As I walked through the atrium, I found the mother sitting on the ivory couch, her hands folded against her lap. Her ears tilted towards the mosaic tiles, listening to the footsteps grow louder.

"What did you tell her?" I asked. Startled at my assertive tone, she weakly craned her neck upward to face my anxious gaze. She opened her mouth only to release a tired sigh from her scarlet lips.

"I told her that as a young lady there is a certain way one shall conduct themselves with the opposite sex," she articulated.

"Was that all? You must have said something else to make her upset," I replied walking closer to face her.

"Why are you questioning me like I am the bad person?" she griped, placing her hand on her breastbone. "She is acting foolishly towards her virginity!"

"I am not saying you are. Look, I trust Julia not to have done anything improper with Clitus. I trust that he would not have taken advantage of her," I protested. "Should you at least trust your daughter?" The mother pursed her lips together. Behind her usual poised face, I could see her lips quiver.

"My excellency, I found Julia!" Brutus called from the vestibule.

"Where was she?" the mother asked, jolting straight from the couch. He paused. Did she run off with Clitus?

"She is safe. She was in the alleyway. She did not make it far," Brutus said cracking a smile.

"Thank heavens she is alright," Eunice sighed.

"What was she doing in the alleyway behind the house? And was she not accompanying you to the house?" the mother asked.

"She is still upset. She said she needed time to recollect herself."

"I have to talk to her," I replied. Surprisingly, neither the mother nor the grandmother objected as I excused myself outside. Rays of sunlight hit my eyes forcing me to blink away from the direct sunlight that greeted my pupils. I shielded my eyes with my cupped hands against my brow as I wandered down the pavement along the house, swallowing a breath-full of chilled air. The usual noisy streets were rather quiet today. In the shadows that loomed over the entrance into the narrow alley, I seen a girl's head peek out before slipping back into the darkness. Intrigued I ventured on. It was her. I knew those golden glassy eyes from anywhere.

"We were looking for you Julia," I replied softly. I paused to observe loose strands of her dark locks flay across her forehead. She pursed her lips together in silence.

"Everything is going to be alright," I assured, as I tried to reach out and hold her soft delicate hand in mines. As she stared upwards to catch my gaze once more, I noticed her tear-stained cheeks fused with black makeup that cascaded where the tears once flowed.

"I know how it feels to be misunderstood. To be treated like a child. I have been down that road before," I spoke gingerly as she rubbed her eyes with the back of her palm. "I came to resent it…to loathe it. But running away is not always the answer."

"Is that not what you did?" she answered bluntly. I let go of her hand as I took a moment to look past the anger and pain that seeped in her voice.

"Yes," I breathed. "I did."

"What makes it any different then? Because you are a boy!" she muttered.

"Look, I ran away because my life was in danger. I did something really bad and…if I stayed I may not be even here talking to you today," I replied solemnly. I watched as her lips parted, before she shook her head in disbelief.

"What did you do that was so bad?" she asked.

"I will talk about it later," I said, sucking in a hot breath.

"You always seem to be the 'good' one," she spoke in a hushed tone, tucking a loose strand of her hair behind her ears. She peered around the entrance to the alley. Not a soul in sight.

"For as long as I remember, I was always the good one," I replied in nostalgia. She nodded.

"It is not like I want to be bad. I just want a little freedom to just be me. It would be nice for others to not always assume the worst about me or insinuate that Clitus is out to steal my virginity! I am not that kind of girl. We did not even kiss," she hissed.

"I know you are not that kind of girl. I believe you."

"I wish my mother could believe me," she murmured. "But thanks Troy. For believing in me when nobody else did," she said softly.

"I told you I am here for you. Your family is my family now. You are like the sister I never had. Think of me like your third brother," I smiled. "Come on inside. It is cold out."

A week passed. I watched people come and go; the sun rise and set. I watched the brave shrubs and herbs in the courtyard garden wither as frost coated the stalks and leaves in a layer of ice crystals. Clitus had still not returned and rightly so. Yet I worried about how he was taking to this. One day I had stopped by Claudius home after helping Julian at the family shop. Caetus was surprised to see me but he kept his words very brief with me. He led me to the stables where Clitus was brushing the horses' manes.

"Clitus." I called hoping to get his attention. He put the bristle brush on the stepping ladder next to him and faced the direction of my voice across the room. Usually Clitus was happy to see me but he looked rather solemn.

"Greetings Clitus. I know it has been awhile since you last visited?" Clitus just continued to stare at me, his hazel eyes remained despondent. I watched as he picked up the bristle brush, as he positioned himself a safe distance from the brown horse that stood behind in its secured gate.

"I know you miss Julia," I blurted. He stopped brushing.

"Your aunt hates me," he muttered under his breath.

"She does not hate you. She just does not know you very well," I sighed. "Julia still asks about you so I thought I come here to relay the word."

"I miss her, Troy," he uttered softly. His hazel eyes turned to face me directly and I could see the frustration carve lines underneath his eyes.

"I know you do. I wish there was a way that things could be different. Unfortunately her parents control who she marries. I suppose it has always been this way. It still hurts though when you find yourself falling for someone you cannot have. I thought you would have a better chance than me at least," I shrugged.

"Appears not!" he answered bitterly. "I even went as far as try to purchase my freedom. Claudius agreed to sponsor me," he croaked. "I was willing to do anything to shed my past," he said staring me in the eyes before his eyes dropped. I felt my stomach drop for Clitus. No matter what he did, in the deepest pit of my kidneys I knew deep inside he would never be deemed worthy enough to have Julia.

"It was worth the effort."

"How is it worth the effort if I never even got the chance to say goodbye to the only girl I truly loved," he sighed.

"Well think of it as a "see you later," I smirked.

"What do you mean? Her parents will not have me over. I can assure you that," he said with a frown.

"Remember how Julia promised to give us a tour of the city but that did not materialize?" Clitus nodded his head for me to continue. "Well, she still owes us men a proper tour. Tomorrow, I heard the festival of Saturnalia will be starting. It would be a perfect day to tour the city and maybe if her brother is willing she can accompany him and we can join them later on." A dim smile lit up Clitus' face before his lips straightened.

"How do you know if this will work?" he questioned.

"I will make it work," I grinned.

That night I had the best sleep I had ever had until…

"It is Saturnalia!" cried Julius as he darted into my room with his wooden sword pointing up at the low ceiling. I nimbly opened my eyes to see Julius grin from cheek to cheek as he gripped onto to the edge of my bed frame.

"Oh that is nice," I replied, as I rubbed my eyes to take in the dim light that cast the room in shadows. It must be still early dawn.

"Aren't you excited? Even the slaves are happy?" he replied as his smile diminished.

"Why certainly. I just did not expect you to barrage into my room so early," I replied, pulling the white wool sheets from off my bare chest.

"I am sorry. I thought you forgot. Our cousins are on their way any moment. I will not bother you anymore," he frowned.

"Julius. I did not mean it that way. You did not mean to cause trouble. You never do. I need to get up anyways," I smiled. I watched as Julius' grin ignited across his cheeky face again. I forgot why I was even annoyed in the first place. His innocent smile was refreshing to see. He slid the sword back in his sheath and tiptoed out my room but not without turning around to watch me one last time before he sauntered into the dining hall for the morning meal. Whether I chose to race or not, I had not quite decided. But whatever I decided I always had a loyal fan.

Today though would be different than other days. Much different.

No school lessons; much to Julius' greatest delight.

The father and grandfather were excused from their usual civic duties in the morning.

Even the slaves were in good spirits as they took care of the family business while we left with the rest of our extended family to the Temple. The billowy clouds cloaked the dawn skies casting shadows across the city. We were one of the few chariots still traveling the streets. As the sun slowly rose in the eastern skies, we knew we needed to arrive at our destination soon. Although we had gotten away with it a few times, it was forbidden in many of the streets to travel during the day in wheeled transportation. But there were always exceptions.

Our party was divided into three chariots. I accompanied Augustus' children and another male cousin named Tiberius who appeared to be around my age. As we traveled down the winding streets to the Temple, I sat back and watched Julius tried to break into the conversation between Julian and Tiberius. It was funny watching them as they would try to switch their Latin into Greek mid-sentence so as to lose their younger brother in their elusive conversations. My ears listened to their fluent Greek conversations, catching only a few phrases. It made me wish I had not forgotten my Greek. Meanwhile Julia was awfully quiet as she stared out the side of the brass chariot, watching the marble civic buildings rise from the parlors and tenement dwellings.

"So what is the purpose of Saturnalia?" I asked Julia softly. If I asked Julian or Tiberius they might look at me as if I was stupid. There was no recollection of celebrating it let alone the last fifteen years of my life.

"It is to honor the Great Saturn. The new light is upon us. That is why we must pay our homage at the temple," she uttered in a hollow tone before resting her head in her palms.

"It is a day where your lessons are cancelled and everyone revels in parties," Julius gleamed, revealing a new gap in his front teeth.

"It is a day that norms are to be broken and revelries abound," Tiberius grinned.

"Cheer up Julia. You look too sullen on a day like this," Julian said. "You use to look forward to it when you were younger," he added, pointing to Julius.

"Well maybe I outgrew it," she muttered under her breath.

"What was that?" Tiberius asked, scrunching his face.

"Oh nothing," she smiled weakly as she turned her neck away. If only she knew the surprise that awaited her!

We arrived at the temple, trailing behind our great uncle's chariot with all the full adult male relatives riding together leaving the children with the women. Others had already arrived, as the smell of incense filled my nose as we walked up the endless flight of steps. But there was something else in the air. A smell of burnt flesh sizzled in the air, making Julius lick his lips in delight. The sacrifices were already taking place. I walked over to Julian and Tiberius who were sitting at the top of the steps.

"You fellows ready to break off from the others? I was hoping we could meet up with Clitus and explore the city. He should be getting here any moment." Julian raised his eyebrow at the suggestion.

"What would you want to see that you have not seen?" Tiberius asked with a shrug.

"They are still newcomers to the city, Tiberius," Julian answered smartly.

"Oh yes you have told me. But still anything in particular?" he inquired.

"The best places of Rome. I would love to see the new Amphitheater Julian has often spoken of and other wonders this city has to offer," I smiled. I looked back at Julia quietly observing some of the priests dressed in their long white robes. I then remembered who else would want to come along.

"Julia," I called out. Immediately her eyes widened as she sauntered over to our group.

"So…" she began. "What would you like to speak to me about?" she asked sheepishly.

"Do you want to join our company to explore the city? I thought maybe you could use some fun," I smiled weakly.

"I thought this was a men only group?" Tiberius asked, scrunching his brows together.

"That is understandable if you do not want me to come. I will just look after Julius and the younger ones," Julia uttered softly.

"Do not mind Tiberius. You can join us," I protested.

"Why are you insistent on me coming?" Julia asked, raising her eyebrows.

"Because Clitus will be joining us," I replied in an undertone. There was a glimmer in her eyes although she tried to suppress a smile.

"I suppose you can come," Julian snorted. "You must not inform mother and father that Clitus is coming though. They would never approve the idea."

"Who has to know? Why would your parents be so troubled by Clitus?" Tiberius asked, shaking his head.

"Long story, my good cousin," Julian replied smartly as he slapped his hands against his broad shoulders. "We will talk about it later," he smirked. Just then I saw him. Clitus was hovering at the base of the steps wandering aimlessly amongst the throngs.

"I suppose he is right on time," Julian remarked slyly.

"Well what are we waiting for?" I smirked. Just then someone tapped me behind my back. Startled, I swiveled around only to see Julius with a big grin across his ruddy face. There was no way he was coming along.

"Mother and father wanted to stop at the house of our aunt Euodia." Julia and Tiberius were already making their way down the flight of stairs.

"That is nice but tell them that Julian, cousin Tiberius, Julia and I will be venturing about the city for the rest of the afternoon."

"Can I come too?"

"No, you are too young," Julian replied briskly.

"Why am I too young to explore the city?" he asked with a frown.

"Oh look grandfather Menelaus wants to see you for something," I lied as I saw him a few paces away adjusting his toga as he stood staring down below at the city from the portico we all stood at. Julius obediently walked towards grandfather as I gestured for Julian to go down and tell Clitus where the chariot was hitched…

"Troy, you are leaving already?" his voice echoed from behind. Just as I was about to descend down the long flight of stairs, Menelaus accompanied by Julius, were approaching me. I sighed as I stopped in my tracks to face his solemn face.

"I cannot stay too long. A group of us were going to look around the city. Some shopping for the colder weather would be advantageous," I smiled weakly.

"You have not seen cold until you endured the cold winters in the regions of Germania. Now that is when a soldier ought to be equipped with the heaviest of undergarments and wool cloaks."

"Why were you in Germania?" Julius asked, looking up at his grandfather.

"Warfare brought me to such lands," he uttered, tasting the cool air as the breeze from the north began to pick up.

"You told me those cold Barbarian lands up north even get snowfall!" Julius uttered in glee.

"I would hate to be there," I muttered as I adjusted my blue cloak. "But I have to meet up with some friends. I do not want to keep them waiting," I replied in a calm tone.

"Julia is coming with you too?" he asked precariously.

"Why yes. But she is in the best care. She has Julian, Tiberius and me," I shrugged.

"Just be careful out there. Please try to make it back before dark. I know the daylight is growing at its shortest length," he uttered coolly. I nodded as I wished them goodbye and raced down the steps to greet Clitus who had blended well into the crowds. I just hoped Menelaus did not spot him. He was cleverer than even I wanted to admit.

For now it was just the five of us. We had snuck away from the inquiring older adults and restless children and dispersed into the growing crowds that trampled the paved streets. Tiberius acted as guide as we passed several Temples and theatres along the way. The streets were beginning to converge as I saw the large Arch approaching ahead of the cluster of civic buildings.

"Where is this place? It looks familiar," I said glancing around at the line of columns that lined the broadening street.

"Oh. I almost forgot. We are arriving at the the Arch of Augustus. Welcome to the Forum Romanum," he announced in his deep voice.

The place was teeming with people like as I recalled it the first time I laid eyes on the Forum on first arriving to Rome. The courtyard was littered with makeshift booths off to the side leaving the open space for grand statues and monuments to rise from the paved cement walkway. Tiberius encouraged us to leave our chariot by the gate as we walked around to observe the statesmen holding up their togas as they assembled outside the steps of the basilica. Merchants from the side vied for our attention as jugglers and snake charmers with their shiny bangles took center stage as melodic notes from the flute fluttered in the air. Clitus and Julia were amongst themselves looking at the freshly woven garments. I hated being the odd one out. It was better if I stayed with Tiberius and Julian. Just then I heard my name chanted.



"You do not remember me!" the man replied walking towards me, wagging his head. His brown cloak clung over his medium frame as he ambled over to greet me. I took a step back.

"It is me, Marcus," he exclaimed. Now I remembered exactly who he was. He was the driver that took us to the Forum the first time we made it to Rome.

"Oh," I replied, sounding rather bored.

"So I heard you are a new chariot racer for the Blues. I suppose you did not need my money after all," he joked, flashing his teeth. "Perhaps you can come to our home. My friend is hosting an exquisite dinner party and they would love to have you in their company." I watched Clitus' smile diminish as he turned around with his new cloak.

"You are right. I did not need any of your money. I made it on my own sweat and tears," I answered coolly. "Thank you for your kind offer sir, but I will have to decline. I will be spending the day with family and friends," I smiled in his face. I turned my back to him and faced Julia and Clitus, leaving him utterly dumbfounded. It was the same expression I had when he left us with only a few coins to share amongst ourselves. The tables had turned. Now I had something to be proud of. But there were other sights to be seen.

We would venture deeper into the city. There was no turning back. Tiberius and Julian kept a brisk walk so they could take us to the Amphitheatre. On both sides of the narrow streets, bricklayers and masons were working tirelessly hammering and chiseling stones as old structures were knocked down and new ones rose from the rubble. I tried to listen to Tiberius as he would name the streets and Temples amongst the clamor of nails pounding and merchants debating with fussy patrons. I was too busy to pay attention to Julia and Clitus as they would casually stroll and talk amongst themselves. I had to remind Julian to slow down every time they crossed the street while Julia and Clitus were still lagging behind on the other side.

"Clitus and Julia, would you mind picking up the pace a bit?" Julian yelled across the street as we approached the Amphitheatre. Without a word, Julia and Clitus attempted to cross the mangle of carts and wagons being pushed and festival goers who were coming out into to the streets in great numbers.

"Sorry, but you must not walk so fast," she sighed as she climbed onto the boardwalk lining the shops.

"I wanted to go to the baths to refresh and unwind," Julian replied. "If it was to me, I would suggest maybe we should separate into two groups."

"I think we should stay together at least till we get to the thermal baths," I asserted.

"Very well," Julian sighed.

Tiberius simply smiled as he guided us to what was called the Flavian Amphitheatre. It was the one sight Julian and Tiberius had babbled most about during the length of the journey. It was larger than any arena I had laid eyes on with the exception of the Circus Maximus. I wondered why I had never seen it before. Its presence seemed to command attention alone. My eyes followed the rows of columns stacked on top of each other as the building curved and bend into a continuous circular frame.

"You men are looking at the newest symbol of Rome. And when it opens next year, it will be the new hosting grounds for the gladiatorial games," Tiberius beamed.

"Who gets to compete in the games?" I asked.

"Mostly slaves and some condemned criminals. Only a few men volunteer," Tiberius answered simply. I licked my chapped lips as we walked around the structure.

I shivered.

It would host the greatest contests the world ever saw. Here every time you stepped out into the arena, you knew you had to win. I was told there was no room for failure. Losing meant death!

"Poor men," Julia replied in a soft tone. "I did not think they needed a bigger arena to host their bloodbath," she added, wagging her head. "Thankfully though you refused that fate, Clitus," she smiled. Julian rolled his eyes as Julia and Clitus held hands.

"Are you two engaged?" Tiberius blurted. I swallowed my spit.

"No!" Julian said slapping his wrist against his forehead. "Julia, I know I was being nice about it before but you two cannot be showing affection in public. I am serious," he uttered sternly.

"I am sorry Julian, it was my fault. It will not happen again. I promise," she sighed.

We arrived at the bathhouse to refresh our weary souls from the arduous walk from earlier. It was unanimously agreed that after the baths we would start traveling back home. I had followed Julian, Clitus and Tiberius as they meandered down to the changing room while Julia parted ways to bathe with the other women. As usual I proceeded with my regular bathing routine. The best part of it all was the massage with scented oils. When I lay down on the wooden benches, I forgot everyone around me except the attendant who would knead and lather the oil onto my freshly cleansed body. All the tenseness slowly oozed out.

"We will be leaving soon as you wish," Julian added, throwing a soft jab at my shoulder as I wrapped the towel around my loins. I scrambled just to clutch onto my unraveling towel.

"I only mentioned it because your grandfather was insistent we make it back before dark. I do not want to be the "bad influence," I replied with smirk as we walked through the gymnasium floors.

"I understand that you want to play by the rules. Although he probably was referring to just Julia," he shrugged.

"Speaking of Julia, I wonder what she is up," Tiberius winked.

"I think Julia went to the baths designated for the women," I replied simply.

"Well I hate to be the one to rush her but it is best that we get going. Maybe Tiberius and I can leave out the side entrance and check if she comes out the women's entrance to the baths," Julian suggested.

"Sounds good to me," I replied with a shrug. "I will wait for Clitus to come out the dressing room, and then meet with you two outside the bathhouse." Both nodded in agreement as the two departed together down the corridors along the open courtyard. I shivered as a cold breeze blew through the opening from above. The sun had long disappeared behind the dreary clouds. After waiting awhile, I finally decided to step into the changing room to gather my clothes only to find a group of wrinkly old men rambling as they changed into their outer garments. Where did Clitus go? The thought of being left behind was unsettling. As I made my way towards the exit to the baths, someone tapped me on the shoulder.

"Troy. So nice to see you again," came the familiar voice. I raised my eyes and saw Hyros standing alongside me with his usual smirk.

"Greetings Hyros. What a pleasant surprise," I said, running my hands through my oily hair.

"Greetings to you too. How is life treating you these days?" he asked turning serious.

"It is treating me well. Things are finally looking up for me. I would love to sit and chatter but I am looking for friends."

"Oh I am so terribly sorry I am not the friend you were wishing to speak to. I would have invited you to the grand opening of my business, but I guess that would be a bad idea," he said wagging his head playfully.

"I am sorry. I did not mean it that way," I apologized. "I still wanted to see what this 'business' was about," I added with a half-smile.

"I recently opened up a tavern and a gaming shop. At twenty-five years of age this is one of the best things to happen to me. You might want to try your luck with one of the many guests that are supposed to be coming. Do tell your little friends. You will not regret it," he grinned.

"If I can find them," I snorted. "Have you seen Clitus at all?" Hyros shook his head no. I frowned. He then left me with the directions to his business, along with a mischievous grin wrapped around his jaw before departing. I promised I would visit after I found everyone else. I walked outside towards the women's entrance to the baths thinking they were waiting for Julia. I watched the women file out from the young fresh-faced girls to wrinkly old women. Julia was nowhere to be seen neither were the boys. I was beginning to get stares from some of the wary old women as I stood along the eastern wall.

Where were they?! I uncurled the parchment in my hand that Hyros had slipped.

I was going.

"So is this the spot you wanted to show me?" Julia asked with a befuddled grin as Clitus led her into a darkened alley between two empty wooden stables. Julia stepped over a pile of overgrown weeds and scraps of hay that swished against her ankles. She folded her hands against her bosom as she looked around the enclosed space.

"It is one of the few quiet places in this city. I like the silence," he voiced softly.

"I should have known. Of course I would have chosen something more tasteful in scenery like a beautiful garden courtyard," she winked. "At least here my brother is not constantly over our shoulders. I apologize for his brusqueness. He gets over-protective like my mother," Julia added. Clitus nodded as he stepped closer to Julia who was against the paneled wall. His eyes were fixed intently on her as she rambled on. "Good thing my mother is not here. She would probably say, 'you are acting so inappropriately.' 'Stop doing that.' 'My daughter deserves the best and most brilliant young man," she mimicked in a condescending tone. Clitus took another step closer as a smile ripened across his face. "I suppose I talk too much," Julia whispered into the cool air. Without hesitation he placed his hands on her shoulders and leaned his head forward until his lips locked on hers. She tilted her head back and let his soft lips kiss hers. Before she knew it she found herself backed into the wall with just him. A rush of blood was pulsing through her veins, the same red blood that pounded against the walls of her chest. Somehow she lost her voice as he took her breath away…



"Julia," I called out to the quiet streets. No reply; only the echoes bouncing off the walls of the stone and mortar buildings. Only a few stragglers roamed the streets while most people had already scurried to their quaint homes or to a nearby tavern. It was no use trying to find them. I found myself wandering the streets looking to see if I was anywhere near Hyros' residence. I focused hard on the scribbled directions on the parchment, hoping to find the street that would lead me there. I looked up at the sky which was growing darker with the passing of time. It was getting too late. I had to turn back. As I walked down a narrow passage between a cluster of taverns and rickety shops…

A small dog jumped out a crate of garbage by the alley and into the streets where it sniffed for discarded table scraps. I clutched my chest tightly, catching my breath. I looked back down at the map and looked up only to find a young man glaring at me with his piercing green eyes. I crumpled the map back in my sheath as I took a step back.

"What a pleasant surprise," he added in an undertone. My eyes widened as he started coming walking towards me.

"You do not remember me?" he smirked. It was Maximus! How did he find me here?! And what did he want now?

Turn back now!

My tired legs paced faster and faster down the road as he continued following me. I turned the corner of the winding road only to find it end in front of an inn. I banged against the door. No reply.


I found myself being cornered as I darted through the alley. He was still following me!

"Why are you running from me? What are you so scared of?" he asked as he followed me into the alley. I turned to face him as I stood midway in the alley. "I had something to tell you. I know you have a lot of questions and I have answers. But I know you are probably mad at me. But I want to apologize for everything. I apologize for the untimely death of your grandfather. I wish I could have made it to the funeral but circumstances beyond my control would not allow me to go. I am so terribly sorry for your loss_"

"Stop. Please stop. I know you are trying to feel sorry for me but I do not believe a word you said," I stated, shaking my head in disgust. "You can stop pretending to care," I said turning my back to him.

"That was cold even for you to say," he replied, his voice echoing down the alley. I pursed my lips in silence as I began walking away…

"Are you going to speak to me or are you still afraid of me?"

"I do not talk to murderers!" I muttered under my breath.

"What was that?!"

"You heard me!" I said, raising my voice. I was losing it.

"Oh so that means you would not talk to your father because he is a murderer too!" he added with a bite to his words.

"Look, I did not say I approve of everything he does. But you have caused so much pain that you could not possibly be sorry," I fired back.

"If anything you owe me a favor," he added briskly. He yanked me by the left shoulder spinning me around to face his scowl.

"I do not owe you and your good-for-nothing father a favor!" I snapped as I shoved him off. Without warning he grabbed me by the neckline of my cloak and slammed me against the brick wall of the adjacent building. My body rattled against the impact as the skin of my neck scraped against the bricks.

"You listen well. Don't you ever speak of my father in such contemptible words! Is that clear?" he warned in a low tone. Wham. A cold slap rippled across my face. Enraged, I punched him in the face sending him reeling by a stack of crates along the wall. Before he could regain his composure I shoved him against the crates, sending him and the crates crashing to the stone pavement. Blood drizzled down his nose before I backed away. He sprung up on his feet with his eyes staying fixed on me. He charged again, sending both of our bodies slamming onto the opposing wall. My body slumped against the wall as he reached out and clutched my throat. This time he was not letting go.

"Let go of me!" I shouted.

"You are not so quick-witted with the tongue when I catch you by the throat. Admit the truth, Troy. You are nothing but a cowardly boy pretending to be a man. You are pathetic. Weak," he taunted, breathing his hot breath in my face, as he squeezed my throat. I gasped and squirmed as moist crimson began to bleed into my cloak. But I could not show weakness.

Not now.

I watched his cold green eyes stare into mines as he watched my face writhe in pain. Raindrops drizzled from the heavy clouds, as they pelted against my face. Footsteps were converging. Yet their faces were blurred.

"Kill him…"