I had originally penned this story using the author name of Kailin. I changed my Sugar Quill pen name to ‘Chocoholic’ because (a) I am one, and (b) you’ve gotta love a wizard who thinks chocolate is the answer to everything. Remus, here’s to you!
Adrenaline Junkies. A nurse I used to work with used the name to describe people like me. I merely thought I craved action and adventure, but now that I look at my present situation, the name truly fits. Adrenaline Junkie, I am.
My name is Kailin Curtis. Yes, Kailin is a rather unusual name for someone about to turn thirty; I hear of all sorts of little girls named ‘Kailie’ or ‘Katelyn’ these days, so I suppose I’m finally fashionable. My Grandma, however, thought the name was the height of fashion, and lobbied long and hard to convince my mother that her baby girl should be named Kailin instead of Susan or Janet or Barbara.
She got the name, you see, from Lady Kailin Ford-Burke, a British socialite of the late 1930’s who was renowned for some rather scandalous activities. Gran was in the throes of teenage rebellion at the time, and was much impressed by the nerve of the vivacious Lady Kailin. Originally she thought to use the name for a future daughter. But a daughter was a long time in coming; my uncles Frank, Martin and Roger all made their appearances before my mother was born. Then, when that day finally came, Marvy lay in the hospital with my mother in her arms and blurted the first name that came to her mind: Louise. She never had a chance to use the name Kailin, so she redirected her efforts at getting my mother to consider it. I don’t know how long it took, but I imagine that my poor Mom finally gave in just to get her to shut up.
Grandma’s name was Marva McClain. I was supposed to call her Grandma Marva, so as not to confuse her with Grandma Ruth from Dad’s side of the family, but ‘Grandma Marva’ was a lot for a small child to get her tongue around. I ended up calling her ‘Marvy’ until the day she died-a crushing day for me, just six months ago. We were so much alike, she and I. I was closer to her than my own mother, and she was a better friend than many of my contemporaries. The fact that I am in Great Britain currently can all be traced to her.
Marvy was British. She, like me, was the adventurous sort. During World War 2 she became a nurse, tending to the wounded when Hitler’s V-1 and V-2 rockets rained on London. She also tended to a wounded young American flyer named Billy Mitchell, and fell instantly in love. Marvy was one of the thousands of foreign war brides who settled down in America with their GI husbands following the war, but she never forgot her British roots. I loved going to visit her and Grandpa Billy during my summer vacations. We held elaborate tea parties, and she taught me to make the most delicious scones and tarts. But most of all I loved listening to her tales of life in Britain, especially the stories of how she saved this person and that person as a war nurse. I made up my mind that I, too, would become a nurse and follow in Marvy’s footsteps.
Trouble was, when I found myself studying nursing in college, World War Two was long over, and the field I had expected to be romantic, exciting and fulfilling was complicated by drudgery, politics and insurance regulations. I kept plugging away, even when my parents were killed in a car accident during my junior year.
Eventually, I found my niche in Intensive Care nursing. It felt good to keep a wary eye on my patients, waiting and watching for the first signs of danger, being the one to call a ‘code’ when death threatened. I took a course in Flight Nursing just for the thrill of caring for a critically ill patient as we raced the clock to save a life. I flew for the better part of three years until a helicopter engine malfunction forced an emergency landing, reminding me of my own mortality and scaring the daylights out of me. From that point on I decided to have my adventures while keeping my feet on the ground.
I gave up my apartment and signed on with one of the traveling nurse agencies that provided short-term staffing solutions for understaffed hospitals across the country. For six months I worked at a large hospital in New York City, spent another three assigned to a tiny clinic in rural Montana, and finally endured two very long months working the night shift at a Miami inner city emergency room, where I felt lucky to leave with my life every morning. It was then that I received the news that Marvy was sick.
It took a massive heart attack to fell my beloved grandmother. I was able to spend one precious week at her bedside, listening once more to her tales of life in Britain and her handsome American flyer, until her big heart finally gave out completely. I was heartbroken. After the funeral, it seemed best to request a new work assignment as soon as possible. I was in the middle of doing so when I heard from Marvy’s lawyer.
Marvy had left me forty thousand dollars.
To say I was stunned is an understatement. I knew that Marvy and Grandpa Billy were typically middle class; they didn’t starve, but neither were they extravagant spenders. I called Grandpa Billy at once, blubbering all over myself about how I couldn’t take the money, that it was his, that I didn’t deserve it. He flat out refused.
“Marva loved you, Kailin. Out of our four kids and eight grandkids, she loved you more dearly than anyone. She set aside some money for you when you were born and kept adding to it over the years. I think she’d planned to give it to you for a wedding present or a down payment on a house....” Grandpa Billy’s voice trailed off.
It was unnecessary for him to say more. I understood. As far as marriage was concerned, I was all for it; the problem was, I had yet to meet the right man. And buying a house was out of the question as long as I maintained my gypsy lifestyle. I had unwittingly spoiled my grandmother’s plans by failing to marry or stay in one place long enough to own property.
So what to do with forty thousand dollars? The obvious choice was to invest it, but somehow I knew that wouldn’t follow Marvy’s intent. I was able to support myself, and she knew it. This money was gravy, icing on the cake. I tried to picture Marvy as a young woman confronted with a sudden windfall, and suddenly I knew exactly what I was going to do with it.
I was going to England. I was going to take six months off from working as a nurse and use that time to visit the places Marvy had so often described. I was going to see the Changing of the Guard, tread the moors, eat at pubs. I was going to have tea, shop at Harrods, and ride a double-decker bus.
Marvy, I knew, would be proud.
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