Chapter Forty Two - Mansi and Pallavi

Pallavi cleared her throat and both Mansi and Manish turned their heads towards her. 
“Hey, how are you feeling?” Mansi asked. 
“I am fine.” Pallavi replied.
“I’ve got some soup for you.” Manish said and got up to go to the kitchen. 

Mansi looked at Pallavi and the expression on Pallavi’s face almost made her laugh out loud. When Manish was out of hearing distance Pallavi said to Mansi, “Why is this man bringing me soup?”
“He’s just trying to be a good neighbour.” Mansi said.

“The neighbour I did not know I had!” Pallavi said and then added after a while, “Oh wait, he is not my neighbour; he is my neighbour’s employee. Remind me again why he has to be extra nice to me?”
“Because you are sick.” Mansi said but she knew this was not the reply Pallavi was expecting. Pallavi wanted to hear what Mansi had been having trouble accepting it herself. Even though she repeatedly told herself that Manish was being good because that was his nature; there was a nagging thought at the back of her mind that he was doing all this for Mansi. 

“Yes, that’s right.” Pallavi said as if reading Mansi’s mind. Mansi did not say anything. She did not have time to come up with any response. Manish entered the bedroom with a bowl of soup in a tray which he placed on the side-table and turned to look at Pallavi and Mansi.
“I think I will leave now. Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you.” Manish said and turned around to go.

Pallavi waited until she heard the front door being closed and then said to Mansi, “Stay away from that man… I am telling you.” Mansi shook her head. She knew Pallavi would never stop being over-protective towards her. She did not see any harm in being friends with Manish but she did not mention that to Pallavi. 

“Okay, the man might be bad but the soup smells good. Do you want it or not?” Mansi asked.
“Yes please. I am hungry.” Pallavi said and sat up straight in bed. After she finished her soup and Mansi got up to go to the kitchen carrying the tray in one hand and walking stick in another, Pallavi took the opportunity to get out of the ‘feeling sick’ mode.

“I am the healthier one of the lot, please do not make me feel like a sick person.” Saying so Pallavi got up from the bed. “Give me the tray” she said to Mansi extending her hand. Pallavi knew that if she got out of the sick mode it would trigger a set of questions about what was really bothering her but on the other hand, Pallavi did not want her fake sick mode to result in cancellation of her weekend plans. Not that she was really looking forward to it, but she could not skip work. 

“Really?” Mansi said and Pallavi realized that she had been busy thinking while Mansi stood, supporting herself on the walking stick and extending the tray towards Pallavi.
“Sorry.” Pallavi said and took the tray from Mansi. She made a dash towards the door before Mansi could say anything further but Mansi was not ready to let it go. She had taken it easy assuming that Pallavi would confide in her sooner or later but now it was beyond later. Mansi reached the kitchen and found Pallavi typing a text on her mobile.

“I do not mean to intrude but I want you to know; I am worried about you.” Mansi said.
“I know.” Pallavi said without looking up from her mobile screen.
“Is there anything you want to tell me?” Mansi asked. 

There it was; the question she had dreaded all this time. She wanted to avoid the question because she hated to lie to Mansi. No question meant no lying. She wished, just for once, she would be able to share her secret with Mansi and then compel her like a vampire to forget what she had just said. But, this was life and not some vampire story. Pallavi was aware of the awkward silence that followed the question. She was sort of hoping that Mansi would say something like –“It is okay if you are not comfortable talking to me.” But that was not going to happen, she knew it. Mansi was waiting and the more time Pallavi took to reply more it would seem like a lie.

“I am sick, that’s true but it’s not the flu or anything – I am home-sick. There is some problem back home. I might have to go for the weekend.” Pallavi said. One stone – two birds. Weekend plans taken care of, Pallavi thought.
“Oh.” Mansi said. “Go home, meet your family; spend some time with them. Take your time to come back; I will take care of your shift.” Mansi continued. At the back of her mind she thought about the day shifts she would have to do. It also meant putting Manish’s first day of work on hold. 

Even though the offer was tempting; Pallavi decided that she could not take it up. With Mansi staying at her place, it would be impossible for her to pull it off. She really wanted to relax, sort things out in her mind but practically it was out of question. Lying to Mansi about going home for the weekend meant that she would have to stay out for the whole weekend instead of the few hours she spent with the client. Staying out at the hotel meant she would need to take up more than one client; and at such a short notice, picking up her choice was not an option. She hated spending time with the spoiled sort. She was very choosy about the clients she offered herself too. Thoughts of her job profile brought back the guilt and she knew it would show on her face, at least Mansi would be able to see it. She turned around to wash the soup bowl but it was already too late. Mansi had seen the reaction on Pallavi’s face. 

She did not want to question Pallavi further. Whatever the issue was, it was Pallavi’s private affair and it was clear that Pallavi did not want to share the details with Mansi.
“How’s your ankle now?” Pallavi asked to change the topic and shift the concern direction from Mansi-Pallavi to Pallavi-Mansi; the way it was meant to be. She always believed that she was the stronger one of the two. She was over-protective toward Mansi. 

“It’s better. That’s why I said I will take care of the day shift for a few days until you return from home.” Mansi replied.
“Sounds good but it won’t be many days. Work only the Monday shift for me, I will be back home by evening and do your night shift.” Pallavi said mentally reminding herself to call the service and ask for a couple more clients for the weekend. 
“I think I should leave you alone.” Mansi said and turned around to go. She was hurt that Pallavi was not comfortable sharing her problems with her. The awkward silence when Pallavi was deep in thoughts was getting unbearable.

Pallavi watched as Mansi walked out of the kitchen. She knew she had hurt Mansi even though it was not on purpose. Pallavi wondered whether she had made the right decision by allowing Mansi to stay with her in her apartment. She sat on the chair at the dining table and held her head in her hand. How could she think like that? Mansi needed her and of course she had taken the right decision to allow Mansi to stay with her. 

A little voice in her head complained about the lack of personal space where she could think whatever she had to think, for hours, without being subjected to awkward silence; personal space where she could carry on with her business without having to give explanations or lie about making plans. She ignored the voice and stood up to go to talk to Mansi.

She knew Pallavi did not mean to hurt her on purpose but Mansi could not stop thinking about the bouts of awkward silence between the two of them. She wondered whether she had done the right thing coming to stay over at Pallavi’s apartment. Obviously, Pallavi did her part by inviting her over but had she done the right thing accepting the offer? It was obvious now that she had invaded Pallavi’s personal space, made it impossible for her to have her ‘me’ time when she did not have to be worried about awkward silences.

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