Coffee Break Read – An Awkward Visit

The apartment was less opulent on the inside than it appeared from outside. There was fine furniture and a couple of pieces of wall art, but it all had a worn look about it. Only the small niche where the lares sat gleamed with what looked to be several gold items, and one penate holding a cornucopia with jewels pouring from it. Dai wondered if he had interrupted her private devotions; as there was a small offering bowl visible and the slight smell of incense.
Octavia must have seen the direction of his gaze, because she walked quickly over to the niche and closed the doors, pulling the beautifully embroidered hanging over them. Then she turned to face the men, standing with her hands clasped behind her, almost looking defiant, as if engaging in the worship of her own household gods in her own house was something less than acceptable.
“I know you’ll think it all silly superstition,” she said, lowering her gaze demurely, “but I find it very comforting.”
Dai felt Bryn stir behind him and give a soft cough of embarrassment.
“Not at all, domina,” Dai told her, wondering how such a naive innocent could have wound up with a cunnus like Urbanus Hostilius Rufus. “Perhaps you would sit down and we can talk, there is something we need to tell you about your husband.”
She smiled and moved to one of the couches, arranging her stola with an easy grace and reclining on it completely, cradling her head on one arm as she looked at them with sky blue eyes.
“He’s in trouble again?”
“I am afraid it is a bit more serious than that. Do you have any friends or family near by? Anyone you could ask to stay with you for a few days?”
Octavia’s eyes glanced involuntarily at one of the inner doors and then looked back to Dai. She had coloured very slightly.
Deo Damnatus, Dai thought and exchanged a brief look with Bryn, she has a lover in the bedroom.
“He’s been arrested?” she sounded surprised.
“No,” Dai said, his tone flat. “I’m afraid he’s been murdered.”
Her mouth opened and she uttered a low cry came which picked up in pitch and intensity until it was a full-blown scream.
Dai found himself beside her, unsure whether he should slap her or hold her. She made the decision for him, sitting up and pulling him close, her hands gripping into his tunic as she almost stifled his face in her bosom.
“My Roo-Roo! My poor Roo-Roo!” she wailed.
With some difficulty, Dai disentangled himself and managed to hand her off to Bryn, who was not at all averse to having a beautiful young woman pressing herself against him as she sobbed.
“I’ll find you some tissues,” Dai said vaguely and moved to the door that Octavia had glanced at before. He was about to open it when she squealed.
“No! Not in there.”
Trusting Bryn to keep her from getting in the way, Dai opened the door to what he fully expected to be a lavish bedroom and a naked young man. Instead it was an undecorated room, with a simple double bed and cardboard boxes stacked up with clothes visible neatly folded in them. On the bed sat an elegantly dressed woman, who got to her feet as soon as she saw Dai. Her designer stola was draped in soft folds of silk about her. It took him a moment to place her, to think where he had seen her before. Then he realised he hadn’t, but he had seen pictures of her and the odd moment on TV when the news was covering some swish event. She had been on the arm of Tribune Decimus Lucius Didero.
Instinctively he bowed his head.

From Dying to be Roman by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook You can listen to this on YouTube.

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