Dimple wasn’t fishing for compliments when she told Rishi that she’d been bullied by guys like those two jerks who’d walked by earlier. She was flat chested, insisted on wearing glasses and no makeup, refused to grow out her hair, and commonly occupied spaces—like Insomnia Con—that seemed to be implicitly reserved for men. Even when she was in elementary and middle school, she always chose computers as her choice of centers while all the other more popular girls seemed to cluster together in art or reading. All of that seemed to make the boys think there was something wrong with her. For a time people had assumed she was gay. Because, you know, maybe that made it, and her, safer.
But it wasn’t like that with Rishi. It was like he’d found a chink in her armor and had squeezed through, insisting with his easy laughter and his goofy jokes that she like him. That they become friends.
And were they? Dimple wondered, darting a quick glance at him. Were they really becoming friends?
“So you want to meet up later, talk about where you want to begin with the app concept?” Rishi asked, pulling her out of her internal cogitations.
“Um, yeah, sure.” Dimple scratched the back of her neck, feeling suddenly out of sorts. If Rishi wasn’t the enemy, did that mean she had to forgive Mamma? “Let’s meet at the pizza place again, and we can outline our plan of attack.”
Rishi smiled at her, excited, his eyes shining. And Dimple was put out to realize she didn’t exactly hate the thought of spending more time with him.
Celia was sprawled diagonally across her bed in their dorm room, texting someone on her phone. She glanced up when Dimple walked in. “Heeey. There you are. Feel like I haven’t seen you all day.”
Dimple felt her guard go up, that unbreachable wall laid with bricks of cynicism and aloofness that kept people at bay. Celia hadn’t exactly done anything. She was just becoming friends with people Dimple had spent her entire life alternately avoiding and being made fun of by.
But Celia wasn’t culpable, she reminded herself. So far, she had been nothing but unfailingly nice. She couldn’t help it if she’d been assigned to the goateed boy any more than Dimple could help being assigned to Rishi. “Hey.” She set her bag down and flopped down on her bed, sighing in contentment at just being there.
Celia set her phone facedown on the bed and sat up, crossing her legs. “Soooo,” she said, and Dimple heard the eyebrow waggle in her voice, “I saw you got paired up with Rishi.”
Dimple picked up the pillow and dropped it on her face. “Yeah,” she said in a muffled voice. “He requested me when he applied.”
Celia laughed merrily. “That’s so cute! So, how is that going? Did he ask you to marry him again? Give you any other family heirlooms?”
Dimple groaned and pulled the pillow off her face. Rolling to her side, she propped her head up with a hand. “No, thank God. We had a chat, and I think he gets that I’m just not interested. He was actually kind of cool about it. We ended up having fun on our scavenger hunt.” She held up a hand at Celia’s gleaming eyes. “As friends . We had fun as friends. So I think we’ll be okay working together.”
Celia waved a hand. “Eh, work today, bone tomorrow.”
“Gross!” Dimple threw her pillow at her, and, laughing, Celia tossed it back. “So . . . how is your partner? I saw you got paired with one of the grotties.”
Celia raised an eyebrow. “You mean ‘hotties’?”
“What did I say?” Dimple asked, feigning confusion.