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A pregnant woman walks into a house of virgins


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July, 61 AD

Calpurnia was excited to meet her sister-in-law for the very first time. She had gotten a letter from her brother a few weeks before about their impending return to Rome, with the good news of the new bride already being with child. Having a family of her own was a far-off concept and a vague possibility at best for Calpurnia, and thus she was fully prepared to dote on her nephews and nieces in the future. She just hoped that the new sister-in-law was someone she would get along with.

The tall woman hurried along the hallway of the Vestal House to the room where they entertained guests. A servant had told her earlier that Horatia had arrived, and they had shown her in. Calpurnia was wearing the traditional white clothes of a Vestal, but her face was flushed with excitement. Now she'd get to see if her brother had chosen well...

"Salve" she smiled politely as she entered the room. "You must be my sister-in-law."

@Sara

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Horatia hadn't been dreading this meeting, but she had certainly not looked forward to it. Her arrival back into Rome, a few weeks before, seven months pregnant and thrust back into the world of politics and dinners and catching-up with friends and her family and meeting Aulus' parents and moving into their domus had been overwhelming to say the least following a blissful two years in peaceful Greece. This was one of the last tasks on her list, but surprisingly the one that made her more nervous than the others - she'd known what to expect with Tiberius and Aurelia, she'd read enough of their letters over his shoulder to gauge their personalities - but Calpurnia Praetextata was an utterly unknown quantity. The fact the family were so proud of her, and Aulus adored her, only increased her anxiety.

She'd arrived purposefully early so she could catch her breath and compose herself in the shade of the Temple. Whilst she had obviously been carried in a litter, the fact  that she was in her eighth month of pregnancy made even the smallest of walks uncomfortable and the heat of the city entering the early days of summer had rendered her flushed. The full length veil she wore to enter the place, likewise, didn't help. So she took her seat in the room with grace and cherished the few moments of solitude before her sister-in-law arrived. She dropped the white veil from her hair and smoothed the intricate, precise up-do before flicking a loose thread from the pristine green stola she wore, the golden bangles she wore on her wrists jangling as she did. 

It was only a few more moments before she heard sandalled footfalls down the corridor that led to the room and the door opened before she had a chance to stand up. She had to adjust her eye line immediately; she was far taller than Horatia had been expecting. She offered a warm smile and slowly started to push herself up from the chair, her back protesting at the movement. "Salve, I believe I am." She inclined her head after she'd stood and gave the other woman a breathless smile, "Calpurnia Praetextata, it is an honour. Thank you for sparing the time to meet me." 

 

TAG: @Chevi

Edited by Sara
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Horatia was younger than Calpurnia by a few years, and even heavily pregnant she looked poised and elegant. She was shorter, but that was no news - most women, and quite a few men, were shorter than Calpurnia, and she was used to that. 

"Oh please, do sit down" Calpurnia waved a hand. No one wanted a pregnant woman to jump at attention, even to a Vestal. "It is a pleasure to meet you. Please, call me Calpurnia." She was not going to insist on terms of honor, not with family. Not in private, anyway. "How are you feeling? I hope traveling wasn't too hard on you. Are you settling into the domus yet?" The servants had prepared drinks and food in the guest hall, and Calpurnia busied herself with pouring two glasses of wine.

@Sara

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Horatia gratefully, dutifully sat when Calpurnia offered, rearranging her stola over her bump after easing herself down. "Calpurnia." she repeated with a soft smile and an inclination of her head, although her gaze was assessing. "It's still very kind of you to take the time, I imagine you have a thousand other things to be getting on with." In truth she knew very little about the day to day life of a vestal, and that was purposeful - the order was as secret as it was revered. Still, flattery was always welcome for other women and making herself seem insignificant in comparison seemed a smart bet. 

She accepted the cup of wine when offered and managed a strained smile, a somewhat conspiratorial look crossing her face; "I'm glad to be back on solid ground, I shall say that much. And pleased we left it no later in my pregnancy." The journey had been tortutrous and she wasn't sure whether it was belated morning sickness or seasickness, but either way, it had been unpleasant. "The domus is beautiful." She sipped lightly at the wine, running her fingers over the stem of the goblet, but no, she hadn't settled in yet. It all felt so new and so...grand compared to the quaint little house they'd rented in Greece. She was assured it would come in time, but for now she felt almost as if she was living somebody else's life. 

"I imagine it will take some time," She admitted - giving a glimpse of honesty, "To feel like it is my home. I imagine it felt the same when you moved here?" She arched a brow but her expression wasn't unkind, more curious.

 

TAG: @Chevi

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With both of them sitting down, the height difference between them was not that striking anymore. Calpurnia looked her sister-in-law over again. Pregnancy looked good on her, even she could tell that. Aulus must have been very proud of his growing family. Calpurnia did have a lot of things to get on with, but she would always make time for family matters.

"I'm glad to be back on solid ground, I shall say that much. And pleased we left it no later in my pregnancy. The domus is beautiful." 

Calpurnia chuckled. Traveling by sea, from what she knew, was uncomfortable at best; she could imagine how bad it would be for a heavily pregnant woman. She also noted that Horatia avoided her question.

"I imagine it will take some time. To feel like it is my home. I imagine it felt the same when you moved here?" 

Calpurnia tilted her head. "Somewhat... but I was nine years old at the time. And this... is never just home." It was a place of worship, the sanctuary of the Eternal Flame. It was never going to be quite like a home, even though the Vestals claimed it as their own. "I hope my brother is making sure you have all the comforts you need."

@Sara

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"No," She said, feeling foolish for the comparison. "I suppose not." She wondered what it would be like to live and work and worship in a place like this, amongst women who would surely become like sisters as the years droned on. She couldn't picture it, and was glad of it. Her temperament might of suited a life of seclusion, but even she had her limits, and she couldn't fathom the risk that one might never bear children after one's service was over. At the thought her fingers splayed out over her bump. 

"He is." She smiled and ducked her head, sipping her wine. She had only been married to him for less than a year, but felt she knew her husband lack the lines on her palm, but Calpurnia was tied to him by blood - even if their lives had diverted fifteen plus years ago. "And he's excited for this one," She stroked her hand over her bump and turned her face up to Calpurnia. "And if it is a girl, of course she'll be another Calpurnia for the family. She'll have a great namesake to live up too though." She would be happy with boy or girl. She was still only eighteen and had plenty more childbearing years in her for a flourishing family including a horde of sons. 

"Before he left for Greece," She studied the woman curiously, "Did you see Aulus much? I imagine it must be hard for family to visit I..." She felt another wave of foolishness, "Can men visit?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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Calpurnia hoped that her brother was treating his young bride well. Horatia seemed like a kind girl, and starting a new life in Rome while dealing with her first pregnancy could not have been easy.

"He is. And he's excited for this one. And if it is a girl, of course she'll be another Calpurnia for the family. She'll have a great namesake to live up too though." 

Calpurnia chuckled. She knew her brother, just like any Roman man, would wish for a son, first and foremost. But if it was a girl, she could still make a good marriage. Or become a Vestal. The Calpurnii would not be the first patrician family to have more than one generations attend to the sacred fire.

"Before he left for Greece... Did you see Aulus much? I imagine it must be hard for family to visit I... Can men visit?"

"Not in here" Calprunia shook her head "Only the pontifex maximus can. But I did see him sometimes. We... attend a lot of events, along with the senators." And games, and festival celebrations. Vestals lent a sacred aura to official functions of the utmost importance. "Have you been to any of those yet?"

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She smiled softly and glanced around the room. It was comfortable but she suddenly felt an immense about of pride that she was in the company of only women, and was sitting somewhere were only women had. Her fingers splayed over her bump. It was a feeling she couldn't explain, but maybe it was something about having lived and breathed in such male dominated environments for so long that the refreshment of being here was slightly overwhelming. 

"None in Rome, since my marriage." She admitted but couldn't hide the slight smile that she hadn't yet been subjected to that, "I think my condition is a good excuse...but I remember them well, before I went to Greece and met your brother." She chuckled and wrinkled her nose, "I suppose at least you are not prey to the men searching for a bride," Or a good time"...Or do our Senators lack sense and try it on anyway?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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The Vestals enjoyed more freedom than most, when it came to attending events, and taking a seat along with the men at important gatherings. Their role was often one of dignity and representation, but it still differed vastly from the life Horatia was living.

"I suppose at least you are not prey to the men searching for a bride...Or do our Senators lack sense and try it on anyway?" 

"Oh, I think the punishment for treason is deterrent enough" Calpurnia smirked. Touching a Vestal, let alone trying to seduce one, was the gravest sin a Roman man could do. "There are some wealthy widowers who would wait around to marry one of us though..."

@Sara

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"I'm surprised." She chuckled, "I hadn't thought most of them would be deterred even by that. Restraint doesn't seem to be a premier virtue amongst the men of our city." Even for vestals - everybody had heard about what Cotta had done, after all. She flushed slightly though at the opinion and corrected course almost immediately onto safer topics. "It'd be a great honour." She nodded.

Truthfully Horatia had never given much thought to what would happen to a Vestal after her service was completed. Had she been in their order she'd have had another few decades left and even at eighteen she felt old beyond her years - married and pregnant and living in her father-in-laws domus. "But you don't have to marry?" She offered with a sympathetic look, "I've heard some women choose to stay on in service?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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What Horatia was saying about Roman men was no doubt true, although Calpurnia as a Vestal was more protected from it than other women. She was not quite looking forward to losing that.

"But you don't have to marry? I've heard some women choose to stay on in service?" 

"Some do" she nodded. "The Virgo Maxima is usually one of them.I... haven't yet thought that far ahead. Right now, this is my home and my sacred duty. Once the time to decide arrives... I'll think more about it." She smiled at Horatia "But I am happy you are a part of the family now. Please, tell me more about yourself."

@Sara

 

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