‘Down there,’ she said. ‘That’s where I’ll find her’. She pointed to a spot, downstream from the grassy island; the darkest and deepest and most dangerous part of the water.
‘Down there,’ she said with finality.
He looked at her and doubt clouded his brow, though he did not speak it at first. ‘I see the twinkling at night, the shimmering at noon and the radiance at dawn,’ she said. ‘I’ll find her.’ And each day she waded into the river, reemerging with nothing but sodden garments; her hair plastered to her head, dusky and damp. Always with a smile and with sighs of hopeful resignation. Mostly, she seemed pleased enough with the effort. So, he watched her and did nothing to stop her search.
Each day, she would wait by the bank. She would sing old, sickly songs – the same her mother sang, crowing over her cot when she had not yet mastered language. Now, here on the riverbank, she would pace upstream, then down, in melodious distraction.
They were married and barren. When she realised, the very day they returned from the doctor’s house, she went directly to the riverbank. Playing her hands in the water and humming, quietly. She went back each day. Not crying, not mourning the dead intimacy between them just smiling and singing and sighing.
‘Down there. That’s where she is.’
Today, when doubt clouded his brow, he let his worry out without caution and it broke her. He told her he did not believe it. That she must now stop singing, stop coming to the riverbank. She must stop searching altogether, For, yesterday, when the wind whipped up and the rain thundered down, he nearly lost her to the waters. She was all of his last things on Earth. When he spoke these words she stopped smiling. And she stared. She starred through him and began to shiver. Her sighs became whimpers. A low, animal grunt from deep within her. He held her. She thrashed and gnashed teeth. And he held her tight as she struggled against him. Soon, exhausted, they fell asleep, she his prisoner.
Later, when he stirred, he felt lighter. Panic dragged him awake. She was gone. He ran to the water’s edge and he could not see her. He glanced across the bright river. He ran downstream, waded in, up to his midriff. Still there was no sign or sight. He climbed out. Sitting on the bank, now alone, he cursed sleep and vowed to stay awake from this point. And he stared at the water, doggedly.
On the third night he heard her. He heard her voice. She was crying out and there was music and pain in her words. He looked through three days of sleeplessness and caught first sight of his wife. Her hair was darker than ever, dyed almost black by the waters.
Thick, green reeds hung on her dress and covered much of her flesh. She emerged slowly, treading her way up the incline of the riverbed and towards him.
And in her arms, the baby girl. Crying. Full of vitality. Dragging sweet life into her tiny lungs.