Home > When Dimple Met Rishi(8)

When Dimple Met Rishi(8)
Author: Sandhya Menon

“And you think it’s crazy,” he said.

“Uh-huh.” Celia chewed the giant piece of pizza she’d bitten off before speaking. “I also think it’s romantic.” She grinned. “A predestined romance.”

Rishi smiled. Maybe this girl wasn’t a serial killer after all. “Sort of. But arranged marriages are more about practicalities than romance. Compatibility, a long-term partnership. That sort of thing.”

Beside him Dimple snorted. He turned to her. “I’m guessing you don’t agree.”

“Compatibility may be what it’s ostensibly about,” Dimple responded, pushing her glasses up on her nose. “But it’s really just a way for our parents to control us. I mean, that’s even how the institution of marriage was born. So fathers could form alliances and use their children—especially their daughters—as pawns in their battle for power.” She ripped off a piece of pizza and chewed angrily.

Jeez, did she ever relax? “Well, since our parents aren’t rajas and ranis, I don’t think that’s what it’s about.”

Celia laughed. “ ‘Raja’—that’s king , right?”

“Right.” Rishi smiled. “And ‘rani’ is queen .”

“So you’re bilingual?” Celia asked.

Rishi nodded. “Yeah, I learned Hindi first, before English. My parents were really adamant about that. They’re technically from Gujarat, but they’re third generation Mumbaiites, so they speak Hindi. Mumbai is, like, this huge melting pot of people from other Indian states, so apparently everyone speaks this special version of what my parents call ‘Bombay Hindi.’ ” His eyes were far off and he had this small smile on his lips. It was obvious he loved talking about this stuff.

“That’s so cool,” Celia said. “I wish I knew more than, like, five words of Spanish. Have you ever been to Mumbai?”

“Are you really interested in web development, or are you just here for this?” Dimple interjected, gesturing between herself and him. If Rishi didn’t know better, he’d say she was irritated at how he and Celia were hitting it off. Jealousy? he wondered hopefully. But he had to be practical—she likely had just wanted to have an impassioned discussion about the evils of arranged marriages and controlling parents and was disappointed it wasn’t coming to fruition.

Rishi shrugged and ate another bite of pizza. “Both. I mean, I’m starting at MIT in the fall for computer science and engineering, so this is a good thing to have on my CV .”

“But web development isn’t your passion.” Dimple’s eyes narrowed. “It’s not your dream.”

“No,” Rishi said slowly. “I guess not.”

“You spent a thousand dollars on something that you’re not passionate about?” She stared at him, seemingly dumbfounded.

“So he wants to expand his horizons; don’t be so judgy,” Celia said.

“Whatever. You just better not be my partner,” Dimple muttered, turning back to her pizza.

“Believe me, that sounds totally fine to me,” Rishi said. He felt the stirrings of irritation. Why did she have to be so . . . intense? What did it matter to her whether or not he wanted to marry web development and have its babies? “You know, I think I’m going to head back to my dorm,” he said, wiping his hands on his napkin. “I need to unpack and all that.”

“Aw, are you sure?” Celia said, and he got the feeling she genuinely liked his company.

“Yeah.” He smiled. “But I’ll see you both tomorrow in class.”

The silence was heavy while Rishi stood and left a hefty tip on the table so they wouldn’t have to. He knew they were just waiting for him to leave so they could talk about him. Sighing, he headed to the door and stepped out into the afternoon sunshine.

CHAPTER 7

The bell above the door clanged shut as Rishi disappeared onto the sidewalk. Dimple continued munching on her pizza, ignoring the tiny pit in her stomach, even though she could feel Celia’s gaze heavy on her face.

“A-hem.”

Dimpled rolled her eyes. “No one says ‘ahem.’ You’re supposed to just clear your throat.”

Celia waved an insouciant hand. Her many wooden bangles clattered together. “So pretend I just cleared my throat. Did you have to be so mean to him?”

“I wasn’t mean, just . . . honest. Wouldn’t it be crueler to make him think there was some hope that I’d come around and just embrace all of this?” She took a sip of water, feeling the pit in her stomach grow. Guilt, she thought. It was guilt. Celia had a point: Rishi was a perfectly nice guy, and Dimple had sentenced him to a thousand lashes of her sharp tongue. Speak first, think later , that was her default setting, no matter how she tried to control it. Dimple sat up straighter, quashing those thoughts. She’d sent Rishi Patel away—there was no reason to be all weak and second-guess her choices now.

Celia wound one of her long curls around her finger. “I guess.” Dimple wondered how she could stand having hair that fell to her waist. She’d have to be careful not to mention this to Mamma, or she’d probably phone Celia for tips on how to convince Dimple to grow her hair out too. And it wouldn’t matter that they’d never spoken to each other before in their lives.

“Okay, I’m done talking about boys.” Dimple leaned forward and smiled. “What do you think the prize is going to be for this year’s Insomnia Con?”

“Ooh.” Celia rubbed her hands together, eyes shining. “I don’t know, but it’s definitely something epic. There were rumblings that they really went all out this year. Everyone thinks it’s going to be a personalized letter with feedback from Jenny Lindt, but I’m guessing a cash prize of, like, ten grand.”

Dimple shook her head. “No, I bet it’s something way crazy cooler than that. They don’t generally do cash prizes with Insomnia Con; that’s usually what they do for the talent show about halfway in, remember? Maybe it’ll be, like, feedback and a signed copy of Jenny Lindt’s next memoir or something.”

Celia laughed. “Your Jenny Lindt obsession knows no bounds. You know what your big project’s going to be yet?”

“I have a pretty solid idea,” Dimple said, trying not to show how ridiculously excited she was about it. She’d thought of it last year. And honestly, she was going to code this app somehow whether or not she came to Insomnia Con, but the idea of doing it on such a large scale was even more thrilling. She’d checked—there was nothing on the market quite like it. She couldn’t share it with Celia; that was one of the rules of Insomnia Con. Only your partner could know what you were working on. “I haven’t fully fleshed it out, though. You?”

“I’m still thinking about it; nothing’s really jumped out at me. I wouldn’t mind working with you on your idea.” Celia grinned. “Do you think they’ll make us partners?”

“I’ve heard roommates don’t generally get made partners,” Dimple said, pushing her empty plate aside. “But fingers crossed.”

• • •

When her phone rang early the next morning, Dimple was dreaming that she was accepting an award onstage from Jenny Lindt. Jenny beamed at her as she said something that Dimple was sure were effervescent compliments, but every time Jenny opened her mouth, all Dimple could hear were beeps. “Sorry?” Dimple kept saying, in her dream. “Can you repeat that?”

Finally, Celia called out from across the room, “Dimple, it’s your phone! For the love of God, answer it before I lose my mind!”

“Sorry,” Dimple mumbled, reaching for her phone on her nightstand. She silenced it and looked at the screen. Anger shot through her, red-hot. Suddenly she was very much awake. Grabbing it, she strode out into the hallway, shutting the door quietly behind her. “Mamma.”

“Dimple!” her mother said, sounding forcefully jolly. “Kaisi ho, beti? Did you unpack? How is the campus?”

“Oh no, no. You don’t get to wake me up and ask me about the campus. Let’s talk about the real issue here, shall we?”

   
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