Excerpt - Saving Sullivan

Sara Hubbard

Chapter One

STANDING BY THE national departures entrance at Halifax International Airport, I take a deep breath. A skylight lets the sun shine down on my father and three older brothers—my family, my heart. 

My oldest brother, Clay, runs a hand through his cropped, blond hair. He gives me a quick hug and then takes a step back. He looks so sad that I have to pull him in for another hug. 

“Shit,” he says. “I suck at goodbyes.” He kisses the top of my head and turns away, strolling to the exit doors without looking back. Of all my brothers, Clay is the softest, and he’s the one I get along with best. He doesn’t live with us anymore, but we often talk on the phone and he always comes by for supper. My other brothers, Dylan and Michael, try to make light of the situation, teasing me, ruffling my hair. Their personalities are as identical as their twin faces: narrow noses, big, brown eyes and full, wide, toothy smiles. 

My father looks down at his feet. He’ll be lost without me like I’ll be lost without him. I worry he’ll fall apart without his baby because we have a special bond that I know he doesn’t share with my brothers. I’m his little girl, his only daughter. And I look just like my mother did when she was my age.

I drop my carry-on and all but jog to my dad. As I wrap my arms around him, he lifts me up, burying his head into my shoulder. 

“I’ll miss you, kid,” he says.

“Me too. Love you, Dad.”

“Keep your chin up. You can do this.”

I sigh. “But…what if you need me?”

“Sweetheart, we’ll be fine. Count on it.”

“But—”

“We’ll be fine. You always take such good care of us. This is your chance to worry about you and only you, for once. Let yourself have some fun. Make some friends.”

“Not too much fun,” Michael says. “If you know what I mean.”

My brothers have always been protective of me, and most of the time it frustrates me, but now I know I’ll miss it when they’re not there to constantly look over my shoulder and offer their two cents worth on every single choice I make. 

I frown at Michael before Dad and I let go of one another. Dad slaps Michael on the back of the head. “Leave your sister be. She’s got more sense than the two of you put together.” 

“Ow,” Michael says, rubbing his head. 

I swallow a hard lump in my throat. I’ve always been the woman of the house, the one to make the meals and clean up after my dad and my brothers. And I’ve always been the one to look after my dad, especially after my mom died. I thought leaving home for two months would be hard on my family, but I think I underestimated now how hard this will be on me. I’ve never had to live without them before and I’m not sure that I can. My family is my rock. Without them…I just won’t know what to do with myself. 

I pull my dad in for one more hug. His thick sweater smells of fresh cut grass and cigar smoke. I inhale it one more time, feeling all the comfort and safety that goes along with it. 

“That’s enough of that,” Dylan says, patting Dad on his back. “She’s going to miss her plane.”

Slowly, Dad lets me go and I grab my bag and hurry into the departure zone. I can’t look back because I’ll lose my nerve if I see the look on my dad’s face, or if I have to watch another second of Clay running away with his head bowed. So I forge ahead. A woman on a mission. 

I hand my ticket to security. Alberta. Halfway across the country. 

How did this happen? 

I was never supposed to leave for the summer. I had my entire summer mapped out up until a few days ago when my nursing school instructor called right before I was supposed to begin my final clinical placement. I’d secured one in my hometown, on a surgical floor in the hospital. I couldn’t have been happier. Four years of commuting to the city for school were finally over. I had the highest hopes for this placement, namely that the hospital would offer to hire me once I graduated. Then I would have been set. I could stay in Muskrat, Nova Scotia and live near my family forever.

But that’s not what happened. 

My instructor, Mary Powers, called me one night while my family and I sat down for supper. I cooked, as usual. I think I made meatloaf and veggies, because that’s what I always make on Tuesdays. After an epic silence, Mary drew in a breath and sighed into the phone, preparing me for what she had to say. “I have some bad news.”

Bad news. My heart sank while I braced myself. Dylan, tossed peas at me from the other side of the room, but I couldn’t even muster the strength to give him a dirty look. I assumed Mary had called about my placement because the rest of my coursework for my Bachelor of Science in Nursing was done. So why else would she call me at home at night? Instructors don’t usually call their students; at least they’d never called me. What she told me next made me pull up a chair and take a seat while my family exchanged worried glances. 

“An outbreak of scabies among the nurses?” My voice was so quiet it barely registered as a whisper. This had to be a joke. 

“I’m so sorry. The floor has rescinded its offer to you for this term. Management has decided to restrict the floors to patients and essential personnel only until they have the situation under control.”

“But…what am I going to do? I’m supposed to start my placement in three days! Is there somewhere I can go in the city?” Commuting for another ten weeks wasn’t ideal, but I was willing to do what I had to do to ensure I finished my placement and graduated on time. Ever since my mom passed, the only thing I’ve wanted is to become a nurse, to help those who suffer, maybe help others make better choices…

If only I could have done that for my mom. 

“I’m sorry,” Mary says. “I’ve called everywhere. All of the other placements have already been secured. The city hospital has overcommitted to LPNs, RNs and military nurses. They can’t offer you a placement right now.”

“What am I supposed to do? There must be something. Anything?”

And there was. 

Banff, Alberta. 

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