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Amatia's excited. From before dawn to now, she's done nothing but knead and roll dough for the other bakers (proper ones, unlike her) to put into the oven. Standing in the same place and speaking to the other women sounds ideal at first, but she wishes she could tell anyone who envies her life that it's far from perfect. She's pretty sure her feet have worn holes in the floor, and her back sure as anything hurts from being hunched over all day. Mother said she'll turn into an old crone at this rate. Amatia makes a mental note to pay more attention to her posture and to stretch every so often. Said note is mentally tacked onto a long list of things she's sure to ignore. 

Enough of that! Work is done for the day, and Father wasn't as sad as he usually is. He told Amatia she was free from preparing dinner tonight. Whether it means one of her brothers will take care of it or Mother will do double duty, Amatia doesn't know and doesn't care. What matters is that she has a few precious hours to herself, and only she can decide how to spend them. It's only a few minutes before the golden hour ends; the sun's already descended more than she thought. With little regard for a plan, Amatia checks her tunic to make sure her personal knife is still there, tightens her belt, and practically leaps outside to catch the last few rays of golden light. The sky will remain alight for a while longer, but this truly was the best time of day and she's somewhat sad she missed it.

Ignoring the strange looks a handful of others throw her way, Amatia tilts her head up and closes her eyes to let the sun warm her face. The warmth is comforting, not at all oppressive like the heat of midday. If only there were a way to have a form of portable wind, not one powered by a fan, to take with her as she pleased to command the air around her to stay at the proper temperature. The idea is a ludicrous one, she knows, but if she ever makes one, she'll be sure to charge plenty of denarii for it. No, sestertii. 

Her sandals slap against the streetstones quite loudly. She quiets her pace after thinking it may sound obnoxious. One time she asked her family if she was unpredictable. The most she got was a nod and Father staring into space. Probably the wrong thing to ask. Various stalls line the sides of the street. Most of them are closing down for the day (night?), but she might be able to get something if she's fast enough. The main dilemma is the plethora of options. The hot, fragrant smell of griddle cakes mingles with greasy, salty meat hand pies. Amatia has a bit of money. What to get? Griddle cakes would be sweet and filling, ultimate fantasy. Mother says she's too thin, anyway. But she doesn't really like sugary things. Past the vendor Amatia walks. 

In the midst of her musing, she doesn't seem to realize she's walking straight into the path of another person until collision's already happened. 

@Atrice

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The warmth of the last rays of sun was comforting, Manius thought so too. And so few things were comforting these days. Work was work, he was content with it, he did everything he was supposed to do and he did it well too. Guarding slaves was not new to him at all, so he knew what to do and when. Knew how to speak to them. Knew he belonged behind those bars just like them, but his old master had thought it should be different, so it was. But how did he deserve to be free? After everything that happened. Two wives lost, one son lost, one master executed... Manius did not deserve it at all. And he even feared that with his last employer he also didn't manage to live up to the expectations. He was still quite sure that something was going on between the young lady he was supposed to guard, and her half-brother who wasn't even her brother by blood, but just a relation. The two did seem to enjoy getting up to shenanigans together. But that was no longer his problem.

Not that he had many problems at all. For now, he needed to return to his simple insula and find his bed, maybe a meal on the way though. Manius closed his eyes briefly as he felt the sun on his face, and as he did it, the scent of pies reached him and he thought he might have that for cena. He opened his eyes to walk in the right direction, rounding a corner towards a thermopolia he knew would be there... and that's when he collided with a young, blonde woman. She walked straight into his chest too and Manius stumbled back and looked to see if she needed help, "Oh I am very sorry! Are you hurt?" He asked, looking at her. She looked fine. Very young, very pretty. Not that it mattered. He just wanted to help her.

@Insignia

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Such a shame she doesn't have her usual gaggle of friends to go out with. They always tell such funny stories, too, and Amatia has to restrain herself from presenting the most brutal yet efficient solutions to their problems. Husband doesn't work? Brother yells all the time? The resolution is easy but one none of the other women will be able to carry out. Then again, some of them are enslaved or recently freed women, and she's not going to take the time to unpack all of the problems that come with those situations. Truly, she's grateful she was born free instead of having to earn it. She'd have gone crazy if she was supposed to live her life like that without even the illusion of freedom to preoccupy her. In an ideal society, everybody, especially people like her, would have the freedom to live how they want to. 

Oh, a scandal happened the other day. It turned out that one of the official bakers was having a tryst with another's wife. What a time to be alive! She hid her grin by ducking her head down as the yelling intensified. So funny, to imagine a romance under the moonlight. Did they bring bread to their picnics? Of course they did, they're bakers, and the male adulterer was almost broke the last time she heard of his financial situation. The things she thought about when she could eat in peace, minus bumping into somebody else like a doddering fool. Time to smile all sweetly and smooth this over.

Her eyes are oddly piercing. "I'm fine, really. Are you okay?" 

@Atrice

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She didn't seem to be very bad off, after he bumped into her, but Manius strived to do the right thing and he would do that now too. Even if the right thing so often ended up being a wrong thing, even if he didn't wish it. Which was why he deserved no better than working with slaves in the market, attempting to control them, but also make them feel less bad about their situation. When he knew so well he ought to be just like them, a slave, not deserving better... they deserved better, many of them. Most people did. So he tried his best, to do the right thing. Asking the pretty young blonde woman, if she was alright. If she was hurt. But she looked at him with oddly piercing eyes, saying she was fine and asking if he was okay. Better to not ask him that! 

Not that he was hurt or anything, but words could have so many meanings and these words held more than just care for his physical wellbeing, didn't they?

"I am not hurt, if that is what you're asking." Manius said, "I didn't mean to startle you. Maybe I could make amends, escort you home?" That was the best offer he had, for having bumped into her, even if he didn't hurt her. Of course she might change her mind, they were still strangers and who'd say he wasn't out to violate her? So many other men were. But not Manius. He hoped she understood that she could trust his words.

@Insignia

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Amatia tilts her head as she considers his answer. The man's awfully jumpy for someone who proclaims himself to be fine. No, to not be hurt. Those two things were not the same. Honestly, she chalks it up to a childhood trauma. One time, when her brothers tried playing harpastum with a handmade ball, they'd sent it over the fence and onto her head. With them was a boy about their age who laughed the most. She very much did not like him, so she chucked it back on the same side he had a limp and sent him falling. He never bothered her again. Childhood was always sweet and cruel, like spiky feathers. 

"To be honest, I was on my way to get some food. I got today off early, so I figured fresh air would be better than working in the ol' bakery." As she prattles on, her syllables grow more clipped at the edges. "You're free to join, if you want." The benefit of being betrothed to being an utter bore is she can do what she likes. Little idiot Publius always had his head screwed on backwards. 

@Atrice

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Manius didn't know that he was jumpy, but maybe he was. Not that it mattered. The young woman was fine and she didn't say no to his offer of being her escort. She didn't say yes either, but in Rome, not saying no to such things was almost the same as saying yes. And she deserved his help, after he walked into her. Even if she was not hurt. She did say she was on her way to get some food and Manius nodded, when she said he could join her.

"I was on my way to get some food too." Manius confessed, "So I think I will join you. And should anyone else treat you the way I did, I will make sure they won't do it again." He then promised, because in his mind, that was the right thing to do. There was that thermopolia not far away, that he had considered. Maybe she would like that too. They began walking. Manius didn't often talk unless he had to and although he felt the awkward silence fall between them, he wasn't sure what to say. She spoke of working in a bakery. Such a lovely young woman working in a bakery? He glanced at her. She didn't look like someone who'd work hard. She looked like someone who deserved better. She probably never had a man look out for her, the way he would do for now. Well, she would try it for once. That could be his way to repay her for walking into her.

@Insignia

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