22 / goodbye - part one

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The sun was still out as night fell over Farnleigh in mid-July, the clock creeping closer to nine o'clock as each minute passed, yet Ishaana was only just sitting down to eat supper with her family with a grin on her lips that she hadn't been able to shake for hours. Her lips hurt and her cheeks ached, but it was impossible not to grin as the long awaited day eased itself towards the end. As she sat down, a lightness in her movements as she floated on a cloud, Priya laughed at her.

"How does it feel to be a graduate?" she asked, and Ishaana heaved a deep breath.

"Amazing," she said. "Terrifying, but kind of amazing." Nodding her head slowly to herself, she struggled to believe that after three years of working towards her degree, it was all over now. Four months ago, she had handed in the dissertation that made up a quarter of her degree, After that, and the incessant coursework that had preceded her immense project, all she'd had to do was pass a solitary exam in May. The results had come out exactly a month ago. Ishaana had wept when she had caught the first glimpse of a seven on her transcript, and the five that had followed it. A seventy-five. A solid first. Three years, and it was all over. But she had got a first class honours politics degree from a top university, something else to add to her CV, and she couldn't stop smiling.

"I'm so proud of you, Ishy," Sunita said, tears in her eyes that she blinked back as she grinned, reaching out to hold Ishaana's hand across the table.

The past year had not been without its fair share of rollercoasters as Ishaana had battled her final year of university while Saffiya had struggled through the last year of college, but both of them had come out with uproarious successes. News of Ishaana's first class degree had preceeded Saffiya's results by a month, when she had found out that she had secured four As in her A-levels, almost unheard of among those who chose to take on an additional subject. An odd combination of textiles, physics, English and French, she had aced each one with ease.

"I'm so proud of all my girls," Sunita added, pulling Saffiya close and kissing her temple, and she reached out to squeeze Priya's hand. "My amazing girls."

"You just watch, Suni," Priya said. "We're gonna take over the world, us three. Saffi can design our costumes; Ishy can organise some kind of political revolt, and I can be the charismatic leader."

"What about me?" Bishop piped up from the other side of the kitchen as he filled a jug with water from the tap, garnishing it with a slice of lemon left over from the celebratory meal Sunita had cooked. Priya rolled her eyes and laughed.

"You can be the eye candy," she said. "We might need you to distract the world with your pretty face while we take it over."

"Hey," Ishaana said, kicking her sister. "Stop objectifying my boyfriend." She looked up at Bishop, nodding at the empty seat. "Sit down, babe. I'm starving. I haven't eaten anything today."

"Nothing?" Sunita and Bishop questioned in unison, and she shook her head.

"I was too excited this morning," she said, having woken up at six o'clock with a fizz in her stomach on the morning that she would don a cap and a gown to receive her diploma, the piece of paper that certified her as a graduate of the university's school of government and society, with the highest honours it could bestow upon her. "Now I could eat a horse." Then she chuckled, throwing her aunt an apologetic smile. "But I won't."

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