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31st October, 60AD
Athens

Horatia fiddled with the stem of the goblet of wine she held in her fingers. When she was a girl, dreaming of her wedding as all good young Roman women did, she hadn't exactly pictured this. A short, sharp ceremony in Athens with few of her friends and family, and none of her husbands, followed by an intimate party. It wasn't exactly the grand affair she had planned, but she had found it perfect in its own, unconventional way.

At least she'd managed to procure a suitable outfit in the six or so months since her father had agreed to the match and haggled out the details. She wore the traditional white tunica recta, tied with the knot of Hercules. It had pained her that her mother hadn't tied it, as she ought to have, but she couldn't leave Livia and Lucius to attend and so had stayed in Rome - with her best wishes sent by letter. The red veil which has sheathed her face during the remarkably short ceremony was now pinned up into the six braids of her up-do, sheathed by a floral coronet. She looked the part, even if she didn't exactly feel very wifely; being in a foreign land and with Aulus' military colleagues surrounding them at the gathering. 

They'd process to the house that Aulus had rented for her and a few slaves shortly, the small party gathering through the streets as they would have in Rome - but with much less fanfare, and more derision from the Greek locals, no doubt. For now though, she was content to sip her wine and make polite small talk to the men and women that had been invited; friends of her family in the province, and his most likely. Occasionally she found her eyes wandering back to Aulus - her husband - and a light flush came to her cheeks. She tried to distract herself with inane conversations; and she was currently embroiled in one with a friend of Publius' about his families villa. According to him, Formaie was far nicer than Baiae. She nodded and prayed that somebody would come over to save her from the dullness soon. 

 

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Aulus had to field congratulations and exclamations along the lines of 'you lucky dog!' and 'however did you persuade Quintus to allow it?' and the like from several of his fellow tribunes and other officers from the garrison who had come along to make up the groom's party of this Roman wedding in Greece. He was entangled in a conversation about... something, he wasn't sure what (he'd stopped paying much attention several sentences before) from a junior officer he was only distantly acquainted with, and managed to catch Horatia's eye.

She looked every bit the radiant Roman bride in her white gown with her girdle tied in the traditional knot of Hercules and the flame-coloured veil over her flame-coloured hair which was bound up in the traditional hairstyle of the seni crines. For some reason, that made him think of his sister; Calpurnia Praetextata would have loved it, if she could have been here.

"Would you excuse me for a moment? I really should go and speak with Marcus," he said as soon as he could insert the words into a gap in the conversation, and smiled at his fellow officer, smoothly extricating himself to cross the room to where Horatia was likewise getting her ear talked off. "I hope you don't mind the interruption, Marcus, but I need to borrow my wife for a moment."

He only had eyes for Horatia as he spoke. The dark blue of his own tunic (borrowed from Quintus) made the white of her gown stand out even more.

 

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Relief flooded through her; there was only so much more she could take on the virtues of Formaie before she'd begin to fall asleep, and she still had a long night ahead. The young officer flushed and shook his head with an easy grin; "Not at all, I need to go and harass your brother for some decent wine anyway Horatia Justina." The man chortled and brushed past the newlyweds to do just that. 

When he had moved past them, Horatia turned up to glance at her betrothed, no, her husband (Gods how strange that seemed!) with a sly smile. "Your colleagues are certainly...interesting company." She chuckled and sipped her wine, "Although they all think remarkably highly of you, which is a relief." She smiled again and reached a hand to reposition the floral garland that slipped a bit on her hair. "No regrets on this side of the marriage, I hope my family and our guests haven't put you off your new bride?" She was jesting, feeling the wine warming her blood, but even without it she was an happier spirits than well...since she could remember, really. 

 

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"Interesting? Not the word I'd use - I was just listening to a diatribe on the virtues of Greek olive oil versus Italian, and why you can't get decent garum over here, and gods know what else," Aulus said, giving her a look of mutual understanding. It would be different if they were in Rome in the bosoms of their families - though even there he suspected most of the guests would be friends of their parents' rather than their own friends. "Your friends and family are extremely hospitable, I was going to say that I hope my friends and fellow officers haven't made you have second thoughts!"

He smiled fondly at her - were the truth known, he had probably been smiling all day. Were his men to hear of it, he'd never be taken seriously again. "You look beautiful," he added.

 

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She shook her head with a little laugh; "No, not at all. In fact they've been telling me stories about your heroism all evening." They hadn't, but she'd learned throughout her life it always paid to bestow a compliment or two. She suspected she absolutely should with her  new husband as well. 

She flushed at his compliment and ducked her head, looking down into her wine. She felt uncomfortable in the formal garb - particularly the veil which had covered her from head to toe until after they had been married, when it was ceremoniously lifted. She'd been terrified she'd trip and make a fool of herself. "And you look very handsome." She offered, although it felt odd. Being young and unmarried and a woman - most importantly - she'd never really flirted and it felt incredibly peculiar to do so now, even in the company of her husband. She swallowed and raised the wine to her lips to sip it, giving her a moment to compose herself. 

"I'm looking forward to seeing the house," She offered as she lowered her cup, trying to settle herself. She'd had no input into what Aulus had rented and 'looking forward to' might have been a bit strong. Intrigued, was probably more apt. 

 

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"I don't know what stories they might have been filling your head with, the life of a tribune isn't exactly the stuff of legends," Aulus said in a voice more like his normal one than he'd managed for most of the day. "Don't expect anything like the sort of domus you'd find in the Piscina Publica or the Quirinal back home," he added. "Comfortably cosy, or suitably domestic, is more of an accurate description - and it doesn't need a whole maniple of slaves to keep it presentable, either. Though if you need more slaves than we've got, please feel free to get them - or anything else you need."

Presumably she had her own maid or body slave.

"Oh, and - I was in the agora yesterday, and saw this. I thought you might like it?" He pulled out a gold bangle from where he had tucked it into his tunic that morning, a simple thing carved with leaves and flowers. It was a pretty thing, simple and elegant as Horatia seemed to him to be a woman who liked and appreciated simplicity and elegance, rather than the overblown garishness tastes of some Romans he was acquainted with, that was beginning to seep into the decoration and styling of houses and buildings these days.

 

(The bangle is the one from this post)

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She arched a brow, but shrugged. Well at least he was honest; "That suits me fine." And presumably - if they were to walk there tonight - it would be close enough to her fathers accommodation whilst he remained in Greece that she could pop back home should she need more luxury. Although she chastised herself internally that she thought of this place as home. Home would be with her husband, in her new rented house and then back with his parents whenever they returned to Rome when his term was done. 

As he pulled out the bangle her eyes widened in surprise. It was to her tastes exactly, which silently thrilled her and she grinned - reaching her fingers out to his to take it. It was probably fairly inexpensive - at least to her eye - but that he'd had the thought and sentiment spoke volumes. She slipped it on her wrist and examined it - holding it up to the lamp light nearby. "It's beautiful Aulus, thank you. Although," Her lips quirked in amusement, "Did you know I am not supposed to wear any jewellery on my wedding day besides my ring?" She gestured to the ring he'd given her some months before, "Apparently any other adornment is a distraction and brides on their wedding day need to focus on the fidelity that the ring represents." She chuckled, it sounded like a load of nonsense. How was any bride supposed to forget the expectations on her on her own wedding day?!

 

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Aulus blinked. "I, um, no, I didn't. You could tuck it... maybe..." he gestured at her dress, momentarily lost for words. he couldn't help catching her eye and laughing. "Where did they come up with these ideas anyway? That's absurd - every bride surely wants to look her very best and most of them wouldn't know how to begin to do that if they can't adorn themselves with the complete contents of their jewellery boxes."

Overblown and ostentatious, just like some of the more louche daughters of the novi viri, those who had recently come into wealth. Something that he did not think Horatia was - the simple bangle would suit her perfectly, and be no distraction at all, surely.

"I don't suppose those same traditions have anything at all to say about the grooms, of course," he added, smiling at her, the corners of his eyes creasing with his humour.

 

@Sara

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"I'll wear it." She grinned conspiratorially, "I don't think you have to worry about my fidelity, Aulus," She chuckled, "Bangle or no bangle. And besides, it's not as if we have Roman society here to judge me for it." She grinned and sipped her wine, finishing the rest of the cup. She didn't know how many she'd had now - but it was heavily watered and in one of her mothers letters she'd advised her daughter to get merry before the wedding night. Not drunk, but a little tipsy - warm and fuzzy was how she'd put it - to set her nerves at rest. 

"Oh of course they don't," She laughed again and set down the goblet on the tray of a slave, winding her arms around her slender waist instead. She liked the distraction of the cup in her hands, it helped her to stop fidgeting. "You young men simply get  to turn up and have a lovely new bride waiting for you, dressed to the nines with this," She gestured at her up-do, which she hated but laboured out of tradition. "It's odd to think I can't wear my hair down anymore," She remarked more to herself than him. "So many little things change after a wedding, I'd never considered before." 

 

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"I doubt if more than two of them -" Aulus indicated the room at large, meaning his fellow military men "- have any idea about brides not being able to wear jewellery, anyway."

He helped himself to a ball of globi (or a good estimation of it, considering they were in Greece rather than Rome!) from the tray held by another passing slave, and took another ball for his bride. "It's a bit more complicated than that," he protested, though she was correct as to the overall outcome. He'd simply had to put on a tunic and make sure his hair was combed and his shoes clean, she'd had to go to rather more effort - and where she'd found someone out her who could do the traditional hairstyle, he couldn't begin to think.

"I don't know the first thing about any of that," he confessed. "I supposed you can experiment with different hairstyles though?" He had a vague idea women liked that sort of thing - but what did he know! His only sister was in the House of the Vestals, and he'd never dared enquire what his mother did, spending hours with her slave-girls, dressing and making herself up and doing gods knew what with her hair.

"I don't know the first thing about a lot of things when it comes to marriage, I suspect," he added. "But we'll work it out, together, won't we?"

 

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She took the food he passed her and picked it apart to eat, globuli weren't the most delicate of things to eat and she wasn't going to embarrass herself by dropping it all down herself a few hours after she'd got married. 

She laughed as he suggested it would mean she could experiment with hairstyles, grinning; "I suppose I can," She winced and ate a little more, "Hair and cosmetics aren't one of my biggest hobbies though." How was he to know that, though? They'd only met a handful of times since that day in the garden and his surprise proposal and every time since they'd been heavily chaperoned and talked of mundane things and the weather and such. She really didn't know him, and he likewise had no proper indication of her besides what she'd mentioned fleetingly, such as 'Oh I like to read' and 'Yes, I enjoy swimming'. Surprisingly, perhaps, her new husband had always seemed more interested in her than the other way around...she liked him, intensely, but his shock proposal had spoken of something more burning in him. She was not naive though, and hadn't been about to look a gift-horse in the mouth. She was supremely confident that love would grow in time, no matter how naive that may have sounded.

Relieved that he seemed to be taking the slightly awkward atmosphere between them (two virtual strangers now wed!) in his stride, as any good military man would, she finished the globi and dusted her hands. "We will." And if all else fails, there's always divorce. 

 

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"No - you like reading," he said, and had a sudden thought that perhaps the complete Gallic Wars would have been a better wedding gift for her. Or more to her tastes, anyway, if not 'better' - if he had bought her a set of scrolls of the Gallic Wars, he'd never live it down once she told her friends. The bangle had at least been a safe option.

"You like reading," he said. "And - have you seen much of Greece, while you've been here?"

Not that he had much time to go exploring himself - and seriously, did he really think he'd be able to go anywhere with a wife in tow? This was why junior officers didn't marry, after all!

He was sure he could get a day, at least, to go and explore the city with her, if nothing else.

 

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She laughed and nodded, relieved that he'd remembered that. "I do, I do like reading." And don't intend to stop. Some men, her father amongst them, sometimes had a...difference of views to her about the notion of literate women. She saw it as liberation and fascinating, oftentimes she suspected they saw it with suspicion and concern. Fortunately Aulus didn't seem to share such views, and if he did well...then that was an argument they'd be having later. 

Shaking her head, one of the purposefully loose strands in her up-do falling into her face as she did, she replied; "No - not so much. I've been to a few dinners in the country with my father, and Publius when he has leave but," She shook her head, "That's pretty much it. Your work must take you all over though, no?" What a Tribune actually did in a civilised place like Greece was beyond her, and she ventured; "You shall have to become an author Aulus and write back to me in vivid detail what the islands and regions of Greece are like, perhaps?" She was teasing him, with a sly smile.

 

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"Perhaps we could see some of it together?" he suggested. "I mean, not the stuff I have to deal with but - if I get some time off, we could travel round some of it, at least. It would be a shame to return to Rome and have to say you've only seen your house and the walk down to the agora, after all." He seemed to be falling over his words, again - what had possessed this woman to agree to marry him when he sounded like a prized idiot every time he opened his mouth? His rhetor would be horrified.

But then, he'd never felt so nervous when he had to stand up in front of his men as he did just talking to this calm, poised woman. It didn't matter that she was ten years younger than him, she sent his insides twisting around themselves every time he saw her.

Well, that was a wonderful way to begin a marriage, when he'd see her every day!

 

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She grinned as he tried to get the words out, but tried her best not to look amused. It was sweet, in a way she couldn't quite articulate, that he seemed...almost nervous around her? He was almost a decade her senior, had life experience she couldn't even fathom - surely it should be the other way around? And yet the jovial but collected man that Publius had described morphed into somebody quite different around her. She found it funny, and oddly charming, mercifully for him. 

"I'd like that," She affirmed with an inclination of her head, "Not so much dealing with the unrest," She joked, "But the islands and the cities beyond Athens. You think you can manage some leave then?" They had spoken only sparingly of what married life would actually be like. She knew he'd rented a house, but how much time he'd spend there was beyond her. It occurred to her that she didn't even know if he'd be back every night, or be required to stay at the military barracks, wherever they were, as Publius did. She supposed marrying when a Tribune was so unusual there wasn't really protocol for this sort of thing, and she was trying to work out a delicate way to ask 'how often will I see my husband?'...

 

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Tribune Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus was perfectly capable of taking charge of military manoeuvres, or minor campaigns, or ordering the flogging of a recalcitrant legionary, and any of a dozen other things, without batting an eye. But put him in a room with Horatia Justina - his bride, for Juno's sake! - and all sense flew out of the window.

He reeled his thoughts back in. He had no idea, really, how to talk to a woman, but if she was a fellow soldier, it would be a different matter. So why not pretend, at least for now? So long as he didn't stray into military subjects - and he had found her reading an account of the campaigns in Dacia, so even that might not be completely over her head...

"I have nine years' service, which means I have just one more year to go," he said. "That makes me one of the senior Tribunes. Quintus - my Legate - likes to give all of his tribunes the opportunity to learn their trade, and as I'm one of the senior ones, I probably have more likelihood of being able to get leave than otherwise. It might only be a week or two - but the house is fairly close to the camp, too, so I should be able to spend my nights with you unless there's a pressing need for me to remain in the camp."

It would work out somehow - he thought he must be a rare bird indeed, to have found a wife while still serving as a Tribune, but Quintus had been somewhat sympathetic, and he'd received the necessary dispensation. He owed Quintus a very big favour, though, and knew that it would be called in at some point.

 

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She listened intently with a smile on her lips. She could last a year here, the weather was good, she was out from under her fathers thumb and actually, now she thought on it, perhaps it would be better than being in Rome? Here at least she could act Matron of her own house, rather than doing service to Aulus' mother, whom she had never met.

She smiled and resisted the urge to squeeze his hand in gratitude. She had no real idea about how familiar she could be, or even should be with her new husband. She'd attended weddings where the bride and groom were in each others arms from the second they said their vows and others where they'd barely looked at one another until they went upstairs. It was all a mystery to her, as was the inference on 'nights with you', but  that didn't stop a flush coming to her cheeks. 

"Well then," She inclined her head, "Senior Tribune Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus," She grinned a magnetic smile, "Our newlywed days sound like they'll be spent in bliss, don't they?" She arched a brow and reached for another cup as a slave drew near. She was feeling merry, as her mother instructed her to be, which was making her relax a little more which in turn meant her words, usually so carefully crafted were lighter and less considered; "You know I thought I was coming to Greece to get away from men, and proposals and marriage talk," She chuckled, "And instead I'll return home a year from now a married Matron."

 

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"I never expected to return home a married man," Aulus said, also taking a goblet from the tray as the slave passed him. "But I will be the envy of all my fellow tribunes, and all my friends at home."

And he had married a wife of rare intelligence (though not so intelligent as to turn down a very spur-of-the-moment proposal! He was still astounded she'd accepted him), which led him to hope that they could actually have some proper conversations about things, rather than spending their evenings in pointless small talk.

"Where would you like to visit, supposing I can manage to get some leave to be able to take you anywhere?"

 

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"You're a shameless flatterer." She chided but couldn't quite hide the smile on her face as she sipped her wine. 

Where did she want to go? Since she had been in Greece for a little under a year already, she had thoroughly absorbed its history into her reading finding the tales and myths fascinating if not a little far fetched. But based on that she had a good list going; "I'd like to go to Knossos, I hear you can still see some of the Palace where the Minotaur supposedly lived," She considered - she couldn't just select islands at whim - that certainly wouldn't be doable in a short week together, "But perhaps something a little closer to home...Mycenae, perhaps? I was reading something the other day and the slaves confirmed you can still see the Lion Gate. Or," She frowned, "Delphi, of course. Who wouldn't want to see that?" A lot of people, she suspected. 

She winced, was she seeming too...bookish? Her parents had warned her about that. It was hardly...alluring to a husband on the night of his wedding to hear about what his wife was reading lately, she was sure. Gods able, she hadn't even asked his opinion! "What about you?" She asked hurriedly, now he wasn't the only one flustered, "Where would you visit?" 

 

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"I may be a flatterer, but I won't be a sycophant," was Aulus' good-humoured rejoinder. "Don't you like being flattered? It's all true, though." He sipped his wine, considering her question.

"I would like to see Troy, but that is beyond Asia, even - maybe another time, once my posting is over. Delphi would be interesting - or Ephesus. The temple there to Diana is one of the great wonders of the world, and Rhodes has the Colossus, or at least, its remains. It isn't still standing, but I've heard that you can walk around it - I understand they host dinner parties in the head."

Greece had so much to offer, it was no wonder that people came to visit and stayed for far longer than they had anticipated.

 

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"Dinner parties in the head?" She laughed and sipped her wine, "I don't believe you." She shook her head, regaining some of her composure. "So you shall have to take me there so I can see it for myself, or mark you out to be a liar." She was jesting in good humour - the wine warming her blood and the laughter and chatter of the party around them drawing to a close filling her with joy. Her wedding might not have been what she had planned since her girlhood, but it had been perfect in most respects. 

"I shall count it a blessing you know that Publius and yourself weren't shipped somewhere awful like Britannia or Judea for your terms, I suspect my post-marriage holiday wouldn't be quite so pleasant there, hm?" Flirtation didn't come naturally to Horatia, but bless her, she was trying (and rather enjoying it...).

 

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"I am utterly serious! It's called the Colossus of Rhodes for good reason - I understand that the little finger of its right hand is bigger around than the tallest pine tree you can see on the hillside there." He indicated the window across the room.

"I thank all the gods that I was sent here - I don't believe your father would have taken you to Britannia to meet anyone, but here we are. And surely our fathers must have been in the Senate together." How, therefore, they had not met before Aulus and Publius had begun their terms together as Tribunes was a mystery that only the gods knew the answer to.

"I shall take you to Rhodes to see the Colossus, then, once I have any sort of leave to do so," he told her, raising his cup of wine.

"I do believe it's our chance to slip away - unless you have anyone here to enact the maiden being torn from her mother's arms with." If she even wanted to bother with that bit of playacting. If not, they could surely slip quietly out and be away upstairs before anyone noticed their absence.

 

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"Now?" She blinked and glanced around. Nobody was watching them - not even her own family. Everybody seemed thoroughly into their cups, as at any decent wedding, and paid little attention to the bride and groom. These sorts of things were as much social affairs for catching up as they were for celebrating a marriage. 

Without her mother here, the concept of timings and orders and such for this sort of thing was lost on her. Her father and brother were no use in helping with that either, nor were the Greeks. "Do we not go to the house you rented first?" She queried, but genuinely didn't know the answer. Either way, the question had prompted a surfeit of nerves somewhere deep in her chest and she felt her breathing quicken a little. She had been prepared for the actual wedding ceremony, she even felt like she had a handle on what was expected of her as a Matron, but unfortunately the wedding night was an enigma. She'd never gotten far enough in a courtship for her mother to have the conversation with her, and her letters back and forth since Horatia had been in Greece had been irritatingly vague. Her books were no help either. 

"But if you'd like to, we can." She inclined her head, remembering herself. It was his prerogative really, not hers.

 

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"Yes," Aulus said. "You'll like it - I hope!" It had a garden, a well-kept shady area where his new wife could sit and read to her heart's content, and a comfortable bed upstairs and all the other things he'd tried to think of, that Horatia would probably tut and shake her head over (at least, Aulus' mother probably would, and she was the only real example he had of Roman matronly approval. Or disapproval, as the case may be.

"Let's - they don't need us for the rest of the party." And it had grown rather dull by now, anyway, and the musicians were growing drunk - the double-pipe player kept screeching the top note because he hadn't the breath to sustain it. He shot her a conspiratorial grin and set his cup down before taking her hand.

 

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She really should have said good night to have father, or Publius at the very least but from her vantage point she couldn't see either of them and suspected they were off in conversation somewhere with rapt attention on a story of a hero from long ago. It would only cause a fuss if she told them she was leaving, and she would rather do without the hysteria. Besides, she would come back tomorrow to see her father if Aulus was required at the camp, and he could do without her for one night, couldn't he?

She took his hand as he gripped her own, finding the feeling peculiar but thrilling at the same time. They wove through the crowd - and few made any attempt to speak to them, besides a couple of Aulus' military colleagues who clapped him on the back and grinned at her, offering her winks and knowing smiles. Well. That wasn't helping her nerves. 

Soon though they were out in the relative cold of the night. The music from her fathers house could be heard down the street and at some point that music would follow them to Aulus' rented house - although by that point she hoped she'd be sound asleep, and Aulus could entertain the drunken masses if they did come knocking. Then again, given how inebriated people seemed right now, maybe they'd forget the procession altogether and let the newlyweds be alone? 

Turning her face up to him, cheeks flushed with nerves, exhilaration and the cold she glanced up and down the deserted street. "Where to?" 

 

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  • Sara changed the title to Marital Moments [M]

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