Alameda pulled her palla—a shawl—closer around her, a nervous gesture. Walking in the busy streets of the city always made her nervous. The narrow streets were lined with stalls and shops. Shop owners either lived above or behind their shops. The walls were covered with signs and advertisements. The city was loud, crowded, and dirty.
The lower class, plebeians (commoners) and slaves lived in flats made out of stone and wood that were three to five stories high. Some apartments were roomy, sanitary, and pleasant with occasional running water. But others were not so nice.
An entire family could be jammed into one room that would become so unsanitary that some people became sick and died. They had no running water and had to haul their water from public facilities. Flats collapsed once in awhile due to how badly they were built.
Alameda stopped walking at a small fabric store. The store belonged to Jorgen and his wife, Barbara. Today though, Barbara was the only one managing the store. Alameda came to the store because she knew that Barbara and Ordell were good friends. She would know where Ordell was. Barbara used to be a servant for another wealthy Senator, but she and her husband were now freedmen. They had bought themselves out of slavery.
"What can I do for you?" Barbara asked her, not knowing who she was.
Alameda pushed the palla that was over her head a little back, showing who she was. Barbara gasped, shocked at seeing her. "Alameda, what are you doing here?" She looked around the young woman. "And with no escort? The city's dangerous for you."
Alameda smiled at her motherly gesture of worrying about her, wishing that her mother could be like that with her. "I am looking for Ordell," she said.
"Ordell? Why?" Barbara asked a little too quickly. "Is she in trouble?"
She shook her head no and Barbara let out the breath she was holding. "Adelphos and Leander said that she cut their lesson short to go into the city. She didn't say where and why."
"She's probably doing some errands for your mother."
Alameda shook her head again. "I don't remember hearing mother say anything to her."
"Maybe you just didn't hear."
She stopped talking and just looked at Barbara, confused at how she was treating her. Why was she acting differently? It was almost like she was acting defensively toward her. Was she hiding something?
"I was just wondering where she went. I lied to mother about where she was."
Barbara looked at her for a few minutes, as if she were searching for something. Finally, reluctantly, she sighed. "She went to look for somebody at the Forum," she quietly said.
"Thank you," Alameda said sincerely.
Barbara nodded. "Be careful. You might find something that you don't want to know. Your opinion of certain people may change."
"What do you mean?" she asked curiously.
But Barbara never answered her. A mother and daughter stepped up to the shop, grabbing Barbara's attention. Alameda looked at Barbara one last time before walking away.
She walked down the city street some more until large stone structures came into view. She walked under an arch to a stone building and entered the Forum.
The Forum was located in the heart of the city. It was a large open square and was surrounded by temples and government buildings. The Forum attracted many people. It was a place to vote, hear speeches, read public notices, attend law courts, discuss issues, and many other things.
Alameda searched around the square, hoping to find Ordell and not run into her father. Her father was a Senator and worked in one of the government buildings. She didn't know which one exactly for she has never been to his work or was seen with him that much in public.
Noise of banging and hammering caught Alameda's attention. She walked over to where construction was happening. Not all slaves were owned by individuals, some belonged to the city. Those slaves lived hard, miserable lives, sometimes laboring in chain gangs on road and other engineering projects. But luckily, those men weren't in chains.
She hated the way people could treat each other. She hated how the slaves had no rights, no name, and no title. If a slave were to disobey his or her master over something stupid and silly, they could be beaten and put to death. Their masters could sell their children, taking them away from their parents. They worked hard. They worked so hard to earn what little money they could get—if lucky enough—to buy their freedom.
Alameda paused, seeing Ordell conversing quietly with one of the construction slaves. He was tall compared to her small figure. His black hair was messy and shaggy, covering his eyes. A beard was starting to form on his has tanned face. The knee length tunic that he wore was brown and dirty, made out of a coarse dark material. A piece of rope was around his waist.
"Daughter," a voice to her right said.
Alameda quickly turned and saw that it was her father, Orsin, with a group of his friends. Her father stood tall and proud. His neat short black hair was cut close to the head and had a few grey streaks in it. He was ten years older than her mother. The white toga that he wore was edged with a purple stripe, showing that he was of senator status.
Out of the three men that were with him, she only recognized one of them. He was Timon and wore the same get up as her father. The two other men, who looked much younger, wore white togas.
"Father," Alameda said with a nod. She quickly looked back to where Ordell was, but both she and the slave were gone. She looked back at her father.
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
"I'm…I'm…." She pulled her palla tighter around herself.
"Alameda!" a voice behind her said. "There you are. I was looking everywhere for you."
Ordell came up and linked her arm with hers. If Alameda was anyone else, they would have beaten Ordell for being so bold and touching her. The three men with her father looked at them with surprise. Alameda was happy that her father was lenient with their servants—sometimes at least. But he wouldn't do anything to Ordell, she was almost—as for as a slave could become—like a family member. She was there with him when he was a child.
"Sirs," she said, bowing her head at the group of men. "Your daughter gave me quite a scare, Master. We lost each other in the crowd. I was looking everywhere for her."
Orsin nodded and gave his daughter a disappointed look. "Luckily she found you." Alameda gave a fake smile of gratitude. "These are Timon's sons, Iqnacio and Cassius," he said, introducing the other two men with him.
Alameda bowed her head. "Nice to meet you."
Iqnacio went to her and took her hand, lightly kissing her knuckles. She blushed, causing him, his father, and her father to smile. "It's wonderful to meet you too," he said in a nice, quiet voice.
He was a little taller than her. He had a lean body and the hand that grabbed hers was soft. His eyes were green and his dirty blond hair curled.
Cassius didn't move from his spot. He had a sneer on his face, looking at where Ordell and Alameda's arms linked together. His head was shaved. He finally looked up at Alameda, staring at her with cold dark eyes. His gaze was unnerving. He simply nodded slightly.
Orsin cleared his throat. "I'll see you at home, daughter."
He walked away with Timon by his side, chatting. Iqnacio smiled flirtatiously at her. "I hope we meet again quite soon."
Alameda smiled back. "Maybe."
Iqnacio walked off to follow his father. Cassius moved to follow him. As he passed Ordell and Alameda, pushing roughly, he gave them one last sneer and muttered, "Needs a collar," under his breath.
Alameda quickly whipped towards him. "What did you say?"
He paused and looked coolly at her. "You should also know you place, woman."
Alameda was about to tell him what place he should go to, but Ordell gently squeezed her arm, stopping her.
"Let him leave," she said quietly.
"Cassius?" Timon called to his son. "Hurry up now." Cassius smiled coldly at the two women before catching up with the rest of the group.
Alameda let out a frustrated scream and stomped her foot. "I should have told him to go to hell."
"Alameda," Ordell scolded. "A lady does not speak that way."
"Nor should a man."
Ordell sighed. "It's nothing I haven't heard before."
"He's a cruel man."
"Life is cruel."
Alameda looked away from Ordell. The guy that was talking to Ordell earlier was now staring at them. At her. At least that was what she thought, for his hair covered his eyes. She stared back at him before he quickly looked away. She shook her head, collecting her thoughts. She looked back at Ordell. "Why are you at the Forum?"
"Why are you at the Forum?" Ordell shot back.
"Looking for you," Alameda answered truthfully. "I lied to mother about where you were. Barbara said you went here to find somebody. Did you find him?"
"No," she said.
Alameda looked once more to the construction site and then back at Ordell. She decided she wasn't going to say that she saw here talking with the other slave. Ordell would tell her what was happening when she wanted. But it hurt her that she didn't trust her enough to tell her what was going on.
"Thank you for saving me. If father knew that I was alone he would be even more disappointed with me."
"Father and mother are both disappointed," Alameda said as if it were common knowledge. "I'm bad to the family name. I refuse every marriage proposal and that ruins father's image."
"They just want to see you with somebody they approve of. They want some grandchildren."
"They already have seven of them."
Ordell smiled. "Let's go home. I must make supper."
Heidi A K: thank you for reading and reviewing. i'm glad you like it so far. i hope you keep liking it.