She nearly ran into him when he stopped. Surprised, she looked up at the peeling green façade of an ancient-looking store tucked among many other abandoned seeming shops. WANDA’S WORLD TREASURES , the hand-painted sign out front said. “What is this place?”
“This is where we’ll find Buddha,” Rishi said, grinning as he pulled open the door for her.
The smell of sandalwood and cloves enveloped them like a soft, unfurling curtain. The wind chimes on the door sang gently, and Rishi found himself nervous. He wanted Dimple to like this place, he realized.
To be honest, they could’ve found a statue of Buddha in virtually any store around campus. This was San Francisco, after all. But he’d specifically dragged her over here to see this, to delight in it. Rishi wanted to give her a reason to smile. But he wasn’t sure if this was Dimple’s thing at all. What if she found all of this old, used stuff totally gross?
Rishi gestured around at the dimly lit, cluttered interior. Everywhere they looked, piles of things teetered—books with leather and gold covers, gold and silver trays, bead necklaces hanging out of chipped teacups, old, creaking furniture of all kinds. Overhead, strings of globe lights were looped around tall mirrors, bedposts, and the odd nonfunctional chandelier. “I stumbled on this place yesterday, after we’d had lunch. I don’t know, I guess I thought it was kind of cool—”
“I love it,” Dimple breathed, the lenses of her glasses reflecting the lights as she swiveled her head to look at every corner. She walked to a painted horse head and stroked its opalescent mane. “Amazing.”
“Welcome,” a middle-aged lady with short hair said from behind a teal desk in the corner. “I’m Wanda. These are all things I’ve found on my travels around the world. Some are from flea markets; others were gifts. Take a look around and let me know if you have any questions!”
“Will do!” Dimple called. Then she looped a gaudy set of necklaces laden with gold discs the size of her palm around her neck and put a hand on her hip. “What do you think? Definitely me, right?”
Rishi held up a finger. He grabbed a silver rhinestone-studded headband with a peacock feather sticking out of it and set it on Dimple’s head. “There you go. Now that’s simply fetching.”
She pretended to strut around, and, on impulse, he raised the Polaroid and took a picture.
“Hey!” she said when the flash popped. “What was that for?” She reached out and punched him in the ribs, seemingly as an afterthought.
“Ow!” Rishi said, rubbing his side. “What the heck?”
“Sorry,” Dimple mumbled, and it sounded only half true. “But seriously, why’d you take my picture?”
“I think we may have just crossed funny off the list,” he said, referring to item number one on their scavenger hunt list. He flapped the photograph a few times, and then held it out for her to see. She looked like a turkey wearing jewelry.
At first Rishi thought Dimple might rip up the photograph. A look of abject horror passed over her face. But then her eyes crinkled and she snorted. “Okay. Point taken.” Pulling the necklaces and headband off, she looked around the store, hands on hips. “So where’s Buddha?”
“Aha. This way.” Rishi beckoned, winding his way around a few room dividers and coffee tables. When they emerged into the far corner of the store, he gestured with a flourish. “Ta-daaaa!”
He watched her face closely as she took in the nearly eight-foot-tall, gold-plated statue in the corner. Dimple’s eyes widened, and then she turned to him, grinning. Oof. It was like getting punched in the diaphragm when she turned the wattage to full on that thing. Rishi tried to smile normally in response. “Isn’t it cool?”
In response Dimple laughed and ran over to it. “Cool? This is fan-freaking-tastic! My mom would flip out. She loves Buddha statues, especially laughing Buddhas. She has, like, this whole collection in the puja room at our house.” She ran one hand over the statue’s arm. “It’s really beautiful, in a way, right?”
Rishi raised an eyebrow and pulled the camera up to take a picture. “If by ‘beautiful’ you mean ‘tacky’ . . .”