As strange as it was to have been home for an entire month, it was somehow even stranger to Ishaana to find herself back in her university house, the cosy little place she shared with Melody and Pearl. Home sweet home. Except it wasn't anymore. Her home was in Farnleigh, and as much as she had known that before, it was only now that the realisation sank in. Letting herself back into the house, a couple of days after her friends had returned, she cursed the tricky lock and the peeling paint on every door and window. The house was shaded from the sun by another row of terraces, hiding Ishaana out of the light as she wrestled with the door until it swung open at last, and she scowled at it as she pushed it shut.
She hadn't brought much back with her, refusing Sunita's offer to give her a lift when she knew how much that would inconvenience her aunt, who hardly got a moment to herself as it was. Instead, she had packed up the same suitcase she had taken home and she had dragged it back up to Manchester. The train was easy enough but navigating the station was less than ideal. The case was heavy, a bore to lug around, and it often took longer to find a lift than it would have taken to haul the case up the steps from the platform.
But she was back now, she thought, shoving the case into her room. That could be dealt with later. In the meantime, she needed a glass of water and a lie-down. Her head was pounding after a hot, stuffy train journey followed by a tedious bus ride without a seat. It seemed almost impossible to ever sit down without getting on at the very first stop, and she had silently simmered for the twenty-five minutes it had taken to get from the station to her house. Even the five minute walk to her door from the bus stop had been a pain, working up a sweat with the last of the afternoon's sun warming her cheeks and the case getting heavier by the minute. What was probably only ten kilograms, perhaps fifteen, had felt like three times as much by the end.
The house was quiet. For a few seconds, anyway. Ishaana slumped against the kitchen counter with her eyes closed as she filled a glass before bringing it to her lips, thirstily swallowing the cold water. She hadn't been feeling too good for a few days now, and she wished that whatever stomach bug she was due would just get itself over and done with: as much as she hated illness, she would rather be sick for a day than to suffer through the lingering nausea she'd had for four times as long now. But the water helped, cooling her throat and quelling her sickness.
There was a familiar thud of feet above her, before the cacophony grew louder and Melody swerved into the sitting room, barrelling straight for Ishaana. Her socks skidded on the kitchen tiles as she threw her arms around her friend, whom she hadn't seen for a few days. Melody was excitement reimagined in human form, a ball of constant energy that exuded out of her every pore. No matter what the situation, she was always ready, whether to celebrate or console, and it was the former in which she indulged now.
"You're back!" she cried, almost spilling Ishaana's water. "Pea and I were beginning to wonder if you'd given up on us in favour of your newfound appreciation of your family. If you'd headed back to America to find Casey and tap that ass. Even if I don't approve of you continuing to sleep with your future husband's best friend."