Rishi felt the beginnings of panic. Crap. Here came the waiter, Willie, Rishi had made the arrangement with, smiling his toothy smile. Rishi tried to tell him with his eyes—since Dimple was still looking at him—that they needed to abort the plan. Abort. The. Plan. But Willie just smiled wider and added in a little wave. Double crap.
“Hello, folks!” Willie said, and Dimple spun around to face him. “You must be the lovely Dimple I’ve heard so much about,” he said, taking her hand and pumping it enthusiastically. Dimple’s eyes widened as she looked from Willie to Rishi. It was not happiness Rishi saw there.
Oh, no, no, no. Rishi glanced longingly out into the street. If it didn’t mean abandoning Dimple, he might consider running to the car, jumping in, and taking it all the way home to Atherton.
The oblivious, obnoxiously cheerful Willie continued to talk. Why hadn’t Rishi noticed before how effervescent the dude was? “Why don’t you guys follow me this way? We have a table set up for you already.” He beamed not so subtly at Rishi, totally not getting the vibe that he was trying to put off.
Dimple and Rishi followed him to the back, where it was quieter and emptier. He gestured to their table, already adorned with the few books Rishi had specifically ordered and requested to be placed there.
“Thanks,” Rishi mumbled, and pressed a tip into Willie’s palm.
Finally looking slightly bewildered at the lack of enthusiasm, Willie had the good sense to take the tip and leave quietly.
They took their seats in the heavy dark wood chairs, Rishi barely daring to look at Dimple. She looked down at the books, realization slowly seeping into her expression. She pushed her glasses up on her nose and picked up one of the small, clothbound editions. “A Wrinkle in Time,” she said softly.
“Yeah, it’s, um, a 2009 special edition. Eight years ago, you know, because—”
She met his eye. “That’s the year we met at the wedding.”
Rishi felt a little surge of relief. At least she got it. But he didn’t know, looking at her, whether she was freaked. Or flattered. Or just confused. Dimple touched the two other books on the table.
“Those are just some of my favorite graphic novels,” Rishi explained. Both of them had first love as their theme, though Rishi didn’t think he’d tell her that right now. “I thought you’d, uh, enjoy them. Maybe. If you wanted to read them.” He rubbed the back of his neck. This was excruciating. Why the heck had he done all this? How had he thought this would be a good idea? She’d gone out of her way to make sure he understood that this was a non-date. Which meant Rishi was now officially a member of Camp Trying Too Hard.
“Are you okay?”
He jumped a little and looked at her. “What? Why?”
“Why’d you just groan like that?”
Crap. He’d done that out loud? “Ah . . . no reason.” Rishi exhaled. “Look, if this is too much, if you hate it, we can go somewhere else.”
But Dimple put a hand on his hand. When he looked up at her, hope blooming painfully in his chest, she was smiling at him, soft and sure. “I definitely don’t hate it. Thanks.”
Rishi exhaled. “You’re welcome.” At least Dimple didn’t hate it. It still didn’t mean he could check out of Camp Trying Too Hard yet, but she didn’t hate it. So there was that.
“‘Underneath Mrs. Murry’s chair Fortinbras let out a contented sigh.’” Dimple closed the book and sat back to look at Rishi, smiling slightly. It was crazy how words—just black squiggles on a page—could bring memories rushing back. She remembered lying in bed under the covers, long after she was supposed to be asleep, her flashlight shining on these same pages. “I love this book,” she said, stroking the cloth cover that was so much fancier than the $2 paperback she’d had. “I still remember feeling so . . . so cozy, thinking of the giant Murry family. How they all loved each other, how they looked out for each other no matter what. It used to make me wish my parents had popped out a few more.”
Rishi leaned in, eyes wide. “Okay, but what happened to the dad? Does he ever come back?”
Dimple snorted and reached for the last bite of her salmon slider. Rishi had pretty much inhaled his French onion soup while she read. “I can’t believe you’ve never read A Wrinkle in Time. It’s a classic.”
“I guess I was too busy reading comics. But seriously, does he ever come back?”