Home > When Dimple Met Rishi(7)

When Dimple Met Rishi(7)
Author: Sandhya Menon

“Yeah,” Dimple began. And then she stopped. “You know what? Why is this awkward for us ? The only people it should be awkward for are my parents.” She pulled out her cell phone right there in the lobby. “I’m going to give them a piece of my mind.”

Rishi nodded slowly. “Okay, well, I guess I’ll leave you to it then.”

She grabbed his arm. “Oh no. You stay right there. You’re their victim too.”

Dimple dialed home and wasn’t surprised when it went to voice mail. “So. You two think you’re being clever, do you?” she said in her most biting voice, her breath coming hard and fast. “What did you think was going to happen? That I’d get here and fall into his arms?” She saw Rishi blush and hurried to add, “I’m sure he’ll make some girl very happy someday. But that girl is not me.” She jabbed righteously at her own chest. “So I hope you know you’ve ruined everything . I hope you’re ready to tell your friends—” She covered the cell phone mic and spoke to Rishi. “What are their names?”

“Kartik and Sunita,” he whispered back.

Dimple turned back to the phone. “—Kartik and Sunita that you’ve effectively ruined your decades-long friendship because you decided to deceive your only daughter. Good-bye.”

She hung up, heart still racing, adrenaline coursing through her veins. “Ridiculous,” she muttered, hands on her hips. Then, looking up at Rishi, she said, “So, what, do you live in San Francisco?”

He shook his head. “I live in Atherton, with my parents and brother. I’m here for Insomnia Con, like you.”

“Oh.” At least he wasn’t here solely for her. “So what are you going to do now?”

Rishi shrugged. “I had planned for us to get to know each other, but obviously that’s not going to happen.” He smiled a little crookedly, and Dimple saw the strain in it. He was trying hard not to show how disappointed he really was. She felt a stab of sympathy for him and a harsher, meaner stab of anger at her parents. “I’ll probably hang out in my room for a while.” He raised his hand stiffly in good-bye and began to walk away toward the elevators.

Something inside her sank at the sight of his retreating back. She didn’t want him to go just yet. Dimple heard herself call out, “Wait!”

Rishi turned, eyebrows raised.

“If you want, you could, you know, come to lunch with me and my friend Celia. If you’re hungry, that is.” She stopped short, unsure where, exactly, the invitation had come from. It was obviously just that she felt some sort of kinship with him because of what had happened, Dimple told herself quickly. They were like two trauma survivors, the victims of her parents. She was just being a decent human being. Nothing more.

Rishi smiled again, but fully this time, unrestrained. It was like watching the sun rise, Dimple thought, or the streetlights come on at dusk. Gradual, powerful, brilliant, in a way.

“Thanks,” he said, walking toward her. “I’d like that.”

CHAPTER 6

They walked to Little Gator Pizzeria side by side, the silence stretching on. Rishi was hyperaware of everything; the way Dimple felt walking beside him. How he could see the top of her head. How the curls on her left side were invading his personal space, and how he didn’t mind, not one bit. When the breeze blew, he could smell her shampoo, like coconuts and jasmine. Oh gods. He’d just inhaled deeply, and now she was looking at him funny.

Rishi tried to smile casually. “So, who’s this friend? Do you know each other from Fresno?”

Dimple shook her head and adjusted her messenger bag. “No, we met in the Insomnia Con forum and decided to room together.”

He stared at her, waiting for the punch line. “You’re kidding. Right?”

She raised an eyebrow. “No?”

“You seriously met a stranger online and decided you’d live with . . . ‘her’ for two months, sight unseen?”

She sighed. “It’s six weeks. And there’s no need to make the air quotes around the word ‘her.’ It really is a she. I checked her out on Facebook.”

Rishi huffed a laugh, incredulous. He was beginning to doubt Stanford’s reputation. “Do you honestly not see the logical fallacy there? You’re checking to see if this person’s online persona is fake . . . online.”

“Well . . . ,” Dimple said as they rounded the corner and came to a stop in front of the Little Gator Pizzeria. The smell of grease and cheese clotted the air. Her eyes widening behind her glasses, she leaned in closer. “Either we’re about to get hacked to pieces by a serial killer or we’re about to enjoy some pizza. Only time will tell.”

Rishi reached out to get the door for her, but with a flourish, she opened the door herself and walked in.

A girl in the corner with a trendy, caramel-colored, two-foot-tall mass of curls and huge hazel eyes grinned and stood, grabbing Dimple in a hug she clearly hadn’t been expecting. She wore giant heels that made her tower over Dimple, but without them, Rishi guessed they’d be about the same height. “Dimple! You made it!”

Dimple pulled back and grinned. “How did you know it was me?”

“Facebook, of course,” the girl said, laughing.

Dimple tossed a triumphant look Rishi’s way. He sighed and made his way over.

“Oh, hello.” The girl smiled a little suggestively. “Who’s this? You didn’t tell me you were bringing a friend. ” Somehow, she made the word “friend” sound naughty.

Dimple sat, and, after a moment, scooched over so Rishi could sit next to her in the booth. He tried to ignore the way his pulse stuttered a bit at that. “That’s because I didn’t know,” she said. “Celia Ramirez, this is Rishi Patel. Rishi, this is Celia.”

“Enchanté ,” Celia said, taking his hand. “I ordered a large pepperoni pizza; hope that’s okay with the two of you.”

“Totally,” Dimple said, just as Rishi said, “I don’t eat meat.”

They looked at each other. “I’ll go order a cheese,” he said after a beat, sliding back out of the booth. Add another item to the “1,001 ways we’re incompatible” list, Rishi thought. As he ordered at the counter, he watched Dimple, totally relaxed in a way she hadn’t been with him, talking to Celia. And not for the first time in the past hour, Rishi wondered how his parents could’ve made such a big mistake.

“Seriously?” Celia said, ogling Rishi openmouthed.

“Stop staring at him,” Dimple hissed. “And yes, seriously. My parents are so deranged it’s not even funny.”

“And he brought his great-grandmother’s ring. To your first meeting.” Celia, clearly not well versed in the way of certain Indian families, could not seem to wrap her head around this fact.

Dimple sighed. “I really just feel kind of bad for him. I mean, it’s got to be embarrassing. But he’s taking it like a champ. He’s a lot calmer than I am. I cannot wait to rip my parents a new one.” She shredded her straw wrapper with gusto. “They can’t hide from me forever.”

“It’s sort of romantic,” Celia said, smiling a little, turning back to Dimple. “Don’t you think?”

“Romantic!” Dimple sputtered on her sip of water. Setting her glass back down, she said, “Please. I’m freaking eighteen years old. Marriage is the last thing on my mind.”

“Well, I’m seventeen, so right back at you,” Celia said. “But still. I mean, just the fact that, you know. He could potentially be the one. There’s a kind of magic in that.”

Dimple tossed a glance over at Rishi. He was walking over to the soda fountain. Every movement of his was sure, calm, confident. “I don’t know,” she said, finally, just as the waiter brought their pizzas over. “I guess I just don’t see it.”

When Rishi sat down, there was a weird sort of hesitant, crackling silence in the air. He sighed and looked at Celia. “She told you, didn’t she? About the arranged marriage thing?”

Dimple stiffened beside him, and Celia nodded. “She did.”

   
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