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“It sounds worth it to me, if it will help your career,” Ritu auntie said into the silence. Dimple looked up in surprise. Not that she wasn’t thankful for the help, but she had to wonder at this sudden interjection. Since when did Ritu auntie think in terms of benefiting a woman’s career ? “Why don’t you discuss it with Vijay, Leena?”

Dimple looked at Ritu auntie in disbelief, and Ritu auntie winked at her.

After a moment, Mamma bellowed for Papa to come over. “Vijay! Idhar aayiye! ”

Papa came in, a wary expression on his face that he quickly converted to a warm smile for the visitors. “Ritu, Seema, hello.”

Seema didi immediately shot to her feet and pressed her palms together. “Namaste , Vijay uncle.”

“Please, sit, sit.” He took a seat by Mamma, and then, after the briefest of pauses, reached out and snagged a Milano.

Mamma and Dimple both said, “No!” but he stuffed the cookie into his mouth before they could stop him and then grinned sheepishly.

Dimple put two fingers to the bridge of her nose. “Papa, you’re a diabetic!”

Mamma sighed overdramatically. “Kya aap mujhe vidhwaa chodna chahte ho?”

Dimple rolled her eyes at her mother’s words. “It’s diabetes, Mamma. I don’t think he’s going to die and leave you a widow anytime soon.” Ritu auntie was watching this little family drama with interest, but Seema looked like she’d rather be anywhere else but here.

“If he doesn’t take his medication like he is supposed to, he will! Checking his blood sugar, eating a balanced diet—he doesn’t want to do any of this!”

The tips of Papa’s ears began to turn pink, and he cleared his throat. “Okay, okay. Now, why did you call me?”

The air in the room tensed. Mamma adjusted her salwar kameez and looked at Dimple. “Tell him what you told me.”

Barely daring to breathe, Dimple repeated verbatim what she’d told Mamma. “I have the link to the website, if you want to look at it,” she finished.

Papa and Mamma looked at each other. It always amazed her, how they could seemingly communicate without speaking. She wondered what that was like, that level of intense bond. Though she’d take to wearing kaajal every day before she’d admit it, Dimple sometimes felt a pang at the thought of never having that. Because, she was sure, the kind of bond Mamma and Papa had would require a self-sacrifice she would never be okay making.

Finally, Papa turned to her. “Yes, I would like to see the website. But I think your Mamma and I both feel that you should go.” His cheeks were tinted vaguely pink, as were the tips of his hairy ears, like he was embarrassed by this show of caring.

A beat, two beats, three. Dimple blinked, not quite sure what had happened. And then her body caught up with her brain.

“Oh my God, thank you both!” she squealed, throwing her arms around them.

Seriously? Was that all she had needed to do this entire time? Ask Mamma for things while Ritu auntie and Seema didi were present?

Her parents chuckled and patted her on the back. She pulled back and grinned at them, still not able to completely believe it. They were letting her go to San Francisco to attend Insomnia Con, just like that. It felt unreal. She should buy Ritu auntie a present.

“This is toh great news!” Ritu auntie clapped her hands together. “Leena, before she goes, you must take her to buy some new salwar kameez .” The older woman appraised Dimple’s current outfit with pity. “Clearly she could use the help, na . . .”

“Good idea. And kaajal , of course,” Mamma said, nodding sagely.

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