Daryush – half undressed – held the bowl over the lampshade and peered into it to make sure the goldfish was dead. It was. He’d known as much the moment he’d walked into the room but still his heart sank a little at this confirmation of expiry. His hands loitered over the warm lightbulb with the bowl a few minutes more in vain. The radiating heat of the lamp would not penetrate the cold water and the little dead goldfish stayed dead.

Daryush sighed and put the bowl back on his overcrowded dressing table, almost knocking the saucer of wheatgrass over in the process. He had bought the poor thing only yesterday, in order to set up his haft-seen table and properly usher in the Persian new year. He picked out individual blades of wheatgrass from the saucer and slumped back onto the foot of his single bed. What a way to spend Nowrouz again – alone.

He rolled the grass between his thumb and finger, remembering how his little sister used to knot the blade, hoping it would bring her companionship in the year to come. Perhaps it had. They had all woken up one day to find her gone after a particularly fiery row. It had never occurred to him at the time to ask his parents what they had been arguing over. That was the last time any of them saw Arin, and it wasn’t long after that that Daryush broke out too.

Nowrouz always made him miserably homesick for the past.

In his mind Arin was still that same fifteen-year-old girl, frozen in time. Daryush wondered if he would even recognize her now, or she him. He made a knot with the blades of wheatgrass still in his fingers and put it by his bedside lamp.

He turned off the lamp, desperate to fall asleep tonight as quick as usual. Daryush did so and the little dead goldfish stayed dead.