Emeka took a seat taken aback by Jerry’s word. Jerry looked serious. This, in part delighted Emeka and also worried him. “Love is a strong word, Jerry.” He said.
Jerry nodded. “You have never heard me say it before. This time, it is real.” Emeka sighed. Jerry drew close to him. “You should meet this lady, she is amazing. I was struck from day one. She is so beautiful, and I am not just talking about her face, she has a beautiful personality too…you should see her when she smiles, Dude, she is-”
“-Abeg jare! Have I met the girl?” Emeka said, cutting him off.
Jerry hissed. “You are just jealous.”
“I think I am…I don’t talk about my babe with this much excitement.” Emeka replied. Jerry started to smile at this. “But then, she is not your woman.” Emeka chipped in immediately, cutting off Jerry’s excitement.
Jerry frowned. “You don’t have to rub it in. I am thinking of taking her to the movies with me. The cinema is a nice place to take a lady, right?” he asked.
Emeka started to whistle.
“Emeka, I am not used to these things. Be nice.”
Emeka turned to him with a smile. “So, you need me to tell you where to take her?”
Jerry nodded. “Obviously. What kind of place do you take a lady…I mean, fun stuff. So that she might want to go out with me another day.”
Emeka took a deep breath. “What if she turns you down?”
“I am not looking at that possibility. She won’t turn me down.” He replied.
Emeka stroked his beard. “The Movies is a good start. When your friendship progresses and you think she might have subtle feelings for you, you should introduce the beach, it gives you guys the avenue to walk and trust me, a lady would love to take a walk with a man she loves. Key word, a man she loves. So, I am sorry for you if this lady doesn’t love you.”
Jerry swallowed at this.
Emeka smiled as he continued. “You can also take her to a fancy restaurant on a dinner date, another good option is to take her to Jazz night or see a Rock band, but be careful, ladies love rockers and you may not come back with her.”
Jerry frowned. “You can stop with the advice.”
“But I am not through. We are yet to get to the part where you start having dates at Shopping Plazas, bro, your life is over when that starts. I know you are well endowed with money from the Hospital, but once you start visiting boutiques for clothes, jeweleries, you can start counting your loss.” Emeka said.
Emeka stared at him. “You think it is funny?”
“No. I now know why you are always so bitter. I mean, that babe you are about to marry will make you pensive. No offence, bro.” Jerry replied.
Emeka hissed. “And you think this girl you like won’t drain you?”
“I am ready to be drained for her.” Jerry replied with a smile.
Emeka smiled cynically. “Smitten fool!”
“Now that I think of it, you should thank the Director on my behalf for this two weeks suspension. I am going to use it to the peak.” Jerry said as he picked up his phone. “I should pay her a visit this afternoon. I don’t have her number, but I have her address” Jerry rambled on.
Emeka nodded. “You can be rest assured that I will tell that to the Director. So, what would you tell her about your Job when she asks why you have so much free time?”
“Hmmm…I am on leave.” Jerry replied. “Besides, I told her I work in a Bank.”
Emeka stared at him. “Why?”
“I…I don’t know. I am not proud about being a failing Doctor.”
Emeka laughed. “Failing Doctor? Man, you don’t lie to people you love.”
“Are you preaching to me? Don’t you lie to your fiancée?” Jerry asked.
Emeka smiled. “I am not proud of it. And I just think that if you love her as much as you claim, you should tell her the truth about your profession.”
“She already knows I drink. How is she going to like me? A Doctor that drinks? A custodian of life that is careless? That is how she would see me.” Jerry replied. “I can’t let her know that I am a Doctor. I am also a failure in the field, what is there to talk about?”
Emeka sighed. “I get your point, but, I am sure that if she is as amazing as you say, she would relate with you, you might even gain her sympathy.”
“I don’t want her sympathy. I won’t let her feel sorry for me. I just don’t want her to see me in that light. It is totally ridiculous.” Jerry replied.
Emeka nodded slowly. “Quick question, Jerry. What if this lady falls in love with you, do you think you can keep up with the lie forever? The truth will eventually come out and trust me, you won’t like it when a woman finds out that you have been keeping things from her.”
Jerry wiped some perspiration off his forehead. “I don’t know what will happen when…if that eventually happens.”
“No, Jerry. When the truth eventually comes out. I promise you, the truth is something that would eventually come out, you can be rest assured that I got your back on this, but I just want you to know what you might be getting yourself into.” Emeka said.
Jerry nodded. “Thanks a lot.”
“So, when is the first date going to be?” Emeka asked, standing up.
Jerry shrugged. “I will ask her today when I go to her place. If all goes well, Friday night.”
“Good choice. Jerry, just one pointer, you might want to keep a good track of all the lies you tell her.” Emeka said. “Maybe write it down in a diary.” He added quickly.
Jerry raised an eyebrow. “I don’t get.”
“Ladies don’t forget a thing. I don’t know how they do it, but, they remember every tiny detail. And I hope you know that you would have to tell many lies to cover up the little lie you have started with. So, I would advise that you get your brain ready to remember every little lie you tell, because, they will be your undoing in the end.” Emeka concluded with a smile.
Jerry swallowed. “I don’t know why you are being very negative.”
“I am only being honest, bro. I wish you the best, man. I would be glad if you can tell her the truth about your profession before she finds out though.” He said grinning.
Jerry opened his door. “Thanks.”
Emeka smiled. “See you later, Dr Jerry.”
Jerry frowned as he pushed Emeka out of the house.
Toni brushed Nora’s hair backward. “You should feed your hair more.” She started. “The hair needs to be healthy and to be healthy, it needs food.”
“Rice and Beans?” Nora asked.
Toni pulled a grimace. “Is that you being funny?”
Nora nodded with a smile. “I try.”
“No. Failed effort.” Toni retorted. “Anyway, how much do you pay Ehis for the wigs she supplies you?”
Nora turned her head over her shoulder quickly. “Are the wigs of low quality?”
Toni smiled. Her sister might just have Ehis’ head for dinner if she had even pulled a joke at the moment. “Chill babe, I just think you are spending too much on buying me wigs. I want to leave my scalp.”
Nora swallowed painfully. “No, Toni. You can’t do that.”
“Why not, Nora? Eventually the whole world will see the scalp.” Toni replied as she continued with Nora’s hair. “I just think the money could be channelled to other things.”
Nora scoffed. “Toni, stop being modest. I am not buying wigs of fifty grand, you pump enough money into your charity organization monthly, and we don’t need to donate the money for your beautification too.”
“What is funny?” Nora asked.
Toni smiled. “Beautification is funny. The context I mean.” She replied.
Nora sighed. “I just want you to be happy.”
“I am happy. You should sing that hymn in reverse.” Toni replied.
Nora nodded. “I am trying to be happy.”
Toni smiled as she packed the hair. “Your hair is looking lovely. You should pay me for this.” She said as she stepped away and took her seat on the edge of the bed. “Nora…”
“Yeah…” Nora replied sloppily as she checked the hair in the mirror.
Toni stroked her eyebrow gently, at least, she still had that. “Do you think that I…I might live?”
Nora’s face fell as she turned to her sister. “I know you would live. People get through Cancer every time. You are a fighter and I know that you would.”
Toni nodded slowly. “Why then do you stare at me every night? Why do you waste your time keeping vigils over me every night?”
Nora took her seat beside Toni. “I…I just love watching you sleep.”
Toni’s eyes started to get wet. “You don’t have to lie to me. You think I might just go.”
Nora cleaned her sister’s eyes. “You are not going anywhere…I have to go first, remember? I am older than you, it should be turn by turn.” she said with a soft chuckle.
Toni smiled. “Death is not a respecter of any one.”
“God gives life.” Nora replied as she kissed her sister’s forehead. “I love you, Toni.”
Toni pulled herself away from Nora. “Don’t get all mushy on me.”
Nora chuckled. “So…what do you want for breakfast?”
“Your head.” Toni replied as she crawled up on the bed.
Nora frowned. “Babe, I don’t have time for your jokes this morning. I need to get your food ready now. So, tell me what you want to eat.”
“I really don’t know. I would have whatever you decide to cook.” Toni replied.
Nora nodded as she approached the door. “I’ll be back then.” She said and walked out.
Toni pulled out her diary and started to scribble.
“New Guy: His name is Jerry and yes…I really like this one.”
She shut the diary and left the bedroom.
“What are you doing here?” Nora asked as soon as she saw her sister.
Toni took a seat. “Watching you cook.”
“You know that you don’t have to be here.” She replied.
Toni nodded. “I know I don’t have to be here, but, I want to be.”
Nora sighed. “Fine. Have it your way.”
The doorbell went. Toni stared at the wall clock. “Early visitor. Hmmm…doesn’t James sleep at night?” Toni asked with a grin as she strolled out of the kitchen to the door.
Jerry stood before her with a smile as soon as she opened the door. “Good morning.”
Toni closed the door after her as she shoved Jerry outside. “Morning, Jerry.”
“I see you don’t want me inside.” He replied.
She folded her arms. “Why won’t I want you inside? I am just surprised that you are here this early instead of being at work. Don’t they miss you there?”
“I…I don’t think I can lie about what I want to say.” He started.
Toni smiled faintly. “Don’t worry, Jerry. It is a thing of the mind.”
“Can…Can you just quit with the…the sarcasm…I am trying to say something serious here.” Jerry said as he stuttered. He placed his hand behind his back as he crossed his fingers.
“Okay, I am listening.” She replied.
The door opened and Nora joined them. “Look at who we have here.” She said as she stared keenly at Jerry. “Mr Nice outfit!”
“The name is Jerry.” He said, stretching out a hand.
Nora took the hand calmly and turned to Toni. “Why did you leave your guest standing outside?”
Toni gaped. “We were-”
“-No. I was just leaving.” Jerry said hastily.
Nora gripped him by the arm. “No way, you just got here. Please come in with us. Breakfast is ready.”
Nora smiled at her. “Let the gentleman come in. Won’t you?”
Toni flashed an awkward grin at her. “Of course, I will.” She said and turned in Jerry’s direction. “Please eat with us.”
“I already had breakfast.” He replied.
Toni smiled. “You would love this one.”
“Besides, you can’t turn two ladies down. It so ungentlemanly.” Nora added quickly.
Jerry nodded. “Okay then.”
Nora smiled and led the way into the house.
“So, tell me, what do you do?” Nora started as she stared at Jerry.
Jerry cleared his throat as he prepped himself to continue his lie. “I am a Banker. I work in the Micro-finance bank down the lane, the sort of investment bank that we have here.”
Nora nodded. “I know that bank. Does anybody still visit there? I think you should consider a switch of jobs.”
Jerry smiled. “I am happy to help there. I am doing someone a favour by being there.”
“Oh…that’s noble. But, I am more concerned about what the bank does for you than what you do for the bank.” She replied.
Toni watched her sister interrogate Jerry as though she was her mother. She didn’t contribute to their discussion and continued to eat her meal.
“I work in the Customer Care unit of the leading service provider in this nation.” Nora bragged.
Nora flinched at her. “It is…”
Toni nodded cynically and reached for her phone. She dialled her sister’s number on it. Nora’s phone rang to Toni’s delight.
Nora smiled as she saw her phone ring. “Private Caller. I have to take this, guys.” She said and picked the call. “Hello…Hello…Hello…”
“Talk about leading service provider.” Toni said with a grin. “That is a traditional network problem with them, you can call endlessly and not hear anything from the other end.” Toni concluded.
Nora dropped the phone on the table. “This is just a slight hitch, Jerry. It doesn’t always happen like that, I can assure you.”
Jerry nodded with a smile. “I quite agree with you.”
Nora smiled at Toni. “In your face, Toni. In your face.” She said and then turned towards Jerry. “Just so you know, Banking is a good profession and I have nothing against it, but I just think you should consider a change of jobs.”
“Mom, he has heard you.” Toni interrupted.
Nora nodded. “So, off to the main question. What are your intentions for my sister?”
Toni spilled her drink from her mouth. “Nora!”
Jerry smiled. “It’s okay. I want to take her out this Friday, if you don’t mind.”
Nora nodded. “I don’t mind. Toni, you are going out this Friday.”
Toni rolled her eyes. “This is just amazing.” She muttered.
Jerry smiled at Toni. “Do we have a date?”
“Of course, you have a date.” Nora replied. “Ensure you bring her back home by midnight.”
Toni shook her head. “I have my own mouth, you know?” “Yeah…and I also know that you have a way of making the wrong decisions when I don’t wave my magic wand in your direction.” Nora replied.
Jerry sighed. “You are really cool together.”
Nora smiled. “We try.”
Toni stared at Nora. Her sister was unnecessarily excited and this worried her. She had always wanted to rub off some goodness on Nora, but something seemed to have gone wrong somewhere, Nora was overjoyed and jumping in and out of every conversation that she would naturally not want to have.
“Quit staring at me.” Nora said to Toni.
Toni smiled. “Done.”
Emeka handed Jerry a blue tie. “I think this should go.”
“It is just the movies, right? I think I am overdoing it.” Jerry replied as he stared at the tie.
Emeka shrugged. “I don’t know, but you might get to her house and see her in a dinner gown, so, you better at least match up.”
Jerry sighed. “I should have told her that we were going to the movies. Do you think I should call her and tell her that now?” he asked.
Emeka hissed. “Guy, wear something jare. First impressions matter.”
But…But it’s not like I am proposing to her, right?” Jerry asked.
Emeka nodded. “Either way, you might want to be prepared, she might propose to you.”
Jerry stared at him with a grimace.
“Haha…I was trying to be funny.” Emeka replied.
Jerry nodded. “I observed.”
Emeka took a seat as he watched Jerry fumble with the tie. “So, which new lie have you told to her?”
“Still on the same.” He replied.
Emeka nodded. “That’s good. Remember to keep the lies simple, and beware, she will ask a lot of questions about your family when you guys go to eat, try not to lie about that. I don’t think she would forgive any of that.”
Jerry took a deep breath and sank into a chair. “Man, I am scared. I don’t want to hurt her.”
“Bro, you have already started the lie trend, try to see it out to the end…and maybe you can just come up with you have decided to switch jobs, you know?” Emeka suggested.
Jerry laughed. “You don’t just switch to being a surgeon.”
Emeka nodded. “You are in soup, bro.”
“Nora, I think I am okay.” Toni protested as Nora stared at her make-up box.
Nora ignored her as she picked up a brush. “We are going to apply a little more powder here and there.”
Toni jumped up. “Okay baby, I am fine. I am not going to let you turn me into a Chinese dragon.” She replied as she slipped into her jean trousers.
“I was thinking you would wear a gown.” Nora said as she stared at the gowns on the bed. “I already picked out that black gown for you.”
Toni stared at the gown. “Hmmm…I’ll pass. Besides, I know it is just the movies and I can bet that he won’t be doing more than a top and denims. I am not going to show up like someone who is about to get proposed to.”
“Oh come on, Toni!” Nora said.
Toni smiled. “Don’t worry, I am wearing that top you have been dying to see me wear for ages.”
Nora didn’t smile.
Toni shrugged. “Whatever, man.”
The doorbell went. Nora stood up. “I would go and see Jerry in.”
“I am going to tell him.” Toni said as she picked up her purse.
Nora stared at her. “Are you sure?”
“It’s better not to let them get close and get hurt later on, he would know about my condition tonight.” She replied. “Let’s go.”
Nora nodded and opened the door as they walked downstairs. Jerry was already standing in the Hallway after being let in by a maid. Nora stared at Toni with an evil grin as they stared at Jerry’s suit.
Jerry swallowed painfully as he stared at Nora’s simple wear. “Emeka, you devil!” he cursed in his heart.
“Good evening, ladies.” Jerry greeted.
Nora smiled. “Good evening to you, Jerry. You look dashing.”
Jerry smiled at Nora. “Thank you.” He then walked up to Toni. “You are beautiful.”
“Everybody knows.” Nora cooed. She then shoved both of them out. “Now be on your way, avoid the late night traffic.”
“Do I look seriously dressed?” Jerry asked as they walked into the mall.
Toni smiled. “Do you think you look seriously dressed?
“Yes, I do.” He replied
She nodded. “Then, you do.”
“I…I hope this doesn’t embarrass you.” He said.
She paused and stared at him seriously. “Why would it?”
Jerry smiled. “I don’t want people thinking I am your Daddy.”
Toni smiled. “In that case, I have one cute Daddy.”
He smiled. “That’s…that’s a compliment?”
She stared at him. “What century are you from, Jerry?”
“Alien world.” He replied.
“Is that a century?” she asked.
He shook his head. “No, that’s the movie we are going to be see. It is amazing! I mean, you need to see the aliens and their tricks at getting humans to submit to their will.” He said with a glow.
“So we are going to see sci-fi?” she asked.
He nodded. “It is one of the coolest things you would ever see.”
“I think we should see Cars.” She replied.
He stared at her. “Cars? That’s a cartoon. It should be for kids”
She nodded. “And young adults. Did you see your face when you were talking about Alien world?”
He shrugged. “I was kidding though, you get to choose the movie.”
“Of course. No way am I going to let you torture me with alien world.” She replied as they stepped on the escalator.
Toni looked around the movie section while Jerry got the popcorn. He returned to her as she flashed two tickets before him. “I got us a good movie.”
“Is there any part where you get to cry on my shoulder?” he asked with a smile.
She paused to think. “Erm…”
“Dr Jerry!” A man with a young boy called out as he joined them. “I didn’t know it was you, but my son kept on telling me that it was you. Children” He said as he ruffled his son’s hair with a smile.
Toni stared at them and then at Jerry who managed a smile at the man.
Beautiful Stranger is written by @tomi_adesina; Author of Dear Future Husbandavailable for Free on African Stories. Follow @tomi_adesina on twitter for more thrilling stories. Her new book “All Fun and Games” also available for FREE on African Stories