Short Story: When Àyànfẹ́ Found Her Name by Racheal Torty

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Our childish laughter echoed in the hut… 

My age group gathered for our monthly meeting—which was also the wedding of the leader’s older sister—a group of 12-year-olds (not quite children and not adults either).

“Let us play a new game” our leader Síjúadé started nervously—as a princess, we were somewhat subservient to her.

“Let us all say our Oríkì and favorite meals.” Àbíkẹ́ piped in, and as usual, without asking for anyone’s approval, she went on.

“My name is Àbíkẹ́ and my favorite food is Àmàlà with Àbùlà.”

Soon we got into the spirit of the game and as I listened to the other girls, I thought of which food to claim, I wanted to say something different, more interesting.

“It’s your turn, Àyànfẹ́.” Ìtùnú nudged me.

I suddenly felt the eyes of at least 10 girls on me.

“My name is Àyànfẹ́ and..” I started.

“Aren’t you Àbẹ̀fẹ́’s sister?” A girl I had never seen before interjected.

But before I could respond, I watched the conversation steer away from my favorite food to how beautiful my sister was, how many suitors were asking for her hand, and on and on, they went.

My name is Àyànfẹ́, Àbẹ̀fẹ́’s younger sister—simply put, Àbúrò Àbẹ̀fẹ́.

I suppose I should be grateful to be her younger sister, after all, Àbẹ̀fẹ́ was the village beauty—the perfect fusion of all the elements of beauty in a woman—with her amazonian height, dark sparkling skin, and lush pink lips. 

She would take evening strolls on busy streets and leave even the most harried person gawking, she enjoyed the attention—she relished and reveled in it.

Without her presence, no evening frolic was ever complete—tubers of yam and bush meat were the invitation cards. The rhythmic movement of Àbẹ̀fẹ́’s feet would excite the Gangan and the gyrations of her shoulders tickled the Batá.

While my sister was a beautiful woman, she was also a wicked older sister and I could never understand why. We would walk to the stream together and she would make sure to let me know that the staring and gawking was hers alone. She would regale me with stories of frolics with snide remarks on how I could only see such wondrous things through her eyes.

She would snicker at the mention of my betrothed—which always hurt more—as he had asked for her hand first and upon many rejections, sought mine.

My mother would stare at me for long hours and comment on how God must have used the leftover dust from making Àbẹ̀fẹ́ in creating me.

My name is Àyànfẹ́, the girl doomed to make do with Àbẹ̀fẹ́’s leftovers.

Àbẹ̀fẹ́’s wedding was the talk of the village for months and mine was part of the regular.

I did not resent her or even feel jealous. Bámidélé—my husband—treated me well though our love was merely still a tiny seed yet with time and proper nurturing, it would grow. Thus, I was content.

Àbẹ̀fẹ́ came to my house the other day, took a look at Àpèkẹ́ my firstborn, and commented on how it was always good to have males as firstborns—as she did.

I saw how her eyes watched mine carefully to see if her words had inflicted the pain intended or missed their mark.

I merely nodded and smiled. That angered her.

Yet still, I could never understand her dislike for me.

My name is Àyànfẹ́, the one Àbẹ̀fẹ́ dislikes.

Even in her old age, Àbẹ̀fẹ́’s beauty was like the beauty of sunset—breathtaking and wondrous.

She fell sick and we all knew that any breath could be her last in this world.

One of those days, I dragged my old bones to see her and she asked everyone to leave us alone.

After many years of taking Àbẹ̀fẹ́’s verbal barbs, I had grown so impervious to them that I stopped caring.

“Why does everyone like you so much?”

Her question passed through a series of coughs before my head could understand it.

“Me?” I asked, so taken aback by the question that my response came out as a squeak.

“At home, Bàbá and Ìyá praised you for being the dependable one…”

“But, they always praised you too..” I hurriedly interjected.

She took a deep breath and looked away.

“When I was 15 and you were 13, I was on my way to the market and I overheard..” she paused to take another laborious breath.

“I overheard our father saying that I was the gold in the family….” she laughed nervously

“But you were the diamond”

I gasped, causing her to look back at me, then I suddenly understood.

“I am sorry” I whispered, I didn’t even know what I was apologizing for—the blow to her ego or being myself. I didn’t know.

“I deserve to be the best, the most beautiful, the one everyone desires.” she spat out the words with silent tears.

Her words echoed in my mind later that night and as the first of my tears fell, I spoke into the darkness and quiet.

“My name is Àyànfẹ́.”



Racheal Torty is a Christian, writer, pharmacist, graphics designer and proud Nigerian. Her works have been featured on Nnoko, Spillwords and Nanty greens.

She enjoys reading Christian fiction and imagining stories she might be too lazy to write. She is also quite passionate about football, basketball and athletics.



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4 Responses

  1. Promise says:

    Proud as alway…..

  2. Promise says:

    Rachel alway making us Proud
    Some of the words in italics should still carry their English meaning
    Thank you Rachel Torty

  3. Chigoziem says:

    Well done Racheal. The story is so beautiful.

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