Jump to content

Writings on the Wall


Recommended Posts

Mid January 77AD

Ovinia hurried through the alley, hair still damp, curling against her neck under the heavy palla she wore up over her head when out in public now. She was trailed by Lucia and the brutish slave assigned as her guard but as agreed with her father, they were ten or so paces behind. They also stopped when she did, eyes down and watching the street ahead. She hated passing through here now, but hated even more that she smiled to herself at the memories the place held. What promptly wiped her smile, as always, was the crude handwriting scratched into the wall. It had caught her eye a couple of weeks before: 

Sweet Saturnalia kisses here turned so bitter. Farewell, bitch. 

She'd choked when she'd first seen it and Lucia had promptly hurried to her side, frowning intently at her domina and the writing. Ovinia had shooed her away and bid her and her bodyguard further up the road. She'd withdrawn a hair pin and hurriedly scratched back before she could find any sense: 

The kisses weren't even that good. 

She'd loathed herself after and spent most of the next few days brooding over her childishness. She shouldn't rise to it. To him. But she did. The embarrassment she felt that day at the Porticus Livae was only intensifying. He'd only kissed her because of the festival. He'd only come to see her because he'd been summoned by her father. She'd been so naive and so hopeful and she'd said farewell to an excellent match, in part, for a youthful infatuation that wasn't even returned. She rationalised that as the reason she'd scratched into the wall. That had to be it. It didn't explain why she had choked, incensed when she saw her message had been replied to a few days later on her way  to the baths: 

That's because you're frigid. Loosen up. 

Lucia had, once again, rushed to her side and frowned at the writing. Ovinia's cheeks were burning red and Lucia had immediately gripped her hand, gesturing for the guard to stay back. "What do you want me to do?" Ovinia had played dumb, shrugging and denying everything as she went to the baths. She'd shaken her head and said she didn't know what it was and that she merely thought the graffiti in poor taste. Lucia hadn't been born yesterday though and it was only when Ovinia's eyes filled with watery tears that her slave had ushered her into a quieter corner of the baths, shrouding her with a towel and insistently asking what she needed. She didn't ask for details, merely what she could do to help. Ovinia knew there was a reason she had always liked the girl. She'd choked it out, embarrassed, upset and confused; "He's a bastard." Lucia had nodded and taken that as instructions, halting by the wall as Ovinia hurried through. She'd scratched back, Ovinia would see a few days later: 

Bastard. You are a man with no honour. 

The poor girl had not only scratched the words but had to deal with Ovinia's breakdown on it not a few hours later. She'd clearly been expecting it and had come back to the domus full of assurances that no; she wouldn't tell Ovinia's father and no, a kiss with a man didn't make Ovinia a whore. It had almost...bemused her, even as Ovinia refused to admit which man it was. Lucia could guess though. It had made Ovinia feel a little better. Just for a few days, just until she had seen the newest reply on her way to the baths: 

Slut. You are a woman with no morals. 

It did not occur to Ovinia in that moment that the Lucius she had known would never have been so crude, nor cruel. In her head, it had to be him. It was in this alley they had kissed so heatedly, on Saturnalia as the graffiti had said. It had shattered her, and steadied her hand as she penned her letter to the barracks: 

Recruit Roscius,

If you do not desist in the slander on the wall of that place where we had shared a moment, I will have no choice but to escalate the matter to my father for his awareness. I will not hesitate to pursue all options to remedy your entitlement and cruelty. 

I do not understand why you are doing this. 

O. C. 

It had been delivered by a boy she had paid an as to two days ago and she had been hesitant more than ever to go to the alley. She hadn't looked at the wall on the way to the baths but now, hair damp against her skin, cheeks still flushed from the heat of the water and the steam, and body veiled in a palla, her eyes couldn't help but be drawn to the wall. No new writing. No reply. She frowned, relief washing through her but sadness replacing it swiftly. So it was him. 

 

TAG: @Chevi

  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

When the boy showed up with a message for him, Lucius was surprised at first. He did not expect to hear from Ovinia soon. Maybe ever. She was angry at him, for whatever reason, and he knew Alexius had visited her and kept her updated on the progress of the hunt for the barber. Why would she send a message to him?

And then he read the message, and he was shocked. What was she even talking about? Slander on the wall? He had walked past the alley where they'd "shared a moment" on occasion, and the memores still haunted him, but he knew of no slander. But now, he had to check.

When he read the scrawled messages on the wall, he was amused. Clearly, Ovinia had been exchanging angry messages with someone that was not him. The amusement did not last long, however, as the messages escalated. It turned into anger. Did she really think he'd write something like that? To her? About her? He knew she did not think much of him, or his honor, but this hurt. Like he would ever.

After that, he deliberately walked that way on patrol whenever he could. There was no new message from Ovinia yet. He thought about leaving one to clear his name, but it would have only confirmed that he was indeed scrawling on walls. Which he was not. Instead, he wondered if she would show up to write again.

Eventually, she did. Lucius was lingering by the alley when she appeared; even wrapped in a palla, he recognized her figure. She paused by the wall, checking the writing; Lucius was leaning against the wall just at the corner, but she was too occupied with the messages to notice him yet.

"You really think I'd write something like that?"

@Sara

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If Lucius had any sense, which he clearly didn't, he would have realised that lurking in an alley at sunset for a woman who had been attackedtwice in an alley at sunset and then startling her was probably a poor idea. But Ovinia had long believed he had no wits and the voice startled her to a scream. Her eyes were as wide as saucers and she instinctively took several hurried paces back. Lucia and the guard, startled by the screech had hurried forward and the guard made a move to seize Lucius by the collar of his tunic. "S-stop!" She choked before he did any serious damage. She'd let the man do a little damage though. Lucius deserved it. 

Her heart felt as if it was beating a thousand times a second, aching painfully against her ribs as she tried to settle her breathing and the panic his voice had caused. She shot him a glare, but she was clearly - in her own way - distressed. "Lucia, Perses," She called the man's name but he barely flinched, instead glaring resolutely at Lucius. Well. At least he was taking his job seriously. "You remember the Vigile, don't you? From the domus and the Portico?" Lucia nodded hurriedly, but she was bristling in his company. Perses just kept on glaring. "I am perfectly safe with him." She commented but Perses didn't move. She wondered if he might hit Lucius. She wondered if she should let him. "Perses," She snapped, "Wait with Lucia back there," She gestured back where they had been waiting as she had inspected the wall. She didn't know where her father had found the brooding, hulking great man but she supposed she should be pleased he took his role so seriously. Now, however, it just irritated her. 

"Domina." Finally he relented and took several paces back, eyes not leaving Lucius' as he and her slave girl retraced their paces back to the end  of the alley. Ovinia exhaled sharply, nerves still rattled, furious and...embarrassed. "I don't know," She finally replied to his question, pointedly not meeting his eyes and keeping her own on the wall. "It seems fairly in character for you." 

 

TAG: @Chevi

  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alright, so in retrospect, this had been a bad idea. Lucius realized that a split second before she screamed, and did not have time to correct course before he was slammed into the wall full force by the same bodyguard he'd managed to piss off last time. This had been a long time coming. 

"S-stop!"

Lucius could have fought the man if he had to, although he was not quite confident in his chances. But so far, the man was doing his job. So he stilled, held roughly at the collar.

"Lucia, Perses. You remember the Vigile, don't you? From the domus and the Portico? I am perfectly safe with him."

Lucius kept his eyes on Perses. He really did not feel like getting his nose broken, so he tried to embody the 'perfectly safe' part. Finally, Perses let go and retreated, although Lucius could still feel his glare. Which was no match for Ovinia's glare at all, even though she pretended to be glaring at the wall.

"I don't know. It seems fairly in character for you." 

This reminded him of the whole reason they were here.

"Does it really?" he frowned. "I know you are angry at me, but do you honestly, hand to your heart, believe that I'd call you... all that?"

@Sara

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

She scoffed and tried to fold her arms, but the heavy palla she was veiled in and the swathes of its material was making that difficult and she gave up, gesturing at the wall instead angrily, wordlessly. No. She didn't believe he'd call her a slut. She believed he'd ask her to loosen up though - that had been a defining characteristic of their odd friendship. If one could even call them friends, at present that seemed like a stretch. 

"Perhaps you got one of your vigile friends to write the latest message." She gestured to the wall, still distressed but breath calming. She pulled the palla lower down her face as people meandered through the alley, keeping silent until they had passed. "I don't doubt you've been keeping them very well informed." That was a guess, but she was irate and embarrassed and therefore - as always - prickly. "That," She jabbed her ringed finger at the first message, "Was definitely you. And I didn't appreciate it." 

 

TAG: @Chevi

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Perhaps you got one of your vigile friends to write the latest message. I don't doubt you've been keeping them very well informed."

Lucius sighed. Clearly, Ovinia was still angry enough at him to make accusations that were nowhere near true. The only person who knew about her was... well, Alexius. Who was not a vigile. And Titus knew... something. Not this, though.

"That. Was definitely you. And I didn't appreciate it." 

"No, it wasn't me." he frowned, frustrated by the accusation. "Or the vigiles, because most of them can't write, and none of them know about any of this." He turned to face her, and tapped the wall with one hand. "That was me."

It was a newer message, spelled out next to their column of arguments in Lucius' neater handwriting (if wall scrawling could be called handwriting at all).

You are writing to the wrong girl. Be a man, go see yours, and use your words.

@Sara

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ovinia chose not to reply to his defence and instead squinted at the wall. Embarrassingly, ever since she was a girl she had needed to hold writing close so it wasn't fuzzy around the edges, but she could read it. It just took concentration. She scoffed.

"So this is you being a man?" She quipped and turned to glance at him, although the veil concealed most of her face and she had to pull it back a little to get a good enough look at his face, and for him to see her own glare. "Going to see your girl?" She tilted her head to the side, studying him just for a moment before shaking her head with an irritated scowl. She managed to fold her hands across her chest this time. She was even more embarrassed. His handwriting was clearly different. She had been...beyond distressed, beyond cross at what she supposed was his words. She'd written back. And it wasn't even him. 

Still, ever prideful, she couldn't admit she was wrong and so merely shrugged. "Go on then, use your words." 

 

TAG: @Chevi

  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There was a point, that Ovinia tended to get to, where being wrong just pissed her off even more. But at least it meant she knew she'd been wrong now.

"So this is you being a man? Going to see your girl?"  

Lucius signed again. She was not his girl. He had told that to Vibia, who'd laughed at him, and now here he was, and here she was, nowhere in the broad vicinity of the point.

"Go on then, use your words." 

"Honestly, I just wanted to tell you you were wrong, before you brought your father down on me." he noted. Even with the veil, he could see she was gearing up for getting even angrier, so he quickly continued. "I am not sure why you are so angry at me. I've been trying to figure it out, but I still don't know, and I don't like it. I don't want to fight with you."

@Sara

 

  • Sad 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ovinia wasn't sure why she was so angry at him either. It was, if she had been rational about it, some combination of being embarrassed that he had only kissed her for the festival, and unnecessary feelings of humiliation that he'd seen her at her weakest, at her lowest. Ovinia Camilla - much like her father - liked to project an aura of strength, and that had not been what he'd seen when she'd been laid up in her bed, pale and afraid. Even her shriek today had added to it. There was another, deeper part of her that was angry at him because she was angry at herself. She'd lived for nineteen years following the rules and had thrown away so much on his urging - directly or indirectly; her first proper kiss, a very, very good match...she was infuriated with her stupidity. And infuriated that she still felt it had been the right decision. 

"You don't have to like it," She muttered and tried - pitifully - to scratch away the message she had carved herself with her nail, but it barely made a dent, "I told you we do not need to see one another. Alexius is keeping me appraised of your hunt and your progress." She shrugged before adding, perhaps cruelly, "Or lack thereof." 

 

TAG: @Chevi

  • Sad 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"You don't have to like it,"

Lucius frowned again. If she had insisted on being this stubborn about not hating him... imagine the possibilities. She scratched at the wall, but with not much succes.

"I told you we do not need to see one another. Alexius is keeping me appraised of your hunt and your progress... Or lack thereof." 

"Yeah, he told me." he sighed. Alexius had visited her at least. He was a caring friend. "We're doing our best, and following leads, but I'm sure he's told you all that." It was slow progress, but it was progress. His look softened after a few moments. "How are you feeling?"

@Sara

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"He did." She nodded. She liked Alexius and trusted him, against her better judgement it seemed, but she still had so little faith that they'd actually be able to do anything.

"He also told me of you both deciding to share my secret," She offered him a tight, utterly unfriendly smile and shrugged. That had been settled, but the thought still made a bubble of anxiety burst in her chest and she decided to pin than anxiety on the man standing next to her, "So if I hear it has gotten out I know exactly whose door to which I can lay the blame." 

She shot him another glare but caught the way his eyes softened and genuine concerned edged into his voice. It made some of the hardness melt away from her own features, against her better judgement, just for a moment. "Fine." She bluffed and scratched again at the wall, distracting herself. She was far from fine, the nightmares were eating her alive, even if the physical wounds were healing. "I'm no longer being shipped to Crete, so there's that." She offered by way of a parlay. 

 

TAG: @Chevi

  • Sad 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"He did. He also told me of you both deciding to share my secret," 

Lucius' jaw dropped. She'd accused him of a whole lot of unfair things, but this one was actually... ow.

"Wha..."

"So if I hear it has gotten out I know exactly whose door to which I can lay the blame." 

"That's not..." Honestly, Alexius didn't deserve it either. It had been an honest mistake. Did Alexius tell her they both did it?... He doubted that. More likely, Ovinia had just decided to lump sum blame him for everything, from Alexius' mistakes all the way to the Civil War and water being wet.

She was clearly not well.

"Fine. I'm no longer being shipped to Crete, so there's that." 

But at least she answered the question. Lucius felt a bit relieved.

"That's... good." he nodded. He didn't really believe she was fine. But at least she was staying. "Is there anything I can do?... To help?"

@Sara

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

She self-consciously wound the palla tighter around herself at his awkward 'that's...good.'. She knew it wasn't, and she probably looked as well as she felt, but she was prideful and the last thing she wanted was to be considered weak. Or feeble. Or in need of saving. She glanced at him, at his question and a sharp retort was on the tip of her tongue but she swallowed it down at his expression. He was being sincere, and she was being...her eyes drifted to the wall. Yes. She was being a bitch. 

She shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. She hadn't wanted to see him - she had wanted to keep things professional, but he was here now. "No." She said quietly with a shrug. She suddenly felt about an inch tall. "I don't think anything will help, until you all find him." She shrugged and hated the vulnerability but she was at a loss of what else to do but be honest. She finally dragged her eyes back to him, "But you can paint over this." She gestured at the wall. "Isn't manual labour what you vigiles do?" 

This was better. Friendly, less hostile barbs and more banter. This is what they had shared, before he'd ruined it with a pity-kiss and she with her own bitchiness. 

 

TAG: @Chevi

  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"No. I don't think anything will help, until you all find him."

Lucius nodded. He knew. Part of her would not feel safe unless the man was caught. Part of her might never, even after that. But at least it was something he could do. The way she looked now, the way she held herself, he wanted to hug her again. He couldn't.

"But you can paint over this. Isn't manual labour what you vigiles do?"

He smiled a little. "I'm surprised you know what manual labor is." He shot back. But his look was still soft, and he'd paint over the wall later. He glanced at the misguided messages. "You know it wasn't Saturnalia. Right? It really wasn't." He added, more quietly.

@Sara 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I have slaves." She retorted, "All they do is manual labour." But few seemed discontented with their lot, and those that were had quickly been taken out of the house, probably back to the markets or maybe exiled to the villa. 

The banter and little relaxation she got from it didn't last long though, before he saw fit to ruin it. She gawped at him for a moment, eyes burning before quickly clearing her throat and dropping her palla lower down her face. "Don't embarrass yourself," She commented, striving to keep her voice neutral, "I'm not a little girl, I don't need to be pandered to." She did though and she felt the same feelings of misguided humiliation flush her cheeks. She had enjoyed it, but her mind immediately cast the moments they'd shared here as a product of the festival and nothing more. In her mind she'd said as much himself; I really wish it was different. But it's not Saturnalia anymore. He'd shut down any hope of anything else, however foolish such a desire was. 

"As I said, we don't need to see one another, and when we do - if we do - I am happy to keep it a professional relationship, as you wish to." 

 

TAG: @Chevi

  • Sad 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lucius rolled his eyes at Ovinia's comment about slaves. There was a world of difference between doing labor, and watching someone else do it. But they had more important things to talk about, and Perses was already staring daggers at him. This was his one chance to say what he wanted to say.

"Don't embarrass yourself. I'm not a little girl, I don't need to be pandered to." 

"I'm not..."

"As I said, we don't need to see one another, and when we do - if we do - I am happy to keep it a professional relationship, as you wish to." 

Lucius exhaled through his nose in frustration, pressing his lips together. Ovinia really got on his last nerve, which meant, it was his turn to resort to sarcasm.

"Sure. Let's keep it professional. That's what I want, right? I want to keep it so professional there have been entire nights when I didn't dream about you. Two, at least. Three, even."

@Sara

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

She didn't know what to say, or do, or feel and so instead she just looked at him with a horrified expression on her face. The thought that Lucia or Perses might have heard the outburst didn't occur to her and instead she just focused her energy on untangling what on earth was going on. 

"Stop it!" The most childish, authoritative side of Ovinia started to come to the fore first, "I..." She frowned and took a step closer, now realising she might be overheard. If she could look behind her, she would have seen Perses' hand twitch at his belt, "You were the one who said it was Saturnalia and that it wasn't Saturnalia anymore." She hissed. "And now you, what? You're dreaming of me?" She scoffed, but felt deeply uncomfortable and that was obvious in the way she held herself, as if she was nervous of her own shadow, "Do you know what I needed when I saw you at the Portico, recruit? A friend. Or more, I don't know, but after everything I had been through, on one of my first visits out of the house, I did not need to be humiliated. Again." She swallowed, her anger turning to embarrassment quickly, "So you do not get to change your mind. You were right. It isn't Saturnalia anymore, and...and..." And what? 

 

TAG: @Chevi

  • Sad 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Stop it!" 

Well, Perses was about a blink away from slamming him into the building again.

"You were the one who said it was Saturnalia and that it wasn't Saturnalia anymore. And now you, what? You're dreaming of me?" 

"That's not what I meant!" he lowered his voice too, and tried to look like they were just having a conversation. But it was easier for Ovinia, since she had her back to Perses.

"Do you know what I needed when I saw you at the Portico, recruit? A friend. Or more, I don't know, but after everything I had been through, on one of my first visits out of the house, I did not need to be humiliated. Again."

Lucius sighed. He wanted to be her friend. And he did not want her to feel humiliated. And he had no idea what to do or say.

"So you do not get to change your mind. You were right. It isn't Saturnalia anymore, and...and..." 

"And that means I can't hold you, not in public, even if I want to." he finished her sentence. "That's what I meant. I meant that I can't show up at your house like it's a festival. Or get lost in the crowd with you." Having this conversation right here in the alley, it was straining. Too many vivid memories. "I want to be your friend, Ovinia. I want to be there for you. And I have no idea how to do it, and you know what, that fucking hurts. But I'm trying."

@Sara

  • Sad 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ovinia's face said it all. Usually composed, almost regal in her bearing, her nose was scrunched up, frown on her forehead, upset in her eyes. "Or kiss me?" She added quietly onto the end of his list, her words almost getting lost to the wind. 

But he wanted to be friends. And friends didn't kiss. "You shouldn't have thrown it all away." She breathed but there wasn't the anger or the indignation in her voice like there had been before, only resignation. "We can be...friends." She offered, awkwardly, hating that he was so visceral in his emotions, so honest. It was what had drawn her to him in the first place, but seeing it now made her only humiliated, guilty. "I...misconstrued what you meant." which was as close as he was getting to an apology. "We can be friends. We can go for our walks in the Portico or the Gardens." She swallowed. That was it. And only until she married. 

 

TAG: @Chevi

  • Sad 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Or kiss me?" 

Lucius ducked his head, before the emotions written on his face would bring Perses down on him.

"You shouldn't have thrown it all away."

Lucius had thought about that too. Sometimes he wondered what life would be like if he had made different choices. But he did not regret choosing to join the vigiles. Not yet, anyway.

"We can be...friends. I...misconstrued what you meant. We can be friends. We can go for our walks in the Portico or the Gardens."

"Really?" he glanced up at her. She looked... upset and miserable. But at least she was not fighting anymore. "I... would like that." He smiled a little. It would probably kill him on the long run, being near her without ever getting closer. But he did care for her, and if friends was all he'd get, that was still good. "But please don't leave any more messages on the wall. People tend to misread them." he added with a smirk.

@Sara

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The look on his face made her sigh and she felt something tug deep in her chest. His smile was encouraging though, no matter how small it was. She was consistently infuriated by him and had been since the day they had met, but she was also drawn to him in a way that was virtually indescribable. He had shown her there was so much more to life than what she had lived. It made everything she thought she liked grey by comparison to the vibrancy of the moments they'd shared; singing in public for the first time, Neptunalia, Saturnalia...even the arguments had been bestowed with a passion she hadn't exercised on anybody but her closest relatives. 

"I won't." She gave him a small, weak smile of her own, awkwardly shifting from foot to foot. She cast a glance behind her to see Perses' impatient glare (before he promptly dropped his gaze), and Lucia's curious look. "I'm going to the Gardens of Sallust next week." She offered, "With Perses." She added the latter with a slightly more apologetic look. "And then Alexius and I are planning a day in the library." Although that was for the two of them, not for him. "But after that, perhaps, we could see one another." 

 

TAG: @Chevi

  • Sad 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I'm going to the Gardens of Sallust next week. With Perses."

Lucius nodded. Perses would not go anywhere anytime soon. Which meant, he had to take care how often he showed his face, because eventually, sooner or later, it would all get back to Ovinia's father.

"And then Alexius and I are planning a day in the library."

That earned a genuine, amused smile. Alexius and libraries. How... chaste. "That's something I didn't think I'd hear."

"But after that, perhaps, we could see one another." 

"That sounds like a plan." he nodded, stepping away from the wall. At least Alexius could keep an eye on her when he couldn't. "Take care, Ovinia. Next time you want to threaten me, you know where to find me." he added with a smile.

@Sara

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...