After filling her water pot, Anyachi rubbed the sweat from her sore back and started away from the riverside, but the sight of a familiar shape stayed her swollen feet. Nobody else could have waltzed across the boiling earth as though merely dancing on a cloud, with hips that swayed as if in tempo with the village drums. Anyachi crossed her arms. She decided to wait and see if Ude would say good morning.
Ude lifted a vessel from her head and put it on the ground and knelt beside it. She pulled a gourd from the folds of her skirt and filled her clay pot while keeping her eyes on the stagnant waters in front of her.
Anayachi held her breath. But when her pot was halfway full, Ude shifted and finally pointed her eyes towards her superior.
“Ì dìkwà mma?” Ude asked, nodding respectfully.
“Ee, adì m mma,” Anyachi said. “I’m well. How is your son doing?”
“Which one?” Ude said, and she bent and continued to fill her pot.
Anyachi winced. “The sick one — Obi.”
“Oh, he’s doing fine; we thank God. How are you?” She glanced at Anyachi’s torso. “Does he know?”
“No,” Anyachi said, rubbing her bloated belly. “He doesn’t know.” Their husband hadn’t seen enough of her to tell whether she was pregnant or not, nor had he slept by her side in over five months.
Ude stood up and balanced her pot on her head. “Are you ready?”
Anyachi nodded curtly. She picked up her own pot and they walked the dusty road in silence.
When the women reached their home compound, they were met by a storm cloud of activity. The other two wives of the Uwakwe household smiled behind their fingers as their children screamed and giggled and rushed at the pots of cold water. He’s home, the two women whispered sheepishly. Their husband had come back early from his affairs. As Ude and the other young wives hurried to feed their children, Anyachi slipped away and reached him first.
When Anyachi entered the main hut, she found Eze lying recumbent on his sleeping mat, fanning himself, and she smiled. Despite the heat, she knew that he was waving away the thoughts of the day that had settled on him like flies.
“Ndewo, my husband,” she said, kneeling beside him. “Welcome.”
Eze sat up when he noticed her face. He took her chin in a strong hand and traced the dark hills of her cheekbones with the other one, rubbing his forefinger against her dry lips. “Where have you been?” he whispered. “I haven’t been close to you in so long.”
His touch was a sharp knife against the floodgate of her heart. A warmth that she could not contain engulfed her body, and she trembled. “I’m fine,” she stuttered, and the joy that rose from her toes spilled quickly from her eyes.
Eze Uwakwe flicked away the tears of his first wife and mashed his mouth against her own, sucking at her bottom lip again and again, and again. Anyachi felt her head burst as he tightened his hands around her waist and pulled her closer. But the skies fell fast around her when their dream was broken by quiet footsteps.
“Eze!” Ude screamed, and she ran into the hut. “How are you back so early?” She stood over them with her hands on her hips and curled her lips seductively as she caught her breath.
At first, Eze shifted uneasily, because his hands were still gripping her thighs. But then Anyachi watched in a daze as her husband released her and moved toward Ude. She watched him return Ude’s lustful gaze as if she wasn’t there, and she followed his eyes over the proud body of his newest wife of two years: her weighty breasts and amber skin, her supple waist and healthy thighs. And she wondered at the fairness of fate.
“I’m pregnant,” Anyachi panted, grabbing Eze’s hand and forcing it onto her stomach. And when Eze turned quickly toward her, his eyes bulged with shock and relief and they filled with big dreams for the future, and she relaxed when she saw the respect in his eyes.
But then Ude sat down close beside him, and she laid a slim finger on his arm. “So am I,” she breathed triumphantly, and Eze looked away from Anyachi.
Omenka Helen Uchendu is a junior at Emory University majoring in both Biology and Creative Writing with a Pre-Med track. She is heavily involved with Emory’s African Students’ Association, for which she is Publicity Chair. She also volunteers at Emory University Hospital in Midtown. In her spare time, Omenka writes voraciously; most of her works are poems and short fiction on a myriad of topics. Aside from writing, she hopes to pursue a career in medicine as a pediatrician specializing in neonatology.