How to Keep a River Goddess Happy

An image of a river, white-peaked where it flows over rocks. Its rocky bank can be seen, and is covered with moss and tree trunks.

I love the sensation of bubbling, frothing, gurgling streams playing over my skin; cold water and pebbles stirring round me. The gentle tug and pull of tidal waters swirling my hair, the deep, dark strength of a full grown river at my centre, tributaries running through my fingers.

Sometimes I stay like that for centuries, at one with the water of my being.

Then I miss my human cousins; your curiosity, inventiveness, creativity, matched only by your deceit, your drive for self-destruction and your cruelty.

You are all 60% water. Your brain and heart, 73% and even your bones, 31%.

That should make us compatible but my relationships are disastrous.

Starting with the Oathbreaker. I asked just one thing. Privacy when bathing. I made him swear, before I married him; I was wary, after what happened to my mother and we all had to flee in the night. But he had to peek.

With a long soak in the bath, I relax into my natural form and there’s something about my legs fused into a serpent’s tail, swan wings sprouting from my back, they all seem to find a bit alarming. You’d think they’d be honoured to be chosen by a River Goddess but they’re scared by my otherness. So for their own good, I make them promise. Then curiosity gets the better of them; they wonder what I’m hiding, they break their promise and I have to leave.

It did work with the Victorian. Never liked looking at each other’s bodies, a certain class of Victorian. Did you ever see those bathing machines? What a scream. Anyway, he was a gent, always kept his promise. I was so sad when he aged and died. I go on, of course but I retreated to my river for a long time after. I missed him so much.

I emerged eventually; my rivers were feeling poorly; polluted, poisoned, groggy with silt, their wildlife diminishing, the plants along their banks all brown and wrinkled. I was lonely, too, so I called myself Melissa (Melusine being a bit of a mouthful) got a job with a hydroelectric company (no one knows more about rivers than me) and sought a mate.

This time, I thought I’d found someone I could trust. An environmental activist, an ethical man who took his promises seriously. I trusted him. But he still thought I was his to possess, to own. He decided that silly promise didn’t matter any more; he’d seen everything there was to see, explored every inch of me, watched me giving birth to two daughters.

He hasn’t. I’ve won battles for Kings, raising floods and storms. I am a goddess, celebrated in art, music and literature. There are secrets about myself I want to keep. And promises matter however long it is since you made them or how silly you think they are.

Now my rivers need me. You’re not looking after them and they’re getting unruly.

An image of Kate Leimer, a person with long curly dark hair. She smiles into the camera. Alongside her is a lit lamp.

New to fiction writing, Kate Leimer enjoys stories of all kinds. She has published non-fiction news and features and was recently shortlisted for the Hysteria7 short story competition. She has a BA in History and English Literature. When she’s not writing, she works a library.

Twitter handle: kate@hollypook