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Bonzer Words!: The Tartan Suitcase

Colleen McMillan tells the tale of a youg woman arriving for the first time in the big city.

Laura was feeling just a bit nervous. Even just a bit was a bit silly, she told herself. After all she was an adult now. She had turned eighteen last week, she had her drivers licence, she had a jolly good UAI, 98.6, to be exact and she was off to university. So it was a bit silly to think that she couldn’t find her way from Sydney Airport to Central Station and then take a cab to Sydney University, where she had allocated student housing.

Laura had never been to Sydney before. She had been to Brisbane once to visit an aunt when she was nine. It hadn’t occurred to her parents that going off to Sydney, to study Vet Science, would be a bit intimidating. They were too tied up with their life to even think of it. They loved their farm/station outside Narrabri, her father always working and planning, her mother totally caught up in her CWA, cooking and quilting. After all Laura had been to boarding school in Armidale for years, and that was a fair bus trip away.

The plane landed. Follow the person in front of you, her mother had said. Laura did and found the baggage carrousel easily. She pulled her rather distinctive tartan suitcase off and looked around for something to eat, a cup of coffee at least before finding the train to the city. She spotted a MacDonald’s sign and was heading towards it when a girl about her own age rushed up to her.

“Oh, hi,” she gushed. “I’m Sophie, I’ve come to pick you up. Saw you heading to Maccas and I couldn’t miss that case could I?” Seeing Laura’s bewildered look, Sophie paused. “Didn’t your mother tell you that I’d meet you?”

Laura shook her head.

“But someone from the College rang you last week. You were out but I’m sure they left a message.” And with that Sophie grabbed Laura’s suitcase and headed to the exit calling over her shoulder, “Parking is hell around here and I don’t want to pay anymore for it than I have to.” Laura followed; obviously Sophie knew what she was about.

“Good flight?” she asked as she stowed Laura’s case in the boot.

“Yes, fine,” replied Laura.

“The food isn’t up to much on planes though is it? “‘Well we only had biscuits and…”

But Sophie didn’t wait for an answer. “You won’t find the food at Women’s College much better,” she laughed, “one of the reasons I don’t live in any more, although they are still happy to give me this little ‘meet and greet’ job,—- helps pay the rent.”

Laura watched with apprehension and admiration as Sophie manoeuvred her way though the traffic. “Bit busy this time of day,” Sophie observed, after she had roundly cursed a truck driver, “but then I guess that you are used to it.”

“Not really,”—- Laura started, when another truck driver tried to cut in.

“Sorry,” said Sophie, “but you’ll realize pretty soon that Sydney drivers tend to swear a lot, and they sure have reason to. How does this compare with home?”

Laura laughed. “The traffic doesn’t, but I’d back the bushies when it comes to a good round curse.”

“Bush? President Bush? He wouldn’t swear would he?”

“No, I said”—– but Laura’s voice was lost in the roar of the traffic. Despite the traffic it wasn’t that long before they turned into the relatively quiet university grounds and were pulling up at Womens College.

“I’ll take you in and deliver you in person,” Sophie said jumping out of the car. The girls were lugging the bags up the stairs to the entrance when a taxi pulled up. A red faced girl pulled an identical tartan suitcase from its boot.

She glared at them and muttered to no one in particular. “They said I’d be met. Just stand by MacDonalds and we’ll recognise you by your suitcase.”

Sophie, silent for once, looked from one girl to the other and then turned to Laura. “You’re not Sarah are you?”

Laura could not help but smile. “No, I’m Laura, but thanks for the ride anyway.”

“Oh, my God! I think I’d better go. Parking is hell around here anyway.”

© Colleen McMillan


Colleen writes for Bonzer magazine. Please visit www.bonzer.org.au


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