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She wasn't breathing. My heart tore as I screamed her name. I could feel pain as I shouted - a pain that pulled from deep inside of me. I could almost feel it trying to kill me from the inside out. I had to make sure that I kept it locked away and focus on the life withering away in my arms.
I tried to find a pulse, fumbling through her wrist, never finding one. Then, I tried CPR for the first time in my life - for my life. I whispered her name with each push on her chest. Did I make it to 100 per minute? I still don't know - I didn't count.
She gasped and opened her eyes - for a moment too brief. But I could tell from her eyes that she was afraid. Afraid of death? No! She was afraid of me - her eyes couldn't see me in pain, regardless of what she was going through. I know that if it would have been in her hands, she would be up and about in no time - just to see the happiness return to my eyes.
"Sweetheart, you'll be fine, okay baby?"
She just nodded. That's what she has been doing since then. The doctors admitted her to the ICU when her respiratory system didn't respond to the treatments. Before leaving her side, I told her that she was going to be fine. She nodded again.
Two days later, she was shifted to a private room. She had regained consciousness after 15 hours. I really don't know why, but I was angry with her - really angry. Anger gave me strength to fight my emotions - stop my tears. I scolded her when she told me that she was feeling sleepy. She held my hand to her chest and cried - her tears complaining about my rudeness - my heartlessness. She didn't sleep.
She wanted to eat ice-cream and chocolates. I scolded her again, gently this time, promising that she would gets lots of chocolates when she came back home. She smiled. She didn't whine for chocolates again.
"You are upset."
I was reading MKRM on my lappy.
"Of course I am. You've just given Armaan four hours to live."
"Why do you read the death-scene when it upsets you so much?"
"It is not a death-scene. It's a life-scene. Armaan will survive against all odds. There'll be a happy ending to this scene."
"Yes, because it's just a story."
I knew what she was heeding to. I didn't want to listen so I turned my attention back to MKRM.
"Will I survive too?"
"You are getting better. The doctors will discharge you soon."
I didn't have the courage to lie blatantly, so I told her my well-rehearsed lie - a lie that I had told her so many times that it actually seemed far more convincing than the harsh truth - even for me.
"I am going to die."
She wasn't asking me, just telling. Her innocent eyes were set carefully upon me. Her hands were playing with the ring in my finger. Her mehendi was still dark, though it was going to be almost two weeks since our wedding. She continued.
"There will be no happy endings for us."
I lost my temper again that day. Tears were streaming down her face but I couldn't feel them. I could feel the sting of my tears in my eyes but it didn't matter. I wanted her to believe my lie. I wanted her to be strong. I wanted her to live. I lied to her again and again, telling her she was fine. She didn't believe me but she nodded each time I assured her. I couldn't meet her eyes after that.
Today, she knows everything. When I went and hugged her, she pushed me away and looked into my eyes. I couldn't breathe.
I kissed her forehead. She kept crying.
"I'll die. You know that!"
"You won't! That's all I know!"
"Don't lie to me!"
"I'm not lying to you!"
"You are! To me and to yourself!"
"YOU ARE GOING TO BE FINE."
I had yelled at the top of my voice. Her parents, the doctor and the two nurses rushed inside on hearing the shout. The doctor did a customary check-up while her father placed a hand firmly on my shoulder.
"Come with me, Adi."
I shrugged off his hand roughly - rudely. I didn't want anyone to calm me down. Anger was my strength.
"I'm alright. I want to talk to her."
I wasn't trying to be rude. I really didn't think there was anything wrong with me. No one protested.
The doctor warned me and left. Others followed him. I moved towards the bed when I heard her speak.
"I don't want to talk to you."
I sat down on the bed and took her left hand in mine. Her face was expressionless.
"I would love to do the talking today for a change."
She finally showed a hint of expression. She scowled. I smiled. She turned her face away.
"Do you know how much I love you?"
She didn't answer.
"You can just say yes or no."
"Do you love me too?"
"Then I want you to believe me when I say that you are going to be fine."
She slowly turned her head and aligned her gaze to mine. I looked away.
"I want you to be fine. I can't lose you. You're the only one I have."
She took my hand to her lips and kissed it. Her lips were warm and soft - a sign that she was alive. My lies seemed true enough. She was going to be fine.
"I would always be there for you - dead or alive."
"You will take care of everyone, won't you? You've got to be there for them."
"I will be where you are."
"You've got to live Adi."
"I will live, and so would you."
She was looking intently at me. I turned my gaze away.
"You are going to be fine."
She smiled. I wasn't expecting that. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. I thought she had believed me again.
"Look into my eyes and repeat what you just said."
"Look into my eyes and speak Adi. Make me believe you."
Her voice plagued me as I opened my eyes. The pain was killing me, and I could feel my heart thumping in protest. I took deep breaths and waited for my breathing to pace down before I reached out and touched her face lightly. My anger couldn't help her survive. My love would.
"You will be fine. I promise."
She smiled and nodded.
"I will live for you."
She indicated the rings gleaming in our entwined hands.
"Your promises are mine to keep."
Writing this story, I know she will help me keep my promise. She will live. We will have our happy ending for sure. But, of course, that will be quite another story! Right now, my life is waiting for me, so, excuse me.
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