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Pocketful of nuts


Érik
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June 75, before the earthquake

 

Florus was still unsure whether or not he liked the market. Its hustle and bustle of constant activity gave some the thrill of being alive, but for him, it reminded him of the time where, as a child, he had looked into a beehive. There were so many people milling around, going about their day and doing the things they needed to do that it always made him kind of dizzy, gave him a vague feeling of uneasiness. He didn't like to be surrounded with so many people. He preferred the peace and quiet of his gardens, even if that peace was sometimes disturbed by the totally unwanted presence of a certain body slave. It was a distraction!

He had some time off, today, and was planning to go to the baths afterwards, but right now, his priority was finding pistachios. It felt like the general public didn't know, or maybe they simply didn't care, but there was really a lot to be done with the discarded seeds of the food market. And even the discarded scraps, come to think of it. With enough time, and quite some straw, scraps stopped smelling bad and became a rich compost, perfect to use as a fertilizer. He hadn't yet broached the idea with the Roman. He had a feeling most of his ideas would be shot down, anyway.

On his excursions to the market, Florus found he often liked to buy street food. It was a pleasant change from the slop Betua cooked up for the slaves. The sounds of sizzling meat and the enticing and inviting smell that came from one caupona was calling to him. He was but a young gardener. Who was he to resist the call of a delicious mutton skewer?

'I'll have one, please,' he told the cook.

 

@Echo

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Aglaea fanned herself with her hand, sighing. Hot weather never failed to make her moody; you would think that with her background as a Judaean, she would be able to withstand the heat better, having been born in such a desertous and hot place. But she had never been able to withstand hot weather, and today was no different. It also wasn't helping that she was wearing her head covering, after having just left synagogue. She decided that the hot weather wasn't the only thing making her hot, though; she was also starving. She decided to stop by a caupona and get a bite to eat before completing her errands. 

She approached the stand behind a young man, watching as he made his purchase. Then, after he moved, she purchased a skewer herself, stepping out of line to wait on the next batch to be done. Aglaea glanced at the young man. He was handsome! Why not talk to him while they waited? "Good morning," she said with a friendly smile. 

@Ejder

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The man at the caupona had said the meat wasn't quite cooked yet, and that he'd have to wait. That was fine. It wouldn't take too long, and the Roman wouldn't have him in shackles and lashed for taking five more minutes to feed himself. Or, well, he hadn't up until now. He was hungry, so he would just have to hope Rufus would be reasonable today too. As he waited, the customer behind him too was told that she would need to wait. Rome was a curious place, and all sorts of people lived here. This woman seemed to have some sort of shawl on her head. Florus had seen some women covering their heads to shield themselves from the sun, but never this type of garnment. The woman was probably as much a local as he was.

'Good morning,' he responded politely, his expression neutral and guarded as it always was when dealing with people he wasn't close to. 'It's hard to resist a nice skewer when it smells this good, isn't it?'

 

@Echo

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Aglaea noticed the boy's reserved attitude, though she didn't take it personally; people in Rome generally weren't particularly outgoing with strangers. But if Aglaea could make someone feel better with a smile or a kind gesture, she would try to do so, even if it was awkward for her. The young man commented that the skewers were hard to resist and she chuckled. "They certainly are. Do you come to this stand very often?"

She shifted her weight to be more comfortable. "I didn't introduce myself, my name is Aglaea."

@Ejder

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'Once a week, when I get the day off from my dominus,' Florus replied. Well, more or less. It depended on what he considered he still had to do. It was better to lose some spare time than to have a result he wasn't pleased with. 'I get one before heading to the baths.' Florus was a creature of habit. He craved routine, and the reassurance it brought him. In a world where everything was so decidedly abnormal, he needed to make himself a semblance of normality, and for him, that came in the form of repetitive activities. Get the mutton skewer, enjoy it for a while and watch the people milling by, then get a massage at the baths, enjoy the baths, and go home. He rarely diverged from that.

'Pleasure to meet you, Aglaea,' Florus said, still guarded, but very polite. 'I'm Florus.' He vaguely examined her for a brand of some sort, like the one that marred the inside of his right forearm. She had to be a slave, to talk to him. No Roman would.

 

@Echo

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Aglaea nodded in understanding. She was always happy to have a day off from serving Livia, no matter how close the two were. It gave her a chance to be herself for a change, and put herself first, at least for a few hours. "I've never been here before, actually. But, as you said, the smell was irresistible." She looked over him shortly, concluding that he must be a slave as well. He was young, too, or at least, younger than she was. And she was getting older - she was becoming more acutely aware of that recently. 

He introduced himself as Florus and she dipped her head, smiling. "That's a nice name." She was quiet for a little while, standing with her hands folded behind her. "So, are you from Rome, Florus?"

@Ejder

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Florus looked over the woman's shoulder. The mutton was coming along nicely, it seemed. Surely the vendor would call them over shortly? It was difficult enough to just be hungry and standing in the direction of the wind while delicious smells wafted his way. It would be cruel to make the wait last much longer, but the gardener knew that was on the mutton, not on the cook.

'It's a name for a gardener,' he replied diplomatically. He didn't especially like it. It wasn't his name, it had been forced upon him. As far as names went, though, he was very conscious that a lot worse could have been bestowed upon him. Being asked if he was from Rome used to spark anger in his eyes. How could anyone mistake him for a Roman? They were the evil ones! Now, though, he had more experience. Barely any emotion flashed through his eyes this time. Emotions like anger at the thought of being associated with Romans was dangerous. 'I'm from Britannia,' he replied. He looked at the shorter woman, not wanting to presume of anything. 'And yourself?'

 

@Echo

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Aglaea never assumed where people were from; people were often protective of their motherlands and sensitive about being mistaken for something they weren't, which was why she had phrased it as a question. Though, to her eye, his coloration wasn't unlike a Roman. And, after all, they were all technically Romans, even if they weren't citizens. Florus explained that he had been given the name because he was a gardener. "Ah, I see. I'll confess, I'm not much of a gardener myself." She had humor in her eyes; it wasn't like she'd ever had a good reason to own a plant. 

Florus then asked where she was from. Her darker skin always indicated to people that she met that she wasn't from Rome, but it wasn't an unreasonable question. "I am from Judaea." 

@Ejder

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Florus nodded. Most people weren't well suited for gardening. It was a matter of temperament, he supposed. A lot of people weren't patient. They looked at a tree, and expected fruit within the next few hours. They didn't seem to understand that these things took time. It wasn't just a matter of weeks. It was months, years... He wasn't altogether very patient with other people, or their world, at least internally. But for his gardens? His patience was boundless.

'Judaea?' Florus asked. 'Where is that?' He had never heard of the place, and her explanation was likely not to inform him about much. He had no idea what the world was like. He knew only his village, the places he had worked in Rome, and the endless stretch of lands between them. 'Was it nice there?'

 

@Echo

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Aglaea realized that he might not know where Judaea was - his Latin was good, but he was from Britannia, so he might be new in Rome and not be familiar with all its corners. "Sorry - I should have said," she chuckled. "Judaea is to the east of Rome. It's a desert, very hot and arid." She shaded her eyes as she looked into the sky. "Not unlike Rome today," she joked. 

Florus asked whether it was nice in Judaea and she shrugged. "If you like sand." Personally, Aglaea didn't have the fondest memories of Judaea - mostly poverty, scrounging for food scraps, hot days in the sun, and then being told that she would be leaving her family to be a slave because they could no longer take care of her. And the sand got everywhere. "What about you? What is Britannia like? I've never been."

@Ejder Did Aglaea just become Anakin?? >>

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'Don't apologize,' Florus said, watching as the vendor seemed to get ready to take the meat off the grill. 'I know nothing about anything except my small village in the Silures tribeland in Britannia, and the gardens I tend to for my dominus in Rome.' There was no chance of him ever knowing what the outside world was about. He'd never traveled, never seen anything outside of the village, and barely anything of Rome at all. But he found he didn't mind. He wouldn't want to travel. All he wanted out of life was the land he took care of, the trees, the plants, the life all around him. The peace and quiet. He had no real curiosity for anywhere else, and he was quite satisfied with that, thank you very much.

Coming from Britannia, though, he didn't think he'd be able to stand hot and arid days every single day. He enjoyed the comparatively sunnier weather, but the heat? He still hadn't completely gotten used to it. At the end of the day, he always needed to wash himself, because he was filthy, sure, but mostly because he was absolutely covered in sweat. It had been easier in Britannia. People just bathed in the river to cool off. There was no such thing here, as far as he knew. The baths weren't really for cooling off. Instead, every morning he prepared himself an amphora of water, which he threw lemon thyme in for the smell, and kept it in the shade. After his day, he washed himself down with it, and could finally relax. That was as close as it came. If it got any hotter, he couldn't possibly deal, could he?

'Britannia is a fine place,' Florus said. He had seen none of it, but he knew it was superior to Rome. Obviously. 'It's not a desert. It's very green, and very wet. It never gets as hot as here.'

 

@Echo

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Aglaea dipped her head as he said not to apologize. The slave was aware of her own luck in having had the ability to travel a little in her lifetime; she had been to Antioch, which was where she was bought by Livia's father, and then she traveled to Rome. She had also spent some time in Secundus's villa in the countryside, which she always found pleasant. She hoped that Florus would get the opportunity to travel if he wanted to. "If you spend so much time in your gardens, they must be immaculate."

Florus then continued, saying that Britannia was a fine place, saying that it was green and very wet, and not as hot as Rome. Aglaea wasn't sure she would want to be in the rain constantly; it always made her hair frizzy. But she doubted she would ever get to go there. "Well, that does sound pleasant." The vendor took the meat off of the grill and handed a skewer to each of the customers that had already paid. Aglaea accepted it thankfully and turned to Florus. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Florus. I should be going now."

@Ejder

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'I don't think anything alive should be immaculate,' Florus countered. Perfection was for inert things, like statues. Nature was alive, and a little more chaotic than all that, and that was the way he liked it. The Romans didn't tend to see things that way, though. Rufus generally let the gardener run things the way he saw fit, but a lot of the gardens around here were pristine. They were purely decorative, seen as an element of style rather than something flourishing, in constant motion. Oh, how he loved his gardens.

They both received their skewers, and, pleased, Florus took a bite. It was every bit as delicious as the last time. 'I should probably be going too. I was hoping to find pistachios.'

 

@Echo

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Aglaea had a different way of thinking of things. Cultivating a garden with controlled growth, perfect lines of flowers, showed that people had mastered the earth, as God intended. Cultivating crops and keeping animals made her think of the same concept. But a gardener would naturally have a different perspective, and that was fine. Florus spoke again and agreed that he should be going, too. Aglaea smiled at him once more. He was a curious young man. "I hope you are successful in your search, Florus. Good day." And with nothing further to say, the young woman took her leave. 

@Ejder 

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