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July 77 AD

It was yet another ordinary day at the thermopolia. Well almost. Melissa's father wasn't getting any better, in fact his cough had gotten worse lately and her mother was very worried. They still had not heard anything from Melissa's brother and the medicus, who came almost daily now and was becoming a regular at the thermopolia itself, he said that it was a deep cough and he couldnt' do much more for the older man. And he wasn't even that old. 

So Melissa was working, trying to keep her mind distracted as always. It was hard though, with the worry weighing on her shoulders. Even the slaves told her to take it easy and they could do more of the work, but she wasn't having it. If they didn't earn any coin, how were they supposed to keep up without her parents working at all? She would have to do it. She would welcome any other distraction though, but there wasn't time.

She put on another bowl of the usual stew with plenty of warming spices and then she sat down by a table. For now the thermopolia was empty, so she would allow herself to just sit down. A slave came over with wine for her and she downed some. Then there was a guest entering the thermopolia, a big and broad man, he almost reminded her of another friendly giant she knew, but this one had a different and less playful expression in his eyes. He almost seemed confused to her. He was new, however, so Melissa stood to greet him, "Welcome, what are you looking for today? Stew, I hope. Please, take a seat and let me know." She said with a cheerful tone. Always smile at new people, so they might return another time.

@Chevi

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It had been a few weeks now since Felix got his freedom, and he was still not sure what to do with it. It was like walking through a dream. The dominus, obviously, did not kick him out of the household - but after being a household slave, and then a body slave for decades, he now had to find out who he was as a free man. And it took a lot of thinking.

Felix got to work with the kind of meticulous patience he always had. In order to keep himself busy in his new lack of tasks, he returned to the kitchens where his mother used to work (and still worked sometimes). He'd always liked the smell of spices and sweets, and he knew enough to help out. And then one day, he had an idea. Well, sort of an idea.

He'd been to the thermopolia before, but only a handful of times. Still, the family that ran it seemed like good people. The sort of people who would offer help. That's why he chose to walk in this day, with a basket on his arm. Looking around, he saw there were no guests, but the place was filled with the scent of stew, and a young woman rose to greet him.

"Welcome, what are you looking for today? Stew, I hope. Please, take a seat and let me know."

"Well, I am... actually looking for some advice." Felix admitted a little sheepishly. "But I don't expect it for free. If you have the time." he added, more quickly.

@Atrice

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Now that she got a closer look at him, maybe he didn't look as confused as he looked... like he was looking for something. Not quite lost, but not quite found either. He had a friendliness about him though and he had a basket on his arm. She wondered where he was headed, but was glad he chose to come into her thermopolia, because it meant a bit more coin and they sure could use that.

But then he wasn't looking for food, but for advice. She blinked, that was unexpected.

"Well there's no one else here, so I suppose I do have time. What kind of advice are you looking for?" She asked with interest, because honestly she never had quite such a request before. It had been different with her recent friend Titus. But there, she was the one who offered help and advice. This man came asking for it.

@Chevi

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The young woman had time, and she seemed kind enough to help. Felix placed the basket on the table.

"I should introduce myself first... I'm Felix." he blinked, clearing his throat. "Aulus Calpurnius Felix. Felix is fine." If it had not been obvious before that he was a freedman, it was not. He doubted he would ever get used to the full name. Aulus Calpurnius was the dominus' name, not his. He gave the young woman an apologetic smile, waiting for her to introduce herself too.

@Atrice

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She glanced at the basket, wondering what was in it. He placed it on the table though and then went on to introduce himself. When he first said his name, she wondered where his slave tag was, but then he extended the name. She arched a brow, that was a fancy name. She recalled a Consul sharing part of that name? And he'd come to her for advice? Well that was interesting. She gave him a friendly smile though.

"Felix... welcome and nice to meet you. I'm Melissa Alethia. Melissa is fine." She added with a grin, as she'd just copied what he said, "Now tell me what you need advice on? And can I get you anything?" Always considering how to make anyone feel comfortable in her thermopolia.

@Chevi

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Melissa. Felix nodded with a smile. She seemed kind enough, and that put him more at ease.

"Well, I am... looking for work." he cleared his throat. "I mean, I am not here to ask for a job or anything. But I am trying to figure out what work I would... like to do." Not better. "I was recently given my freedom." Might as well start with that; it was still fresh, and he was not sure what to do with it. "And now I can do anything I want, except, well, I have only ever done one thing." He shook his head. "Sorry, I'm rambling."

@Atrice

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He still didn't ask for anything and Melissa briefly wondered if he knew what a thermopolia was. But he was apparently looking for work. Then he kept on talking as if he was unsure of how to explain what he was looking for. Explained that he was a freedman, as she just guessed. And his former master was a very powerful Roman, she expected. Good to know. It might be profitable for the thermopolia to help such a man. A man who wanted to work and could do anything he wanted, but didn't know what.

"You are rambling. But I guess I understand why." She said with a smile, "Please, come and sit at least." She gestured to one of the stools by the table, "And then maybe you could begin with telling me what that one thing you have done, is?" 

@Chevi

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"Thank you" Felix smiled and took a seat. He just hoped Melissa was not thinking he was weirdo who was losing his mind. He took a deep breath and decided to start over. "I was my dominus' body slave for most of my life. And he's recently given me my freedom." He was happy about it; but also a little lost. He had never been taught to do anything else. "And now I am thinking about... what I want to do with it. And I really have no good ideas. But my mother, she worked in the kitchens... I can cook. And bake. A little." He poked at the basket. "But I can't tell how good it is. Or if it would be worth anything, if I decided to do it as a job. So... that's the question, I guess."

@Atrice

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At least he sat down when invited to do so. He was very polite, this Felix. A big and broad-shouldered polite man. More polite than the other man she was comparing him to and definitely not playful in the same manner. That didn't mean he wasn't likable. Felix explained he'd been a body slave and didn't know what to do with his freedom. Yet his mother had worked in kitchens, so he thought he might cook or bake. Oh so that's what was in the basket.

"So that's all you're looking for? Someone to tell you whether your bread is good or bad?" She asked and chuckled, "Well I'm honored you chose me then." Anyone could do that, honestly, but she wasn't against it. She wasn't trying to mock him or anything. But it was a bit amusing, surely even he could see that. He was very sweet.

@Chevi

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Felix could tell Melissa was amused, and he did not fault her for it. It was certainly strange, for a man like him to walk into the shop and ask someone if his cooking was good. He smiled a little, uncovering the basket. "Yes. Basically, that's it." In the basket, there was a small loaf of bread, some honey pastries, savillum, and a piece of sweet bread that was made with honey and nuts. "I promise they are all edible at least. I wouldn't want to make anyone sick." He added with a chuckle.

@Atrice

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His smile was kind too, while he revealed that all the advice he was looking for, was concerning how the food he'd made was like. And then he uncovered the basket. Lovely smells came from it and she looked inside, while he promised everything was edible.

"I sure hope not, because then you'd have to run this place. And if your food makes people sick, that's not so good then." She said with a little laugh, but then tried to turn more serious, "It does smell good... you want me to taste it? Where should I begin?" Melissa was usually never served anything, she was the one who served others, so this was kind of a welcome change. She decided she didn't mind at all. If Felix cooked as well as he was kind, then she was sure everything would taste fine.

@Chevi

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Felix considered her question, unpacking the breads and pastries onto the table. "I would... start with the bread. I think I am most confident in that one." If everything else went wrong after that, at least the bread could still be decent, and not put Melissa off trying the others. Or so he hoped. He took a seat, waiting. "... but try whatever seems good to you. I don't expect you to eat all of these..."

@Atrice

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