Face ClaimNoémie Schmidt
The sudden motion of Aglaea standing up and walking away from them drew Livia's attention for a moment, and she briefly followed her body slave with her gaze before being distracted by Secundus' voice. Given the circumstances, Aglaea's self-control was commendable even as she heard them discuss the child's fate. Livia was not sure she would have been so restrained had their positions been switched.
"How dare you." Livia stared at her husband with as much contempt as she could muster, his words leaving a slimy, revolting feeling in the air. "To talk about children living and dying as if they were toys for you to play with." He spoke so callously because he had never lost one, obviously, and not for the first time she wished he had remained forever lost in the woods of Germania. "Be careful that you don't jinx yourself."
Livia stood up slowly, every small careful gesture hiding the frustration she felt. Secundus was almost right: she should speak hidden truths to Horatia, but not so her sister would stay away. All Livia wanted was for someone to rescue her from this nightmare - could Horatia aid in taking the first step, provided they could speak more or less freely? They hadn't exactly parted on a friendly note.
With a dirty look at Secundus she smoothed her stola, clearly intent on leaving the room. Aglaea could follow or not, Livia would let her decide; she wouldn't be able to make many decisions, however small, in the coming months. "The gods know what will come out of this tangled web you weave, Secundus," she observed in a snippy tone to mask the contradictory feelings swirling inside her. Disgust, betrayal, anger - but also hope for a tentative new beginning...
Whatever Secundus had been about to say, he thought better of it and switched gears; Livia supposed she should be thankful for it, because it couldn't possibly have been anything nicer than the words he had ended up speaking. All things considered, it was a good thing that he was showing restraint - it would serve him well when the guests all had arrived. "Of course. It's my duty," she replied with a perfunctory nod as she adjusted her palla round her shoulders. Did he think dollying herself up was as quick as taking a leak? She had to look her best, because even if he or other male guests didn't notice it, their female companions definitely would, and there was no more ruthless creature than a bored, gossipy matron.
The first to arrive was an unexpected sight. The woman was young and beautiful, as alluring as a siren, and from her attire she would rather portray herself as one than even make an attempt at modesty. No respectable woman would wear their hair like that for a party unless it was an orgy, and this one most certainly wasn't - or at least wouldn't start out as one. Livia schooled her features into a neutral expression, though a hint of disapproval crept into her gaze as she studied the musician. The sort that was slick and nimble with her fingers, no doubt.
"Vibia. Welcome. I have not heard of you before, what is it you play?" Livia ignored the boy carrying the string instrument as if he were invisible by virtue of being small.
Livia had changed a lot more in four years than Horatia would know, but she wasn't about to turn this reunion into a pity party barely seconds into it. Publius stayed diplomatically quiet, though he was observant enough to have noticed that the smile on her lips didn't reach her eyes. As if it would dispel any doubts her siblings might be having, she let out a measured giggle that had nothing spontaneous about it and let herself be taken to the triclinium, where she readily accepted a cup of wine from one of her brother's slaves and took a quick sip. Top quality, as expected.
"The gods know what that twin of mine is up to in Germania. It's certainly been keeping him busy, he hasn't replied to my letters in ages," Livia pouted in a plaintive tone, effortlessly falling back into the role of spoilt little sister. Family dynamics were practically immutable, and therefore safe. After another sip of wine, it was time she demonstrate some curiosity about her siblings' stints in foreign lands. Publius was the eldest and a man, so Livia picked him as her first target. So long as he and Horatia had stories to tell, they wouldn't steer the conversation towards her.
"How was Greece? Did you pray to Apollo at the temple in Delphi?" was followed by a quick nod to Horatia, lest there was danger of silence settling. "Do they know of Apollo where you were?"
Livia forced herself to remain minimally focused as Secundus spoke; the temptation to shut down and disconnect from reality was great, but dangerous. She shielded her eyes with her palm, rubbing her forehead as if she had a headache, and sifted through her husband's plan. Miscarry? It did not make much sense to Livia, but in the grander scheme of things it was as sound a solution as any. "And I assume that as far as the world is concerned, Aglaea's baby will not survive, correct?" she ventured, still hiding part of her face and avoiding eye contact although her voice dripped with disdain.
What more was there to say? It was a dreadful little plan Secundus had concocted, and one he would see to completion unless the gods saw fit to intervene. Pregnancy and childbirth were not risk-free affairs, as she knew so well, and a lot could happen. Supposing the child did not make it after all...? Livia shuddered, willing the thought away. It was what her husband deserved, but Aglaea should never have to know such pain, even if her lack of forethought meant the two of them would be confined to the villa in Tibur for half a year. The notion made Livia want to throw herself into the stream that run through the property the moment they got there.
"I will leave it up to you to figure out a way to deal with my sister. After all, you have planned all this so thoroughly..." Even if she and Horatia weren't on the best of terms at that exact moment, Livia drew the line at actively aiding in the abhorrent deception. Would she be able to love the child as her own, if it arrived safely? She thought so, provided it did not look like the spitting image of its father.
Praising the gods was all very fine and well, but when they were already sufficiently celebrated by the whole city during the day, was it really necessary to bring the festivities home with a party? Livia considered for a moment that such heathen thoughts might be exactly why the gods seemed to enjoy making her life miserable, to punish her for her lack of piety, but the thought was out of her head almost as quickly as it had butted in. With Secundus' insistence on the bloody party, her attention was entirely claimed by it, making sure the slaves knew their places and the tasks assigned to them and that the decorations were satisfactory before retiring to her room early to get ready. Donning the role of hostess was tiresome, but at least she had an excuse to wear one of her more colourful stolas - a bright lapis lazuli one with gold embroidery that seldom left the chest where it was kept ever since her first husband's death - and match it to complimenting jewellery.
A slave cleared her throat timidly as she stood by the doorway and told Livia the dominus had sent for her, staring at the floor as she waited. Livia finished applying perfume to her wrists, gave a small nod and stood up to follow the slave to Secundus' side. Knowing him, he probably wanted to make one last imperious comment about her garb or hairstyle and tell her to go change before their guests began arriving.
Unsure of how much hostility she would be met with, Livia chose a neutral topic as she looked about her and examined the decor. "The atrium looks very nice. I think the gods will be pleased."
Livia had been ambivalent about her sister's letter, and had taken more time to make up her mind than would have been expected, or even proper. While she did look forward to reuniting with her siblings in the flesh, the inevitable barrage of questions and judgemental small talk that were sure to follow made her quite apprehensive. In the end, it was as good as opportunity as any to get away from Tibur and her husband and would ensure she still stayed in the family's good books, so the pros outweighed the cons.
Publius' domus was much as she remembered it, and the slave at the door clearly remembered Livia too as she was shepherded inside. Fortunately there were no sounds of children to be heard, although she knew they were probably inside somewhere. She reached up to adjust a curly lock by her ear that was already exactly where it should be and plastered what she hoped was a convincing smile on her face; at least in the beginning she should seem happy to see her siblings again.
As she entered the atrium it was impossible to miss the two familiar figures just a few feet ahead, and Livia let out a small sigh of relief. She was only a little late, not enough to earn her a scolding from Horatia even before they kissed each others' cheeks. "Publius! Horatia!" she called out to them, quickening her pace.
It seemed as though there was no hope of Secundus reconsidering his ghastly plan. Livia felt her heart sink; how could she make him realise it was untenable? And to be forced into motherhood in this manner... yes, she wanted children, but in some nebulous and obscure future where he wouldn't be the father. Not to mention the effect it could have on Aglaea, doomed to have her child raised alongside her but never able to tell them the truth about their parentage. If Aglaea eventually found herself in the same dark depths as Livia had, unable to shake off the grief, could Livia stand by her in the same way and repay the kindness? The only one for whom the situation seemed advantageous was the man who had got them in it in the first place.
"The arrival of a child has a tendency to make people put slights and arguments behind their backs and make peace," she argued back, feeling like she was grasping at straws but wanting to exhaust every single possibility before eventually admitting defeat. "Not that I expect you to know or understand this," Livia added under her breath, giving Secundus a look that was equal parts fury and disappointment. "And you must not forget that they all know Aglaea to be my body slave and would expect her to look after me in such a situation. What then, when she starts showing? Mistress and slave supposedly pregnant at the same time, yet only one child is born? I don't know why you think people so daft that they would not see through the ruse!"
Livia laced her fingers together to keep them from shaking visibly, breathing sharply through her nose. 'Come up with a plan together', he said - why did she have to?! Despair was starting to settle in the pit of her stomach again, and Livia felt suddenly very tired. If only she could go to sleep and wake up the next day to find out it had all been a terrible nightmare...
Livia's fingers twitched with the ache to make violent contact with Secundus' face and slap the audacity out of him, even as she flinched in her seat at the increased volume of his voice. No matter how often it happened, she didn't think she would ever get used to it for as long as she lived. "And do you think I don't wish to hold a child of my own?!" Her tone rose a octave and took on a hint of desperation as she leant forward, on the verge of standing up before something inside her told her to remain seated; she would not be taken any more seriously if she appeared to have lost control. Livia breathed heavily through her nose, sparing a look of solidarity at Aglaea who was now sat next to her, seemingly in total disbelief.
Preposterous. Did he really expect her to bow her head, murmur her acquiescence and go along with it without so much as batting an eye? And yet, as much as Livia wanted to rebel against it, what other choice did they really have? It was no secret that neither of her pregnancies had progressed as desired, so it would hardly be odd for her to be wary and reclusive with another one - and kept company by her trusted body slave, obviously. That insufferable husband of hers had planned well, she had to give it to him. But perhaps he could still be deterred by that ever-present ghostly threat: what others thought of him.
"And do you sincerely believe I would entertain no visitors during those months? My sister, my brothers, even my father, who all care for my well-being." Never mind that she and Horatia had had a falling out or that Publius and Lucius were likely not particularly interested in women's issues; Secundus did not need to know that. "Your sister, who might want to offer advice, probably bringing your niece along. Men may be easily fooled, but not women who are mothers." She narrowed her eyes, wishing for a second that arrows could shoot out of them and pierce him a thousand times. "They will ask questions, and they will want to touch and rub and feel the child kicking. What am I supposed to do then? Ask them to turn around, fetch Aglaea and swap our heads?"
Her chest heaved with frustration and she felt the lump in her throat again, as big as Sisyphus' boulder. Like it, it seemed insurmountable. Livia began to feel the first signs of tears threatening to make an appearance, but blinked repeatedly in an attempt at keeping them at bay. She couldn't possibly spend the best part of a year a prisoner in Tibur, away from all the little things that brought her a small measure of joy. Secundus was seldom reasonable and thus extremely hard to reason with, but he discounted her emotions while giving in to his. Such treacherous waters to navigate...
"People will start talking if they feel something's not right. And ultimately they will wonder why you seem so determined to keep your wife out of everybody's sight, even family, and start whispering amongst themselves." Jupiter be damned if Livia's reputation was also dragged through the mud because of this 'plot'; it wouldn't be the first time, nor the last, that Secundus insisted that she keep him company in his misery.
It only felt fair to let Aglaea voice her dissatisfaction freely - or as freely as she could - given the gruesome things she had had to put up with; it was possibly the only chance at retribution the body slave would have for quite some time. It suited Livia just as well, allowing her to keep a cooler head rather than immediately bark back the insults on the tip of her tongue. To an outsider, or a nosy slave listening in, she would seem the slighted party, maintaining a modicum of propriety while her husband debased himself by flinging poison at her and her slave.
"I knew nothing of this until today," she said at last, lips pursed and tone as flat as a swamp on a hot day. "I daresay it is you who has been conspiring against me, making use of my property in the most dreadful of ways behind my back." Of course Aglaea was far more than property, she was a friend, but if Livia stuck to the legal status she could hardly be accused of being simply an overemotional wife. It gave her pleasure to see Secundus pacing about aimlessly, and for a second the corner of her mouth quirked before she reigned it in again.
Folding her arms over her chest, Livia gave him a look of profound disgust and leant back in her seat, briefly glancing at Aglaea with a terse nod. "You have obtained your desired result, Secundus. Since you have had ample time to think the situation through, do tell me. How did you envision the rest of this twisted fantasy of yours to play out?"
No, it wasn't the sort of thing that could be put off indefinitely, not least because it would become quite visible in the near future. Livia practised half a dozen small speeches in her head as Aglaea tended to her, but none felt right in the end, and she was once again left wordless at the day's turn of events. She should have paid more attention to her tutors, but rhetoric and oratory had seemed like the boys' domain at the time and far too boring for a girl anyway.
Secundus' patience had run out - not that it abounded in the first place. At the sound of his voice the anger and indignation Livia had felt earlier seemed to morph into dread. How would he react to the news? What would he do? It was impossible to predict, and the lump on her throat that had been on its way to disappearing came back in full force. She fiddled with one of her rings and finally ventured out, coating her distaste for the man she had the misfortune of calling her husband in a veil of aloofness.
"Such caustic words hurt me, Secundus. If I don't put in the effort you berate me for being lazy. When I do I am called selfish. Can I ever please you?" Her tone was coquettish, almost playful, but Livia meant every single word she spoke. There was just no pleasing the man. She took a seat opposite him, back straight as a rod as she carefully rearranged the folds of her clothes, and studied him intensely. Poor, poor Aglaea, forced to cater to his whims. The umbrage gave her a sudden burst of inner strength, and Livia cleared her throat.
"Husband, is there something you would like to tell me? Something pertaining to Aglaea, for example?"
Topics I Participated In
In honor of the Volturnalia, Secundus had joined in the day’s public festivities. Senators were expected to make appearances at these things; they represented most of a man’s religious life, so he performed the necessary civic duties. However, this year, he most looked forward to the night’s festivities. Secundus had been planning this party for many days now. Several of the men of the senate had been invited to join in. It would be a night of feasting, drinking, games, and music.
Livia, as usual, had taken no interest in helping him plan the occasion. She considered any time spent with him wasted time. Secundus did not mind that. It made his plan easier. He could arrange for Vibia to perform as the night’s entertainment without it rising to his wife’s notice any sooner than the party itself. Although he only planned her to use her skills with the cithara, if any of the other guests took her up on another offer, he had not intention to stop them.
Secundus hoped that Livia would guess what Vibia was. He imagined her affronted expression vividly as he supervised his slaves’ preparations. He wanted to provoke a reaction from her- something other than the meek, mouselike behavior of recent months. For someone so bitter and angry, she insisted on remaining dormant. Perhaps she was waiting for him to show weakness. He would force her to play her hand first.
As the day’s festivities began to come to close, Secundus watched as the household finished its preparations. The party would begin soon; if everything went as planned, Vibia would be the first to arrive, with senators filing in very shortly after. Livia, who had been in her room all day, would likely want to be ready to greet their guests. He told one of the slaves to go fetch her- no need to disturb her mood before she’d had a chance to meet their guest of honor
Horatia ducked out of the litter and couldn't quite wipe the smile from her lips. Four years! Time had passed slowly in Rome, it seemed. Nothing much had changed during her time in Raetia, the streets were the same cluttered mass of plebs, the smells and sounds just as claustrophobic and even the people! Her in-laws had barely aged, it seemed and nor had her father - from whom she'd just departed. Besides some redness across his cheeks - a tell tale flush of too much wine, he had been as alert and astute as always; prying into her life as a father always did. Or at least, as her father always did.
But now it was time for an altogether less formal reunion (she hoped). She'd written to Livia to ask her to meet her at their brother Publius' domus. Their letters had become more infrequent to one another during the years, especially since the news of Gnaeus' passing and her remarriage and Horatia - ever practically minded - thought she'd assuage some of the awkwardness by having Publius there. Besides, she had missed her brother dearly and her nieces and nephews.
She was admitted almost immediately and blinked into the darkness of the atrium, smoothing out her stola and dropping the palla from her hair. She heard footsteps approaching and looked up to see her brother. Formality (usually the backbone of her life!) be damned, and she grinned, stepping forward to embrace him in a sisterly hug. "Publius!"
TAG: @Echo @Liv
Late September, 75CE
Aglaea groaned softly as she leaned over the bucket, seated on the floor of her room adjacent to Livia's bedroom. Ever an early riser, for a few days now, the woman had been woken up in the mornings with horrible nausea, yet unable to get anything up. It was a most perplexing ailment, as it seemed to disappear after a while of its own volition. Surely, the cook was doing something wrong, and Aglaea resolved to go and give her a piece of her mind. Just as soon as she was able to rise from the floor.
Life recently had been nothing but chaotic - actually, it had been chaotic ever since Secundus had come into their lives. The man sowed chaos wherever he went, frightening Livia and bullying the house staff, mumbling to himself and forcing Aglaea into the position of protecting her mistress from laying with him. Aglaea had soon decided that she would lay with Secundus and yet protect herself at the same time. Like many Roman women, Livia took silphium in order to prevent pregnancy, and like any good body slave, Aglaea was responsible for retrieving the tincture from the apothecary whenever they ran out. But unlike a good body slave, Aglaea took a small amount every time she saw Secundus, hoping with her limited knowledge of the substance that it would be enough to stop pregnancy and all the symptoms that came with it.
Her head shot up from the bucket with wide eyes. It couldn't be... but what else? No sickness from food showed itself with nausea without vomiting. And now that she thought of it, she was a few days late for her monthly cycle. Oh, God. With the sudden realization hitting her like an enormous weight, she stayed stock still for several seconds, before burying her head in her hands, weeping quietly in despair and misery. How could she ever explain this to her mistress? And what would happen to the child once it was born? How would Secundus react? Would Livia send her away and refuse to ever see her again? And how could Aglaea blame her for that if she did? It seemed a horrible betrayal without context.
She had done everything she knew to do to prevent herself from bearing Secundus's child. She couldn't bring a child into this household with a clear conscience, knowing what sort of father he or she would have. And the consequences this would have for her relationship with Livia, her nearest and dearest friend... her heart broke.
In time, the tears subsided and she began to think logically. She just wouldn't tell Livia. She could wear a tunic that flowed more to hide her bump, maybe bind the bump with cloth to limit the appearance. And then, when her time came, she could slip out of the house, have her baby somewhere safe, and then return to act like nothing would happen. Perhaps she could even leave the child on the doorstep and pretend as though it was a foundling - those were common enough in Rome. Wiping her eyes clear, and feeling the despair and nausea subside, she dressed for the day. She could act as though nothing had happened. She had lied before.
Once dressed, she slipped into Livia's room to help her dress. The day had to go on.
May, 75CE - After The Crush of the Crowd
Even after Aglaea's enjoyable conversation with Rufus, it was time to return home and tell Livia what had happened. The slave wasn't really afraid that Livia would be angry, and she was sure that between the two of them, they could smooth it over with Secundus, if he even found out. But Aglaea was still kicking herself. How could she have been so stupid? She'd been in Rome for fourteen years and never been pickpocketed - and now, the one day she doesn't tie her coin purse on tightly enough, someone in the crowd took advantage of her oversight. And now she had to confess.
Aglaea took the back entrance into the domus, greeting a few friends in the kitchen before seeking out her mistress and finding her in the master bedroom. "Livia - could I speak with you for a moment?" She seemed alone, so she figured it was safe. "You sent me shopping this morning... I got what you asked for but I... I lost the rest of the coin." She bit her lip, trying to judge the woman's reaction. "It wasn't a lot of money, but... I figured you should know."
Near to the Domus Calpurnius Praetextatus
Titus sat on an uncomfortable stool under a tattered canvas awning strung up from poles outside a grubby popina. The long Gallic cloak he was wearing to cover his dress uniform itched and was uncomfortably hot in the heat. A chipped wooden bowl of rancid stew sat untouched in front of him. A few measly bits of grizzle floated in a slick mass of fat and rough-cut vegetables. The popina stood on a crowded road which ran along one of the sides of the house of Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus and family. A tall insula stood before him. The shops at the lowest level hummed with activity.
A basket maker sung in a foreign language as he worked, oblivious to the world around him. Several doors down a jet black Nubian hammered with a tink, tink, tink on an array of tiny metal bowls with a small hammer. His wife lounged idly at the counter, day-dreaming as pedestrians rushed by, none giving their shop a second glance. A gaggle of children ran whooping down the street, lacing in and out of the crowd, chasing two yapping dogs and being sworn at it the process by people forced out of the way. A gang of porters hulked along, pushing the throng aside as they lugged great amphorae which looked big enough to crush a man. Several stories up a woman was watering flower boxes sat precariously on a cracking wooden window-sill. Two stories higher still there poked out the head of an old man, simply watching the world pass by. The aroma of baked bread drifted out of a bakery close by. The repetitive sound of a lathe scraping against wood came from a coffin-makers. His wears were stacked up, gaping invitingly. "Fastidius Dexter, finest oils! Fastidius Dexter, lowest prices!" cried a balding, heavily sweating man, his thumbs hooked into a belt that looked about to burst on a distended stomach. Somewhere overhead a baby wailed and he heard the voices of a man and a woman arguing in thick, guttural Germanic tongues. Two cork-screw curled Hebrews browsed the wares of a leatherworker who eyed them with distrust.
He was growing tired of waiting now. He had come out this morning on the intelligence of a man he had sent to Tibur to keep an eye on persons of interest there. The day before a short note had arrived stating that the woman he sought was travelling to Rome to visit her family. It was not yet clear whether she would stay in her marital home or with her sister. Appreciating that a chance such as this might not appear again, he had set in motion plans to make her acquaintance.
He looked up, peering through the seething mass of pedestrians in the street. Stood in the doorway of the communal entrance of the insula opposite was Valens, disguised as a vagrant and keeping a careful watch on the entrance of the Praetextatus house. Titus was - when he thought about it - oddly nervous. Once he had found out that she had a sister, he had been dying to see her. Did she look like her? A younger version? Could there be two of her? The thoughts had swirled in his mind, lighting up like flashes in the darkness of the night. What was this one like? The vision of her when she was younger pleased him. Immensely.
The question arose as to how to deal with her. She could not be grabbed and taken aside like he had with Felix or Callista. If his information was correct, then this woman was the wife of a senator and, of course, being of that rank herself was inviolate without proper cause. He had concocted a more convoluted plan instead.
Oh, what time he was investing in this! It was fortunate that Alexander Augustus ran a quiet ship which gave his Guards plenty of time to indulge in frolics of their own. He could not imagine the Praetorians in the days of Claudius or Tiberius had been twiddling their thumbs to such an extent. Peace was great for the Empire but stability and calm did not work so well for the Guard who thrived - no, needed - a bit of turmoil in order to function. So, in many ways, he could pass off his current activities as merely being a symptom of a wider ill.
A little further away, where the street was wider and the traffic allowed for easier access, were stationed several layabouts that Valens had rounded up in the docks. They had willingly taken coin to perform a simple job. When the woman emerged, presumably on her way home or elsewhere, he and Valens would shadow her. When she reached the appropriate place, and on a pre-arranged signal, the men were to pretend to accost her, or her litter, depending on how she was travelling, in the manner of brazen smash and grab muggers - a sadly all too current occurrence even in these peaceful days. Thankfully for the young woman he and Valens would be on hand to come to the rescue.
He wondered how she might look when she was scared.
Even with the noise of the street he still heard Valen's whistle cut through clearly. He snapped out of his reverie and looked across at him. The centurion flicked his head, indicating that there was movement. It was time to find out.
April, 75 AD - same day as 'First introductions'
Livia had begged and pleaded for days and finally her efforts had borne fruit. To think she would have had to grovel in order to be granted permission to visit her only sister, whom she had not seen in months. Yet here she was, blessedly free of Secundus thanks to his asocial ways ('I can't possibly go with you to see your sister, I know she and her husband laugh at me behind my back!'), if only for a few hours.
With Aglaea dismissed on charitable grounds of 'go and enjoy yourself', Livia felt oddly uncomfortable, almost as if she were naked. Even in an environment that was anything but hostile, her unease only showed how dependent on her body slave she had grown, in spite of the fact that her older sister was sitting just a few feet away.
Now that small gifts and platitudes had been exchanged, Livia was at a loss for words. Had she really wanted to see Horatia after long weeks of nary a word, or had it all just been a convenient excuse to get away after all? She stared at Horatia with a meek yet somewhat fearful expression, hands folded in her lap. What should they talk about?
"So... how was your winter?"
April, 75 AD
Over the last two years Livia had become remarkably good at finding opportunities for slipping away and savouring the short moments of freedom she could find. That morning, one such opportunity presented itself, when Secundus had finally gone to bed in the wee hours of the morning after spending most of the night going on drunken tirades. If previous times were anything to go by, he wouldn't rise before noon, which gave Livia a few hours of blessedly alone free time.
She sneaked out of her room and almost immediately came across Aglaea, as she expected to be the case. "There you are!" Livia exclaimed with unusual yet somewhat contained excitement. "Have the kitchen slaves prepare us a hamper, we're eating outside today. I want to go for a swim."
Her swimming spot was nothing more than a stream that ran through the property and had the unfortunate tendency of drying in particularly hot summer weeks, but it almost felt like a world away. Secundus didn't approve of her doing so: the slaves or a traveller passing by could get an eyeful, and decent Roman matrons didn't do such things. But she wasn't a decent Roman matron any more than he was a decent Roman man, so that made them even in her mind.
"Oh, and bring a change of clothes for us both." Even if Aglaea ended up not joining her in the water, Livia could use them to dry off.
Early February, 75 AD
It had her taken several weeks to form the idea and find the courage to present it to her husband, who was invariably and very demosntratively displeased that Livia would entertain such thoughts. It had taken a few more weeks to warm him up to the perceived benefits of a social visit: did Secundus not want to know what his brother was up to, if only to protect his own interests? Did he not want to know what that slave son was like, again for his own sake? At last he relented, but made Livia swear she would be back before nightfall, and sent her with one of his trusted slaves as a not-at-all-undercover spy; although Aglaea would be going too, Secundus knew the body slave was far too loyal to Livia to be persuaded into reporting to him.
She knew it had been in poor form, but Livia had not dared to send a message beforehand to let Tertius know she would be dropping by - he could have refused by claiming to be too busy, and she did not want her little outing - one of increasingly fewer - to be compromised by a polite denial. So it was that they reached the Esquiline unheralded. A slave rushed off to announce their arrival and as the party of three waited for her brother-in-law to come and greet them, Livia took in her surroundings. The domus was big and airy, and gave off an impression of lively bustle even though everything was impeccably maintained. It felt like the opposite of her own house, which she found gloomy and austere despite being just as pristine in furnishings - any ruined or destroyed objects were quickly replaced with new, whole ones.
Livia looked to her body slave for encouragement, who provided it with a small nod. This was out of line and she knew it, but she hoped Tertius would forgive her and let her into his house. Her desire to meet with him and his new heir - Teutus, she recalled - was genuine, and she wanted to be optimistic that they would see it.
@Atrice @Sharpie @Echo
May, 67 AD
It was unusual that a visit to one of Juno's many temples would elicit such enthusiasm within a not-particularly-devoted Livia, but to her it was one of many steps in preparing for the grand event next month. When June rolled to an end and was replaced by stifling July, she would be a married woman. To the man of her dreams, and not some bald, gouty old fart older than pater. Unable to keep the excitement to herself, Livia giggled out loud and only just barely managed to keep herself from clapping in delight.
As she walked alongside Horatia in direction of the temple, their body slaves following respectfully behind, Livia could feel her sister's eyes on her. It was always so hard to tell with Horatia, but she hoped her sister was less disapproving of her choice of husband than their father - ideally, she wouldn't disapprove at all. But why should they? Gnaeus was so dashing and handsome and strong and brave, and his family was old as bones, and to think he wanted to take her as his wife! After all that had transpired in the last few years, at last the gods smiled upon her.
Stopping impulsively in her tracks, Livia turned to Horatia and took her sister's hands in hers with a grin. "You will dress me, won't you, Horatia? In mother's stead?" Never mind that one of the slaves would probably do a better job of it; she wanted to share that moment with her sister.
27 | 4th March 48CE | Senatore | Matron | Heterosexual | Original | Noémie Schmidt
If the Livia of twenty years ago and the current Livia were to meet, they would hardly believe they were the same person. Unfortunate life events have forced Livia to adapt and reinvent herself, and each time the end result has differed markedly from the starting point. To those who only know her superficially, she is a quiet and withdrawn thing whose favourite pastime appears to be sewing, leaving some to wonder if she is trying to live up to the deified Augusta of the same name. When in more familiar company, glimpses of the inquisitive and outgoing child she once was surface occasionally. Regardless of who she is with, Livia makes the effort to commit to (an unfortunately good) memory small details and information about the other party; not only does this leave them with a favourable impression of her but it also allows her to direct the spotlight away from herself and onto others.
Livia measures her words and acts carefully and holds tightly on to what little measure of control she is afforded. The gaiety and spontaneity of her youth eventually gave way to calculations and worst-case scenarios; her passivity and hesitance to act before all outcomes and consequences are accounted for are not innate, but acquired. She possesses an attention to detail in everything she does, be it from making additions to the hem of a palla to giving orders to her slaves. Perhaps because of this, combined with the few opportunities she has to be the one in charge and her need for someone else to be the weakest link for once, slaves find her a hard mistress to please.
A blonde like some of her relatives, Livia’s hair is long and naturally wavy, its curls exaggerated by elaborate styling. Whereas she used to take pride in it and would gladly spend hours having it cared for by ornatrices, nowadays it looks rather dull, with only a passable amount of effort put into it. Her green eyes, once shrewd and vivacious, seem tired and lifeless. Livia’s smiles are few, quick and short and she finds it safer to chuckle lightly when something amuses her than to break out in full-fledged laughter.
Petite and slender at just 157 cm, Livia cuts no imposing figure. Her body has not changed much in the last ten years – no sagging breasts, rounded hips or flabby belly -, but the same cannot be said of her posture: though she still sits and stands up straight, she almost always lowers her head to avoid eye contact and appears to be lost elsewhere within her mind, mostly uninterested in what goes on around her. Her garments are of fine quality but sober in colour and fashion, although the accompanying jewellery is often more eye-catching and intricate.
Father: Marcus Horatius Justinus (alive, 63)
Mother: Livia Calavia (deceased in the Civil War)
Publius Horatius Justinus (alive, b. 35 AD)
Horatia Justina (alive, b. 42 AD)
Lucius Horatius Justinus (alive, twin brother)
Spouse: Gnaeus Hortensius Clarus (b. 43 AD, d. 70 AD)
Secundus Quinctilius Varus (b. 28 AD)
Early miscarriage (69 AD)
Stillborn daughter (70 AD)
Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus (brother-in-law via Horatia)
Titus Calpurnius Praetextatus (nephew)
Calpurnia Horatia (niece)
Tertius Quinctilius Varus (brother-in-law via Secundus)
- Teutus Quinctilius Varus (nephew-in-law)
- Antonia Varia (niece-in-law)
Quinctilia Varia (sister-in-law via Secundus)
- Sergia Auletia (niece-in-law)
- Marcus Sergius Auletius (nephew-in-law and lover)
CHILDHOOD [48 – 60 AD]
Livia Justina was the last-born of the four Justini siblings, a few minutes after her twin brother Lucius and with an even better pair of lungs despite her small size. Named for her mother, who fell ill shortly after the birth but eventually recovered somewhat, Livia grew up a curious and lively child, constantly asking questions about everything and anything and keeping up with her brothers and their boisterous playing whilst their older sister Horatia kept a watchful eye on them. She remembers little of her earlier years in Rome but has fond memories of the family’s time in Hispania and the freedom to run about and play that she and Lucius had there. Eventually they returned to Rome, where Livia began her incursions in the world of learning. Unlike Horatia with her fondness for reading, Livia preferred more active pursuits like swimming or playing ball and discovered a natural talent for sewing and weaving.
TEENAGE YEARS [60 – 66 AD]
Puberty brought not only its own set of worries, but also a deeper understanding of the turmoil Roman society is plunged into. Between half of her family leaving for Greece for a couple of years and all the rioting and constant fighting for power in Rome, Livia grew up far more cautious and fearful than she should have had to, keeping a low profile and urging her twin to do the same. Their mother was added to the long, long list of victims of the civil war on one fateful day, and Livia struggled with vivid nightmares of the violent demise for months on end. Peace was finally achieved after years of fighting as Quintus Caesar was victorious and life could start to resume its normal pace. For Livia this meant that the much delayed affair of finding a suitable husband and becoming a proper and virtuous matron began in earnest.
ADULTHOOD [67 AD - present]
In 67 AD and after a great deal of persuading and convincing her father, Livia married Gnaeus Hortensius Clarus, heir to an old and distinguished family and five years her senior. Having already caught one another’s eye at several occasions long before the wedding, the couple’s impressions were confirmed as they quickly grew fond of each other and had a happy marriage in between Gnaeus’ career-related absences. Their bliss was marred by an early miscarriage in 69 AD, but Livia got pregnant again soon afterwards. However, news of Gnaeus’ sudden and unexpected death in Judea sent her into preterm labour and Livia gave birth to a daughter too premature to survive. The next two years saw Livia grieving deeply and undergoing drastic personality changes to the point where she avoided visits or gatherings and became somewhat of a recluse.
In a clumsy and misguided attempt to bring his youngest daughter out of her mourning and back into Roman society, her father arranges for her to marry Secundus Quinctilius Varus, paterfamilias and older than Livia by almost twenty years but still unmarried and childless. Too apathetic to fight the decision, Livia does as expected of her and exchanges vows with Secundus in 73 AD. The union could not have been more disastrous: her new husband is very prone to sudden, unpredictable and terrifying bouts of bad temper, fuelled by his past tribulations in Germania, and Livia grows even quieter and more withdrawn, trying her best not to provoke his fury. Unfortunately it is not always enough, and Livia has found herself slapped, kicked, dragged by the hair and on the receiving end of various indignities more times than she cares to count. Whereas a more spirited woman would have returned to her father’s house and demanded a divorce at once, Livia feels that the failure of yet another marriage would bring shame to her father and siblings as well as their families by association, and has subconsciously convinced herself that she deserves her fate for having failed to honour her first husband’s legacy and bring a living, healthy child by him into the world.
Her suffering has recently been somewhat alleviated by an illicit liaison: Livia has found a measure of compassion and solace in the arms of Marcus Sergius Auletius, the son of her husband’s sister and an ambitious young man who is none too fond of his uncle. For the time being only their respective body slaves are privy to the affair, although rumours may start to circulate should the pair grow bolder or less careful.
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