Welcome to Episode 3 of #BeautifulStranger
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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?”
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.
“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.