Coffee Break Read – Prejudice

In Viriconium there was something of a surprise awaiting them. They arrived at the barracks where they were to sleep overnight, only to find the city abuzz with gossip. Lucius Ambrosius Caudinus had petitioned Rome and obtained a conubium, which enabled him to marry his British mistress.
“Is that who I think it is?”
Dai shrugged. “Maybe. I dunno. If she hasn’t fallen out with him since my mother last phoned. She’s perfectly capable. Water is too wet for my dear sister.” He stopped speaking and his handsome face twisted wryly. “I wonder if it is because she is now acceptable as the sister of a full Citizen? Would figure,” he added, now sounding angry, “not good enough on her own merits, but soon as she is related to someone his precious Empire has named a ‘hero’ she suddenly becomes ‘marriage material’ instead of ‘bed-warmer’.He shook his head and made to turn away from Julia. She grabbed him by the sleeve.
“Stay right where you are, and listen to me, spado. A conubium is a very difficult and expensive document to procure, it is only granted in very special circumstances and will have taken at least a half year. Now. Will you please stop acting like this.”
“Like what?”
Julia attempted to shake him and finding him immovable kicked him sharply on one shin.
“Like a bloody prejudiced cunnus who can’t see any good in anybody or anything Roman. I’m a Roman in case it has escaped your notice and your unbending attitude is like scraping my nerves with a blunt knife.”
She turned her back so he shouldn’t see how close to tears she was, but she heard his breath catch and he placed his hands on her shoulders.
“Oh Julia, I’m so sorry.”
She spun around to face him knuckling her eyes like a hurt child.
“So you should be. Now go away before I say something regrettable.”
He didn’t move so she turned on her own heel, but he grabbed her and pulled her into his arms, just holding her gently. When she was quiet he loosened his hold.
“I truly am sorry, love. I know I need to start thinking more about my prejudices. And I specially need to be aware of how my saying things about Rome affects you.”
“If you could. It would help. I’m already in the unenviable position of a plain woman who loves a handsome man. Please don’t heap coals of racial disdain on my head as well.” Then she relented and smiled up at him. “Just remember that I love you, so you can hurt me in ways nobody has ever been able to hurt me before.”

From Dying for a Poppy by E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago

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