One holiday, Ife met Lucas. Dark, small and with all the dreams of a young brave he offered his cardigan when he sensed Ife was chilled by the cold harmattan wind. They had both stared at each other in some faint recognition and just naturally started talking. Tinuade had been miffed, jealous that Lucas could communicate in English far better than her. Ife just accepted Lucas and they became a trio after that going to places together with Lucas playing the brave around Ife, telling her about the stories and myths of the village. He would speak quietly, rarely laughed just simply smiled in something amused him.
One day they called for Lucas and was told by a half hysterical mother that they could not rouse him. She was screaming with anxiety and pleading with the gods that no one should take her child from her. She begged no one in particular that they could please take her life instead as that was her only child. In tears she recounted how she had given birth eleven times and was left with only this one son. It was painful watching her rolling on the floor, tears streaming from her eyes and begging the gods not to take her only surviving child and only son. Other wives in the compound cried along with her as the men tried to revive Lucas. Someone held Lucas head and feverishly recited incantations. Ife was still watching while Tinuade stared terrified. Abruptly, she whirled round looking for the kitchen. In most homes the well was usually in the kitchen area. Ife went to the well and fetched water which she dipped her finger in it and stirred then determinedly took it outside pouring it around. The men carried a still limp Lucas and were going to put him on bench close to logs of fire, when Ife let out a cry stopping them. She pushed Lucas away from the seat he was about to placed and poured what was left of the bowl of water on his face. His mother screamed at her in horror saying Lucas needed the warmth of the fire. Ife however seemed intent on her own remedy and paid scant attention, just doused him with water
They tried to pull her away but she struggled and held on to Lucas. Slowly he opened his eyes and stared straight at her. She smiled and held his hands he turned and vomited some small amount of liquids with black streaks. Everybody stared at the vomit as it had quite a lot of strange objects. His mother stopped screaming just as his distended stomach went slowly down. In the ensuing silence, Lucas closed his eyes and slept. No one said anything as Ife got up and followed meekly by Tinuade headed back to her home.
When they got to her house, Grandmother was at the door seething with rage. She hissed at Ife
“You interfering stupid girl, that was none of your business”
Ife gave her grandmother a long look but said nothing.
Tinuade was puzzled and she was about to explain to the old woman when she received a warning look from Ife.
Ife quietly bade her friend goodbye and sidestepping her grandmother went up the stairs to her father’s room.
Yeye came to visit the next morning. It was the first time in a long while that she came. Ife simply stared at the young woman who was sitting calmly watching her. Yeye was not exactly a stranger to her. They had been friends for a long while. Ife had been used to seeing Yeye around but never went to the grove shrugging that she was too civilized and educated to spray herself with chalk or mark up her skin. Yeye would laugh that no one is marked by Yeye but it never became an argument.
Ife liked Yeye for she seemed comfortable about her religion, would sit in her house breaking melon seeds or cook cotton seed soup. She led the annual virgin dance and Ife would tease that there were no more virgins in the village except baby girls. Yeye never lost her temper but would smile and give Ife a long look. But she always made a point of visiting Ife calling her the educated lady and both will gently tease each other.
Her mother was always tense whenever Yeye visited or would hurry off to a vigil and that pretension was beginning to get on her nerves sometimes. When she opened her eyes and saw Yeye, Ife assumed she had heard of what had happened the previous night and was amused. She waited for Yeye to bring it up then remembered that Yeye rarely spoke of such things. So she smiled in real pleasure at seeing her friend.
Yeye brought out a white cowrie shell, and placed it calmly in her open palms, a small earthen pot of honey, and water.
“What should I do with the shell I like it.” Ife asked smiling completely at ease. “might be nice as a bracelet. Look properly African”
Yeye shrugged, “it would be whatever you like I think”
Ife picked the cowrie shell and turned it over slowly feeling its smoothness and suddenly feeling peaceful.
There was no need for conversation between them, Yeye gave her water mixed with the honey, Ife accepted it and drank. She still held the cowrie. Ife was curious and asked questions about the grove. Yeye smiled and said she could come and visit whenever she felt. Ife made a face that she did not want to be a traditional worshipper and teased the priestess.
“Guess what. Could I have six more beads so it is a perfect seven?”
“Okay, will bring the bracelet in the evening. I have to go now, just came round to see you.”
“or more properly to ask me what happened last night?”
“If you feel like telling me I will listen”
Ife looked into space for a long time, then sighed,Yeye sighed too and stood up.
It was not yet time.