There were two other men in the hot bath, lazily reclined and talking in low voices. They were both, Dai could not fail to notice, wearing heavy Patrician rings so even when naked they were still marked out as superior beings, paunches and all.
“It is incredible who they allow in here nowadays,” one said, his eyes flicking contemptuously over Dai. “Shouldn’t be allowed.”
“I didn’t think natives were allowed in these baths – never seen one before, anyway,” his companion agreed. “I’ll have a word with the curator, we can get it removed.”
Dai was grateful the heat had already made his skin very flushed or his reaction to their words might have been visible, as it was he decided it was not worth creating an issue that might fall back on Julia to deal with as she was the one who had signed him in as her guest. That was the only way any non-Roman would be allowed in a public premises deemed ‘sub aquila’ – where you had to walk under the eagle on the portico to get inside, and it meant she was personally responsible for his behaviour. So, instead, he curtailed his bathing and pulled himself out of the pool on the far side to from where the Romans lounged.
He had to walk past them to leave the pool room and as he did so, one made a crude gesture with one finger, his patrician’s ring glinting gold. Dai froze mid-stride and turned back, fists balling as he did so.
“At least,” he said tightly, “I have a real dick and not just a picture of one on a ring.”
The water beside him erupted and he decided not to wait whilst the two heaved themselves from the water like bull seals onto a rock.