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April, 77AD

Charis had absolutely no clue where to start. She had been a free woman for closing in on three months now and had still not mastered what that actually, practically meant. She had slipped into her new role fairly seamlessly in the house but pastimes still eluded her. She had been told that most women liked to shop, and fashion. Charis had never cared for such trivialities - not in Britannia when she was free, not when enslaved and not now. Still, she didn't wish to raise Tertius' ire by complaining of boredom so she had taken herself (and a full coin purse) out of the domus and into the markets to try and find something to buy. 

The stall was full of overflowing fabrics from every corner of the empire and beyond. Vivid colours and impossible textures assaulted her senses as the trader tried his best to upsell her; "Won't you be needing more than one stola, domina? Or a few palla's for the changing seasons?" Charis didn't know. The clothes she'd been wearing for the last few months had been gifted to her. She didn't actually know what she needed, and didn't know what she liked. She frowned at a bolt of pink fabric. "Is this my colour?" She asked the stallholder, holding it up to see if it suited her complexion. Gods this was mind-numbing.

 

TAG: @Chevi

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The familiar voice was the first thing that Aia noticed, before she turned her head and saw the familiar figure. Charis was different now than the last time she'd seen her almost... two years ago? Had it really been that long? She was leaner now - likely had a child more than a year old, obviously, and did not seem pregnant again - and definitely better dressed. Aia smiled as she stepped closer. She likely looked the same as she had the last time, except with longer hair, neatly pinned back.

"It is definitely not your color. Unless you want to look like a sacrificial piglet." she grinned at Erea. "Then again, it's not really anyone's color." She added in the Briton dialect they used to speak. "Hello, Erea."

@Sara

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Charis whipped her head around, a grin stretching her lips as she saw her friend. Relief washed through her. In a city as hostile and cold as Rome, the warmth of a past connection was a blessing from the Gods. She shoved the bolt of pink fabric back into the stack and moved to embrace Aia, getting tangled in her palla as she did. How did Roman women wear this every day? 

"Aia," She said as she withdrew, her smile still beaming. "Your hair looks better." She chuckled, speaking in their Brittonic dialect. It felt like home to her. It had grown out and the red-head looked every inch the young Roman woman. She was carrying it off much better than Charis was. Why was it that she seemed to run into the Gaul at key points of her life? At home in Britannia, in the baths upon her slavery, her pregnancy, and now her freedom. Maybe she wasn't an interprex, maybe she was some gossip-mongering Goddess brought down to spy on the mortals. The thought amused her. "You're shopping?" She asked and have an eye-roll at the mass of fabrics at the stall, "I can't think of two women more ill-suited to the task..." 

 

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"Thank you. It's good to see you again. You look great." Aia hugged Erea, who was moving a little awkwardly in the palla and the dress she had on. She was not dressed like a slave anymore, and not wearing a tablet either. Did she... get her freedom? Aia looked her up and down, linking her arm into Erea's. "I am just looking around. Are you shopping?" she glanced at the expensive fabrics. "Seems like I have missed a lot. Come on. Let's talk."

@Sara

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"I look like mutton dressed up as a lamb." She lamented with a wince. The stall-holder peered curiously at the pair, clearly trying to decipher what they were saying. Charis paid him no heed at all. 

"I'm trying to." She said with a weak smile and nodded, letting herself be guided by Aia away from the fabrics and out back into the market proper. It wasn't heaving today, but there was still a sizeable crowd. She remembered when the masses of people used to terrify her, now they were second nature. "I don't want to talk about me," She said with a wavering smile, still uncomfortable at revealing her news - at least so suddenly, "How have you been? Are you still with your soldier?" She arched a brow, her face speaking to her displeasure. 

 

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Erea was not the open and chatty kind of girl, and Aia did not expect her to tell her all the news right after they had not seen each other in two years. Instead, she strolled along with her to a stall that was selling fresh fruit. "Cherries?" she smiled, paying a few coins for a bunch of cherries in a small basket. Now they just needed to find a place to settle down and talk.

 "I don't want to talk about me. How have you been? Are you still with your soldier?" 

"I am" Aia grinned. "We live together now, in an insula. Still not married, though, but I don't mind."

@Sara

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Charis smiled genuinely for her friend. She loathed the thought of somebody as good as Aia tied down to a brute of a soldier but...she was hardly one to judge. And in any case, she seemed happy. That was the most important thing. "I'm glad for you." She said and meant it. "Where is your insula?" 

She gestured to a small set of wooden benches up ahead, "Wine?" She asked as she deposited her bag down - full of things she'd already bought and loathed including jewellery, hairpins and a new comb. All useless to her but apparently necessary for a good Roman woman. It felt...awkward with Aia. As if they were  both skirting around something, which she was...but as she queued for the wine and then drifted back, she figured she had better just be plain. "So..." She said as she shifted to sit down, picking at the folds of the palla, "I'm free." 

 

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"I'm glad for you. Where is your insula?" 

"On the Esquiline. It's not a bad place. Lots of good neighbors."

"Wine?"

"Yes please" Aia grinned, taking a seat on the bench next to her. Wine made for better conversation. Erea seemed to be uncomfortable with talking about the obvious... But she did manage to get around to it.

"So... I'm free." 

"I figured" Aia smiled, looking at her. "Congratulations?... How are you feeling?"

@Sara

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She winced as she sat down with a chuckle. "Please do not tell me you live in the same insulae as Alexius...? And Teutus Quintilius Varus?" Because the Fates would likely torture her so. 

She managed a small smile at Aia's congratulations and drank deeply from the wine cup. It was a small portion, she'd need another. "Odd..." She admitted with a little wince to her friend. "I waited three years for it but now it's here..." It was a let down. She had always envisaged freedom as going hand in hand with her return to Britannia, to her home. Now she found she couldn't leave the city without her 'husband's permission. Which would not be readily given. She sighed and glanced to Aia with a wince. "I was manumitted but there are terms, I'm his...wife. Well...no, not his wife. His concubina...hence the clothes and the shopping." She watched the red-head for a reaction.

 

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"Please do not tell me you live in the same insulae as Alexius...? And Teutus Quintilius Varus?" 

Aia arched an eyebrow and laughed. "Alexius, yes. He's a good neighbor. Teutus... I think so? Haven't seen him around much yet."

Erea was a free woman now. Aia wondered how she felt about it.

"Odd... I waited three years for it but now it's here... I was manumitted but there are terms, I'm his...wife. Well...no, not his wife. His concubina...hence the clothes and the shopping." 

"Oh." Aia's smile softened. So, the freedom, ironically, came with strings attached. This had to be the same man that was the father of her child. And now... he had her as an official consort.  "Is he... treating you decently?"

@Sara

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"He is." She said with a sigh and placed her jaw in her palm, lamenting her life very briefly.

Tertius was being decent to her. He was more than living up to his end of the contract they had signed - including in the allowance she was gifted which was generous to the extreme. It didn't make her feel much more comfortable, mind. "He's treated me as a wife and is good to our son-" She blinked and glanced up at Aia with a little bubble of laughter. The last time she'd seen her she'd been heavily pregnant. "I...have a son. Peregrinus. Tertius' heir, he freed him on his birth." She smiled softly. That felt like a lifetime ago. "So...I...suppose I'm now trying to figure out what to do with my freedom." She cleared her throat, "What to do with my life. I...can't do what I used to do," Back when she first met Aia on that field outside of Petuar - hawking knives and swords to the Roman infantry, "So any advice from a free woman is gratefully received." She chuckled.

 

TAG: @Chevi

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"He's treated me as a wife and is good to our son- I...have a son. Peregrinus. Tertius' heir, he freed him on his birth." 

Being treated as a Roman wife was not saying much, but it was definitely better than a slave. Aia smiled, a little relieved that she did not have to figure out now how to ask about the baby. The baby, who was apparently son and heir to her dominus now. Her... sort of husband. "Well... that's good news, then."

"So...I...suppose I'm now trying to figure out what to do with my freedom. What to do with my life. I...can't do what I used to do. So any advice from a free woman is gratefully received." 

"Well, um..." Aia blinked at the question. "I guess... it's a matter of what you want to do?" She'd never really thought about it before. "Like, you can go to the good baths now. And have yourself pampered" she added with a grin. "Does he... expect you to entertain guests?"

@Sara

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Charis chuckled and wafted away a bee that buzzed expectantly around their cups of wine and the cherries. "I don't really care about being pampered." she admitted guiltily with a little shrug. "I also don't really care to redecorate or shop but...that's what women are supposed to do, women who are married to Praetor's." She sighed and stared glumly at the cherries before pinching a few and playing them between her fingers. "And yes," She shot Aia a role of her eyes, "I suspect so. None have come calling yet but I don't doubt they will. I have nothing in common with them." And she lamented the same to Teutus. 

Pulling apart the cherry flesh, she removed the stone and set it aside before munching it thoughtfully. "I imagine you went through something similar? When you had to learn...to be a woman again?" Her smile was slight but genuinely amused. "Did lots of wine help? I imagine it might help me..." 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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"I don't really care about being pampered. I also don't really care to redecorate or shop but...that's what women are supposed to do, women who are married to Praetor's. And yes. I suspect so. None have come calling yet but I don't doubt they will. I have nothing in common with them."

Aia chuckled a little. Here Erea was, a proper Roman wife in everything but name only, and she did not really like the idea of any of it. Sure enough, parties were usually a lot better when you partied with people you liked. "I hear those dinners are the worst."

"I imagine you went through something similar? When you had to learn...to be a woman again? Did lots of wine help? I imagine it might help me..." 

"Lots of wine always helps" Aia grinned "Although I can't tell the difference, I drank as a man too." She added, laughing as she picked up some more cherries. "You are right, some of it is boring. And I don't really care about the shopping either... granted, I have less money. But hey, you get to sample better food and wine? And some rares spices?"

@Sara

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Charis gave Aia an eye-roll and grumbled, placing her jaw in her palm petulantly. "I suppose." It didn't feel like the freedom she imagined though. Her friends - limited though they were in the house - were no longer friends, and she had yet to make any new ones. It wasn't as if the upper echelons of Roman society were likely to take well to a Praetor taking his slave girl as a wife when he was a perfectly eligible bachelor to some poor young woman. 

"But at least I can come and see you." She perked up a little at the thought and flashed Aia a smile; "There's terms for my freedom but not one of them concerns vetting my friends so...when can I visit your lovely new place?" She didn't offer to meet her man, mind. Whilst she'd known Aia from her time in Britannia, the thought of meeting a soldier who might very well have been involved in the deaths of her friends or family given where his legion was stationed, was a bitter pill she didn't particularly wish to swallow. "And maybe you can...introduce me to some normal people? Given I can now actually socialise?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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