Chapter Fifty Three - Pallavi and Manish

Pallavi woke up the next morning to the smell of breakfast wafting from the kitchen. She slid out of the bed and walked out of the bedroom. Manish was in the kitchen making breakfast. Pallavi stood a few steps away from the kitchen door, careful not to be spotted staring at Manish. She watched him as he made pancakes. Placing the cooked pancakes in the plate and then pouring the batter on the pan; she watched as he flipped the pancake and waited. 
She was so engrossed staring at him, at the muscles of his bare back that she almost jumped out of her skin when Manish turned around. 

“Good Morning” Manish said and smiled, aware that Pallavi was staring at his bare chest. He placed the plates on the dining table and put on his shirt, leaving the buttons open. 
“I was planning on breakfast in bed. Hope you are hungry” Manish said and took his seat at the dining table. He waited for Pallavi to join him at the dining table but Pallavi did not move. Suddenly, she was conscious of the fact that she was wearing clothes that did not fit her properly and that she was not wearing a bra beneath the satin night-suit. 

“I need to brush my teeth” Pallavi said and excused herself. 
Back in the bedroom, she quickly changed into her own clothes and then brushed her teeth using her finger since she did not have a brush. Using Manish’s toothbrush somehow felt too intimate. 
She could not stop herself from thinking about the perfect way in which the day had started. In her teens, she had always dreamt about this kind of set up. Waking up in a cosy bed, smelling breakfast and watching her husband as he worked in the kitchen. In her fantasy, she always kissed her husband who then picked her up in his arms and took her to the bedroom where they made love. The thought of it filled her heart with joy. And, just like that the jealousy for Mansi was back. She could have had the opportunity of making her dream come true; had it not been for Mansi, had Manish not set his eyes on Mansi before stepping into her life. Maybe then she could have had a chance at a normal life. 

“Are you alright?” Manish asked as he watched Pallavi with concern. She had a dreamy look on her face and was standing motionless in front of the bathroom mirror. 
I am not fine; how can I be? Pallavi wanted to say but she nodded instead.
“I am waiting for you at the table.” Manish said and left her alone in the bedroom. Pallavi took a deep breath and walked out of the bedroom and joined Manish at the table. 
They finished their breakfast in silence. Perhaps, each wondering what to say. 
Finally, Manish broke the silence, “So, what do you want to do today?” 

She never thought Manish would want to spend more time with her. Considering that he had the opportunity but had not slid in bed next to her the previous night. Being alone with her in the house, being aware that she was willing to offer herself, Manish had not shown any interest in her. Hence, his words surprised her.
“That is, if you are willing to spend more time with me.” Manish said.
“I would love to spend the day with you; I am willing to pay you for it.” Manish added and immediately realized that it did not come out right. 

Pallavi started to say something but before she could Manish apologized for what he had said. He did not mean it that way, he told her and she believed.
She was aware that their time together was soon coming to an end. She had told Mansi that she would be away only for the weekend and would do Mansi’s night shift for her if she did her morning shift. 

It felt weird, staying in the flat opposite to her own; hiding from Mansi while Mansi thought that she was at her home with her family. 
While she had breakfast with Manish, Mansi was perhaps getting ready to go to the office. She did not even know the bus route yet, hope her ankle had healed, despite her previous jealous thoughts Pallavi found herself worrying about Mansi. 

“I need to make a call” she said and suddenly got up from the table. She walked to the bedroom and took out her mobile from her purse. The phone battery was about to die. She scrolled through the contacts and called Mansi. It took a while for Mansi to attend the call.
“Hi” Pallavi said.
“Hi” Mansi replied, Pallavi noticed the disappointment in Mansi’s tone; Mansi was perhaps expecting Manish’s call or maybe she was imagining it.
“Hello, are you there?” Mansi’s voice brought her out of her reverie.

“Yes. Network problem.” She lied. She asked Mansi about her ankle and asked her to take a cab to the office and told her that she was having fun. That was true, she was having fun; just not with her family. I will be back soon she promised Mansi. 
After disconnecting the call, she realized she had been wearing the same set of clothes since the night at the party and she desperately needed change of clothes. She decided to sneak into the house after Mansi left for office and put on fresh pair of undergarments and put on a dress that would impress Manish. She was deep in her thoughts and did not realize that Manish was staring at her, standing just outside the bedroom door. He had obviously overheard her conversation with Mansi.

“What have you decided about today?” Manish asked, his disappointment evident in his voice. He hated to admit but he kind of liked Pallavi’s presence in the house. He had cooked after a really long time and that meant something to him. Deep down he wanted to do it again. He wanted to pamper Pallavi. He wanted to spend more time with her but here she was, already making plans to leave. 

“What’s wrong?” Pallavi said and it was only then Manish realized she had been speaking to him.
“I am sorry, I was just thinking…” Manish said stepping inside the bedroom and the way Manish looked at her, Pallavi’s heart skipped a beat.
“Do you really want to leave so soon?” He asked, admitting to the fact that he had overheard the conversation. “Can’t you stay longer?” He added.

Pallavi felt butterflies fluttering in her stomach. It meant a lot for her that Manish wanted to spend more time with her. She considered what she should do. Should she call Mansi and tell her that she wanted to spend more time with her family and would be gone for a few more days? How long would Manish want to stay with her? How long would she be able to stay hidden from Mansi? And, yet again, she was irked by the thought that she had to even consider hiding from Mansi, she was frustrated that she could not stay in her own house and meet with Manish openly without fearing being caught. 

The chaos in her mind was too much. She was so lost in her own mind that she did not realize Manish had sat next to her on the bed. Only after he kissed her neck did she notice his presence. She closed her eyes. The kiss seemed to reduce the chaos in her mind. The kiss told her that it was okay. It did not matter that she had to do what she had to as long as she got to spend more time with Manish. When she opened her eyes she saw that Manish was looking at her, waiting for her permission, his face inches away from hers. 

Her lips parted as Manish ran his fingers through her hair and that was all he needed to know that she had given him the permission. He kissed her gently at first, keeping his emotions in check. He felt her lips with his tongue, felt her body react in anticipation. He slid his tongue inside her mouth and deepened the kiss. She kissed him back, her fingers pulling at his hair, pulling him closer towards her. 
She fell back on the bed and Manish fell along with her, on top of her. They continued kissing, Manish’s hand now reaching for Pallavi’s waist. 

He stopped all of a sudden and straightened up. Pallavi closed her eyes and concentrated on her heartbeat, which she could feel in her throat. What was he thinking, she wondered! Why did he stop? She asked herself. She felt his weight being lifted off from the bed. He was no longer sitting next to her. Something had made him stop. Was he thinking about Mansi? 
She opened her eyes and saw Manish in the bathroom and a while later she heard the tub being filled with water. She watched as Manish took off his shirt and then stepped out of his jeans. She watched as he stood in front of her in his briefs.

“Let’s take a bath together.” Manish said and Pallavi could not stop smiling. Having sex was one thing while taking a bath together was something completely different. It felt intimate. She stood up and started to unbutton her shirt. Manish had disappeared inside the bathroom again. She stepped out of her clothes and stepped inside the bathroom. Manish was already sitting in the tub. Shame, she thought. He got to see her, she did not. She stepped into the tub holding Manish’s hand and sat facing him. 

She did not know what to do or what to expect. She had never bathed with a man before. As if reaching into her mind again, Manish pulled her towards him and kissed her gently on the lips. Then, he scrubbed her body. Apart from feeling aroused as Manish’s hands moved gently over her body, she felt like crying. She did not want to cry, not now but it was getting too much to bear. She had never felt like this before; such intimate moments were not even a part of her dreams. What Manish was now offering to her was way too much than what she had expected from him. She tried her best to concentrate on the way her body felt but finally she lost control. Manish was scrubbing her back when her body shuddered as she started to cry. 

Not realizing what wrong he had done, Manish stopped what he was doing and waited for Pallavi to turn towards him. When she did not he held her chin and made her look at him.
“What’s wrong?” He asked, concern evident in his voice. 
Pallavi shook her head. “Nothing, I am sorry.” She said
“It’s just that …” she stopped mid-sentence. How was she going to tell him that no one had ever treated her the way he did now? 

When he kissed her forehead, she knew she did not have to tell him anything, he understood. She took the loofah from Manish’s hand and began to scrub his body. He closed his eyes and let her scrub him. When he could not take it any longer he pushed inside of Pallavi and came too soon for his liking. This time he thanked Pallavi for the experience and kissed her. 
They stepped out of the tub and showered together, their bodies building up for yet another experience. They kissed as they dried each another’s body and as they stepped out of the bathroom and jumped into the bed. 

They made love again. When Manish fell asleep after love-making, Pallavi put on Manish’s shirt and picking her clothes and her mobile she stepped out of the bedroom. She opened the main door of the apartment and peeked outside, when she was sure no one was around, she tiptoed out and opened her apartment door with her key. As she had expected Mansi had already left for work. 

She put on fresh set of undergarments and searched her wardrobe for a dress. Finally, she settled on a pair of jeans and a tank top. She took out some cash from the locker and stepped out of the house, almost forgetting Manish’s shirt in the bedroom. She went back in and picked up the shirt; tying it around her waist, she stepped out of her apartment and closed the door behind her. She had kept the door to Manish’s apartment open so that she could sneak back in. 
When she entered the house she was surprised to see Manish dressed and sitting in the living room. He smiled as he saw her. 

“I thought you left!” he said standing up and walking towards her. And then, he kissed her on the mouth, the kiss explaining how sad he had felt when he had thought that she had left without saying goodbye. 
“I needed fresh set of clothes” she said as they stopped kissing. He smiled. 
“So, what do you want to do today?” she asked him. A question he had asked her earlier in the day when things were different than what they were now. The bath they had together had not only cleaned her body; it had cleaned her mind – of the doubts she had, of the jealousy she felt for Mansi. All the negative thoughts were now out of her mind; Mansi did not matter anymore. She had decided that she would not let Mansi decide how she felt about Manish or what she did with her life. She now knew that she loved Manish and no one, not even Mansi was going to change that. 
“I want to stay at home and cook for you.” Manish said and kissed Pallavi on the lips again. Pallavi smiled. 

“Let’s cook then.” She said as she untied Manish’s shirt from her waist and tied her hair in a bun.
“I need to go grocery shopping first.” Manish said, “This house is not equipped with stuff needed for a proper lunch.” He added. He was telling the truth. He never had to cook before. He always ordered from outside if not that he ate frozen canned food after heating it in oven. 
Today, he was going to cook for Pallavi. He loved cooking, he had almost forgotten that. Pallavi woke up that part of him and he felt weirdly happy about it. 

All he wanted to do today was kiss Pallavi, cook for her and make love to her. This woman had cast a magic spell on him. He tried to think when he had showered with a woman before – never he realized. 
“Hello! Earth to Manish” Pallavi teased and Manish smiled.
“Manish to Earth” he said and kissed Pallavi again. 
“Be right back” he said as he put on his shoes and stepped out of the apartment. 

Pallavi could not stop smiling. She took off the tank top and her bra and put on Manish’s shirt back again; leaving the top two buttons open. She wrapped her arms around herself. Wearing Manish’s shirt felt good. She took out her mobile from her jeans pocket and redialled the last dialled number. 

“Hi again!” Mansi spoke from the other end. 
“Hi. I am sorry.” Pallavi said and waited for a minute before continuing. 
“I will be staying here for another day or two.” She said. 
“Oh okay.” Mansi replied
“And…” Pallavi hesitated for a moment
“What’s wrong?” Mansi asked, concerned. 
“My family would be with me when I return and would be staying with me for a few days.” Pallavi lied but she was smiling as she said it because she visualised Manish and her in her bed, together – making love. 
“Oh” Mansi said realizing what it meant. 
“I will pack my stuff and move back to the chawl when you return.” Mansi said.
“Thanks” Pallavi said. “I have to go now” she added before disconnecting the call. 
She felt a strange relief after the conversation she just had. 

Chapter Fifty Four - Manish, Pallavi and Mansi

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