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  1. 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 @Liv @Sara
  2. The fateful day had come. The day when Livia had run out of excuses to politely refuse a visit from her father and was forced to accede to his request. Her hand had shaken as she wrote the reply the previous week; her whole body trembled now as though she had a fever despite the summer heat, making it nigh impossible to put on her pearl earrings. Standing a few feet away, Ursa merely stared at her feet, having already been subject to two verbal lashings: the first for not rushing to help straight away and the second for being so infuriatingly inept at it that Livia was better off doing it herself. Aglaea's soothing manners were sorely missed, but Livia could not let her father or any of his retinue catch glimpse of her body slave, and so young Ursa was forced to take on the mantle - and, unfortunately for her, was not performing to her mistress's standards. As the damned second earring finally went in, a bronze-skinned youth came into the room and murmured that her father had arrived and was being shown in. An quick expletive escaped Livia and she hastened to the atrium, smoothing the sides of her loose-fitting, rather drab brown stola and adjusting her honey-coloured palla so that it too was loosely draped over her figure. Behind her, Ursa followed with anxious steps, already preparing herself to be blamed for a treacherous brooch sliding off or a similar occurrence. The atrium came into view and with it the silhouette of Marcus Horatius Justinus. "Pater!" Some of the elation in Livia's voice was genuine, and she used it to cover the uneasiness that lay beneath. She held her hands out to him, silently hoping he would be content to take them in his rather than draw her into a hug. "I trust you had a safe journey?" A sharp glance at a red-haired slave spurred the poor soul to action, and within seconds he was generously filling a goblet with wine and handing it to their esteemed guest. If there was one thing Secundus was right about was that their slaves were sorely lacking in discipline! "You must tell me all the news from Rome! It always takes so long to get here," Livia complained as she motioned for them to move to the sofas, fully assuming the role of the spoil younger daughter that she was so adept at playing. @locutus-sum
  3. Early January, 76 AD - at the villa in Tibur Livia read the missive once more, although by now she knew the words in it by heart. She should have been happy for her brother-in-law for attaining such a prestigious position, but all she saw at the moment was the sanctimonious Horatia gloating yet again at how perfect her life was. Wife to a consul! That was something Livia would never be; Gnaeus' flame had been snuffed out far too early, and the thought of Secundus even dreaming of it sent her into a fit of disdainful giggles. As much as she wanted to refuse the invitation, she knew it was an impossibility. To be absent would be not only insulting but proof of bitterness and envy, and whilst she did feel that way, Livia had to keep up appearances. She put down the letter with a grunt of annoyance and went to her room, mentally going over the clothes she possessed that could fit such an occasion. It would have to be appropriate in all respects... and in order to be as accurate as possible, she would need a model. "Aglaea!" she called out, already rifling through a few stolas. The dark green one always complimented her eyes nicely, but Livia wasn't sure there was enough fabric to make the folds have the desired appearance. At the sound of her body slave's steps, she turned round with the green stola in hand and held it out at Aglaea, pointedly averting her gaze from the slave's waist; just because she had mostly come to terms with things, it didn't make them a less touchy topic. "You must try this on. My sister has invited us to dinner later this month." @Echo
  4. 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. Title inspiration @Liv @Járnviðr
  5. 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?" @Sara
  6. 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." @Liv @Járnviðr
  7. 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
  8. 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. @Sara
  9. 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. @Echo
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