "is the most wonderful thing and just for that moment, I can believe that you wrote the words yesterday and pretend that I haven't hurt you; that I'm not losing you." The almighty judge cast his eyes downwards with shame as he felt how much he had hurt Jo over the years, "I can believe then that you still love me."
"I do still love you John," began Jo, tilting the man's head so that his eyes met hers, "reading these last night made me remember how happy we have been at times and how much I need you in my life -"
"Please John, let me finish," Jo continued, taking the strong hands resting on her knees in her own, "you have hurt me John yes, but I have pushed you away so many times, times when you just wanted to help, I have to accept some responsibility for some of our problems. You have such a good heart John, and a brilliant mind and I love you for those things, but both of us, in effect, have the same problem. I can't commit to you because I'm terrified that you will hurt me and leave me utterly broken, but that's only because I love you so deeply John." Jo took a deep breath and continued further, staring at the hands clinging onto hers. "I can't believe that you would ever intentionally hurt me now that you know why I push you away."
Still staring at the two pairs of hands, Jo felt the smallest drop of water fall onto her palm. Looking up, she found the trail that the tear had left on John's face and, her own eyes now filled, brought her hand to John's cheek to gently wipe away the tears that fell.
"Oh Jo, I am so sorry. Not just for the argument the other day, but for everything. Every insensitive remark, every selfish action, every woman that wasn't you."
"I know," said Jo, as John's tears subsided, "we all have regrets John, even me."
"What do you regret?"
Jo took some time to think, before taking a deep breath and replying, "not marrying you." Feeling a liberating relief after this confession, Jo leaned forward and captured John's lips in a kiss that could steal a soul. When they parted, the judge took his love's face in his hands and stared into her eyes saying simply,
"So, marry me."
"What?" Jo asked, still in a daze.
"Marry me Jo," this time it was Jo's turn to allow her tears to fall, "please. I can't imagine ever being without you, I don't want to imagine it, I……well, I…..," John sighed at his own inability to articulate his feelings before continuing, "oh God I can't even find the words to ask you!"
"John, I don't need the words anymore, I can see it in your eyes." Finding herself lost for words, Jo simply reached for John's face and placed the most gentle of kisses upon the lips of her future husband.