Jerry pushed the door open as he walked into the bar. He had not set his feet there in a long time. He didn’t know if he would be in the right frame of mind to help her live the desperate days and he was sure that he needed an encouragement. What better friend than alcohol at this moment? He had said to himself as he stepped into the bar.
“Jerry!” Tunji called as he saw. “Where have you been?”
Jerry smiled faintly. “I have been everywhere but here.”
“That’s good. Working on your addiction, right? That’s good.” Tunji remarked as he cleaned a glass. “How’s that pretty girl?”
Jerry sighed. Toni was dying. How best could he respond to Tunji? Traditionally, it was almost ‘Nigerian’ to say ‘fine’ or ‘I am fine’ regardless of your situation. Maybe it was optimism, maybe hope, maybe faith…our words oozed more positives than our actions.
“Are you so struck by her?” Tunji asked, noticing Jerry’s silence. “Say something, this place opens in about an hour.”
“Yeah…words are not enough. Toni-is-is the complete package.” Jerry said as his voice broke.
Tunji stared at him. “What is it, man? What happened?”
“I am just scared.”
“About what? Did Toni break up with you?”
Jerry sighed. “Honestly, I am not here to talk. I just want a drink. Can you at least do that for me?”
Tunji took a deep breath. “No.”
“Really? There are a thousand and one competitors and you refuse me a drink?” Jerry asked.
Tunji nodded as he took a seat beside Jerry. “The other guys, yes, they want to sell liquor to you. I want to sell too, make no mistake, but not when you can do the right thing…if you are running away from something and you think this place is going to shelter you, bro, you are wrong. You have got to face it.”
Jerry clenched his fist. “I am not running, Tunji. I just the need the courage to face it.”
“Trust me, courage isn’t in the bottle. It’s in you.” Tunji replied and returned to his desk. He poured a glass and placed it before Jerry. “Have some courage.” He said and continued cleaning the glasses.
Jerry stared hard at the glass. He swallowed painfully as he fought his inner desire to just drink his pains away. He abandoned the drink and rose to his feet.
“Good choice.” Tunji said.
Jerry stared at him. “Toni is not doing fine. We are going away for a while.”
“What is it?” Jerry asked.
Jerry blinked. “Cancer.”
Tunji cringed. “I am sorry, man.”
“Yeah…I know.” Jerry replied.
Tunji sighed. “You know I would be here for you, right?”
“Yeah. Thanks.” Jerry replied. “I’ve got to get going.”
Tunji stretched out his hand to him. “Jerry?”
Jerry stared at him. “Yeah?”
“Make it count.” Tunji said.
Jerry took his hand firmly. “We will.”
Toni pushed Nora out of the way as they walked into the suite. “No way!!! Seriously, Nora?” Toni said as she surveyed the room in one glance. “This is a presidential suite.”
“Only the best for you my darling, only the best.” Jerry said as he pushed the boxes into the room with Emeka. “Why are you complaining? You want a vacation and we are here to give it to you.” He added immediately.
Toni stared at him. “And that includes bringing us here? We can save a lot of money with some other regular suite. How much is this place per night?” she asked.
Jerry and Nora started to whistle.
Toni gaped. “Seriously guys!”
“Oh Toni, you whine too much! The money is nothing, if you have got it, you spend it.” Nora replied.
“Or you invest it!” Toni retorted.
“Would it make you happy if I told you that Jerry is paying for all these?” Nora asked.
Toni widened her eyeballs as she stared at Jerry. “What?!”
“Are you going to spank me for spending my own money?” he asked with a smirk.
Emeka nodded. “Ladies take these things too personal. I mean, it’s a brother’s money.” He replied with a smile.
“He should learn to invest in his future.” She retorted at Emeka.
“I am spending some of my dividends too…don’t be worried.” Jerry replied with a smile.
Toni sighed. “You should save that…argh…men! Anyway, where is James anyway?”
James walked into the room carrying a box of pizza and a pack of juice. “Food is here!” he announced with a grin.
“Food?! But we ate on the plane.” Toni protested.
Jerry stared at Emeka. “She is going mummy on us all. Duck!” he said and they hurried out.
Toni turned to James. “Why do we have to eat Pizza now? We had something to eat about thirty minutes ago.”
“Err…I thought we could make do with in-between meals.” He replied with a smile.
Toni turned to Nora. “In-between meals? Since when did we start in-between meals?” she asked.
“You don’t remember? We absolutely love to eat as many times as possible.” Nora replied as she picked up her purse. “James, we should go and see the landscape.”
Toni stared at them. “And what about me?” she asked.
Nora stuttered. “Erm…you can stay here and have some pizza and juice while James and I make a quick look of the environment.”
“Why do I get the feeling that you all are trying to push me away?” she asked.
James gaped. “No…Not at all. We just want you to get some rest, you know. Jet lagged.”
“And you all aren’t jet lagged from Lagos to Calabar? I won’t get any rest if you all keeping flipping on me. First, Jerry and Emeka and now, you and Nora. Am I such a bad habit?”
“When you start whining like this, you could be a real pain.” Nora replied as she took James hand. “For once, Toni, enjoy your money.”
“Well, this is Jerry’s money and I am allergic to spending his money.” Toni replied as she sprawled on the bed. “But d–n…this is the real life.”
“See…it didn’t take long to bring out the hidden you which is the real you. We’ll be right back. Take care, love.” Nora replied and walked out with James.
Toni took a deep breath and pulled the Pizza close. “The only reason why I am having you is to prevent wastage, I am not a fan of people wasting money or resources, so here we go…” she said and took a bite.
“Good thing you guys were able to escape from her.” Jerry said as Nora and James joined them in the restaurant. “So, what’s the next plan?” he asked.
Nora pulled out her journal. “I was thinking we could do a road trip round the town, we would camp wherever night falls.”
“I have the sketch books for the photos and other important documentation.” James said. “There is also a map just in case we get lost.”
“I was thinking we should rent a space bus.” Emeka said. “Big enough for all of us.” He added.
“I was thinking a convertible. I mean, it is so much fun when you go on road trips with convertibles. That way we can get to spread our hands and head into the sun.” Nora replied.
“That’s the effect of seeing too many movies. Hollywood.” James cut in.
“Are you kidding me, James? It would be fun!” she echoed.
“We are five in number. It won’t be very comfortable.” Jerry replied. “Maybe the space bus isn’t such a bad idea after all.”
Nora frowned. “It is a terrible idea. Who goes on road trips in a space bus?” she stressed as she sulked.
James klzzed her forehead. “Get used to this one, babe.”
“I think I agree with Nora.” Emeka said cutting in. “We could actually use the convertible.”
Jerry turned at him as he widened his eyes. “Dude!”
Nora smiled. “See…even Emeka agrees with me.”
Jerry stared at his friend. “We are taking a space bus whether you like it or not.”
“What have I done wrong? I only think it is right that we make the lady happy.” Emeka added.
James nodded. “True, we could get an Audi or BMW, there might be some space at the back.”
Nora smiled at James. “Now you are talking.”
“Or we could just take the Space bus.” Emeka said, staring at Nora and James.
Nora frowned. “Why are you teasing me?”
Jerry smiled. “That’s who Emeka is…very funny guy. A tease.”
Emeka nodded. “Yeah…my friends say I am Kevin Hart.” He said laughing. Jerry frowned and so did James and Nora. Emeka stopped laughing. “I know…I know.”
Jerry rose to his feet. “I am going to the bar, please come with me, Emeka.”
Emeka stared at him. “Oh really?”
“Yes!” Jerry said pulling him along.
“I thought you quit alcohol.” Emeka said as they got to the bar. “It didn’t take long for you to backslide.” Emeka chuckled.
Jerry nodded. “Sure I did quit booze, but I couldn’t help but notice how you were hitting on Nora there.”
“Me? No o…I…I was just making a conversation.” Emeka replied defensively.
Jerry hissed. “I don’t even believe you! Emeka, you have a fiancée, respect yourself so James doesn’t beat you up. He is fit, you know?”
“But you are also fit. Won’t you defend your man?” he asked.
Jerry nodded. “If you were right, fine. But you are scoping another guy’s babe, my hand no dey there o.”
“I…I just like her. That’s all.” Emeka replied. “Just like.”
Jerry nodded. “Put a leash on it, else, I am calling your babe.”
“Guy, you can’t do a brother like that na.” Emeka protested.
Jerry scoffed. “Watch me.” He replied and returned to the others.
“I am racing against time. Officially, the Doctors think I would be here for about five more days, but I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon. I mean…that soon. My book would be done before I leave this place, that, I am sure of. My whole life has been one huge fairy tale. Finding love in the strangest places and wishes for more than I could get. To be fair, I have done my part here, so, I don’t feel nervous about going away…it’s just that I am allowed to be human sometimes and let fear creep in as I think of my loved ones.
Nora is the best sister in the world, she is my father, my mother, my sister and my brother. I couldn’t have wished for a better sister. She had fewer nights than myself as she would sit and watch me sleep, keeping silent and lonely vigils while I enjoyed my sleep. Honestly, I had fun putting Nora through all that. Family is everything and even though my own family was Nora, there were no boundaries for us. With Family, you have no idea how much you can do.
I have come across tonnes of guys in my journey in life, but I had never really given anyone a second thought until I met Doctor Jerry. Jerry was the first person to make me dread my situation. Every battle I fought from the day I met him was all about survival. The thought of seeing him, talking to him made the difference. I always thought I was the only one with that special effect on people, but then, Jerry held me spell-bound. I might not have been smitten outwardly, but thanks to him, I knew what it was to be more beautiful on the inside.”
I shut my laptop as I took a deep breath and took another bite from the Pizza. It had kept me company since the last hour. I didn’t want to bother them with my calls, so I just turned on the Television and fed my eyes. What could a girl do?
The door opened and Jerry walked in with a smile. “Hey, stranger.”
“Hi, stranger.” I replied with the warmest smile I could produce. “I love that name, you know?”
Jerry nodded as he joined me on the bed. “What are you watching?”
“Documentary channel. Amazing how these Giraffes neck.” I said.
He nodded. “It is lovely.” He replied. “It’s a sign of strength.”
“They are necking to prove strength, most of us depict it as love…who knows what else we misinterpret about animals?” I asked with a smile.
Jerry shrugged. “I am sure that we are not mistaken about the peacock’s pride.”
I chuckled. “Jerry…what are you guys planning?”
“Planning? What do you mean?” he asked.
I smiled. “I am not stupid. You all disappearing in groups can only mean there is a plan in the offing. Come on, tell me.”
Jerry shook his head. “There is nothing other than the ordinary.”
“Go on…you can tell me everything. I promise not to tell Nora.” I said as I blinked my eyes playfully.
Jerry tripped. “Fine. We are doing a road trip.”
“Wow!” I exclaimed.
“B…But you can’t tell the others I told you, else, they’ll just think I am fickle.” He replied.
I nodded. “But then you are fickle. It didn’t take you a minute to tell me the truth.”
He scoffed. “Seriously? Is that what I get?”
“For betraying your team, that is what you get.” I replied.
Jerry sprawled on the bed. “So, are you now teaching me life lessons?” he asked.
I smiled. “Not exactly, but, teams should come first. I might even rat you out to them.”
“No, you won’t.” he replied. “I should come first.”
I grinned. “The truth comes first for me.”
“You are such a kill joy, Toni.”
I nodded. “I know.”
“How is the novel coming?” he asked as he tried to pick my laptop. I immediately shielded it from him. “Are you not going to let me see it?” he asked. “I should read it before everyone else.”
“That’s after my editor has read it and the publishers have it ready for sale.” I replied. “Trust me, it would be soon, besides, I am not yet done with the novel.” I concluded.
Jerry nodded. “Fine. Mrs. Aiyenugba called while I was on my way up here.”
“How is she doing?” I asked.
He smiled. “She has made very important friends. She told me to lay emphasis on ‘important’, that you’ll understand.”
I nodded. “Of course, I understand.”
“So…what did she mean by important friends?” he asked.
I sighed and pecked his forehead. “You really don’t get it, do you? I don’t tell on friends.” I said and grabbed my towel. “I am off to the bathroom…be gone before I am back…and don’t think about touching my laptop, it is password protected.” I concluded and shut the door to the bathroom.
“What do you want to talk about?” James asked as he strolled with Nora.
Nora sighed. “Nothing. When is the car coming so we can get on with the road trip?”
“In about an hour or so. Jerry and Emeka went to get it.” He replied.
She nodded. “That’s good. I should go to Toni.”
“She wants to be left alone, I checked on her earlier.” He replied. “Now, about Emeka.”
Nora stared at him. “What about him?”
“I think he likes you.” James said.
“Is it wrong?” She replied.
James smiled. “Nice touch with the humour there, but, I think you know what I mean.”
“I do?” Nora asked. “Are you getting touchy here, James?”
James stopped walking. “I am not getting touchy. I just think that he is showing too much interest in you…and you are taken.”
Nora stared at her f!ng£r. “I am not engaged.”
“But we have something, right?” he asked.
Nora grinned. “My sarcasm has definitely improved.”
James sighed. “For once, I thought you were for real.”
“James, if another guy hits on your girl, you should be happy.” She started. “It can only mean that she is really attractive.”
James scoffed. “How attractive is that? That is scary. What if you fall in love with him?”
“Then something is actually boring about you.” She replied with a smirk.
“Is that a joke too?” He asked.
She raised an eyebrow. “Does it sound like one?”
“I am not joking, Nora.” James said.
She nodded. “I know.”
“So?” James asked.
Nora smiled. “You are making a big deal out of it. The fact that he likes me in the direction you feel doesn’t mean I am on the same lane as he is.”
“That’s very comforting.” James replied.
Nora smiled. “Now let’s go find the others.”
“I knew it, we should have taken the convertible!” Nora groaned as we all got off the space bus for the third time. “This bus isn’t in its right frame of mind.” She added.
I fetched my camera and started making a video coverage of everyone as they reacted to the event.
Nora wasn’t going to stop grumbling. Ever since the space bus arrived at the hotel, she thought it was a bad idea. She was dreaming of cruising in a convertible as we travelled across the beautiful town and its landscape. “This is a terrible idea. I knew it. We are so not going to pay them in full.”
James chuckled at her last statement.
Nora flipped at him. “What’s funny?”
“Apart from the fact that you are acting like Toni was when we initially got here, you pay in full to rental services and even an increase for guarantee.”
Nora cringed. “No!!! They have robbed us of our money.”
For Jerry and Emeka, it was more of who has got the cleaner abs contest. There was a clear winner though. Jerry. Tada!!! But seriously, did they need to take off their shirts to check the car’s radiator and some other things I don’t know that a car has? I can make a case for Jerry. He is putting on a white t-shirt, so it is understandable that he wants to take it off and also, if you have got it…you are permitted to show the world. Besides, he is my Jerry. Now, about Emeka, I don’t know why anyone who is still in the process of denial regarding differentiating between fat and crops would take off his shirt? That has me confused and slightly sorry too.
Can I blame him for efforts? No. Nora and I have countless numbers of push-up bras and many ladies too. I am not making an excuse for the female gender, but we have got to look ‘it’.
Back to the matter….the car is now fixed and we are ready to go…and guess who takes over the wheels? Yours truly.
Jerry took his seat beside Toni in front as she fixed the keys into the ignition. “Are you sure about this?” he asked.
Toni smiled. “I am not redundant, babe. I can drive a car.”
He nodded and focused on her as though she was the road. “Toni…” he muttered. “Let me drive.”
“No!” she replied sharply and stepped on the pedal. “Here we go people! Hold your breath, ladies and gentlemen…it is Toni time.” She echoed and wheeled off.
Jerry watched her every turn and every step on any of the pedals.
“You are starting to freak me out.” Toni said.
He sighed. “I can’t help it.”
“Well, I am not going to kill all of us, so you can relax.” She said with a smile. “We are here everybody!” she announced as she pulled up.
Jerry looked into the car. “It’s camp fire time.”
They all carried their bags as they walked into the woods. Finding a spot for their camp fire wasn’t hard, they were all well-equipped.
Jerry wrapped his arms around me as we passed cards. Emeka was the only without anyone to cuddle. I felt guilty having Jerry around me, after all, Emeka was here for us too. He didn’t need to feel alone, besides, Jerry says he has a fiancée, I am wondering why Emeka didn’t ask her to tag alone, but then, I couldn’t feel sorry for Emeka…Jerry was going to miss me. That would be more devastating than this.
“So, you all know the rules, as we pass the cards, we fulfil the command of the game. If the card stops with you, you answer whatever question it presents you.” He said. “Are we clear? As the moderator, you all know I am not allowed to participate in this game, so, I would just watch from the side lines. After the first turn, we change the cards.” He said and passed the first card.
As soon as the card got to Nora, Emeka called. “What says your card?”
Nora flipped it open and stared at it and then at James before reading. “Do you really love the person you are with?”
James clenched his teeth. “What is this?”
“Hey bro…it’s just a question. It could have fallen on anyone, no offense intended.” Emeka said.
Jerry stared at Emeka and then at James. “Yeah, man, it’s just a question for the lady.”
“I think Emeka is hitting on Nora.” James said. “I don’t like it.”
I chuckled. This seemed to be more interesting than I had envisaged. Emeka was really causing a rift. “Guys, I think we should chill. I don’t think it is a big deal. It is just a question and I think that dragging it longer than necessary is actually going to mean something else.” I said, cutting in.
Jerry nodded. “Toni is right. Let Nora answer the question and we all could just move on from here.”
All eyes were now on Nora. “Nora?” I called. “Answer your question.”
Nora smiled as she read through the card again. “Yes, I do love James.”
James smiled victoriously.
Emeka scoffed. “Pass the next card.”
“What’s in your card?” Emeka asked as I held the passing card for too long on the second time of passing.
I stared at it. “What would you love to do before you die?” I read with a smile.
Jerry’s face went stone as he stared at Emeka. I took Jerry’s hand before he could make any statement.
“What I want to do before I die?” I said. “I have accomplished a lot of things I want to do before my dying day. I have lived, I have laughed, I have loved.” I said and stared at Jerry. “I am glad to have met you, Jerry. You are everything and much more than I wanted and you may think that life hasn’t given us enough time, but I think it is just perfect, every step of the way with you has been worth it. Jerry, I wish you love, peace, happiness and most importantly that you find yourself in God and be true to who you are. Jerry, I would always love you and I am happy for every love you have for me.”
Jerry looked away.
“I hope not to break your heart in the end, I hope to leave a stronger man with a braver heart behind, should I have to…and trust me, you deserve to read my novel first, and you would.” I said as I drew his face closer. “I love you, Jerry.”
“I love you too.” He replied.
Emeka, Nora and James stared at us quietly.
“And to what I want to do before I die? I d–n right want to klzz you, Jerry.” I said and we klzzed.
the question is
Will Toni survive?
Answer and wait for the last episode