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Dimple paused, heart stuttering a bit. Was this a weighted question? If she said he should pick her up, would that give him the wrong idea? But if she didn’t, would that sound like she didn’t want to spend any more time with him than absolutely necessary? Dimple quietly thunked her forehead on the screen a few times and then typed, Pick me up at 6:50.

Rishi’s response was immediate. See ya then.

• • •

Promptly at 6:49, there was a knock on Dimple’s dorm room door. She opened it to find Rishi on the other side, dressed in a neatly pressed burgundy button-down (the color actually looked really good on him—brought out the red in his lips, not that she was looking looking) and khakis. He looked very much like Boy on a First Date. At least he hadn’t brought a flower.

Rishi had considered bringing a long-stemmed flower—he knew this wasn’t a date, so maybe a carnation rather than a rose?—but had nixed it at the last moment. Seeing Dimple’s face now, taking in his business casual attire, he was kind of glad.

• • •

She’d say this for him: He had no guile. There were no mind games, no trying to be cool or appearing to be something else. Rishi was unabashedly himself. She felt a tug of endearment and coughed to cover it up. “Oh, er, hi. I feel underdressed.”

“You look fantastic.” He smiled, and she could tell he really meant it. “Ready?”

• • •

Outside, the sun had streaked the fog a molten pink and gold. Karl wafted lazily, toying with their hair and whispering wetly in their ears. Dusk pulled their shadows long, and a slight breeze ruffled the leaves on the eucalyptus trees they passed. Dimple pulled an errant, damp curl off her face. “So do you want to talk really quickly about the idea I had for Insomnia Con? Since we’re not going to hash it out over pizza?”

Rishi tucked his hands into his pockets. “Sure.”

Dimple’s pulse quickened. She’d been thinking about this for so long, and now it was finally here. The chance to make this into a reality. “So the first thing to understand is that Papa’s a diabetic. He really struggles to take his medication and stay on the straight and narrow with his diet. He’s always saying how much of a pain in the butt it is to remember each little thing that comes with being a diabetic. There’s the shot, the medication, the special diet, the exercise. . . . That got me thinking, what if there was a way to make it easier and more fun for sick people to stick to their routines? What if there was an app that turned it into a sort of game with a reward system?”

“Interesting. I just recently read an article about the psychology of gaming. How even the simplest or most repetitive of games can be made addictive if the person is rewarded enough or something?”

Dimple nodded, excited that he’d heard of it. “Yeah, it’s called a compulsion loop. When we repeat a certain behavior and get rewarded for it, we want to keep repeating that behavior. So if that behavior is inputting that they took their medication or stuck to their diet—something that’ll be visually represented and give them a reward—they’ll want to keep repeating it. But it has to be simple enough that even older people like Papa can do it easily from their phones.”

Rishi looked at her, impressed. “That is really cool. I love this idea already.”

Dimple flushed and ducked her head. “Thanks. I hope the judges do too.”

“We’ll just have to work extra hard so they do.”

Dimple smiled at Rishi, at his open enthusiasm. Softly, she said, “By the way, thanks for coming to this thing.”

“No problem.” A pause. “So . . . why are we going, again?”

She noticed the “we” in place of the “you,” and felt a warmth in her belly. Rishi was a naturally good friend, she could tell, the kind of guy who thought your every fight was his as well. “Mainly because it’s important to Celia, and I think this month and a half will be a whole lot less awkward if I make an effort to like her friends. I’m sure they’ll be coming over to our dorm room and stuff.” Dimple thought of the way Celia turned pink when she talked of Evan. “Besides, if I can just spend some time with them, maybe—” She broke off, not able to believe she’d actually been about to tell Rishi her thought process.

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