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“And you think it’s crazy,” he said.

“Uh-huh.” Celia chewed the giant piece of pizza she’d bitten off before speaking. “I also think it’s romantic.” She grinned. “A predestined romance.”

Rishi smiled. Maybe this girl wasn’t a serial killer after all. “Sort of. But arranged marriages are more about practicalities than romance. Compatibility, a long-term partnership. That sort of thing.”

Beside him Dimple snorted. He turned to her. “I’m guessing you don’t agree.”

“Compatibility may be what it’s ostensibly about,” Dimple responded, pushing her glasses up on her nose. “But it’s really just a way for our parents to control us. I mean, that’s even how the institution of marriage was born. So fathers could form alliances and use their children—especially their daughters—as pawns in their battle for power.” She ripped off a piece of pizza and chewed angrily.

Jeez, did she ever relax? “Well, since our parents aren’t rajas and ranis, I don’t think that’s what it’s about.”

Celia laughed. “‘Raja’—that’s king , right?”

“Right.” Rishi smiled. “And ‘rani’ is queen .”

“So you’re bilingual?” Celia asked.

Rishi nodded. “Yeah, I learned Hindi first, before English. My parents were really adamant about that. They’re technically from Gujarat, but they’re third generation Mumbaiites, so they speak Hindi. Mumbai is, like, this huge melting pot of people from other Indian states, so apparently everyone speaks this special version of what my parents call ‘Bombay Hindi.’” His eyes were far off and he had this small smile on his lips. It was obvious he loved talking about this stuff.

“That’s so cool,” Celia said. “I wish I knew more than, like, five words of Spanish. Have you ever been to Mumbai?”

“Are you really interested in web development, or are you just here for this?” Dimple interjected, gesturing between herself and him. If Rishi didn’t know better, he’d say she was irritated at how he and Celia were hitting it off. Jealousy? he wondered hopefully. But he had to be practical—she likely had just wanted to have an impassioned discussion about the evils of arranged marriages and controlling parents and was disappointed it wasn’t coming to fruition.

Rishi shrugged and ate another bite of pizza. “Both. I mean, I’m starting at MIT in the fall for computer science and engineering, so this is a good thing to have on my CV .”

“But web development isn’t your passion.” Dimple’s eyes narrowed. “It’s not your dream.”

“No,” Rishi said slowly. “I guess not.”

“You spent a thousand dollars on something that you’re not passionate about?” She stared at him, seemingly dumbfounded.

“So he wants to expand his horizons; don’t be so judgy,” Celia said.

“Whatever. You just better not be my partner,” Dimple muttered, turning back to her pizza.

“Believe me, that sounds totally fine to me,” Rishi said. He felt the stirrings of irritation. Why did she have to be so . . . intense? What did it matter to her whether or not he wanted to marry web development and have its babies? “You know, I think I’m going to head back to my dorm,” he said, wiping his hands on his napkin. “I need to unpack and all that.”

“Aw, are you sure?” Celia said, and he got the feeling she genuinely liked his company.

“Yeah.” He smiled. “But I’ll see you both tomorrow in class.”

The silence was heavy while Rishi stood and left a hefty tip on the table so they wouldn’t have to. He knew they were just waiting for him to leave so they could talk about him. Sighing, he headed to the door and stepped out into the afternoon sunshine.

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