|A Novel by Kayt Davies
You are what your deep driving desire is.
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny.
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV. 4.5
Kora, like most young women ~ at that age when
one’s legs are at their longest, brownest
and thinnest ~ knew, deeply and passionately that
no-one understood her, especially her mother.
Echo as elegant and vibrant as the perfumed breeze
was walking back down the hill, knee deep in the
riot of daffodils, daisies and marigolds that
tumbled down the gentle slope towards the village.
They had spent a dreamy morning together, twirling
flowers in their fingers, weaving wreaths for
each other to wear in their hair and talking about
Echo was in love. The man of her dreams was a
boy called Narcissus. He spent most of his time
at a half-forgotten temple in a silent forest
glade halfway up Mt Helicon, the time worn hill
on the other side of the valley they had always
lived in. He said he was studying to be a great
Echo was in the state of infatuation where every
sentence began with “Narcissus said….”,
and her conversation was punctuated with dreamy
Kora hadn’t ever met anyone she felt like
that about. She was surprised and a little frustrated
to see Echo so distracted. She wondered what would
happen to their friendship if Echo married Narcissus
and started a family.
Would everything change?
Would Echo turn into a mother ~ like her own
She hoped not, even though Echo was a nymph,
they had been friends for ever. Friends since
they were wild little things catching frogs together
and making houses in the bull rushes for them.
Things were changing now though, Kora watched
Echo wading through the blossoms and the long
grass and felt a twinge of envy at the graceful
balance and milky perfection of her slender form.
Kora sat alone for a while looking at her own
legs and feet spread before her on the hillside.
As a child she knew that they were good legs for
running and climbing but now she noticed every
corner and tiny scar. She wondered whether or
not they were too long and brown and whether they
would be considered beautiful by the right man,
by Him, whoever He was. He who was the right one
for her, the Him who would make her sigh and who
would turn her talk into a series of He saids…
The soft breeze rustled her hair and woke her
from her dreamy thoughts. She stood up and wandered
home, led through the final stretch by the familiar
sweet spicy fragrance of her mother’s cooking.
Surely enough she walked through the open cottage
door to find a banquet for two laid upon the table.
The room, cool and shady as a forest glen was
tidily full of everything the mother and daughter
needed. It had been like that for as long as Kora
could remember. The meal was steaming, glistening
and decorated with flowers, but Kora hardly noticed
it. Falling into what seemed like an ancient mechanical
routine she poured two cups of water and sat down
opposite her mother.
As Demeter served Kora a bowl of baked vegetables
she asked her about her morning, what had she
done, who had she seen?
At first Kora answered “nothing really”
~ because that was what it had felt like sitting
on the hillside in the sun with the flowers and
It wasn’t a satisfactory answer though,
Demeter pressed for details and so Kora started
telling her about Echo and Narcissus and love.
Suddenly Demeter’s cheery mealtime mood
shifted. She seemed to grow larger and more solid.
“I don’t like that boy” she
said. “He’s dangerous.”
“Dangerous ~ oh sure” countered Kora
“he’s a philosopher mother, not a
warrior, and he’s certainly not sleazing
onto Echo, it’s her that always calls on
him, not vice versa.”
Demeter didn’t hear the wisp of worldly
wisdom in her daughter’s words. A fear had
clutched her and she would not be deterred.
“Kora, I’m older than you and I know
things that you don’t. What he is doing
is wrong. I have no say over what Echo does but
I forbid you ever to speak with him.”
Kora narrowed her eyes and fell silent. “Yes
mother.” she answered with as bitterly as
They finished their meal in silence, chewing
mechanically, tasting nothing. Kora was furious
that the word “forbid” had been used.
How dare Demeter treat her like such a child?
Demeter was a busy woman. A single parent with
too many responsibilities.
She sighed heavily as she cleared the lunch dishes.
She hadn’t meant to argue with Kora. It
was just that she was tired.
She was always tired, always lurching from one
crisis to the next, just making it through this
and then that. She constantly heard herself saying
‘after I’ve finished this next thing,
then I’ll stop. Then I’ll tune into
Kora and what she needs. Then I’ll relax
and be at peace’. But then she’d hear
herself offering to help someone else and before
she knew it she’d lined up the next thing
that she’d have to do before she could stop.
It had been like that for so long that she might
have forgotten what stopping felt like. The constant
promise of it had become a mantra, a surreal fantasy
of bliss that she used to lure herself along,
to sustain herself through each new crisis.
Today she was exhausted because she had gone
to hear the villagers’ petitions as she
had done every few days for more years than she
cared to remember. Most often she was called on
to provide practical solutions, such as food and
building materials. But today she had found herself
applying emotional first aid to a distraught woman
called Adele. She was the mother of three tall
strapping athletic boys all keen to be great warriors
and to bring honour and glory to the village ~
except that the youngest one was infatuated with
the wrong person.
It wasn’t that Ameinias loved Narcissus
that bothered his mother, boyhood crushes she
had dealt with before, it was the fact that to
her, and to the rest of the village, it appeared
to be so embarrassingly one-sided, and so extreme.
Poor Ameni was trudging up Mt Helicon every day
laden with gifts ranging from family heirlooms
to the hard-earned fruits of his own labour, and
returning with nothing. Not even a happy sigh.
Most of the time he looked dejected and puzzled
and he said that Narcissus, the boy he was visiting,
would not even accept an invitation to dinner
with his family. He had told his mother that nothing
was more important to him than winning Narcissus’s
love, but he seemed to be failing and judging
himself harshly for it.
Adele’s blood was boiling, her family pride
was wounded and her heart was bleeding for her
Demeter had done her best to remind her of the
strange cruelty of young love, but it hadn’t
helped much and so she had reverted to simply
listening, letting the woman rave on and on until
her heart had emptied itself of pain, at least
for the moment.
When Adele had finally finished, Demeter had
rushed home to whip up a wholesome meal for Kora.
Providing good food, she maintained, was a cornerstone
of good mothering. While she was cooking she had
been thinking about Narcissus.
He was new to the village, and was still staying
in the visitor’s house as far as she knew.
No one seemed to know where he had been schooled,
but he was thought of as being aristocratic and
well educated. She hadn’t met him herself
but he was said to be handsome. She’d heard
it rumoured that his grace and beauty were evidence
of nymph blood in his veins, but she never put
much stock in gossip, besides she saw fewer differences
between nymphs and humans than others did.
As she cleared the dishes after the meal, in the
frosty absence of Kora’s company, her mind
returned to Narcissus. Adele had said that he
was spending most of his time in the overgrown
Dionysian temple. That struck her as odd. Dionysis
was old and wild, his gentle heart wasn’t
the sort to respond to the dry chants and offerings
of priests and so the temple had been abandoned
and new places of worship had been built honouring
Poseidon and Zeus, the flamboyant gods who vied
for glory and attention. Demeter wondered why
a handsome boy would go there, what purpose he
might have in mind. Tipping away the dirty water,
she sighed impatiently. She didn’t have
time for him and the trouble he caused. If he
was just a travelling young priest experimenting
with calling Dionysis, then why wouldn’t
he dine with Ameni’s family?
She suspected him of being arrogant and ill mannered
and begrudged the time she had spent soothing
feathers he had ruffled. Her time was precious.
She needed it now to sooth Kora’s ruffled
mood. She wondered if she should have told Kora
about Ameni but dropped the idea like a hot coal.
It wasn’t right to share the things that
the villagers told her in private and not right
to give Kora the burden of carrying a secret.
As she stacked the last of the clean dishes onto
the kitchen table she pushed Narcissus from her
mind. For now she just needed Kora to give him
a wide berth, at least until she got back tomorrow.
There wasn’t time to think more deeply
about him or about anything at the moment. It
was time, now that the villagers had been visited
and the vines had been restocked with fat red
grapes, the oaks with plump acorns and the ground
with yams, to travel to the top of Mt Olympus
to sit in high council and to discuss the fates
of the various petitioners and lawbreakers.
Adele had begged Demeter to call on the council
to punish Narcissus for his treatment of Ameni
and Demeter wondered if she’d done the right
thing in talking her out of the idea, for advising
patience and non-interference.
While the debates sometimes lasted for months,
translated into human time she was rarely away
from her mountainside home for more than a day
She packed herself some baked acorns, fruit and
wine and optimistically placed her needlework
into the basket too, then she went to Kora’s
bedroom door and knocked gently.
“Come in,” Kora answered forcing
as much resentment as she could muster into her
Opening the door, Demeter saw her daughter sprawled
stomach down on her white bed, her chin in her
hands and her feet waving idly in the air.
She smiled, thinking that even now, pouting,
sullen and angry, her daughter was radiantly beautiful.
Demeter perched tentatively on the edge of the
bed and reached out to stroke the girl’s
hair. “I’m sorry honey,” she
murmured. “I didn’t mean to upset
Kora snorted. “You just don’t think
that I can look after myself.”
Demeter sighed. She didn’t know what to
say. To be honest she didn’t think Kora
could look after herself for long. She seemed
to hate the notion of work and responsibility
and she was so trusting it was frightening for
a mother. Especially a mother aware of the number
of rogues in the world who could take advantage
of a girl like her. Kora just didn’t seem
to understand how precious she was or how much
she had to lose.
“Please just be careful until I get back”,
she said. “I am trusting you to take care
of yourself, but remember to go to Hecate if you
need anything. She knows where I’ll be and
how to contact me, and she can cook for you and
comfort you if anything happens or if you get
The important meeting
Kora sat on the front step of the house she had
lived in all her life and watched her mother walk
up the mountain towards the mist gate and the
strange other world beyond. It was a place that
she had been told stories of since she was a baby,
but never visited herself. Demeter had never allowed
Despite her irritation, Kora thought that Demeter
looked strong and graceful as she strode through
the grass, leaving in her wake a blaze of flowers
more vibrant than the hillside regulars.
Demeter enjoyed the walk up the mountain. She
remembered being a younger woman, walking up to
the council meetings with Hecate ~ back in the
days when the old woman had taken part in the
Hecate had given it up when Kora was born, preferring
to stay back and mind the child. Dear old Hecate.
She was a source of great comfort. A much needed
backstop in the times when it all got too much,
but she was also always slightly aloof. Always
quick to point out a folly or an obsessive attachment
~ never viciously, always with a smile and a twinkle
in her eye, but her aim was true, and she was
never fooled by denial.
Demeter hoped that Kora would visit Hecate today.
The old woman would surely explain what she had
meant about the Narcissus boy, in a gentler way
than she had managed, in a way that would make
sense to the girl and prompt her to forgive her
mother’s weary clumsiness with words.
Her thoughts rounded to this happy conclusion
as she passed through the mist gates into Olympus
and entered the court of the great white table
in the icy landscape of the mountaintops.
Zeus, seated relaxed and jovial at the head of
the table in a chair that matched his majestically
broad and muscular proportions, beamed at her,
and boomed a hearty welcome. Demeter sensed the
impersonal chill behind his slick friendliness
and shuddered. It seemed inappropriate to her
given their long association. She doubted that
he had any real idea about what she did, or why,
but she didn’t mind. She knew that she was
good at it, and she didn’t really want his
hand in her creative processes. She took her seat
and exchanged pleasant, genuinely warm, greetings
with the others who sat waiting.
She noticed that the chair reserved for her youngest
cousin Hades was empty as usual. Since Hecate
had moved out of the underworld, he hadn’t
been seen at a meeting. His workload was said
to be awful, but Demeter suspected that he was
just badly organised. Her own workload was technically
impossible, but she managed it, as well as parenting.
Still she wouldn’t trade places with him
for all the time and riches in the world. She
shuddered at the thought of him and his dark life
in the dank underground caverns.
She loved the sun far too much to be able to
face life without it. For her it was like air
~ she was a painter with light. She drew it into
herself and out of her flowed the forms of new
shoots and blossoms. The sunlight was her blood,
her pulse ~ her joy.
She smiled as an image of Kora walking through
a sunny meadow, with an arm full of flowers floated
into her mind and banished the darkness that surrounded
the throne of Hades.
The Old Woman
Meanwhile back at the house Kora was desperately
Her life was as empty of responsibilities as her
mother’s was full.
It had never really bothered her before. She had
been content playing with the frogs and the butterflies,
watching the clouds and gathering flowers.
Now all that seemed pointless.
Before she had always been able to go and see
Echo, but now the thought of Echo just reminded
her of something that was missing in her life.
Before she had taken delight in helping her mother
and doing special things to surprise her. But
these days Mother was so irritatingly judgmental
that there was no longer any pleasure in that.
Feeling disgruntled, she followed the path her
mother’s feet had made to the house of the
As she approached the three great shaggy hounds
on the rickety verandah barked happy greetings
and, after a few moments ~ just as she arrived
at the front gate, the old woman emerged yawning
and rubbing her freshly wakened face.
She smiled at the sight of Kora and nodded sagely.
“Come in, come in, dear girl, you look
like you need some tea as much as I do.”
The girl, not knowing what medicine she required,
agreed. Perhaps tea was the answer.
She followed Hecate into the dusty dimly-lit
cottage. There was a large wooden table in the
centre of the main room and the walls were lined
with shelves that were cluttered with bottles,
books, bones, strange twisted bits of drift wood,
shells, dried flowers, candles, half-finished
carvings, unusual musical instruments and the
Hecate was stoking the fire and filling the kettle.
Kora sat down at the table and sighed deeply.
“Missing your mother already are you?”
asked the old woman, with her face crinkled into
such a strange grin that Kora knew that she was
surely at least half joking.
“No ~ I’m glad she’s gone,”
she answered with accidentally brutal frankness.
Unnerved, she started to elaborate: “She
treats me like such a child I hate it, I hate
her too…” but then she blushed and
hoped that the whole thing hadn’t sounded
like a childish outburst.
Sensing her discomfort, Galinthias, the large
and ancient cat that lived with the old woman
stepped on to Kora’s lap, curled up and
The old woman was rummaging for cups and plates.
From the depths of a cupboard she asked if Demeter
had asked Kora to help her with the plants before
she left for the meeting.
Kora squirmed, feeling even more uncomfortable,
and explained that her mother had been urging
her to help out for several weeks and that she
had had to keep slipping away and avoiding the
“There’s no point in me helping,”
she explained, “I’m useless at it
and it only makes her angry. She tells me to focus
and let it flow but it just doesn’t do it
for me like it does for her. I hate it because
she wants me to help and she needs help but I
can’t. I’m just not who she wants
me to be and I don’t know how to really
tell her that.”
To Kora’s amazement the old woman chuckled
at the horrible conclusion to her story.
“Things never work out quite like we imagine,”
she clucked, placing a steaming cup of tea in
front of Kora, and proceeding to cut some thick
slices of fruit cake. “Your destiny is not
to walk in your mother’s shoes.”
The phrase “your destiny” danced
in the air above the table for a moment ~ even
Galinthias seemed to notice it lingering.
Feeling as though she had suddenly been given
the end of a piece of string Kora took a sip of
her tea and asked: “What do you know about
Raising an eyebrow the old woman answered: “I
know that it’s likely to be a more interesting
story than it seems to be from here.”
“How do you know that?”
“I was there when you were born, I saw
your two wet shiny faces and your pointy horns
and I washed you clean and wrapped you in silk.
Your mother would have worried if she’d
seen your other face, but she never did. Mothers
never like the unexpected.”
Completely confused Kora said: “Thankyou,
then for that. ~ Is everybody born with two faces?”
“No, not everyone.” she said slowly
with a wink, before adding, “But you’re
not the only one I know who had two”.
Kora’s head was spinning ~ but somewhere
deep behind her eyes she felt like a tiny dawn
was breaking. It was a small thing, but she knew
that if she nurtured it, it could possibly explain
“Who else has two?” she asked instinctively.
The old woman grinned wickedly over the edge
of her tea cup and said: “Young Narcissus,
for one ~ that’s why he lives with his head
in the clouds, even though his feet are on the
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that he has two eyes for this world
and two that could be for another. He’s
part nymph and part man ~ not many people understand
that poor boy.”
Kora smelt drama and excitement flickered through
her ~ “Why do you call him a poor boy? I
heard that he was beautiful and lucky. Is he unhappy?”
The old woman’s face crumpled again into
a half frown. “Not unhappy” she answered,
“confused certainly, misunderstood and lonely,
but not in the usual way.”
Kora’s lingering sense of boredom had vanished.
Saving Narcissus from being misunderstood twinkled
like a mission before her. She grinned as the
realisation dawned that taking it on would quench
her niggling curiosity for a glimpse of the boy
who had captured her friend’s mind and soul.
Reading her face, Hecate said: “Thinking
of visiting him?”
“Yes” said Kora, smiling, but suddenly
frowning like a child. “But Mother told
me not to. She ordered me not to…she’d
be very very scary if she…”
“Ahhh” smiled Hecate, “Forbidden
by your mother, but bidden by your curiousity.
Who should you obey?”
“Mother, I suppose”, said Kora, suddenly
drained of spirit.
Hecate reached across the table and lifted the
girl’s chin with her fingers. She gazed
at the smooth-skinned face.
“That’s the face that your mother
first saw on you dear, it’s the face of
a good girl, a sweet child. Old Hecate won’t
be surprised though if the other face doesn’t
find itself chasing destiny tonight out at the
old Dancer’s temple.”
Destiny. It shimmered in the air again. Kora
finished her tea and cake, knowing what had to
She found him, as expected, beside the pond in
the garden of the old temple, midway up the mountain.
His perfect chin resting on his hand, his elbow
resting on the soft moss. His long slender body
draped along the water’s edge.
The air was thick with the heavy scent of night
blossoms and the ancient oak trees cast gnarled
moon shadows over parts of the drowsy garden.
Kora paused by the gate. She drank him in with
her eyes. The sight of his naked perfect body
made her own body tingle. She felt pulses move
in parts of herself that had perhaps been asleep
until now. Not wanting to be caught staring, but
not knowing at first what to say, she bent down
and took off her dusty sandals.
He drew a deep slow breath and smiled at her
~ “The old woman said you might come.”
“She said that to me too” Kora answered
nervously, “but I don’t have long,
only tonight, and I have a question.”
He sat up, slowly like a statue coming to life,
and beckoned her to join him on the bed of moss.
His nakedness and his beauty disturbed her, she
wanted to keep on staring, but felt that she shouldn’t
because it might seem rude, he was after all a
person and not just a beautiful statue. On the
other hand he seemed to be either oblivious to
or perhaps even slightly enjoying the attention.
It was hard to tell. She heard her mother’s
voice in the back of her mind whispering “he’s
dangerous”. Although he was a naked man
closer to her than any naked man had ever been,
she knew that he wasn’t dangerous. There
was nothing of a predator about him.
She sat down on the green carpet and leant back
against the solid trunk of a tree. As she did
so, she seemed to draw strength from the ancient
wood, perhaps from the dark depths caressed by
the tips of its roots. She wondered for a moment
if his nakedness was a kind of a test of her intentions.
Suddenly unabashed she looked hard at him ~ at
all of him and said: “It must be very strange
being in a body that’s so beautiful to look
He looked relieved. “It is,” he answered,
with the side of his mouth curling into a slight
smile, while a frown crumpled his brow, “but
I’m not sure why I have this body, what
it means. What I’m meant to do with it.”
“I can see what Echo loves about you”,
she said, sounding as aloof as she could ~ not
wanting him to think that she too had fallen under
his spell. Although she wasn’t, at that
moment, sure that she hadn’t, she told herself
that she was here on a compassionate mission,
not to be the kind of girl she knew she shouldn’t
be. She remembered the old woman and wondered
if she could save this boy from loneliness in
a way that Echo couldn’t. “She’s
the only nymph around here and she doesn’t
know anyone else who can match her beauty,”
she added in an effort to start a conversation.
Narcissus, taking up her offer, was suddenly
completely serious and a sadness tinged with bitterness
showed in his eyes. “It’s hardly a
reason to love someone, just having matching beauty.
It says nothing about tangled up destinies or
resonating hearts or even passion, simple salty
Kora’s eyes rested for a moment on her
own feet. She thought again about the feeling
she’d imagined on the hillside. The feeling
of being loved and held by the right Him. She
realised that she wanted her Him to be all of
those things ~ a tangled destiny, a resonating
heart and a passionate bliss. At Hecate’s
house she’d imagined the glorious feeling
of knowing her own destiny and living it, of knowing
that she had found Him and that she was His destiny.
It would be the end of her fear and her doubt
about having made the wrong decisions and not
being good enough. She also thought about passion.
Salty passion? It sounded good but it was something
she knew she didn’t yet know much about.
Narcissus watched her pondering for a while and
then said: “I’ve been thinking about
love and passion. Philosophizing perhaps. I don’t
think many people understand either of them. The
innocence and simplicity of them. They make something
else of them and forget how to just live with
Kora’s body buzzed. Her breasts felt fuller
and rounder than they’d ever been. She wondered
if this was what being in love felt like. Narcissus
continued talking, dreamily as if he was speaking
to the moon ~ “Passion is beautiful but
without love it is nothing but a simple appetite
for the energy of another person. That’s
why people want me, not for who I am. They’re
just hungry. They want the energy that flows through
me. It’s energy that I have lots of because
I spend time alone in beautiful places and I don’t
waste it chasing other people.”
Kora squirmed uncomfortably. Her body was telling
her that she was hungry for something, her eyes
were again taking in the perfect lines and curves
of his body but she felt strangely predatory,
she wondered if this was how Echo felt.
“What about Echo?” she asked, “She
says she loves you but is that how she seems to
Narcissus shrugged sadly and said: “I don’t
know, I’m tired of trying to understand
everyone else, I have other questions. All I know
is that I don’t think she sees anything
beyond the outside shell of what I am, she doesn’t
seem to see who I am. That can’t be love.
If she knew me she would know why I can’t
be the one she wants me to be.”
Kora raised an eyebrow, and whispered “why?”
Narcissus shrugged, “I have too many questions.
I don’t know why I have them but I do. The
answers are important to me. I have to be alone
Kora sensed the weight of his burden and felt
sorry for him. She smiled a comforting smile.
Narcissus got up and went to the temple. He returned
wearing a robe and carrying a basket of food.
He took from the basket two cups and a clay jug
of wine sealed with a cork. He rummaged deeper
and found a jar of black olives, bread and white
cheese and he set them down on a cloth on the
moss between them. Kora pushed her tangled thoughts
to the back of her mind and sat up straighter
“Will you join me for a meal?” Narcissus
asked. “My friend Ameni brought this up
earlier but he was in a strange mood and didn’t
stay to share it with me.”
Nibbling peacefully on an olive Kora thought
that from the other side of the garden, the two
of them together would look like lovers carefully
arranged by an artist for a romantic scene. She
didn’t feel like that though. The tingling
feelings in her body had passed, extinguished
by the cool breeze of philosophy. By spilling
his feelings about love and Echo, he had made
the kind of dreamy romance she wanted impossible.
She had glimpsed his discontent and his stubborn
loneliness, willingly self-inflicted by his loyalty
to his own sense of destiny. He was someone she
could be comfortable with, talk about great mysteries
with and laugh and eat with, but he wasn’t
the Him she’d been dreaming of, no matter
how lovely his body looked.
Time pulsed slowly, Narcissus smiled and threw
an olive pip into the pond. “You seem to
understand me,” he said, “not many
Kora smiled, flattered by the compliment, and
dreamily probing said: “Perhaps its because
we were both born with two faces, whatever that
“Maybe it means that we can talk to ourselves,
and that therefore we can think,” said Narcissus,
in the same light but solemn tone.
“There’s more to it than that.”
Kora parried, enjoying the game and glimpsing
again the understanding that had glimmered at
Narcissus looked at her with a new sense of wonder.
His features became more chiselled and he asked
her what she meant.
She drew breath and tried to explain the sense
that she had that two faces was about more than
just thinking here on earth. It was about being
somewhere else as well, or being able to be somewhere
else. It was why Narcissus was such a dreamer,
a philosopher, his head in the clouds, as Hecate
had said, but then she fell silent, she couldn’t
explain what her own second face was about….lost
for words her eyes fell on the dark surface of
She could see the crooked outlines of the reflected
trees and in the lighter patches near the edges
she could see strokes of green weeds just below
The word destiny rippled in the back of her mind
and she felt suddenly drawn to bend over the pond,
to gaze into it.
“It won’t work,” said Narcissus,
“it’s too dark. In the morning the
clouds are reflected perfectly, you can see right
through them into Olympus. But not now.”
His voice seemed far away. Kora was seeing something.
She was looking through the ceiling of a vast
room like a cave but richly carved and set with
jewels. Within it surged a tight mass of shadowy
figures stretching needy arms towards a throne
at one end and towards the young man with a gentle
face and dark skin glistening over taught muscles.
Kora peered through the skin of the water surface.
The young king was working hard, one-by-one face-to-face
he spoke to the troubled souls. As he spoke to
them, they brightened stood up taller and then
vanished, turning into tiny balls of light that
floated out of the western door and merged with
a bright light that was shining far beyond. As
they left the hall other shades surged forward
and more and more kept entering the crowded hall.
She wanted to look at the hall and the shades
more carefully, but her eyes were drawn to the
face of the young man. He looked tired, not just
normally tired, he was soul weary, almost hollow.
He looked like he was trying hard to smile, for
the sake of the dead. Kora knew that was who they
must be. Some of them had armour on and horrible
injuries, arms missing and arrow wounds. Others
looked sickly or were covered in sores. They healed
as he spoke to them though, in the same way that
fruit ripened at her mother’s touch.
Narcissus was quiet, he watched her, wondering
what she was seeing.
When at last she drew her face back from the
water, she had tears in her eyes.
Narcissus refilled her cup and listened to her
He nodded. He understood. It was like that for
him looking into the clouds.
She sipped the wine and they talked about the
young king. Kora’s body was buzzing again
and this time the feeling clouded her mind so
she couldn’t have thought crystal thoughts
if she’d tried.
Kora bent down and looked again. He was still
working hard. Her nose touched the surface of
the water and He suddenly looked up. He saw her.
He smiled. Her heart leapt. She felt like it leapt
right into the water.
She drew back.
She worried for a moment about time (the night
was passing) and her mother, the old woman and
everything. She looked at Narcissus almost asking
permission, almost apologising, but perhaps just
saying thank you and then she stood up and dived
into the pond.
The water was as warm as the balmy air on her
skin and very deep, she swam down and down for
a long time.
From where He stood she looked like a shooting
star ~ a dew drop falling from heaven to quench
his parched and weary soul.
He reached his hands up and caught her as she
floated down, their lips met and he drank her
in. She sank into his arms and time stopped.
The first cold spell
Without Kora Demeter’s life lost its rhythm.
There was no one to get up to make breakfast
No one to rush home to make lunch for.
No one to decline other evening time invitations
for ~ not that there were any.
After the first frantic search ~ asking everyone
if they had seen her ~ she had tried waiting,
telling herself that Kora was a sensible girl,
who had asked for more trust and that she’d
be back soon.
She had come home from the meeting on Mt Olympus
to find her house just as she had left it. Except
that Kora was gone.
She practiced scolding Kora for going off so
suddenly and imagined that her comment about not
seeing Narcissus would be raised and used against
her. If only she hadn’t been so rushed.
If only Kora had helped with the plants they would
have had more time to talk.
She had even gone to see Narcissus, in the early
days of her search for Kora, but he was irritatingly
dismissive. He hadn’t taken his eyes off
the surface of the pond and all he had been willing
to say was “Your child isn’t here.”
Demeter hated him. She imagined that it was all
his fault ~ if only he hadn’t entranced
Ameinias and upset Adele, she wouldn’t have
been so rushed, she wouldn’t have snapped
at Kora and they would have had more time to talk.
When she wasn’t feeling angry and irritated
or telling herself that surely Kora would be fine,
just fine, Demeter sobbed and shook with fear.
Fear that churned like curdled milk in her stomach.
Her thoughts circled and she waited. She had
never felt her loneliness so strongly.
When she couldn’t wait anymore she walked.
Often barefoot, baresouled, without her cloak
or basket. Bare bones stripped by tears and fears.
Stark and desolate, swallowed by her own fear
she walked over hill after hill, the ground freezing
People seeing her coming turned away, avoiding
her gray face and her savage eyes.
Fruit stopped ripening. Nothing grew.
The people in the village told their own stories.
Some said that Kora had been eaten by wolves in
the forest, others suspected bandit slave traders.
They wondered in the market place whether she
could have run away with a mysterious wandering
storyteller but no one had seen a suitably suspicious
stranger. Some treated the whole affair as a jolly
mystery and a fine drama to chat about, others
who were closer to her and to Demeter were quieter
Echo said almost nothing. She had sensed a brooding
something in her friend as they’d chatted
on the hillside and she now reproached herself
for being so full of her own news that she hadn’t
listened more. She missed Kora’s visits
and as the bullrushes around her pool withered,
she realised that she missed Demeter too.