When Nkiruka’s husband asked me to be the woman he would take solace in away from his wife, the woman that would warm his bed day and night when his wife no longer does so for him, I did not refuse. I took the opportunity with open arms and I wrapped the man around my waist like a girdle of beads.
The man, Nkiruka’s husband, became mine. He became the man I shared many nights and even days with, the man who took care of my needs, and in return, I gave him all that he desired. My body was wholly his. His wealth and attention were mine. He would suckle my breasts, nibble on my ears and thrust my lady part like he was starved of the food a married man ought to constantly eat. It was certain that Nkiruka did not know how to keep her husband, and if she could not, then I had to help her keep him. I was simply being charitable. Helping her take care of her man the way she ought to.
Nkiruka’s husband was as sweet as sugarcane. The man gave me everything I desired. He would adorn my body with uli every time we made love. I never thought about Nkiruka whenever he came to my hut. She was a fellow market woman at the village market, but that was all she was to me, so I bore no guilt that I was warming her husband’s bed in her stead. Besides, I never made her husband approach me the day he saw me going to the market while he was returning from tapping wine to ask me to warm his bed. He did so of his own volition. Nkiruka’s husband had said to me,
“I know you. You are Nwakaego. You sell dried fish at the market close to my wife’s vegetable shed.”
I nodded, “Yes, I am Nwakaego. You must be Nkiruka’s husband, then.”
He smiled, looking like a pompous peacock.
“Yes, I am. My name is Obierika.”
“OK, Mazi Obierika. I’m on my way to the market. I will say you well to your wife, Nkiruka,” I said, and I began to walk away.
“Wait, Nwakaego. I want to ask something of you,” he stopped me.
I turned to him.
“Ogini? What is it?”
“Err, I understand that no man has paid your bride price…yet.”
I was offended by the guts of his statement, but I stood listening, waiting to hear the rest of it.
“I want you to be my…”
“Eh!” I yelled, halting him in his words. “Are you well, Obierika? You want me to be your second wife? Who do you think I am? A desperate village woman?”
“No. No,” he pacified. “That is not what I meant.”
“Then what did you mean?”
I was furious by the time he began to explain what he meant, but when he was finished, my nerves calmed.
“I would like you to be the woman who warms my bed,” he said finally.
I smiled. A concubine was a more privileged position that a second wife. As a concubine, I would own Nkiruka’s husband and control him, but as a second wife, there would always be that shadow hovering over me. That shadow called the first wife. I was driven by the confidence with which he asked me to be his concubine. I was one of the most beautiful women in this village, and I knew that many men had their eyes on me, but for their so-called marriages, they could not have me. When Nkiruka’s husband gathered the courage to ask me to be the other woman, it aroused the woman in me. His courage was powerful. I, Nwakaego, the fairest of them all, the famous dried fish seller who men wished they could have as theirs fell for the bravery of this man and did not feel for my fellow woman—a woman who shared the same market space with me.
At first, when I saw Nkiruka at the market that day her husband made his proposal, I felt a sliver of guilt, but in a twinkle, it was gone. Nkiruka was a beautiful woman, young and was many years away from menopause, just like me. I wondered why her husband wanted another woman. Perhaps, Nkiruka did not know how to move her waist on the bed riding her husband like a horse or maybe she did not know the right herbs to use on her lady part to keep him glued to her.
Why do these people think I am unmarried? They must think it is because I have not found the right one. Tueh! The sound of that even makes me cringe. Right one. Haha! It is because I do not want to suffer a fate like that of Nkiruka and many other women whose husbands get themselves concubines when they begin to long for quality lady parts instead of that of their wives. I knew the right herbs to use to keep a man glued. Or did this man think he was the first man I would be a concubine to? The last time I warmed the bed of another’s husband was a year ago. The man was not from our community. In fact, all the men I have warmed their beds were visitors to our village. But with Nkiruka’s husband, it was homecoming.
The only thing I worried about was how the man knew that he could approach me with such a proposition. Did I look so cheap? Or was it my beauty that made him think he could have me? Or had he heard about me from the other men I had warmed their beds? But these did not really matter to me. What mattered was that I was giving Nkiruka’s husband my herb-laced lady part day and night, and in return, I was getting all of my wants and needs satisfied. I had the best lappas in the village and I wore the best coiffure at all times.
I only realised my culmination the day Nkiruka began to lament at the market. It was about two months after I started warming her husband’s bed. She turned to me on her right and to Nne-Olisaemeka on her left telling us of how she suspects that her husband was seeing some concubine. The disdain splashed all over her face as she lamented.
“Are you sure, Nkiruka?” I asked her, arranging some dried fish on my table.
“I don’t know, Nwakaego, but something is not right,” she said.
“What makes you think he has a concubine?” Nne-Olisaemeka asked. “Did you catch him?”
“I did not catch him o,” Nkiruka answered.
“So how do you know?” I asked.
“Oh Oh!” Nne-Olisaemeka clapped. A clap loosely translating to “So why are you jumping into conclusion?”
I could see that Nkiruka felt stupid. She stood there, batting her eyelashes, not knowing what to say.
“Well, he no longer eats my food—the one I cook and the… the…”
“The what, Nkiruka?” I pushed.
“The other food.”
“Ewo!” Nne-Olisaemeka screamed, clapping her hands in the air. “Tufia!”
“So you see! He is seeing another woman and I cannot tell who she is.”
That day, Nne-Olisaemeka and I told Nkiruka not to worry about the presence of another woman. After all, she was only another woman and not his wife yet. I even promised Nkiruka that I would help her with some herbs to sweeten her lady part. Nne-Olisaemeka advised that she did not fight any woman over a shameless husband. This was how she said it,
“My friend, if this is true then Obierika is a shameless husband. He’s simply an efulefu, and you must never fight another woman over such a man, inu go?”
Nkiruka nodded in understanding. I felt proud that I could hold so much power over another woman’s household and that my lady part could keep another’s man glued to me. I felt no iota of guilt. In fact, what I felt was fulfillment. If that made me a bad person like they say women of my kind were, I did not know and I remained unbothered by it. The other men I had warmed their beds in the stead of their wives did not treat me as good as Nkiruka’s husband had done in those first two months, and I could only envision the many more rendezvous to come. It was too bad for Nkiruka that she was crying over the other woman yet I was in her face every other day.
Many months passed and Nkiruka’s husband could not get enough of me. I was what the townspeople will “call the sugar in his tea.” I glowed every day I went to the market to sell my dried fish and stories spread of how beautiful I looked every passing day. Nkiruka once asked me what oil or soap I used and I laughed her question off. She went on to remind me that I promised her some herbs for her lady part. I did not think she would hold me to that.
“Oh, the herbs, I usually get them from my maternal village. The next time I go on a visit, I will get you some,” I promised.
“Thank you, my sister. Chukwu gozie gi,” she thanked.
I smiled. Nne-Olisaemeka butted in,
“But, Nwakaego, you are not married, what do you use these herbs for then?”
“Nne-Olisaemeka, mind your business in this market o,” I ranted. “What is your business with how I take care of my lady part, eh?”
“Sorry o, don’t be angry. I was only wondering.”
“Please, wonder for yourself and your own lady part.”
“Ozugo, it’s okay,” Nkiruka said. “Don’t be annoyed.”
I hissed at Nne-Olisaemeka. What was her business? She ignored me and focused on her yams. If only I knew that Nne-Olisaemeka would become the sniffing dog to sniff me and my escapades with Nkiruka’s husband out, I would have not boiled like an overcooked egg when she asked me what I did with the herbs. Maybe I would have given her a real explanation or even said I do not get the herbs for myself. Somehow, this woman, Nne-Olisaemeka found out that the honey pot from which Nkiruka’s efulefu husband had been eating was between my legs.
The day Nne-Olisaemeka exposed me was the day my beauty ended. It was the day the sweetness of my lady part died and it was the day the pride I wore like that of a peacock was kicked to the gutters. The village youth came to my hut in the early hours of the day hurling words at me.
“It is over for you, Nwakaego,” they said. “Today is the day all your evil ends.”
When I asked why they trespassed on my property, one of them pushed me to the ground asking me to shut up.
“So, you think we do not know that you are an evil woman, sharing the bed of a married man?”
“Shameless woman!” another yelled.
“Today, you have met your end! This is the end of your iyanga,” came from another.
I knew it was over. My pride turned to shame. Then I asked,
“And what about the married man who approached me to share his bed? Is he also not as evil as you say I am? Or were we not two who committed this abomination?”
Their leader laughed in jest.
“Nwakaego, what we do with Obierika is not your concern. Moreover, maybe if you had been the responsible woman, he would have taken you as a second wife and not a concubine!” he said.
“Shameless woman! Your mother surely taught you no virtues,” I heard someone say.
I laughed, for lack of tears in my eyes.
“So now I am to blame that Obierika was not satisfied with his wife?”
“Shut up!” the leader yelled.
They asked me to get up from the floor which I did.
“What would you do with me now?”
“The Chief will answer that. When we get to him, you will know your fate.”
The leader nudged me to start moving.
“And Obierika?” I stopped to ask.
“It is not for us to say.”
is a short story writer, novelist and developing screenwriter from Nigeria. She is the author of the novel, Lettars from an Imbecile (2014). Her works have appeared on or are forthcoming on The Kalahari Review, African Writer, Punocracy, Jalada, JAY LIT and elsewhere. She is the winner of the 2019 Awele Creative Trust Award. Her story, Flight 86A was published in Issue 29 of The Shallow Tales Review.