Chapter Sixty Seven - Mansi and Rohan

When Rohan told her that nothing had happened that night she believed him immediately because a part of her had always believed in him. Even though he brought women to his room, even though he seemed to be involved with his friend, Mansi believed in him. She believed that he had not taken undue advantage of her because he had always been good to her.

The kiss his friend had planted on Rohan’s cheek flashed in front of Mansi’s eyes again. She could not stop wondering whether it was too late for her. She wanted to ask Rohan about his relationship with the woman. But, now was not the right time.

As they drove towards Marine drive, Mansi thought about the way Rohan had got up from the bench to follow her out of the chawl. She had not looked at the woman’s face, but she believed the woman must have been disappointed by Rohan’s behaviour. Rohan’s concern for her filled Mansi’s heart with hope.
He did not look back at her through the rear-view mirror. Mansi needed him to look at her, to acknowledge her presence after the misunderstanding had just been cleared. When Rohan continued driving looking straight ahead at the road, Mansi knew what she had to do.

When the cab stopped at a red light, she climbed out of the cab. Rohan turned around to look at her in shock but before he could say anything she opened the front passenger door and sat next to him. Rohan smiled. The smile looked good on him, she wanted to tell him that. He was still looking at her when the light turned green and the person driving the car behind the cab started to honk. Rohan put the cab in gear and started to drive.

Seeing the smile on Rohan’s face felt good. Sitting next to Rohan in his cab felt good. The internal struggle Mansi had been going through all these days was finally put to rest when she accepted her love for Rohan. No matter what the consequences, no matter what the outcome – she loved Rohan, and no one could change that.

There was traffic on Marine drive. Mansi was disappointed, and she could sense Rohan’s disappointment as well. Getting out of the cab was out of question. As they inched forward in the traffic Rohan considered parking his cab in pay-and-park but then changed his mind and continued driving hoping to get out of the traffic soon, so that he could steer away from this crowded place and instead take Mansi to Band-stand, where they could get to spend some time together. He hoped Mansi would not say that she wanted to return to the chawl.

The sun had set while they were stuck in the traffic. Mansi looked at the dark sea as Rohan continued driving. When he reached the Bandra Worli sea link, Mansi understood what his plans were. Rohan looked at her, a silent question in his eyes – did she want to go back to the chawl or drive elsewhere or would she let him take her to Band stand.
Mansi wanted to talk to her father about the bank balance, but she also wanted to spend more time with Rohan. Finally, she made up her mind and nodded. Rohan drove towards Band stand. It was dark, and Mansi could only hear the sea waves but even the sound had a soothing effect on her heart. Rohan parked the cab and they both stepped out.

Rohan held Mansi’s hand in his. Maybe it was an involuntary act while crossing the road or maybe he meant to do it. Rohan’s hand in hers felt good. She let him hold her hand even when they had crossed the road and continued walking towards the sea. They walked past people, down the steps and on to the rocks. Mansi looked around when they sat on the rock; she spotted a couple making out. She turned her head in another direction and spotted yet another couple in a compromising position. Rohan followed her gaze and immediately regretted selecting this spot to sit with Mansi.

She had trusted him when he had told her about the misunderstanding of that night, he did not want her to have a wrong impression about him, about his intentions. All he wanted to do tonight was to see that Mansi was comfortable. He knew she carried some burden in her heart, a heavy emotional load on her shoulders; he hoped she would tell him what was going on in her mind. He wanted to help her but could not mention so to her in fear that he might offend her. He started to get up, expecting Mansi to do the same but she had closed her eyes by then. He sat down and looked at her. The crease of worry evident on her forehead. He wanted to hold her face in his palms and kiss her forehead. He wanted to own all her worries. He wanted to share all her burdens.

When he could not take it anymore, Rohan asked her, “What’s wrong?”
Mansi opened her eyes and Rohan could see tears in her eyes.
The blurred image of Rohan cleared as the gathered tears finally rolled over her cheeks. Rohan instinctively moved to wipe her tears. His touch on her face felt warm. Rohan stopped immediately realizing that he had stepped on an invisible line, crossing that line at this stage would ruin things between them.
“I am sorry” he said and took out his handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to her.

Mansi took the handkerchief from Rohan and dried her tears. She knew Rohan had moved his hand back fearing that he would offend her, but the truth was, she had liked it. His hand on her cheek had warmed her heart.

She held his kerchief in her hand and looked at the sea. Mansi had carried the burden of her father’s murder in her heart for a long time and when she had finally talked to Pallavi about it, it had felt good. She would have perhaps talked to Pallavi had she been available like she was before, but their relationship was ruined, perhaps beyond repair.

“You need not tell me but talking about it to someone will help.” Rohan said hoping that she did not take his word about not talking to him.
Mansi closed her eyes and took a deep breath and then she started crying. Yet again, Rohan reacted instinctively and wrapped his arm around Mansi and she rested her head on his shoulder.

Wiping her tears with his kerchief she then told him about her financial crisis. She told him about her biological father, how he had helped her settle in this city and now was the one responsible for her almost empty bank account. She told him about not having proper documents to find another job.
She could have stopped right there, could have told him that this was it. This was what was worrying her, but she continued talking. She walked back deeper into her past, peeling layer after layer of what was buried in her past. She told him about the rape and felt his arm tightening around her shoulder. She had started crying again and her tears had soaked Rohan’s shirt. She had opened the past wounds and laid her wounded heart out in the open, hoping that Rohan would heal her. And, he did.

He placed his hand on her chin, lifted her face and kissed her on the lips; his other arm still wrapped around her shoulder. Rohan stopped after kissing her once, but his face was still close to hers, he could feel her breath on his face. He wanted to kiss her again. Mansi closed her eyes and parted her lips, giving her consent. He kissed her again and she kissed back.
Rohan’s wish of holding Mansi close had finally come true. She was in his arms, her head resting on his shoulder. He could feel her soft hair on his neck, the warmth of her body through his shirt. He had kissed her. Her soft lips felt good against his.

Mansi could taste the salt of her own tears as they kissed. She did not want to stop. She was finally happy. She lifted her head from Rohan’s shoulder and looked in his eyes and then looked beyond him as a police constable interrupted the couple sitting on their right-hand side. Rohan followed her gaze and stood up immediately. “Let’s go” he said and held Mansi’s hand in his. Mansi got up and followed him. They both were laughing when they made it to the steps and towards the cab. They were still holding hands.

Rohan opened the cab door and got in. Mansi climbed in next to him. The moment they had shared still lingered in their eyes but they both knew it was over. It was as if they had stepped out of a bubble into the real world. Real world with problems, Mansi remembered.
Rohan saw the crease forming again.
“I think you should talk to your father about this, maybe you are reading it wrong.” Rohan advised.
It made sense, Mansi thought. Her father had been good to her when he did not have to. He could have easily refused to take responsibility and said no to help her, but he had not done so. His love for her mother was so strong that he had set up the office to support her. Whatever she had, she owed it to him. It was true that her father could not legally accept her, disclose her identity in front of his son but that did not mean that he would rob her of her money, what she had earned working for him. Discussing this with Rohan had opened her mind to a possibility she had not considered before. Possibility that she was wrong.

“Also” Rohan said, and Mansi turned to look at Rohan. He continued, “You should consider going back to your home town to collect your original documents so that you can stop living like an illegal.”
Mansi nodded. “I can take you there.” Rohan said and for the first time in so many years Mansi truly believed that she was not alone.

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