Home > When Dimple Met Rishi(11)

When Dimple Met Rishi(11)
Author: Sandhya Menon

She stood, and they walked to the front row together, Dimple’s back straight, her shoulders set. Her body conveyed anger like a second language; she must have had a lot of practice. As soon as they sat down, she turned to him, eyes flashing. “You requested me, didn’t you?”

Rishi rubbed the back of his neck, his cheeks warming. “Yeah, but I thought you might request me, too. Look, I’m going to go up there at the end of class and talk to the dude about reassigning us, okay? So just chill.”

“His name is Max. Which you’d know if you’d bothered to be here on time. You even missed the announcement of the grand prize.” She looked at him like she was accusing him of torching the redwood forests.

“Oh yeah? What is it?”

Rishi watched as the corners of her lips tugged upward in spite of herself. Her eyes shone behind her glasses, brilliant, fiery. “The winning partners will have a chance to pitch Jenny Lindt their idea. If she likes it, she’ll partner on marketing and development!”

Dimple’s voice was two octaves higher than usual when she finished, so Rishi knew whatever she said must be a big deal. He racked his brain trying to remember who the heck Jenny Lindt was and came up empty. Okay. He could fake it for now and look her up later.

“Great!” He grinned and tried to mirror her excitement. “That’s so cool!”

Dimple leaned in closer, and Rishi caught a waft of that maddening, amazing shampoo again. “Really? You’re a Jenny Lindt fan too?” Her face was open, her eyes wide and soft in a way Rishi hadn’t seen yet.

“Oh, totally ,” he said, thinking, I will be by the end of today if it makes you look at me like that.

Dimple laughed. “I know, she’s so great! What’s been your favorite part of her success story so far?”

Crap. He kept the smile on his face. Okay, success stories. What did they all have in common? “How she came from nothing and became, you know, Jenny Lindt. ”

Rishi thought he’d done pretty well, but Dimple was frowning. “She didn’t exactly come from ‘nothing.’ Her parents are both lawyers; they gave her the seed money for Meeting Space. It’s in all her interviews.” Rishi felt his cheeks heat. Traitorous body.

Dimple’s brow cleared. “You don’t know a single thing about her, do you?” she asked, leaning back and crossing her arms. “Had you even heard of her before today?”

“You know what? I’m, uh, going to go talk to the instructor guy—Max,” he hurried to add, “about reassigning us.”

“Yeah.” Dimple’s eyes were now flat marbles behind her glasses. She would make a good serial killer. “You go do that.”

He had some nerve, lying to her like that. “The way she came from nothing,” Dimple muttered mockingly. What a jerk. Maybe Max would make an exception this one time and reassign her to Celia. Celia knew how important it was to Dimple to win this thing. She’d work her butt off.

Dimple glanced over her shoulder and saw Celia deep in conversation with one of the hipster-model boys, tossing her curls and laughing throatily at a joke. Huh. Or maybe she wouldn’t want to be partners anymore.

Dimple turned back around to see Rishi taking a seat beside her again, his cheeks still pink. “What happened? Who are we getting reassigned to?”

“Um, well . . . nobody,” he said, wincing a little as he met her gaze. “He said it’s too late now. We’re just going to have to stick together.”

“What? Did you tell him requesting me was a mistake?”

“Yeah. Didn’t work.”

Dimple stood. “Oh, it’s going to work. I’ll take care of it myself.”

She stalked over to Max. “I’m sorry, I absolutely need to be reassigned,” she said as soon as he met her eye, feeling slightly guilty. By doing this, Dimple was effectively saying she couldn’t bear to spend a minute with Rishi. Ambition and kindness were warring inside her, and she was choosing ambition . . . again. But she wanted this so badly. So, so badly. “Rishi Patel knows absolutely nothing about Jenny Lindt. I doubt he knows much about web development.”

Max smiled. “Well, we’re all here to learn, Dimple.”

“Right, but he doesn’t care about it as much as I do. I need to partner with someone who wants to win just as much.”

Max stroked his beard thoughtfully. “Or maybe you need someone who can teach you something, hmm? Maybe Rishi is the universe’s way of teaching you how to take a breath and just roll with the punches.”

Oh dear God, he was an honest-to-goodness hippie. Curse you, San Francisco. She could tell he was going to be implacable, so Dimple forced herself to nod and smile. “Mmm. Good point. Thanks anyway.”

When Dimple returned to her seat, she tried not to bite Rishi’s head off right away. She could tell he was side-eyeing her, trying to figure out how to ask.

“No,” she finally bit out. “He won’t let us swap partners at this point.”

He sighed, and sounding genuinely sympathetic, said, “That sucks. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah.” Dimple felt that familiar fury boiling inside her, the same one that flowed when Mamma or Papa didn’t understand why she wanted to do the things she did. “Sure. I’m sure you’re really sorry.”

There was a pause. “Look, I don’t get why you’re so annoyed at me. We already talked about this yesterday.” She could tell Rishi was trying to tamp down his own irritation. He got this little crease between his eyebrows when he was mad, Dimple noticed. And then tried to unnotice. “I didn’t know your parents were keeping you in the dark about all of this. Heck, I thought you’d be requesting me as your partner too. I thought you were totally on board. So your anger is a little misplaced, don’t you think?”

“Misplaced?” Dimple tried not to yell, though with the noise and activity level in the room, she doubted they could attract much attention even if they began flinging things at each other. Which definitely hadn’t crossed her mind. Definitely not. “Oh, I don’t think so. You have no idea, do you? You don’t know what this has been like. My mom and dad, they just don’t get me, okay? My mom doesn’t know why I want to do anything besides get married to the Ideal Indian Husband and settle down. She thinks college is basically just this big mating ritual. So for me to even be here is nothing short of a miracle. For me to even get this chance to follow in Jenny Lindt’s footsteps—to actually get a chance to talk to her about my idea? It’s the stuff of my wildest fantasies. But even here, where it should just be about me and my career and the things I want to do in this world, I have to contend with you. I have to remember, every single second that I have to look at you, that the only reason I’m here is because my parents expect me to finally fall in line. To become that dutiful Indian daughter they always wanted. I thought this was going to be my chance to just be me, for this whole six weeks to just be about my skills and my talent and my intellect. But it turns out the joke’s on me. And you know what? I’m tired of it. I’m tired of it and it sucks .” She stopped, out of breath, and pushed her glasses back higher onto the bridge of her nose. Her heart pounded; her throat was tight with anger and unshed tears, but she was determined not to let it show how close she was to crying.

Rishi looked . . . well, the scientific term might be “gobsmacked,” Dimple supposed. It almost made her want to snort with laughter. His eyes were wide, his face completely frozen in shock.

Yeah, she’d unleashed the fury. But she’d needed to. Problem was, with Rishi and his utter guilelessness, she felt guilty for her ferocity, for subjecting him to an entire lifetime of pent-up rage that had little to do with him. She would never admit that out loud though. Sighing, she sat back and crossed her arms. “Well, you asked,” she mumbled.

CHAPTER 10

Whooooa.

Obviously, she’d had a lot she needed to get off her chest. Rishi didn’t know quite what to say. This was all so much heavier for Dimple than it was for him. He was disappointed that she was so pointedly, decidedly, against this, yes. But mostly he felt bad for his family. All the effort and hopes they’d put into this had clearly been for nothing.

   
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