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11 June (Matralia) 76AD 
Forum Boarium, just outside the Temple to Mater Matuta 

Matralia was a blessing for Ovinia; a festival that wasn't spoilt by a) her mother (twice married and ergo, not for her) and b) her brothers (male - therefore not allowed to attend). It had always been a day of friendship and fun and today was to be no different. Decamping to the house of Nasennia Porca, their groups erstwhile ringleader, the ladies had spent the morning lounging in the sprawling bath complex of Nasennia's domus before their various attendants and body slaves had preened and plucked and fashioned them into a small tribe of glamorous young ladies. Well, mostly glamorous; Floria, suffering from morning sickness with her second child on the way had ruined her gown almost as soon as she had put it on and had retreated back to the baths with the promise of catching the rest of them up later. Most of the women had given her pitying, knowing looks upon leaving whereas Ovinia only rolled her eyes; typical Floria, making it all about herself. 

That was the way of their group nowadays; all of roughly the same age, but with vastly different life circumstances. Nasennia was recently wed and smugly showed off her old husband's latest gift. Floria had been with her man for years now, hence baby number two. Lucia and Aufidia had tied the knot to their respective senators in the last year or so and the former had a little girl, which just left Ovinia and Caprenia as the singles of the group. It was...embarrassing. Especially when she was lumped in a category with the quiet, dull Caprenia. Were they really one and the same?

She tried not to let the thought dwell but it periodically came to her throughout the day. When she knelt to offer her prayers (after waiting in line for what seemed like years) she only half-heartedly wished for good fortune to her nephew. Viria would kill her if she found out, but...it was hard to summon energy to give thanks and good blessings to people so fortunate when she didn't have it herself. She bit the inside of her cheek to stop the annoyance from running her mood as she stood, dusting down her tunica. It was one of her best; dark green to complement her colouring and with a matching palla that was firmly atop her head given she was in the temple. She couldn't see the rest of her group - they had been separated in the queue and she moved to the front - closest to the street to await the chase of the slave; some dowdy young girl who looked terrified. It inflamed her temper more - could she not even act excited? 

The temple was heaving, and Ovinia scanned her eyes over the women for anybody of interest. She saw faces she recognised, including the Consul's wife - Ho...something, but besides her there was little to occupy the eye. The chime sounded and her attention was pulled back to the scene in front of her as the ladies started their quick procession to drive the slave girl from the temple. She summoned a smile at the giggling and cackles of laughter from the women of the audience and when she emerged into the bright light of the afternoon her face was flushed from the exertion and her palla was askew. Dropping it down to her shoulders she made her way back to the groups designated meeting spot should they get separated in the crush of the chase. The Forum Boarium was an odd part of the city - and not one she particularly enjoyed being in, but her bodyslave was dutifully waiting for her and so as she stood, waiting for the rest of the girls of her group, she glanced around to try and find a distraction to occupy her time. 

 

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There were so many lovely young women in Rome. So many! And most of the time they were hidden inside their homes, with their mothers watching over them and their fathers trying to shield them from the world. At least he had Caecina at home, so he did get to see one of them. And what a lovely kisser she was. It was such a pity that he knew that his adoptive mother would probably looked down upon their union. He had considered running away with her, but he could not imagine living with the luxury he already had.

 So he would stay and next time he had a chance to, he would become one of the vigintiviry. Sure Longinus said he ought to join the military course of honor, but Marcus just wasn’t sure. Would it be good for him? His father died abroad and he never even knew him well. He had not travelled much since his childhood and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to, now. Rome was just safer. And more fun. So much more fun than any soldier’s tent would be, he bet!

 And there were days like these in Rome! With one of the other ton of festivals to celebrate this and that god and today was a good one. It had nothing to do with men or young men though, it had everything to do with unmarried and young women. Marcus liked all of those. He had come, not to partake in the festival, but simply to take a look at all the beauty here, trying to see if he knew anyone among them.

 That’s when he saw her! Oh he met her once or twice at some social events… what was her name again? She was pretty, that’s what she was. He looked at her, trying to find her name. Something with an O… Oriana? No… it was Camillus. Camilla. Fuck, so many noble names to keep track of. Well he had part of a name. He tried to catch her eyes from across the open space between them, and once it happened, he’d smile and try to wave discreetly at her. Although he was not discrete, at all. He tried to signal with his hands and body language if he should come over to her. Hopefully she'd get it!

@Sara

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Her eyes caught a familiar face in the crowds outside the temple, but it wasn't Caprennia or Nasennia it was a decidedly male face and she blinked in surprise before a sly smile spread on her lips. Ah Marcus Junius Silanus. A staple of the social scene she frequented, although if memory served they'd only spoken once or twice. She'd always had an escort - usually a brother or one of her parents, and conversation with men her own age was always somewhat inhibited by the looming presence of a chaperone. She saw his hand gestures and laughed a little, her sour mood forgotten as she found a new prospect for amusement. 

She indicated with her head that he could come and join her, and as he was making his way through the crowd she took the time to sweep back stray hairs from her face and straighten her palla now she had dropped it to her shoulders. 

As he drew near she offered a sly smile and inclined her head. "Marcus Junius Silanus," She flicked her eyes back up to his face and tilted her own to the side as if studying him intently. "I had no idea you were an unmarried woman or in your first marriage," She teased with wry amusement in her voice, "Or perhaps you are just here to consider your prospects amongst the beauties before you." She swept her arm in front of her to the women gathered around chatting and giggling. She would never speak to men older than her with such a tone or such forthrightness, but with somebody her own age who was clearly here just to ogle...well, why not?

 

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Marcus tried, but failed, to hide his wide grin when she laughed and then indicated he could come and join her. Great! So he had come here to look and see what he found! Someone to talk to and amuse himself with. He didn’t know her that well, but maybe today would change that. Once he stood by her, she smiled and spoke his name. What was her other name, other than Camilla? But luckily she went on as she studied him, joking and then telling him straight that she knew exactly why he was here.

 “I must confess it’s the latter. I lack certain female… attributes, in order to be any kind of woman, married or unmarried. And I’d rather keep the talents I do have.” Marcus said with a grin, happy that she was already so easy to talk to.

 “It’s not a bad view, really. Although of course now, I have the very best.” He continued, winking at her, “Are you planning on staying here or do you have plans afterwards? If not, I’d be happy to escort you anywhere you’d like to go.” He was certain she had a chaperone somewhere, probably a personal slave or maybe even a guard? But that wasn’t a problem, not at all. Marcus was an escape artist, when it came to such people. Would his companion be up for an adventure? It was kind of embarrassing that he could still not remember her name, he had to figure out a way to get her to tell him, without sounding dumb. Well he'd find a way. He always did.

@Sara

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Ovinia chuckled to herself. Such a classic line, although one she'd not heard directed at her. At the usual sorts of parties that she - and presumably Marcus - attended the boys always indulged in banter that she was most definitely not supposed to hear. But she was not a moron and she'd gleaned enough from frescos, her brothers when needled and particularly saucy poems recited at her friends houses to understand the sort of humour Marcus himself was now indulging in. 

"Ah yes, the very best." She grinned at his wink - not that easily won over, but amused nonetheless at the flirtation. Shrugging her shoulders and tossing one end of her palla over her shoulder she gestured with a hand to to the mass of women in front of them; "I'm waiting for my friends, they were due to meet me back here before we go back to one of their houses but alas..." She chuckled, "It could be hours yet looking at the crowds." Hours of waiting for them, when she had a much better idea. 

"Or, why don't you walk me back to hers, Marcus? Save me from the crowds?" She arched a brow with amusement and her slave behind her tightened his fist. It's fine. She had a chaperone and Marcus was a respectable man from a good family! 

 

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He hoped he was not speaking too crudely to her, but he was used to chatting with Caecina and she was used to the way he spoke and his jokes. She didn’t mind and wasn’t this lady here around the same age? He thought so. Well she chuckled at his words about attributes and talents, so it couldn’t be all bad. She wasn’t stupid. And then he continued, flirting with her about how he had the very best view now. She grinned again and he couldn’t help but feel happy that he could entertain her.

 The lady explained she was waiting for her friends, but it could be hours before they showed up. So she decided that Marcus could walk her back instead.

 “I would be a fool to say no to such a suggestion… and I’m not.” He said with a grin, ignoring her slave’s reaction behind her. It wasn’t Caecina’s crazy bodyguard Manius, at least. He was like a guard dog or something, sometimes Marcus could swear Manius could smell or feel when Marcus was up to no good! It was almost eerie. And pretty annoying! This lady here, her guard seemed easier to evade.

 “I will save you from the crowds, beautiful lady.” He smiled and motioned for her to move, “Lead the way and I shall be by your side the whole time.” He said and once they started walking, he leaned closer to her, “How busy are you with getting back to your friend’s house? After all, you said it could be hours until she comes…”

@Sara

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Ovinia chuckled, rolling her eyes at the fine words. She'd heard plenty similar in her lifetime, but she'd be lying if she didn't say that she enjoyed the compliments. She was under no illusions that one day her looks would fade, as would the interests of men, and so why shouldn't she enjoy it whilst she could? As long as she didn't cross any lines, of course. 

She moved off through the crowds, vaguely in the direction of Nasennia's family domus. It would be a long walk, but she enjoyed mingling in the city and once they were rid of the crowds here, it would be peaceful enough. If Marcus eased up on the flirtation, that was - but she was hardly going to tell him to stop, it was flattering, after all. "Fairly busy." She rebutted with a sly grin and shook her head, "But I can take a scenic route, if that is what you're suggesting." She didn't quite know what he was suggesting, but that seemed like a safe option. Weaving between the crowds she glanced across to her company, "Besides, Musius," She gestured to the slave trailing  them, "Will take good care of me, I'm sure. What were you thinking?" she ventured with intrigue.

 

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He absolutely loved that he made her chuckle, although she also rolled her eyes. A little bit of fun never hurt anyone though and wasn’t it always better to make a girl laugh, rather than to make her cry? Marcus didn’t really make them cry, why should he? Maybe some of the plebian girls he met were sad, because he couldn’t stay with them, but honestly, what did they expect? That an infamous Senator’s son would devote the rest of his life to someone of their low class? No, he had his dreams about the future and they did not involve plebian girls for anything but fun.

 This girl however, that was a different story. She was of a proper class when paired with Marcus. Not that he knew if he’d marry her either, his class often married at an older age and he was just 18 and not at all ready for marriage. But more than ready for fun. And he would have that with Ovinia, somehow. Ovinia, that was her name! But what to do with her? He had to make a plan, so he tried to find out how much time she had and if she was that eager to go to her friend’s house.

 She said she was fairly busy, but had the time for a so-called scenic route. Of course then pointing out that there was still her slave following them.

 “You don’t think I can take good care of you on my own?” He asked, pouting and sounding sad, but it was only a joke, of course, “I thought…” He leaned closer to her, speaking in a lower voice so that Musius might not eavesdrop, “That we might choose a different route than your slave. Where exactly does your friend live? I know a lot of interesting and scenic routes in Rome. If you want an adventure.” He said, smiling, winking at her, “I’d be a perfect gentleman, of course. You can trust me.”

@Sara

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As he leaned in closer she took a side step to widen the distance again. Ovinia Camilla might be full of flirtation, sidelong glances and winning smiles, buts he was a good girl. She liked the rules, or at the very least, she followed the rules. Keeping her distance from unmarried bachelors of...certain reputations, was a part of that. 

She let out an incredulous little laugh and grinned, shaking her head in wry amusement. "You think be so easy, Marcus Junius Silanus?" She arched a brow and shook her head, her hair moving in a wave over her back as she did. "That I would abandon my family's honour for...a scenic walk with a man such as you? Tsk." She chuckled and gestured up ahead with a hand, her bangles jangling and glinting in the sunlight. "She lives on the Esquiline. And I'm quite sure we can have a nice walk, even with Musius trailing us, can't we?" She glanced at him with challenge glinting in her eye. 

 

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He noticed how she took a step from him, when he leaned closer to speak in a lower tone. Why would she do that? He was just talking, he wasn’t doing anything. He hadn’t done anything at all, in fact, and didn’t know if he would either. All he wanted was an adventure and a little fun with a  pretty girl, wouldn’t she want the same, just with him? But she grinned at his words, speaking about not being easy and she would not abandon her family’s honour.

 “A man such as me? What did I do?” He asked, pretending to be all innocent, but there was a spark in his eye, a constant mischievous spark that he couldn’t hide. She went on, said where her friend lived and they would have a nice walk, even with her slave.

 “I don’t know what you think I was suggesting we do, but all I did was say I’d escort you. Really, you can trust me. Haven’t I been good so far?” He asked, failing to hide his boyish, playful grin, “I suppose it’ll have to do, with your Musius. But I just feel like… can we talk privately, near him? Won’t he eavesdrop? I hate it when slaves eavesdrop, and they always do.” He pointed out. Really he wasn’t suggesting they did anything but talk and walk, why didn’t she believe him? It wasn’t like he lived the life he did very openly. And Caecina hadn’t told anyone about their affair, he was certain of that.

@Sara

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"You've been very good," She said with a knowing smile and a melodic little laugh, "But - and I mean this as no offence to you - I have four brothers, Marcus, I know what men your age are like." Randy and wanton, in summary. She was in no mind to become another notch on his, or anybody else's bedpost until she was married. Then at least an affair could be concealed, or perhaps even sanctioned by her hypothetical husband - as she'd heard occasionally happened. But whilst she was still virginal? Not a chance.

Glancing back at Musius, she arched a brow at him - eyes down, but ears evidently listening, and then back at Marcus. He was curious - who cared what slaves thought? "Even if they eavesdrop - which I'm sure they do," She rolled her eyes, it was human nature to gossip, wasn't it? "What's he going to do with whatever we talk about? Say you told me a secret," She said as she kept up a slow pace back to Nasennia's domus, "The only people likely to know about it are me and Musius, and if it ever got out, then you'd know exactly whose door to pin the blame to, no? And we could have him duly punished." She wasn't squeamish about such things - she'd seen her father whip their slaves too many times to count. 

"Besides," She glanced up at him curiously, "What did you wish to talk of privately that you care if Musius overhears?" 

 

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He was glad to hear she thought he’d been good, but less glad to hear that she claimed she knew what men his age were like. Well, she was probably right, but she was still assuming something about someone she didn’t know so well. Marcus still wasn’t too fond of having to have her slave follow them around, he’d much rather be on his own without a slave… so he tried to convince her, but she wasn’t afraid about anything happening, should Musius be eavesdropping. Which he would. They were both sure of it.

 As they continued walking and talking, she wondered of course what he’d speak privately about with her. Well he didn’t know! He just preferred to not have nosy slaves running in his heels all the time, that’s all. He just preferred… freedom, actually.

 “Nothing in particular, not yet, anyway. But you never know where a conversation may take you.” He added with a small smile, “I suppose keeping a distance from him will have to do. And I am curious by the way… about something you said just before.” Marcus continued, “What are men my age like? What is it you know, having four brothers?” He tilted his head, curious to hear what she’d say to that and depending on what she said, he already knew how to continue.

@Sara

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"Oh?" Ovinia glanced at him, as he said he was curious. She liked to try and affect an air of intrigue like some of the older Matrons managed to do - but never knew if she was successful or not. Clearly not, as he asked about her brothers. They were the main source of conversation for her, after all. She lauded their feats and commiserated their losses as if they were her own. Wasn't that what good Roman women did? And when she married, she'd laud her husband's feats and commiserate his losses. Men were the centre of their universe. 

"Well," She began with a sly chuckle, "I know men your age like to drink, and exercise, and gamble," She arched a brow, "When festivals permit it, of course." Or not, given her brother Tertius' most recent losses at a backstreet gambling den. "And women, of course." She said with a heightened flush in her cheeks as she ducked her head. "But unfortunately for you, I'm not into any of those hobbies."

 

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He was curious about hearing her opinion about how men his age were like. Because there were many kinds and Marcus knew, that not all of them were like him. Not all of them had once had a fortune and then had it lost, because their brother burned down their property, was jailed and afterwards more or less just left their little brother behind. Marcus was on his own. Old Tusca of course tried his best to guide Marcus, but he didn’t make it easy. Where was the fun in that?

 Ovinia chuckled as she began speaking, explaining what men at his age did. Drinking, exercising, gambling and then women. She blushed and claimed she wasn’t into any of those hobbies. Marcus looked her over and chuckled, “One would think you’re into exercising though, you don’t at all look like some of the old and worn matrons.” He said with a wink, “But it’s interesting to know, what you think. Is that really what you think we’re all about?” Honestly he did like drinking and exercising. And women. Gambling, not so much. He had little to gamble with.

 “What hobbies are you into, then? What do you do for fun?” Marcus continued, while they walked together at a fairly slow pace. He wasn’t busy and it didn’t seem she was either.

@Sara

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She laughed, genuinely and loudly - enough that her slave stepped forward concerned before she waved him back; "What a compliment that is," her laughter turned into chuckles and she flashed a grin at Marcus, "Helpfully I'm not a matron yet so perhaps that's why I don't look so...worn." And with her regimen of exercise and various lotions and potions, Gods willing she never would. 

Shrugging her shoulders as they walked, she considered the question. "I don't know. That's my experience of young men," All bland and all the same, for the most part at least - she'd met a few outliers and was trying to decide if this man was one of them, "Am I wrong?" She doubted she was. He was well dressed, with an easy grin and a handsome face and surely he had money, with a name like his. She'd seen him at parties and such, so evidently he enjoyed the social scene. Not that there was anything wrong with that, she was much the same - her hobbies and pastimes were utterly typical of a young woman of her age and rank; "The usual, exercise, seeing friends, shopping," She smiled, "And I like music, I wish I had convinced my father to teach me the cithara when I was a girl but alas, I'm stuck with just singing." That didn't stop her from longing for lessons with the former though.

 

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Marcus loved hearing her laugh, making a woman laugh was always a good thing. If you could amuse her and entertain her, there was a good chance she’d remember you later on and with positive thoughts too. It was all good. He couldn’t help but grin back at her as she replied, trying to explain why she didn’t look so worn yet, “Or maybe that’s just how you’re like. Fit and beautiful.” He replied, the grin never leaving his face. But the conversation went on, to what ‘men like him’ were into and to what she enjoyed.

 She wondered if she was wrong with what she’d experienced and explained her hobbies were ‘the usual’. He tilted his head when she mentioned all she could do was sing, “I hope you’re good at it then. Maybe you’ll let me listen sometime, if you dare.” He winked, knowing that some people, who had such skills, were still quite shy about it because they were unsure of how good they were. He didn’t know how confident Ovinia was with her singing voice.

 “And… I don’t think you’re entirely wrong, concerning young men. Just consider there’s more to us than what you experience. We have dreams too, you know.” And he did and he’d do whatever he could to reach them. He had to live up to his name somehow and he had to do it better than his brother.

@Sara

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This was the second bet she'd made in as many weeks on her singing but she chose not to accept the terms this time. Last time, with irritatingly charismatic Lucius she'd lost her marbles and got up in front of others to sing - thank the Gods nobody she knew seemed to have heard about it! She merely chuckled and shook her head; "It's for friends and family only I'm afraid. And you are not my brother, and friends..." She arched a brow at him, turning her face to study him with a wry smile turning the corners of her lips, "Well, we'll see won't we?" 

Ah! Dreams! She wondered what it was like to have those! She was being facetious of course, she had some of her own but they were small-fry, no doubt, compared to what he was angling after. She wanted a nice husband who treated her well (and wasn't bad to look at), she wanted children...at some point, a distant point, and she wanted recognition. That...was about it. "You can't say something like that and then not tell me what those dreams are!" She chuckled. 

 

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Ovinia wasn't sure if she'd let him hear her sing. So she was a bit shy about it. She said it was only for family and friends, but who knew if they would be fiends. He enjoyed the way she chuckled and smiled, Ovinia wasn't boring, that was for sure. And she was a challenge too, which he didn't mind. Not that he didn't care for Caecina, he cared a lot for her, more than he ought to, but she was out of reach for him. Despite their social class and everything. Ovinia, well that was different. Not that he thought he was falling in love or anything. But she was entertaining and that was a positive trait too! 

"I hope we shall be friends." Marcus said, actually in all honesty, because he wouldn't mind. The conversation turned back to her assumptions about young men, but she was placing them all in a box without knowing them at all. And of course now she'd know about what dreams he had, since he brought it up.

"I don't know if you ever heard about my father... Decimus Junius Silanus. I never really knew him, because he died when I was very young. But he was highly appreciated in Rome. I wish to become the same, somehow. I hope to rise high too, as he. Honor his memory, as they say." He explained, and then he looked at her with a grin then, "So there you have it, my very humble dream. What's yours? You must have dreams too." 

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