Page 35

“Rishi Patel! Kartik aur Sunita ka beta? ”

Dimple flushed, sweat prickling at her hairline. God, she couldn’t even bear to look at Rishi now. “Mamma, please. It’s not a big deal,” she mumbled, squeezing the phone in her sweaty hand. Why had she even answered her phone? Seriously, what had she been thinking?

“Where are you going? Akele uske kamre mein math jaana , Dimple—”

“God , Mamma, I have to go. And of course I won’t.” She hung up, feeling a stab of guilt at cutting off Mamma’s well-intentioned advice. But jeez. Don’t go to his room alone? Like she hadn’t embarrassed Dimple enough in front of Rishi already. She was probably on the verge of talking about Dimple’s sacred virginity.

Slipping her phone back into her bag, Dimple forced herself to meet Rishi’s eye. He was still chewing on the inside of his cheek. “What?” she said, a little more savagely than she’d meant to.

He raised his hands. “I didn’t say anything.” Then he began humming under his breath.

Dimple recognized the song just as the elevator doors slid open on the first floor. Hum tum, ek kamre mein bandh ho, aur chaavi kho jaaye. . . . It was a popular old Hindi song, about a couple who’re shut away in a room when the keys go missing. Dimple slapped Rishi on his upper arm as they walked toward the doors. “Very funny.”

He burst out laughing, and her heart lifted in mirth in spite of her still bubbling irritation. “Oh, come on. It’s not that bad. She’s just being your mom.”

“Exactly,” Dimple mumbled as they strode across the lobby and outside. It was sort of nice that she didn’t need to explain the hovering, how it really came from a place of love. Rishi got that this was just what moms and dads did in their world.

Dimple took a deep breath, acrid smog and wet mist and herby eucalyptus all mixing together in her lungs. Groups of people and a few couples milled around, all laughing and joking and calling out to each other, some obviously already intoxicated, heading off campus for the weekend.

Dimple began to climb the steep road off to their right that led off campus, imagining that they were going to a restaurant nearby, but Rishi put a hand on her arm.

“Wait a sec.” Casually, Rishi grabbed Dimple’s hand and they crossed the road.

She tried not to show how flustered she felt, or how much she liked the feel of his big, warm, blunt fingers loosely grasping hers. “Um, where are we going?”

Rishi gestured to a glossy black convertible with the top down. As they got closer, the doors beeped. “Our chariot awaits.”

Tossing Rishi a dazed look, Dimple climbed in. When Rishi had shut her door and hopped in his side, she asked, “You drive a Beemer ?”

Rishi looked at her innocently. “What?”

Dimple snorted. “Nothing. It’s just that normal people usually take the bus when they want to go somewhere far.”

He looked genuinely uncomfortable as he pulled out of the space. “The bus. Right.”

Feeling a little sorry for him, Dimple adjusted her tone from mocking to gently teasing . “This is really flashy for a non-date.”

Rishi grinned and rubbed the back of his neck, accelerating as they climbed a steep hill. “What are you talking about? Yesterday I ordered a stretch limo when I wanted to run to the store to buy a pack of gum. Isn’t that what everyone does?”

Dimple laughed. “Totally. Sometimes I’ll even order a private jet.”

They were quiet for a moment, feeling the wind in their hair, and then Dimple said, “So, where are we going?”

Rishi shook his head. “Still a surprise. I think you’ll like it, though.”

There wasn’t a single place, Dimple realized, that she didn’t want to go right now. Not because she wasn’t picky, but because she could go pretty much anywhere with Rishi and enjoy herself. The realization was alarming. Concerning. And not altogether unwelcome.

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