She shrugged lightly with a soft smile; "It's fine - apology accepted." Because what was he supposed to know about the intricacies of a woman's role and household management? Even if he had been here for the almost six years he had actually been absent, she would still not have expected him to know the details of her days or her tasks. She had been brought up with, and clearly understood, the separation between men and women although admittedly she found it a little harder to stomach when faced with her own children - knowing they'd grow up in such rigid structures.
She glanced over her shoulder as two grinning faces appeared; Titus with his sword firmly in his belt and Calpurnia clutching a little silk bag which contained her favourite pebbles. Nodding at Aulus she stood and gathered her children with an arm across each of their shoulders; speaking quietly. "This is your Tata's first time out in the city since he has been back," She saw her son's eyes wandering to his father, "Titus," That prompted him to divert his gaze back to his mother and Horatia crouched to be at their height; "You must behave today - and listen to your Tata, and me. Do you understand?" There were two sombre, uneasy nods and satisfied, Horatia stood up again to her full height. She suspected their nervousness around Aulus would mean they were subdued anyway, but it didn't hurt to reinforce that message.
Spinning the fine, sentimental gold bangle around her wrist she glanced back at Aulus. "Calpurnia and I will take the litter if you'd rather walk with Titus?" Getting all four of them in might be a squeeze, and break the poor litter bearer's backs.
Horatia did not audibly disagree with him, but quirked an eyebrow. She knew that Tiberius would likely guffaw at the suggestion he spent less time with the children, but that was not a battle she needed to have when her father in law would do it on her behalf, and she had no desire to sour the morning with Aulus.
She likewise did not react to his tone, even if inside she thought; I was only asking. Instead she offered a light smile and poured him some more wine, noticing his cup was empty. "I'm sorry," She said softly, "And you mustn't worry. It is not like I have a great deal else to do besides look after them, Aulus," She countered lightly, "Your mother runs the household, after all." She made a point not to sound argumentative but besides her hobbies in reading and caring for the children, she spent a great deal of her time with her own family where she felt she could be of more use. Aurelia indulged her by letting her help when needed, but it was no substitute for having the full schedule of a woman who ran her own household. She suspected, or hoped, that would change now Aulus was back and they could start to carve out a life separate from her in-laws.
She arched a brow and considered the question before removing her jaw from her palm and folding her arms across her waist. "No, he's less educated than Titus himself is, I should imagine." She smiled a little, "Or at least in the core subjects. He's plenty good enough at swinging a toy wooden sword around but that is about it." Although the friendly face of Scapha and his easy, handsome smile brightened her day, as it did her children's. Sipping her wine - still on her first cup - she considered him a moment and then shrugged lightly; "Perhaps that is something you can do for him, to win his trust. Find him somebody suitable?"
Titus beamed and did as he was bidden, scampering off to fetch his sword (and Horatia suspected, examine his sister's pebble collection for good measure). She offered a gentle smile and shrugged; "I don't mean to sound cruel but...your father has been their father figure for their whole lives Aulus," The gentleness of her voice masked the seriousness of her message, "It will take time to relearn. If you want my opinion," And whether he would or wouldn't was a separate matter but she tried her luck, "I would speak with your father and encourage him to spend a little time away from them. Children's minds are malleable and if they do not see him, their attachment will lessen." Or at least she hoped it would. Tiberius - even in his advancing age and periodic stoicism - had doted on the children and she knew well they adored him in return. For Aulus to find a place in his family after so long apart, he would need to intervene in that bonding.
At his question, she arched a brow and leaned to rest her jaw on her palm - propped up on the table. The house had a small army of slaves, Aulus' parents not scrimping where others might, and she'd had plenty of help with the children.
"Avita is Calpurnia's nurse, she's been with her for two years, a rosy cheeked girl born verna although I think she mentioned some Greek ancestry." Before that the wet nurse they had hired had doubled as a general attendant, but she had been let go once the girl was weaned. "And Titus spends a lot of time with a household slave from Germania named Scapha. He's been teaching him about the sword and things when he's not with his tutor." She frowned a little, intrigued; "May I ask why the interest?" The slaves were doing an admirable job - Horatia had no hesitation in letting those go and selling those who weren't fit to serve in a house as ancient and noble as Tiberius'.
She smiled to herself. Aulus was still the good man she married. She was under no presumption that the limits imposed on her and her daughters gender meant that as she grew her artistic endeavours would have to be tailored towards the appropriate; weaving most likely, but that he was willing to indulge it now warmed her heart. As the children chattered away she arched a brow and glanced at him; "I remember when we had just married and I found out I was with child," They had only been married a little over four or five months and still living separately in Greece during Aulus' service there, "I had visions of a scene like this." She gestured to the contented family meal as the children chattered and picked at their food and Aulus and she reclined with wine. She added quietly, but with no barb in her voice; "It felt so far away, so distant, when you were gone." The company of Aurelia and Tiberius was no substitute for a marriage, after all.
She picked a few more grapes off the sprig and ate them, relaxing content in the sunshine. So much had happened, so much had changed that there was still so much unsaid between them. Yet she didn't wish to break the warmth she was feeling now by discussing his service and absence, her mothers violent demise or her own fleeing to Baiae. She was content to let the past drift by her like water in the stream.
Finally speaking again as her children's conversations died down, she arched a brow at each of them in turn; "Have you got everything you need for the gardens - as your Tata said, it's far away and we can't come back here for things you've forgotten." That prompted Calpurnia to clamber down from the table and hesitate, before asking; "Can I get my stones?" She smiled to herself and nodded - Aulus had seem content to let her run the domestic yesterday - "Only a few." Glancing back at Aulus and Titus who still sat nervously next to his father she laughed a little, "She found some gem stones down by the Tiber - she likes to bring them with her." She said by way of explanation. They were little round pebbles some with pretty, natural inlays of shinier stone which Calpurnia adored in the way that children are fascinated by the mundane.
Calpurnia blinked up at her father with big blue eyes and slowly nodded her head, as if startled out of some deep reverie. Horatia chuckled and leaned over her head to inspect her drawing. "A horse?" She queried tentatively. Drawings in wax were difficult to discern but after the incident where Calpurnia had taken ink to some of Horatia's book scrolls to draw, she was reticent about providing ink and scraps of papyrus. The mess had taken a few days to clear. Perhaps some charcoal and scraps would be better, certainly less risk to those precious books she held.
Calpurnia nodded at her mama and then grinned at Aulus, holding up the tablet; "Thi' one is called 'neas." Horatia arched a brow, "Aeneas, not 'neas." She'd been giving her children a precis of some of the classics. How funny that Calpurnia had been drawn to the Aeneid just like her father.
Content that the conversation had turned to her, her daughter continued to chatter as she took back to drawing; "I like drawing an' playing with Titus an' the flowers and-an' when Mama is busy I like Grandtata." Horatia's lips curled wryly at the obvious lack of mention to Aurelia. Calpurnia, she thought, found her a tad stuffy whereas Tiberius seemed to indulge and dote on his only grandchildren and Calpurnia adored that. Taking a sip of her wine she glanced up to Aulus as Titus engaged Calpurnia in questioning her about Aeneas the horse and his particulars. "I think you'll have a girl with an artists mind when she's older." She tenderly stroked Calpurnia's bright blonde hair from her face, "Who'd have thought when you left all those years ago you'd return to a son old enough to play with toy swords and...a daughter at all." She chuckled and shook her head. She'd been overwhelmed when, not a month or two after Aulus' departure she had realised she had been pregnant. That had been a difficult letter to write.
Horatia accepted the cup of wine with a smile but placed it down almost immediately to brush hair from Calpurnia's face as she nibbled her food, legs swinging from the bench that was too tall for her. She listened to her sons story with a wry smile; being familiar with it although it had been a good few years since she'd read much of Livy; finding the work unnecessary long and a little dry. Still, at least she understood what was being discussed - she knew more than a handful of women who had no sense of literary matters outside of the domestic, nor much more of history.
Titus beamed his gap tooth smile at his father and nodded his head, "Can we please? Mama and 'purnia won't want to go..." Horatia arched an eyebrow. She'd never been asked her opinion on the matter, but stayed quiet nonetheless. It would do Titus good to spend some time bonding with his father alone. She vividly remembered Aulus' awe and pride at holding his son in his arms for the first time, and the love that had been evident beneath. She hoped, more than anything, that it would return.
She took a few grapes from the sprig that was deposited on her plate and ate them as Calpurnia fidgeted next to her. She glanced back to a household slave and said quietly; "Fetch her tablet." Which was retrieved in mere moments. Horatia took it and deposited it in front of her daughter who took the stylus within her fist and instantaneously began to draw into the wax. She'd come to learn her daughter disliked conversations she was not a part of, but the best way to stave off a tantrum was to give her something creative to do. At present, that was drawing little figures into the wax of a battered old tablet. When she grew older, it would be weaving or reading she suspected, much like her mother.
Taking a refreshing sip of the wine she smiled at Aulus - a genuine, pleasured smile at the serene scene that had come over the house.
Horatia's interest was piqued by Sestia's words. She had never really had the opportunity to flex her skills at administration in her youth, when Aulus was absent given his parents residence in their domus. She did what she could, and did it well, but there was a difference in being a temporary caretaker whilst one's husband is away and with oversight to being the steward of a whole estate permanently, until one's sons came of age. It fascinated her, but she knew better than to ask outright.
Smiling and nodding in agreement with Aulus' sentiment and letting the silence linger in case he wished to elaborate, she asked; "And how does the stewardship go?" Genuinely interested. What must it be like, to have freedom such as Sestia's? She suspected she'd find it uncomfortable - Horatia had always been comfortable and defined herself by her role; daughter, wife and then mother - and rigidly stuck to the societal expectations for each. To have freedom like Sestia would be difficult, she didn't doubt, but it must be exhilarating. She rarely found herself longing for a different station in life but the thought briefly crossed her mind that it would be wonderful to have such control. She quashed the thought almost immediately as she glanced to her children - her pride and joy - and her husband; attentive and loving. She was lucky, she knew that. She didn't need anymore than she already had. "It must be difficult to manage such an estate?"
Calpurnia and Titus glanced between them before slowly moving towards the table. Calpurnia clambered up on the bench next to her mother and Horatia tenderly wrapped an arm around her shoulders, whilst Titus hesitated before joining his father. Well - wasn't this just the picture of familial bliss! Or at least it was, until Calpurnia chimed in tentatively - as most five year olds do - with an unfiltered question; "Why was tata in your bed this morning mama?" Horatia felt the colour come to her cheeks but managed to keep her composure. Titus glanced confused between his parents. "Because," She started slowly as she carefully decanted some of the newly brought out food onto Calpurnia's plate for her, "That is what married people do, sweeting."
The answer did not seem to satisfy Calpurnia but a warning look down by her mother silenced her as she began to pick at her food.
Seeking to divert the conversation she glanced across at Aulus and her son - who sat silently, evidently trying to think of a conversation topic as well. "Titus, why don't you tell your tata about your studies? I'm sure he'd be interested to hear." She doubted it very much, and the current tutor they had - at Tiberius' instruction - Horatia thought was nigh on useless. Still - anything to fill the silence, and her son began to chatter away about the military history he had been learning - albeit a very watered down version, fit for children just starting their schooling.
She laughed a little at his compliment and shook her head, "You are a flatterer." She murmured and picked up the discarded scroll with an appraising eye, unfurling it as she skimmed the familiar words. "You are at a good bit." She smiled a little, "Although a little depressing for such a beautiful day." Images of Dido on her pyre didn't particularly chime with the family outing and show of solidarity. Her mind worked over the text she had read numerous times and she wondered, briefly, if Aulus would model himself on Aeneas; a man matured from wanderer to commander, from exile to a sense of mission. It was an interesting analogy, she only hoped she didn't parallel poor Dido. Although she could safely say she had little internal trauma compared to her.
She was distracted in her literary musings by the shuffling feet of Titus and Calpurnia - her body slave Callista not far behind with a hand on the young girls shoulder, gently pushing her into the garden and view of her parents. In the bright sunlight of mid-morning, and when the right light caught it properly, Calpurnia's blonde hair had a touch of auburn; a little of her mothers.
Titus - with newfound confidence and evidently trying to impressive this stranger stepped up first and offered a toothy smile; "Good morning Tata." His words and very bearing seemed so formal for what should be a normal family morning. Calpurnia didn't fare much better as she glanced between her brother and Aulus and blushed, saying excruciatingly quietly, "M-morning Tata." She glanced up at her mother as if asking for praise and Horatia inclined her head as if to thank them for playing their part. This was easy for none of them, but they'd get through it.
Horatia grinned against his lips at the compliment and flushed in pleasure. She was more than positive she looked anything but divine; hair askew and cheeks the colour of rosy apples, but his kindness warmed her heart. She wanted to reassure him that the children would come round - just as she had begun to - but was silenced again by his kiss. Any further conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the slaves and with a gentle stroke of his face, Horatia slipped from underneath him into the waiting robe held by Callista. She would wash herself and dress in a manner that befit a woman of her station and poor Aulus, undoubtedly would be kept waiting. How simple it was to be a man! Throw on a tunic and a toga and comb one's hair and they were ready for the day!
It was sometime later when she moved through the house into the garden where she spied her husband. She was dressed in a simple green stola - albeit one with intricate weaving at its edges, and a palla of a lighter shade which she wore down for now - although would bring up over her head when they left the domus. Her auburn hair - left long and loose all night, had been braided and stitched into an intricate updo and fastened with ornate ivory pins.
Watching as she moved over to join him, she lightly joked; "Are you a man of leisure now, Aulus? Taking in the day from the garden without a care in the world?" She moved to sit next to him on the bench and left a soft kiss on his cheek in greeting, the smell of her rosehip perfume drifting between them. "Callista is preparing the children, Titus is adamant he is to bring his sword." Her lips quirked in amusement and she said, in a quiet whisper, "And if you wish to impress Calpurnia I suggest you ask about Mryta - the fairy she believes rules the Gardens of Sallust - she likes to chatter about it when we visit." As if discussing some great intrigue, she pulled back and spoke again at a normal volume - diffusing the still lingering awkwardness she felt with him by glancing up at the sky; "It's going to be a beautiful day."