Twist Of Destiny
The next several weeks passed almost in a blur of activities as we transferred from Africa to Hispania, and I was glad for it kept me from thinking too much about Maximus, even if I could not avoid it completely. It is strange how the human mind works. In the past ten years, I had not thought about him but a few times, generally in coincidence with such a special occasion like my birthday or my marriage anniversary and also the day Valerius had died, and I had desperately wanted to have Maximus hug me as he had done many times when we were children and something "bad" had happened to me. However I could not say I missed him, just that I would have liked to spend some time with him again. Instead now I was acutely aware of his absence and I mourned the time we had spent apart.
We arrived at Emerita Augusta at the end of September, and I immediately searched for a suitable accommodation for us. When I was a child, I had lived in the governor's residence since my father had worked there, first as governor, then as vice-governor when that office had been covered by Maximus' father or by other men sent from Rome. My family had been ensconced in the senatorial class under Caesar Trajan's reign, when a lot of Spaniards had risen to power serving the new Emperor. My father had been a very simple man, and while he had lived in the Capital for several years, he had remained emotionally tied to Hispania, and after his office as governor had elapsed, he had chosen not to try to rise even higher in the scale of power to be able to stay in the lands he had loved so much. He had been a wonderful help to all the various governors that had succeeded him, because no one knew the province of Lusitania better than he did, and he was still doing his job when death came to claim him. I had always liked the governors' residence and considered it my home, but now that my father was dead, I could no longer live there and thus my first worry was to find a villa to buy or rent.
I was lucky enough and quickly found what I was looking for in a yellow painted domus just outside of Emerita Augusta. Since it was a bit small to accommodate my entire household and furniture comfortably and did not possess a large garden, I did not buy it, but simply rented it while I kept looking around for a larger estate to build my dream house.
By the time winter fell and the day of my child's birth approached, I was perfectly established in my temporary home and I had re-tied my contacts with the city where I had grown up. Everyone remembered my father and many remembered my husband and me, so it was easy enough to return to be part of a community where I was esteemed and sought after to participate in spectacles and social gatherings, even if my condition prevented me from accepting those invitations.
Maximus visited me in my sleep many times in the last days of my pregnancy. And in my dreams he was always smiling at me. But it was not the man I had met in Zucchabar, but the one had I seen for the last time in Hispania about ten years before and for this I was grateful. In the months after our night of passion, I had dreamt of him and the images of his sweaty body covered only by his skin and leather wrist guards had come to haunt and enflame me, but now that he was dead such an image would be obscene, not respectful. That night had not been a happy occasion for him. He had been forced to do something he had not wanted to do and had to endure the humiliation of seeing a drug transform him into a rutting animal, and now that I was going to become the mother of his child, I wanted to remember him joyous and smiling, just as he had been the day of his marriage, not ashamed and embarrassed like that last morning.
Finally the time of my labour arrived. My second child was born in mid December, a beautiful baby boy, very healthy and lively, with a thick crown of dark hair and bright blue eyes. He was his father's image and I named him Maximus Decimus Meridius Postumus, because he was born after his sire's death, just like Valeria. It was not difficult to have the clerk of the censor's office accept the chosen appellation, but it pained me to see that suffix at the end of my children's names, mainly because it meant they would never know the wonderful men that had sired them, nor would their fathers ever know the joy the babies brought to my life. As for me, I must confess I was a bit scared of having to raise a boy without any male help, except for that of my servants. A boy needs a model, a reference point, and I could offer him none, because all the men that had shaped my life had gone. However I swore to myself that I would do my best to raise the baby in a way that would make Maximus proud of him.
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