“It’s not going to hurt you.”
Surprised, I looked up as Narcissus spoke. “I know that.” I knew I sounded defensive, but I didn’t want him to think that I’d never seen fire before. Or that I was scared.
Narcissus shrugged. “I just thought you hadn’t seen fire before.”
“We don’t eat our food raw.” I tried smiling at Narcissus, though, and he returned the smile. I then watched as he began skinning and cutting pieces of fish away.
“Have you ever eaten fish before?” Narcissus asked me.
“Only a few times. We nymphs tend to prefer the meat of deer.”
“I’m sure you have plenty to season your meat in the forest.”
“There’s just as much that’s poisonous there,” I answered. “If we’re not careful, we can become sick.”
“Still, you might not find this as tasty as the fare you’re used to.” Narcissus impaled the pieces of fish onto sticks and then placed them in the ground, close enough to begin cooking, but far enough away to ensure they didn’t burn.
After a little while, the smell of cooking fish filled my nostrils. I moved aside as smoke engulfed me, coughing into my sleeve.
I knew I would smell of smoke by the time I returned to my sisters. I was already trying to figure out what kind of story I would tell them when I finally returned. Perhaps I could claim to have lost my way. No one would believe it, but it was unlikely they would challenge me about it.
I blinked, pulling myself out of my thoughts as I realised that Narcissus was holding one of the sticks filled with fish pieces out to me. “Thank you.” I took it from him and raised it to my mouth, biting off some of the fish.
Despite the lack of seasoning, the fish didn’t taste that bad. I leaned back against the cave wall, looking over the water as I ate the fish.
“How long can you stay here for?” Narcissus asked me.
I shrugged. “For a little while longer. I’m sure I can come and visit in the next couple of days, though.”
Narcissus smiled at me. “I’d like that.”
I returned the smile. “It’ll be nice to leave the forest at times.”
Narcissus glanced at his mother and then at me. “It’ll be nice to have some more company.”
I wasn’t sure what to say to that, but just nodded and waited to see what to do with my stick, since I’d finished eating.
Narcissus dropped his own empty stick into the fire and I copied him. He then turned to his mother, gently coaxing her to eat. I watched the fire, not wanting to intrude on his time with his mother and feeling a bit awkward.
After a moment or two, I heard Narcissus sit next to me. I turned to face him. “I should return to the forest.”
“Will I see you tomorrow?”
I stood up. “I’m sure that will be possible.”