“It’s in the genes, man!”Those had been Osazie’s words when his opinion was solicited as to what the secret of his family having firstborn sons was. He had been hanging out with the boys one night where they were all celebrating Harry’s new baby girl. Admittedly, he’d been borderline drunk, and debunked his friends’ theories about sexual positions, times of day and optimum times within ovulation periods. When the conversation started being laced with stories of particular potions and herbs, someone had laughingly steered it to football. Of course at the time he’d also been blissfully single. Now five years later, returning with his wife from the hospital where they’d undergone an ultrasound, he was puzzled and not a little disappointed. Not for the first time, he wondered if this was some sort of punishment from God for being so cocky. Maybe those were words he would die regretting. Felicia, filling the passenger seat in one of the kaftans she had recently begun favouring, gave him another of those funny looks she had begun winging his way since Dr. Bello had cheerfully told them what they could expect. “So, are you going to speak again sometime today?”“What’s there to say?”She gave a short laugh and looked away with a shake of her head. “Anyway, I think your silence says it all.”He glanced at the rearview mirror, wishing she could have left him to his thoughts. But of course, not Felicia.“And what’s that exactly?”Felicia, full lips twisting in a way that wasn’t attractive, said in a deliberately poor imitation of his voice, “‘Felicia, where on earth are you getting these girl children from?’” Her shoulders moved almost comically as she delivered this bit of artistry, the ends of her loose brown-black hair stirring in the wind from the open window. Her dark eyes were expectant and unapologetic in a heart-shaped face that was fast losing its humour. Osazie’s lips moved in what he’d planned to be a smile but fell short of it. “Well, I wouldn’t have put it quite that way. But you’ve got to admit though; it’s as if you’ve jinxed the whole family gene pool.”And that was it: she didn’t speak to him for the rest of the day. The only words that were exchanged were between him and their four-year-old daughter, Ethel, and between Ethel and Felicia. And of course later that night he had to forget about the sex that he’d been hoping for all day. He was aroused just seeing her come into the room from her bath and smooth lotion leisurely over her lustrous skin. He wanted to say something but thought better of it; she had blocked him out all day he was beginning to believe he was invisible. He figured he would try again- without words. But when he tried to reach for her as she came to bed, the frost in her eyes could have sunk the Titanic. It effectively told him in a dozen unspoken and unpalatable words what she thought of him. It had the added effect of immobilizing him and killing two-thirds of any feeling he had down there, which he knew was her primary goal. He admitted to himself that she was right to be furious. His words had been stupid and unfair. He’d regretted them almost as soon as they’d left his mouth but hadn’t seen any way to retract them. He could at least have found a way to express his disappointment that would have been less offensive, heck he might even have been able to make the whole thing humorous. Felicia was, if nothing else, usually a good sport and able to laugh under the most outrageous circumstances, especially at herself.The next morning was Saturday and Osazie left the house early to send a bag of Irish potatoes through one of the road transporters to his parents in Ughelli. When that was done, he stopped by a bakery to get some loaves of bread for the house and made another stop in his quest to appease his wife. Ethel was eating a bowl of Golden Morn when he got back and when she squealed as he tickled her, he remembered how his mother- who had been away in London when she was born- had reacted when she had finally seen her grandchild.“Oh my goodness…she’s so precious.” And with tears in her eyes as she rocked the baby, she had said, “I never thought I’d see the day when this family would have a girl.” “Someone hearing you would think there were no girls in the family.” After all, he had a younger sister.“As firstborns? The last time it happened must have been three or more generations ago, dear. There’s so much testosterone flowing around- this is a breath of fresh air.”Osazie had reflected that she was right, and she should know, after having three boys in a row. In fact, thinking about his family tree, boys seemed to be everywhere- and always as the firstborn. His grand-uncles, his grandfather’s older brothers, had even been twins, and he had twin first cousins, men now, who were identical. “I love girls,” his mother had declared in summary that day.Well, she would be positively delirious when she learned they were soon to present her with a set of twin girls, he thought. He gave Ethel a kiss right on the dimple on her left cheek and left her to finish the rest of her cereal. Felicia was in the kitchen whisking some eggs as slices of plantain bubbled in a pan of hot oil. He slid his arms around her and although she stiffened, she didn’t slap his hands away. Letting out a sigh of relief, he nuzzled her neck and said into her ear, “I’m sorry.”She continued with her vigorous motions. Chopped onions, a tomato, minced garlic- all with a wealth of, he was positive, unnecessary enthusiasm. He refused to slacken his hold and then finally, she stilled and he felt her shoulders fall as she let out a breath.“You should be.” With a flourish, he reached for the can of Danish cookies he had placed out of sight and put it on the counter next to her. He thought he saw a ghost of a smile grace her lips, but when she looked at him, her eyes looked suspiciously shiny, and it was then he knew just how much he had hurt her. He felt doubly guilty because in spite of his knowledge and intellect, and especially his education, there was still a part of him that felt like he wasn’t fully a man without a male child. He should be thankful for the child he had and for those on the way; he knew with the opportunities that abounded, females could be just about anything they wanted in this century; most importantly he knew, as everybody did by now, that it was no fault of his wife’s as the whole chromosomal donation thing was his responsibility. He only wished the donation of a Y chromosome could be more of a conscious affair, and that he didn’t feel more and more emasculated the more female children he had.“You so owe me,” she said, the smile not quite succeeding in making an appearance.He could have kicked himself for his insensitivity. “I know.”Later that afternoon, while Felicia and Ethel were off attending some kid’s birthday party in the neighborhood, he went to take a look around one of the malls in town. He had some loose cash and wanted to get himself a couple of casual shirts. Being a weekend, the roads were less busy, but the shops seemed to be bursting. He had paid for a Lacrosse polo T-shirt and was heading to another shop nearby when a face caught his attention. He gawked for a few seconds before he called her name.When she turned and on recognizing him, broke into a cautious smile, he couldn’t prevent his mind from greedily relishing flashes of wild nights, sweaty sex, and shuddering climaxes. He hoped none of his thoughts showed on his face as he made his way to her.“Osa…fancy running into you here. How you dey?”She looked great, dressed in cream cargo pants and a navy blue tank top. She had filled out a bit, he noted. Which wasn’t a lot, considering that she had been pretty slender to begin with when he first met her in school in Ibadan. The first of her features that had caught his eye was her legs as she had come down from a commercial motorbike one evening in his neighborhood. The next that had nearly pushed his eyes out of their sockets was a pair of the most perfect breasts he had ever laid eyes on (no offense to his wife) when they’d had sex for the first time about a month later. Rosemary…They looked at each other for a couple of seconds before exchanging an awkward embrace they would have done better to do without. “I’m fine! What are you doing in Abuja?”“Visiting family.” She rubbed the back of her neck in a familiar gesture: so he wasn’t the only one discomfited by their chance encounter. “I heard somewhere that you were out of the country?”“Just for a year or so. An IT course in India. So…how are you? Your …husband?” She had confessed to him not long after they had begun their relationship that there was someone back at home in Abeokuta that she had agreed to marry.He’d had mixed feelings. He liked being with her, they had great fun, and he was captivated by her person. He was however a little wary of her affinity for adventure- partying, booze, creative sex. “You love him?” he’d asked finally. She had chuckled and met his gaze. “What’s that got to do with anything? He’s a really lovely man-” she had grimaced at her use of the word “-he’s crazy about me, and we’ve known each other for years. You know, those family-friend-type-things.” He had ended the matter by turning it all into a huge joke about how it was she sowing her wild oats before she got married. The only time they’d had another talk as serious was when they were about to graduate. That evening they’d done a lot of walking around campus and finally ended up at the boys’ quarters where he was staying. After a session of surprisingly gentle lovemaking, they had been uncharacteristically quiet. He’d been mulling over the fact that their time together was over, but he wasn’t about to put it into words.“What’s next for you, Osa?” Her question was somewhat hesitant, and in the growing darkness he had glanced at her, knowing instinctively where she was going with her questions: Was there any future for them, no matter how slim? He had thought their last night together would be light and fun; he didn’t like being put on the spot.He’d shrugged. “NYSC, obviously. My uncle has a few contacts, so after my service year I’ll be part and parcel of the labour market, doing some serious job-hunting.”“And then…?”“Marriage, I guess. Eventually.” “Any girl in the picture?”“Lots,” he’d laughed. He refused to look at her face- he just knew that it would be a bad idea. “I’ll just make up my mind when the time comes.” They were silent for a few moments, as physically close as two people could be, but he fought the sentiment and emotion the conversation was dredging up. He’d half expected what would come next, but when it came he was speechless for a moment. Half out of resentment and half out of confusion.“So you don’t think…me and you could…have a life together?”His heart had been pounding for some reason. “Get married, you mean?”She stiffened. “No- start a business, what do you think?”“But, you…you have your fiancé back in Abeokuta.”“Nothing’s set in stone, Osa.”“Rose, I…it’s not something I’ve ever thought about. And definitely not anytime soon. I just figure when I’m ready to marry… sometime in the future, I’ll just go for the most uncomplicated girl of the lot.”“Oh….” Her laugh was humorless. “I see. In other words, someone not like me. I guess my giving you my pussy without drama kind of disqualifies me. You must be one of those men who want to marry a woman you haven’t slept with, the fallen ones- makes you respect her more.”“Rose, stop. That’s not it.”She’d risen, unselfconscious in her nudity, to switch the light on. She leaned against the wall for a moment, all smooth limbs, tousled hair and naked lips. “Isn’t it?”“No.” The insistent voice in his head that proclaimed him a liar was shoved aside. He’d enjoyed their easy, fun, passionate relationship, but he wanted it left where it should be: a nostalgic part of his university days. Nothing more. He pulled back the light covers and patted the spot beside him. “Come on, Rose, let’s not fight. I didn’t enter this relationship with any expectations. You’ve got your man, your ‘lovely’ man…and your life with him ahead of you. Let’s enjoy tonight and we can look back on our time together with fond memories.” Rose was silent for a charged minute. Then her whole body seemed to relax in resignation. She walked towards the bed, her words low. “No wahala.”Present day, her lips moved in a slight smile as she replied, “He’s good. He’ll” with a glance behind her “be here in a minute. And you? I heard you got married.”“Yes.” Not to a woman quite as uncomplicated as he had predicted, but one who hadn’t been one to go clubbing, and was more or less a virgin when they’d met. ‘More or less’ because she’d been open to experimenting. “Children?”“One.” He didn’t know why he chose not to mention they were expecting again.“I’ve got two, and we’re done. Well, we’re open to the odd ‘mistake’.”As they laughed together somewhat uneasily, the late afternoon sun heavy on their heads, he saw two boys he judged to be about eleven running towards them. He feared the first would plow into her, but he screeched to a stop just in time.“Daddy didn’t agree o. He said when we get home.”“I told you,” Rosemary said with a wry look, touching his shoulder briefly. Looking a bit put out, the second boy said nothing but gazed at Osazie openly. Their mother’s face became stern. “Oh, so you’ve forgotten how to greet?”“Good afternoon,” they said together, and as both looked at him, he stared. He grew hot, and then cold. It was as though he was looking at faces he might have seen in old family photographs, and when the rambunctious one smiled as he shuffled his feet, a dimple reminiscent of that of his daughter’s appeared on the boy’s cheek at the same time it hit him that they were twins. Identical.“How are you?” was his automatic response.“Fine.”“You’ve got twins,” he said unnecessarily through a throat that was suddenly bone dry.“Yes. Richard and Robert.” Her smile was serene, but the glint in her eye was a challenge. He was oblivious though, as his gaze didn’t budge from the boys whose attention had moved on to something else. This was one pair of twins he’d seen at this age who didn’t wear matching clothes. “Twins run in your family?”“No.” The voice was male and a tad amused. Osazie looked up to see a tall man with a trim moustache in a short-sleeved shirt. “Not my wife’s, not mine. That’s the amazing thing- it’s just a blessing.” He moved the polythene bags he bore to his left hand and held out his right. “I’m Daniel.”Osazie took it, feeling like he was wading underwater. “Osazie.”Rose pushed some hair out of her face as she looked at her husband. “We were in school together.”“That’s quite some time ago,” Daniel said. “Over a decade or so?”She nodded, her smile beginning to look strained. “Oh yes, dear, make me feel old. Like you said, quite some time. Well, we have to run.” She looked to her husband for confirmation, and he continued, “Yes, we do. It was great meeting you, Osazie. Come on, boys.”“How long are you in town for?” he blurted. His thoughts were all over the place, trying to connect the dots. “Just tomorrow. We leave for Lagos on Monday.”“Lagos?”“Yeah, we moved. So we’re taking advantage of the public holiday so the boys can be back in school on Tuesday.”Osazie didn’t know what to do. If her husband weren’t there, he would have followed her, asked questions, demanded answers. He realized the time he could have asked for her number had passed; now he was mindful of the other man’s presence and wanted to respect himself. He also found he still cared enough about her not to want to cause her any embarrassment or room for suspicion from her husband. And they were already leaving. Rosemary seemed to have an inkling of what was running through his mind and said as she passed, “I’ll keep in touch- look you up on Facebook or something.”As if in slow motion, he raised a hand in farewell as they walked towards their car, even as he heard one of the boys say, “Mummy, but you’re always saying you will never go on Facebook.”Osazie’s instant decision to finally sign up on Facebook was squelched when Rosemary’s response floated to him, “Well, maybe when you’re all grown, sweetie.” He watched rooted to the spot as they herded themselves into the waiting cab. As it drove off, he groped for his phone to call any of his friends who would oblige him. He needed a stiff drink. That feeling of being underwater hadn’t faded, only now he felt as if he had sunk. He was thankful Felicia wasn’t here to witness this; he couldn’t have hidden his agitation from her. One part of him was emerging with a strange satisfaction at the suspicion that his genes hadn’t disappointed, but it was being smothered to death with a riot of confusion and frustration. Especially with the dawning realization that there didn’t seem to be a damn thing he could do about any of it.
Each week authors will be given a new question to answer which will lend additional insight into their story and writing process. Do you have a question you'd like to see the authors answer? Tweet it to @aNextAuthor!