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The Woman Who Lived


Beauty
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Valeria Flacca. Dead? What was this shit? One couldn’t kill Valeria Flacca if they even tried. The last time she had seen Valeria, they had been about fifteen. The Valeria she knew was likely not the same Valeria of present. Time had a trend of forging people into a different person entirely. And then there was something about the Longinus she grew up with shagging someone. Good on him, his sexual victory was now eternal. Plenty of things had been said about nearly everyone in Rome, which made her laugh hysterically, but reminded her of her childhood. With so-called steadiness in her life, she felt it high time that she made her apologies. She was stalling, of course, because one, she was proud and two, she had practically ditched her friends to indulge in sex and parties. Did they even want camaraderie after that?  

A lot had happened in her life and she was certain a lot had happened in theirs too, she left their answers to them. Aurelia married young, whisked away to the unwelcome world of motherhood and that of a wife. Two more dead husbands and many insulted lovers later, Aurelia was celebrating her life away while Valeria seemed to be happily married, living the perfect life of a Roman wife. Aurelia was not envious in the slightest but did quietly wonder why the gods favoured some over others.  That her last husband Cnaeus had to die and Valeria’s husband was still striving.  

She arrived at what was Valeria’s place of residence and upon making her presence known was met with a dopey, little blonde slave. Aurelia pushed herself inside, uninvited, bumping shoulders with the girl while looking the child up and down. The girl was flustered, stammered and stumbled aside.

“Go get Valeria Flacca, tell her Aurelia Phillipa is here to see her,” Aurelia barked as she eyed the home’s interior design and the young girl, baffled, hurriedly left to do just that. Aurelia’s slaves hung awkwardly behind her, all dressed just as expensively as her. They truly looked like a band of peacocks. She slowly circled the room, inspecting everything with her forefinger pressed against her lips. When she heard footsteps, she spun around to see her old friend and beamed impishly. “Valeria, you haven’t aged a day. I hope you aren’t too alarmed that the ghost of your past is here.”  

@Joaquin

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If anyone was dead, it was Aurelia Phillipa. Perhaps not dead in body, but certainly to Valeria’s memory. Years had passed and usual slogging through the everyday took precedence over a friendship that met its natural end in childhood. In fact, that was what sourced all the confusion in Valeria’s face as she was embarrassed by what was now essentially an acquaintance assuming a close friendship. “I appreciate the flattery, Aurelia Phillipa, but it seems your sight has aged since the last you saw of me,” Valeria replied, though she did not know how well the other woman would receive her comment. She had not been expecting any guests and for once, dressed in far less pomp and theatre than she usually did.

“Since you speak of ghosts, I don’t suppose you were coming to see if I were still alive, were you?” she asked. Oddly, in the last while, there had been plenty of people checking in with Titus or offering their condolences but where the news of her death came from, Valeria did not know. The silver lining being that it offered Valeria the creative inspiration to fuel conspiracies of wives being replaced by lookalikes through her writing. “Well, now you’ve had one good look at me in the flesh. You are free to leave now.”

@Beauty

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Aurelia was about to open her mouth to say something but then she was told to leave. While her ladies whispered amongst themselves and clearly were uncomfortable, Aurelia didn’t move and instead smiled widely. “Oh, I’m not going anywhere, Valeria Flacca,” said Aurelia with passion to her voice, stepping further into the home, her hand tracing a nearby statue. “Once you have me in your life, I’ll never be gone. Think of me like your husband’s cock.” One of her slaves reached forwards to stop her but Aurelia was already ahead of her so instead the woman’s palm found her own face and kept it there. Embarrassed. Aurelia could, at times, be quite forceful and very few knew how to deal with her strength.

Her words were hardly true, she knew that. Aurelia had gone through three husbands, numerous lovers, and had practically dropped her childhood friends for what she had perceived, at the time, as greener pastures. She had been young, however. When she felt remorse, it was too late. Her life turned chaotic from then on, it was as if she was searching for something. Perhaps a purpose in her life?

“Someone scribbled your death all over a wall in the city,” said Aurelia, tossing a hand in front of her like it was preposterous. In reality, she thought it was utter genius. She wondered how many people were mourning a living woman. Admitting her own wrong was painful but it took courage, even if she lamented not being drunk enough for it. She only had one more to go. She lowered her eyes, swallowing every bit of pride she had. “I thought to make sure. Just because I haven’t been around doesn’t mean that I don’t care. A lot has happened since we last met. A lot of it was out of my control.” She could point to the heavens and blame the gods but then they would only fuck her over even more than she already had been by them. Just as she fucked with every thread in her body, the gods fucked her even harder. Even so, she had partied and could have spared even five minutes to write to Valeria.  

“Now that I spilled that out like my late husband’s last turd, let’s drink. Surely, you and your home know how to have a good time?”

@Joaquin

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Aurelia had audacity. While they had once been companions in their youth, their choices had led them along very different paths and that no longer lent her the same permissions to speak so familiarly about her husband as she had – or even to bring up her own deceased so pitilessly. Had it perhaps been Horatia, Valeria might have laughed as Valeria enjoyed a little vulgarity and mockery sprinkled like seasoning into her life. But with Aurelia, it was uncomfortable and awkward, especially with her reputation in mind. It, of course, had nothing to do with her nether regions which probably looked more akin to something that had died by the roadside and had been sitting in the hot sun for a few weeks. But rather how she was known for her irresponsibility and recklessness. Unfortunately, the gods did not grace everyone with good sense.

The stupidity of others was often entertaining but from only ever so afar. It was a different thing when it found itself in your own home. So long as Valeria kept some form of distance – emotional distance – then perhaps, she would indulge the other woman. “Very well, one cup of wine and then you must leave,” Valeria relented. She never held Aurelia responsible for the deterioration of their friendship. Life happened. However, she hated unexpected visitors, strangers that were far too familiar, and being dressed down in the presence of guests and Aurelia had managed all three. “This way now, or do you intend to stand there and flatulate at the door?” she shot over her shoulder as she turned to bring the woman out into the gardens.

@Beauty

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Had Valeria corrected her, Aurelia might have listened and considered the other woman’s thoughts. When it came to her brother Brutus, Aurelia rarely ever listened but with some few others, she was capable of thinking before acting. She never had structure but could be serious. Her older children, at times, and her late husbands could attest to that, the last especially. In his final months, there was not much laughter, particularly from Aurelia’s part except when tearful jests slithered from her lips to illicit a small smile from her husband, who was, to put it plainly, more an inactive bit of flesh than man. And still, Aurelia did not think of him as a “vegetable”, such a word denied him his humanity and individuality, even in his most trying and less ideal moments. And yet it had also been her, not her slaves, who had cleaned his waste personally, out of the seriousness of love.

Alas, Aurelia was left in ignorance and to do as she pleased, behaving perkily and spiritedly, which made her feel very much alive since every loss and collapse that marred her life. It was no front, however. Upon hearing what Valeria had said, she grimaced. One cup of wine was simply not enough for her. She did believe she could subtly push for two cups. After two, one rarely counted how much wine one had or would have. She let out a laugh at “flatulate” as if her age had been cut into half and followed after Valeria, motioning for her slaves to remain behind. During normal circumstances, she might have allowed them to follow but considering the present, Aurelia did not want to be disrupted.

The gardens were well-kept, she gave credit to Valeria and her husband’s slaves, and for the time being the two women were alone. The sun’s golden rays fell down upon Aurelia’s jewels which dazzled in the bright, Roman light, likely spoiling the eyesight of anyone who dared to look in her direction.

“Your gardens are very beautiful, it has a very human touch,” she said, meaning it felt welcoming and friendly. Her own gardens, or rather her brother’s, everything was tended to with utmost precision. Not that Valeria’s gardens weren’t, only that she did not know if her own gardens appeared the way it did because of her brother’s tyrannical reign or because Aurelia was very particular with interior design, almost as if over compensating for her reputation, opposed to the gardener's talent. This one felt real, less conceited.

@Joaquin

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