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When I get home, I practically run through the door and straight into the kitchen. I'm greeted with the familiar smells of cardamom, asafoetida, coriander – my parents have been baking again.

Ma stands by the counter. Her dark hair is neatly pinned off her face, showing off the beautiful gold and black beaded necklace that I've never seen her without, and she's wearing a long navy-blue saree. 'How was school, sweetheart?' she turns to ask, her warm brown eyes squinting at the side as she smiles.

'Please don't make me go back, Ma.' I toss my books on the table next to Ma's navy leather going-out gloves, and flop into the chair.

'I can't remember the last time you said something like that.' She laughs. 'Oh wait, yes I do. Yesterday.' She returns to filling the teapot.

'Ma, I'm serious. Why can't I just go to another school?'


'Hate isn't strong enough a word.'

'If St Valentine's is that bad I can send you to Gujarat. You could stay with Nani and go to one of the Hedoness schools there.'

'No thank you. I love New York. I don't want to live anywhere else. And I want to go to school here, just . . . not a Hedoness school. I never want to use my gift.' I hiss out the word gift. I can't help it.

'Location I can work with, but Hedoness training is mandatory.'

I sigh.

Ma reaches across and puts her hand on my shoulder. 'My love, you know you won't need university when you graduate school. It may not be what you wish, but Hedonesses have higher callings. It's our job to use our gift to protect the human race. And it is our duty to grow our families.'

More Hedoness kids. I shudder at the thought. Obligations, expectations. I don't care what Ma, or the Committee, wants me to do after – I'm done. For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to become a social worker and help children without families, children who are abandoned, children who have no choice.

I fiddle with the saltshaker, spilling granules over Ma's gloves and her hand-dyed tablecloth. 'Hey. You're supposed to be supportive of me.' I shake off the gloves and flick the salt from the table as I wait for her response.

'I do support you. But I also worry for your future happiness. Your happiness is more important to me than my own.' She places a mug of tea and a plate of perfectly rolled khandvi on the table. My stomach rumbles and my mouth salivates to inhale the savory treat.

'I want to be a Nani one day,' she tells me.

'I thought you were worried for my happiness.' I squeeze a lime wedge over the khandvi, then pop one in my mouth.

'Speaking of which, have you looked through any of the biodata husband profiles Nani sent over for you? I know she'll ask next time we talk.'

I don't bother answering. She knows how I feel about Nan's match-making attempts. My Nani's an older version of Ma, with even more love for our Hedoness heritage, if that's possible. We visited her once, when I was thirteen. All I remember of Gujarat, India is that it's colourful, and busy, and hot, and it would've been the most magical trip of my life if it wasn't also the most embarrassing. Instead of getting to see sights and experience the culture that makes up one half of me, Nan paraded me around the Hedoness convents showcasing me to the students who would be my competition for what she referred to as, 'Our generation's most powerful Hedoness.'

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