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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Beautiful Stranger - Episode 4

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Beautiful Stranger - Episode 3

beautiful stranger 2 (1)
Toni pushed her weight against the leather seat and focused on the Television. Nora was going to be fast asleep by now. Nora never took long once she hit the sheets. Toni took a deep breath as she reflected on her sister’s words. She had never seen herself as selfish, she had only seen the men in her sister’s life as the wrong men. James was new though and it might seem too quick to judge him, but he already got off on the wrong foot with his admiration for her. This was never going to please Nora.
Nora couldn’t sleep. She didn’t feel right after yelling at Toni. Toni had never been responsible for anything that happened to her but it was just convenient to blame it all on Toni. Toni was happy. She wasn’t. Toni’s happiness came from within, it was so beautiful that it confused everyone around her. Nora knew there was no sleep for her this time. On a good day, once she hit the sheets, she was gone. But today, it isn’t one of those good days. She prayed that the door would open and Toni would come in to apologize as usual so as to make it easier for her, but the door wasn’t going to open. She stared hard at the door and eventually forced it open.
“How long are you going to keep staring at that thing?” Nora asked as she descended the stairs.
Toni grinned as she heard her sister’s voice. She then straightened her head with a frown.
“We both know that you don’t like Fashion Police.” Nora added as she joined Toni in the living room. “You think it is a waste of time, the clothes have been worn and awards have been…” Nora paused with a smile waiting for Toni to pounce on their mantra.
Toni stared at Nora coldly. “Every girl loves Fashion Police…and I am no exception.”
“Really? Since when did my sister fit into the majority? I mean, that is so not Toni. Did you lose some nuts in your head when you went for your evening walk?” Nora asked.
Toni ignored her.
Nora took a deep breath and drew close to her sister. “I think we should watch football, I know you like to watch it. There should be a match tonight, right?”
Toni ignored her.
“Cristiano has the biggest abs, right?” Nora continued.
Toni sighed. “Quit trying. It just takes five letters. One word. I don’t need the full three words.”
“Sorry.” Nora said with a frown.
Toni smiled. “I can’t hear you.”
Nora nudged her sister. “I am sorry, Toni.”
“I need you to be a little more audible.” Toni said as she stuck her tongue out.
Nora smiled. “I am sorry.”
Toni nodded and hugged her. “The good guys will come. Always remember that.”
“It’s just that I really like James.”
Toni rolled her eyes. “And you really liked Nathaniel too…and what is the name of that other douchebag?”
Toni laughed. “Yeah…you liked him too. You liked them all, but eventually, you let them go. The heart will eventually forget unrequited love, Nora. It doesn’t matter how long it takes.”
“Why do I always have to be the one giving out all the love and not getting any?” Nora asked.
Toni shrugged. “Probably you think you have been giving out love…maybe it is lust.”
Nora hissed. “Are you saying that I don’t know the difference between love and lust?”
“There is a thin line between them.” Toni replied. “Anyway, just so I am not a spoiler, I actually think that James might like you, so you can be optimistic about it, but I’d advise you not to get your hopes up.” She added immediately.
Nora sighed. “Just one question…why do guys like you?”
“Isn’t it evident? I am alive.” Toni replied as she rose to her feet.
Nora frowned. “And I am dead?”
“Technically, you are dead…and to think I am the walking corpse.” Toni replied with a smile. “Live life a little, Sis. Let down your hair, play in the sun…maybe the rain, I won’t totally advise the rain because it is not as romantic as the movies make it, but Nora, you are beautiful and you have the right and ability to be happy. Don’t waste it.”
Nora stared at Toni. “You know I don’t like it when you talk like this.”
Toni smiled. “You know better, sis.”
Nora nodded slowly. “We should go to bed now, I am tired of this day, I need a new one.”
“You will always need a new day, Nora. You don’t do anything with the one you have.”
Nora groaned. “Enough! I am tired. Is that better?”
Toni smiled. “Yeah. Let’s go to bed.”
“Where did you go today?” Nora asked as they ascended the stairs.
Toni smiled to herself. “The bar,”
“No way!” Nora replied. “I don’t even believe you.”
Toni grinned. “Okay.”

“Really, you want a job at my bar?” Tunji asked as he cleaned a glass.
Jerry hissed. “Don’t flatter yourself, bro. I just need to be here more often, I need to see that girl again. Tell me, what have you gathered about her?”
Jerry frowned. “Nothing? How is it possible that no one knows anything about a lady that I like?”
“You like her?” Tunji asked as he arranged some glasses.
Jerry shook his head disapprovingly. “No.”
“I heard you well. No shame in liking a girl, brother.” Tunji replied. “She is a stunner. Can take anyone at first glance.”
Jerry sighed. “I need to see her…again.”
“You have a name?” Tunji asked.
He nodded. “Yeah…very helpful name. Stranger.”
Tunji laughed. “Bro, you just got zoned.”
Tunji nodded. “The friend zone. Never a friendly zone to be in, when…no, if you get out, you are a Legend.”
Jerry turned his face away.
“So, how come you have run away from the Hospital to get a job by the Bar? Very interesting change of job if you ask me.” Tunji started as he stared at Jerry with keen interest.
Jerry nodded. “That is why I am not asking you.”
“So, why don’t you like anyone knowing where you work? Being a Doctor is a very honourable profession, My Dad would have killed to see me hang a stethoscope around my neck.” Tunji replied.
Jerry grinned. “You can have my life. I certainly don’t want it.”
Tunji gaped. “Seriously? You don’t like it?”
“It is overrated.”
Tunji shrugged. “Says the Doctor…From where I am standing, you are living the life. Handsome wages, only that this is your life.” He said, staring at the liquor bottles. “Find a girl. Settle down. Stop drinking.”
“You will be out of business.” Jerry replied. “It is strange to find a barman tell his customer to quit. What is wrong with you?” he asked, laughing.
Tunji smiled. “That’s the first and last time I will tell you about it, I might not be interested in dissuading you tomorrow.”
Jerry nodded. “I like it here and now. Don’t bother trying again.”
“So…about your mystery girl, any plans to find her?”
Jerry scratched his hair lightly. “I don’t have any plans, but I will visit all the points at which I have met her until I find her.”
“This is the only meeting point.” Tunji said laughing.
Jerry smiled as he got up. “No. I have another spot.”
“And I guess you are going there?” Tunji asked.
Jerry shrugged with a smile. “It’s all the gold I have got.”
“All the best, bro.”
Jerry nodded and walked out of the bar and down the road. He took his seat at the spot where he had met ‘Stranger’. He stared at his wristwatch tensely as he hoped that she might just walk past.
Three long hours had passed and she was nowhere in sight. It was 9pm and she didn’t seem to him like the type who might stray at that hour. He tucked his hand in his jacket and walked away.

“Toni, are you sure about this?” Nora asked as she applied her lip gloss.
Toni smiled. “The night is still young.”
“I know, but then, Viber? I don’t like that club.” Nora replied.
Toni nodded. “I know, you met all the boys you have loved there, but then we have never seen James at Viber, so maybe this is a good sign…the dude won’t be there, you are in luck for the right man, finally.”
Nora sighed. “Toni, you don’t like the place either, why are you making us go there?”
“Nora, we don’t necessarily have to go to Viber, I just want you to go out. Shake up a little.” Toni said as she wore her wig. “By the way, I don’t like this wig, get me a new one, else, I’ll be rocking Amber style soon.”
Nora stared at her. “I think you are perfect with the wigs.”
“Let’s face the reality.” Toni replied.
Nora drank some water. “So…it’s been six months here, do you like it at all?”
“Do I like it? Nora, I don’t do anything…except but wait for the day I get another appointment.” Toni replied. “So, I love it.”
Nora nodded. “That’s good.”
“So. Nora, tell me, do you think you will get a second date with James, or should I hook you up?”
Nora scoffed. “Hook me up? I sure can take care of me, baby sis.”
“Yeah…right.” Toni replied as she slipped into her shoes. “Let’s go, baby.”
Nora nodded and picked up her phone. Her phone buzzed and James popped up as the Caller ID. “James is calling, what do I do?” she asked.
Toni grinned. “I thought you could take care of you.”
“Come on, Toni. Just help me, would you?”
Toni stared at her with a smile. “Ignore it.”
“Ignore what? This dude will never call me again in his life. He already thinks he is a Diva.” Nora replied.
Toni shrugged. “Then why did you ask for my help?”
Nora stared at the screen. “Missed call. Are you happy now?”
“Yeah. Let’s go party.” Toni replied.
“Remember you can’t be out too long, we would be back as soon as possible.” Nora started.
Toni stared at the clock. “It is 9pm and we are just heading out, how soon would we return, Nora dear?” she asked, cynically.
Nora’s phone rang for a second time and she stared helplessly at Toni who rolled her eyes in disgust. “I have to take this, Toni.”
“Make yourself happy.” Toni replied and sank into the bed as she started to take off her shoes.
Nora walked away from her sister as she took the call. Toni watched her with a grimace as Nora blushed into the phone. Toni slowly started to take off her clothes. She knew better than to think she and her sister still had a date.
Nora returned to her with so much hope in her eyes.
“Don’t bother telling me, go and meet him.” Toni said as she changed into trousers.
Nora took her seat beside her. “It is just that James said he booked us two tickets to see this new movie.”
“Movie?” Toni asked as she raised her eyebrow. “Can’t we go together?”
Nora’s face sank. “Toni…”
Toni smiled. “Of course, you know I was kidding.”
“Can I go dressed like this?” Nora asked.
Toni stared at her. “I think you are slightly overdressed for the movies.”
“So maybe I can wear that lemon top you got me last summer?” Nora asked as she hurried to the wardrobe. She was already pulling out the lemon top before waiting for any response from her sister.
Toni smiled as she watched her sister agitate. Nora was in love. The boys loved Toni effortlessly, she just didn’t find herself loving anyone. She didn’t bother to love anyone and her heart seemingly did cooperate with her and didn’t fall for anyone too. Talk about cooperation!
Nora turned to her. “Toni, I don’t think you should go anywhere tonight.”
“So you can have fun and I can’t?” Toni asked as she picked up her phone.
Nora sighed. “You know we don’t have any friends here and the time is quite unholy.”
“And I suppose you are going out on another time datum? Say, American time?” Toni asked with a smile.
Nora frowned. “James is coming to get me. I am safe.”
“Trust no man.” Toni cooed as she sprawled on the bed. “Don’t worry about me, I will go to bed.”
Nora nodded with a smile and pecked her sister. “I love you, darling.”
“You love James more.” Toni replied.
Nora rolled her eyes. “Don’t keep me here, I need to meet him downstairs.” She said, staring at her phone.
Na wa o! He must have parked his car outside the house when he called.” Toni replied as she drew the blanket over her.
Nora smiled. “Do I look good?”
“You are beautiful, Nora. Always know that.”
Nora nodded, blew her sister a kiss and hurried out.

“You look beautiful.” James whispered to Nora.
Nora turned to him with a smile. “Thank you.”
He nodded. “So…how is Toni?”
“Toni is good.”
James nodded. “She didn’t want to come to the movies with us?”
“She was too tired.” Nora replied as she focused on the movie. “We should focus on the movie, you know.”
James nodded as he faced the screen. “I think your sister is really so much fun, she should rub off some happiness on you.”
“Really?” Nora asked as she nudged him. “Am I that boring?”
He nodded with a smile. “And stoic too…”
“Come on, James.”
He grinned as he focused on the screen. “What is the most spontaneous thing you have ever done?”
“I have been to Viber.”
James gaped as he stared at Nora. “Viber? You?”
Nora nodded confidently. “Yeah.”
“I can bet on anything that Toni took you there.” He said.
She smiled. “I can do some wild things too.”
“Are you trying to impress me?” James asked.
She scoffed. “Impress? I don’t need to…I am impressive.”
James smiled. “That sounds like a line Toni would use.”
Nora sighed heavily.
James wrapped his hand around Nora and drew her closer. “I think you are beautiful as you are and you really don’t need to bring a Toni swag to impress anyone.”
Nora pulled herself away from him. “You think I was not being me?”
He nodded. “That was Toni.”
“You don’t even know Toni.” She replied.
He shrugged. “Maybe not as well as you do know her, but, I have spent some minutes with her to guess how she talks and I see you every day at work to know how well you talk.”
“You notice me?”
He smiled. “From Day One that you stepped into our office.”
The man sitting beside James cleared his throat. “I am trying to see a movie.” He grunted.
James chuckled as he stared at Nora. “Do you want to go to someplace quiet?”
She nodded.
James took her hand and led her outside. Their exit was greeted with howls and throwing of popcorns at them.
Nora laughed as they stepped outside. “I thought that only happened in movies.”
“That was the movies.” James replied as he picked popcorns out of her hair.
She smiled as though her face was going to crack. It was just her and James and it seemed like something real was happening.
“Come on, let’s go.” James said as he walked ahead. “We would walk till we can walk no more.”
Nora smiled. “Now that is a real movie line.”
He nodded. “I am glad you know that. So, tell me Nora, you just joined us say, six months ago and rumour has it that you might be leaving us soon. I am not surprised because you have a lot of money from your house and car, but, why so soon?”
“And I am guessing that Ehis is the one that started the rumour?” Nora asked.
He nodded. “The whole office is thinking you are leaving soon.”
“Do you think I am?” she asked.
He shrugged. “I am asking you right now, are you?”
“I…I don’t think so. It all depends on Toni.” She replied.
James stared at her. “Toni? How does she come to play in all this?”
Nora rubbed her forehead. “Toni…Toni is a bit of a traveller. We spend our inheritance travelling round the world…and touching lives too.”
“A lot of money your parents must have left for you guys.” James said as they walked.
Nora shrugged.
“So, you must be the serious sister who can’t do without a job that you decided to get a job to keep yourself busy…hmmm…and to think the guys at work don’t know how loaded you are…I should start blowing your trumpet.”
“And risk my house being burgled?” Nora asked.
He shrugged. “With the kind of security you have, that shouldn’t be a problem.”
She smiled. “Interesting observation.”
“I take notice of everything…every little thing.” He replied.
She raised an eyebrow. “Security isn’t tiny detail, you know?”
“I know…but really, I think you should get your sister to work, staying in all day can be really depressing.”
Nora shrugged. “Toni doesn’t mind, besides, nothing brings her down.”
“You think so?” He asked.
She nodded, “I know so.”
Toni stared at herself in the mirror and let the tears stream down her eyes. She didn’t have the right or reason to dream…to expect….to want. She just lived. Sometimes, she hoped. Other times, she prayed.
She took off the wig slowly. Her hair had started to grow again, she smiled as she touched the roots. She took a deep breath as she thought about the call that she had been expecting for six months in a corner of her heart. In the other part of her mind, she didn’t want to receive the call. She just wanted to live.
She pulled out her ‘sober coin’ from the drawer as tossed it on the table. It had been almost five years since she last touched a bottle. Moments like this took her back to her life before the bad news came. She was the official party rocker. Booze…Late nights, she lived what her friends would have termed the life.
She however realised that what others called the life was nothing close to what a real life was. Every day that passed only drew her closer to a day she wasn’t sure she really wanted to see.
Staring at the mirror was always a moment for her to reflect. She wondered if one day she would actually wake up and realise that the last five years in her life had never happened and that the days that she lived now might just be struck by a miracle. She hoped and prayed that it might happen. She had been told several times that God does answer prayers, she believes in God. She knows that he does answer prayers and that her last five years on earth was proof that God did answer prayers.
She took a deep breath and lay on the bed. She would try to sleep.

Jerry turned off the alarm as it buzzed violently. “I don’t have to obey you for the next two weeks.” He shouted as he drew the blanket over himself. He had forgotten to change the timer from 1am, he usually had his morning shifts as early as four in the morning.
No sooner had he settled in the second round of his sleep that his phone buzzed him back to live. “I should have turned off the vibration.” He said as he drew the phone to himself. “Tunji? Why is he calling me?” He said to himself as he picked the call. “What’s up, man?”
“Guy! I think I just saw your girl.”
Jerry stared at the clock. “Dude? Have you been drinking?”
“No. She has been drinking.” Tunji replied.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Beautiful Stranger - Episode 2

Episode 2

Jerry knew he would fail the alcohol test, but that didn’t bother him. His bad luck had intensified in the last weeks and this was leading the other doctors to doubt his competence. Patients transferred to him always had a ten percent chance of survival and that was putting it mildly. He never actually did succeed in any case he really handled and he almost always made a howler of cases that he had to assist on. His life was really a mess and he needed a break from all the drama. He watched the Lab scientists from outside as they worked on the samples he had presented for his alcohol test. One thing was evident, the Director of the Hospital was ready to suspend him for the second time in two years if he failed the test.
Being a Doctor was his lifelong dream. He loved tending to people and saving lives, above all, he also loved the prestige that came with being called a Doctor. His parents loved that too. He had been guided by following his passion so that he wouldn’t have to see his job as tedious for a day but Medicine was never like that. He had graduated with straight A’s in school and seemed like the perfect Doctor but everything changed when he started practising. Series of deaths rolled under his watch and this didn’t boost his morale. It couldn’t boost anyone’s morale to be a failing Doctor.
Emeka popped his head out from the Laboratory and signalled to Jerry to join him in a corner. “Hey Bro…you shouldn’t be here.”
                “And I am guessing that you have become a Lab scientist?” Jerry asked as he folded his arms.
Emeka smiled. “I switched the bottles.”
                “Your urine and mine?”
Emeka nodded with a smile. He expected Jerry to wrap his arms around him in appreciation of this but Jerry stared at him coldly. “Say something…something good.”
                “What is good about your urine? For all we know you might have syphilis.”
Emeka scoffed at Jerry’s ingratitude. “A thank you would suffice.”
                “I am not grateful. I am worried about what the Director would say when a comprehensive test is done.”
Emeka smiled. “Thank me later.”
The door opened and the Director joined them with a sheet of paper in his hand. He stared accusingly at the duo and handed the sheet to Jerry. “I don’t know what you did to make your alcohol drinking mess go away…but you are still suspended.”
Jerry watched the Director as he disappeared down the hall and turned to Emeka. “Do you still want the thank you?”
Emeka shook his head. “I am so sorry, man.”
                “Look, I don’t think I’ll do any better here than I did in the East. Maybe I should just go back home. Maybe this profession isn’t for me after all. What is the point of going to the surgical wards when everything I touch is a no? This is tiring. Very exhausting.”
Emeka nodded. “You have a point there and it might sound wrong for the moment but I sincerely do think that this suspension might give you some time to bounce back.”
                “Bounce back? Did you even ever see my glory days?”
Emeka paused to think.
                “I have never had any.” Jerry replied and adjusted his coat. “I’ll be on my way home.”
                “How many weeks are you to be suspended for?” Emeka asked.
Jerry checked the sheet. “Two weeks.”

                “Two weeks?” Toni asked with a frown.
Nora nodded as she took off her slippers. “Am I not deserving of it?”
Her sister was silent.
                “I worked hard to get that leave.”
Toni shrugged. “I am not disputing that, but I am just saying that if the service provider is naturally that horrible, what happens when more people such as you get leaves from work?”
                “We are a competent network.”
Toni nodded. “Sounds like your motto, right?” she asked with a grin. “Nora, I really don’t want you in this house with me for two whole weeks. You will bore me to death with your principles.” Toni continued. Nora ignored her and started to change into her underwear. “Where are you going with James?” She asked, trying to change the topic.
                “He ought to call me in the next hour to let me know. We leave by seven.”
                “That should be to the movies then…” Toni replied. “I should step out tonight too.”
Nora shot at her. “Where to? It rained last night. It might rain today too.”
                “It’s just for a walk.” Toni replied. “Besides, I might just go with a car.”
Nora nodded. “I think it is safer if you go with a car. You have to be careful.”
                “Nora, I am fine.”
Nora picked her phone. “Toni, I know you are. I am just playing my role.”
                “I think it is a little too much.”
The land phone rung. Toni lifted the receiver. “Hello!”
                “Ma’am, there is a man named James here to see Ms. Nora.”
Toni shrieked as she replaced the receiver with a smile. “James is here. I have to go and see him.” She replied as she leaped off the bed.
                “Why is here so early? Oh my…I have to fix myself up. Go…go and keep him company.” Nora said as she turned towards the mirror.
Toni hurried out of the room.
James stood in the living room in his black suit with a smile. Toni folded her arms as she smiled at him. “I meet the famous James.”
He smiled. “Err…I…I am here to see Nora.”
                “Obviously she hasn’t told you about me?” she asked as she took a seat. “Take a seat.”
James obliged. “You are Toni, right?”
She smiled. “Oh…she did mention me?”
                “No…and now I know why she didn’t.” James replied as he undid the lower button of his jacket.
Toni ran her hand across her hair and took a deep breath with her eyes closed. She thought she was missing something. She shrugged. “Why do you think my sister never mentioned me?”
                “It’s obvious. You are a lot prettier than she is. Very stunning and she is very sure that if I had just one glimpse at your photo before coming here, you would be going out with me on this date.”
Toni smiled. “You flatter yourself.”
                “I try. Where is Nora?”
                “She has to dress up. I think you arrived earlier than schedule and I think you are seriously dressed.”
James stared at his jacket. “I like to look nice. First impressions count, you know?”
                “You won’t go far with me. I like to wait for second impressions.” She replied as she rose to her feet. “I have to check in with Nora. I’ll be right back.”
James nodded as he relaxed in his seat.
                “How does he look?” Nora asked as Toni shut the door.
Toni smiled. “He is cute, you have nice eyes.”
                “I hope he likes me too…so tell me the important thing.”
Toni nodded. “He is wearing a suit. He is taking you to a classy restaurant, so you can pour your hair down for a start.”
                “I can help myself. Go and talk with him. He is really interesting.”
Toni smiled. “He is. You always find the douchebags.”
                “Stop. James is different. Nothing like the other guys I have met.” She said with a smile as she poured her hair down. “What gown do I wear?”
                “I like that black one you wore for a fund raiser last month.”
Nora took a seat. “I already wore it once. I want a fresh slate with James.”
                “You are a clown. It is just a date. It is not your marriage.”
Nora hissed. “You are very helpful, Toni. Thanks.”
Toni nodded. “You are welcome.”
                “I think you should go and occupy James.”
Her sister grinned. “Of course…”
Nora grabbed her gown as soon as Toni shut the door after her.
                “I see I am not very popular around here. You have left for me for like err…” James pulled up his sleeve to check the time. “Fifteen minutes.”
                “Thirteen minutes.” Toni corrected with a smile.
James smiled. “Did you check the time or are you just trying to wow me with your intelligence?”
She shrugged. “I don’t wow people…it comes effortlessly.”
                “Have lunch with me sometime.” James replied with a grin.
                “Hitting on two sisters. Touché!”
He smiled. “It’s just lunch, I would like to know you better…maybe hook you up with one of my single buddies.”
                “I’ll pass.”
                “Why? You are beautiful, smart. Any guy’s catch.”
Toni nodded with a smile. “Did I mention I like football too? I hear you guys are into ladies that love football too…”
                “My God! Where have you been all my life?” he asked with a smile.
She took a deep breath. “Stuck in between rooms.”
                “Humour too…you are a real catch.” He continued. “Nora is taking forever.”
Toni smiled. “Don’t you guys just love a pretty lady?”
                “We do.” He replied. “I am cute, right?”
She smiled. “Obviously.”
                “Ah! Finally!” James exclaimed as he watched Nora descend the stairs.
                “She is so beautiful.” Toni said with a smile and flashed her camera. “Souvenir for me. You are having her full beauty. I rarely ever get to see my sister dressed like this, so cherish the moment, James.” Toni said as she nudged him.
Nora smiled at Toni. “Thanks darling. Do take care of yourself.”
                “What could possibly happen to her, guardian angel?” James asked as he gave Nora his hand.
Toni grinned. “Yeah…what could possibly happen to me?”
Nora shot a face at her sister and smiled at James. “Shall we?”
                “Sure.” He replied.
Toni smiled as she stepped out of the house that evening. There was no way she was going to drive any of the cars when she could walk. She had only walked past two streets when she spotted the jerk from the bar sitting alone in a corner. She grinned to herself as she walked up to him. “Jerk!” she said.
Jerry stared at her and turned his face away.
She took her seat beside him with a smile. “I take it as you were drunk last night.”
Jerry ignored her.
                “So…do you talk at all? Oh wait! You do talk so much…almost as though you don’t have a lid on it…so, why are you unusually quiet tonight?” Toni asked with a smile.
Jerry took a deep breath and clenched his fists together. He had been doing some self-evaluation until this lady appeared from nowhere to bug him. His fists were hungry to feast on her face…but then…it was not his style.
Toni smiled waiting for a response from him. She had expected a response to follow since he took a deep breath. Nothing followed. She poked her head before him with a smile. “You are ignoring me?”
                “Look here, woman!” Jerry growled in a loud tone. “If you don’t have anything good to do with your life other than disturb others, just bloody leave me alone.”
Toni sat back with a smile. “That was supposed to hurt me, right?”
Jerry sighed.
                “Look man, we all have problems…no, I call them challenges, and we can’t overcome all of them truthfully. But, we are bigger than life and its challenges, we just have to find a way around them.” She said, standing up.
Jerry took a glance at her and then turned his face away remorsefully. “I am sorry.” He muttered.
Toni smiled. “I can’t hear you.”
Jerry stared at her and nodded. “Okay, I am sorry.”
                “A little louder?” she asked with a grin.
Jerry smiled faintly. “I am sorry.”
                “Take care.” She said and walked away.
Jerry took a deep breath as he watched her walk away. He’d be a fool not to get her name this time. He knew it. He hurried after her. “Hey!” he said catching up. “You walk fast, you know?”
Toni turned at him with a smile. “Apart from the fact that you walk faster or slower when you walk alone, I also left that spot before you so it is logical that I am a few steps ahead of you, don’t you think?”
Jerry smiled. “That’s interesting.”
                “I am interesting.”
He laughed. “You are cocky.”
She raised an eyebrow. “I thought that term was more familiar with the male folks.” She replied as she started to walk.
                “Oh well…eh, are you naturally this cool with everyone?”
Toni stopped. “I love people.”
                “I mean, we should love our brothers as ourselves, but, you are so…so welcoming.”
Toni shrugged and continued to walk. “It is a way of life. Life is beautiful, it should be enjoyed with people. Why can’t we all just love each other?”
                “You are clearly from another planet. People will mess you up if you trust them too much.” Jerry replied.
                “Then you forgive, give people room to make mistakes.”
Jerry stopped. “Do you live by this ideology?”
She smiled.
                “Of course, you do. I was nasty with you and you were amazing. It’s rare.” He replied. “Do you mind if we continue this conversation at Tunji’s Bar? It is just right around the corner. You could have water.” He said with a smile.
Jerry pushed the door open and let Toni in. Tunji smiled as they took their seats at his table. “Interesting combo tonight.”
                “Evening man. I would have a glass of-”
                “-Water. He would have water and same with mine.” Toni interrupted.
Jerry stared at her. “Me? Water?”
Tunji smiled. “Yeah. Him? Water?” He asked, staring at Toni.
                “Yeah. Water.” She replied.
Jerry rubbed his forehead. “Okay, water it is.”
                “Smitten fool.” Tunji said with a smile as he turned to get the water.
Jerry stared at Toni. “I…I didn’t see that coming.”
                “We don’t always see everything coming. Take for instance, eighty percent of girls that go out on dates with guys expect to get kissed at the end of the date but when the kiss eventually comes, they never see it coming.” She replied.
Jerry smiled. “Is that a tested theory?”
                “Technically, it is my theory.” She replied.
He folded his arms. “How come I have never seen you around before?”
                “You saw me yesterday.” She replied with a chuckle.
He nodded. “I know. I mean, like, I have not seen you around really…”
                “I am stuck in between rooms.”
He stroked his beard. “What does that mean?”
                “I am always indoor.”
James smiled. “Are you telling me that I am the first guy that you would be out with?”
Toni laughed. “Of course, not.”
                “Tell me about you.” Jerry said.
Tunji dropped bottles of water on their table with a smile. “Enjoy…” he said and walked away.
                “Now that I think of it, water will be saving us a lot of money.” He said.
Toni nodded. “You are doing better with your sense of humour.”
                “Back to you, so, tell about you.” He said.
Toni folded her arms. “What’s there to know? Nothing….Actually, nothing.”
                “Are you from Mars? Are your siblings aliens? Do you speak Mandarin?” Jerry asked.
She sipped her water. “Boring details. I live with my big sister and our parents are long dead.”
                “I am so sorry.” Jerry said.
She finished her water. “It’s fine. I wish I knew them…anyway, let’s talk about you. What do you do?”
Jerry blinked. “What do I do?”
She nodded. “Yeah… for work.”
                “Erm…I work in an investment bank.” He replied as he drank some water.
She sat back with a grin. “Investment banking? The last time I heard that, the guy turned out to be talking about a sperm bank…is that where you work?” she asked raising an eyebrow.
Jerry laughed. “Come on, can you be serious for like five seconds?”
Toni closed her eyes and counted one to five aloud. “Okay, serious moment is over. But really, what bank is that?”
                “It’s a small microfinance bank. I am sure you won’t know it.” He said as he drank some more water.
Toni stared at him. “Do you really like water or do you drink water every time you tell a lie?”
                “You are a mind reader too? Psychic?” he asked.
She shrugged. “Instincts.”
“Well, I work at a bank and that is that.” He replied defensively.
She sat up. “Bank jobs can be frustrating, so I think I understand your mood earlier on.”
                “I thought you said you love people, why would you see it as frustrating?” James asked with a smile.
She drummed her fingers on the table. “Listen to this…A father loves his daughter, right?” James nodded. She nodded and continued “Good. If the father sees his child with sand in her mouth, does he like that? Obviously not. So, what does he do? He cleans her up. This doesn’t mean he didn’t love her even when the sand was in her mouth. It is just an ideology, man. People will hurt you, you just have to find your way around everything.” She concluded.
                “You are something.” Jerry replied.
Toni took a deep breath and checked her wristwatch. “I’ll be on my way.”
                “Wait, I didn’t get a name.”
She smiled and took steps away from him. “You never asked.”
Jerry sighed. “Please, what is your name?”
“Stranger.” She replied.
His shoulder fell. “Are you serious? I am Jerry. Tell me your name.”
                “Stranger.” She replied.
He blinked. “Remember you love people, we should be friends.”
“We might as well be strangers.” She replied with a smile and walked out.
Jerry sighed as he sank into his seat. Tunji joined him immediately. “Still didn’t get a name?”
                “Shut up, man.”
Tunji smiled. “Ladies like persistent guys, you should try harder…that is if you have get a next time.”
Jerry frowned. “Give me another glass of water.”
                “Excuse me?” Tunji said as he looked around. “She is no longer here, Jerry.”
Jerry stared at him. “I just want some more water.”
Tunji laughed. “No, man, you are kidding me.”
                “Are you going to give me or not?”
Tunji nodded with a smile. “Of course.”

Toni rushed downstairs as soon as she heard the dogs bark. Nora was back. She wouldn’t miss a detail of her sister’s date. “Nora.” She said with a smile.
Nora closed the door and approached the stairs with a sad face. “Good evening.”
Toni swirled as she watched her sister ascend the stairs. “Good evening? What happened to you? Did the police bust you?”
                “That would have been better.” Nora replied as she stopped to stare at Toni coldly.
Toni blinked. “How…How is James?”
Nora smiled cynically. “James? Of course, you had to ask.”
Toni nodded. “Yeah. Why are you looking like this?”
                “Don’t you get it, Toni?” Nora shouted. “It is always about you! When James is not talking about how I happen to live in a mansion when I work as a customer care representative, he is talking about you.”
Toni swallowed as she stepped back.
Nora pushed forward. “Oh…your sister is so gorgeous, she is so cute. Damn attractive…she is a stunner…every guy’s lady and blah blah blah…Does it always have to be about you, Toni?”
                “Take it easy, Nora.” Toni replied.
Nora scowled. “Oh really??? Easy? Why would I take it easy when I don’t have anything…you have everything!” she said panting heavily.
Toni raised her eyebrow. “Everything?”
Nora wiped her tears. “For once, Toni, can you not always turn the guy I like from me? Please.” She said and walked away.
Toni took a deep breath.