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Page 32

Flipping it open, he grabbed a pencil from his bag and began to draw. “Oh, you’ll see, my friend,” he said. When Dimple tried to peek, he turned, shielding the page from her view.

She laughed. “So it’s like that?”

Rishi grinned but didn’t respond. In another minute he’d finished the sketch. He ripped out the paper, folded it, and passed it and the pencil over to her. It was silly, but his heart beat faster. This moment felt more serious than it had any right to feel.

• • •

Dimple opened the paper. It was an amazing sketch, which, if she hadn’t seen Rishi do in about a minute, she would have believed had taken a lot longer. It showed a boy, hair flopping in his eyes and bulging muscles ripping his shirt sleeves—Dimple snorted—handing a fierce-looking girl a paper flower. He’d captured her so perfectly in just a few strokes—her oversize square glasses, her wild hair, the furrow in her brow. Underneath the sketch, he’d written:

Will you go on a date with me?

Yes

No

Dimple took a deep breath as an uneasy pulse beat within her. He was trying to make it official, and she wasn’t sure she wanted official. She wasn’t sure what she wanted, really.

Underneath the “no,” she wrote in:

Other

And handed it back to Rishi.

He studied the paper, and she could see the slight disappointment tint his features. But when he looked back at her, he had rearranged his expression to reflect just curiosity. “Care to explain?”

Dimple reached over and turned off the flashlight app on her phone. Somehow it was easier to say things under cover of darkness. The foggy night worked as a salve, taking the sting out of words. “Rishi, I can’t be your girlfriend.”

A beat of silence. “Why not?” He said it softly, not as a judgment but simply in an effort to understand.

Dimple’s heart hurt. “It’s not why I’m here,” she forced herself to say firmly. She refused to be one of those girls who gave up on everything they’d been planning simply because a boy entered the picture. “You know I’m not looking for a relationship right now.”

“Even if the relationship feels right?”

She paused, listening to the sound of some distant partygoer screech in laughter. “Especially if.”

She saw Rishi nodding in her peripheral vision. In the quiet, she wondered if he was so hurt that he couldn’t bear to speak. Then, he turned to her, grinning. “Okay. So what? We don’t have to do the whole relationship thing. You can just go out with me, and we’ll call it a . . . a non-date.”

Dimple arched an eyebrow. “Rishi . . .”

“No, listen, it’s just like you and Celia going out, right? No strings attached. Neither of us has any expectations. We’ll just hang out.”

Dimple looked at his eager, open face, at the optimism and cheerfulness there, and felt her resolve melting. Sighing, she said, “I don’t want to hurt you.”

Rishi’s grin broadened. He could taste the “yes” in the air, apparently. “You won’t. Just friends on a non-date.” He scribbled something on the paper and handed it back to Dimple.

It now said:

Will you go on a non-date with me?

Laughing, she checked the “yes” and hoped to heck they knew what they were doing.

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