It’s difficult to say how my feelings towards Narcissus changed. I don’t think I felt any differently towards him, even after we had slept together. To me, it just seemed a natural progression of the friendship that had formed between us.
“I love you,” Narcissus said to me, quietly, as I lay next to him, staring into the calm waters of the lake.
“Do you ever wonder how much attention the gods pay to us?” I asked, glancing back at him over my shoulder. “Do they have mirrors whereby they can look into this world at us? Or can they see everything that happens all the time?”
“Does it matter?”
I felt the lightest brush of lips against my shoulder and twisted round to look at Narcissus. Smiling, he wound a lock of my hair around his finger and looked deep into my eyes. “Stay with me?”
I wanted to draw back in alarm. This was the first time Narcissus had asked me this and it scared me. “I can’t. I have to stay with my sisters.”
“You wouldn’t have to stay away from them.” Narcissus kissed me. “You could go back to visit.”
I shook my head. “Hera will be angry.”
“Surely she could come and spend time with you here?”
“She’s jealous. She won’t like that I’m with you.”
Narcissus was quiet for several long moments, just looking at me. Finally, he spoke. “Do you love me?”
The question was a gentle one, but still filled me with a sense of panic. “I like being with you.”
“That wasn’t what I asked.”
I had no idea how to answer that. “I don’t know what you want me to say.”
“I want you to be honest with me.”
“I don’t know how I feel.”
Narcissus closed his eyes. “You’re lying.”
“I’m not!” I didn’t have to fake my indignant response. I told stories, yes, but I didn’t lie. Narcissus asked me for truth… and I had to give him that. “Do you need me to rush how I feel? I’m faithful to you. Isn’t that enough?”
Narcissus rolled onto his back, staring up at the sky. “No.”
I stood up, feeling cold inside. “I need to go.”
“Maybe that would be best.” Narcissus didn’t look at me.
Would things have been different if I’d stayed? If I’d realised that the heat I felt when I was with Narcissus could only have been love? It’s impossible to say what might have been, but I now wonder if I could have changed the whole course of our lives if I’d seen the love in my stories echoed in my own life.
But I didn’t stay. I walked away without a backward glance and it was only later, at night, that I realised the mistake I’d made. And then I sneaked out to go back to the lake… to talk to Narcissus.
But he had gone. And it was a long time before I saw him again, but the loss cut deep.