It was a full moon the day Odenigbo had no choice but to let his wife take another husband. 

The shouts of push and your wife’s screams reverberated round the compound. With each shout of push, your stomach quivered. Your brother squeezed your arm in reassurance

“Your desires will be granted nwanne m.”

Uche was a blessed one. At his first, he had given what mattered most; a daughter. He had had 2 more in quick succession. Faith came easier to him. it should.

Agbani passed your home for the 2nd time in the past hour, greeting in Igbo – just a little while, well done. You knew what she was looking for. Ashiri – gossip.

If you survived this birth, you would build a fence like the people of Uru had begun to. It didn’t matter that your people said – “only those with dirt built fences to hide, lest we see the abomination happening in their homes”, you would build one if this dirt spilled.

In the other hut, you watched your mother-in-law with the boys, cajoling them to eat and take their minds off their mother’s cries. When you first made to marry Obiageli, she had warned you –

“Make sure you give her good seed. Don’t put shame on yourself, don’t smear it on my daughter either” she had warned; like shame was a wrapper you could purchase at nkwo. 

She had looked you straight in the eye while she spoke and you had swallowed fear you did not know had pooled in your spine. 

You and Obiageli had been married 4 moons now. Not only had you bought shame as a wrapper, you had woven the fabric of it into this home. This was your 3rd attempt to not shame yourself, to not smear shame on your wife.

“Our child is here” the midwife sang, changing the push monologue they’d been screaming at your wife for the past few hours. 

The child cried, loud and so high pitched.

“It could finally be a girl!” Uche cheered, grabbing your arm.

“Yes. Maybe” you hoped. 

When Uzor had come, his cry had been louder than this but alas, he had been born with something dangling between the legs, not a girl. Not a girl.

“Let me see them, Uche” you stood abruptly, patting your brother’s down to let him know to sit. If you had shame to face again, you did not want Uche to watch you accept it. 

The evening breeze had begun to blow, but still a sheen of sweat coated your forehead and back.

The cries stopped as you neared the hut where your wife was huddled with your child, stopping at the entrance to speak with the midwife. 

“What is it?” you ask. 

Nneka had a reputation for masking her emotions. Was it joy you saw dance in those eyes? Did despair flicker? Did you sense disgust in the way she raised her brows?

“See for yourself, Odenigbo. They’re inside. I’ll tell your in-laws myself.”

“It’s a boy is it not?” Your heart fell as you asked. Her silence confirmed your fears. It was a boy. A boy. What would you do with a compound full of boys?

You had begged your chi on eke, taking the biggest goat in your herd to your home shrine.

“Bless my bowels with daughters. Help me give Obiageli a reason to brag. Bless my bowels with women” you had prayed. 

You had drunk the concoctions Abriba sold on nkwo, regaling and assuring yourself with stories of other men who finally had their daughters on the 3rd trial. 

You had slept with your wife the way Uche had described, failing to look you in the eye as he shared such intimate details. Maybe you should have forced him to look you in the eye like you were talking about yams; not marriage relations, caring nothing for shame or embarrassment as you asked your younger brother what you had to do in the bedroom to produce girls. Maybe if you had looked him in the eye, your chi would have had mercy. 

You enter into the hut where Obiageli sits feeding your son.

“I am sorry I could not give you a daughter, Obiageli. Please forgive me. I did everything. I. I can try again” you stuttered. 

“That is not for you to decide Odenigbo. You promised me it would be a girl this time. What do I have in my hands? Evidence of your failure, Odenigbo.”

“But if you speak to your people, they will consider it. Obiageli, biko. I have loved you since the day I saw you. Can it count for something?”

You met Obiageli in the year that you had bought a land and farmed it alone, hiring labour only when harvest came. The sun had managed to rise that day as you bargained with Zulu on the final prices for your yams when she had stopped to greet him. 

“Nda.” She had greeted looking straight at you. Your body warmed and cooled all at once.

“I have met my wife” you said to Zulu when she left. It did not bother you that you did not know anything about her, or that you would have to see Ezinne faster than you hoped so you could break your promises of marriage.

Maybe Ezinne had cursed you for leaving her. You would find her and beg if Obiageli gave you a 4th chance.

Obiageli refused to meet your eyes as she nursed.

“Its best that you ready your mind for a co-husband. I will not sit and let my enemies rub ash in my face.”

You had promised Obiageli daughters. 

Afterall, your father had had 5 of them and just 2 boys. You had been so confident as you pumped into her on the night of your marriage that a girl had been planted. Even as you neared release, you felt the power surge through your body

“I’ve given you a girl” you promised your wife as your breathing slowed, taking pride in results yet to be seen.

It had been a boy. You had remained with no fears, still hopeful. The 2nd one will be you promised. That was when Abriba began to see you once a week, listening to your woes when you opened up. You were ready to take small mixtures that would boost your chances. And yet. Yet here you were with a 3rd that was still not a girl. With your increased sacrifices and prayers to your chi, there were no girls. Not a girl. Not a girl.

You would have to accept another husband for your wife.


Your father was first to arrive the day of the trial. He had looked at you, trying and failing miserably to give you any words that might offer hope or comfort. He settled for leaving a strong grip on your shoulder. 

In clusters, and by one by one too, Obiageli’s family trooped in, not bothering to speak in low tones as they debated who their next choice might be for your wife. Disdain and pity were the winning emotions amongst them. Obiageli’s mother wore disdain. It was no secret that she did not like you. 

“No matter what happens, you tried your best, Odenigbo. Sit well.”

“Where has my best gotten me to, Uche? You and I will sit here today and watch my wife choose another husband. Where is the best in that? I will walk on the road and people will turn to their friends and laugh – look, the man who could not give his wife daughters. Where is the best in that, again I ask? I will lie in my bed at night and not find sleep or warmth because my wife will be with another man who I must make space for. Is it not clear that my chi must hate me?” 

Uche makes to speak and fails like your father. 

Obiageli’s uncle clears his throat and the gossiping stops. 

“Welcome my people. We would have broken kola, but the event of today does not permit us to do so yet, except if by any chance, Odenigbo would gift us his acceptance immediately; not that we are dependent on it” your mother-in-law announces.

“In the absence of that, we will continue. Adaeze, please bring your sister, Obiageli. Let us do what we have come to do.”

Obiageli was still the most beautiful woman you had ever seen you think to yourself as she comes out of the hut, taking the stool besides you.

You will her to look at you but she does not. You want to kneel and beg again like you did last night

“Obiageli, please speak to your people. If you refuse, they will not force you” you plead.

“Why do you think that somewhere in my heart, I want to refuse? I don’t want to refuse; I do not plan to. Odenigbo, is this what you promised me? Where are the daughters you promised me? What am I to do with a home full of boys? If I were you, would you refuse to marry another?! Soon, my body will not be able to carry more children? Should I waste the rest of my time on you? If you think about it well, I am doing this for our family. Tomorrow will come and my mother will help me choose another man this time. I made a mistake the first time. I will not let it happen again.”

Obiageli had called you a mistake. So casually like one would say the sun is hot. 

“Obiageli, you have been married to this man for 4 moons now is that not so?” your mother-in-law asks.

“Yes.” Obiageli answered, still refusing to look you in the eye.

“And in this time, how many children has Odenigbo given you?” your mother-in-law questioned like she did not already know the answer.

“3 children. 3 sons. No daughters.”

You look around to be sure that your sons are not listening, not lurking around watching their mother answer about them like they were not what she wanted even though they were not.

“Odenigbo, what do you have to say about this? 3 and no daughters yet. Is this regular in your family history?”

“Mama Obiageli” your father interjects.

“Biko, hold it there” she chides your father. “The question is for Odenigbo and not you. I ask you again Odenigbo, is this regular with your family, or are you the odd one out?”

“You seem to know the answer already” you manage to answer.

“I will take that to mean that you are the odd one. Since you know this and we all do, why put us through this trial? Let us simply marry another husband for our daughter. My people, is that not so?” she asks in Igbo.

“Ehhhhh.” They chorus in unison. 

“Obiageli, anyanwu ututu m, do you wish to wait beside Odenigbo, or marry another man that will give you the daughters you so require?”

Your heart constricts. You know already what your wife will answer. How she will say yes with no doubt in her voice, how she will say yes so clearly even if you ask her to look you in the eye. You know how her people will cheer and dance. But still, you grab her hand and ask

“Will you marry another man?”

She does not wait to go back into her heart and remember your first meeting, or the joy you both felt when her mother agreed to your marriage. She does not wait to go back into her mind and remind herself of how sweet things were once upon a time.

“Yes I will.” 

Your father’s face falls. Is it disappointment? Is it shame? Or pity?

Your mother-in-law is delighted. You do not need a seer to see the joy in her eyes, like she had prayed for this happen. You almost accuse of her having a hand in this, but you bite your tongue.

“I have an option for you already, Obiageli. Ogbonna, Nnedimma and Okafor’s son is an option. They’ve consistently had daughters and just one son across many generations. He will be a good husband.” 

You knew Ogbonna. You were clearing your first farm when he underwent his initiation ceremony into the age grade. An initiation you had undergone 7 moons ago; a junior to you in every sense of the word.  The snake. 

How quickly did he signify his interest?

Had he always looked at Obiageli longing for a time when he would share her with you?

When did he start to imagine himself as co-husband? Was he not too young for her?

Did Obiageli secretly desire him? 

“I agree with your option. He’s a strong man.”

“And how do you know that? How do you know he will give you daughters?” you interject.

“How did you know that you would give me only sons? Don’t speak this way. Jealousy does not look good on you.”

Why did your chi never tell you that it was in your destiny to someday be embarrassed this way in public?

“Mama, I agree with your option. I will marry him as soon as possible.” Obiageli answers.

“We can have the marriage rites done the day after next. It’s a second husband. A big ceremony is unnecessary.”

You look at your wife and look at your home with her. In 2 days, she would no longer be your wife; it would be our wife. Our home. 

She would go at nights into the arms of another man to receive his seed, and you must pretend to be happy for them. You must pretend to wish him well, to not behave like you care when he puts his hand on the small of her back, or when he earns her adoration when he produces the daughters you cannot give her.