Excerpt from Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Butter Honey Pig Bread

by Francesca Ekwuyasi

Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi X
Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi
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  • Published:
    Nov 2020, 368 pages

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Elisabeth Cook
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Taiye

Taiye awoke To a warm slick of dark blood sticking between her lean thighs. Menstrual fluid soaked through her green underwear and made a splotchy maroon map on the orange batik sheets of her bed. In recent mornings, since moving back home to Lagos, she awoke to thoughts of her bees; they lived in an olive-green hive underneath the dappled shade of the palm trees clustered in the backyard. Among the palms, lush bougainvillea cascading over the fence between the neighbour's compound dropped bright pink paper blooms like blessings upon the hive. Taiye had been romanced by the notion of keeping bees since she was a small girl, so the moment the dream was within reach, she seized it and clutched it tight. And learned hard lessons on loving the living.

On that particular morning, her first thoughts were of her sister, Kehinde.

Taiye stretched, breathing in deeply.

On the exhale, she whispered, "May I be safe," and hoped that her words would fall upon open ears. Kehinde was coming home with her husband. Taiye hadn't met him yet. She hadn't seen her sister in a long time.

"May I have peace."

She peeled off her damp underwear, pulled the stained sheets off the bed, and threw them in a pile at the corner of the bathroom. With a wet washcloth she wiped crusty streaks of drying blood from her thighs, and then inserted a silicone menstrual cup, discoloured to a light brown from many years of use, to catch her period as it left her body.

With her footsteps muffled by the plush emerald carpet of the hall-way, she walked toward her mother's bedroom. The heavy wooden door squeaked in its tired frame when Taiye slowly pushed it open. Her mother, a soft lump underneath white sheets, was illuminated by slits of light escaping past heavy red curtains into the otherwise dark room. She listened for gentle snores and shut the door quietly behind her.

"May I have joy."

Early in the morning the house existed in a quiet hush, a spell des-tined to break moments after a power outage, when the generator would roar electronics back to life. Taiye liked quiet. She wondered if, and how much, it would change when Kehinde and Farouq arrived.

When she'd arrived almost a year ago with intentions to stay, she found the house in a sort of passive disarray. Thick cobwebs hung in dirty grey clusters in every corner. A layer of dust had settled in and covered all the surfaces. Really, the house seemed untouched, as if no one lived there. Hot rage shot through Taiye's travel-worn body at the sight of the place, because she'd paid a housekeeper to clean and cook for her mother. And when she saw her mother, saw how prominently the delicate bones of her clavicles pushed so taut against sallow skin, saw her sunken cheeks and the utter joy that brightened her face when Taiye appeared, she choked on the gasp that threatened to escape her throat. She'd embraced her mother, and then marched to the kitchen, where the plump housekeeper was eating a large portion of amala and chicken stew. Taiye said, "Please finish your food. I'll pay you for next month, but you have to leave today."

Afterward, before unpacking, Taiye had tasted egusi soup from a pot in the fridge and found it flavourless and void of feeling. She threw it out and made a tomato stew with azu eke, smoked mackerel. She served it with boiled yam to her mother, who devoured the whole thing and licked the plate clean.

Now, walking down the stairs, Taiye was careful not to step on the cat, Coca-Cola; the ancient and volatile black thing slept curled up in the corners where the spiral steps changed directions. The cat moved out of the way and trailed behind Taiye into the kitchen.

"May I be healthy."

Although it was still a soft whisper, Taiye's voice filled the high- ceilinged kitchen. She filled a fire-blackened stainless-steel kettle with tap water and placed it on the gas stove. As she sat by the window, she let the cat curl up in her lap, and they waited for the water to boil.

Excerpted from Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi. Copyright © 2020 by Francesca Ekwuyasi. Excerpted by permission of Arsenal Pulp Press, Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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