“Se…Se…Seneca! Oh pollux, I forgot all about…” Marcia stuttered, tears welling in her eyes. Secundus Marcius cleared his throat.
“I think you should go outside, don’t you Marcia?” Marcia nodded silently, and crept to her grandfather’s side.
Seneca Marcius Felix was a freed slave, who had earned his freedom by saving his master’s life on many occasions. He had taken to the life of the sea, and when he returned he married his old master’s daughter, who bared him a son and a daughter, before her death many years later. Seneca had watched his children grow, and when he was too old to live alone in his villa in Cumae, he moved in with his son, Secundus Marcius Felix, and his family.
Marcia took her grandfather’s outstretched hand and led him to the inner garden. Seneca had been blinded by an accident, which had ended his life as a sailor, and the only way he could tell where he was taken was the welcoming sound of birdsong. He felt the pulse in Marcia’s wrist rising, and it shocked him. He didn’t want to scare his granddaughter. He smiled at her fondly. “Now, now, Marcia, we’ll have none of that.” Marcia stood in awe. How did her grandfather no so much yet saw so little? She sat him down on the bench opposite to where she had been earlier that day. The stone bench was carved with serpents as legs and a winding tail entwined with ivy fashioned the back. This seat was uncomfortable, but the nearest to the door. Inches from their feet was a small pond filled with water lilies and colourful fish. This sanctuary was cut off from the rest of the garden by an ivy trellis that created a circular doorway.
Marcia sighed. “I’m sorry Seneca, I … I… lost track of time. Before I knew it, it was time for the baths and then I got lost and then…” She paused for breath. “Is it about my temper again Seneca? Is that why you want to talk to me?” Seneca chuckled. Marcia loved his smile, and all anxiousness washed away and she giggled.
“I’m not that predictable am I?”
“Marcia!” Seneca scolded his granddaughter playfully. “As it happens, you are not so clever. Although it is tempting to give you a lecture on holding your tongue, I have something else to tell you.” The smile faded on the old man’s lips, and Marcia frowned.
"Take me to the sun dial Marcia.” He reached out his hand and Marcia took it doubtfully. Seneca stood to his full height – not far past Marcia’s shoulder – and shuffled forward. Marcia led him under the trellis, around the fountain and up to the dial.
Seneca reached out a gnarled finger and pressed it to the dial’s cool surface. He felt the sharpness of the gnomon that shadowed the time from the sun, and followed the small indents that encircled it. “Do you see these marks Marcia? Some are more bold than others.” Marcia smiled. “Oh Seneca! That is because Pater is just terrible at making things!” She laughed.
Her father had made the dial for his wife as a birthday present, and, not wanting to be rude, Tacita had thanked him and put the distorted sundial in the far corner of the garden. Her father had been so proud, and even offered to create more pieces for Tacita. She had kindly – but firmly – refused.
Seneca shook his head. “Like these lines, my life is full of memories, some bolder, more memorable than others.” His brow knotted in a lopsided frown, and Marcia watched attentively. “ Some will fade away in time, but others fight the rain and sun and stay firmly in place in time.” With his finger, Seneca outlined the sundial. “Some are more painful than others, and need to be broken to be washed away.” Seneca suddenly looked at Marcia. His glassy eyes bore into hers, although he saw nothing. “Sometimes, the rain needs help to wash away these lines.” Marcia stuttered, “Seneca… I don’t understand.” Seneca put his finger to his lips and bent his head to her ear. “Find them. Please. I am so alone, so incomplete. Find them.” The man took in an intake of breath, his eyes fading, his brow loosening. Seneca’s body crumpled, and slumped against the bench, his head lolling in the wind. Marcia let out a shrill gasp, as the elderly man lay, still and peaceful, in the summer breeze.
Marcia Marcius screamed.