AN: All right here it is, my first story posting on FP!!! PLEASE, this is my own personal work. Don't steal it. If you do, and publish it as your own, I will HUNT YOU DOWN and rip you to pieces with my own bare hands.
THE PASSION OF VENUS
By Alexa Avelar
A Daughter of Juno
"Antonia, I'd like you to meet Marcus Julius Maximus. He is the son of my dear friend, Julius Marcellus." A broad smile filled most of my father's clean shaven face as he introduced the man standing in front of me. Maximus was tall and had deep blue eyes that reminded me of the sea. His dark brown hair was cut short and he had a thin beard outlining his defined jaw.
"It's a pleasure to meet you." Maximus said deeply as he gently took my hand and kissed it. He smiled as he lightly released my hand and pulled away. I timidly smiled back.
"Maximus, how has your father been? It feels like I haven't seen him in ages."
"He is doing very well. He was just elected to be Quaestor for another year and he is in good health." Maximus replied in his deep voice. I noticed his eyes kept looking towards me and when I looked back, he turned his gaze back to my father.
"Well that is good. I'm glad he is doing well for a man his age. Tell him that he should come over sometime and have some wine." My father smiled again.
"And I will. It was nice meeting you and your daughter." Maximus held out his hand. My father took his hand and he shook it. Maximus smiled at me one last time as turned around and left our house.
As soon as the door shut, my father turned to me. "Well, he is a nice young man, isn't he?" I looked up at him.
"Yes he is." I said quietly.
"His father is one of my most respected and honourable friends and I think he would really be content if his son was married to my daughter." His old and wrinkled hand gently touched my arm. "Antonia, I…as an old man, I would like to live to see my only daughter wed and bear my grandchild before I die. And I ask of you, to give an old man one last wish." His brown eyes had filled with tears. I felt like I could not let him down and turn away his proposal.
"Father, I shall do as you ask. If you want me to be wed to Maximus, than so be it." I barely managed to smile. I was uncertain about what Maximus would be like although he seemed to be very charming. I did not know how he behaved behind closed doors. I did not know what he would be like with me. My father looked over at me as I felt a single tear fall down my cheek. My father took my hand in his.
"I thank you Antonia. It makes me happy to know that you are a woman of honour, and that you are a woman who respects her father's wishes, no matter how difficult of a decision it may be." He smiled one more time. "And if you'll excuse me…" He walked away leaving me by myself. The air in the room seemed to change. I felt a little more relaxed; however my emotions were slowly taking over. I did not want to let my father down, but I was still unsure of what was to come.
"Antonia?" My mother's voice cut through the silent air like a knife. I looked towards the kitchen. My mother was clearing the wine glasses away from the table. I stepped into the kitchen.
"Yes mother?" I asked, curious of what she was going to say.
"So…" she slowly sat down at the table. I decided to sit down as well. "What does your father plan to do with you?"
"Well, he wants me to marry Maximus." I stated plainly without any emotion.
"Oh, well he seems like a nice man. I'm sure your father wouldn't marry you off to some poor beggar. I'm sure he has a lot of wealth. His father is a Quaestor, and he has many properties. You know, I think this could work out well." My mother paused and looked over at me. "Are you all right?" I focused back on my mother.
"I…mother I…I don't know this man. I don't know what he'll be like and personally, I'm a bit worried." I admitted.
"Oh Antonia, I know how you feel. But eventually the worried feeling goes away and everything ends up being all right." My mother's dark eyes seemed to read my face like an open scroll. "There's more to it, isn't there?" The room looked as if it had darkened.
"Yes, there is. I just feel like I'm going to marry this man and I'll, well, what if I never come to love him? Or what if he never comes to love me?" I felt the same tears return to my eyes from earlier. My mother got up from her seat and came up beside me.
"Antonia, I never knew you would be so…upset over this. Oh my honey, come here." She wrapped her arms around me. "Shhhhh…" She started stroking my back. "It'll be all right." She whispered as she pulled away and sat down in her place again. The room had become dark with the oncoming sunset. She lit up a candle and sat it in the middle of the table top. Her pale face appeared to glow in the candle light. "Antonia, I know it may seem a great deal, but you are doing a great thing for your father. He will be so proud of you, I already know it." A slight smile spread across her thin face. "And Antonia, I am thankful to call you my daughter."
The Next Morning…
A knock sounded at my bedroom door. I groggily pulled myself out of bed, and quickly put on a robe. The knocking continued on until I pulled back the handles on the wooden door. My brother's tall frame stood in front of me.
"Antonia, word spreads fast. Father has told me about your forthcoming marriage." His black eyebrows buried deep in his brow. "I never thought that my little sister would grow up so fast." He grinned.
"Oh Quintus, you knew it was going to happen sooner or later. And well, you are only two years older than me. Perhaps, father now shall find someone else's daughter to be married to you."
"Maybe, but for now, I just wanted to congratulate you." He leaned down and kissed my cheek. He smiled again as he stood up. "I just can not believe you are getting married. So, who is this fortunate man?"
"He is Marcus Julius Maximus, son of…"
"Son of Julius Marcellus. I know him. He is a very, well; he can be a little…" Quintus paused.
"What, he can be a little what?" I asked in a panic. "Please, explain yourself."
"He can be, at least with what I have heard, a little rough with his women." He paused as he saw the concerned look on my face. "But I don't think he would really do that to his wife. Antonia, I honestly think he is more honourable than that and I know you. If he beat you, you'd come crying home to father and he would find you another husband."
"Oh hush Quintus; I would not come crying home. I'd leave him on my own terms." I replied angrily.
"Antonia, I've known you all your life. If I did anything to upset you, whether it be on purpose or accident, you would go and tell mother and then she would scold me until my ears hurt. You're father's little girl. But the point is, you're getting married."
"I know, and I cannot believe it either, but I knew it was going to happen."
"That is true, sister, that is true." He turned to leave, but looked back at me. "I apologize, but I must leave. I've got some talking to do, let Maximus in on a few things." He chuckled. "Before he is your husband."
A week later…
"So Antonia, have you thought of getting a dress made?" Claudia asked as she sat down on the stone bench bedside me.
"Well of course I have, but I have barely done anything else."
"You realize your father will most likely host the wedding in a about a week, right? It'll be perfect really, a few days after the Kalends, everyone will be there."
"I know Claudia, but I'm nervous about the whole thing, I have no idea what Maximus is like and my brother also claimed that he had heard Maximus is rough with women."
"Oh my, well I'm sure your father would take a serious offence if he beat you." Claudia reassured. "And besides, I know you, you wouldn't take it."
"My brother said the same!" I laughed. Claudia and I had been best friends ever since we could walk. She lived next door to us with her oldest brother, Titus. A short time ago, Claudia had a full, proper family. Mother, Father, and her three brothers. That all changed when her father, a politician, decided to divorce her mother for a woman from a more politically influential family. Claudia's mother died a few months later, supposedly in her sleep. Some people believe that she killed herself. Others say she died over the grief. Claudia never said much of it, nor did she ever bring it up. I did ask her once, and Claudia did not say a word. She only broke down into tears, and then cursed her father to Hades several times before she finally calmed down. She left for an hour or so before she came back to me. It took her awhile, but eventually she told me that her mother had indeed killed herself. Claudia then proceeded to tell me that I was the only person in Rome outside of the family to know this and if I told even one person, she would have to kill me with her own bare hands. I kept my mouth shut.
"Oh…who's that?" She asked, pointing towards the front of the garden. I looked up, and a short, old man I did not recognize walked into the courtyard. I looked to Claudia, and she stared at the man.
"My master bears a gift for his betrothed." He spoke with a slight lisp. The old man kneeled in front of us. I stood up. "Here is his gift." He held out his stubby fingered hands. In them was a small leather pouch. I picked it up in my hands. I slowly pulled back the strings and it fell open in my palm. A small iron ring with purple gem embedded on it sat in the middle of the open pouch. "He got me a ring." I smiled as I took it and slid it on my third finger on my left hand. It was a perfect fit. I glanced down at my hand, admiring the ring in the bright sunlight.
"That is a nice ring. You lucky girl." Claudia beamed. I reached down into my purse and pulled out a coin.
"Here this is for you and tell your master this; He will receive a nice dowry, if he should choose to see his betrothed before the wedding." The slave grinned as he greedily took the coin and left.
"Oh, Antonia, I think he means well. And a question, what does he look like?"
"Well, he's quite handsome, and charming, and his eyes, they are so blue, like the sea." I held back a dreamy grin
"You like him don't you?" She teased.
"Oh be quiet you!"
"Admit it; he must be somewhat attractive, based on your tastes."
"What is that supposed to mean?" I asked, giving her an accusative stare.
"Come on Antonia, all the boys you knew were all pleasant to look at, meanwhile, if there was one who was not, you turned the other way."
"I can't help it! I like what I like. Anyways, I hope you can come to the wedding."
"You know I will. Who else, other than your own mother, would want to go?"
"Very funny Claudia. Besides, you know you are just dying to meet Maximus."
"You're right about that." She confessed. "Unfortunately I shall have to leave you now, it's getting late."
"I shall see you soon." Claudia got up and wrapped her palla around her head. She briskly walked out of the garden, towards her father's house. As I stood up and turned toward the house, I saw Maximus walk through the door of the garden.
"Salve, Antonia." He took long strides and shortly, he was in front of me. "My slave gave word that I was to come see you or I wouldn't be getting a decent dowry."
"Indeed. I thank you for the ring, it is very beautiful." I gazed down at my hand, in order to avoid his eyes. I suddenly saw his hand make its way to my left hand. I looked up at him.
"At least allow me to see it on you." He half-smiled. I cautiously allowed him to hold my fingers in his hand. "I'm glad that I chose one that compliments you." He slowly let go of me.
"Right, and again, thank you."
"Well, you wanted to see me. So here I am." He said casually. I forced myself to look at his face. His eyes were very bright in the sunlight. I did not realise until now, after I had seen him up close for the second time, just how big he was. He stood a whole head taller than me. He was broad shouldered and you could see just how large his muscles were through the folds of his white toga. He then sat down on one of the stone benches across from me. "Come on, sit with me." He insisted. I looked around the garden; no one else was to be seen. I was not sure what would happen if anyone saw us together, but I decided to risk it anyway. I sat down on the cold stone bench beside him.
"So, do you have any brothers?" I asked curiously.
"I did, but he died when I was seven. It was sad for my parents, but he was ill, and the doctors couldn't have done anything to save him."
"Oh, I'm sorry for your loss, although it was years ago."
"Yes, and you?"
"What…oh, yes I have one brother, Quintus."
"Hmm, so do you have any pets?"
"Pets?" I was confused.
"You know, like a dog, or a cat."
"Oh, my brother and I had a dog when we were children. He was named Felix because we thought he was our lucky puppy in some way."
"I see. I always wanted one when I was a boy, but my father couldn't share a room with one, or else he wouldn't stop sneezing." He smiled.
"Right, so…" I stopped mid-sentence as his hand had moved closer to me and it was now on my thigh. I glanced over at him. He didn't say a word. I decided to get up before he made it any more awkward. His large hand fell back to his side as it had been.
"I'm going to leave now. I shall see you again at the wedding." He looked confused as I turned and quickly went inside the house. I was hoping his intention wasn't bad, but at the same time, I had my doubts.
A Week Later…The Eve of the Wedding
"Antonia have you dedicated your bullato the Lares yet?"
"I have." I called out from the kitchen.
"Well then here, you must try on your dress or the gods shall curse you with a horrid omen." I stepped forward out of the dark kitchen and into the atrium where my mother was holding on to a red dress. She held it up to me. "Here." I took it and walked back to my bed chamber. The door closed with a click and I easily changed into the dress. It had been woven in an upright loom, and in one piece. The thick material fell to my feet. I walked back out to the atrium, where my mother had her back turned to me.
"Mother?" She spun around and a smile filled her most of her thin, pale face.
"Oh Antonia, if only you could see it on yourself." She turned to Gaia, one of our slaves. "Get me a mirror would you?" The slave nodded and left the room. "It is beautiful." She was now standing in front of me. In the torchlight, I noticed her eyes had filled with tears. She was a going to say something, when Gaia returned with a small mirror in her hands. She gave it to my mother who sent the slave away and held up the mirror so I could see myself. The red material fit well around me and it appeared to make my face stand out. I smiled as my mother sat the mirror down on a couch and walked over to me. "Antonia, I never thought this night would have come so fast, and now tomorrow, your father will give you away to another man. I shall miss you ever so much and one more thing; do not ever forget that we will always be here for you." My mother whispered through her tears. She fell forward and held me to her chest.
"I know, and I love you dearly, mother." I whispered in her ear. She pulled away, dabbing the wet tears off of her face.
"You should get some sleep, it is a big day for you tomorrow, and no man wants his bride to fall asleep at his wedding."
"Good night mother." I kissed her on the cheek. I turned away and went to my bed chamber once more. I carefully took the dress off and set it back on its stand. I blew out the oil lamp, and got into bed. For what seemed like hours, I stared up at the ceiling, unable to sleep. I was too anxious at the fact that my father, in mere hours, was about to give me away to a man who was an absolute stranger to me.
"Antonia, come on! It's your wedding day for Juno's sake. Get up!" My mother harshly yelled at me.
"All right, all right, I'm up." I groggily rolled out of bed, rubbing my eyes. Along with my mother, Claudia and Gaia were in my bed chamber, staring at me.
"Come on; let your mother dress you all ready." Claudia said. Before I knew it, my mother had taken off my sleeping gown and threw on my wedding dress.
"Claudia, do you know how to do a Herculean knot?" My mother turned as Claudia stepped forward.
"Yes, I learned from Titus." She then took the band of wool and wrapped it around my waist. She quickly tied it on.
"Isn't that a little…tight?" I asked as she pulled the fabric even tighter.
"No, besides, I'm sure Maximus would like to think he was the only one to untie it. He may think if it's loose, someone else has been there before him." She hid her smile with her hands as my mother glared at her.
"All right, Gaia, the comb." Gaia stepped forth from the corner of the room, and gave my mother a spear shaped comb. "Turn and sit down." Gaia pulled out a chair for me. The moment I sat down, my mother combed through my thick and dark hair and began parting it. I could feel her thin hands pulling my hair this way and that. Then she finally curled my hair, and tied it up with several red ribbons. "There you go, now for your makeup." Gaia stepped forward again, pulling my bedside table in front of me. She exited the room for a brief moment and then returned carrying my mother's box of makeup. Gaia opened it and began powdering my face. "You're doing it wrong! Here let me." My mother practically pushed the slave away and stood in front of me. She began pulling all sorts of things out of the box and applying them on my face. "There, much better." My mother sighed as she slowly and stiffly stood up.
"You look beautiful. Maximus…he'll be happy." Claudia laughed quietly.
"All right, it's best we all get ready."
"You're right about that Junilla." Claudia said as she followed her out of my room, with Gaia following closely behind.
Half an hour went by and finally my mother and Claudia remerged into my room.
"Well what are you doing? Come on, Maximus is out there waiting for you." I quickly walked to the door. "Oh here, you forgot your wreath and veil."
"Right." I replied as she placed both of them on my head. I pulled open the door. The atrium had been decorated with tapestries and flowers. Maximus was standing in front of the Augur. Already, a small group was gathered around the room. As they all looked towards me, I could pick out the few living relatives I had: Uncle Longinus and his wife, Hortensia and their children, my mother's sister, Junia, and my grandfather, Magnus. The room fell silent as I took my place beside Maximus. He was dressed in a very white toga, and he had a wreath of flowers similar to the one I was wearing. He looked down at me and smiled. I smiled back. The augur then began his oration.
As the Augur went on, Maximus continued to smile at me. All I could do was smile back. I felt a surge of excitement rise up in my chest as the augur was nearly finished. Before I knew it, he had finished and all was silent. He looked at me and then at Maximus. I knew the final part was next.
"When and where you are Gaia, then and there, I am Gaius." Maximus stated.
I took in a deep breath.
"When and where you are Gaius, then and there I am Gaia." Maximus reached for my hand. I took it in my own. His hand was warm and it gave me a slight comfort. The crowd all began clapping as we headed to the dining room, where our slaves had been busy preparing the feast.
As everyone finally took their places, and the food was served, the conversation between everyone began.
"So Maximus, friend, how has it been?" My father was the first to speak. As soon as the words left his mouth, others around the table began their own conversations and I felt a little more relaxed.
"I've been good, my father's been well, and I am truly happy this day has come." Maximus looked down at me and smiled. I looked up at him and grinned back.
"Well, I am happy also. Not only did my daughter get married today, she married a son of one of my most loyal and honourable friends." My father glanced over across the table at me. Deep wrinkles formed in his face as he smiled. Suddenly, several slaves emerged from the kitchen all carrying trays and platters of more food. They placed them all down and left the room.
"Go on, you and I together, shall be the first to take the food, eh?" Maximus nudged me on the arm. At the same time, we both went for the goose's leg. His hand landed on top of mine. People gave looks across the table at each other.
"Here you have it." He said as he pulled his hand away. I tore off the leg easily and set it on my plate while Maximus went for the other one. Eventually, everyone had taken their fill, and began talking once more.
"So Maximus, where is it exactly that you live?" My uncle Longinus asked. Maximus flinched ever so slightly, it was barely noticeable. He swallowed his food.
"On the…Aventine: the lower Aventine to be precise." The room fell silent. I turned my head and stared at him. I thought he would have lived on the Esquiline, like us and his father. I felt utterly embarrassed. I had thought my father would have married me to a man who had money, power and a nice house, but instead he married me to a poor, unimportant man who probably owned a dump for a home.
"But…" Maximus continued. "I have a very nice house, a rather large Insula, and the rent is all paid."
"Oh…" My uncle paused. "That's good." He reddened slightly and turned away, interrupting someone else beside him.
As time went by, people began to look tired, and bored. I looked at my father and he appeared as if he could fall asleep at any moment.
"Well?" Maximus' voice came to my ears.
"Should the procession begin?"
"I should think so." I replied as Maximus stood up. He held out his arm for me. I took it and we walked to the head of the table.
"Mother? Father? If I may speak, I believe the procession should begin before it is too late and dark outside." My father also stood up with my mother clinging on to his arm. They walked over to us. My mother stepped forward and reached around me.
"I'm going to miss you." She whispered in my ear. Suddenly, Maximus grabbed hold of my arm and with gentle force; he pulled me away from my mother. When I looked up into her eyes, I noticed tears had filled them.
"Shall we?" Maximus said. I nodded. I took his hand and he led me outside. All of our guests followed us out the door. Two young boys came and took my hands to lead me to Maximus' house. I knew it was a long walk, and I hoped we would arrive before dark. A third boy walked in front of me, with him, he carried a lit torch. As we all walked on, several rude songs were being sung by the crowd. Someone was also shouting "Talassius! Talassius! Talassius!" It was the ancient marriage cry that was always called out at weddings.
My feet began to hurt as we finally turned on to the Aventine. It was beginning to get dark out, and I was getting slightly anxious that we wouldn't make it before dark. Suddenly, the two boys holding my hands stopped. I peered out from behind my veil, and we were stopped at a dark looking house, that was two storeys high. A young girl handed me the bands of wool that were to be tied around the door. I stepped forward and took the thick bands of wool and easily wrapped them around the posts of the door. Then Maximus turned around and picked me up in his arms and carried me inside. He gently set me down. His house was a bit dark, but it was neat and the main room was very organized. Maximus took an unlit torch and held it in the fire in the hearth and waited for it to light. He then took it, along with a bowl of water and held them in front of himself. I took the torch in one hand, and dipped my fingers of my free hand in the water. He then took them back, blew out the torch and set the water down. Maximus took a step closer and pulled my veil back off of my face. Shadows were casting over his face, and his eyes seemed to be sparkling in the fire light. I looked over at the door. The last man standing there was my father. He smiled slightly, and with a nod of his head, he shut the door behind him. I turned back to Maximus. He grinned. I smiled back. He leaned in and his lips ever so slightly touched mine. I closed my eyes as he pulled me closer to his chest. He began kissing me with more fervour, and I pulled away for a second to catch my breath. I stared deeply into his eyes as he stared back. His big hands reached for the knotted material that was holding my dress on me. His fingers easily managed to untie it, and the band of wool fell to the floor. The dress loosened away from my body, and my muscles relaxed. His hand travelled up my torso, and stopped when it reached my face.
"Maximus?" I whispered.
"Please, call me Marcus."
"All right, Marcus." I whispered back again to him as he took my hands and began walking up the steps to the second floor of his house. I followed closely behind him. He pushed open a door, and the room was serenely lit with candles. He pulled me onto his bed. I guardedly allowed myself to lie down beside him. His hands began to pull my dress over my head. I shivered as the cold night air hit my bare skin. Marcus moved closer to me. So close, I could feel his warm breath on my cold, pale skin. He slowly removed himself of his toga, and he wrapped his arm around me.
"I will always love you, through thick and thin, and no matter what happens, I will be here to protect you, and love you." He whispered as he pulled me on top of him. I leaned down close to his face.
"And I will love you, as you love me."