Rishi glanced at her, and Dimple stiffened. There was something in his eyes . . . she could tell whatever he was going to come up with she wasn’t going to like. Before she could open her mouth to stop him, he was off, like some unstoppable rocket. “So, tell me, Hari, which part of India are your parents from?”
Hari looked up slowly to glare at Rishi, but Dimple saw the corner of his mouth twitch. He was uncomfortable. “My parents are from San Mateo.”
Rishi nodded, unperturbed. “Right . . . so what about your grandparents?”
Hari raised both glossy eyebrows that looked like they’d been waxed and powdered. “I can print out a family tree chart for you later, if you’d like.”
Evan began his mindless guffawing, but Rishi cut him off, speaking loudly and clearly. “Let me tell you something—I’ll never forget last summer, when I visited my family’s ancestral home in Gujarat.”
Everyone was staring at him. But if Rishi felt the heat of their gazes, he didn’t show it. “It was amazing,” he said, beaming at them all as if he were totally clueless that they’d find this anything but amazing. “All of those decades—over a century!—of history. When you stood on the courtyard in the rain, you felt like the gods were singing in the heavens.”
Celia looked confused, like she sensed a strange undercurrent but didn’t know what it was or how it had come to be. Hari snorted, but he didn’t say anything. He looked a little embarrassed now—all the Aberzombies did, actually, Dimple noticed—like they didn’t know what to do with someone who was so obviously at home with his uncoolness. Someone who had the audacity to feel like he was the cool one when he so obviously wasn’t.
Dimple cleared her throat. “That’s really awesome.” She forced herself to speak up, firmly and clearly. Smiling at Rishi, she said, “I bet that’s a more meaningful vacation than going to Bermuda and sleeping with a bartender whose name you can’t remember.” She darted a glance at Hari and almost laughed out loud at his expression. He looked like he was choking on a fish bone.
The waiter came by with their orders then, and everyone’s attention turned to food.
“So, just based on first day impressions, who do you guys think is going to win Insomnia Con?” Celia asked between bites of her $42 mac and cheese. Dimple couldn’t help calculating the value of each bite. There goes $2. And another $2. She didn’t even properly chew up that $2.
“Like it’s even a question,” Hari said. “It’s either going to be Evan’s team or mine.”
Dimple tried not to roll her eyes at that. Didn’t a partnership mean it wasn’t just either of their teams? “I think José Alvarez and Tim Wheaton have a good chance,” she said, slurping up a bit of her tomato basil soup. For $25, it tasted like tomato paste diluted in water. “They had spreadsheets of what they were going to do on what days of the week and everything. José had already even written a script for some stuff he wanted the computer to do at night, while they slept.” She’d never admit it, but Dimple felt a pang of jealousy at that kind of dedicated foreplanning. Why hadn’t she thought of it?
“Yeah, they’ve probably been planning for this since freshman year of high school,” Rishi laughed. “My money’s on Marcus Whitman and Simon Terrence. After Dimple and me, of course.”
“They’re solid,” Dimple agreed. “But they lack that single-minded dedication that José and Tim have. They, like, breathe this stuff.”
“Mmm-hmm,” Celia said. “I even heard they paid off their roommates so they could move in together to work on this stuff twenty-four/seven.” Deals like those were pretty common within Insomnia Con, and the organizers usually just looked the other way, probably because it was too hard to control.
“I wouldn’t mind moving in with Dimple,” Rishi said, laughing, and everyone whipped their heads around to look at him. And her.
Dimple felt herself turn bright red. “What?” she bit out.
The tips of his ears flamed, and his face slackened as he realized what he’d just said. “I meant because we could really kick everyone’s butts. If we had more time like that. If we were living together.” Rishi sighed when he saw that she wasn’t convinced. “Never mind.”
Celia giggled. “That is so cute.”
“Yeah.” Evan smiled a strangely plastic smile. “So . . . cute.”
Before it could get more awkward, the waiter came forward. “Would anyone like dessert?”