With Those Steps: by Nkechi Hokstad

‘Have you considered that my daughter here is a soon-to-be pharmacist?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Have you considered that she is now completing her bachelor’s in pharmacy and will proceed to do her MPhil in the UK?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Have you considered, young man, what kind of future you, an unschooled farmer, will have with her?’

This was the exchange between Onochie and Onochie, twins in name only. The tension in the room was palpable. Anwuli opened her mouth to interject, but the looks in both Onochies’ eyes made her think better of it.

Anwuli wondered whatever had possessed her to fall in love with a man who bore her father’s name – surely, there was some Freudian humour in that!

‘But Onochie, why do we have to speak to my father at all? We should just do it and tell him afterwards.’

Onochie had shaken his head vigorously. ‘We are Igbo. We marry into families. Without your father’s blessing, what hope do we have?’

Anwuli outwardly rolled her eyes, but inside, she found his love for tradition endearing.

They had met three years ago on a stretch of Douglas Road, Owerri, better known as ‘Ama Hausa’ (“land of the Hausa”). Anwuli, waiting on her weekly fix of suya, felt the heat of an impatient body jostling behind her. She turned around fully prepared for a fight, but was lost for words when she clocked his face. Bushy hair with an even bushier beard. Eyes framed by the longest eyelashes she had ever seen on a man, with a smile that revealed a sizeable gap between his two front teeth. He was not much taller than her, but his shoulders blocked out everything behind him. Anwuli could not have known then that Ama Hausa would eventually be demolished a mere two years later, but she knew without a doubt that those eyes, hair, smile and shoulders would remain in her future.

In the months to come, Onochie would tease her about what could have possessed him to fall in love with someone who had asked for a whole unsliced onion with her suya and had no hesitation taking several large bites of it while they talked about everything and nothing on a discarded bench by the roadside.

Back to the room. Onochie wanted to ask his namesake whether he had considered what kind of future Onochie would have with such an unladylike onion biter, but instead he bit his tongue and chose his words carefully.

‘Yes, sir. I love your daughter. I would never hold her back from pursuing her dreams, and I will be here waiting for her when she returns.’

In any other story, such a response may have garnered brief hesitation yet magnanimous acceptance, but there was no ‘happily ever after’ to be found in this moment. With a deep sigh, Onochie looked pointedly at his daughter, before standing up, turning his back on them both and walking out of the room.

And with those steps, three hearts were broken.


Nkechi Hokstad (neé Chigbue) was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. Having moved to the U.K. in 1998, she completed a law degree at King’s College London and eventually qualified as a finance lawyer. Nkechi spends most of her spare time trying to overcome her fear of writing … by writing.

This story was published as a finalist of the  AFREADA x Africa Writes Competition. Writers had to produce a 500-word story from a dialogue in Chigozie Obioma’s latest novel, An Orchestra of Minorities.

Read all the final stories here, and you can vote for your favourite stories here. Deadline to vote is Wednesday, 19 June.

Related country: Nigeria

All rights to this story remain with the author. Please do not repost or reproduce this material without permission.