For almost ten days, Ishaana had hardly thought about Casey. Having not spoken to him since the night before his flight, it had been a week and a half since they had last talked face to face, and she was subconsciously proving a point to Melody and to Pearl, and to everyone who had ever told her that no strings attached didn't exist. If there had been any strings, they were severed now: he and Bishop were in America now, a little more than a quarter of the way through their time stateside, and she hadn't felt the slightest urge to search their band, the name of which was constantly eluding her.
Instead, she had spent the time floating between her sister and her friends, hanging out with Melody and Pearl while Priya had been at school while the evenings were set aside as family time. She had yet to cook when every single dish she had mastered included at least one ingredient that her aunt didn't allow inside the house, laden with the meat and onions and potatoes that she was already beginning to crave. At least Sunita had variety, she thought, praising the effort her aunt put into each meal she created. She was a dab hand with all the spices in the rack, bringing flavour to foods that Ishaana had previously thought flavourless.
When she woke up as Wednesday morning teetered into Wednesday afternoon, officially three days into Priya's and Saffiya's Easter holiday, it was with the most intense craving for a curry that she had ever known. Her mouth watered at the thought of a creamy korma with a kick, or a rich masala, and her stomach twisted itself with a growing desire to find one for lunch. As she changed out of her pyjamas, lazily changing into a pair of jeans and a soft jumper, she found that she could hardly think about anything other than the burning need to satiate her tastebuds.
Sunita wasn't in. She worked on the weekdays, putting in tireless hours in a mediocre job to provide for her unconventional family, which meant that Ishaana was in charge from eight until five, Monday to Friday. Sometimes those hours were even longer, when Sunita picked up extra work for measly extra pay. Every little counted, she was always saying, making up for the hours she missed during term time to collect Priya from school. It ached Ishaana to see how hard her aunt worked, but there was little she could do to help except be there for her sister. Unable to drive and with hardly a penny to her name, her presence was all that she could provide.
Downstairs, Priya was lying across the sofa with a book in her hand, a dry old novel that she was required to read for her English class, and she scrawled notes in the margins as she scoured the pages. Across the room, Saffiya sat cross-legged in an armchair with her laptop balanced on her knees, occasionally tapping away at her phone with a smirk. Neither looked up when Ishaana entered the room, her bare feet making no sound on the soft carpet, until she leant over Priya and blew on the back of her head.
"Jesus!" Priya cried out, rolling off the sofa with a thump. Her pencil flew across the room, her book crumpled on the floor, and she lifted herself up on her elbows. "Don't do that, Ishy! You scared me! I thought you were a murderer!"