She couldn’t leave the river, and she was malevolent. These things we knew. Hidden amidst the reeds, her round eyes, the color of wet silt, watched my sister and I run. The sun would glint on her skin as she slipped through the shallows, following us down the bank.
We spoke of her only in the heavy dark of our room, when our mother and father slept deep down the hall. Round saucer eyes and silver fish skinned girls were nonsense, and they’d only think us sillier than they did already. Worse yet, they could believe us and forbid our private adventures next to the water.
The silent vigil she kept provided every game, every imagined story we spun, a lurking thrill. Like the cold wind as it brushed the skin, it wakened our wits. Don’t get too close, she’ll wrap long fingers about your ankle. Don’t fall in; she’ll drag you down and steal your breath. Don’t look into her eyes, she’ll enchant you.
These were our games on the riverbank, far away from the waiting world. Like her, the outside lurked with ready expectation. We saw it in our mother’s tired eyes and in our father’s stooping back, ready to snatch us from the riverbank. Sharp teeth and watery deaths were things we knew how to fear.
She couldn’t leave the river, and she was malevolent. These things we knew.