Chapter Twenty Four - Mansi

Mansi smiled as she thought about their near escape from the traffic police officer. On the other hand, Rohan seemed to be quiet and serious. Mansi wondered what was going through his mind but did not say anything aloud. She did glance at him a couple of times but he had his eyes set straight on the road. Something was bothering him, Mansi thought. What could it be? He was fine a few minutes ago, before getting in the cab. What could have happened in this short while? Questions assaulted her mind, which she did her best to ignore. She looked outside the window and breathed in fresh night air. She felt thirsty and looked around. She found a bottle of water in the cab and with Rohan’s permission took a few sips from the bottle. The breeze caressed her face and her eyelids started to droop. She fought for a while but finally gave in and fell asleep.

When Mansi partially opened her eyes the cab was parked at its regular place in the chawl ground. Mansi smiled, assuming that Rohan had done what he usually did. He drove to the chawl, saw her asleep, parked the cab and got out of the cab without making any sound so as to not wake her up. Her eyelids were still heavy with sleep and she found it difficult to keep them open. She could not believe she felt so sleepy. Perhaps all the drama in her life was draining her strength. She needed a good sleep, she told herself. Apart from feeling sleepy she realized she was having slight headache; something like a hangover the realization struck. She sat up straight with a jolt. It took a while for her to realize that the backrest of the seat on which she sat was pushed back, she remembered not doing anything to the backrest. Had Rohan tilted the seat? A couple of minutes later she noticed that an extra button of her shirt was popped open. She was sweating profusely, her hair was matted and the back of her shirt was soaked in sweat. What had happened? Where was Rohan? Mansi looked around and found him chatting with the women on the bench she had seen on her way out of the chawl. They all were laughing aloud at some joke. Suddenly Rohan looked in her direction and smiled. The smile was not exactly for her because he did not know she was awake. It was a sign that the group was talking about her. Mansi stared into his eyes and it took a while for him to realize that she was awake and staring at him. Mansi felt a lump in her throat when she saw Rohan smiling and starting to walk in the direction of the cab. She managed to maintain eye contact as she opened the cab door and stepped out. She tried to read his eyes. The all-expressive eyes she had liked earlier. There was darkness in them, she thought. A nauseous wave hit her hard and she lost her balance. She fell on her knees and vomited, right there in the ground – a few steps away from the cab and Rohan. Rohan rushed to her side immediately and offered to help. She shrugged away his hand and made a dash towards the stairs. The women sitting on the bench turned their necks and watched her as she reached the stairs and without halting climbed up two steps at a time until she reached her room. She unlocked the door with shaking hands and closed the door behind her as soon as she stepped in. She did not notice Rohan staring in her direction; a weird expression on his face.

Mansi felt weak in the knees and she knelt on the floor again. What had happened to her? Had Rohan really drugged her? Had he known that at some point she would drink the water from the bottle? Tears streamed down her cheeks as she cursed herself for trusting him, for being stupid enough to go out with him despite knowing that he was a womaniser. What had he done to her? She did not remember how long she had slept. She did not know whether he had driven straight back to the chawl or taken a detour or had halted somewhere. She tried to read her own body to figure out what had happened. Had he raped her? No, it did not seem like. The unbuttoning of her shirt did mean something. She tried hard to recollect whether she had unbuttoned the shirt. She could not remember doing it. She was sweating profusely; of course she was. It was unbearably hot inside the cab. The windows were rolled up. When she had stepped out of the cab she had felt a breeze on her face.

Mansi covered her face with her palms and started sobbing. What had he done to her? She would have known if he had forced himself on her, right? She asked herself. She sounded ridiculous to her own ears. What was she doing asking questions to herself? She needed to confront him, she made up her mind.

She wiped her tears and stood up but before she could take a step, her knees gave way and she fell on the floor. She felt weak. She was weak. She was weak physically and she was weak mentally. She was a woman people could use however they liked; first her step-father and now Rohan, the man she had started to trust, the man she had started to fall in love with. The acceptance that she had started to develop feelings for him, broke her and she let out a heart-wrenching scream.


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