When you can’t breathe…

By that evening, my congestion had well and truly settled into my chest. It was at this point that I realized I had forgotten to pack my inhaler. My mom was ready to strangle me. If this cold didn’t kill me, she would. I was pretty sure of it.

So, I decided I wouldn’t tell her how sick I really was. I had a strong survival instinct. Or maybe not. The first pre-wedding occasion was a cocktail party. And, I, in my infinite wisdom had packed a cocktail dress, my now famous little black dress. Cocktail party – cocktail dress. It was simple logic until you stepped out into the freezing chill that was Kathmandu in January.

A few of the other guests in the wedding party looked at my bare legs and asked, “Did you forget to pack your stockings?”

Stockings? I live in Hyderabad. I don’t own stockings. I barely owned a sweater.

By this time, I was a frozen block of ice and my poor bare legs were icicles. Sexy ones but icicles, nonetheless.

“Youngsters in this car.” G’s father announced and I tottered forward to get in to the waiting sedan. My mother, the only person around who suspected how unwell I was, would be following in another vehicle.

I was on my own. This is probably how explorers who ventured off into the unknown felt. And then he got into the front seat. Very comfortably dressed I might add, in a suit that looked unbearably warm. It really wasn’t fair.  I stared enviously at his comfortable sprawl from where I was sandwiched with another two girls at the back.

And then we were on our way. It didn’t take long for me or anybody else to realise that my breathing was getting louder and louder.

“Are you okay?” He asked, after a couple of minutes. “You don’t sound too good.”

“Fine.” I gasped. “Just a stuffy nose.”

“Should we stop at a pharmacy?”

The person driving shook her head. “There is one near the venue. Reaching now.”

Oh well. What did it matter? I could choke and gasp for a few minutes more. Luckily, we arrived at our destination and I stumbled out of the car on my high heels. Yes, that’s right. I forgot my warm clothes but remembered the high heels.

We approached the building and I looked around for the elevator.

“There’s no elevator.” W said, stepping up beside me. “We need to walk up.”

Walk up? Four floors? I was horrified. By now, every breath felt like a shard of ice was slicing through me. My chest felt like someone had dropped a boulder on it. I was sure they could hear me wheezing all the way in India.

Shit. I wanted that pharmacy. I wanted my mom. I wanted to go home.

I was starting to sniffle by now. But I tried to pass it off as a runny nose from the cold. Yes, I’m sexy like that.

I stared at the flight of stairs extending in front of me. It was going to be my Everest. Very apt.

The two girls who’d travelled with us had already disappeared up the stairs. The only thing left to do was put one foot in front of the other. I was just about to attempt it when W appeared at my side again.

“Here.” He said, pressing something into my hand. I looked down at a little brown paper bag with nasal drops in it.

I would have kissed him in gratitude, but I doubled over with a coughing fit instead. He waited patiently for me to finish before asking, “Can I help you up the stairs?”

Now, if it was one of the novels I write and adore, he would have swept me up in his arms and carried me up without breaking a sweat. Alas, in reality, he has a bad back. Carrying me was out of the question but he did do his best to tug/pull/yank me up that staircase. One step at a time. So sexy. Words could never describe it.

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