“Tell me, Dimple, are you remembering to wear makeup to class?”
Dimple sighed and flopped backward so she was lying flat on the bed. And now that they were done with that, apparently it was on to more important topics. “Um, no? I didn’t even bring any makeup with me, Mamma.”
“What! What about the contacts?”
“Mamma . . . I’m here to learn.”
“You can’t learn with lipstick? You can’t read with contacts? What, Dimple.” What, Dimple. The Indian way of saying, Get your life together, Dimple.
Dimple sat up. “Okay, I have to go now.”
“Beauty sleep time, na? ” Mamma said. “You have Pond’s cold cream?”
Dimple paused, confused.
“Hai Ram. I bought from Walmart for you, na? Dimple, Pond’s will make your skin soft. Just put it on at night and—”
“Oh yeah, I remember. I, uh, already did that.” She yawned showily.
“Okay, okay. Good night, beti. Papa already went to sleep, but I’ll tell him tomorrow you send your regards.”
“Thanks, Mamma. Sleep tight.”
“You also, beti. ”
At 10:19 Rishi walked around the minuscule space once again, making sure everything was in order. The thought of Dimple, here, made him feel strangely ebullient, like he was filled with champagne bubbles. Obviously he knew nothing was going to happen. He wouldn’t try anything anyway, not when he knew how she felt. It was his damn fool heart. Ever optimistic, always looking for a sliver of sunshine in a sky clotted with thunderclouds. He shook his head and fluffed his pillow.
At 10:20 Rishi laid out a bowl full of sweet and sour khatta meetha , some baadam that Ma had packed for him, and water. He wiped the screen of his laptop with his shirtsleeve, then had to change his shirt because the sleeve turned gray from the dust.
At 10:22 Rishi seriously began to worry that Dimple wouldn’t come. Should he text her? Nah, that would be too needy. If she wasn’t going to show up, then he’d have to give her some space. But who decides to just not show up? he thought in annoyance. At least she should text him. Or tape a note to his door. He glanced at his door. Maybe there was a note taped to the other side.
At 10:23, as he was walking across the room to check for the note, there was a knock. He exhaled.
She stood on the other side, hair somewhat damp, smiling. “Hey. Sorry I’m late. My mom called.”
Wow, she smelled good. Rishi made a concentrated effort not to inhale deeply. “No problem.” He held the door open and spread his arm out. “Come on in.”
Dimple walked in, her eyes sweeping across his room. “You don’t have a roommate? How’d you swing that?”
He shrugged and rubbed the back of his neck. “Ah, my parents insisted on springing for a private suite.”
She looked at him, smirking, but when he raised his eyebrows in question, she just looked away, resuming her inspection of his dresser top, his bed, his desk. “Oh, khatta meetha ! It’s my favorite.”
He grinned. This fact made him irrationally happy. “Awesome. Help yourself.”
“Did you bring it with you? Or did you find an Indian grocer?” she asked, stuffing a small fistful of the peanut and rice-flake mixture in her mouth.