Charis shot her peer a glare and moved from the work she was doing (if it could be called such) inspecting the roses. "Ele-phen-tine." She repeated with a frown but made no move to ask him what it meant. It was absolutely insulting, that she could gauge from his body language, and that was enough. Brushing down the still-pristine chiton that Tertius had spent far too much on for a slave, she beamed up at him and stepped around him. "I know, important company."
Important to her, perhaps, more than Tertius. Rufus' tablet had arrived a week before - long after the household had been made aware that two senators - Rufus and Longinus - would be visiting. The name written in neat script had made her heart leap into her throat and it still hadn't settled. She'd spent most of the morning preparing herself (she wanted to make a good impression, it might come in useful later) and styling and primping herself and her hair in a manner she remembered Ardra doing. She wanted to make the already fairly explicit family resemblance even stronger.
When they'd finally arrived she'd tried to catch glimpses of the two visitors but for the life of her she couldn't work out who was who, nor get a really good look at either. Fortuna was smiling on her then, and for once Tertius' request to see her was welcome. She half wondered if he already knew, but thought it was too improbable and so the meaning behind this summons was as opaque as the man himself.
She dutifully padded behind Hector into the triclinium and after casting a cautious glance between the men, settled in a spot next to Tertius; "Domine."
She kept her back to him until he mentioned Rufus, at which point she spun around on her heel and took a step forward. "None of your business," She snapped and shook her head, "Just a friend."
But she spied the wax tablet in his hand reached out to try and snatch it. "Give me that." She didn't ask, but stated. Gods she couldn't wait for this ridiculous ritual to be over in a few short weeks, and then Teutus would actually be her master. That would be better than this imperious, irritating little show he sometimes liked to put on when he was just a slave like her underneath it all.
"That belongs to me." She said firmly and laid down the broom to rest against a marble bench. She had absolutely no idea what was inside, but whatever it was, it was worth Rufus sticking his neck out to write to her about. She just wished it had fallen into friendlier hands than Teutus'.
Charis turned around and threw her waist length hair over one shoulder at the interruption, frowning up at the familiar voice and sight of Teutus. Or...familiar might be the wrong word, given she'd barely passed a handful of words to him in the last few months since their argument. Stubbornness was one of her many, but probably her worst trait and it was one of the few she'd not shaken in her time in Rome. She certainly wasn't going to be the first to apologise or admit defeat.
"What man?" She scoffed and ducked her head to avoid the tell tale blush on her cheeks as she resumed her sweeping of the garden, the dead and dying leaves littering the paths. How on the Gods earth did he know about Alexius? She blinked up to look past him and was relieved to see that the great, looming man wasn't here. But the ex-Gladiator turned bodyguard was the only man she could think of that fitted his accusation, even if all that had happened was a chaste kiss several weeks ago.
"You are imagining things, I might as well start calling you Hector. Don't make drama where there isn't any." She rolled her eyes and turned her back to him to resume her sweeping.
Charis' Latin has improved in the 9 months she's been in Rome that I'm not going to write in broken sentences anymore.
The tablet was returned, and its script bore the distinct marks and errors of somebody barely literate. Still, what parts were legible were as below:
To dear frne friend Rufus from Charis,
Rufus I can not tell you what this mean to me. I can not tan thank you enugh. [Illegible few words]. How she look? She un unharm? She happy? She alijy alrigt? I think I no name of owner, he come to domus in few day to meet domine. I speak to domine about meet her.
I hope see you soon, I keep luk looking for Bretta for you.
"Ahh," She murmured with a splitting grin as she he appraised him, "Following me home? Who says I'm going home?" She laughed and moved around the table. She was about to joke that she had another man to visit, but bit her tongue not to. Their friendship was fragile enough, and she was trying to not give him any ideas. She didn't need any more temptation in her life, and likely neither did he...
She moved past him out of the little area they were sitting until she could feel the cooling breeze of the door. With an arched brow she inclined her head. "I'm going to enjoy the rest of my afternoon and evening, and I trust you'll enjoy your work." She grinned and slipped from the door out into the bustle of the street. She had it in her mind that she needed to send word of their next rendezvous but knew she needed to be careful. She had no doubts that should Helios or Teutus or Tertius find out she'd be reprimanded, or more.
She wound her way, on wobbling legs, to the Gardens she had visited some time before and unceremoniously seated herself down. She didn't know how long she'd been sleeping but when she finally woke, the sun was dipping beyond the horizon. Mercifully, however, she still had her coin purse. Well...he day off could have gone worse.
Charis looked up with surprise in her eyes for the briefest of moments before fury replaced it and she tried to wriggle her arm free, to no avail. Hector might preen himself to within an inch of his life but he was still an athletic young man and she was a small, admittedly fairly feeble young woman that a strong gust of wind could have knocked over. She stood no chance if he wanted to lash out.
But he didn't, not that it stopped her recoiling as he tucked her long hair behind her ear. She shot him a defiant glare and stamped down hard on his foot as he finally released his grip. "We are not friends." She repeated through gritted teeth. "I'll be sure to tell dominus who was responsible if this," She held her arm aloft, "Leaves a mark." She wouldn't, even she in her anger and loathing of him wasn't that cruel. After all, she understood better than most just how badly Tertius' 'punishments' could affect one's psyche.
With a huff of irritation she left the room and just prayed to her Gods that the rest of the evening wouldn't be so bad. And given she was spending it with Tertius, that wasn't a given.
Charis simply shrugged at his proclamation that he wasn't a proficient reader or author. She smiled lightly, trying to soothe his ego. "It not that important, most people in Britannia can't read and write." At least not those she kept company with. She'd only learnt scrawled letters and numbers, but couldn't even write her own name before she arrived in Rome and Tertius' 'care'.
But his idea delighted her and she let out a peal of genuine laughter, the wine having gone to her head. "Of course, of course. But something chaste." She arched a brow. She'd seen the stalls, in the corner of the market, selling scrolls with some...less than pure themes. She tried to remember the name that the stall holder had proclaimed...Landi...something. Landitoat? Landicus? She couldn't remember. Still, flirtation was in her eyes as she stared him down. "I'll read you something very dull and dry and something my dominus would approve of." After all, reading porn to another man was hardly going to impress Tertius, was it?
But her cup was empty again as she set it down on the table and she felt herself wince. Gods...how much had she drunk? The sun was still high in the sky judging by the glance she stole outside the window and an afternoon spent relaxing (and sleeping off the wine) in the Gardens of Rome sounded appealing. She offered an apologetic smile to Alexius. "I think," She raised the empty cup, "This is my cue to leave but..." She stood on wobbling legs, "I send word, about next time?" How hard would it be to pass a message to him? She knew where he lived now and she'd slip in through the slave's quarters. His mistress would surely never know.
She struggled with his words, but tried not to show it on her face. She was getting to grips with their language a little more day by day, but it helped when they spoke slowly. However, she understood enough of her position by that point not to ask a freedman to speak slower. She was learning.
"Home?" Her face relaxed visibly. She knew that word. Now, how to put her description across in Latin? She started slowly in her description, "We live near," She tried to gesture trees before stuttering the words; "Wood, trees," forest, "And I share small house with family, but where work," She mimed out the action of beating metal to signify a forge, "Forge, it att...joined to home. It two room in home, room for cooking eating and where brothers and sister and me sleep, and other room for mother and father before he die." Afterwards Charis and her sister had moved in with her mother and Turi and Calpornus drew the short straws and continued to sleep in the main room with the hearth smoke filling their lungs.
She continued, tentatively; "But when I marry," She pointed to her heart, "Husband build me and him house - two room still, only little walk from forge and family house." The building had been years in the offing and Charis and her husband had only moved in a few short months before it all happened. She pushed hair behind her ears, awkwardly, "I work in big domus now, for senator I...no know if his house usual Roman house?" Surely not? Surely not all Romans lived in such opulence? She mumbled to herself, "It so big...too big, such space not needed..."
She snorted in amusement, arching a brow; "Ah yes, we women are mysterious creatures." She grinned and chuckled. She had a fairly even split in terms of her favourite pastimes; gardening and tending children definitely fell within the realms of women's work, but she was hopeless at cooking and cleaning, and far preferred trade and negotiation; activities traditionally assigned to men. Her sister, Gods keep her, was the epitome of a feminine woman - her head filled with youthful daydreams of love and such, but she equally knew women such as Cynane who far preferred masculine pursuits. That Alexius thought the fairer sex so inherently different to his own amused her.
Still, she enjoyed the lighter atmosphere and narrowed her eyes; "Whatever your mistress enjoys probably too fancy for a slave." She rolled her eyes. She had a vivid mental image of the woman, not that she'd ever met her, and suspected her hobbies and interests far out of reach for Charis.
But Alexius' comments made her flush with pleasure and she grinned a mischievous smile, the drink getting to her head; "Of course there will be next time, now we're friends. And I have idea," She glanced at him with narrowed eyes, "My master now teaching me to read and I hear there are great big libraries in the city," How much of that hearsay, and whether it was true at all, she didn't know but she pressed on regardless, "Maybe we go and find one or go to market to find something to read? He can't be annoyed I spend my money on bettering myself." Although she'd still keep it from him. She suspected Tertius was the sort of man to find offence in anything.
It also didn't escape her that reading was a nice, chaste activity which should hopefully soothe any stirrings of lust in the pair. She arched a brow to him, and raised her almost empty cup in a toast; "Deal?" She'd have to go soon - but for some reason wanted to ensure they agreed to meet again. Alexius probably didn't even know how much she had enjoyed this afternoon.
She listened to him talk of gladiators with an air of suspicion. She was no stranger to violence, her tribe and most of the others she imagined, placed a great deal of importance on the technical skills of its menfolk in war. Her own match with Immin had been procured precisely because of his history and reputation as a warrior (albeit, one with a limp...) but as a woman, she hadn't really seen such bloodshed first hand. At least not the act. She'd seen the aftermath, certainly and she tried to banish the images of her brother's body from her mind.
She mumbled a platitude as he finished speaking, with a wary half-smile; "I understand." She didn't, not really. "I suspect my brother is in ludus," the wine had loosened her tongue and she was saying things, suspicions, that she never would have sober, "He tall and strong, if he alive then," She shrugged, "I imagine he in mines or ludus." Or nailed to a crucifix somewhere in Britannia. She took a deep sip of wine.
But his suggestion the should go and watch Thessala fight produced a vehement shake of her head. "No. Not for me." She winced. Gladiatorial games were clearly important to him but Charis could honestly think of nothing she'd rather do less than watch one. She felt nauseas at the thought, although she supposed that could also be the wine. Not that she stopped drinking, she sipped deeply from the cup to steady her nerves. She offered a wince and a little laugh, "Is there anything fun to do in Rome that does not involve sex or fighting?" She asked earnestly, but her little chuckle broke into a genuine laugh and a grin. She was trying to shake away the bad images with merriment, but they kept coming back.