Marcia sat, perched on her father’s knee, nibbling at a leftover bread roll. At her feet, Paulus carefully wrapped wine-dampened papyrus around her swollen ankle, grunting with the effort of concentration needed for his oversized fingers to perform such an awkward task.
Marcia looked up at her father, his knowing face somehow crumpled in the lamp light. She lowered the bread roll and wiped her mouth with her hand. “Sorry Pater.” Her father chuckled and wiped his brow. Marcia cleared her throat. “I just was so hungry… and… and…” she stuttered nervously. Marcius brushed a stray hair from her face. “I just… I wanted to ask you something.” Marcius frowned and lifted his daughter to her feet. Cautiously, he lead her limping to the bench near the old furnace and sat her down. With a flick of his wrist, he sent Paulus lumbering out of the room, and he crouched down to meet his daughter’s eyes.
“Marcia. I know what you wanted, but I’m sorry. There is nothing we can do. Seneca was old, his mind was twisted, he was confused. You shouldn’t listen to the grumblings of an old man.” Marcia’s temper flared, and she stamped her foot. A sharp pain shot up her leg, making her gasp, but she fought back the tears. “How dare you! Pater! Seneca wasn’t a twisted old man!”
“I didn’t say…”
“He was your Pater! How can you not care! Your lying Pater, I always can tell when you lie! He was scared! He had lost something, and he wanted me to find it. I will! I promised!” Her shouts turned to sobs and she cursed angrily.
Her father’s face had turned to a scarlet glow. “My sister is of no concern of…” Marcius froze. Marcia looked up, her cheeks wet with fresh tears, her face red and swollen. “You… have a sister? My aunt! I have another aunt! No…” her eyes thinned as she turned away. Her words slurred now. “He, he said ‘they’.” Marcia looked back to her father. “An uncle? A cousin?” Her voice rose, as did her father’s, “MARCIA! They are gone, long gone, they are a disgrace! Her and that snivelling child, born out of wedlock! She brought disgrace to this family and he knew that!” Marcius ran his hands through his hair. “He knew that oh so well! He made me swear not to say a word, and till this day nothing has been said of that runaway. I told you Marcia, she is none of your concern.” By this time Marcius’s voice had died to a whisper.
Marcia sniffed. “They are my family Pater,” she whispered, “and I will find them.” Marcius stood up, his arms bent back, supporting his head. With one great yell, he swung his right arm across the table, sending a bowl of pine nuts crashing to the floor. There was a long pause. Tears streamed down Marcia’s face, and Marcius sighed. He turned to Marcia. “… Turtle Dove, I…”
Marcia didn’t hear the end of his sentence. She pushed passed her father, through the kitchen door and hurried through the atrium. With a sob, she heaved open the heavy door, and ran out into the street. Her bare feet slapped against the cobbles, and her belt less, cherry stained tunic billowed behind her as she ran. She tore the necklace away from her neck, throwing it to the floor in rage. Her hair blew in the wind, tangling around her neck.
She didn’t know how long she had been running. Her legs ached and her head throbbed from crying. She stumbled, and slowly her legs began to collapse beneath her. Staggering, she fell into a heap on the cold cobbled ground. She leant her back against the wall of an alleyway, and the pain in her ankle and knees overwhelmed her. With one last sob she fell into a disgruntled sleep in the cold night air, under the shadow of the mountain.