Chapter Thirty - Rohan

Never before in his life had he cared what others thought of him. He had lived his life on his terms. This was the first time, someone else’s opinion of him mattered and he hated the feeling that came from being unable to understand what the other person was thinking about him. He did not even want to consider the option that for some unknown reason she hated him.

Even though a couple of times he felt that Mansi’s mind was like an open book with the content written in simple language, which he could read and understand; he realized that she often shut herself off – pushing herself behind a wall she constructed around her to save herself from being hurt. He wanted to cross that wall and enter into her trust zone. For a moment he believed he had. He thought Mansi had finally let down her guard while being with him. She had been uptight for a long time, disappointing him several times with her uncertainty. If there were moments when it seemed she was enjoying her time with him; there were also the moments that indicated she did not trust Rohan and hated being seen with him – for what reason, he did not know. As long as he was concerned he had not done anything wrong or anything offensive to deserve this kind of attitude from her.

After a lot of Mansi’s unsure moments he had finally decided to give their relationship a chance when she had finally opened up to him. She had been upset for some reason and he had offered to go on a drive, which she reluctantly accepted but was at ease later on. He knew she would never disclose what was bothering her; at least not so soon, he was ready to wait. He wanted to know what bothered her because her pale face screamed insecurity, it had to be about some deep-seated pain in her life. 
As they walked together to the cab, he could not avoid gazes of people looking at them, it would have given them a chance to gossip. Hence he behaved casually, at least he tried to. Mansi, on the other hand, he knew was looking where she always did – at the ground. 
He drove around in circles until he got the permission from Mansi to take a longer route. He tried to make her talk but when she seemed reluctant he did not pursue the matter further. He took her to his favourite place. He knew it was inappropriate but he could not stop himself from staring at her; he loved how she looked, how her hair danced on the breeze; he loved smelling the fragrance of her hair. He had imagined being there with her and it had come true. He wanted to put his arms around her and kiss her but he kept his emotions in control.
They had a good time together. She had momentarily forgotten her problem and Rohan was glad. He was glad he could be of some help. He was ready to go out of his way to be of some help to this woman. His feelings for her kept increasing with every passing moment.
On way back, he caught her smiling; his heart skipped a beat and he feared that if he did not keep his feelings under control, he would end up kissing her. He turned serious then and from the corner of his eyes he saw Mansi looking at him with a weird expression on her face. He continued driving, looking straight at the road. She asked his permission to drink water from his bottle and he nodded; after that she fell asleep.
When they reached the chawl; as always, Rohan did not wake her up. This time, however, he did something different. Instead of walking out of the cab he continued staring at her, continuously warning himself not to kiss her. He was in a sort of trance when suddenly Mansi started blabbering something in her sleep. She became restless, turning her head sideways as if silently screaming a no. She started sweating profusely; there was no doubt whatsoever that she was having a nightmare. Rohan tried to wake her up by calling her name softly but that did not help. Finally, he decided to shrug her out of the nightmare. He placed his hand on her shoulder but before he could try to wake her up, Mansi, in her sleep, pulled Rohan’s hand off her shoulder and held it in her hand and brought it to her chest. Rohan felt her tight grip on his hand and it was then he realized how scared she really was. He realised that she had suffered a great loss, which had scarred her forever. Tears gathered in his eyes as he let Mansi hold on to his hand, hold on the support he offered to her in her subconscious state. Mansi had calmed down a little but Rohan could still feel her heart beating rapidly against the back of his hand.
“It’s okay.” He whispered. “You are safe.” Mansi responded with a groan.
 “I am here, I won’t let anyone hurt you.” Rohan said and he meant every word.  “Sleep” he whispered again. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he ran his hand through the hair matted on her forehead because of sweating. Mansi’s grip over his hand loosened and he took control of the grip. He held her hand until Mansi seemed to be completely at peace. When he removed his hand from hers he noticed that an extra button of her shirt was popped open. He concentrated his attention on her face, which was finally calm. He moved closer and without touching her, he reached for the handle to push back the back-rest of the seat. He inclined it at a comfortable level and let Mansi continue to sleep. He wanted to roll down the window but it had started to drizzle and he did not want Mansi to get wet should it begin to rain heavily. He continued staring at her face, searching for some sign of discomfort and only when he was convinced that she was sleeping peacefully did he get out of the cab. 
The moment he stepped out and closed the cab door he heard a whistle. It was a friend of his calling out to him. He ran towards his friend and his friend started laughing along with a couple other people who were seated on a bench at some distance from the cab. It was obvious they had seen the action inside the cab. There was no way he could avoid the questions. It was that moment, he decided, he had to be serious and include his friend in his secret. Since there were other spectators involved, he decided to talk to her in their presence. He told her what Mansi meant to him, he told her how much he loved Mansi and his friend was speechless, listening to him and seeing the emotions in his eyes. She thought it was appropriate not to make fun of him. She laughed out loud to hide her own emotions of hurt and looked towards the cab, thinking about how lucky Mansi was to have won the love of this man who meant a lot to her. At the same time Rohan turned to look at the cab and smiled thinking how lucky he would be if Mansi understood how he felt about her and reciprocated his feelings. It was then he saw that Mansi was awake and was looking in his direction. It had stopped drizzling. He began walking towards the cab and saw Mansi climbing out of the cab. He saw her losing her balance and then falling down on her knees and vomiting; he rushed to help her but she pushed him away and ran towards the stairs. He felt a crushing pain in his heart and choked. Tears gathered in his eyes but they refused to flow, his vision blurred and he felt a throbbing pain in his head. Through his blurred vision he saw his friends looking at her and then at him. He then turned his gaze towards the stairs, Mansi had reached her room and she walked in without turning back to look at him. “What had he done to deserve this?" He wondered.
Mansi’s behaviour not only shocked Rohan it infuriated him as well. He wiped the unshed tears with the back of his hand and stormed out of the chawl. He walked, converting his fury into speed. He walked so fast that his legs started to hurt, he continued walking despite that. He walked until his legs gave way and he fell down on his knees in the middle of the road. It started raining. He was soaking wet by the time he realized it was raining. He got up and walked towards the pavement to stand under a shelter. He noticed a few people staring at him; he cared a damn. He decided not to care a damn about anything or anyone. It was enough. It was time he had to stop allowing people to hurt him. Rohan surprised himself by categorising Mansi in the ‘people’ category. He always believed she was special. That proved how hurt he was. 
When it stopped raining, Rohan walked back to the chawl and ignoring the gazes of the women sitting on the bench, he walked to his room. He stepped inside and closed the door behind him. He stared for a moment towards the common wall between his and Mansi’s room. He wanted to bang his fist on the wall and tell Mansi to stay the hell away from his life but he did nothing of that sort. He went to bed. He stayed awake for a long time staring at the ceiling and then drifted into sleep.
When Rohan woke up in the morning he was having a fever and his nose was blocked; he felt a constricting pain in his throat. It was choked with emotions or infection, he could not tell until he felt his stomach doing a somersault and he had to rush to the sink to vomit. Then, the coughing started. His hurt emotions had found an outlet in the form of sickness. It had always been his problem. A little stress made him sick. This was worse. His entire body ached and seemed to be on fire. He opened the door of his room hoping that fresh air would make him feel a little better. The walk from the bed to the door and back to the bed drained his energy and he slept again. 
He did not know what time it was when he woke up finally. He was coughing when from the corner of his eyes he saw someone standing outside the door. He looked towards the door and was surprised to see Mansi looking at him. She was equally surprised to be spotted. He should have looked away, especially after how she had treated him the previous night but he could not look away; not until another bout of cough forced him to. He wanted to look back at her but he forced himself not to. He slid into the bed and pulled the sheets up to his chest. 
It seemed like hours but it was only a few moments later when he heard Mansi locking the door of her room and then saw her walking past his room without turning to look at him. That’s it, he decided. He would stop caring about her. It might take a while but he would get over the hurt and his feelings for her.

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