10 / three's company

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It still felt odd to wake up at home. When Ishaana opened her eyes on Saturday morning, it took a little while for her to orient herself as she stared at the vaguely unfamiliar wallpaper, a stark contrast to the plain white walls of her bedroom at university. She was facing the wrong way; the window was in the wrong place; the light entered her room at the wrong angle. Everything seemed a little off kilter, as though the earth had been tipped ever so slightly off its axel, and several drowsy seconds passed before she recognised the room. She was in her aunt's house. Her house, she reminded herself. Sunita hated it when Ishaana acted as though she didn't belong there.

Hauling herself out of bed, she screwed up her face in a yawn and pulled on her dressing gown, one thing she had ensured she brought home with her: she spent a lot of the day sloping around in the thick robe, and she didn't intend to change that habit now that she would be around her family for a month. It was early, only just nine o'clock, and she could have stayed in bed for at least another hour if not more, but today was the first full day that she could prove herself to her sister.

Everyone was downstairs already, three pairs of eyes landing on Ishaana when she stepped into the kitchen, a little bleary-eyed. Sunita stood over the sink, scrubbing the last of the washing-up while Priya was at the table, legs swinging as she ate cereal opposite her cousin. Saffiya sat with her heel propped up on the edge of the chair, biting her bottom lip as her thumbs flew over her phone's screen. The rules seemed to have relaxed a little: over Christmas, the last time that Ishaana had properly been home, phones had been banned at the table.

"Morning," Ishaana said, stifling another yawn. It usually took her a little while to get used to the day, and she never ordinarily left the house until ten o'clock. Her day often didn't start until twelve, trundling into campus to make it to her early afternoon lectures.

"Hey," Priya said through a mouthful, and Sunita smiled over at her.

"Good morning, Ishaana," she said, always sounding so proper. She had worked hard to learn English, coming over from India twenty years ago, and even after years of living with she still spoke with the formality of someone who had learnt a language from a distance. "How did you sleep?"

"Not bad, thanks." She dropped down into the seat next to her sister, and only then did Saffiya look up from her phone. Putting it down, she gave her cousin a tired smile and folded her arms on the table.

"Hey," she said, her expression softening. "Gonna be weird having you around again."

Ishaana nodded. It would be weird to be around again. "Sorry," she said, though she wasn't sure why, and Saffiya shrugged.

"It's nice," she said, gathering up her empty bowl and the skin of a banana. Her mother took the crockery, washing it out before the dregs of cereal could stick to the porcelain, and the fruit peel was dropped into the bin. "You doing anything today?"

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