Chapter Thirty Nine - Pallavi

Mansi was still sleeping as Pallavi got ready to go to the office. She wondered whether she should wake up Mansi or write a note for her and leave for office.

She looked at Mansi’s calm face. All the problems had momentarily ceased to exist. There was a smile on her face, perhaps she was having a happy dream. Pallavi was afraid to move as if her movement would trigger some sort of reaction leading to Mansi having a nightmare.

She cared for Mansi who was her only true friend. They had clicked right from day one in the office. Even though both worked different shifts now, there was a time when they worked together in the day. Both knew that they were working temporarily at this office and would quit once they found another job that paid better. They both also knew that they would keep in touch, no matter what. Once Mansi opted to work the night shifts the communication between the two had lessened but not stopped entirely. Things had changed a bit for Mansi after the truth was revealed that their boss ‘Uncle’ was her father. Even though she had not learned it directly from Mansi, the way she would have liked, pallavi had been happy for Mansi, assuming that finally things would change for her and finally Mansi would be able to lead a tension-free life. She was genuinely surprised and proud of Mansi at the same time when she came to know that Mansi had decided not to take advantage of the fact that their boss was her father. Even though she always joked around Mansi, Pallavi really worried about her. Even though Mansi had not trusted Pallavi with her secrets right-away, Pallavi always knew that something dark had happened in Mansi’s life. For same reasons she always felt protective towards Mansi. She was protective to such an extent that few people in the office gossiped about them. She did not care.

Nowadays, being emotionally close and attached to a friend of the same sex is looked upon with more suspicion than hanging around, attached at the waist with someone of the opposite sex. Pallavi had told Mansi and they both had a laugh together.

In Mansi, Pallavi had found a sister she never had. Hence when she learned about what had happened in Mansi’s life she had cried her lungs out. That was the only time she had cried for Mansi or cried in front of her. Whenever she was around Mansi, Pallavi always remained joyous making Mansi smile if not laugh.

When Mansi had asked Pallavi to accompany her out of the office in the middle of working hours the other day, Pallavi had sensed that something was wrong. She had tried to joke about the latest update in Mansi’s life asking her whether she would get additional benefits now that she was working for her friend’s father.

When Mansi had told her about Rohan it had not taken more than a few minutes for her to realize that Mansi was in love with the man. Unfortunately, Mansi thought that he had molested her and since Pallavi hardly knew the guy she thought she had no right to comment anything. But after seeing Mansi’s expression she decided that she had to say something that would stop Mansi from getting more involved with the man. And hence she had supported Mansi’s theory that Rohan was a womaniser. It seemed to be so from what Mansi had told her.

Pallavi decided to take a sick leave from office. She called one of her colleagues and told him that she would not be coming to the office and requested him to take calls on her behalf. Pallavi did not really know what she was doing in that office. She was a perfect example of jack of all trades master of none. She changed into comfortable clothes and walked out of the bedroom. She made some tea for herself and relaxed on the couch. Her mobile beeped and she knew who it was. She smiled. There was not a single day when her brother did not ping her to wish her good morning and tell her how much he missed her.

Pallavi missed him too but there was a reason she stayed away from the house. And the reason was her mother who had always made her realise that she was now the bread-earner of the family since her father was retired and his pension did not take care of the expenses and her brother was too young to be working. She often taunted Pallavi that she had wasted too much money on her education because in the end she had not really achieved anything. Her brother was the only person Pallavi was in touch with. When she sent money after her salary, the money order was always addressed to him and not her parents. She knew they loved her and she loved them too but she told herself that she could not take any further taunts from her mother who did not even heed the objections of her husband.

Pallavi pushed the thoughts aside and picked up the mobile. She replied to her brother and sent him hugs and kisses. In their last telephonic conversation, he had told her that he wished to discontinue his studies and take up a job. She had scolded him and warned him not to do anything of that sort. She wanted her brother to keep studying and achieve in life what she could not. She had not been sure what course she had wanted to pursue and she had ended up in this office attending calls of clients asking them how she could help them. Whenever she found personal time, she checked whether there was a vacancy in call centres that actually mattered.

Mansi often told Pallavi that she should take up an online course and strengthen her educational profile. It was too late for that now, Pallavi always replied. Mansi always ended the conversation saying that it was never too late and had she been in Pallavi’s shoes, she would have given her best shot.

It was true, Pallavi wondered. Mansi was smarter than she was. If she had gotten the chance to live the life she had led, Mansi would have perhaps been in a better place. Both of them were equally educated and both of them did the same job; one during the day and one during the night. But, Mansi stayed in a chawl and she stayed in this apartment, anyone would wonder what they were doing differently. She hoped no one ever knew, especially Mansi.

It was what she did at weekends after her shift in Uncle’s office that earned more money for her than what she earned there. She did not want to think about it as if not thinking about it was going to change what she was. Her mobile sprang to life and she checked her mobile. It was a call from a client to confirm their ‘meeting’ of weekend. She confirmed and told him that she would meet him where it was decided earlier. She disconnected the call and rested her head on the backrest of the couch. Tears trickled down her cheeks as she wondered how long she would be able to keep this a secret from Mansi. She had invited Mansi to stay in her house for a few days that included the weekend, it meant she would have to lie to her best friend about going out on the weekend because in no way was she going to tell her best friend that she was an escort.

Chapter Forty - Pallavi 

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