Chapter Forty - Pallavi

It was not always about sex. Sometimes, the client paid hefty amounts only to spend time with her, just holding hands or resting their heads on her shoulder – almost always crying. Some clients wanted her to hold them in embrace or sometimes they just wanted to spoon – some with clothes on, some without.

It was unbelievable how many unhappy men roamed around with a mask on their face. They did their work to the best of their capabilities, they smiled and wished others good morning, good afternoon and good evening, they wished their families good night, and they lead a happy normal life. That’s how they seemed to be for the rest of the world, but when they came to Pallavi they were the most vulnerable species she encountered; the smiles turned to frowns, the eyes so full of life shed copious amounts of tears. And, their happy normal life became a wreck and crumbled into her comforting arms.

She knew how to soothe an aching heart. People loved visiting her because of the way she treated them. It seemed as if it was not only for money; as if she really cared. Sometimes she did but most of the times she tried her best not to get involved.

She remembered a client who could not perform with his wife and was referred to her by one of her clients. The first time he had visited her, he had been embarrassed even to look at her and when he did it was with such intense loathing that Pallavi had wanted to throw him out of the room and lock the door. She did not need him; it was he who needed her.

Moments had passed without either of them saying a word to another. As long as she was being paid for the silence, she did not care. Right then, as if stimulated by some invisible stimulus; the man had started to cry. He’d told her stories about his wife – the way she manipulated him, the way she demanded performance and the way she teased him for being ‘short’. The last comment had to hurt, she knew. She’d listened to him with utmost attention, until he finished speaking and stopped crying and then she had undressed. That weekend, that man had explored the strengths he did not know he had. One weekend with her had changed his whole life.

He’d paid to visit her the next weekend. She’d been surprised to see the transformation. Gone was the timid man, the man who stood in front of her was high with confidence. He’d hugged her the moment they had entered their room at the hotel and then told her how for the first time he had been the dominant one during the sex and how he had made his wife cry with pleasure. It had felt good to make a difference to someone.

There were a couple of clients who had fallen in love with her and she had to stop seeing them. Love was not her piece of cake. Sex or no sex, she offered herself for money and even if one out of ten had sex with her, it still meant that she had willingly given away the thing that had been snatched forcefully from Mansi. In no way would Mansi ever understand what Pallavi did and why she did what she did.

Pallavi got up from the couch and took the cup to the kitchen. She threw away the remaining tea in the sink, she could not take another sip after thoughts had assaulted her mind. She had severe headache because of the attempts to hold back the tears. She was a strong independent woman, she could not cry; she could not be vulnerable – not now, not after all this time when along with the clothes she shed each weekend she had peeled off her emotional part layer by layer until the only layer that remained was hard like stone – the layer that believed only in survival.

Each time she met with a client she put on a mask of someone they wanted to see. A sensitive woman or a sensual woman, whatever they wanted, they got it.
Pallavi felt the contents of her stomach making their way upwards. She ran towards the bedroom, went to the bathroom and vomited in the commode. Pallavi fought the tears that threatened to flow.  
Pallavi did not have the strength to get up. She did not want Mansi to see her in this condition. Still sitting on the floor in the bathroom, she managed to close the door and lock it. The constriction in her throat suffocated her, it was as if the peeled layers of her soul came back to haunt her and scratch at her throat, to force her to bleed tears. She vomited again.
She heard a knock on the door. The retching sound had woken up Mansi.

“Are you alright? Do you want me to come in there?” Mansi called out from outside the bathroom door.
“I am fine. Give me a moment” Pallavi managed to say.
She flushed the contents of the commode and covered the lid, taking the support of the commode she managed to get up from the floor and then sit on the lid. She held her head in her hands, it seemed as if it was about to explode. Still sitting on the lid, she reached under the sink and pulled out a pouch. She took out a painkiller on her palm from a bottle and gulped it down without water. She kept the pouch back under the sink.
Yet another secret from Mansi, she thought.
“Open the door, I want to come in” Mansi yelled.

“Trust me, me with my pants down would not be a pretty sight for you.” Pallavi said trying to fit back into her jovial self she had always been when around Mansi.
Finally, she got up and washed her face. She looked at herself in the mirror, her eyes were red but they were not teary, she had not cried. What would Mansi conclude? She wondered.
Mansi banged on the bathroom door, “Pull up your pants and open the door before I throw myself at it and break it open” Mansi yelled. Pallavi sighed.
She flushed again just for the sake of doing it and then opened the door to see a worried and slightly angry Mansi standing with the support of the walking stick.

“You are a mess! What’s wrong?” Mansi asked in a concerned voice.
“I think I am coming down with something, my body aches as if run over by a truck and my head is about to explode. Pallavi told the partial truth to Mansi.
“Let’s call a doctor.” Mansi said as she walked towards the bed and signalled Pallavi to do the same.
“I will be fine, I need some rest.” Pallavi said and slid into the bed.
Mansi climbed in next to her and placed her hand on Pallavi’s forehead to check the temperature. Then, she gently massaged Pallavi’s head, the temples and the forehead. It felt good to be cared for and Pallavi relaxed as Mansi continued to massage. And then, a single tear betrayed Pallavi and rolled out of the corner of her eye.

Chapter Forty One - Mansi 

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