Chapter Fifty Seven - Mansi and Rohan

Coming to office was a mistake and talking to her father was a bigger one. Nothing about the day was good so far. The headache was back. It had become a regular thing now. She tried to work ignoring the headache but she could not put a stop to the chaos in her mind. Finally, she got up and walked to the coffee machine. She did not like this coffee but it was better than not having one.

She knew her father was monitoring her movements from his cabin. The conversation she just had with him had left him feeling guilty. She had tried her best to convince him that there was no need to feel guilty but she knew it won’t stop him from feeling so.

The conversation with Pallavi had greatly disappointed her. Pallavi was the only real friend she had in this city but now things had changed irreversibly between them. Going to Pallavi’s apartment had been a mistake, she now realized. She should have stayed back and face Rohan instead. Perhaps it was coming too close to each other that had pushed them apart. Mansi’s involvement in every minute of Pallavi’s life had suffocated her. She had to maintain some distance from Pallavi, at least for a few days, Mansi made up her mind.

Rohan - she had not really thought about him for a long time. She’d gotten too occupied with her increasing interest in Manish. Her introduction to Rohan had not been really great but as she had spent time with him and gotten to know him she realized he was a good man. He might have been a womaniser but he had treated her with respect during the time he had been with her. In the end, however, he had ruined her trust in him but taking undue advantage of her by drugging her. He was what he was. Had it not been for that single incident she had started liking Rohan. A lot. Maybe that’s why the betrayal hurt her more.

She did not know what she was doing with Manish. He seemed to be, what Pallavi might say, her rebound guy. Pallavi had asked her to stay away from him; and that is exactly what had piqued her interest. It was not as if she was in love with Manish.
Manish had shown interest in her and then had suddenly become too busy to care or respond. Maybe she was reading too much into it. He was busy, he had made it clear to her. Mansi knew he would not get in touch with her soon, it would leave her alone with her thoughts. She wanted to run away from the chaos of her mind. Do something that would put a stop to the thought-process and that is why she had thought about this idea of staying with her father. 

After her short conversation with Manish she had gone to her father’s cabin and asked him whether she could come and stay with him for a few days. She said she wanted to get to know him better. It was true – well, in a way.
Unfortunately, her father had said it was not possible since his son was visiting him for a couple of weeks and his son was unaware of her existence. At that point, Mansi had been tempted to scream her lungs out and pull her hair but she had stayed calm for her father and said it was okay and that she understood. Yes, she understood. She did not want to say the word but she knew exactly what she was. After a while she had excused herself and walked back to her desk. She picked up her mobile and switched it off, after throwing it in her duffle-bag she had gotten up to get a cup of coffee for herself.

Right now, all she wanted to do was get out of the office, rush back home and take some rest. The problem was she did not have a ‘home’ to go to. There was a place she did not want to go to and there was a place where she was not wanted. When she had stepped out of the chawl she had promised herself that she will find a way to stay away from the chawl; she will find a better place to live. But she had failed. And now, there was nowhere to go but to return to chawl as a loser. She hated the idea of having to face Rohan. 

She grew tired of pretending to work. She made up her mind and told her father that she was leaving. She had to. Before leaving, however, she asked her father if he could give her a loan, an amount she would need for a newer and better accommodation. Her father had disappointed her again saying that he could not afford giving her the money right now because his son was monitoring the expenses. In fact, he had returned to take care of the affairs. There were chances the office might be closed down and he would have to move abroad with his son. She did not need this. There were already a lot of things on her mind, she did not need the tension of having to find a new job. She did not want to think about it. She decided to put it on the back-burner; hoping that it would not burn her down eventually. She told her father that she understood and left his cabin. Picking up her duffle-bag she walked out of the office. She bought a newspaper to go through the advertisements page and started looking for ads of paying guests. That should do for now, she thought. She was sitting at the bus-stop, not really reading the newspaper spread on her lap, that’s when she saw him. His cab had slowed down at the signal. Her thoughts went back to the day when she had last seen him. It seemed as if it was ages ago and looking at him now, it seemed as if he had aged a lot. He looked tired. Perhaps he still had the fever or maybe one of his women had taken care of him, the venomous thought returned. She was about to look away when he looked in her direction. His instant reaction was happiness. He was happy to see her and she would have returned his smile had his expression not changed all of a sudden. He seemed hurt, genuinely hurt about something. She was puzzled, what was he hurt about? Had he not been the one to hurt her? The signal turned green and he drove away. Just like that. Without turning to look at her for the second time. 

She felt disappointed. Despite everything, she had still hoped that he would offer her a ride. And, she would have gone had he offered. That’s what had taken her by surprise. Her own reaction on seeing him. She felt happy. It felt as if she had found a lost piece of herself when she had seen him. The desperate situation of the moment had taken a back-seat. Why was she so hopelessly in love with this man? She closed her eyes. When she opened them, she felt dizzy; it was then she realized she had not eaten a proper meal. She decided to take a cab. She hailed a cab and got into it. She hoped to see Rohan again at the next signal but she did not. He had vanished in the same way he had appeared in front of her. 

When she reached the chawl, she took a deep breath before stepping out of the cab. She looked around – his cab was not in the parking space where he usually parked his cab. As she started walking towards the stairs she saw someone watching her. His best friend from that night was staring at her – not caring to hide her anger and disappointment seeing Mansi around. She maintained eye contact with the woman until she reached the stairs and then ran up to her room. She entered the room and closed the door behind her. Her vision burred because of the assault of the memories. The laughter echoed in her ears. She could see Rohan and his friends looking towards the cab and laughing at her. 

She looked around her room. This place had given her shelter when she had been in real need of a place to stay. She should have not left. She tidied the room and rested. 
She was awakened by noises. She sat up straight in bed and tried to listen. Was Rohan home and was he with one of his women? There was silence. She had dreamed about it. 

She realized she had slept for a long time. There was no way to fix a meal. She decided to go out and eat and get groceries on her way back. When she stepped out, she involuntarily looked towards the specific spot and found his cab parked there. On the way down, she saw him talking to the woman who had glared at her earlier. They both looked towards her as she climbed down the stairs and then turned their heads to continue with their conversation. 
She walked straight, pretending to be not affected by what had just happened but it had affected her. 

Seeing Mansi at the bus-stop was a pleasant surprise. It had made his day. He could not stop smiling. When he had seen her, his instant reaction was to smile at her and then he remembered the way she had treated him before she left the chawl. She had walked right past his room without a second glance. She had left him alone when he really needed someone. She could not stay with him, even as a friend and he was ready to spend his entire life taking care of her and help her deal with whatever nightmares of her past that she was dealing with. She did not even care to tell him what he had done wrong. He had already spent a lot of time thinking about her. 

He was not sure but he thought maybe she was about to return his smile. She did not, in the end. She stood frozen, her face expressionless. If she would have gotten into his cab, he would have driven her to the chawl but he did not ask her to get in. He did not want to, not after what had happened the last time she was in his cab. She had turned from being a friend to a complete stranger in just a few minutes. His friend had fallen asleep in his cab and a total stranger had woken up. She had not even allowed him to hold her as she had felt dizzy; as if his touch would harm her. 

It took a moment to register but it did. He stopped his cab at the side of the road and thought about what had happened that night. Was it possible that she thought he had taken advantage of her? Was this the reason why she behaved the way she did? Did she hate him for what he had not done? These were the questions he did not have definite answer for, these questions made no sense at all. Maybe, they did to her. Maybe, that’s what had really happened. He had to clear this. He decided to put his cab in half-meter and go back to the chawl but then he changed his mind. After finishing a shift, he drove back to the chawl. 

He was not prepared yet for getting burned again. He would not talk to her until he was sure of the conversation he was about to have with her. He knocked on the door and waited. His friend opened the door and stepped out.
“I need to ask you something” he said and told her what he had been thinking. 
“Is it possible that she thinks I did something to her that night?” he desperately wanted an answer for his question. He knew his friend was not the right woman to give an answer; only Mansi had the right answer to this question but he needed a second opinion and a woman’s perspective. 

“If she thinks you did something to her it means she does not trust you enough.” Her friend told him. She was right but the misunderstandings had to be cleared. 
“Should I talk to her?” He asked.
They both turned their heads as they saw Mansi climbing down the stairs. It ached to know that Mansi must have gotten the wrong impression that he had misbehaved with her. He wanted to run to her and clear the misunderstanding. 
“Listen to me” his friend said and he turned back to listen to what his friend was saying. 

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