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They call her Riya, and her mother’s smooth hands, with quick flicks of her wrist, tightly package the silky locks into a braid. Legs sprawled on the floor, back leaning against her mother’s warm chest, hearts beating in sync. Riya’s resting eyes open to a yellow washing over remnants of the starless night. The beaks of baby birds open widely to scream. The milk man’s metal cans clatter and clang. The maid knocks, and Riya sprints to the living room, hastily sliding into a chair next to her younger brother. She shoves a spoon of grainy upma in her mouth, savoring the slight sweetness of semolina freshly roasted. The shouts of her friends from beyond the red wooden door reach her ears. Riya runs again, giving a quick sloppy kiss on her mother’s cheek. Her friends are rowdy in the rickety rickshaw, donning the same uniform. There’s barely room, but she squeezes in the yellow, two wheeled vehicle. Legs touching, packed lunches crushed, mingling breaths. It’s alright — in fact it’s habitual, and it’ll be her last. Tomorrow her family will go to America, this time for good. New York City — it seems sleek, clean, freshly cut, and refreshing. Riya tries to think of more adjectives, but her thoughts are drowned out by the swerving, honking cars, motor bikes weaving through, buses packed with office workers dominating the roads, and chattering women carrying baskets of groceries on their shoulders. New York City — a breath of foreign, fresh air — can wait for tomorrow. Hugs, tears, consoling words — they all fly past Riya. She’s beyond heartbroken, and will miss the warm fun of India. Hyderabad has always been her home: the same maid with crescent moons for eyes. The same smell of burning chapatis on the charcoal black tawa. The same familiarity of friends and family. The humid, heavy air, the clouds of dust, the thick sarees — all will be gone. Riya zips her suitcase, closing up as many memories as she can in the small, black bag. It will be gone. a part of the  Journeys                                series


concrete walls that withstood the harsh downpour of monsoons. The same

RISE (Vol. 1 // Issue 1)