Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 5,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

Inna Modja emeziKachi held the door knob tightly as it turned inside her fist, hoping to seize its sounds in the spaces of her fingers. It didn’t work­—the door snapped and clicked and groaned as she tried to push it open gently. She cursed under her breath, using those sharp dirty words her mother would slap her for. The traitor door creaked happily as she tried to close it behind her, the soft of their welcome mat eating up the heel of her shoes. She balanced and bent to slip the first shoe off so she could tip toe over the dark hardwood and sneak into the bathroom. Maybe he would hear the water and just think she’d woken up to pee or something. Pressing her palm against the door, she wobbled as she lifted up a foot, the wine from earlier still winding through her.

“Leave those on.” She stopped, paralyzed by the quick lash of Kemi’s voice in the dark.

“You’re awake,” she managed, as she stood straight again.

“You’re late,” he replied, switching on the lamp he was sitting by. “What happened to being back by eleven?” Dirty yellow light crawled over him, settling in the neat carvings on his cheek. He kept the gouged side of his face in the shadows, out of habit, hiding the hollow curve ran from his temple and broke open his eyebrow. Kachi remembered the morning he told her how he got it, about the riots in Aba thirteen years ago. He’d been caught in a scuffle and the tip of a cutlass had danced a short dance across his face. Kemi had spoken with the sun rising over the shiny tight skin and Kachi watched it reflect off his body and the potholes in his eyes. Now the dim lamp was gutting new holes inside his pupils, and her nerves had gone cold.

“Sorry, Kemi. Ewela iwe. I couldn’t find a cab,” she said, letting her purse drop to the floor. He understood Igbo from all the time he spent in the South, but he refused to speak it. If she was him, she would too. The purse fell by the welcome mat, spilling its handle over her feet. He stood up like an stretching story and motioned with a large graceful hand.

“Remove your coat and don’t lie to me, girl.” His voice curled like shaved slivers of iron. When he spoke English, his accent was castrated. You couldn’t tell where he was from unless you saw him; other immigrants glanced at the lines of his cheeks and automatically greeted him in Yoruba. Her fingers shook as she unzipped the heavy wool and let it crash off her shoulders and around her feet. The dress she’d worn out was short, riding up her bare thighs. Kemi raised an eyebrow at the raw exposure of her legs.

“Where are your stockings?” Kachi felt the catch in her stomach make a pilgrimage to her throat.

“They tore, I had to take them off…” She looked down at her feet as she spoke, wrapping her fingers nervously in the hem of the dress. Kemi strode towards her, the air around him hot like floating coals.

“You had to take off your tights?” She nodded, a tight movement.

“In the winter like this? Pele…” He ran his hand over her thigh, over the chilled flesh, and she gasped as he slid it between her legs. “Well, at least you’re not cold everywhere,” he drawled. Kachi shook as he withdrew his hand, humiliated. Kemi walked around her, inspecting her body, trailing a finger over her belly and the green silk stretched over it. His girlfriend closed her eyes as his breath heated the side of her neck.

“Did he fuck you, baby?” It was like a blow sinking below her diaphragm, evacuating the air from her chest. How did he know! She’d even showered before she left, scrubbing off the salt stains. He chuckled against her skin, air combing the fine hairs on the back of her neck as if he could pluck her thoughts. “You smell like a soap I don’t recognize” he explained. “But you also just look…sated. Well fucked. Was he good?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, words tripping over each other in their speed. He seized a handful of her hair, dislodging pins from her updo. The small pieces of metal clattered to the floor and her neck arched back, hard.

“Don’t lie to me, Kachi. We’re better than that, now.” The way her spine was bending under his hands reminded her of this one night when he spilled hot wax on her back over and over again, telling her in a smoked voice how they had burned down the mosque and how his father never came home that day and how his mother changed his name because they had shared it and she did not want to keep calling for a spirit husband. Kachi had watched the flame glow in the mirror of their headboard as she writhed under his hands, her voice gagged behind her lips. Later that night, he told her the secret name, his name, that one that used to belong to his father. When she said it, the Arabic full as she begged, when she shuddered and called it, he bit into her shoulder and came as hard as a falling building, her blood slick against his teeth and water trembling down his face. Now, he was unzipping her dress and easing it down that same shoulder, running his tongue over the crescent toothy scar.

“Did you call out his name?” he asked her, his fingers pushing into her hip, releasing her hair. Kachi covered her mouth with her hand and shook her head, whimpering.

“Are you sure?” he persisted, pushing the dress past her waist.

“I would never,” she whispered, her voice breaking. The crumpled green stretched past her hips then collapsed at her feet. He knelt down and gently lifted her feet, still wrapped in black leather, one by one, out of the pool of green. Kemi was a large man, solid like quarried stone, but he held her feet like her bones were eggshells, yet with a vague threat. I could crush you, if I decided not to love you anymore.

“I think you are lying to me,” he said gently, rotating her ankle in his palm thoughtfully. “It’s fine if you called out his name. I’m sure it felt good to have him in you. Tell me, though, did you even think of me? Did I enter your mind?” His voice had solidified as he spoke, starting like water and ending like lead. Kachi felt her eyes tear up, her chest flooded as he stood up before her, her body shaking in her underwear.

“Please, Kemi!” she pleaded. “Biko­—” He covered her mouth with his mouth and drank in the rest of her sentence with greed.

“Quiet, quiet,” he whispered. “Just tell me this…’ She sniffed and wiped her eyes, smearing black on her fist, and he grinned at her. The new moon dissecting his eyebrow whitened with his smile. “Did you have fun?”

There was a pause as they looked at each other, and then the air adjusted. Kachi’s mouth curved and her spine straightened like a knife as she picked out the remaining pins from her hair, shaking her thick hair down. She brushed stray tears off her cheek and kissed him back, snapping into herself again.

“I always do, love.” She swatted at his arm and smiled at him. “Now stop teasing me! Unless you’re going to follow up…” Her sentence evaporated into a suggestive question mark. He scoffed and threw his arm over her shoulders.

“You must be crazy. After all the fun you’ve already had? You’re insatiable.”

“You love it,” she countered, finally kicking off her shoes.

“Yeye girl,” he said, yawning. “Abeg, let’s go to bed.”


Feature Image Via 

Post Image: photo of malian singer and model Inna Modja Via

Akwaeke Emezi - Portrait

Akwaeke Zara Emezi was born in Umuahia and raised in Aba, Nigeria. She currently lives in Brooklyn, and has been writing since she could write. Her work has been published by Raw Fiction and her first full length manuscript, Somadina, was selected as a finalist for the New Visions Award by Lee and Low Books. Her short fiction is available on her website at

I encountered her  through a good friend and have since read many of her writings which I genuinely love. In the coming weeks, I will post other stories by her here on Brittle Paper. One day I will say what I find captivating about her work. Until then, let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

Tags: , , , ,

Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

17 Responses to “African Fiction At Its Sexiest! “THRESHOLD” by Akwaeke Emezi” Subscribe

  1. Obinna Udenwe August 8, 2013 at 11:57 am #

    She writes well, it is difficult to do a story or rather a romance story in a way that holds the reader’s attention – becuase the reader is filled with apprehension and dread, wondering if the character Kemi wants to beat his lover or murder her. It is a nice build up, for me my heart was pounding – which is very interesting. But then, it lacks good ending. A poignant story with poor ending. Realistically I do not think that the character would tell his girlfriend ‘Abeg make we go to bed’ in that kind of condition. The author made us believe that he was angry, stung, hurt, cheated on. No guy will get a confession from his girl and still tell her to come to bed, even if we agree that he romanced her – though in a bid to elicit information from her, but then he wouldn’t just ask her to bed, and forget it. In conclusion, it is a great story, with a rushed and unconvincing ending.

  2. clarke August 9, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    Obinna Udenwe did you read the story clearly. see the part were she says “stop teasing me” and “the air adjusted”….you do not understand their game?

  3. clarke August 9, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    Beautiful story by the way.

  4. Ainehi Edoro August 11, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    “No guy will get a confession from his girl and still tell her to come to bed, even if we agree that he romanced her”—

    Haba Obinna. Speak for yourself 🙂

  5. Obiajulu August 13, 2013 at 6:18 am #

    That’s a Wonderful piece.

  6. IfeOluwa May 18, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    I’m still trying to understand the line “You had to take off your tights?”; that is how much this story hides it’s true nature.

    My only grouse with the story is the fact that it makes me want to know more about the characters, and I know that will (might) never happen.

  7. mariam sule September 11, 2015 at 12:02 am #

    Yes. Thats the tease. I remember first reading this story and not understanding it. And i do now. And yes, Obinna speak for yourself.

  8. christopher Okemwa January 19, 2016 at 2:55 am #

    I am simply amazed with this story. It is a great one, well-weaved with dexterity and skill of an experienced hand. I wish to read more of her stories.

  9. estrella gada July 4, 2016 at 9:09 am #

    This story was one about role play and it was brilliant! I almost got lost at the end, had to go back and read it again before i got it..beautiful

  10. Chukwuma Nwangwu July 4, 2016 at 9:53 am #

    She’s got style. That is something that a lot of authors have forgotten the sheer importance of. There is too much literalism going on these days and for once it feels good to see someone write fiction that is stylistically… Fictional. I loved it from start to finish.

  11. Chukwudera Michael July 4, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

    That twist hahahaha.
    In a relationship between two crazy people, anything is possible. And She did get me on the prank but what does she mean by he bit her shoulder and blood stained his teeth?

  12. Mirabelle M July 4, 2016 at 10:02 pm #

    I don’t think Udenwa understands the plot of this story..

    wow! I hate how it ended abruptly! After all the apprehension, it was just an act.

  13. Oge Akwarandu July 5, 2016 at 2:37 am #

    Lolzz!! Brilliant story with twists and turns but quite an unpredictable ending. Akwaeke is at it again. Great storyteller.

  14. Hannah July 8, 2016 at 7:02 am #

    “How did he know! She’d even showered before she left, scrubbing off the salt stains.”

    Role play, ke? I truly find that hard to believe, with the above lines and similar others. I just think it’s something they get a kick out of together, her sleeping with other guys.

    Make Ms. Emezi come settle the matta for us na.

  15. ojei July 28, 2017 at 8:01 am #

    Its quite interesting a story…she is a bit crazy with words, that i like about her


  1. VIDEO: You’ve Never Seen an Igbo Fable This Awesome | Brittle Paper - April 25, 2014

    […] in Brooklyn and has been writing since she could write. Check out her story on Brittle Paper HERE. See more of her short videos HERE. And follow her on twitter […]

  2. Africa’s Rising Literary Stars | Meet Akwaeke Emezi | Brittle Paper - September 1, 2015

    […] community given that exactly two years ago, we published a short fiction by her titled “Threshold.” To think that she is now well on her way to becoming an established voice in the community […]

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."


Teju Cole’s Essay on The Disposability of Black Lives is Essential Reading for Our Current Moment

george floyd minneapolis teju cole

As we mourn the death of George Floyd, whose life was brutally taken by a white police officer in Minneapolis, […]

Lolwe Needs You to Achieve its Goal of Paying Writers

lolwe (2)

Lolwe is a literary magazine founded in January 2020 by Kenyan writer and editor Troy Onyango. One of the magazine’s […]

Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, Shortlisted for The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction

bernardine evaristo orwell prize (1)

Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other has been shortlisted for The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction. Sponsored by The Orwell Foundation […]

#WeTurnToBooks Returns! Catch Nnedi Okorafor, Kiru Taye, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, & Ayesha Harruna Attah Live on Instagram

WeTurnToBooks Site

Hey Brittle Paper readers and followers! We’re excited to announce the second installment of our #WeTurnToBooks series on Instagram Live, […]

Tomi Adeyemi Recommends 5 Books to Escape Into While You’re Social Distancing

Untitled design

Wondering what’s on Tomi Adeyemi’s quarantine reading list? Adeyemi recently shared five books she is reading (and re-reading) during the […]

All the Scoop on Fiston Mujila’s Forthcoming Novel The Villain’s Dance

Fiston Mujila The Villain's Dance

Fiston Mujila’s second novel is set for a September 2020 release by France-based publishing powerhouse Éditions Métailié. It has been […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.