There was silence as they stared at each other. They were half-brothers but had remained friends because Babatunde acknowledged he was six months younger in age and that had pleased Tope. When Babatunde graduated, there had been slight tension as Tope had expected that his younger sibling might put on some airs as the educated one, but both their mothers had genuinely acted like he was the senior and congratulated him on becoming a graduate in the family.
Papa had been nice too, always recognizing Tope as the older and head of the house after him. Any rising jealousy had thus been nipped in the bud. Babatunde asked him if he would like a beer and Tope shook his head negatively saying he had taken care to drink some really nice palm wine at the local canteen.
Babatunde took the items to the kitchen and returned to find Tope staring in awe at the full life-size photograph of Ife. The photograph took a whole side of the east wall of Babatunde’s living room. It was obviously taken as she stood by the hill amongst flowers and stream. Babatunde watched his brother and had a small smile on his face as Tope turned round. However, there was real alarm in Tope’s eyes as he pointed to the photo and looked at Babatunde. “Why do you have that here?”
“Why not here? It is mine and I happen to live here.” Tope stared for some long seconds, shook his head and went back to the couch. He seemed irritated all of a sudden and that puzzled Babatunde.
He knew the issue of Ife had always bothered his brother and Babatunde was at a loss how to handle it. In a quiet voice, he spoke to his brother. “Look it is my problem and not yours, so why don’t you simply accept it?”
“Papa wants to know if you have any plans of marrying. Even Joseph got married.”
“Is that why he sent you or has he chosen another bride again?” Babatunde asked, searching his brother’s eyes. His hands were clenched at his sides but his voice was even and steady.
Babatunde saw a strange look come into the eyes of his half-brother. He tried to make light of the almost heavy silence.
“Why are you worrying about me? I have been busy with school but you are even older and should have been married by now anyway so what is holding you back?”
“Papa says that you are wanted back in the town as Ifa is to decide the new king and you are to report to the elders,” Tope announced abruptly.
He gave his brother a look that Babatunde recognized as reluctant respect.
Babatunde had a small frown conveyed in his eyes. ”I hope I can get time off from work, my boss is not around now and the one acting on his behalf could be tricky about giving permission.”
Tope shrugged and announced he would like to turn in for the night as he had had a long drive, was tired and gave a big yawn to prove his point. He said his goodnight and hurried off to the guest bedroom.
Babatunde sat back in the living room contemplating his impossible dream. Would Ife ever love him like he loved her? He wondered how he was going to learn to live with it if she did not.
He did not know what he was going to tell his father who was getting on in years. He had tried to shake himself into the reality of his impossible longing and go on with his life.
Now a pharmacist and employed, he still had been unable to date. Not for lack of offers he reminded himself.
He threw himself fully into his work and that was some relief.
The hair on the back of his head prickled and he knew Sasa was around. He sighed and invited his friend in. Sasa now moved closer to him in the physical plane. He could almost always see Sasa in the misty form.
Sasa had identifiable features—a tall, distinguished but youthful old. He still teased him by calling him Fancy Pants particularly if they were having an argument.
Sasa was looking at the Blue Mountains. No, there were no mountains near his home but each time Sasa visited, he showed him things.
Babatunde learned that it was Sasa’s inner thoughts that beamed to him and when they connected he could experience and see one of Sasa’s homes.
Sasa gave him a wry smile and a look from deep blue eyes. “When you have finished, maybe we can have a decent conversation.”
Babatunde smiled. “Has a king being decided?”
“You tell me, young Lion.”