14 / collision course

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The holiday was almost over

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The holiday was almost over. For once, it had actually felt like a holiday, a life far removed from the one Ishaana had got used to. Priya was back at school again after her two weeks off and Saffiya had returned to college: the past couple of days had been strange when Ishaana had been the only one around the house during the day and most mornings, once everyone else had left her, she had ended up getting the bus to Melody's house. Pearl was gone most days, either in Edinburgh or Manchester as she tried to piece together her life without relying too much on the generosity of Melody and her mother, which meant that Ishaana had had to deal with non-stop questioning about what Melody had deemed 'the night' – the night she had spent with Bishop and Casey before they had left.

It was all she could talk about, as though she thought about it more than Ishaana did, and that was probably true. By Ishaana's reckoning, anyway. When she was alone, it was difficult not to let her mind slip back to that night, but that was only natural. It had been a fantasy, some kind of a mirage of an evening that she had never expected to actually happen and even now, closing in on a month later, it cropped up in her mind when her thoughts slipped into neutral. There were times that she still struggled to believe what she had done, that she had done it at all.

Lying on her bed with an array of lecture notes spread out in front of her, it was hard to concentrate on the tiresome bore that summed up her politics degree. A measly two exams lay before her, which she appreciated now even if the huge load of essays and assignments had felt like tortuous murder all year long. Modern political theory, her least favourite of the six modules she had taken for her second year, and US politics, her favourite: both scheduled to have an exam on the same day, which she dreaded. It was still three weeks away, plenty of time to cram when ordinarily she didn't even open her books until a week before or later, but Melody was away and boredom was growing.

Farnleigh was a pretty town but there wasn't a lot to do and Ishaana was relearning that after getting used to the constant buzz of Manchester life. The shops shut early; the bars and pubs were few and far between, and the nightlife was pretty dire. Not that she much enjoyed going to clubs, and not when the evenings were family time, but it didn't bode well for the town that its best option for an evening with friends wasn't much better than a couple of drinks at the local Wetherspoons.

Ishaana rolled onto her back, her stomach churning, and she stared at the ceiling. She'd felt a little under the weather all day, waking up on the wrong side of bed, and it didn't help that she was alone for the day with little more than her revision to keep her from going insane. Food hadn't appealed to her yet, though it was past lunchtime: she had slept in late, her family gone by the time she had opened her eyes, and she had been hit with a slightly sickening loneliness ever since. Vague nausea lingered in the pit of her stomach, though she couldn't tell if that was the thought of having to spend a few more days alone or her impending exams, the realisation that her entire year led up to a solitary day of tests.

A bit of both, perhaps, and it didn't help that only now was she feeling settled amongst her family. After nearly four weeks of work, spending time with her sister and her cousin during the day and bonding with her aunt in the evenings, there was no longer that niggle of fear that she had once felt at the mere idea of spending any considerable amount of time at home. She couldn't shake the feeling, however, that it was too little too late. They had moulded around the gap she had left, misshaping the space she had saved for herself. For a month, she had tried to fit back into that hole and now that she did, it was almost time to go.

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