Ashish breezed into the room and, like he owned it, pushed pause on Rishi’s laptop. “Okay, what is going on here?” He dumped his gym bag on the floor and sprawled on Rishi’s chair, his gigantic praying-mantis legs encroaching into Rishi’s space. The stench of Axe body spray was enough to strangle anyone within fifty feet of the boy.
Rishi stepped back and crossed his arms. “Answer my question first.”
Ashish rolled his eyes. “I thought Ma and Pappa told you. I wanted to see the campus.”
Rishi held out his arms. Were all little brothers this annoying, or was he just blessed with an especially potent member of the species? “And? How’d you get here? Why didn’t Ma or Pappa call me first? And how the heck did you open my locked door?”
Ashish reached into his shorts pocket and pulled out a key. “I told the desk attendant that I was Rishi Patel in room 406.” He looked at Dimple and said, as an aside, “My mom and dad told me which room he was in.” Then, looking back at Rishi, he added, “I said I’d been locked out of my room and needed to borrow the spare.” He grinned. “Good thing people think all Indians look alike, huh?”
Dimple cleared her throat and looked meaningfully at Rishi. He pushed a hand through his hair. “Sorry. Dimple, this is my brother, Ashish. Ashish, this is Dimple Shah.”
Ashish smiled lazily at her as he shook her proffered hand. “You’re a lot less scary-looking in perso—”
“Answer my other two questions,” Rishi interrupted loudly just as Dimple crossed her arms and cocked her head, in a come at me, bro pose. “How’d you get here? And why didn’t any of you call me?”
Ashish let his head fall back over the back of the chair. “Ah, I bummed a ride from someone I know. Ma and Pappa were driving me nuts. I had to get out of there. So I figured why not come now? A few days early, but whatever.” He looked at Rishi, smiling, but there was an edge to it. “You don’t mind, do you, bhaiyya ?” He said bhaiyya ingratiatingly, cloyingly, making it a mockery of the word.
This was embarrassing. Not only was Ashish being a total punk, like usual, he was also talking about Ma and Pappa in front of Dimple. Rishi would never think to speak about his parents behind their backs. He glanced at Dimple, wondering what she thought about all of this.
“Maybe I should go,” Dimple said, slipping on her Chucks. “So you guys can, you know, talk and—”
Ashish crossed his hands behind his head. “Aw, don’t leave. I haven’t even had a chance to speak with my future bhabhi yet.”
Dimple’s face paled at the Hindi word for sister-in-law , and Rishi rushed to correct Ashish. “There are some things you and I will need to talk about, Ashish.”
“What were you guys doing?” Ashish said, totally ignoring them. Always on his own schedule. Selfish. He looked at the YouTube video, tilting his head. “Is that Krrish ?”
“Yeah,” Dimple said, ignoring Rishi’s very obvious don’t encourage him eyebrow raising combined with a head shake. “We have this talent show we’re doing next weekend, and we decided to do a dance routine with ‘Dil Na Diya.’”
“Hey, you guys need some help? I mean, I don’t want to brag, but I’m a really good dancer.” Ashish smiled again, that smarmy, full-toothed shark smile. “Ask Rishi; he knows.”
Dimple turned to him. “Seriously? That would be so awesome if—”
“No,” Rishi said. “We don’t want your help.” He looked at Dimple, half pleading, half annoyed. “Right? We can do this ourselves?”
She raised an eyebrow and pushed her glasses up on her nose. “We were lying in a tangled heap on the floor when Ashish walked in.” And then she felt her cheeks heat because she’d thought of just what they were doing in that tangled heap. Rishi knew because he’d automatically thought it too. And now he couldn’t stop staring at her . . . and she was staring at him, too.
Ashish cleared his throat loudly, shaking them both from their reverie. “Oh-kay. You guys seem a little . . . conflicted or something, so I’m going to go downstairs and return this.” He jangled the spare key. “See ya.” He stood and ambled out of the room.
Dimple watched him go. When the door had shut behind him, she turned to Rishi, her lips twitching. “That’s your brother?”
“Yeah.” Rishi sighed. “What? Why is your mouth all quivery?”