Chapter Forty Three - Mansi and Pallavi

Mansi was still deep in thoughts when Pallavi entered the bedroom and knocked on the door. Mansi looked at Pallavi and said –
“How weird it is that you have to knock on the bedroom door of your own house.” She took this opportunity and continued.
“I know it is uncomfortable with me here, following you wherever you go, asking you questions, bothering you in your ‘me’ time! Trust me, I will be out of your hair, soon."

“You are not in my hair and there is no need for you to go anywhere.” Pallavi said and she meant it. Her earlier thoughts about lack of space out of her head already. She would have never thought this way in first place had she not been disturbed. She was not the kind of person who got lost in deep thoughts. She believed in living one day at a time without too much thinking. It was Mansi who did the thinking, over-thinking at some times. It seemed as if Mansi’s nature had finally rubbed on her, turning her into a kind of person who thought about each step she took. Recently, Pallavi often thought about the lies she told to Mansi and to her family. She was tired of pretending to be who she was not. She was tired of smiling, putting on a brave face when all she wanted to do was scream and cry. She was tired of all the lies she had to tell the people she loved in fear that she might hurt them by telling the truth.

It had recently dawned upon her that by lying to them she was in fact creating an invisible barrier between them and her, the kind of barrier that was too tough for her loved ones to breach but if ever she let the barrier down, the chaos on her part of the barrier would destroy the relationships she cherished.

Mansi cleared her throat and smiled as Pallavi looked at her. Actually, Pallavi had been looking at her all this time, only she was not really looking at her. Mansi noticed the lost look in her eyes and she let it be for some time before bringing her out.

“I know you do not want to burden me with your problems but that’s the thing; it’s not a burden at all. Anyways, I just hope that whatever is bothering you gets resolved. Whatever the problem is, hope you find the solution for it” Mansi said.

Pallavi thought maybe it would be good for her to get it out, get rid of the burden, the weight on her chest. She did not know how Mansi would react to it. Well! She did know how Mansi would react, she knew exactly how Mansi would feel, what she did not know was how bad it would be. Would it mean the end of their friendship? Would it mean that Mansi would hate her for the rest of her life or would Mansi be able to forgive her someday? Pallavi realized that the silence was extending into yet another awkward situation and she almost opened her mouth to speak when Mansi interrupted, “Let’s just forget about it. Just go home, spend time with your family – sort out whatever the problems are and come back with a fresh mind.” Mansi remembered Pallavi had once mentioned her abusive mother and that her father was having an affair. She assumed the reason why Pallavi tuned out of conversation had something to do with it. She knew that Pallavi’s father cared about her and sent her money to pay the rent of the apartment, maybe something had gone wrong there. Maybe he could not pay anymore. Maybe her abusive mother did not like it. It could be anything but Mansi was sure it had something to do with things back home.

Pallavi realized that Mansi had assumed the problems were on the home-front. She let it be that way. She’ll spend the weekend out of the house with her clients and Mansi would believe that she is with her family. She would come back and tell Mansi that everything was fine now. That’s it, all taken care of, she told herself. ‘And what about next weekend?” a little voice in her head said. She ignored the voice.

“You take rest as much as you can. I want you on both your feet soon. I have some errands to run, I will be back in some time.” Pallavi said. “Unless”, she continued, “Our good neighbour wants to take care of our dinner, too. I think I need to fill the refrigerator with vegetables.” Pallavi winked and Mansi sighed which made Pallavi laugh out loud. It felt good. Laughing felt good. Suddenly, the heaviness in her chest felt lighter. Not being able to tell Mansi about her alternate lifestyle was not the only thing that was bothering her; it was the lifestyle itself that made her feel sick all the time. On the other hand, it was only with Mansi that she felt alive. It was only with Mansi that she could smile and laugh the way she just did. Had it been anyone else in Mansi’s place, the person would have felt that she was laughing at them, having fun at the expense of their problems but that was someone else. Mansi was not that kind of person.

Having Mansi in her apartment might have momentarily felt like invasion of her private space but the truth was – having Mansi around was a blessing.
“See you soon.” Pallavi said and walked out of the bedroom, she checked her mobile phone on way out. Once she was out of the apartment, she dialled a number. Walking down the steps slowly, one step at a time, Pallavi waited as the phone continued to ring at the other end. She disconnected the call and walked out of the society gate. She looked at the bus stop and realized that she would have to find a way for Mansi to commute to the office from her apartment. Since there were no direct buses from here she sometimes took a cab to the nearest bust-stop on the direct route of the office and sometimes, preferred walking to the nearest railway station. Since, Mansi was afraid of the trains it was out of question to tell her about the option. Her ‘thankfully-dead’ step-father had subjected Mansi to permanent fear of trains. Pallavi still remembered the expressions on Mansi’s face when Mansi had told her about her step-father. Mansi had literally re-lived the moment she had seen her step-father in the train. Her hands had begun to shake and beads of sweat had started to form on her forehead. Pallavi did not want to suggest trains to Mansi and make her remember the whole thing again. 
“I killed him” the words still echoed in Pallavi’s mind. These words were spoken in a voice that suggested confidence and realization that finally Mansi was free but at the same time there was lingering sadness and fear that refused to detach itself. 

The ringing of her mobile phone brought Pallavi back to the present. She checked the display. The person she had called was calling her back.
“Hello” she said as she attended the call and then talked to the person on the other end requesting more back-up clients for the weekend. She was told about a client who wanted an escort to accompany him to a party. Pallavi did not do parties. She was more of a private person; one to one – that’s what she believed in. 

“Anyone else?” Pallavi asked. She regretted the moment she said the words. “Sorry, there is no one else we can please you with.” the rude voice on the other end of the line said, just as she had expected. “Fine. I am sorry. Please give me the details and book me for that party.” Pallavi said, disappointment evident on her face. 

Pallavi hated parties, she knew they never ended well. Booze was part of her one-to-one meetings as well but parties meant, booze, peer pressure and show-off. She had heard of cases where escorts in parties were gang raped and the girl could not complaint because she was well paid. Pallavi did not believe in parties. She hated parties. She made up her mind that she would go to one, nevertheless.

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