Celia cocked her head. “Why? Because you’ve become incapable of responding to my questions in more than little nubs of sentences. And where? To the Last Hoorah party.”
Dimple groaned and burrowed back into the covers. “No.”
There was silence for a moment, and she thought Celia was mad. But then her friend spoke in a quieter voice. “Is this about having lost Insomnia Con? Or something else?”
Dimple’s heart began to thud. “Like what?” she said after a pause, her eyes wide under the covers in the dark.
“I’ve noticed you haven’t been speaking to Rishi. Or about him. He’s noticed too, you know.” She said it without judgment, but Dimple’s chest constricted with that familiar guilt.
“Has he . . . what has he said?”
“He just wants to know what’s going on. He’s such a good guy, Dimple. He really cares about you. No, scratch that. He really loves you.”
Dimple took the covers off her face and looked at Celia. “I know he does.” And it was true; she did. The thing was just . . . she’d met him too early in her life. That was the cruelest of things. It wasn’t that Rishi was wrong for her. It was that he was too right.
Celia looked at her for a long moment and then nodded. “If you’re going to break his heart, do it now. Don’t stretch it out. It’s not fair to him.”
Dimple sighed. “I don’t know what I’m going to do yet.” Although that wasn’t quite true. She was pretty sure. She just didn’t have the courage and energy to admit it to herself yet.
Celia stood. “Well, I do,” she said. “You’re coming to the party with us.” She shrugged when Dimple made a face. “You may as well face him. Maybe it’ll help you make up your mind, move on from this weird limbo you’re in.”
Rishi hung up the phone and paced the floor, his heart jittering in his chest. He ran a hand through his hair and grinned. “Oh my gods.”
Ashish looked up from where he was reading one of Rishi’s old issues of Platinum Panic . “What?”
“Do you know who that was?” Rishi felt like his face was going to split in two, he was grinning so hard.
Ashish put the comic down and sat up slowly. “No . . . who?”
Dimple walked into the main lobby of the Spurlock building with Celia. It had been decorated for the Last Hoorah with balloons and confetti, and a local restaurant was even catering a big buffet. People were already lining up for the free food, piling their plates high. No one seemed especially sad to have lost, except maybe José Alvarez. He sat with his partner, Tim Wheaton, both of their shoulders hunched, their faces slack and lifeless. Dimple felt a twinge of sympathy. If the pain weren’t so raw, she’d go over there to commiserate.
She scanned the room, her stomach lurching. Where was Rishi? He’d texted her to meet up with him here, which actually worked out well. It would be like a Band-Aid, she thought. Just rip it off.
“Where is he?” she asked Celia, tapping her sweaty hand against her thigh. She hadn’t explicitly told Celia what she was going to do, but she thought maybe her friend had guessed. How could she not? Dimple shut down every time Celia said Rishi’s name. It was easier that way, less painful.
Then she saw them, Ashish and Rishi, pushing through the clusters of students. There was a barely suppressed, excited energy about them as they walked, both of them bounding on the balls of their feet. Ashish’s eyes were on Celia, though they kept darting to Dimple. Rishi looked straight at her.
Her stomach lurched again. Dimple felt another major prickle of misgivings. Was she really going to do this? When just looking at him made her feel like this? This rush of love and companionship and friendship and happiness? Was she just going to extinguish it all because of timing?
But she knew the answer. Yes, she would. Yes, because this was not the plan. Yes, because the last thing she wanted was to break it off five years down the road, when the two of them would be in so much deeper, it’d be like cutting off a limb. It would be painful now, but nothing compared to what it could be like. So the answer was yes.
Ashish pulled Celia close and kissed her, and Rishi stood in front of Dimple. Somehow, he instinctively knew not to pull her into his arms. Had he guessed? She took a deep breath, and said, “I have to talk to you” at the same time that he said, “Come with me.”