I followed Narcissus, carefully picking my way across the rocks and shooting many anxious glances towards the river. I had no doubt that, if I fell in, I would be snatched away, no matter how young I was.
Fortunately, we reached the cave without any mishap occurring. Narcissus looked back once at me before ducking inside.
There are many caves in a forest. I was no stranger to dark places. But the smell that wafted towards me from the entrance of this cave was different to what I smelled coming from inside a cave in the forest. There was a strangely bitter taste in the air and I poked my tongue out, wondering what it was.
“That’s the ocean you can taste in the air,” Narcissus explained, glancing back at me. “It’s saltwater and you can reach it going through this cave. My mother likes to be there. I think it makes her feel safer.”
“Why wouldn’t she feel safe?” I asked.
Narcissus shrugged. “I guess she’s worried my father might come and claim me.”
“Do you think he will?”
“He’s a god. He’ll do whatever he wants whenever he wants.”
I heard a slightly bitter note in Narcissus’ voice, but didn’t think it was my place to ask for more details. I wasn’t even sure why I was here with him – except that this boy piqued my curiosity.
Would I have felt the same about any boy I’d met, if I saw one for the first time? I would have been curious, of course, but I’d like to think there were deeper reasons for why I lost my heart to him in particular.
The cave was nearly too dark to see as I followed Narcissus inside. I was able to follow him simply because of the white clothes he wore. Unfortunately, the walls of the cave weren’t as distinct and I kept knocking my arms and shins on protruding bits of the cave.
“Give me your hand,” Narcissus directed, thrusting said body part behind him.
I was reluctant to do so, but couldn’t think of a reason why it was a bad idea. I put my hand in his and he gripped it with long, strong fingers. “Don’t you work?” I asked, noticing the obvious lack of calluses on his hand.
“I have no need to do so.”
I didn’t answer. The taste of salt in the air was growing stronger and my lips were beginning to dry out. I licked them, but that just caused cracks to grow. “I don’t think salt is very good for a forest nymph,” I said, pausing and tugging at my trapped hand.
Narcissus turned back to me. “She’s not usually so far in,” he said apologetically.
“Why don’t you go and find her? I could wait nearer to the entrance.”
Narcissus hesitated, glancing at me. “You won’t leave?”
“I chose to come with you,” I pointed out.
“I suppose that’s true.” Narcissus released my hand and within moments, he was gone.