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PomegranateFlesh
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


The Girl

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 boys.

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 philosopher.

Echo was in the state of infatuation where every sentence began with “Narcissus said….”, and her conversation was punctuated with dreamy sighs.

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 mother?

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 Echo.

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 she could.

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?

 

Her Mother

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 son.

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 or two.

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 voice.

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 you.”

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 lonely.”

 

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 the possibility.

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 decision-making.

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 bored.
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 old woman.

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 like.

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 purred.

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 issue.

“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 my destiny?”

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 everything.

“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 ground.”

“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 be done.


Narcissus

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 at.”
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 passion.”

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 them.”

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 you?”

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 to think.”

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 and smiled.

“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.

 

Him

Time pulsed slowly, Narcissus smiled and threw an olive pip into the pond. “You seem to understand me,” he said, “not many people do.”

Kora smiled, flattered by the compliment, and dreamily probing said: “Perhaps its because we were both born with two faces, whatever that means.”

“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 Hecate’s table.

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 the pond.

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 surface.

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 explanation.

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 for.

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 around her.

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 and sadder.

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.

 

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