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Confused, Homesick and Caught in the Rat Race
As Miranda soldiered on through the desolate streets, fighting the howling wind, she could not help her mind wandering to the place she had once called home: the little township of Primidia. The place was hardly urban, with only a few paved roads and red brick houses packed together in small, tight clusters – even so, it had a homeliness to it that could not be overlooked. Too many times had Miranda allowed her ungrateful self to sit by the fire with an open book on her lap, gazing wistfully out of the glazed window, hoping for something exciting to happen which would draw her from her mundane existence. Too many times had she ignored the simple beauty of the golden flames in the hearth as they danced their fiery routine for her, in favour of longing for a more stylish, fast and modernised lifestyle. She should have seen the importance of the little things – her mum cooking dinner over a small gas stove, her corgi digging holes in the cramped backyard, and the morning clink of the milkman delivering his goods.
Now, as the young woman tightened her coat around her and fought to control the long, auburn hair being whipped about her face by the relentless winds, Miranda found herself longing for the security and stability of the old brick house she had long left. She was older now – twenty-six, to be exact – with a sterling career as a businesswoman ahead of her. She was living in the fast lane, caught in the middle of the rat race, working from dawn till dusk in a sizzling world of power, profit and selfishness. Yet this was not what Miranda had wanted at all. When had the dream of a small coffee shop set against the romantic backdrop of skyscrapers and hotels turned to this?
And yet, it has taken me years upon years to get here, Miranda thought to herself as she searched frantically for a taxi, I need a reason to go back. Some sign that what I’m doing here isn’t what I want – some sign that I’m really not going anywhere right now, and that I could be living a more fulfilling life. Eventually, a cab pulled up at the curb, and the young lady could feel herself sighing in relief. She hopped in and gave the driver her address, biting her lip in consternation when she felt no pride at dropping the name of one of the state’s classiest suburbs.
“Hi Mandy!” Alexis, Miranda’s flatmate, flicked her chocolate-brown hair over her shoulder, setting down her bowl of cake mix to give her friend a cordial wave. “Hello, Alexis.”
Piercing hazel eyes instantly met Miranda’s grey ones, “What’s wrong, Miranda? You sound like chocolate cake for the dessert is the worst thing in the world! Some people would kill to have an in-home chef – ”
That made the twenty-six year-old smirk a little as she quickly interrupted, “No! No, blimey, it’s not the cake! You know I’ve got a sweet tooth, it’s really no secret. I’ve just been feeling down lately.”
Alexis sat down gently beside her on the plush sofa, wrapping an arm comfortingly around her shoulders, “What’s up? You know you can tell me, right? We’ve known each other for practically forever.”
The other nodded, “Yeah, it’s just that, well…it’s hard to explain after all these years, and you’re going to laugh at me, but I guess I feel homesick.”
Alexis stared at her like she was out of her mind, “What?! In a lovely place like this? Mandy, just because the dreams you had when you were sixteen didn’t come true, don’t you dare think of abandoning a great city life!”
“But that’s the thing. I don’t want to end up like one of those high-flown executives. I just want to run my own small place doing the things I love – meeting new, ordinary people and making coffee! Is that too much to ask for?”
“Miranda Holmes, you know why you’re still here. Look at this flat, this suburb, this life. Think of the paycheque.”
Think of the paycheque. Think of the paycheque. Miranda forcibly repeated her flatmate’s words inside her head, replaying them over and over again as she made her way to her flat – not her home, just her flat. That was why she was here, of course it was. The money. The crowded, bustling city paid much better than a job in the cosy town of Primidia, or a small coffee shop anywhere, ever would. And yet, if she could only find an argument to counter that, she would take the next train home and never look back.
As she walked, Miranda became aware of the initially unsettling feeling that she was being watched. Instantly, she looked up and to her left, and noticed a figure slumped against the nearest wall, blending into the dappled grey sheet of the city setting. A flute hung loosely between his lips, and the lazy brightness of an amused smile lit up his weathered features. He was a busker – a regular to this corner of the city, perhaps, but if so, Miranda had not noticed him before.
“Off home, ma’am?” he asked, his voice hoarse and rusty from disuse.
“Why yes, as a matter of fact, I am – if you can call it that.” Something in his pleasant (albeit strained) tone made her stop walking. “Ay, yes. Home it ‘tis. Might an old sod like me inquire as to why you wouldn’t use the same term?”
She frowned a little, his thick, foreign accent and outdated vocabulary taking her a little longer to process his question and form an answer. “Maybe because I didn’t grow up here, sir. I was born in a small town, but none of the jobs paid very well, and there was little opportunity.”
The man’s smile softened, “Ah, I see. The old story. People wonder how old plodders like I still manage a laugh or two, in this sorry state. Truth is, my lady, it don’t take an awful lot to make me happy. I play my music, I make kids smile. That’s all I need – that’s what makes me tick. Peace at heart, not fame or fortune.”
Miranda stared at him for a long moment before she spoke, and when she did, her voice was lined with an unidentifiable emotion. “My dear sir,” she whispered, dropping a banknote into his upturned hat, “you have no idea what a great help you’ve been to me.” With a shining smile that could have made a galaxy look dim in comparison, Miranda hurried off once more to find a cab. Peace at heart – that’s what her dear mother used to say. And now Miranda was going home – to that same loving, patient mother, to her kind father, to her friends and family in the portrait she kept hidden in her wallet…the ones she had left for a world of pride and emptiness. But she could fix that now, all of that, because on this very damp, misty city evening, Miranda Holmes – of the township of Primidia – was going home.