Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating(8)

“Can’t you marry him and finish off the year?” I ask. “I mean, it’s just a wedding—”

“I can’t.” Nik’s voice is stone. “You wouldn’t understand. You’ve never …” She shakes her head, like even trying to explain is beyond her. “I should go. Rakesh got us a hotel room in town—”

“He’s here?”

“Yeah … I thought I would introduce him, you know. But … maybe not. I don’t know. I have to think about it. Can you …” She finally turns to me, her eyes wide and pleading. It’s an expression I’ve never seen on my sister before. “Try to persuade them that I’m doing the right thing?”

How can I when I know she’s definitely doing the wrong thing? But how can I deny her when she’s just been crying?

“Sure, I’ll try,” I promise half-heartedly.

It’s enough for Nik, because she actually smiles. “Thanks, Ishu.”

I keep my door slightly ajar that evening, listening to the sound of Ammu and Abbu discussing the events that unfolded earlier today. They’re always so sure that I’m busy with my studies, so used to my quiet self, that they would never imagine I could be listening, or even paying attention.

“We have to find some way to get her back to university,” Ammu says, like it’s her decision and not Nik’s. I’m sure my parents could find a way to convince Nik to go back. They’re pretty persuasive.

“I’ll talk to her. One-to-one. She’s young. She’s just caught up with this idea of being in love.” Abbu sounds convinced. “It’ll be okay.”

“What if it isn’t?” Ammu’s voice sounds desperate. “What are you going to do if you can’t convince her? We’ve spent our entire life trying to make those two into human beings, and now—”

“Nik will go back to university and finish her degree and become a doctor.” Abbu’s voice carries a tone of finality that makes me wonder who he’s trying to convince. “And … Ishu … she’s doing fine. She’s on the right path, right?”

I sit up, nearly dropping the maths book I was pretending to study.

“We thought Nik was on the right path too.” Ammu sighs, like Nik’s decision to take a year away from university is somehow contagious. “Nik was always so … on track. I don’t understand what could have happened.”

“I’m going to call her and figure things …” I close the door to my room softly as Ammu and Abbu continue trying to solve the Nik problem.

Setting my book down on the desk, I slump down in my seat, not sure what to think. I always thought that if I kept my head down and studied and did my best and went to the best university I could also study medicine, and Abbu and Ammu would be proud of me. This is what we’ve been working for my whole life. Not just me, but them too. They moved us here, to this country, to have a better life. To have a shot at all of the things that they didn’t have a shot at.

Now, just because Nik is a screw up, that suddenly means that I might be too? My parents have always seen us as a unit, though Nik and I have little in common. Now I realize that they had just two shots at getting it exactly right, and since Nik is screwing up her shot, I have to show them that I’m willing to do whatever it takes.

I just have to figure out a way to prove it.

chapter five


I DON’T KNOW WHY, BUT ISHITA AND HER PUCKERED-UP angry face follow me all the way to the cinema. If Aisling and Dee find it strange that I hardly say a word on the bus, they don’t say anything. They’re too busy exchanging glances and giggling together. This is usually how things go when I’m the fifth wheel at their dates.

When we get to the cinema we’re greeted by Aisling and Dee’s boyfriends—Aisling’s Barry and Dee’s Colm. And there’s a third boy there too. A boy I’ve never met before.

“This is Fionn.” Barry introduces him with a grin. From the way Dee and Aisling glance at me with bright eyes and smug smiles, I know this is some sort of a set up. I groan inwardly, even while putting on a smile outwardly.

“Hey, Fionn.”

Fionn has dirty blonde hair, pale white skin, and electric blue eyes, and even though he’s half a head taller than me, he slouches in a way that makes him look much shorter.

He’s definitely not my type.

I know it even more when Aisling and Dee pair off with their significant others and I’m left to shuffle next to Fionn, who mumbles things about school and exams and how his favorite film is Midnight In Paris because Woody Allen is a genius director. I have to physically stop myself from both rolling my eyes back into my head and running away from the movie theater. Instead, I clamp my hands together and say, “Wow, interesting,” like I’m really interested in hearing about films by pedophile directors.

I keep looking over at Aisling and Dee during the film, trying to catch one of their eyes to say, Get me out of here please! but they’re too busy sucking faces with their boyfriends to notice. At one point, Fionn even tries to slip his fingers into mine. That’s the point where I leap up, announce “bathroom” under my breath, and rush out.

“Well? What did you think of Fionn?” Aisling asks after the film is over and I’ve told them—insisted—that I need to get home. Thankfully, they didn’t let me go off on my own, even though I know they’d rather spend more time shifting their boyfriends. It’s a cool and clear night, so the walk to the bus stop is actually pleasant—except for all the talk of Fionn.

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