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Prospecting


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December, 76AD

Lucius tapped his fingers against the arm of the chair he was waiting in, in the atrium, his frustration evident by the huff of annoyance he let out every few moments. He was taking this meeting as a favour - he had told himself at least - the very least the girl and her chaperone could do would be to be on time. He had never met Horatia Sosia but his cousins spoke well of her, and her family. He was vaguely aware there was already a connection - he was a first cousin to her cousins, but through his maternal line whereas she was on the paternal side. Did that make them related? Probably not, but it did mean a connection, and he sorely needed those. 

It was supposed to be a light, introductory meeting but he'd rather do it in his domus than some public place. He'd been on enough of these meet and greets since his divorce to know that meeting silly young women in public was draining and expensive. Instead, he'd summoned her and her male relative or slave of choice to his domus where there was a light meal and wine and ample time to converse. Besides, if it all went wrong and she was wholly unsuitable, he'd just claim there was urgent business and dismiss her. That was if she ever showed up, of course. 

Letting out another groan of annoyance, he pushed himself up and was about to bark at a slave to send a messenger when the door to the atrium creaked open and she arrived. Well. At least she was something to look at, he'd give her that. 

"Salve, Horatia Sosia. Welcome to my home." 

 

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She’d met with a few suitors so far, but they had been brief meetings as her father didn’t think them appropriate. It was more to make sure the man and his family weren’t offended, that her father had allowed the meetings to happen. This today was different, he said. Lucius Sempronius Atratinus was a wealthy Senator and in need of a new wife. He’d be good to have. So he hoped that Sosia could charm him, just a little maybe.

 She arrived with her litter and her body slave Helia. They were a little bit late. She had taken her time choosing the right dress – a light pink chiton and a darker pink palla to match it, it was almost purple, one of her favorites. Her hair fell in lovely curls and she’d added a few flowers, because she liked that. At last they were there and immediately, a slave allowed them inside. And then they were there. In the atrium and he was looking at her and greeting her. She looked up at him, thinking he was handsome, even though he was much older than she. If she couldn’t have Tiberius, then maybe this Atratinus would be good for her?

 “Thank you, Senator.” She said with a shy smile, “I am very happy to be here. Apologies for being late, the streets were crowded.” Was it bad to lie? But it sounded better than her being late because she couldn’t choose a proper dress to wear. She hoped he found her to be likable.

@Sara

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Well...at least she had the sense to apologise. He offered her a tight smile and inclined his head in response to her apology and he gestured with a sweeping arm for her to follow him. "I've set up a small lunch in the triclinium, I thought we could converse a little, get to know one another." 

As these conversations always seemed to go; where are you from, what is your family, how do you like Rome et cetera et cetera. It was almost painfully similar each time, but he suffer through it if it meant he could root out another Gessia Ursina before he married her. 

"I understand you've not been in Rome long?" He asked, trying to sound affable and warm as he took a seat on one of the couches. "How do you find the city so far?" 

 

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His smile was a little strange, but maybe he was just a bit nervous, like she was. He indicated that she should come with him and she did. He'd set up a small lunch? How kind of him! Behind them, her body slave Helia followed quietly through the domus, as they both looked around and Atratinus said they'd get to know each other. She nodded, "That sounds very nice." She replied as they arrived to the finely decorated dining room. Atratinus had heard a little about her it seemed.

She sat down too, blushing a little bit at the thought of him knowing something about her. While she knew next to nothing about him.

"I have indeed recently arrived in Rome to stay." She said, not stating the obvious, since he probably knew. It was so that her father could set up meetings with men like Atratinus, so that she might find herself a husband. But she was pleased that he was good looking and seemed friendly. He wondered what she thought of the city.

"I am slowly getting used to it. It is a big change from the countryside." Sosia explained and shifted so she could lie down on her couch on her left hand side, as you did in a triclinium. She looked over at him through long lashes and another shy smile, "I'm sorry if I am... inexperienced, but... what should I call you? It feels strange, not knowing that." 

@Sara

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Inexperienced was one word for it, unschooled was another. Had her mother taught her nothing? Maybe that was what a countryside education was; lacking all proper guidance in etiquette and such. He nonetheless inclined his head and said in a smooth voice; "Senator Atratinus, or Lucius, if you'd rather." He'd prefer the former whilst they were still unknown to one another, but he'd give her the option. 

He noted the blush on her cheeks as she took in the room. Gods she really was young, wasn't she? The blush and the smile were captivating but he'd been fooled before. He cleared his throat. "I imagine it's a significant change," He commented lightly, drawing the conversation back. "You have the world at your feet in Rome. Tell me," He gestured for a slave to pour them some watered, sweetened wine and took up his cup, studying her; "How do you spend your days? It must be a different pace than at your villa, no?" 

 

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Her mother had not taught her much about men, this much was true. In fact, more or less nothing. It had been her father, who had been in charge of the decision to keep her away from the other boys and men at the villa... and it was her mother, who agreed with her father. She didn't know anything. But she knew she should be polite, especially when she'd been sent out to meet men like Atratinus. So what did he want her to call him? She was glad he allowed her to use the name Lucius, because Senator Atratinus seemed so... platonic. 

"Very well, Lucius." She said and then he picked up their conversation from before, about how she liked Rome. He said it must be a change, but she had the world at her feet. She nodded quietly and was glad to see wine poured for her. Honestly she did feel a little nervous and she knew wine had a calming effect on her. Lucius wondered how she spent her days.

"It is a very different pace here. Something is always happening in Rome." She said, "I suppose I mostly stay at home. But I do also visit the temples and the gardens of Rome. And I walk my dog, of course. There's so much to see here in the city though. I fear I'll never experience it all." She added with a smile and picked up the wine to take a sip, before she added, "What about you? What do you like most about Rome, Lucius?" 

@Sara

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He gave an affable enough smile and inclined his head. Walking and visiting temples were perfectly acceptable, virtuous activities for a young woman, and it was certainly a better answer than somebody droning on and on about this party and that social function as the girl from last week had. He had limited patience for high society in Rome, although he supposed that was because they had limited patience for him. "You don't want to experience everything Rome has to offer," He said with a half smile, "Much of it isn't suitable for people like us." Well-bred patricians, he meant. 

He took a sip of wine, considering her question thoughtfully for a moment. "The senate keeps me busy." He smiled tightly, "And my clients. I have more than enough to handle. I have my children as well." He added as an afterthought, "Gaius is twelve, Sempronia is nine and Gessilla is," He frowned trying to drag up his youngest's age, "Six or so. They live here, with me, although I didn't wish to burden you with them today." He took a thoughtful sip of his wine and studied her, gently probing; "Do you have much experience with children?" 

 

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She had been to one large event so far in Rome, and that wasn't much. She had enjoyed the party at the palace very much though, especially the time she spent alone with Tiberius. He was so friendly and so handsome, how could she not adore him? But she could not think about him now. She had to have her eyes on Atratinus, and please him so that her father and brother would be happy. She spoke of Rome and what she did and how she'd never experience all that Rome had to offer. Atratinus said she shouldn't want to, because it wasn't suitable for them.

Sosia blushed and cast her eyes down, "I suppose you're right." She said, she knew there were things that were meant for the lower classes and things that were meant for people like them. Of the higher ranks. Atratinus then spoke of what kept him busy and mentioned children. She looked up at him again. Children. Three of them. But she was only 18! How could she be a mother to three children... if she married him? She couldn't imagine being anyone's mother right now, although she knew that's exactly what she ought to be. But a 12-year old? Then he asked if she knew anything about children.

"Not much." She said, still surprised about this and about how this thought had not occurred to her before. That if she married an older man, much older than her, he might have children from previous marriages. She should be brave though, "I'm sure I could gain it easily, though. I'm used to taking care of others. At the villa I had plenty of pets." 

@Sara

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Did...did she just compare children to pets? He gave her a bemused look that he couldn't conceal, much as he should have. She was at least honest, but it wasn't exactly encouraging. He expected women to know what to do with children - it was, after all - one of the main reasons for marriage. "Children are not pets." He said, although his voice wasn't overtly cold it was assertive, "And you never had any younger siblings to mind?" Curious. Then again, if she was the youngest child, it wouldn't surprise him. She was sweet but...naive. Sheltered.

He took a deep sip of wine, trying to dredge his mind for conversation topics. He was drawing a blank. Usually in these sorts of meetings the girls wittered on about something or another. It was almost...refreshing, just how shy Sosia seemed. It was sweet. Made him smile, in a confused sort of way. Finally releasing the silence was droning on, he cleared his throat. "And what are your interests Horatia Sosia? Art? Music?" 

 

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Taking care of pets was the closest thing she had to taking care of children. She barely knew a thing about them and she didn't fail to notice the amused look he gave her. She must seem awfully young and inexperienced to him. Sosia blushed when he said that children weren't pets and she nodded, "I know." She said shyly, although he did not speak coldly to her, she knew she'd made a mistake. A stupid one, even, "I never had any younger siblings. I am the youngest. And my brother is much older than I am." Sosia explained and sipped her wine gently, not daring to look up at him. It was odd meeting with a man so much older than her, and she was supposed to consider him a possible husband. Someone she'd see every day, always. 

Before she could blush again though, Atratinus asked into her own interests. 

"I'm afraid I don't know much about such things. Until this summer, I had never been to a real party before." She explained, "I do enjoy the company of animals though. And reading, a bit. I like being outdoors too, seeing beautiful things and places." Sosia said with a smile, "Do you like such things too? Or... are there things you'd prefer I liked? Do you recommend anything?" She often felt she knew so little and maybe Atratinus could teach her something. 

@Sara

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Atratinus considered it monumentally interesting that she should be so...uncultured. He, himself, didn't care much for music or the arts; finding them the pastimes of people with nothing better to do. He knew enough to converse about intelligently, but his mind was better occupied with other things. That she seemed likewise inclined bode well. 

"You read?" He arched a brow. Many women didn't know how too, and he'd not considered teaching his daughters. They had no need - they could use a secretary or another such slave when managing their own households in the future. As she finished and asked him, she considered her for a moment. All of her pleasures were simple ones; country ones and not particularly refined for the city-dwellers. He needed a wife who could seamlessly fit into the upper echelons of their society, and didn't stick out like a sore thumb or...country girl. "You shall have to get used to city life then," He commented with a look that wasn't unkind, but largely neutral; "Temples and meeting other women and such. And what do I wish you to do?" He chuckled, shaking his head, "It's not my business to mind what women enjoy. You don't have sisters, or sisters-in-law to guide you?" 

 

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She nodded when he asked about her reading, "I do, a little... not poetry or stuff like that. Father would never allow it. But I enjoy reading about natural history and such." She said with a smile, hoping Lucius would approve of that. Her father would be happy if he did, because that meant she'd done something right. She glanced towards her slave, who stood nearby pretending to not watch. She'd have to ask Helia when they left, if she thought Sosia did well. 

He then spoke of how she'd have to get used to city life and said he didn't mind whatever women enjoyed. She gave him a little surprised look, he didn't even have any ideas? Other than whom she should speak to about it.

"My brother does not yet have a wife. Perhaps one of my cousins." That was an idea. She really should go and see them again. She saw them briefly when they had first come to Rome, but had barely spent time with them since. And Horatia's husband was a Consul! She should see them. She would, she decided then.

@Sara

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Phew. Not poetry. That was something; the soppy verses women passed around were ludicrous and he loathed them. It really was a virtue for women to be unable to read; it saved them from a naive hope that their lives would be like some great epic or romance story when the drudgery of day to day life really was so much more bearable if you never imagined yourself doing more.

Cousins? He nodded. He'd done his research. "I understand one of your cousins is married to the Consul? That's a friendship you should perhaps cultivate." He offered a smile. It would be monumentally helpful, for himself if things progressed, to have an in with the most important man in Rome, bar the Emperor himself. He'd also heard the man's wife ran a book club, which was much less pleasing than who she'd married, but no person could have it all, he supposed. "So..." He gave her an awkward smile, clearing his throat. It was pleasing that Sosia was so well bred and naive that she wasn't causing ripples, but it did rather leave the conversational burden on him. And he didn't know much to talk about with young women. "Is there anything else you wish to know about me?" 

 

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Sosia nodded when he mentioned her cousin married to the Consul - it was exactly right! She smiled at him, glad that he knew of her family. Her father had mentioned something about them being distantly related, but not so closely that it wasn't right to marry him. They weren't Egyptians, after all! 

"That is a good idea. I will try and see if I can do that." Sosia replied happily, she'd have to try and reach out to Horatia or maybe Livia and see if they would be friends with her. Teach her more about Rome and the world. Her mother was still in the villa in the countryside and seemed to prefer staying there. She had no other older women to look up to here in Rome. 

Atratinus cleared his throat then, wondering if there was anything else she wished to know. Sosia tapped her finger on her chin, thinking... "I don't really know? I'm sorry, I am not so used to these things yet. Maybe..." She searched her mind for ideas and recalled Tiberius showing her parts of the palace... "Would you show me your house? It looks very beautiful." 

@Sara

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Gods she really was completely unlearned; not that it bothered him, in many ways it would be better to take a wife who was unsure of herself, she would be easier to guide after all. He had no time nor patience for women who thought they had the right to act like men, to parade themselves in masculine spheres. No - whilst Sosia's innocence was on one hand slightly grating to a man of the world, it was also an opportunity. He hid his smile as he sipped his wine. 

"Of course." He stood and extended a hand to help her rise. His domus was not the largest nor the most well appointed, but he figured for a girl who had spent most of her life in the country, it would nonetheless be impressive. "You said you like the outdoors?" He arched a brow, "The gardens perhaps. They are my eldest daughters favourite." He let go of her hand and indicated with his head to follow him. Whilst it was almost winter, the gardens were still lovely; a fountain trickled and winter blooms filled the air with smells and colours. He smiled, satisfied to himself. "Is it much like your home?" 

 

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