Endless stories does not mean countless dozens of them. Many of my works are not truly works at all–they are unfinished drafts that have no end (yet). That is one of my plights in writing. There are hours when I get carried away with one story and then the next day, my mind cannot grasp a single inspiration for continuing. One such story was begun a while back, and a few days ago I returned to it, inspired by some whimsical thought. I revised it completely, and added to it a deeper plot, and enhanced it to my liking. But now….now I cannot think of anything to put to it. I deem this very tragical. Another very sorry example of such caprice can be found in the death of one very long romance I began, and I even got up to 500 pages!!! And then the coup de grace struck. I just couldn’t finish that story. The plot seemed old and not to my liking, and the context was not correct, in my eyes. I no longer cared to finish it, and without that urge, I felt that I couldn’t press on, even if it was for the best. But fortunately, now, I have decided that long tale, which was buried in the graveyard of buried sagas, to be a sufficient brainchild for an advanced version of it. What was this story about? It went along the plot line of Time Travel, one of my personal favorite subjects in fiction. I have not read many of them, but I tried my best to get the modern day people into a past century (which happens to be during the reign of Tiberius, of Rome). Yes, it took place in Ancient Rome, but at the time I wrote this novel, I had not known much about Ancient Rome. This past semester at a home school co-op I attended, we learned thoroughly about that potent empire of old, in the days when our world was only partly discovered. In my story, I had poor historical accuracy in detail, and now, going over it, there really seems to be no plot line, other than the fact that my main character is still trying to figure out whether to stay in that gruesome city of Rome, and allow her romance with a tribune to continue, or to return to her familiar, contemporary home in our country of America! I abandoned this story it its time of need–the most crucial time in the novel. No one has ever read this endless yarn before–I have not allowed anyone to see it, and for a time, after I abandoned it, I felt that I didn’t want anyone to read it, for its lacking of element and quality. But now, it is time to break out of that old bondage of doubt. Here, the public shall see a little snippet of that secret story. This an excerpt from the first chapter, opening with the modern girls going to stay at a Patrician household on the Esquiline Hill. I had begun to add historical detail to the story, but I didn’t get as far as the first chapter, unfortunately.
“Here we are,” Claudia called from behind the silken curtains, “This is my villa. Isn’t it just lovely?”
“Very lavish, Miss Vinicius,” Lydia commended as she gazed up at the villa. In some parts, it was choked with powerful vines, but otherwise, the walls were sparkly white, with a clay, smooth red tile roofing. The grass was fine and silky, its emerald blades rippling in the cool spring breeze.
“Yes, my father has lived here almost his entire life,” Claudia continued, slightly ignoring the words of ironic praise, “There is the garden. He spent much of his money making it into the best in Rome.”
Lydia dismounted her horse, and tucking up her long dress in her hands, she sauntered along the rest of the way down the shady road.
“Lydia, aren’t you going to ride on your horse?” Claudia called after her friend.
“Oh, no thank you Claudia, I would now prefer to walk,” Lydia replied as she stooped to pluck a blooming rose from its thorny perch. Tucking it in her silky hair, she scanned the well cared landscaping. Servants walked about here and there. It was already close to dark, the sun was extremely close to setting.
Soon Lydia reached the door, where the door-slave offered to take her in.
“No thank you, I will wait for your mistress Claudia, she is still on her way.” Lydia took out the rose and clutched it in her hand. The dew on the crimson petals had already evaporated, but now only the rose itself remained, crisp and young. ‘What fate that I ended up here in this ancient place,’ Lydia contemplated, ‘It will be quite an adventure, learning the ways of the Romans.’
Sooner than she expected, Claudia and the others hurried up the marble steps.
“Let us in Caudex, why didn’t you let Miss Lydia in while she waited?”
“I wished to stay out and wait, thank you Claudia,” Lydia quickly spoke up, “Thank you for your concern.”
“Oh, if that is the case,” Claudia smiled sweetly, “Follow me, I will show you to your rooms.”
She daintily hurried up the stone steps and assigned each girl to a lavish room.
Lydia stood in awe in the center of her copious cubical. The bedspreads were extravagantly embellished with golden ornaments and designs. The cerulean fabric mingled perfectly with the gold and sparkling mirrors on the walls. Setting down her bag, Lydia wandered over to the bureau to find the drawers bountiful with gowns and dresses. In the wardrobe, she found additional apparel items, such as sandals, garments and silken robes. Then, turning, her eyes surveyed the ornately paneled walls, and sitting upon a small pedestal in the center of the room, there stood a figurine of a sea nymph on a swirling wave, her long silky hair flowing with little fish weaving in and out of the tresses.
Sitting upon the bed, Lydia slipped into a pair of sandals that she had found in the closet. Then she stole over to the window and gazed out. From this room, she received a delightful view. The whole city of Rome was silent, except for the shadow of a cat or dog here and there. Beyond this villa, she could distinguish many other wealthy villas looming in the darkness, upon the hills she recognized as the six other hills of Rome, upon which the city was built. And in the distance, she could see the Praetorian Fort, from which a bugle call sounded forth, announcing the end of the day.
‘Tomorrow I will have plenty of time to explore,’ Lydia told herself with ease as she stretched out upon the soft bed.
The next morning, Lydia awoke with a start, wondering where she could be and what the plans were for that day. A young girl servant hurried in and seeing that Lydia was awake, smiled, “Good morning ma’am. I am glad to see that you have awakened; breakfast will be ready soon. Would you prefer me to bring it up here to you or would you prefer to eat it in the triclinium with the others?”
“Thank you for your assistance,” Lydia smiled warmly at the girl as she slid out of the bed, “But I would prefer to eat downstairs. Thank you.”
After slipping into a tunic the color of golden amber and throwing a light palla over her shoulders, Lydia hurried downstairs, hoping she wouldn’t be late for breakfast
Lydia hurried through a curtained doorway, finding herself facing a garden she hadn’t noticed the evening before. It was evidently the heart of the villa, for it had four walls surrounding it, with corridors and doorways, the rooms they led to curtained off, leading off to various parts of the home. Lydia paused, listening, trying to think, full of confusion, till she at last heard chattering float from a curtained-off doorway nearby. For a moment, she paused, gazing at the rainwater pool in the center of the courtyard, that was surrounded by evening pink columns, their rosy tint setting off a warm glow, as it reflected in the shimmering pool. Lydia reached up to push back a strand of loose dark hair, lost in awe, as she gazed at her surroundings.
The entire peristylum was silent, except for the soft splashing of the rippling water against the sides of the pool. Only the soft laughter and merry chatter coming from the triclinium reminded Lydia that she had better hurry. She knew that it would probably be thought rude if she was late for the breakfast.
Hastening her footsteps, Lydia slipped through the doorway, her sandaled foot stepping upon a thick, burgundy mat, its softness comparable to the soft fur of a dog. Several divans surrounded a central breakfast table, that was at present, by quiet servants, being filled with platters of warm bread, fruits, and flamboyant poculums of milk. After they finished laying out the various platters of food, they stood back, trained to wait upon those dining. One of them leaned forward and helped Claudia, who reclined, with her white arms gracefully extended to clean her fingers in the small bowl, with water in it.
The rest of the girls were already reclining on the divans, and Kara, seeing her friend standing in the doorway, moved over, patting the space next to her. “Come, Lydia,” she invited, with a smile. Uncertainly, Lydia reclined next Kara, feeling quite clumsy as she caused the couch to move slightly, the winged legs scraping against the polished, marble floor. Claudia, who lay on a couch all her own, didn’t seem to notice. She was too busy daintily reaching over to take up a piece of bread from the platter.
“I’m afraid that my brother is in the Senate this morning,” Claudia told her friends with an air of dignity, “Please forgive his absence.”
“Oh,” Claudia added, her face growing exultant, “Tonight we will be attending a dinner at the Domitius’. They have such a grand home, and the widow Domitius is such a fine hostess—she doesn’t throw dinner parties too often, but tomorrow, her son is returning home from a trip to Ostia (he travels often, you know.) I’m sure that we’ll all have a wonderful time.”
A stab of uneasiness clutched Lydia’s stomach. But instead of protesting, as a sudden impulse urged her to do, she gave a weak smile and continued to quietly eat her buttery roll. Claudia continued to revel in the future of that night, “I do love to attend parties! Many of my friends will be there, and I’m sure they will enjoy meeting you. You are all welcome here for as long as you like, you know. I get lonely here all by myself with Pater and Caius at the Senate all the time, or on business trips.”
As Claudia continued to dreamily talk of the lavish gowns and handsome tunics people would wear that evening, the foods, and the people, Lydia felt more ill at ease, though she was relieved that they were welcome to stay, for she was sure they would be homeless beggars without the kind hospitality of Claudia Vinicius. Finally, she could stand it no longer, and she politely said, “I believe that I will take a walk in the lovely gardens. It is such a fine day.”
“Goodbye Lydia, but remember, you should start getting ready in an hour or so. It takes a while to fix your hair and facial accommodations,” Claudia bade her.
“Don’t worry, Claudia, I’ll surely have the time to take care of those careful preparations,” Lydia assured her with a tinge of sarcasm.
Lydia had taken a promenade along the pergola, with roses and leafy vines, the fresh dew beaded on both petal and foliage, overhanging, arousing a hunger within the young woman to dream and imagine. She was still unable to believe that she was truly in this adverse time. Sometimes Lydia wondered that if she shut her eyes for a moment, then perhaps when she opened them she would be back. Back home.
It wasn’t long before Lydia drifted inside, and slipped upstairs, where she was found by the young slave girl, whose long silky-brown hair and green eyes reminded Lydia of the sea-nymph on the pedestal. Looking at it then, as she settled herself on her divan, she wondered if the nymph could possibly be a goddess. Anolia, who saw Lydia eyeing the figurine, explained with a smile, “That is Amphitrite, the sea nymph.”
Anolia helped her choose what to wear, and in the end, Lydia dressed in a lavender tunic with a light blue shift, and a pure white palla was about her slender waist. She tied up her hair in a shimmering silver ribbon, and Anolia placed small pearl pins in her pulled back hair; her silky waves fell loosely about her neck and bare shoulders.
Anolia then moved on to the kohl, applying it to her eyelids and the upper rim of her pansy-brown eyes. It was dark, and powdery, but Lydia didn’t mind it being on her. Following this, the young slave applied color to Lydia’s lips with the juice of black currants. Wine dregs were dabbed upon her cheeks, making them look slightly flushed.
By the time Anolia had finished, Lydia found that she hardly recognized herself, as she peered with wide eyes at the mystical woman in the mirror. Slowly, she reached up and touched a tendril of wavy dark hair, that gently touched her cheeks, moving in the slight breeze that drifted in through the open window.
The young Greek stood, looking at Lydia with bright eyes, and stated softly, “You could be Venus herself.”
Laughing quietly, Lydia lifted a little bronze disc which was meant to show her reflection, “I hardly even know myself,” she remarked, frowning slightly. Her glossy hair, ornately pinned up, glistened in the lamplight, and her smooth, oiled skin was soft and smooth, the citrus-lubricate making it look like a glowing bronze. Exotic.
She stiffened when footsteps echoed in the hall, and a young house-servant with brown skin and hazel eyes appeared, his crown of tightly curled hair glistening with scented water. He informed Lydia that the carruca was waiting outside, and she hurriedly rushed down the stairs, through the atrium, and into the vestibulum, where the door-slave, Caudex, pushed open the heavy wooden door for her, and she hurried to the carruca waiting on the stone drive. Lydia and the other girls, along with Claudia, all settled themselves in the carriage, that was lined internally with silk facing and rich cedar panels. The sea-green framing, that was soft and gentle in coloring, casting a pale green light upon their faces, reminded Lydia of a tropical ocean. Lifting her eyes to the window, to the fuchsia horizon line, now dotted with faint stars. Turning to the others at last, she was breathless when laid her eyes upon Claudia, who looked more like a goddess than she, in Lydia’s analytical eyes.
Claudia wore a sapphire stole, with gold threading, and there was a soft peach colored palla about her waist, with shiny silver bangles about her tiny wrists. Around her white throat, Claudia wore a gaudy band of diamonds, that seemed to Lydia, a bit too thick and encrusted with the lustrous jewels.
The other girls in the carruca were attractively garbed as well, though Claudia, it seemed, outranked them all with her lavish dress and adornments. Lydia drew in a deep breath, as she studied each face around her. Claudia’s was full of ecstasy and fervor; but the other girls’ countenances were either insipid or held a look of both anxiety and wonderment mixed together. Lydia inferred that her own appearance might be slightly distraught, for she was, at heart. In fact, she could feel her heart pounding in her chest, and her hands felt clammy and shaky. Quickly, she uttered a silent prayer to God, for His serenity to wash over her.