21 / hello

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Four weeks after her final exam, Ishaana broke her personal record for how long she had stayed at home. Every single day after that, she broke it again as she slipped deeper into the comfortable family life that she had missed. There was no judgment from her family, who knew nothing of what she had done since the beginning of the year. As far as she was concerned, they would never find out about what had happened with Casey; no-one would ever know of the nights they had spent together, nor of the night he had thrown everything away.

For two months, Ishaana had listened to Priya whining her sorrows when she had heard that Two Degrees had broken up, announced in a sombre tweet from the band's page. Ishaana knew that Bishop had written the post: it was rational and to the point, a heartfelt apology to their fans. He had cited creative differences, the most tactful way of explaining the break-up, and Priya had cried when she had first heard. Her hopes of a tour were dashed, and Ishaana had been forced to hide her relief as she had comforted her little sister. There would be other bands, she had told her, other concerts she would want to go to.

For eight weeks and five days, Ishaana hadn't so much as opened Facebook. She hadn't messaged Bishop once, and he hadn't texted her: part of their deal, their two month break, was to have no contact whatsoever. If either of them showed up at the café, it would be a totally independent decision, and Ishaana had found that after the second week, she itched to send him a message. After Priya had showed her the band's break-up message, she had wanted to say something to him, anything, but she had made a deal. And if the promise she had made to her sister was anything to go by, then she was getting better at keeping up her end of a deal.

Two months of silence. Two months without even a hello. Ishaana had thought it would be easy, but it wasn't. Two months was a long time to take to herself, she had realised after half of that time was done and with Priya still at school, she'd had little with which to occupy her time during the day. Hours upon hours had been spent in Melody's room or her garden, lazing around in her kitchen and her sitting room with her and Pearl. Occasionally Oscar was around, moreso for the past month, and Melody's step-sister, Nora, had popped up several times.

One thing Ishaana had made sure of was that she spent as little time alone as possible. When she was alone, she thought. And when she thought too hard, she overthought. And that never turned out well, dwelling on the months that had passed her by. Before, those moments had been occupied with thoughts of her parents, tormenting herself over every tiny flap of a butterfly's wings that could have kept them in her life. Now, she wondered what would have kept Casey out of hers.

As much as she hated to admit it, his words still stung. No matter how much Melody insisted they were lies, no matter how much Bishop had told her that Casey was crazy, it had hurt to hear the bitter accusations thrown in her face, in her own home. They were the words of a person unhinged, but that didn't do enough to soften the blow. When life around her fell into a lull, in those moments before she fell asleep or the minutes after she had woken up, his rage filled her memory and sent a squirm of unease spiralling into her gut. It was only when she distracted herself with her friends and family that she managed to squash those feelings, and a more dominant one appeared: she wanted to see Bishop.

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