Interface errorem, diligere errantem...
kill the sin, love the sinner...
I never liked the sun. It held itself so highly. It shined its light to brightly. It was enough to burn one's eyes and enough for him to curse and mutter and beg for Apollo to leave it where it lay the next morning. At sunrise today, it was the exact same as always. I pressed my lips to Lucia's brow and whispered her a quiet good morning. She narrowed her eyes at me, silently yet apparently annoyed for waking her up, but her lips were soon twisted in a smile that mirrored my own. "Why must you always wake so early?" she murmured, turning onto her back and stretching out her limbs. With a curl of her fingers and toes, a delightful groan slipped past her lips. Her body lay relaxed once again and I shifted onto my side so that my lips could grace hers. "It is better for both of us if I wake early, domina," I whispered against her mouth as my fingers curled and uncurled around her long brown locks. "You know this, don't you?" Lucia gave me a nod and another of her faultless smiles. Her large gray eyes shifted from my face to the ceiling and the shape of her lips went from smile to frown. It was amazing how a slight alteration of a person's facial expression could change their appearance altogether. I hated to see Lucia frown. No, I hated to see Lucia wearing anything but a smile. Ever since our marriage, her moods had changed like the wind.
"What is it, Lucia?" I asked her over my shoulder as I climbed out of our bed. She said nothing. I hated her like this. Whenever she refused to speak, I wanted to grab her by the throat and make her tongue form the words that she would not reveal. Whenever she refused to speak, I knew that she was hiding something. "What is it?" By now, I heard that my words had become sharp, and I knew that my eyes were narrowed and angry. If she did not speak to me now, she might never speak to me again. What was it that kept me from believing that? I saw her shadow move behind me. Her feet made tiny noises on the cool floor. Her breathing was heavy, and I knew that it was because of the child she carried. She placed a thin hand on my shoulder and I turned around quickly. Thick strands of black hair fell into my eyes. I parted my lips to ask her again, but she placed a finger onto my mouth. She was so small. Lucia had the body of a child, yet she had the mind of someone far older than even myself. I had come to accept this as the price I paid for love.
You could call it love, but there was no doubt that–in our relationship–she considered it duty. I was ancient compared to her seventeen years. There could be no love between us. "It is nothing. Our child is polluting my mind," she said quietly with a tiny spurt of laughter. Her laughter sounded like bells. I loved it when she laughed. She removed her finger from my lips and placed the same palm softly along her belly. I felt a sense of accomplishment rise within me, and I could almost feel the palpable sense of joy that rose also. The light of the sun did not seem so dangerous that morning. It, instead, created a soft glow around the hair and form of my bride. I loved the sun then. I loved it more than any other celestial being. I lifted my fingers to her face, tilting it upwards toward my own, and smiled down at her. The way she cradled her womb in the bow of her arm tugged at my heart. "Are you as excited for this child as I am?" I asked her quietly, though I knew the answer. She loved this unborn child. She loved it even more than she loved the man that stood before her.
I knew it wasn't mine. Lucia then placed her tiny lips along the crevasse of my palm and left the room, leaving the thoughts of illegimate children and unloving wives alone with me. Slipping on the nearest clothing I could find, I planned to leave the house. The sun, I curse it, was even hotter than usual. It simmered along with the thoughts in my head, and I believe that it only made my mood worse. I was to meet with Regulus the Lesser. With this meeting would come the information I needed to ease both my mind and the grip I held on my sword. If his brother, Regulus the Greater, was not the father of Lucia's child, the knots in my mind would loosen. If he was, however, I most certainly had an idea of what I would do to him. He would fall upon my sword. I did not care if there was talk of marriage between he and my sister. I did not care if the child that Lucia held in her womb was of his blood. I did not care if the baby in my wife's womb was the Messiah himself. A grimace tugged at my lips as I made my way to Regulus's home at the other side of the city. The walk was too long. I would have too much time to think.
The sun boiled as my temper raged. Rome bustled around me. Merchants bore their wares, but so did the prostitutes. The smell of exotic perfumes made bile rise in my throat. Was it the anger that made me feel as though I were burning or was it that cursed sun? My feet were aching as I stepped into the house of Regulus the Lesser. My heart had been aching for days, though, and I had nearly become habituated to the slow, steady throb of brokenheartedness. Dusting my hair from my eyes, I peered through unaccustomed eyes at the dark living space. Regulus, like myself, hated the sun. He slouched against a darkened window pane whenever I made my way into the atrium. Unlike my home and the other houses of Rome, Regulus had spent countless amounts of money building a shade over the usual skylight. The atrium was dark instead of bright, cool instead of stifling, and convenient instead of uncomfortable. I felt welcome in his home. There were not many others that could say the same. "Ah, Scipio, I was expecting you," the youth said from against the pane, pushing his palms against the sill to steady himself on his feet.
Spurius Regulus the Lesser was the illegimate son of a very popular senator. He was very tall and very thin, much unlike his father and older brother. It was not this, however, that made the people assume that he was not of true noble blood. His eyes were blue. The Regulus men were always blessed with eyes as black as carbon. Regulus had skin the color of milk and hair the color of the night sky. His curls gleamed blue in starlight. I knew this because that was usually how we met. Our suspicions were the same. Regulus would get me to his brother, but only if I swore to kill him. He promised to equip me with tools: poison, blades, and strips of fabric to stop him from screaming. You see, Regulus the Lesser wanted only one thing. He did not care if his older brother was the father of my wife's child. He did not care if I was arrested after Regulus the Greater's murder. The only thing that this young man wished for was to take his brother's place as sole heir. I never understood the matters of bastard children. They were given everything they needed in life except for a title. The title was all that they truly wanted.
"Regulus," I said quietly, my eyes no doubt hardened and my voice holding an authoritative tone. I could not help but feel uncomfortable as the youth embraced me as a brother. He wanted to kill his brother. "We are business partners," he said with a laugh, turning and beginning to walk away from me. He looked over his shoulder at me and a smile crossed his mouth. "You can address me as Spurius. I have no intention of calling you upon it." "Thank you for having me,... Spurius." His name tasted like acid on my tongue. I should have nothing to do with this man, but I wanted his knowledge and this was the only way to receive it. "Oh, it is my pleasure, Decimus," Spurius cooed, turning his body completely around and beginning to walk towards me again. He was a dark young man. His sickly pale skin and greasy black curls held animosity that one would not believe. He hated. He hated more thoroughly than any person could imagine.
"Come, sit over here with me. I had my meal with my brother last night. I spoke of you to him. I must tell you what he said." The young man's voice held levity beyond that that the moment should. He spoke of his brother as if he were a puppet. Even I knew that Spurius's charisma could not grab hold of his brother's maniacal strings. They were both crazy, but the boy before me was cautious about who knew of his lunacy. Regulus the Greater was known for his. Spurius took a seat near the darkened window pane which he has rested against moments earlier, and I followed his lead. I remember the look in his eyes. He was ecstatic. He spoke each word with such enthusiasm. He waved his hands. He laughed when it was not necessary. "He is the father. He spoke of how he knew of your wife's celibacy. She refused to touch you. My brother looked so smug as he told me of this. He, a man only a few years younger than you, seduced your wife straight out of her wedding bed," Spurius mused with a light-hearted giggle. I wanted to hurt him so, but I knew that I should not. My fingers clenched into fists and I bit the inside of my mouth as not to launch into swings and angry curses. "He told me of how she whispered his name after. She called him her love. She told him that she was going to have his child."
"Are you angry enough to kill him now?"
diligere errorem, interfice errantem...
love the sin, kill the sinner...
It was finally nighttime. The sun had removed itself from above our heads and the air around us was becoming cooler with each passing moment. I had not been home since that morning, but Lucia would not worry. I was hardly ever home because I hated to be within the walls of our home. My pregnant wife would not console me. The way she cradled her belly would not make me weak. Her long brown hair and oval gray eyes would not make me feel love. I would never feel love again. I would not feel such weak emotions for Lucia. I would not feel such weak emotions for the child that I had no hand in producing. Regulus the Greater had spoken some of the truth. Our wedding bed was only the place for innocent sleep. She spent her days alone in our home. How did I know that she did not sneak off to the arms of her beloved Regulus? Silently cursing Venus and Cupid both for laying this curse upon me, I made my way silently down the deserted streets of Rome.
Regulus had left me with instructions. By the time the lights were dimmed in his brother's house, it would be the perfect moment for me to slip through his window. The poison–extract of hellebore–was dangling around my throat. Regulus had handed me the rope necklace it was suspended on before wishing me luck. This luck was sealed with a moment-long kiss against my cheek. This boy was insane. My fingers rose to wrap themselves around the tiny bottle at my neck. His brother would die. Tonight would be the last starry sky that he sees. The feeling of my hands at his throat would be the last pain that he feels. He would not receive redemption. My young, beautiful wife had sworn that she had never been unfaithful. Now that I think about our conversations, I realize how stupid and completely dumfounded I had been. The love that she swore she felt had shrouded my logic. How could she bear my child if I had not touched her once since the moment we first met? Did I honestly believe that it was possible? Instead of cursing Venus and her darling son, I cursed myself.
Whenever I reached the stately home of Regulus the Greater, the lights were already dimmed. There is a story behind all of this, dear reader. My love for Lucia does not come without a tale. My alliance with Regulus the Lesser did not materialize suddenly. My hate of his brother, though, was a lot more sudden than the previous stories. Since the day I turned five and my father placed that wooden sword into my grasp, I have always wanted to be a general of the great Roman army. Along with my own, Regulus the Greater's father served as such a general. We grew up together, Spurius and I. We fought beside each other, we slept on the floor beside each other, and we ate the sad rations beside each other. He was a loyal friend. I was a loyal friend. Now, however, as the sick gleam of his misdeeds shadowed the brotherly love I felt for him, I was going to go into his home and kill him in his sleep. Thoughts of how traitorous my actions were did not phase me. I was in love with a whore, and my best friend was her master.
I met Spurius's younger brother at a dinner he once held. This was the very same night that Lucia wiggled her way into my heart. Firelight burned above pools of scented water as I walked alone. Spurius and I had just returned from a march that had lasted for months. Our eyes were tired, but our hearts ached for companionship more than our bodies yearned for sleep. My tired eyes skimmed across the crowded floor and that was when I saw her. She was sitting beside the pool with her fingers tickling the water. Her skin gleamed golden under the firelight. She was only fifteen then. Her stomach was supple and her limbs were not yet extended to their full length. Innocence glimmered in her wide, gray eyes and I felt my heart shudder in my chest.
I found out her name from Spurius's younger brother. "Lucia," he said with a toothy grin. "She's been gazing at you, soldier. Or, might it be my brother that holds her eyes in the palm of his hand?" From the beginning, I was jealous of my best friend. He had always been muscular, while I was thin. He had always attracted female attention, while I only got half-wary gazes from suspicious-looking men. I was jealous of how Lucia looked at him. I did not hate him then and I find it hard to believe how much I hate him now. We grew up together. I allowed a girl to create a wall between us. No, Lucia did not create the wall. Spurius was the one that wallowed in the happiness that came with her love. He was the one that boasted of her feelings for him.
My relationship with Spurius had never slackened. He knew that I loved him like a brother, and I knew that he loved me just the same. He did not know, however, that I would be paying him a visit that night. Pushing the drawn curtains to the side, I slid through them and into his bedroom. He was sleeping soundly. This was how I would remember him forever. Vulnerable, weak, fat and happy with the love of my young, beautiful wife. My footfalls were as silent as the air around my slowly moving body. I yanked the bottle of hellebore from around my neck and gripped it loosely in the palm of my hand. My breathing had slowed. I was ready to... His eyelashes fluttered. A soldier never sleeps as deeply as the untrained. They learn to be aware of their surroundings, even while they are trying so desperately to rest. Closing my eyes, I began to silently pray to every god and goddess I could name to give me the strength to do this. He deserved it. This sleeping man deserved to die because he had betrayed my trust.
What right had I do kill him? I had none, but that would not stop be from doing so. My wife loved my best friend. His brother loved me. I loved no one. My mind cried out for some sort of salvation, but all I heard was a quiet, "Decimus?" My eyes opened as I heard my best friend's speech. "Decimus, why are you here?" He was sitting up in his bed now, rubbing his eyes. Dark blond hair fell across his wrinkled brow. Black eyes narrowed and then shut once, blinking out the sleep that remained. "I was here to," I began, but I could not go on. The hellebore felt as though it was burning my palm. I could not do it. I could not kill him. "I came to tell you something." Spurius looked slightly amused as he ruffled his hair with his fingers. "Could it not wait for morning, dear friend?" I shook my head, hot tears caressing my face as they dripped from my eyes. "It could not. I was here to kill you, Spurius. Please, do not look so shocked. There was reason to my madness. You... love her, do you not? Lucia? She is carrying your child. Do you not love her?" Spurius's face held none of the amusement that it had at earlier moments. His lips were pinched together and his eyes were swimming with worried tears. He knew that I could kill him. I did not need hellebore. All I needed were my fists. He nodded. "Yes, Decimus, I love her." I clenched the hellebore in my fist and turned around, pacing across his room. "I love her, too, you know. She is my wife. I am dedicated. I have never abandoned anyone that I was in charge of and you know that very well. I was here to slip this hellebore into your mouth and have her to myself, but I realized that I would be killing the best friend I have ever known. Your friendship, my brother, means more to me than any of the fondling that my beloved wife could offer. Take her and your child and get married. Live life for the three of you. You deserve each other." By now, both of us–grown men in our thirties–had tears dripping off of our faces. I cried for Lucia. He cried for me. At the moment, he did not know why he cried for me, but he cried like I had never seen him cry.
"This night will end for me, not you." I slid the stopper out of the tiny glass bottle and felt the cool poison slide down my throat. "Love her, Spurius. Love her like I could never love her. Tell your brother that I am sorry."
And so ends the tale of Decimus Spurius...