Chapter Fifty Nine - Mansi, Rohan, Manish and Pallavi

Even though what his friend said made perfect sense, Rohan could not shake off the feeling that it was tainted with how she felt about him.

He decided to play along for the time being because he was not capable of thinking for the moment. She told him to follow Mansi and see where she goes, what she does. How was that going to help, he did not know but he did not question her.
He got into his cab and was about to start the ignition when his friend opened the cab door and slid in the cab next to him. He started the ignition and drove out of the chawl.
He followed Mansi, maintaining distance between them. He watched her as she went in a restaurant. He watched as she walked out after a while and handed over a parcel to the boy standing outside. He realized she must have not eaten properly. He never liked that about people. He did not like when they did not pay attention to their dietary habits. He was tempted to climb out of the cab and make her eat some more.

He followed her as she got into a cab and even before she reached the destination he knew where she was going. She was going to Marine Drive, a place they had been to together. For some reason, it made him smile, he was happy to know that he was still a part of her life, in some way. He did not tell his friend about all this. He simply followed Mansi’s cab and stopped as she stepped out of the cab and sat on the bench nearby. He watched her as she called out to the guy selling tea. She was re-tracing the day they had spent together. He could not see the micro expressions of her face from the distance but he knew she was thinking about him; and, he knew she would then remember what had happened when they had returned to the chawl. He looked away.

‘What is she doing here?’ his friend asked.
‘I don’t know’ he said
‘Maybe she is here to meet someone’ his friend said as she continued watching Mansi. He did not respond and then suddenly his friend said in excited voice, “Quick, start the cab. She is leaving. We need to drive past her.”
Rohan did not question his friend, did not ask what she had in mind because he was exhausted. He wanted to go back home, he wanted to go back to his room and he wanted Mansi to be there. He wanted to rest his head in her lap and wanted her to run her fingers through his hair and tell him that everything was fine, everything was the way it was supposed to be.
He started the cab and drove in Mansi’s direction. They were almost near her when his friend moved closer to him and kissed him on the cheek. Rohan was too shocked to react immediately. He drove past Mansi and continued driving until they were out of sight.
“What was that?” he asked her as he stopped the cab on the side of the road.
“Please trust me” she said and Rohan closed his eyes. He did not want to hurt her feelings but he did not approve of what she had just done. His suspicion of the advice being tainted with her feelings grew stronger. But it was too late to walk away from it now.
“What is it that you want to prove here?” Rohan asked.
“I am just trying to make her realize what is slipping out of her hand. It is important that she sees you are not available for her to treat you the way she wants to.” His friend explained.
“And how is that going to help clear the misunderstanding?” Rohan asked. He had started to get annoyed.
“You will see” she replied and looked away. Rohan started the ignition and drove back to the chawl.

Mansi did not know exactly what she should have expected from Rohan but this, this had stumped her. She knew the woman and Rohan were friends. She knew that the woman had been there that night. Rohan had been talking to the woman about her. She knew that Rohan had a lot of affairs, that he brought women to his room. But, she was not mentally prepared to see what she had just seen.

She thought they were good friends, that’s all. She did not expect one of his women to be from the chawl. She had seen them together earlier, his body language when he was with that woman spoke something else than what she had seen in the cab.

When she had seen them, at the chawl, she had no doubt that they were talking about her. She had not expected them to get into the cab and drove to the exact spot where she had come to relax. She had not expected them to drive past her and she had definitely not expected the woman to kiss Rohan while he was driving.
She had stopped walking when she had seen the woman kissing Rohan, people honked and cars drove around her as she stood in the middle of the road for some time before stepping back on the pavement.

She stood motionless for a few minutes, unable to think. She did not need this, not right now when she was already depressed about the happenings in her life. It felt as if Rohan had ruined this place for her. The place where he was still a part of her life, in a good way. On one hand she thought that it had not taken much time for Rohan to bring another woman to this place and on the other hand she questioned herself as to what made her think that he had not brought any woman to this place before her?

It was weird Mansi knew, but deep down in her heart she was sure she was the only woman he had brought to this place. At least until now, she corrected herself. At least Rohan would not have to drug this woman to get what he wanted from her, Mansi thought bitterly.
Mansi hailed a cab to go back to the chawl. There was no other place to go to. She remembered Manish’s call and for a moment thought of calling him and asking if she could spend time with him but she changed her mind.

She closed her eyes and fell asleep. She woke up few minutes before reaching the chawl. The moment she reached the chawl she searched for Rohan’s cab. It was parked at its usual spot. She paid for the cab and got down. As she walked towards the stairs she saw the woman wrap her arm around Rohan and pull him inside her house.

Mansi felt sick. She climbed the stairs and went inside her room and closed the door behind her. The first day back at the chawl was just like she had expected it to be – disappointing. She had to admit that amidst all the mess, memories of the day she had spent with Rohan, no matter how it had turned out in the end, had made her smile. She hated to admit the reason for the same.
She picked up her mobile phone and called Manish.

Manish could not believe he had said what he had said. It was not part of his plan. The words had escaped his lips, surprising him too. He was still in Pallavi’s arms and on top of her; he could not see her face but he was sure she was smiling. He was in an awkward position now, he did not know how to face Pallavi. Should he prop himself up on his elbows and look into her eyes and repeat what he had just said? Or should he just roll over to his side of the bed and pretend to fall asleep?

Pallavi helped him with the situation.

‘I have to use the bathroom.’ She whispered and he rolled over to his side of the bed. She wrapped the bedsheets around her and got up from the bed and walked to the bathroom without making eye contact. Manish could not look at her either.

He wondered whether he had ruined the time he had been spending with her. How were they going to move past what he had said? Pallavi was no fool, Manish knew that she understood it was too early in the relationship for him to admit falling in love with her. He decided to wait and see how Pallavi reacted when she returned from the bathroom.

He picked up the phone from the nightstand and messaged Mansi asking her whether she was free to talk to him. Mansi replied that she was busy in office. He deleted the message thread and kept the mobile back on the nightstand.

Pallavi should have been happy to hear those words but she was disappointed. She was used to hearing those words from guys she had sex with; some told her they loved her and some called out their wife’s names as they climaxed.

Manish was still on top of her and she could feel his body tense. She was too observant to miss such important body reaction. Even without seeing his face she knew he was wondering how to come out of the awkward position he had put himself in. She had decided to help him with the situation. Asking to be excused to use the bathroom, she had climbed out of bed.

Now, as she stood in front of the mirror over the washbasin, she went back to the moment. She ran the tap water as if it was going to silence the echo of the words Manish had whispered to her.
She closed her eyes and visualised a different scenario. The scenario in which they were really in love with each other and he repeatedly told her that he loved her as he moved in and out of her and not only when he climaxed. She visualised him looking into her eyes and kissing her on the lips and repeating the words and she heard herself saying ‘I love you, too’; she realized later that she had said it out loud. She bent over the basin and splashed water on her face.
‘I love you’ she repeated and started crying.

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