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“It’s two am. Your shift has been over since the last three hours.” Emeka said as he dropped a coffee cup on the table. “You might want to have some of that if you are going to be stuck in here all night.”
Jerry stared at him. “Man, I just need one more hour.”
“You said that an hour ago and I am sure you would say it when I return. Look, man, you have been having a success streak in the theatres in the past one week and I think it is great that you are this enthusiastic about work and reading and applying more, but don’t push your luck.” He replied.
Jerry closed his book and stared at him. “What are you trying to say?”
“Late nights. Tiring surgeries. Reading into the dead of the night. Where is your medical sense? You need to rest.”
Jerry nodded cynically. “Yeah. I have been successful in the past week and I am thankful to God for that. But there is one person I am still here for and until I find a solution for Toni, there is no way I am leaving this place.”
Emeka sighed as he leaned on the table. “I get it. You love her. She loves you but she is in a radiotherapy session and getting a lot of attention from a team of able doctors. But who is taking care of you? Look at you.”
Jerry smiled. “You are beginning to sound like a woman, man.” He said with a soft chuckle. He was expecting a smile from Emeka but none came. “Look, Emeka, I understand that you are concerned for me, but nothing is going to make sense to me until that woman I love is on her feet.”
“Food too?” Emeka asked.
Jerry sighed. “What do you want me to do?”
“You have to take care of yourself. Eat. Sleep. Then you can come back to work.” He replied.
Jerry looked away. “Emeka, she is not doing well with radiotherapy. You have seen the way the tumour multiplied…I don’t understand anything happening in that room anymore.”
“I spoke to the Director and we are thinking of merging Chemo because of the-”
“-Just stop there. I thought the whole idea of this radiation thing was to shrink the tumours formed from the cancer cells that had spread in the brain. Why are you thinking of Chemo now?” he asked, angrily.
“Jerry, you know the possibility of complications can’t be undermined in any treatment.” Emeka replied.
“You should have thought of that when you pushed for it.” Jerry replied.
“I am sorry, man.” Jerry said. “I…I just feel so helpless right now.” Jerry replied. “I am sorry for coming at you like that.”
Emeka smiled faintly. “Well, maybe I can give you a light tilt of your new faith, Trust God.”
Jerry nodded. “I know. Thank you.”
Emeka took a seat. “Jerry, what we know is we are doing everything we can and Toni is fighting hard too… Don’t worry about it, man. It’ll all be alright.” He replied.
Jerry nodded. “I am fighting too… And if this is my way of fighting, please allow me fight for her.” He replied and focused on his book.
“I won’t you let you fall apart, bro.” Emeka said as he hugged Jerry.
Jerry couldn’t hold back his tears and he let them flow freely.
“Good morning, Toni.” Emeka greeted as he drew the curtains back.
Toni turned her face away from the light. “I don’t want the light.” She muttered.
Emeka nodded and drew them back. “How are you feeling today?”
“Not too good. I am getting closer, right?” she asked.
Emeka took a deep breath. “I have to keep you optimistic. That has been going well for you for a long time now and you can’t give up.”
Toni sighed. “Optimism is tiring.” She said with a soft chuckle.
“It means you should still hang on.” He replied. “I saw Nora on my way here. She is down the hallway.”
Toni smiled faintly. “This would be hard on her…but then, she has got James.”
“…what about Jerry?” Emeka asked.
Toni struggled to breath. “I don’t know. He has been doing well with surgeries, I am happy for him.”
“Who is going to take care of him?” he asked.
Toni smiled. “Are you also terminally ill?” she asked as she managed a smile. “Daily doses are killing me. When would this treatment be over?” she asked with leery eyes.
“I need you to put more effort into this, Toni. Don’t go giving up now.” He replied.
She nodded. “I am fighting for as long as I can, but when my time is up, Emeka, my time is up.” She replied as she gripped his hand.
He took a deep breath. “How is the book coming?”
She reached for a journal which fell carelessly from her hand. “I am sorry.”
Emeka picked it up. “It’s okay. You’ll be fine, I know it.”
“I am almost done with the novel.” She replied. “Coming slowly but surely, but eventually, I’ll be done.”
“It’s an autobiography of you.” He said as he opened the book.
Toni winked. “I thought I’d hype myself a little. I mean, if I don’t do that…who will?”
Toni smiled. “I love that man.”
“He loves you too.”
The door opened and Nora walked in with James. “Hello everyone.” She greeted as she walked over to give Toni a kiss. “How are you, darling?”
“I am fine.” Toni replied.
Emeka rose to his feet. “I’ll leave you all alone. And guys, you have just fifteen minutes with her. I need her to rest.” He said and walked out.
Nora took her seat beside Toni. “You look tired.”
“I am tired.” Toni replied.
James sighed. “This should be the last week of the dosage right?”
“Yeah. I can’t wait for it to be over.” She replied.
Nora took her hand with a smile. “I’m thinking we should travel when you leave this place. We could go to some resort. Enjoy a new air, you know?”
Toni smiled faintly. “You know what I want to do when I get out of here?”
“What?” Nora asked.
“Be with Jerry.”
James and Nora cooed with a smile. “Now, I am jealous.” Nora said.
Toni smiled. “You don’t have to be…James is here with you.”
“Yeah, babe…smile.” James said as he kissed Nora’s cheek.
Toni cleared her throat. “You haven’t asked about my book.”
“Oh, come on, Toni…I was going to. Nora replied as she picked the journal. “How’s it coming?”
Toni smiled. “Almost over. “I don’t have the strength to write with much gusto as before, but I still try.”
“You can leave the book for now while you concentrate on your treatment.” Nora replied.
Toni smiled. “The book is doing a lot for me.”
Nora stared at it and then at Toni. “I spoke to the lawyer.”
Toni cleared her throat. “What did he say?”
“He is coming in tomorrow.”
Toni nodded with a faint smile. “That’s sounds nice.”
James stared at Toni. “Toni?”
“Yeah…” she replied tiredly.
“Can I have a moment with you in private?” he asked.
Nora looked at him with some concern. “Uh?”
Toni nodded. “Please, excuse us.”
Nora stepped out.
“How is she?” Toni asked.
James shook his head. “Bad. She doesn’t sleep at night and she is always crying.”
“I thought you said you would move in with her?” Toni asked, with some concern.
He nodded. “I already did. Not helping matters. All she does is talk about how God already has your parents and that He doesn’t need to take you too.”
Toni smiled. “Oh well…I see she has started saying the same things to you too… Honestly, Nora is the best sister in the world. She is strong. She is a fighter and a lover. She is a woman I look up to a lot and she might not know it now, but, she is phenomenal and I tell you, you are getting a goldmine for a woman. Don’t mess it up.”
James exhaled as he took her hand. “Are… Are you not scared?”
She chuckled. “Of what? What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Come here.” James said as he hugged her tight.
“Good job, Doctor Jerry.” A Nurse said as they came out of the theatre.
He nodded as he dismissed her. Emeka approached him. “How was the surgery?”
“Fine. The Nurses are taking care of the rest.” He replied as they started to walk. “How is Toni? Has she had her dose for today?”
Emeka nodded. “Yes. I was wondering why you haven’t been to see her in days.”
“Did she talk about it?” Jerry asked.
Emeka shook his head. “No. But, it is a little disturbing, don’t you think?”
“I want to show up when I have good news for her. All you guys have done is give her a reason to know it is over, I want to go there when there is some hope.” Jerry replied.
Emeka sighed. “Jerry, don’t be silly. You have to go and see her today.”
“I just want to have good news for her. Is that too much to ask?” Jerry asked.
Emeka blinked. “Do you know Toni at all?”
Jerry looked away.
“Man, this is not the time to play the hero. Go and meet her.” Emeka replied and walked away.
Nora approached Jerry. “Hey!”
“Hi. How are you?” Jerry asked with a smile.
Nora shrugged. “I don’t know. How are you?”
He smiled faintly. “I don’t know too.”
“I guess you have been really swamped.” She said.
He nodded. “I am trying to find some answers somewhere.”
“Toni is not doing better. I can feel it. Her spirit is down.” Nora started as she took a seat. Jerry sat beside her. “She is giving up, Jerry…and there are tonnes of things we haven’t done together, you know?”
Nora sniffled as she continued. “Our weddings. Baby showers. Vacations. I mean, real vacations without any worries or fears. Mountain climbing. Bungee jumping. Sky diving. Surfing. We haven’t done these things, Jerry. We may never do them,”
“You don’t look like an adventurous person to me.” Jerry said with a smile.
Nora nudged him in the waist. “You sounded like Toni just now.”
Jerry chuckled. “She does have that effect on us all, right?”
“Yeah…I love her so much. She is my strength.” She replied as she wiped her eyes.
Jerry exhaled. “I think we should do something lovely for her.”
“Such as?” Nora asked.
He stared at her. “Throw a party?”
“Oh please! Toni would call it a farewell party.” Nora said smiling. “And trust me, she is going to ruin that party.” She added.
Jerry nodded slowly. “Or, we could actually go on a vacation. South Africa?” he suggested.
“Nah. We’ve combed that country…well, not on vacation.” She replied.
He shrugged. “Or we could go to Calabar. Obudu.”
“Now, that’s an option.” She replied with a smile. “We should tell Toni about it. She would love it.” Nora said as she rose to her feet.
He nodded. “I’ll join you there.” He said
“Okay.” Nora replied and walked away.
“He still won’t come?” Toni asked as Nora read through a magazine.
Nora closed it. “I think he is really busy.”
“You guys need to pull Jerry together.” Toni replied.
Nora sighed. “I think he is fine. He is just occupied with a lot of work. Besides, what did you discuss with James?”
Toni smiled. “Personal.”
“Really?” Nora asked. “You know we are sisters.”
Toni nodded. “It’s not working for me. Sorry.”
Nora sighed. “So…what do you think about a vacation after the last session?”
Toni shrugged. “Like I told you earlier, I really don’t care about it.”
“Yeah…yeah…because you want to be with Jerry…but, what if Jerry would go with us on the vacation?” Nora asked.
Toni smiled. “You would do that for me?”
“It’s his idea.” Nora replied.
Toni folded her arms. “Jerry’s idea? Really? He did say something about vacation?”
“Why are you finding it so hard to believe?” Nora asked.
Toni giggled. “I didn’t think you all were that exciting.”
“We could make it a vacation for the four of us. You, me, Jerry and James. We would spend a lot of money and have a lot of fun too.”
Toni nodded with a smiles. “That works for me.”
“Great! We have a date then. I would start scheduling everything for the trip.” She said with excitement. “Where would you love to go to?”
Toni stared at Nora. “I don’t know really.”
The door opened and Jerry walked in with a smile. “Hi.”
“Hey!” Toni replied. “Come and give me a hug!” she ordered. “Who is ‘Hi’?” she said with a grin.
Jerry smiled as he hugged her.
“You can let go now.” Toni said with a chuckle.
Jerry stared at her. “I am guessing Nora has told you about the vacation…”
Toni nodded with a smile. “Really? Are we going to have the vacation?”
“Yes, where do you want to go?” he asked.
Toni stared at them. “Guys, we have to do everything fun on that vacation. From Bungee jumping to sky diving. It has to rock!”
Nora stared at her. “Err…I guess you are forgetting something.”
“And what could that be?” Toni asked.
Nora pointed to the bed. “We can’t have you jumping up and down.”
Jerry nodded. “She is right.”
“But we still go on the vacation, right?” Toni asked.
“Sure!” Jerry and Nora replied at once and then laughed.
There was a light tap on the door and the Director walked in. “Everyone is all smiles here. That’s impressive.”
Toni smiled. “We could all be happy.”
The Director nodded. “Exactly.” He then turned towards Jerry. “Could I please steal Doctor Jerry for a couple of minutes?”
Jerry rose to his feet as he smiled at Toni. “I’ll be right back.”
“Have him for as long as you want.” Toni replied.
Jerry pecked her on the forehead and walked out with the Director.
“Now what trouble has he gotten himself into?” Toni asked.
Nora folded her arm. “Come on, he is a Doctor and that is his Director and this is their hospital… It has to be work related.”
“My instincts tell me that he is in trouble.” Toni replied.
Nora sighed. “Oh come on… No one ever admits that their instincts could be wrong.”
“Well, mine isn’t.” Toni replied.
Nora sighed as she took a seat
“So what do you think, sir?” Jerry asked with a smile.
The Director greeted his smile with a stern frown. “What do you think you are doing, Jerry?”
Jerry looked in the direction of Toni’s room. “I remember staying off her case. What have I done?”
“I am not talking about her. I am talking about Mrs Aiyenugba. What do you think you are doing?” he asked.
Jerry took a deep breath. “Mrs Aiyenugba is my friend.”
“She is someone’s daughter and grandmother and our patient before being your friend.” He shouted.
Jerry exhaled. “What is the matter?”
“The matter is Mrs Aiyenugba’s SAN of a son is threatening to sue my hospital if you don’t produce his mother.” The Director replied.
Jerry sighed. “That…that is not my decision to make.”
“Excuse me?” The Director probed.
Jerry nodded in defiance. “Mrs Aiyenugba happens to enjoy where she is living at the moment. It is of no use to send her to a family that don’t want her.”
“That would be for her and her family to decide. We have done our part and that is treating her so you are going to let her family do the rest which, again I say, is not our duty.” The Director replied.
Jerry nodded. “Okay.”
“I want you to take care of this matter today.” He said and walked away.
Jerry sighed and returned into Toni’s room.
“So, what did you do?” Toni asked as he walked in.
Nora hissed. “Leave the man alone, Toni. Do we all have to do wrong?” she asked.
“It’s about my housemate.” He replied.
Toni grinned at Nora. “Told you.”
“The hospital wants me to get her out of my house, but her family don’t want her, so it seems pointless.” He replied.
“You have a housemate?” Toni asked.
He nodded. “Mrs Aiyenugba. She is an elderly woman.”
Toni sighed. “Thank God.”
Jerry chuckled as he took his seat. “I should tell you all about her.”
“Yes, you should.” Toni replied.
Nora picked up her purse. “I want to take a walk. I’ll be right back guys.”
Toni blinked. “I’ll be here.”
Nora nodded and walked out.
“She wants to go and cry.” Toni said.
Jerry stared at her. “No. It’s a walk.”
“No. she is going to shed some tears.” She replied.
Jerry raised an eyebrow. “How can you be so sure?”
“I am sure.” She replied.
Jerry rose to his feet. “In that case, I think I should go and check on her.”
“No. She will be fine.” Toni replied. “And let’s look on the brighter side, shedding tears actually washes microorganisms from the eyes.” She said with a smile.
Jerry nodded with a smile. “I love you, Toni.”
She smiled back. “And I love you, Jerry.”
Nora wanted the vacation more than anyone. She wanted a new air…some respite for her soul. As she sat in the garden, she watched as Nurses or family members wheeled patients around for some air. She wanted someone to wheel her around. She didn’t want to think about Toni for a minute. She just wanted to be happy…she didn’t want to expect the worst. She wanted to live in denial for a day…maybe a day was pushing her luck. She thought. An hour seemed just fine. If she could just live the next hour without thinking about Toni, maybe she would be fine.
She knew she wasn’t going to be fine. These things don’t just go away. She raised her head to the sky as she fought back tears, the more she tried, the more her throat hurt. She felt pain. Maybe no one really knew how she felt. She cried.
“It is pointless, guys, I am not having this conversation.” Jerry said as he knotted his neck tie.
Emeka stared at Mrs Aiyenugba. “I have told you he won’t listen.”
“Jerry, I understand you don’t want to see me go, but if they are threatening to sue the Hospital, you should understand. It could also cost you your job.”
“I’ll get another.” Jerry replied.
Emeka sighed. “Bull-headed cock!”
Jerry laughed. “Bull? Cock? Dude?”
Emeka blinked as he looked away. He was so angry that he didn’t know that he had not put the words out rightly. However tacky Jerry thought it sounded, he had made his point clear. Jerry was being adamant.
“Jerry, I know how much you care about me, but my son can be a real pain. I know that first hand.” Mrs Aiyenugba said. “You don’t want him throwing his Legal weights around.”
Jerry shrugged. “I can’t be bothered. No one will take you to that facility against your will.”
“But I hear it is a fine place. Just that I would be surrounded by old people… And I am old too.” She said with a smile. “Let me go.”
Emeka swallowed. “Come on, man. The Director expects you to have sorted this out yesterday. We shouldn’t go to work today with a negative answer for him.”
“At least, let her meet Toni before she leaves. We would take her in the evening.” Jerry said with a frown.
Mrs Aiyenugba smiled. “Thank you. I can’t wait to meet her.”
“It’s okay.” Jerry said as he took a deep breath. “I would be back to pick you at lunch time.”
The doorbell chimed. Emeka opened it. He was forced back by Police officers.
Jerry stepped forward. “What is it?”
“You are under arrest.” The officer said flashing a warrant before him.
Beautiful Stranger is written by @tomi_adesina; Author of Dear Future Husband available 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