Charis swallowed, and nodded with a sigh. "Remembering it hurts though." She offered a weak smile. But Cynane was right - to forget was as awful as being complicit here. She was a free woman, a married woman and she should never forget the slight that had been inflicted on her. Waving a hand, as if trying to brush past it - because whilst she should remember, she shouldn't do so now - she offered a sigh and a shrug of her shoulders. "Let's not remember it right now...life is so miserable here, I don't want to make it any worse." And she meant it, dredging up the past now would serve them no good.
She grinned then, as Cynane agreed to her plan. It had been a daydream, a fantasy (how simple her fantasies had become!) but at Cynane's affirmation, her smile beamed. "Really?!" She laughed. Gods how she wished to watch the sun go down, drinking and laughing, joking and gossiping with a friend amongst nature.
Glancing about, realising her exuberance had garnered her some stares from passers-by, she bit her lip to stop the smiling. They had neared the markets now and the amount of people was overwhelming. Quickly her hands went to the little coin purse hanging from her belt. It contained almost nothing, just enough to buy a honey-cake for each of them. She'd been saving. "I...can't afford to get wine." She winced and shrugged her shoulders, "But I can get you a honey-cake and we can still go to the gardens...? Nobody will miss me I'm sure." For some reason, she simply didn't care if they did.
"Aia." Charis repeated, as if trying it out for size, mouthing it to herself silently again. Occasionally she stole a glance at the other woman, now with her modesty preserved the young Briton felt less awkward, and she still couldn't quite believe that the scrawny young man was now here...sat in front of her...and decidedly feminine. Nonetheless, she listened with patience and couldn't help the shadow of a smile that crossed her lips. "You were never a very good teacher...if you were I would have been able to speak Latin and would have been sold for a lot more...poor children." She joked, feeling a bit of her lost vigour return.
"But that sounds nice." She added almost wistfully, before glancing at her companion with a frown. "But what made you leave the legions? You just...left...did you come back here after?" Charis was too proud to admit she had been hurt by the sudden absence of somebody she had considered a friend. Or at least an amusing acquaintance.
Shrugging thin shoulders, a flush coloured her cheeks, as if embarrassed by her newfound circumstance. Self consciously, she wrapped the towel further around her shoulders. "Again...you don't need to be sorry, I don't need your pity..." She said stiffly, because she knew if she let the emotion in it would drown her. Awkwardly, she continued, but kept her gaze away from Aia. "When they first put me in the cage...even when I was here, and sold I thought that they'd listen to what happened and release me, send me back." she swallowed and cast a cautious look up at the older woman. "But that's not very likely...is it?" She needed somebody to be honest, for once.
Charis nodded sympathetically. Her life had its dangers, but she could always count on the protection of her menfolk. She did not want to imagine herself, alone. If their situations had been reversed, she was sure she would have done similarly, even if she was sure she would have made a very unconvincing man.
"If it is any consolation you are a very pretty woman." She offered, "Much better looking than as a man...even if you need to fix your hair." She joked, hoping Aia wouldn't take offence. Her barometer for humour had been severely warped as of late; the Romans never seemed to want to jest. Not that she had really been in the mood for humour lately. "What is your name now? Aius isn't a woman's, is it?" In the company of somebody she had once called almost a friend, she had lost some of the meekness she had picked up. She missed being forward and bold.
Shaking her head, she resumed the braiding of her hair. "No, he has Hector for that." She wrinkled her nose, as if the thought of the man was distateful. Still, her lips twitched in a smile. "He bought me to work in the kitchens but...I have about as much skill cooking as I do reading so I've managed to find work in the gardens which is ...bearable, at least." She did not say that it was on bearable because she hoped it would not last, but her chance of freedom seemed to be rapidly diminishing as she realised that the Romans simply didn't care to hear her story.
Casting a curious look up at Aia she narrowed her gaze. "What do you do? You're not a slave...are you?" She didn't know how it worked...whether Aius' lies had deprived her of her freedom. "And you haven't seen my brother or sister on your travels have you?" She added, half jesting, but her voice sounded hollow. "My husband is long dead I suspect but Turi and Ardra weren't at home when it happened...I'm...trying to find them in Rome."
"It's not your fault." She shrugged, but eyed the woman. For a brief few moments after her brothers death and her mothers disappearance she had wondered if this flame-haired woman had led her down the garden path, whether Charis had said anything she shouldn't have to her and that was why it happened. But she had certainly not said anything that would warrant what happened to Calpornus.
She smiled a little, ruefully, feeling bolder than she had done in quite some time. "I wouldn't have chosen Charis if I was a free woman." Before she nodded, "I arrived here in March I think and went to market and was sold. I...don't know what happened, to Turi and my sister after I left." She harboured a vain hope that they hadn't suffered a similar fate to herself, but knew it was unlikely. Feeling embarrassed, of having to admit she had fallen so low, she moved to place her towel around her shoulders to shield the lash mark that was slowly fading to a silvery-white from its previous angry red.
Charis blinked up at her though, genuinely surprised and...impressed. "You...were a very adept liar, Aius." She almost laughed but it sounded hoarse in her throat. "Why could you not be a woman in Gaul I don't understand?" Perhaps this young woman's fate was as complex as her own.
"A hill, I don't know." She waved a hand flippantly, "The man who...bought me, he's a senator. Tertius Q...Quin-ctilius Varus." she managed to stutter. His name and its correct pronunciation often escaped her, as she was so used to just calling him domine.
She smiled genuinely as the woman habitually slipped to Briton and used it herself. "That's not helpful, I need to practice my Latin." She offered as a weak joke, wanting to delay the inevitable conversation.
Awkwardly, she pulled her hair behind her ears and fiddled with the loose half-braid she had been plaiting, a nervous habit. "I think you know what happened." She cast a curious glance at her company with an arched brow. She tried to sound nonchalant, but the weariness ate away at her words. "A few months after I last saw you they took my mother and killed my brother," She shook her head, "Not Turi...my eldest brother. I think they feared we were arming people, an uprising," She waved a hand, "I don't know."
She didn't want to spread her misery and so instead, avoiding looking up at her company she said quietly in a muffled voice; "And then they came for Immin and I a few months later and here I am." How different she felt, must have seemed. The once proud Briton woman, confident, witty...reduced to averting her eyes, alone in a bathhouse in Rome.
Arching a brow at Aia she managed to smile, wanly, "And you? The Gods decided you weren't worthy of being a man? Or...you were a very good liar...?"
Charis flinched at the voice. Something in her, since her arrival here, had made her more fearful of people speaking to her directly. She had grown (begrudgingly) accustomed to moving through life unnoticed as a slave. The rare times people did speak to her, it made her almost confused. Glancing up she couldn't help the flush that coloured her cheeks at the other woman's nudity. She was still unused to it. Tactfully averting her eyes both for modesty's sake, and respectfully given she had no idea if this person was free or enslaved, she frowned at the voice.
It was familiar, but as the woman suggested she knew her, Charis shrugged, fingers still working through her hair. "You seen me at market maybe, mistress." She offered in accented, broken Latin.
But there was lingering doubt. The woman's voice was familiar, and few people had paid her attention before Tertius when she had been at the market. Cautiously, she glanced up again and set her eyes on her company. The features were familiar and as it dawned on her, confusion filled her head. "Ai...Aius?" She managed. Completely tactlessly, she cast a confused glance between the woman's face and chest, trying to square away the scrawny albeit very masculine man she had known in Britannia. "You woman now?" She managed a small laugh of genuine confusion before she glanced away again.
Offering to help she added weakly, in case she had not been as memorable to this man...woman, as the red-head had been to Charis. "Erea..." She gestured to herself, "But...Charis now."
Charis visibly winced at the awkwardness. She hadn't realised she'd mentioned the child until it was too late, and it was in the open now. In truth, that loss seemed paler compared to the loss of her family and husband. She hadn't ever known being a mother, but she had known being a wife and a daughter and a sister. That didn't mean it didn't still distress her, but at the moment she was trying not to dwell. As the slaver had told her, a few days after it happened; 'You're young, you'll have more. Smile!'. She shuddered at the memory.
"No...I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you morose." She offered a weak smile. Glancing at her friend she shrugged her shoulders, trying to act braver than she felt; "It's in the past now...I shouldn't dwell." That was the advice the other slaves had given her, a few days after she arrived in her masters house. At the time it had seemed almost...laughable, pathetic even. But in time she had come to understand that dredging up her upset and bitterness wouldn't serve her. She could still be angry about what happened, but she needed to be proactive in changing her circumstance now, and being upset didn't help. It was, however, easier said than done.
Relieved at the change of topic, but still trying to shake off the awkwardness, she nodded. "Honey cakes sound good." It had been serendipitous to find a friend, especially one from her own country and she wasn't going to let a silly comment and awkwardness ruin it. Turning her face up she offered a more genuine smile. "I'm working on being allowed to go to the gardens soon, here, in Rome." She had heard they were beautiful...and a source of desperately needed shade for the fair-skinned Briton. "We should go. With honey cakes and wine, spend the afternoon gossiping..." The latter was perhaps a wistful dream, but she could hope.
Late May, 74AD
Charis glanced around nervously. Since she had been in Rome she had yet to get used to the way these people seemed to relish nudity, and the public experience of bathing. At home, she'd steal away to one of the rivers near her home to bathe in peace and alone. This, right now in Rome, was deeply uncomfortable for her. Still, it was at least time outside of the domus and away from her domine and the other slaves. A time for peace. Even if she resented that most of the meagre coins she was sometimes given, were frittered away on washing.
Seated in the apodyterium, her tunica thrown over her lap and chest to shield what modesty she had left, she avoided the glances of curious Romans. It was quieter now, but not without a smattering of people. She had learnt, in her months here, that early evening was a suitable time to visit. Most citizens were dining and their slaves serving and preparing their food. Given her work was now in the gardens, and required light, she could venture out largely unobstructed.
Deftly, her fingers worked through the knots in her hair, having pulled it over her shoulder. It was damp from the tepidarium, and she was braiding it. Here the Romans seemed to wish for their women to have these great elaborate styles that she could never recreate, or else loosely tied up off the neck. She missed the braids she had worn at home, and the action of plaiting it was soothing to her.
Glancing to the left and debating another dip into one of the baths, a voice caught her off guard and she glanced up.
"It's my husband more than my brothers you'll have to worry about." She remarked with a sly grin, although it was a bare faced lie. Immin was far more reserved than her young teenaged sibling, and the wound in his leg which had never healed right marked him out as easy picking for somebody in the legions. Nonetheless, this man didn't need to know the intricacies of her marital life.
Still, ever the astute business woman, Erea narrowed her eyes as if working over a trading problem. "All you'll gain out of it is practice. You sure that'll suffice?" She didn't trust this one as far as she could throw him (and given her diminutive stature, that wasn't far at all). "I don't have very many interesting secrets for you to try and coax out of me, unfortunately, so you'll have to genuinely just be content with practicing your Brittonic." She did have a few secrets up her sleeve, but this one didn't need to know that.
Glancing around to make sure they weren't overheard, she took half a step forward. "I can't come here more than once every other week on business, but my siblings come with me when I do." She chewed on her lip, trying to figure out a way to make it work. She ideally wanted him alone. That way, anything went wrong or he was even less trustworthy than she suspected, her family wouldn't be caught out with her. "I don't want them to know." She admitted. It would embarrass her, and them. Fraternising, openly, with a Roman. It was enough to earn her more than a glare from those that fought at Petuar.
"Any suggested solutions, Gaul?"