As it turned out, I didn’t get into trouble when I finally returned to the forest. I wish I could say that my storytelling abilities had grown so much, I managed to lie my way out of it. Unfortunately, it was simply that Hera was there and in a bad mood again. Since she’d been charmed by me before, I was put in front of her straight away. Like a plaything. No. I’m not bitter at all.
From then on, my time was divided between three different things: my duties in the forest; Hera; and Narcissus. It was easier than it sounds to balance those three commitments. There was no reason for Narcissus to enter the forest, after all, and my sister nymphs didn’t see a problem with me spending time with Hera. After all, she was the Queen of the gods. If she was unhappy, no one would be safe.
I’ll be honest here. Although many of my sisters took lovers, I never found myself interested in any mortal. I believe I had plenty to occupy my mind with in trying to ensure none of the people I cared about knew about each other. And, yes, Hera was included in the people I cared about list.
But it was a fairly long one.
The change was a gradual one. Narcissus and I grew up and although I knew he was handsome, I still treated him the same way. I don’t think I ever expected things to grow between us.
And then there was one day when I went to the river. I’d reached my majority and hadn’t been there in a while. It was an excuse for a festival, so I wasn’t able to get away for a couple of days. I just had to make sure not to drink as much wine as my sisters.
I was sitting by the river, thinking I really didn’t know what the point of celebrating reaching my majority was. It wasn’t like I looked that different from before. I pulled a face at my reflection and then tossed a stone into the water to get rid of it.
“I didn’t think you were coming.”
I didn’t bother looking up. It wasn’t like I didn’t know who it was. “There was a feast.”
“Did you have fish?” Narcissus sat down beside me.
“No. Just deer. I wouldn’t have been able to come today, but I didn’t drink as much wine as the others.”
“Will you come into the cave with me?”
I frowned. “I don’t want to dry out.”
“Not that far.”
“Why?” I asked, trying to comb my fingers through a knot in my hair.
“This is why.” Narcissus’ hands landed gently on my shoulders and he turned me towards him. I remember looking at his face and not even realising what he planned until his lips pressed against mine.
It’s been centuries and I still remember his kiss. It was cool and sweet; a direct contrast to the heat that followed.