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Date at the fruit festival


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August 13, 76 CE

After the party where they had met, Lucius only half believed that Silanus would go through with their bet at all. It had been more like some good-natured joking, about finding him a suitable wife. It was not like there were not many suitable women in Rome... it was the fact that Lucius himself, as of now, was not exactly a good catch at all. Not until he made something of himself.

In any way, he was happy to meet Silanus again. The young man had sent a message, inviting Lucius to the festival of Vertumnalia at the Gardens of Sallust. Vertumnalia was always a pleasant day: the festival of fruit, love, and the changing seasons. Fruit-sellers piled their choice wares on tables, erecting effigies of Vertumnus and Pomona, decorating everything with late summer flowers and garlands. It was a nice day to be out and about in Rome, for a change filled with the scent of fresh fruit and flowers, masking some of the usual smells.

Lucius wandered across the gardens, keeping an eye out for Silanus. He arrived to the corner of the gardens where they had agreed to meet and looked around, waiting for his friend. It was looking to be an enjoyable day.

@Atrice

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It was about a month ago that he met Lucius Vipsanius Roscius and Marcus had been busy ever since. Well he was busy with many things, like soon starting that honorable course, but he also made a bet and he was determined to win it. Lucius seemed nice enough, he just hadn't been so lucky in life and apparently didn't really have a lot of hopes and humble dreams like Marcus had. So he'd help out the guy, of course. He would find Lucius a wife, so he could marry before his brother and at least have something that his brother did not have. Marcus knew what it was like to be the little brother no one expected anything from, but who would turn out better than the older brother. Hadn't both Augustus and Julius Caesar been little brothers too? So what if their siblings were sisters. They still climbed quite high! 

And he'd found a woman for Lucius, one whom gossip said wanted to marry and she already brought something into the marriage. She had a son and was a widow, but still not old and ugly. Not too much of a matron. He'd heard his father talk about the woman's brother, while they were eating a meal at home, and then somehow the talk turned to the woman in question. Marcus hadn't said much. But he paid attention. And then he made contact. But he was just 18 and didn't have much to back him, so he would have to set it up so no one knew what it was really about. He'd sent a note to the woman, about meeting him in the gardens for the Vertumnalia festival. Only telling her that he had important news concerning her marriage and nothing more. She wasn't married, so of course she wanted to know what it was all about. 

Pinaria Gaia showed up and she looked stunning for an older woman! Ten years older than him, or something. Far too old for Marcus to marry, but he thought he would not mind sharing her bed. Besides, older women had something called experience and that wasn't a bad thing. She looked striking in a green gown and she'd decorated her hair with flowers according to the current festival. But she was not for him.

"Pinaria Gaia? I am Marcus Junius Silanus. I'm glad you decided to show up." He said to her with a friendly smile.

"Of course I did. I am curious to hear what news you have of my... marriage?" She said, her voice soft and friendly, but there was an air about her that called for respect. 

"Yes, marriage... I know you have been there. And I heard you're looking for a new father to your son. I have the perfect candidate." Marcus' charming smile never faded and she arched a brow, interested in hearing more, "He's a friend of mine and he really needs to find a wife. So I think you have something in common already. Come, it's this way." Marcus motioned for Pinaria to follow him through the gardens, towards the corner where he'd told Lucius he would meet him. And there he was, dressed nicely for the festival too. Wasn't this good? He hoped they'd like each other. After all, Marcus had a bet to win. He walked half a step in front of Pinaria, so she would not see the wide grin on his face when Lucius noticed him.

"Lucius! I'm glad you came. May I introduce you to Pinaria Gaia? Pinaria, this is my friend, Lucius Vipsanius Roscius." Marcus said when he was close enough, looking between the two. Soon he'd make an excuse to leave and hope they got along on their own.

@Chevi

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Silanus did not arrive alone. At first glance Lucius thought he was accompanied by a slave, walking a step behind him, but it soon became obvious that it was not a slave at all. Rather, a woman, finely dressed and with an air of nobility around her. She looked a few years older than Lucius, but still young and pretty.

It only took him a few moments to realize what was going on.

Silanus, you son of  a bitch.

"Lucius! I'm glad you came. May I introduce you to Pinaria Gaia? Pinaria, this is my friend, Lucius Vipsanius Roscius."

"A pleasure to meet you" Lucius nodded to the woman with a smile. He was wearing a fine tunic, but otherwise was not dressed particularly festive. "Happy Vertumnalia, to both of you."

@Atrice

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Pinaria was not entirely sure she understood young Silanus' game here. He told her in the note that he had news regarding her marriage, but apparently, it wasn't regarding her previous marriage. No, it was regarding a future one. It was interesting, she could not deny that, but she was not sure what to think of the idea. And it wasn't even young Silanus who wanted a wife, but apparently one of his friends. Seemed like love games to her, played by young boys who knew nothing about life or marriage yet. But she decided to go along, see if Silanus' friend was interesting. Who knew, he might actually be someone she'd want to marry and that her brother would approve of. 

Soon she was introduced to Lucius. Younger than her, obviously, but very handsome. She'd heard the name before, she thought, the last part of it anyway. One of the brothers had served abroad, in Britannia. She wasn't sure which brother it was though, but something told her that the young man here had not been abroad. He really did not look the part. But if he was likable and liked her too, she thought her brother should not be against an arrangement here. The darkhaired young man greeted her with a nice smile and bid them both a happy festival.

"And the same to you." Pinaria said, "Both, I suppose." She added with a little smile and looked at Silanus, "So, now that we're all here, do you have further plans?" There was a spark in her eye and honestly, Marcus had not thought past this point, other than finding a way to excuse himself and leave them alone. He glanced up at the sun for a moment and oh my, will you look at the time? 

"I had thought we might enjoy a walk here, but..." Marcus began and looked at them both again, "... I just remembered that my mother requested that I also showed my face at home for the festival." He said and looked at Lucius with a wink, "I hope you'll not be too sad to see me go?" 

@Chevi

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Subtle, Silanus. Extremely subtle. Lucius shot his friend a look, one that promised he would never live this down. What, he was just going to leave this eligible young woman alone with a complete stranger at the festival?

Apparently so. Lucius glanced at Pinaria, wondering what she would say. Did she know she was coming here to meet him, or was this new for her too? If she did not want to play along, she could just turn around and leave along with Silanus.

"I was going to walk around and... look at what's being sold" he noted, gesturing at the stands in the shade full of fruit and various wares. "I wouldn't mind the company. But I understand if you have to leave." It was meant for both of them. They could take it as they wished.

@Atrice

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So what if they only met once before? They made a deal, they shook hands on it, so it was going to happen. You could say many things about Marcus (and people did), but he did keep his promises, didn't he? He just pulled his shoulders when Lucius gave him that look and then Lucius said he just wanted to walk around and look at things and he would not mind company.

"I think I do, I'd hate to let my mother down." Marcus said and looked at Pinaria, who also gave him a look.

"Well, we can't have that, can we? Isn't she related to the Imperial family?" Pinaria said and Marcus nodded, she knew better than to upset that family. Although she got the idea that Silanus might be lying, but she'd hold it against him some other time. To have something on someone, that was a valuable thing in Rome. Meanwhile, poor Lucius also seemed to have been caught in this weird web the young Silanus spun. Yet, if he really did look for a wife and she tried to be actively looking for a husband, it wouldn't hurt getting to know him, would it?

"I'll keep you company, if you don't mind. It's always nice to go out a bit, isn't it? And I'm sure you're a man of honor, aren't you?" She asked Lucius with a smile. They could talk about the situation and maybe why this was happening, once Silanus was gone. 

@Chevi

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"I think I do, I'd hate to let my mother down." 

"Well, we can't have that, can we? Isn't she related to the Imperial family?"

Was she? Lucius glanced at his friend. Maybe his family was higher up than he'd thought. That meant his favor would be worth more too, if he happened to lose the bet. On the other hand, it also meant that Pinaria Gaia was probably way, way out of Lucius' league. Patrician families also liked to keep company with their own. 

"I'll keep you company, if you don't mind. It's always nice to go out a bit, isn't it? And I'm sure you're a man of honor, aren't you?"

"I am." Lucius smiled. He did not mind taking a walk with the lady, and getting to know her at least. "Although if I wasn't, would I say so?" he added jokingly, waving goodbye to Silanus. "Give my greetings to your mother. And take some time to enjoy the festival!" He grinned, before he turned back to Pinaria, now his sole companion. People were milling around the gardens, but there was not too much of a crowd yet. "Shall we?"

@Atrice

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Pinaria knew well enough the names of nobles and imperials in Rome, she felt it was her duty to know. How could she ever raise her son properly, if she didn't know all these things? And as long as Gaius didn't have a father, she and her brother were responsible for the child. And her brother didn't always have the time to take care of his young nephew. So she knew Silanus, and she knew the Roscius name, at least. Young Silanus apparently had strange motives for meeting her though, introducing her to a handsome friend of his and then he excused himself. With an excuse she could see right through, but since she did try to find a new husband and a father for Gaius, she didn't see why she should not explore this idea, at least. Maybe this Lucius had more in him than just his youth and his good looks. 

She was sure she'd be just fine with Lucius. He did confirm he was a man of honor indeed, but then proceeded to make a joke.

"I suppose you would not." She said with a grin back to him. A moment later, Silanus went on his way, after smiling and winking at Lucius - probably thinking she didn't notice - she was left alone with the darkhaired of the young men.

"It would seem that we shall, Lucius. May I call you that?" She asked kindly to him, "So, what kind of goods are you interested in here? I suppose we should buy some fruit, that would only be appropriate, would it not?" 

@Chevi

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Posted (edited)

Pinaria smiled at his joke. That was a good start. Lucius half expected that whatever Roman maiden Silanus would bring his way would run after the first few comments. They were definitely not used to someone not settling for polite small talk.

"It would seem that we shall, Lucius. May I call you that?"

"Please" Lucius nodded. The less formality, the better. They walked along the paths between the merchants' stands together.

"So, what kind of goods are you interested in here? I suppose we should buy some fruit, that would only be appropriate, would it not?" 

"Definitely worth looking" Lucius nodded, glancing at the fruit stands "Not quite pomegranate season yet. But I might know some merchants who have good apples. What kind of fruit would you be interested in?"

@Atrice

Edited by Chevi
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Why would she run? She didn't know him yet, he might actually be good for something besides his looks. And Pinaria wasn't getting any younger. She wondered how old he was, certainly older than Silanus, but younger than her. She could just imagine what the society would say to her marrying someone younger. They'd talk. But she didn't care. As long as her future husband would adopt Gaius and be a good father, that's all that mattered. 

"And you may call me Pinaria." She said, when Lucius allowed her to use his name. She suggested they bought some fruit and he agreed, speaking of seasons and knowing merchants. She looked at him with an interested gaze, when he asked what kind of fruit she was interested in. Did he even know what he was saying? She wasn't some young maiden, after all. But she smiled, didn't comment on how inappropriate it could sound.

"I don't quite know yet. Depends if it would be for ourselves or to sacrifice or give away." Pinaria said, "Perhaps something sweet and easy to carry. So not a melon or something like it. Do you have any favorites?" She asked with a grin, of course, he was welcome to carry around a melon if he'd like, but she doubted he would.

@Chevi

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"I don't quite know yet. Depends if it would be for ourselves or to sacrifice or give away."

"Ourselves for now, I think." Lucius glanced around; people were enjoying the festival, whether they were shopping or just milling around. "But I can't promise I won't give some away." Sharing was part of the celebration of nature's abundance, after all.

"Perhaps something sweet and easy to carry. So not a melon or something like it. Do you have any favorites?"

"Well, I like apples. But it's also peach season... peaches or apricots, whichever you prefer. And some might be selling some late cherries. Do you eat cherries?" Lucius observed the fruit as they walked along. Some of the merchants smiled at him and he waved; he knew a few of them from the forum. He stopped at one that offered several large baskets of peaches and apricots. "Good day, Marius. Happy Vertumnalia. Mind if we try one?"

@Atrice

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So Lucius here would share fruit with her, that was interesting. He probably didn't mean anything by it, but you could say a lot without saying anything or with saying something else. He said he could not promise not giving some away though and she nodded, "Sharing is caring, isn't that what they say sometimes?" She said with a friendly tone and then mused about what to pick. Lucius suggested apples, peaches or apricots. Or cherries. 

She smiled, "Some late and lush cherries would be good, I think. But I like peaches too." She said and noticed how Lucius seemed to know a lot of people here. She didn't usually venture out like this, so it was different, but it also wasn't too bad. They approached a merchant and Lucius greeted him by name. The merchant offered peaches and apricots and Pinaria smiled at him, when Lucius wanted to try something, "As long as you don't ruin me by trying all of them." The merchant said cheerfully.

"We could share one?" Pinaria suggested to Lucius, she might as well do something to find out whether Lucius was worth her time or what. She did come, after all. And maybe he would be useful. She ran her fingers over the soft skin of the peaches in one basket. She gently pressed on several ones, to test how ripe they were and finally picked one. She brushed it gently and then she took a bite. It was ripe indeed and she chuckled at how the juices instantly dripped from it. Then she handed the peach to Lucius, "It is good. Now it's your turn." 

@Chevi

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"Some late and lush cherries would be good, I think. But I like peaches too."

So far, so good. Pinaria was going along with his interest in fruit. She was either very good at playing along with people, or she actually liked fruit. Lucius wondered which one was true. Maybe both. They would see in a moment; one of the friendly merchants offered an opportunity.

"As long as you don't ruin me by trying all of them." 

"I would never" Lucius grinned, trying to sound mock offended. "I appreciate the hard work you do."

"We could share one?... It is good. Now it's your turn." 

Lucius watched as Pinaria carefully selected a peach, and bit into it. It was quite the sight, he had to admit that. She offered him the peach and he took it, taking another bite as he watched her. Maybe there was more to her than a blushing Roman maiden. "Good choice." He smiled, licking his lips, then turned back to Marius and offered some coin. "We will take a few." "Thank you, dominus. Feel free to choose."

Lucius allowed Pinaria to choose before the continued their walk. "So... Silanus did not tell me much about you. Or... anything, really."

@Atrice

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Pinaria just smiled quietly when Lucius spoke with the merchant, joking around, before she reached to pick a peach to taste. She took her time, picking the peach, she knew how to get a man's attention, but eventually she did pick one up and took a bite, trying to be careful to not let the juices run over her chin, although she did not succeed entirely. But she smoothly handed it to Lucius, who took a bite while watching her. He knew how to get a woman's attention too, did he not? She tilted her head with a small smile, while Lucius soon agreed it was  a good choice and then bought a few peaches for them.

As Lucius gestured for Pinaria to do it, she did... and soon they were wrapped in a cheap piece of cloth and handed over to them. They continued their walk and Lucius naturally did want to hear more about her. She chuckled at his words.

"I can imagine, you did seem quite surprised when we met. I guess he set us up." She said, although she did not yet tell Lucius what young Silanus had told her. That this had to do with marriage and a possible new father to her son. She didn't want to scare him away, he did seem nice. And even they would agree to not meet again on any set date, she imagined he could be someone she'd like to befriend, if not more. But he was young and handsome. If only she could afford to only consider that.

"Alright... what to tell you about me? I have been married before, but it is now more than two years since my husband died." She explained, he might be able to figure out the next bit on his own, but she'd mention it anyway, "This means I have a son... yet we live with my family, now. It is not a bad life. But of course, it could also be better." She added. Not that she was sad or anything, but she would not mind having her own household to manage or a father for her son. He deserved that.

Now it was however her turn to look at Lucius, "Now, it's your turn. Silanus did not tell me much about you either." 

@Chevi

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"I can imagine, you did seem quite surprised when we met. I guess he set us up."

"Oh, he did." And he had good reason to. But Lucius was not about to reveal to the lady that she had been the subject of a bet. Even if it was an ill fated encounter, she did not deserve that.

"Alright... what to tell you about me? I have been married before, but it is now more than two years since my husband died."

"My condolences." So, she was a widow, not a maiden. Lucius did not mind, she was young, but it spoke volumes about what Silanus thought of his chances.

"This means I have a son... yet we live with my family, now. It is not a bad life. But of course, it could also be better. Now, it's your turn. Silanus did not tell me much about you either." 

Well, that was... not much. A widow, with a child. Probably looking for a new husband to provide security. In the end, Silanus still aimed too high.

"My brother is a senator" Lucius noted "I... am about to start building a career. At least, that is the plan." He was too old to say that and he knew it. She would either assume he was younger than he looked, or she would know something was amiss. "I am searching for my own path, one could say." One could also say he was a lazy bastard.

@Atrice

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She told Lucius briefly about herself, honestly there was not a lot to tell, since she just came out again, after she'd mourned her husband and been a lone mother to her son. But her family wanted her to remarry and Pinaria was old enough and smart enough to deal with this herself. Lucius was friendly, offered condolences concerning her late husband and she gave him a nod of acknowledgment, "Thank you." She simply replied and explained about her son too. Before asking Lucius to tell about himself. 

He also chose to only tell her the most important things about himself. That his brother was a Senator and he was supposed to start a career. She looked at him, he didn't seem like some youth to her. He was definitely older than Silanus. Then he revealed he was searching for his own path. So he should be building a career, that was the plan, but he was searching for his own path. Which meant he had not started a career yet.

"So you do not follow the Course of Honor as most young men of your rank do?" She asked, interested, because that was just a common thing in their ranks and in her family too. All men did that. Except for Lucius of course. He was interesting. Different. She didn't know yet if he was husband material, especially now - her family might not approve - but that did not make him less interesting. 

"May I ask why? And what do you think your path is?" That was a lot deeper than the things they revealed to each other so far. They brushed the surface just before, but now she went deeper, because it interested her. 

@Chevi

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