Three years had passed since Awolani's initiation into the fraternity at the age of seventeen. Three years of unlearning Christianity, the misconception of the traditions, and then learning what it means to be a young Yoruba man in 1855. Those years were the most extended years of his life yet – the days were long and straightforward tasks were difficult, his mind became divided and sometimes hazy, and sometimes that made him lazy.
Boredom flooded Awolani's days when he's not with his father learning ofor, ogede, or herbs and their medicinal purposes.
He resorted to other activities that went around in their village, a place that was almost alien to him. He went to the palace to deliver messages, he made new friends and gained his share of popularity among his kin, talked to the maidens, and became a regular face at Abe-Igi, the youths joint.
One evening, at Akande's place, a house he now frequented to practice English with his former schoolmate, they read from the Bible, and few textbooks written mostly by missionaries. 'Is she your relative?' he asked Akande about a maiden sitting under a tree with Bimpe, Akande's sister. He asked his questions cautiously to conceal that he's been seeing the girl in the dark.
'Yes, what about her? She's the daughter of my uncle.'
'Nothing about her.' He replied in English, a language they spoke to hide in plain sight; discussing people right in their eyes.
Adunni saw him from under the tree where she was sitting on a matt with Bimpe, releasing melon seed from their shells, a chore that feels like a punishment. Still, the gossips made it enjoyable as they drift from one topic to another – a newly married couple – who almost died of what illness in the village, and what herbs saved their life – who's next in the marriage line.
Bimpe nodded her head toward the boys and began to tell Adunni about Awolani, how his parent separated him from St. Andrew's because of his half brother's untimely demise, the version of the story that Awolani rendered to their ears. Adunni listened as if it's all news to her.
'Poor him.' She contributed.
Concealing her affairs with Awolani was of great importance to her, if her cousins find out, then the news will fly to her own parent's hearing. The scolding from her mother will be unavoidable, those hot molten magma of words that rains out from her mother's tongue for days, even weeks, and whenever she suffers a minor headache.
'He now comes here to learn the white men's knowledge secretly from my brother, and soon his parent will get him a wife, just look at those beard of his like he-goat's.' They laughed at the joke and pursed and put on a stern look as Awolani and Akande looked their path.
'Is that so?' Adunni asked with a bleached voice to further conceal her affiliation with Awolani.
'Yes, it is so. O ma se o what a pity.' Said Bimpe.
Adunni sat down on a rock in a field hidden in the thick shadow of the Ijebu lands vegetations, waiting for Awolani for their regular two days meetings. The stone was still warm from the day's sun, and the smell of the earth and the vegetation was strong because it had rained the previous evening. She'd arrived at the rendezvous point earlier than him even if it was right behind his place and she lived at the other end of the village.
Her heart was full of questions without expectation of satisfying answers, and she began to sing to distract herself from the boredom of waiting and the intrusion of undesired thoughts into her heart.
Awolani stood behind her and listened, admired, desired her for some moment before placing his hand on her smooth shoulder, she felt the coldness of his hand, and an indescribable desire grew in them.
'I've been waiting forever, what kept you long?' She asked but did not wait to get an answer before she started pouring her heart out to him. She had rehearsed her words many times since their coincidence non-communication meeting at Akande's place the previous day.
'What are you thinking!?' She continued lamenting her concern regarding his decision to keep learning the Mission's teachings through Akande. Awolani has been going through the rigorous lessons of the Ifa spirituality for almost three years, and the strict orders to abstain from the foreign teachings was one of the fundamental instructions .' Where do you think mixed knowledge will lead you? At a point, you must choose where to plant your feet.'
Her bold stance on conscious decision making is no new thing to him.
On the morning before his initiation into the fraternity, Awolani had gone to ask her if he should run away or get initiated. 'Run to where? Your father may have neglected you, while the foreigners embraced you and gave you some hope. Still, there's no other home waiting for you somewhere else without a greater challenge than you have already faced, and even if such place exists, the price to secure a better life would be higher than the fantasy of it. Stay here and figure out your life out of the hardship you already know about navigating through.' She had said, looking straight into his eyes without blinking.
'How can I let go of all the knowledge that I spent the earliest years of my life acquiring? The knowledge of Christ who died for us?' He said intending to make her understand the importance of the crucifixion of an unknown man for the sins of some strange people in unknown lands, in a strange world. ''Don't be delusional. Didn't our people say that everything that goes up must surely come down, even the fruits that grow on a tree always come down, and the birds always perch at the end. And if all that is true, how is it that we humans in any form would end living somewhere up in the fragile clouds?" She once said to Awolani when he told her about heaven and hell, and the hope for the meek ones in heaven.
'Sometimes you talk as if you were responsible for your birth. Before you run away, Do not forget that you also belong to this community.'
'No, no, I won't run, no, I will not! I want to marry you.'
'What! Say that again.' She said with a sharp tone that shook him.
'I'm thinking of marrying you, but I have to tell my mother about it.'
'Well, I believe you know the code of engagement now that you're a frater.'
Awolani placed a hand on the edge Adunni's shoulder, and the warmth and smoothness of her shoulder relaxed inside the palm of his hand. He absorbed the feeling while they stared away into the golden sunset.
'Elder! Father wants to have a word with you outside his dome.' Alamu called on Awolani who's still in the euphoria that Adunni threw upon his heart. Awolani gave his younger brother a side-eye look as if the boy is asking him to give up his dinner. But Alamu stood his ground waiting for Awolani to follow him.
'I have the message! Why are you still waiting? Or did he ask you to carry me on your head to him.' Awolani's failure in his intention to irritate Alumu to make him leave resulted in contagious laughter that made his eyes overflow and Awolani started to laugh at his own failed seriousness.
He pulled Alamu on the hem of his dashiki, and they wrestled each other out from their mother's hut toward their father's.
'Awo, sit down there.' Awoniyi pointed to a stool he set opposite his own. Awolani installed himself on the brown wood sit reluctantly, fearing what news may be coming from his father this time.
'There's an important meeting coming up tomorrow morning at my friend's place. I want you to wake up early and prepare yourself before the first cock's crow.'
'Father, what is it going to be about.?'
'We are going to meet your wife to be.' Awolani's heart sank at the news, his eyes became filled with tears, and his lips quivered.
'Awo, listen. It's time for us to rejoice rather than being sad, the death of your brother was a great loss to all of us, and the most painful part of his demise is that he had no offspring. By now, we must all acknowledge that we live in fragile times which may evaporate before our eyes in a twinkle of an eye.'
'But why am I just being told the night before?'
'I know this is not you, but the maiden that you've been hanging around. We must continue in the morning, as discussed. It is going to be good for everybody.' Awoniyi said and stood up from his akaba and whistled on his way to check the gourds he set on the palm trees for the coming day's journey.
Awolani stood frozen, thinking about how his life has suddenly slipped out of his hands and became the property of a father that paid no attention to his existence.
'How am I going to fulfil my promise to Adunni?' He asked his desolate self. He Judged his situation from the idea of ''one man and one woman'' teaching from St. Andrew's Anglican Mission.