Chapter Forty One - Mansi

Mansi sat next to Pallavi, holding her hand while Pallavi drifted into peaceful sleep. 
Pallavi wanted Mansi to believe that everything was fine but Mansi knew it was otherwise. She had seen Pallavi sad a couple of times but this was worse. She had seen Pallavi so vulnerable just once and that was when Pallavi had cried for her. This was different. Mansi wondered what it was that bothered her. She’d seen the tear that had trickled down from Pallavi’s eye. If Pallavi wanted to believe Mansi did not notice she was going to pretend to not having noticed; until Pallavi told her on own what was wrong.

Pallavi shifted in bed and Mansi let go of her hand. She picked up her mobile and the walking stick and found her way out to the living room. She called the office to inform one of the colleagues that Pallavi would not be coming to the office only to be informed that Pallavi had called in sick already. Mansi disconnected the call and opened text messages app. She typed a message and hit send. A moment later she wondered why she had done it; why she had texted Manish that Pallavi was at home sick and that she was worried about her. This was new for her, to confide in someone, to share minute details – even the ones that did not really matter. 

Almost immediately her mobile beeped, she checked the inbox – the text was from Manish asking her what she planned to do about lunch. Mansi shifted her weight on the other leg and realized she was still standing. The pain was back but she did not want to take any more painkillers, not after what had happened before. She walked to the kitchen and saw that Pallavi had made breakfast. There was a post-it note on the refrigerator. “Will send lunch from office.” That seemed impossible now. Mansi rummaged through the cabinets and refrigerator trying to figure out what she could cook for lunch without having to stand for a long time. She was still trying to figure out when her mobile rang. The display showed Manish Kumar. Mansi attended the call somewhat surprised.

“I was waiting for your reply” Manish said the moment Mansi answered the call.
“I am sorry…” why was she apologizing to Manish? She wondered. 
“What are you going to do about lunch, now that your friend who was supposed to be taking care of you is sick herself?” Manish asked. He had obviously not heard Mansi’s sorry; that was good, less embarrassing, Mansi thought.
Also, she did not like the tone he used while commenting on Pallavi being sick. As if reading her mind Manish apologized, “I am sorry, I did not mean to sound rude. I don’t know what happened to me. It’s just that I wanted to take care of you and you said you were already being taken care of and now your friend is sick.”

Mansi did not know how to react. Should she be glad that Manish cared so much or should she be worried that he did?
“I hope you are not planning to cook, standing on that injured foot of yours?” Manish asked suddenly realizing that Mansi had grown silent. 
“I do understand that you are strong enough and you can take care of yourself but I do not want you to hurt your ankle anymore; you do realize my first day in office depends on your health, right?” Manish continued, trying to mask his concern for Mansi with his selfishness. It was new, even for him – to care for someone like this. 
“We will order something from outside.” Mansi replied.

“I have no work in the office today, I was anyways planning on leaving. I will be there by lunch time; I will bring food on my way home.” Manish said and before Mansi could refuse he disconnected the call.
Mansi stared at her mobile phone. What had just happened? Why was he bringing food for her? Mansi kept the mobile on the kitchen platform and hopped towards the dining table to eat breakfast only to realize that she had not brushed her teeth yet. She sighed. Going back to the bathroom, brushing teeth and coming back for breakfast seemed like a long journey.
She opened the casserole, took the sandwiches in the dish and walked back to the bedroom. Pallavi was still asleep. She looked so peaceful. Whatever was bothering Pallavi had now taken a backseat! Mansi wondered yet again what it must be. 

As Mansi brushed her teeth she remembered Pallavi had mentioned her family. Was something wrong with them? How was she going to question Pallavi about it? Pallavi never talked much about her family – just that she had left home to explore life and the deposit for the flat she was living in was paid by her father who wanted his daughter to have a comfortable life. Pallavi had told her that her father sent her money every month – the kind of money that paid the rent and allowed her decent lifestyle. Why was she still working in the office? Well, just because she wanted experience. 

Pallavi had told her that once Mansi left office she would leave too and travel to different places, experience new things. Pallavi was never the ambitious kind. Mansi often told her to pursue further education, take up some online course but Pallavi did not want to. It was too late Pallavi often said and when Mansi pointed out that it was never too late, Pallavi finally said, “There’s no need; I am happy with what I am and what I have; in addition to that I have a rich father.”
Even though Mansi did not agree with the attitude she did not say anything further. She suspected that if she did, it would distance Pallavi from her.

Mansi rinsed her mouth and wiped her face with a face towel. She considered picking up Pallavi’s mobile phone and checking the recent call list or recent text messages but decided against it. She would ask Pallavi once she woke up, Mansi thought. Or maybe not, she should wait for Pallavi to start the conversation, Mansi debated with herself.
She sat on the bed next to Pallavi and ate her sandwich, then she rested her head against the backrest and closed her eyes. She fell asleep. She woke up with a jolt when her mobile rang. The display showed Manish Kumar. The man had begun to get on her nerves. She felt claustrophobic. She was not used to being in touch with someone like this. It seemed as if he was invading her private space. 
“Hello” she said as she reluctantly answered the call.

“I am standing outside the door. Did not want to ring the doorbell and wake up your friend, just in case she is too sick and still sleeping.” Manish said.
Mansi looked at Pallavi who was still resting. She walked cautiously towards the main door and let Manish inside. He removed his shoes and found his way to the kitchen instructing Mansi to go back to the bedroom. She followed orders. 

A moment later Manish entered the bedroom with two plated filled with food. 
“How is she?” Manish asked looking at Pallavi.
“Hopefully better.” Mansi replied, turning her concerned face towards Pallavi. Should she be worried? Pallavi had been sleeping for a long time. Maybe it was good for her to rest or maybe she was sicker than before.

“She will feel better soon. I have brought soup for her. Will give it to her once she wakes up.” Manish said handing a plate of food to Mansi. “Eat” he said and Mansi followed orders.
They ate in silence. Mansi glanced at Manish in between bites. She hated herself for the thoughts she had earlier. Manish’s concern was not limited towards Mansi, he cared about Pallavi too. Perhaps it was in his nature to care. How could she dislike him for being a caring person?
Manish looked at Mansi and their eyes met; neither of them cared to look away. 
Pallavi shifted in bed and opened her eyes only to find Manish and Mansi staring at each other.


Chapter Forty Two - Mansi and Pallavi

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