My winter of love: I went to rescue my boyfriend from rabid dogs – and realised how brave I was

It was New Year’s Eve, and we were in an unheated stone hut. Adam and I had hit it off at a silent meditation retreat in Minneapolis, and I’d invited him to spend Christmas break with me in India. At the time, ringing in 2018 in a little village framed by the granite formations and snow-streaked peaks of the Himalayas had seemed like a fairytale. But that night the mercury dipped so low that my vital organs muttered “system failure” and powered down. I buried myself under quilts with concrete-level cotton padding.

“It’s 7pm,” Adam protested.

I moulded my frozen lips into a passable version of “goodnight” and passed out.

I woke up feeling strangely disoriented, like I’d been asleep for a hundred years. “Adam?” I said. No answer. I felt along the bed. No Adam. For a second, I panicked. Had I really pulled a Sleeping Beauty? How long had I been out? I groped for my phone. It was 11.20pm.

“Where are you?” I texted. I poked my head out of the door of the hut. “Adam?” I called out into the night. Prayer flags snapped in the wind. I rang his phone, feeling forlorn. No answer. My redheaded Prince Charming was seriously MIA. Was he taking a walk? I’d warned him about the stray dogs here – docile by day, feral at night. A week ago, I’d seen men wash blood off the road where the beasts had attacked a tourist. Last year, a friend had been bitten in the calf. Was Adam in an alley somewhere, rabid dogs feeding on his face? Did I need to go and rescue him?

I really don’t want to do this, I thought, as I shoved on my coat, grabbed a stick and opened the gate. You’d better be dying. I started a slow sideways creep down the hill, my heart pounding drumbeats into my ears, my eyes darting left and right for murderous dogs. To my relief, I saw none. Maybe they were having a New Year’s Eve celebration. Or maybe they were busy feasting … on Adam.

I shook the image out of my head, picked up the pace and continued walking. Just then, a low growl sounded at my back. I turned. Six yellow eyes glinted from a few feet away. I froze. Stupid, stupid, I thought. Now I’m dog chowder, too. Tentatively, I wagged the stick at them. They growled louder. If they lunge at me, I thought, I’ll just whirl my stick Crouching Tiger style and send them flying. Eh, who was I kidding? The blood they’d clean from the pavement would 100% be mine. Wasn’t the prince supposed to rescue the princess? Why was I the one facing the hounds of hell alone?

The phone pinged. It was Adam.

“Hey sweetie,” he wrote. “I’m at the cafe. They’re having a new year party!”

“You WHAT?” I screamed. “You inconsiderate jerk!” The dogs backed away. “I thought you were dead!” The dogs turned and fled.

“He’s gonna wish he’d met the dogs instead,” I muttered as I stalked down the road.

I entered the cafe, which glowed with candlelight. People were laughing and chattering around a long table, decorated with boughs of juniper and plates of chocolate cake. The smells of cider and champagne warmed the room.

Adam looked up, his face flushed. “Hey, baby, you came,” he said.

“Don’t talk to me,” I said, flinging myself into a chair. “I hate you more than life itself.”

“But why?” He laughed, spooning molten lava cake into my mouth. “I didn’t want to wake you.”

“Are you familiar with the concept of leaving a note?” I glared at him.

Already, though, my anger was waning. I was getting warmer. There was chocolate. I was not missing any limbs. And I had been pretty brave, all things considered.

The countdown began. “Happy new year!” we yelled. Bangs filled the air as we pulled crackers, and streamers flew everywhere. The dogs outside howled.

“To Prince Charming,” I toasted.

As Adam’s eyes lit up, I decided not to ruin the moment by telling him I’d meant me. And, although this fairytale romance didn’t make it past spring, I was forever grateful to realise that I didn’t need a white knight to slay my dragons.


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