Beautiful Stranger 9
Emeka pulled Jerry. “Come on, man. Emergency.”
Jerry stood stoned. “That is Toni.”
Jerry nodded. “My Toni.”
Emeka blinked. “Oh my God! Busted.”
“What could be wrong with her?” Jerry asked.
Emeka swallowed. “I don’t know, man. Let’s go find out.”
A Nurse approached them. “The Director is asking for you both.”
“What’s going on?” Emeka asked.
The Nurse stared at them. “We are trying to stabilize the patient.”
Emeka nodded and pulled Jerry along. “I know you are scared of going in there right now, but, you have to know what’s going on.”
“No, man. I will wait here. You can tell me.” Jerry said, backing out.
Emeka nodded and hurried into the theatre. Jerry took a deep breath as he buried his head in his hands.
He looked up as Nora stood before him. She was in tears. He took a deep breath and allowed her crash into his arms. “She-just-crashed.” She struggled to say. “She was singing and then I didn’t hear it anything anymore. She just went down.”
Jerry gasped as he felt Nora’s heartbeat pound heavily. It seemed serious. He looked at Nora. “It’s going to be alright.”
She shook her head. “It won’t be. Toni is sick.”
“She is here with us now. She is going to be fine. We would take care of her. I promise you.” He assured.
She took a seat. “You don’t have an idea, do you?”
“What?” he asked.
Nora sniffled. “Toni would kill me if I told you, but, what the heck? You are going to find out anyway.” She said as she cried.
Jerry knelt before her as he wiped her eyes. “ What is going on, Nora?”
Nora stared at the stethoscope on his white overall. “You are a Doctor?”
Jerry took a deep breath. “Nora…I…I can explain.”
“You lied to her…to us.” She said.
He nodded. “I…I just wanted to protect her.”
“Protect? From what? From who?” she asked.
He swallowed. “The other part of me that I didn’t want her to see. It is a long story, I swear and I can’t start explaining it now. But, what is wrong with Toni?”
Nora sighed. “You think changing the topic will change things?”
“No, it won’t. I would come back to the issue. I would explain it to you…to her. But, what is wrong with her?” he asked.
She shrugged. “Why don’t you go in and find out for yourself?”
“Nora, I can’t show up there. I…I can’t let her find out this way. I swear that I will come down to the house and explain everything to you and to her when she is better. But, I need you to tell me what the problem is.”
Nora shook her head. “It might take a while before you visit both of us in the house. We actually would be your visitors here.”
“What do you mean? Stop it!” He cut in, feeling offended.
Nora stood up. “Don’t raise your voice at me.”
He took a deep breath. “I am sorry, but, please tell me what is wrong with her. I can’t go in there and you know it, it might upset things. She can’t find out about me like this. You have to help me.”
“It is all about you, right?” she asked.
Jerry sighed. “I just don’t want to upset her right now. She didn’t look good and since Emeka is not here to brief me on the happenings, I just want you to…”
Nora forced back her tears. “I…I can’t.”
“Please. I care about Toni. You can’t lock me out.”
Emeka approached them. Jerry hurried to him. “What’s up?”
Emeka took his hand. “Let’s talk inside.”
“What is going on?” Jerry shouted.
“Dude, you have to calm down.” Emeka replied.
Jerry yanked out of his grip. “I don’t want to calm down. Tell me. Now!”
Emeka took a deep breath. “Jerry, you don’t want to do this here. Let’s go inside and I will tell you all you need to know.”
“I don’t want to go inside! Just spill it!” He shouted back at Emeka.
“She has cancer.” Emeka replied.
Cancer? Cancer? Right? Not sure I heard it right but it sounded like Cancer. Cancer at this moment seemed like a zodiac sign and not the disease I knew it to be. I am not sure why my trousers are wet but think I have been laying on the grass outside the Hospital for over three hours now. Now I know why the grass is wet, it should have been sprinkled. I have been here staring into the sky. It is really blue.
Emeka said she has Cancer. Nah…Toni can’t have Cancer. Sleeping on the left side of your bed can give you bad dreams. I would sleep again and by the time I wake up, this would all be a bad dream. Emeka would run out to me from the ward and say ‘she has malaria’. Yeah. Malaria. That’s more like it.
All my life, my wits and guts have been put to test…for the larger part of it, I have failed. As far as this field is concerned, I have tried and failed. I have never counted those failures as one that might pierce through my heart even though it did p---k it. But when you face a test that is bigger than you…when you see someone you love on that surgical table and you fail, then, you have really failed. This is Toni. My life. She had come into my life and changed everything for me.
Call me ‘deep’ as the society might want to term it, but her smile and laughter were artistic. It had a pure reflection, one that took me forever to fathom. I was enchanted from the first day I set my eyes on her. Maybe Magic. Maybe Love. Maybe Life. All I know is that I felt something pure and true, and it was Toni.
I had every reason not to show up before Toni. One, my lies had found me out. It would be a total shame for her to find out about me under the circumstance and two, I have nothing to offer her. Of what use would it be if I showed up before her and still didn’t save her life? Pointless. It is time to go home…maybe travel…maybe run away…maybe nothing. Maybe I would just watch her from the side-line.
Why did she never tell me? Or had she tried to tell me? It must be the day we went to the movies…that day, we had seen a movie on Cancer. It had to be that day. Yeah, Cancer is a b---h. She wasn’t wrong. It is a b---h!
“Sir, he has been here like this for the past three hours. He won’t let anyone come near him.” Emeka complained to the Director.
The Director stared at a lukewarm Jerry and then back at Emeka. “I can’t have him like this. Get security to bring him in.”
“He has rebuffed them, Sir.” Emeka replied.
The Director stared at him. “Why do we pay them if they can’t bring one man inside?”
“Sir, he is related to Toni. Our patient.” Emeka replied.
The Director sighed. “Well, if we don’t get him out of this state, we are going to be treating a depressed Surgeon soon. Tell them to use whatever force in the universe that they can to bring him in.” he said and returned into the Hospital.
Emeka approached Jerry. “Hey.”
Jerry ignored him.
“Dude, I…I know this is all a shock for you, but, Toni doesn’t need this from you.” Emeka said.
Jerry didn’t say a word. He just stared.
“I am not going to lie by saying I know how you feel because no one knows how you feel right now, but, I am going to tell you the same thing that you are going to tell any man who is torn right now, you can’t afford to pull away.”
Jerry stared at him and sighed.
“Look, Jerry, I know you are breaking up inside. I know everything about now seems senseless, but trust me, man, you would pull through. Toni needs you. We have stabilized her and she might start Chemo soon. Are you going to be the guy who runs away when she needs you most or the guy who sits her through this one?” Emeka asked.
Jerry took a deep breath.
“Bro, I love you…and I would be here for you every step of the way…we would fight for Toni. We won’t let her go. Are you with me?” Emeka asked.
Jerry wiped his tears and rose to his feet.
Emeka stretched out his hand to him. “Let’s go in.”
“I can’t.” Jerry replied and walked away into the streets.
Nora hurried to Emeka as he approached her from Toni’s room. “How is she?”
Nora sighed. “Don’t you have another term? This is all you have been saying in the last few hours. Can I see her? Talk to her? Just say hi?”
Emeka nodded. “She is…”
“-Please. I beg you. She is all I have. There must be something you can do.” Nora begged.
He nodded. “You can’t be in there for a long time.”
She nodded. “Thank you.” She said and hurried into Toni’s room.
Toni turned as Nora took a seat. “You’ve been crying.” She said as she managed a chuckle.
Nora burst into tears as she kissed Toni’s forehead. “Toni…”
“Don’t cry on me.” She replied.
Nora sniffled as she stared at her. “I am sorry.”
“About what?” Toni asked. “You have nothing to be sorry for.”
Nora drew her chair closer. “Toni…I…I don’t know what to do or what to say.”
“Say nothing, Sis. You panic too much.” Toni replied. “I am going to be fine.”
Nora took a deep breath
“Has Jerry called?” Toni asked.
“Uh?” Nora asked.
Toni smiled faintly. “Jerry…Mr Nice outfit. Have you suddenly forgotten who he is?”
Nora shook her head. “No, I haven’t. There is a lot of work at the Bank. He has been busy.”
“Okay. Don’t tell him anything.” Toni said.
Nora blinked. “Oh.”
“Have you?” Toni asked, looking concerned. “I…I want to be the one to tell him.”
Nora nodded. “I didn’t tell him anything, Toni. I swear I didn’t.”
Toni swallowed. “Thank you.”
“Do you want me to call him?” Nora asked.
Toni shook her head. “Chemo starts tomorrow. I am going to look really horrible. Just tell him I travelled or something. What’s the time now?”
Nora checked her wristwatch. “Ten pm.”
“It’s late. You should go home.” Toni said.
Nora shook her head. “No. I am staying right here.”
“Come on, Nora. What could possibly happen to me?” Toni asked. “Nora, go home and rest.”
Nora sighed. “You know I am not going. Quit trying.”
Toni nodded. “I know. I just thought I could try harder. So, what are you going to eat?”
“James is on his way. He would bring me some food and a change of clothes.” Nora replied.
Toni smiled. “That’s good.”
“Are you sure you don’t want Jerry around?” Nora asked.
Toni blinked. “I can’t deny I want to see him, but not here, and certainly not like this. So, just stop bugging me about it.”
“I don’t want to bug you about it. I…I just want to do the right thing.” Nora replied.
Toni stared at her. “Right thing? What do you mean?”
“I don’t mean anything in particular. I am just concerned about keeping Jerry in the loop on this matter.” Nora replied.
Toni sighed. “Look Nora, I know this seems wrong but, I…I can’t let him know that I am sick. If he finds out, he would be broken. I can’t do that to him.”
Nora nodded. “I know how you feel and if that is what you want, I respect it.”
“Thank you.” Toni replied. “I want to rest.”
Nora nodded. “Take care. I would be outside.” She replied and walked out.
Jerry smashed another bottle into the wall. “Let me see if you can top that.”
Mrs Aiyenugba hurled her bottle into the wall. “I did fine.” She said with a chuckle.
“Tell me…what’s the point if you are going to lose the one you love? Nothing.” He said and laughed. “I deserve another bottle.” He said and opened his drink.
Mrs Aiyenugba watched him drink another bottle of alcohol. “You have had too many to drink, Jerry.”
“Too many? She made me quit…and what for? She has Cancer, she didn’t even tell me a word. She let me fall in love with her. She is selfish. Just like every woman, self-centred and -”
Mrs Aiyenugba silenced him with a slap.
“What did you do that for?” he asked as he nursed his cheek.
She stared at him. “One, Feminist. I can’t watch you talk about the female gender like that. And Two, How dare you say she is selfish? She loves you.”
“I am hurting here. Where is she? She is there. Sick. Tired. I can’t even look at her!” he yelled.
She sighed. “Jerry, you left her in the Hospital. She needs you. You can’t run away right now.”
“But I don’t know what to do. She is dying. I can’t help her. What use am I to her?” he shouted amidst tears. “I want her to stand up from there and not be sick. I want her to be fine.”
She nodded. “Jerry, do you think she wants to be there?”
Jerry drank more from the bottle and threw it into the wall. “I want to drink more.”
“Come on, Jerry. It’s late into the midnight and we have been drinking forever. I think you should rest so that you can go to the Hospital tomorrow to see her.” She replied.
Jerry stared at the door as the key hole rattled and the door knob turned. “Emeka is here.”
Emeka walked in. “Dude.”
Jerry wiped his tears. “Hey, man.”
“How are you?” he asked as he collected the bottle from him.
Jerry stared at him. “I want to die, Emeka. I want to die.”
Emeka sighed and hugged him. “It’s going to be alright. It is going to be.”
Mrs Aiyenugba smiled. “There are no drinks for you, Emeka.”
“I know ma’am.” Emeka replied and then focused on Jerry. “Toni is stable. I think you should come and see her.”
Jerry sniffled. “You know I can’t. I am just useless to her.”
“Jerry, you are not useless to her. You are the man she loves. She would always want to be with you.” He replied.
Jerry shook his head. “How do I tell her? I can’t look her in the face and say, ‘I have been lying about being a Banker’.”
“Jerry, right now what matters is not that you are a Surgeon. What matters is that you do what is right and love this woman.”
“I love her. Are you blind?” Jerry shouted.
Emeka nodded. “I know…but love is not shown when you are here tearing apart. You have to be by her side. Fighting. Working. You can’t be here doing this to yourself, Jerry.”
Jerry nodded. “Fine. How do I talk to her?”
“Just talk. You don’t have to worry about anything right now. You just have to be there for her. Fight for her. Let her know that you won’t leave her.” Emeka replied.
Jerry sighed. “I am so tired. I just want it all to go away. It’s just like a nightmare. I love her so much, I don’t want to lose her.”
“You won’t lose her.” Emeka replied.
Jerry shrugged. “I don’t know about that, Emeka. I am scared.”
“She is a fighter. I met her. She is lovely. Go to her, don’t leave her alone.” Emeka replied.
Jerry nodded. “I’ll go there tomorrow.”
“I still can’t believe that someone like Toni could have Cancer.” James said as he stroked Nora’s hair.
“We don’t choose these things, James.” She replied.
James nodded. “Yeah. I…I just don’t understand. She is so beautiful, so special, and so kind. Why her?”
“I ask myself those questions every time. But, I have never found the answers to them. I just want to see her okay.” She replied.
He nodded. “Maybe Chemo would do fine.”
“She believes in surgeries, but the problem with the surgeries is the seizures she gets. She had a relapse yesterday in Church. I never saw it coming, the drugs had been working well.” She replied.
“Nora, I want you to know that I would be here with you forever, okay?” James said. “And we are going to be strong for Toni too, because she needs us right now.”
Nora nodded. “I don’t know how to tell her that Jerry is not who she thinks he is.”
“Jerry? The guy with the Pyjamas?” he asked.
She sighed. “He is a Doctor here at the Hospital, but he has made us believe that he is a Banker.”
“Really? Why would anyone lie about their profession? Especially being a Doctor? It’s a noble profession…anyone would be proud of it.” He replied.
Nora nodded. “My sentiments exactly. I am shocked he deceived us all. I can’t get my head around why he would do such a thing. I am too tired thinking about my sister to worry about him.”
“It’s okay. We’ll get through this…all of us.” James replied.
“Good morning, Toni.” Nora said as she drew the curtains back.
Toni smiled. “How are you doing?”
“Fine. Did you sleep well?” Nora asked.
Toni nodded. “Yes. I didn’t have you staring at me all night. That made my life a lot easier.” She said with a smile.
Nora chuckled. “Interesting observation.”
“You do know that you can be really boring, Nora?” Toni said as she rolled over. “The Nurses will soon be here to prep me for my first session.”
“How do you feel about it?” Nora asked.
Toni sighed. “Enthusiastic.”
“You don’t sound it.” Nora replied.
Toni nodded. “Correct. How can you ask such a question?” she asked with a chuckle. “How does anyone feel about Chemo? Hair loss? It’s a good thing I have prepped myself for it by cutting this hair.”
Nora smiled. “How many hours to go?”
“I don’t know.” Toni replied.
The door opened and Jerry walked in.
“What are you doing here?” Nora asked, staring at him in his overall.
Jerry swallowed. “I want to see Toni.”
Toni stared at him confusingly. “Nice outfit, Jerry.”
He smiled. “Hi.”
“Hey…” she said.
Nora clenched her teeth as Jerry came closer. “What are you doing?”
Jerry stopped as he got to her. “I want to make things right.” He replied.
Nora shook her head. “I’ll excuse you both.” She said and walked out.
Jerry walked over to Toni and took her hand. “Hi,”
“So…Nora told you?” she asked.
He shook his head. “No. My friend did.”
“Your friend?” she asked.
Jerry nodded. “Doctor Emeka is my best friend.”
“Oh? He is a really nice man.” She replied. “I am guessing he gave you his overall so you could feel like a Doctor?”
“I am a Doctor.” Jerry replied.
Toni smiled. “Nice try, Jerry.”
“I lied to you all this while about being a Banker.” He replied.
She sat up. “Jerry…what are you saying?”
He took a deep breath. “Toni, I am sorry. When that kid saw us at the mall and called me Doctor, it was because he had been my patient here at the Hospital. I…”
“Go on.” She said as she stared at him.
Jerry nodded. “Being a Doctor has been a nightmare for me. I would do anything to avoid being called Doctor Jerry. I am a failure in this field, a lot of people die under my watch. I…I don’t get to keep people alive. I am scared, I am nervous and I fail a lot. I also drink badly and I…I know I would have sounded irresponsible if that day when you met me at the bar, I said I am a Doctor. I would have disappointed from the start.”
“But you did disappoint me from the start.” She said with a smile. “But, it doesn’t matter, Jerry. You are a good person, you don’t have to lie about who you are or what you do.”
“Or that you have cancer?” Jerry said as tears rolled down his eyes.
Toni smiled. “I never lied. You never asked.”
“Was I supposed to ask you, do you have cancer?” he asked.
Toni shrugged. “I just didn’t tell you and yes, Jerry, I am sorry.”
“Toni, you don’t understand. This is too much for me, why you? You are so…so…beautiful, so full of life, so nice, everything right. Why you?”
Toni smiled. “Why not me?”
“Just stop it.” He said as he took his seat beside her on the bed. “My record of success here is zero. I don’t do well. I have never done well.” He said.
Jerry cleared his throat. “I…I lost my first patient. I just came off fresh into the theatre and they placed a dying woman in my hand. I was scared, I didn’t know what to do. I lost her. I disappointed her family and…and I never made it through it. I don’t think I ever will.”
Toni took his hand. Jerry took a deep breath and released himself from her grip as he rose to his feet. “I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, Toni. Forget it.” He said.
She took his hand again. “I don’t care if you are a Doctor or a Banker. I don’t care if you have tried hard and failed in the past. All I want you to know is that I love you so much and I would be there for you until our dying day. And I also want you to know that this lady on this bed is desperate to live and afraid to die and so, I want you to get me on my feet, Doctor Jerry.