Chapter Twenty Three - Rohan and Mansi

They walked silently towards the cab; Mansi was purposely avoiding the gazes of the people sitting on the nearby benches. Rohan on the other hand looked at a few of them and waved while he ignored a few others. Mansi knew people were going to make a big deal of the whole thing, given the reputation Rohan already had. She did not understand what made her do what she had just done. Going into his arms, what was she thinking? Well! She was not thinking; that was the problem and to add to that she surprised herself by following him to the cab. 

True, he had been nothing but a gentleman when he was with her. Perhaps that was his MO? It was too late to refuse going out with him but she made up her mind, she was definitely not going to talk about her life to this man.

They got into the cab, Mansi riding shotgun and Rohan started the ignition. On their way out Mansi thought she saw a familiar face walking on the street. Was it Manish? She wondered. If it was him, it did mean that he stayed close-by. 

Mansi thought about the recent changes in her life. She had allowed Manish to work night shift with her, then she was sceptical about it and how it had finally led to her discovering that ‘Uncle’ was her father. It was finally decided that Manish would work with her. Mansi was confident she could handle it. “Really?” a little voice inside her mind asked sarcastically. A woman who turned pale even on thinking about her dead stepfather was talking about working alone at night with a man, the little voice teased.

They were driving silently for a long time. Mansi realised that Rohan was driving around the chawl area so that he could turn around to go back to the chawl if and when Mansi made up her mind.
“Do you want to talk?” Rohan broke the silence.
“Not really” Mansi replied 
Rohan nodded. Mansi silently appreciated his gesture. She was thankful to him for not being adamant and demanding a story.
Mansi looked outside the window, she could sense Rohan’s gaze on her. Surprisingly it did not make her feel uncomfortable. 
“Do you wish to go further?” he asked.
“Not if you want to go back.” Mansi replied.
“Let’s go for a long drive.” He said and accelerated. 
They drove away from the regular streets around the chawl; they sped on the near empty streets, the cool breeze playing with Mansi’s hair. She took a deep breath and smiled. They were driving towards the sea. She could smell it from a distance.

Rohan slowed down as they reached Marine drive. He continued driving, trying to find a spot where he could stop. He knew they could not stop for a long time so getting down for a walk was out of question. He spotted a chance at some distance. He drove slow towards the mobile tea stall – a man carrying a huge container on the carrier of his bicycle. He stopped the cab and got out. He came back with two plastic cups of tea and handed one to Mansi, which she accepted without saying a word.

She was staring out at the sea. Rohan could almost read her eyes, they were so expressive. He could read that she wanted to get out. He thought it was worth taking the risk. He knew if a traffic police officer came around he could handle the affairs with some money. He looked around to see if there was an officer close-by, he could not see any. He asked Mansi to step out.

“Let’s go and sit there.” He said pointing towards the bench nearby. Mansi climbed out. Rohan smiled seeing the look on her face. They both sat there silently, each absorbed into their own world. The sound of the waves blocked every other noise of the never sleeping city. Mansi tasted salt on her lips, it was the sea. Usually whenever she tasted salt, it was from her own tears. Tonight, it was different. Her heart felt lighter. She was not crying, she was far from crying. She was happy; happy to be here.

Rohan tried his best to not stare at her but he could not help himself. He tried to be discreet, looking at her when she was looking away or was too deep in thoughts to realise that he was staring. He loved how she looked. He loved how her hair danced on the breeze; he loved smelling the fragrance of her hair. He remembered how he had wanted her to be with him. Sitting close to him, the way she was sitting now. He remembered how he wanted to feel her hair on his neck as she rested her head on his shoulder, wanted to put his arm around her and hold her close, to smell and kiss her hair. At least part of his fantasy had come true. He was ready to wait for the rest of it to come true as well.

He knew it made no sense hurrying into it. He wanted to enjoy the moment, enjoying several such moments before he reached the point where he could expect her to give in completely to his feelings.
He did not realize Mansi was looking at him. It was too late to turn his gaze away so he continued staring. He stared deep into her eyes and he sensed the wall crumbling down, bit by bit. He smiled and looked away, right on time to see a traffic police officer walking in their direction.

“Let’s go” he said and got up hurriedly. Mansi got the hint and got up too. They rushed towards the cab and drove off before the officer could get a chance to stop them and then they both laughed together.

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