Beautiful Stranger 8
Jerry pushed the door open as he put the bags in. “It is not too large, but, you are going to like staying here.”
Mrs Aiyenugba looked round. “Petite. I like it.”
“Thank you. So, you can stay here while I talk to your children on your behalf.” He replied as he closed the door.
She smiled as she took a seat. “I don’t need you to talk to them on my behalf. If they don’t think I am needed there, it would be unfair of you to force me on them.”
Jerry nodded. “Fair enough. I have enough room for two here.”
“Does she stay with you?” Mrs Aiyenugba asked.
Jerry smiled. “No. She won’t…at least, not yet.”
She nodded. “Good. When do I get to meet her?”
“Ah…I don’t know. I am going over to her place in an hour.” He replied.
“Don’t worry, this Old woman won’t be here to bore you for too long. I might kiss my grave soon or maybe I would just check into the home and make new friends there. Come to think of it, I don’t think there would be boring women there. They would all have tales to tell.”
“And men too…Old men too! Who knows…you might fall in love.” Jerry said with a sneer.
Mrs Aiyenugba smiled. “I love the fact that you know there are no boundaries to love.”
“Of course, there are no boundaries to love.” Jerry echoed.
She chuckled. “I know. I just said that.” She replied with a smirk.
“I like your sense of humour.” He said.
She smiled. “I try. But sometimes, my jokes get really flat and maybe that’s why my children and grandkids don’t want me around. But who cares? I am person first before I am their family.”
He stared at her. He was in awe of her. She had a full depth of knowledge about life. She knew she was a person before having a family, hence, she owed it to herself to be happy. She took his mind to Toni. Toni amazed him. She lived one step at a time, full of life and beauty. He’d be damned if he didn’t spend the rest of his life with Toni.
“Have you called your Mother?” Mrs Aiyenugba asked.
He shook his head. “No. I…I should call her today.”
“No, you are not going to call her anytime soon. Hmm…what happened?”
Jerry relaxed in his seat. “I haven’t saved a life yet.”
“I don’t understand.” She said as she sat up.
He took a deep breath. “My career has been a huge mess.”
She smiled. “They dread you at the Hospital.”
“I am the worst. No one gets to live when assigned to me.” He replied.
She shook her head. “I am alive.”
Jerry chuckled. “Well, you know what I mean. Critical conditions.”
She nodded. “You always have a special relationship with your patients.”
“But I always let them down in the end, the patients that need me always get disappointed in the end.” He replied.
“Do you believe in yourself?” she asked.
“No.” he replied, bluntly.
She smiled. “That’s honest.”
“And trust me, there is nothing to believe in. This is a bare case of a man who has failed at everything that he thought he had loved.” He blurted.
“I beg to disagree, I am a happy woman because of you…and that girl is lucky to have you.” She replied.
Jerry smiled. “No. I am lucky to have her.”
“Do you think you are handsome?” she asked.
He shrugged. “People say so.”
“Do you own a mirror?” she asked.
He nodded. “Yes, I do. Where are you going with this?”
“I would like you to check the mirror and answer that question again.” She said.
Jerry walked in and returned almost immediately. “I have checked it.”
“Now, are you handsome?” she asked.
He nodded. “Yes, I am.”
“You don’t always need everyone to make you feel good about you. If you don’t love you for who you are, no one can make you feel loved.” She replied. “So, I think that lady is lucky to have you and you have to learn to understand that.”
Jerry took a deep breath and then smiled. “Thank you.”
“One more thing, you are going to save a life. Then, you would save lives. You just have to believe in yourself and trust God. He gives life.” She said and yawned. “Now, you have made me talk much more than I bargained. I am tired.” She said with a smile.
Jerry smiled. “I have to get ready to go out now and prepare for my evening shift. What would you have for dinner?”
“Are you going to cook for me?” she asked.
He nodded. “Yes.” He replied, standing up.
“I am coming with you.” She replied.
“So, what’s the plan? The Doctor wants to see you this evening, right?” Nora asked.
Toni smiled. “Yeah…I should head out to the Hospital for some examinations. He has the results from my last scans so I guess I won’t be out for long.”
“You know what I mean, Toni. When are you telling Jerry?”
Toni took a deep breath. “I don’t think I ever want to.”
“What! That’s wickedness, Toni.” Nora protested.
Toni relaxed in her seat. “You don’t understand. It won’t change anything.”
“It changes everything.” Nora retorted. “Besides, I thought you didn’t like getting attached to people. This seems to be overdoing it.”
Toni was silent.
“Don’t go quiet on me, Toni. We have to face this now or never. You are going into Chemo and you can’t be quiet about it to him.”
“I want to be quiet about it. Please, respect it.” Toni replied.
Nora hissed. “Toni, I don’t like this.”
“Well, you are my sister and you owe it to me.” Toni replied. “Besides, the Doctor said I have to see him today so we can know the stage of the cancer before Chemo starts.”
Nora nodded. “That is normal. But, I am not in support of you hiding this from Jerry.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Toni replied. “Have you thought of the possibility that I might just survive it and he doesn’t need to even know that I once had cancer?” She asked with a smile. “Let’s see the positivity in everything.”
“I am trying to see that with you. You just have to stay alive…for me.” Nora said, quietly.
Toni grinned. “I am not going anywhere.”
Nora smiled as she hugged her sister.
“Enough!” Toni said, wriggling out of the hug.
Nora sighed. “You can be really boring, Toni,”
Toni nodded. “So, James, right?”
“Yeah. He asked me out, I told you, remember?” Nora said with a smile as she sprawled out on the couch.
Toni crawled up to her sister. “And you are really cool with him, right?”
Nora popped her eyes at Toni. “Get on with it, Toni. What is it?”
“I don’t know. I…I just have my reservations.” Toni replied and took a seat.
Nora stared at her. “I know how you feel, someone is coming in between the both of us, but I think-”
Toni started to chuckle and eventually burst into a horrid laugh.
“You think it is funny?” Nora asked.
Toni nodded. “Yes. You are sounding as though you were my single mother.”
“I am your mother, Toni, Deal with it. Now, as I was saying, I know you are jealous of James’ presence in our life, but I want you to understand that nothing and no one would ever come in between us.” Nora concluded with a smile.
“Except death.” Toni chipped in quickly
Nora frowned. “Do you always have to ruin the moment? That was the closest thing I had to being romantic and you just had to ruin it.”
“I chipped in reality.” Toni said with a smile.
Nora stared at her with a grimace. “I don’t like reality.”
“Who does?” Toni asked, standing up. As she rose to her feet, she slumped to the floor.
Nora hurried over her. “Toni!”
Toni took a deep breath. “I am fine. I…I must have hit the table or something.”
“There is no table here! Oh my God! Toni!” Nora gaped as she helped her up to a seat. She stared at Toni hands. “Oh my God! I have to get the Doctor. Have you stopped your drugs?”
Toni rolled her eyes. “How can I stop the drugs that you feed me with every day?”
“You are looking pale.” Nora said.
Toni shrugged. “I will see the Doctor this evening. Nothing to worry about.”
Nora sighed as she watched Toni sit up. “What time is your appointment?”
“7pm. Besides, it might have just been a spasm. Nothing to worry about.” She said with a smile.
The doorbell went. Nora rose to her feet. “I’ll get it.” She said and hurried to the door.
Toni looked over her shoulder as she watched Nora usher Jerry in. She immediately faked a smile. “Hey!!!”
Jerry smiled. “Hi, how are you doing?”
“Amazing!” she replied.
Jerry took a seat. “That’s smooth.”
“I would be in the kitchen.” Nora said as she walked away.
Jerry took a seat beside Toni. “You don’t look as good as you sound today.”
Toni raised an eyebrow. “Really? I am fine.”
Jerry lifted his hand to her forehead and she immediately gripped his hand. “Hey…I…I am just checking.”
“You are not a Doctor…and please don’t tell me that service as a paramedic passes for that.” She said with a smile.
He nodded as he returned his hand to his lap. “Fever?”
Toni nodded. “Yeah. But it would pass. I already have some drugs for it.”
“That’s good. So, I have a new housemate.” He started. “She is very lovely.”
Toni smiled. “She? That’s something.”
He nodded. “Yeah, she was kicked out of the Hospital with no place to go.”
“Oh? What about her family?” Toni asked.
“They don’t want her home. Her children are sending her to Victoria’s Homes. She doesn’t want to go there.”
Toni tried not to smile. She was glad he was talking about an elderly female. She cleared her throat. “So…so, is she comfortable at your place?”
“Sure. It’s not as big as this place, but, it is very spacious.” He replied. “Do you want to take a walk?”
She checked her wristwatch. “I have to be back before 6:30pm.”
He nodded. “I got you.” He said as he stretched out his hand.
She smiled as she took the hand. “Nora!” she called. “I will be back in about an hour.”
“Be careful!” Nora called back from the kitchen.
“Okay, Mom.” Toni said with a grin as she pushed the door open.
Nora couldn’t take her mind off Toni and what she had called a spasm. She knew it wasn’t. It was a good thing that they had to see a Doctor soon. Nora knew it would be unfair of Toni not to tell Jerry what was going on. She had to tell him even though it would hurt her sister…or maybe she would just keep quiet and honour her sister? She sighed as she battled with her thoughts. She wanted to cry. She needed their parents now. When their parents had died, she didn’t think she was alone because she had Toni with her. But now, Toni seemed to be fading away. She didn’t want to let her go. It was not right to let Toni go. But then, how was she going to keep Toni alive? Who would fight for Toni?
Tears started to roll down her cheeks as she sliced the onions. It had to be the onions that brought the tears. But then her heart ached as she tried not to cry out. The onions couldn’t have touched her heart. She couldn’t hold it in anymore as she broke down in tears. The maid in the kitchen stared at her boss as she cried freely. She wasn’t shocked. Nora cried almost every time. She walked over to Nora and put her hands around her.
“Chocolate flavour for me.” Jerry said as he handed Toni her ice-cream.
Toni took a seat as she started to scoop. Jerry joined her almost immediately. “So, what do you want to talk about?”
“You.” She said, quietly.
He smiled. “Okay…here I am.”
“Is there a difference between lying and not telling someone what they ought to know?” she asked.
Jerry choked on his ice-cream. Could she have found out about him already? He knew he’d be damned if she found out before he told her. He coughed.
“I am so sorry. What happened?” she asked.
He cleared his throat. “I guess the ice-cream went wrong. Anyway, what were you trying to say?”
“I want to know if there is a difference between lying to someone and not telling them what you think they ought to know.” She said.
Jerry took a deep breath. He didn’t know what his next word should be.
“I don’t know really, that’s why I want to know. Would be right if I was to tell you something and I didn’t?” she asked.
Jerry sighed. This question made it easier for him. “Erm…I think it would better if you did, that way, no one holds something against the other.”
“No. This is not about holding something against you or me, let’s say more like hiding important information. If the information was going to hurt you, would you want to know?”
Jerry took a deep breath. “I am not sure. It sort of depends on the kind of information, you know?”
Toni smiled. “Just forget it. Been enjoying quizzing you.”
She nodded. “I like seeing a serious mood sometimes…you fared fine.”
He smiled. “So, what if I was hiding something from you? Or…what if I have lied to you?”
“All is forgiven.” She replied.
He stared at her. “Really?”
“As long as you have not lied about your name.” she said with a smile.
He nodded. “I am Jerry.”
“Good.” She stared at her wristwatch. “I have to head home.” She said.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Toni, I…I like you so much and I…I want to know if you would go out with me.” He asked, squinting his eyes.
Toni smiled. “Is that a rehearsed speech?”
“No. But…I can try again.” He said.
She smiled. “I like you too…so…that’s life made easy.”
“Is that a yes?” he asked.
“Don’t make it sound like a proposal. You are too formal.”
Jerry smiled. “Wow! Cool! So, we are official.”
“Now, that’s formal.” She said with a smile.
Jerry knew he couldn’t do anything to jeopardize their relationship. He watched her as she checked her wristwatch again and rose to her feet. “Toni, I have something to tell you.”
“Now? I am very late.” She replied, without looking at him. “We could attend to it later…if you don’t mind.” She said as she gathered her bag. She was feeling weak and didn’t want to have to pass out before him.
He nodded. “Let me take you home.”
“So you lied to her?” Mrs Aiyenugba asked as she sipped her drink. “What were you thinking?”
Jerry sighed. “I didn’t feel proud about it, it was pointless to tell her the sort of Doctor I am.”
Emeka laughed. “Still she would find out…and when that happens, your life would be over. This new thing you think you have going on would be cut short.”
“Don’t be such a killjoy.” Mrs Aiyenugba shot in Emeka’s direction. She then turned towards Jerry. “If I had known when you came in last night, I would have tossed you back to go and tell the truth.”
“It is not too late.” Emeka cooed.
Mrs Aiyenugba stared at Emeka. “You are such a good friend.”
“I really did try to tell him the truth, ma. Jerry is just a born liar.”
She nodded. “And he has a worthy accomplice in you.”
“Well, I try to be a friend.” Emeka replied.
Jerry smiled at him. “I love you, bro.”
“Mutual feeling.” Emeka replied, coldly.
Jerry grinned. “Would it kill you to say you love me too?”
“No. It might just hurt my ego a little bit.” Emeka replied.
Mrs Aiyenugba smiled. “Don’t you guys go to church?”
“I am going to the Hospital.” Jerry replied, standing up.
Emeka nodded. “Me too.”
“What is wrong with you both?”
Jerry smiled as he approached the door. “Later ma’am. There is enough food.”
Nora stared at Toni. “We can leave now.”
Toni shook her head. “The choir is about to minister.”
“I should have forced you to see the Doctor yesterday, I don’t know what made me weak.” Nora said angrily as she stared at Toni’s face.
An Usher walked past them.
“Service in session.” Toni said as she turned to Nora with a smile.
Nora frowned. Toni had returned from her outing with Jerry yesterday and gone straight to bed, so she missed the appointment with the Doctor. Nora had to accompany her to the church because of her sister’s frail look.
The choir rose as it was time for their ministration. Nora watched Toni as she smiled. She loved God. Nora didn’t understand why everything bad was happening to Toni. She had seen herself as the perfect alternative if anyone was meant to suffer. She was the one angry at life and at herself. Toni on the other hand, loved life. She lived every moment of it.
The church rose to sing and dance. Nora was the only one sitting. Toni was dancing, swaying from left to right. Nora swallowed painfully as she stared at the Altar. She didn’t understand where Toni got her joy from. Nora was angry. All she wanted was for her sister to live, was that too hard? Tears started to stream down her eyes as she thought hard.
Nora lifted her head up as she watched Toni. She was no more dancing, her eyes were shut. Toni dropped to the floor.
“Emergency Unit!” The announcement went off in the Hospital.
The door flew open as the paramedics rushed Toni in on a stretcher. Nora cried as she ran after them.
Jerry and Emeka ran towards the Hospital Entrance.
“Toni! Stay with me!” Nora cried as they wheeled her in.
“Out of the way, people.” A paramedic shouted.
Jerry paused in his track as he watched Toni being rushed in. “Toni?”
Nora cast a glance at him and then ran on with the paramedics..