The writing prompt this week from Write at the Merge is legs. The prompt included a photograph and a Justin Timberlake video.
For your reading enjoyment, I introduce:
The Unlikely Hero
Virginia sat at the edge of her bed and re-read the letter from the White House. Looking up, she watched the young lieutenant through the open bedroom door, her thumb gently gliding across President Truman’s signature several times. She noticed his impatience had become more noticeable as he awaited her reply in the living-room.
Sighing deeply, she thought: There can only be the one reply—any other would be foolhardy and dangerous. Looking at her legs, she remembered how her life had changed in 1933 while a clerk in the U.S. Embassy in Turkey. We’ve come a long way since then, haven’t we ‘Cuthbert?’ she mused, tapping her left leg with her hand before standing up. With a noticeable limp, she walked over to her desk and sat down and picked up the pen.
Virginia’s high intelligence and language proficiency had not gone unnoticed at the Embassy in 1933. A career in Foreign Service—her lifelong goal—was within reach.
On March 20, everything changed.
Hunting wild boar with friends in the Kizilcahaman District of Ankara, Virginia stumbled and shot herself in the leg. Though they managed to stop the bleeding, the grueling two mile trek back to their vehicle had taken its toll.
A few days later in Ankara Numune Hospital, she learned the bad news: the surgeons had amputated her leg below the knee.
When she was finally fitted with a wooden prosthesis, she immediately called it ‘Cuthbert’ after Saint Cuthbert, whose feast day was March 20. After difficult weeks of therapy, she walked out of the hospital and into an uncertain future.
Since an amputee could not be employed in the Foreign Service, her convalescence bubbled over with despair and confusion.
For several years, she backpacked throughout the Mediterranean. When the Germans invaded France on May 23, 1940, she was in Paris. Itching to get involved, she drove an ambulance for the French Army before fleeing to England.
Learning that the British Special Operations Executive was having difficulty recruiting, she volunteered to become a spy. Sent back to Vichy France under the guise of an American reporter, she worked under several aliases to organize French Resistance to carry out sabotage and guerilla warfare while writing articles for the New York Post. She barely missed capture by the Gestapo when one of the resistance cells she worked with was compromised. She escaped over the treacherous, snow covered Pyrenees to Spain.
Hearing of her exploits, the newly formed American Office of Strategic Services (OSS), recruited her and in 1944, prosthesis secured in her knapsack, she was parachuted into France to coordinate sabotage operations with the D-day landings.
Sealing her reply in the envelope, Virginia went out to the living-room and handed it to the lieutenant.
Later, opening the middle drawer of her desk, she pulled out a Gestapo reward poster: WANTED – DEAD OR ALIVE – THE LIMPING LADY.
To preserve her cover in the newly created CIA, she received the Distinguished Service Cross without publicity.