9 / home again

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Every essay had been submitted. Every lecture had come to an end. Every module was done. For all intents and purposes, the second year of university was over and it was only the end of March. With four weeks to write three essays and revise for two exams, something told Ishaana that she had an easy month coming up, a month for which she had vowed to spend the majority with Priya. In seven days, her little sister would break up for three weeks, her holiday overlapping with her sister's almost completely with Easter stuck right in the middle.

"Can you believe we're basically done?" Melody asked as she sat on top of her bulging suitcase on the platform, looking up at Ishaana. Next to her, Pearl was on the phone to her brother, who still had another week of university up in Scotland before he too would break up

"Crazy, right?" Ishaana hugged her elbows and rocked back on her heels, bumping against her own suitcase. She had packed up four weeks' worth of clothes in the case, along with her laptop and a few necessities she couldn't go a month without. It depressed her a little that the things she cared about could fit into one case with room to spare: even Priya would fit in there if she didn't mind being a little squashed. "I feel like I've hardly done anything all year."

Melody snorted. "You can talk! Try doing an English degree and you won't feel the same. I think I've easily read a million words since Christmas, not counting the stuff I actually want to read. I can feel my eyes going square."

Ishaana grinned. "Probably won't make much of a difference," she teased, and Melody laughed. Planting her hands on her knees, she stood and let out a long sigh, glancing around the station. Three o'clock on Friday afternoon: not quite ready for rush hour at five, but there was an influx of university students milling around the platforms as they waited for the trains that would whisk them home for the month.

Sunita had offered to drive up to get Ishaana on Sunday but she hadn't wanted to spend two days in the silent house when she could spend those days with her sister, making up for the time they had lost. Though she couldn't claw back all the minutes she had avoided home, she could carve out more of her future for Priya, who was growing up without her even realising it.

"So," Melody said, joining Ishaana, "what're your plans for the holiday? Doing anything nice?"

Ishaana pursed her lips. "I doubt it," she said. "Suni has to work so we're not going anywhere. Probably just gonna be hanging out with Priya and Saffi. Might even get some revision done." She chuckled at that. A renowned crammer, she struggled to work for an exam until she reached the point that not starting work right then and there would result in a fail. Never had she failed an assignment, but she had skirted the rim of that risky ravine. Luck had been on her side so far.

"How about you?" she asked, bumping against Melody's shoulder. "I mean, I'll probably see you. Not sure I can stomach a whole month of Suni's cooking."

Sunita was not a bad chef by a long shot, but Ishaana had grown used to a diet that strayed from her aunt's style, many of her dishes revolving around the meat and potatoes that had never set foot in the Jain household.

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