Cotyledons – Toni Kan (A short story)

A few Valentine’s ago, Cassava Republic commissioned romance stories from Nigerian authors to commemorate the day. Today, we present Toni Kan’s contribution, a humorous piece about a young married woman seduced by her neighbour

Everyone said I started late and then the first man that came along made me his wife.

That was my luck but it was not for want of trying.

Back at secondary school in Isi-Enu, I was wanted but not the way other girls were wanted. The boys wanted me because I could not be had. They did not want me the way they wanted Tina, the one they all called 9 to 9 because she followed five boys into their room and was raped from 9am to 9pm. Or the way they wanted Ifeoma Okeke who all the boys had used to gba set.

I was wanted because none of the boys had ever seen my pant and it was something that made me proud.

“You will marry one day and one man will use your thing to play football,” Georgie, my friend said.

Georgie was tall and light skinned with long hair and nose that looked like a Fulani. She was not like the other girls but every year she would fall in love with one or two boys.

“If you don’t service this thing, one day it will close up o,” she would say every time I rolled my eyes at her

I did not service the thing even though I was tempted to. Once, on a trip to Nsukka, Gideon, one of the senior boys in our school had slipped me a note: “Your breasts are like cotyledons.”

“Ke kwa nu nke bu cotyledon?” Georgie snorted as she let the paper fly out the window to be interred in the red earth.

In my first term of form three I did not know what cotyledons meant but I was so impressed that I let him touch my breasts some nights as we went home from prep.

Izu was tall and different from any boy I had played with before including Gideon.

“How can he be like Gideon when he is an old man,” Georgie who did not know how to bite her tongue said.

He was thirty two and I was just turning nineteen when he came to ask for my hand. He lived in Lagos and had two shops in Idumota where he sold bags.

“Business is moving well and after we enter matrimony, you will help me in the shop,” Izu said to me in English because he said he wanted our children to speak English first and not Igbo.

“Me, I am going to the university,” Georgie said. “I will not sell bags for any bagger.”

Then she took my hand and asked me how it was.

“Did you enjoy it?”

I told her I did. I told her how Izu filled me up the way a big bowl of fufu fills up a hungry man. His thing, I told Georgie amidst giggles, was so big and long I feared it would come out of my mouth.

I never got the chance to work with Izu in the shop because I was pregnant two months after I joined him in Lagos and by the time my second child was born, fire had gutted the building housing his shops and turned his wealth to ashes.

He sold one car first and then the other before he took to staying at home and drinking all day and beating me.

Things had gone bad between us the way a pot of egusi soup goes bad if you forget to warm it. We had forgotten how to keep things warm between us.

That was when he began to whisper to me; Osas, the Bini boy who lived down stairs. He would wait for me by the staircase as I came down to fetch water.

“Come with me and I will make you happy,” he’d say, his tongue sweet like ekwensu, my skin breaking out in goose bumps.

“I have a husband,” I’d tell him but his answer was always the same.

“He will not know until we have gone far away.”

“And my children?”

“We will take care of them.”

Osas did not work but he had two cars and always seemed to have money to spend.

One day, Izu found me talking to him. He did not say a word as he walked past us but when he got home that night he beat me so much my period came ten days early and I could not go out for three days.

Osas sent me money and medicine and when Izu travelled to Kano to see a cousin, Osas brought me cake while the kids were in school.

I had not eaten cake in a long time. So, I sat in the living room and ate it all until I was as full as a python that had swallowed an antelope.

Izu’s cousin gave him money to start a new shop and the new business seemed to consume him. He left early and came back late as if he was on a quest to recover all he had lost at once. Izu stopped beating me and even though I was thankful, I missed being touched; the love we made when he wanted to make up.

That was when I started allowing Osas to touch me.

“Let’s do this thing,” he would whisper, his hands running like ants all over my cotyledons.

I would hold them and tell him to stop.

“The neighbours will see, they will hear,” but he would laugh and push my hands away.

The air was taut, like a string pulled too tight, the day I finally gave in and stepped into his room. Osas took off my clothes as if they were made of glass and when I was naked, he laid me on his bed and covered my body with kisses from my lips to my cotyledons and in between my legs.

I was trembling when he finally spread my legs and our bodies became one but then before I could open wide enough to take him in, he cried out and collapsed on top of me.

I lay there still very hungry and thinking of fufu, while Osas snored beside me.

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