33 Years Old
You can't live for the dead. If you want to honor them, then live a life worth living.
Transit Umbra, Lux Permanet
It was November of 62 by the time Eupheme returned to Colonia. Though she wanted more than anything to be done with Britannia, to cross the channel during the winter was risky at best, especially with a small child. So long as the season held and the harsh north winds blew, she remained in the city. It wasn't as though she didn't have things to occupy her. In her long absence, she and her former employer had been declared dead. Not an unreasonable assumption, really. And then there was the matter of the marriage contract waiting to be signed. As someone comfortable with words, she could come up with a dozen justifications for her actions. Technically she might even argue that she and Durus could have been considered married by usus, having cohabitated for a prolonged period and mutually consented to marriage. She was in effect, giving him exactly what he'd wished for; a son to carry his name, and to inherit his estate. He had known her condition when he'd proposed and had been prepared to claim her child as his own. But really, when she was honest with herself; she'd been tired, and scared, and worse off financially than when she'd first set foot on British soil. She was desperate. And so when this opportunity presented itself, she took it. She claimed his house and his and slaves and manumitted them, rewarding them for their continued silence.
The irony didn't escape her. It was her sense of integrity that had landed her in the province in the first place, and now she was willing to hedge everything on a lie. She regretted it almost immediately, filled with a sense of dread at the possibility of discovery, but she had already dug herself in too deep to go back now. Once spring arrived, she crossed the channel and began her journey back to Rome, a widow without ever having been wed.
Quintus was already a year old by the time they set foot in the city. Instead of finding stability, they had arrived at a period of political upheaval and Rome was tense as Clemens named himself Caesar, beginning a new period of bloodshed and civil war. The empire seemed fit to tear itself apart. Eupheme stayed with friends while she tried to sort out her late husband’s affairs, though with the way things were going she was reluctant to reclaim his property. It was soon after her return to Rome she heard news of the Junii Silani. Their Junian blood made them a natural target for the would-be dynast, and Clemens moved fast against them and his other perceived enemies. While most of the family escaped, Calvina had remained. Eupheme was saddened to hear the news, the lady refusing to leave her home after so long in exile and choosing instead to die there. Having lived in a constant state of instability, it was difficult for Eupheme to imagine a place and its memories being worth more than your life, but so it was for her.
The war ended, as they inevitably do, and Rome found itself with a new Flavian Emperor. Things calmed, and life returned to something like normality. One of the first things she did was sell her husbands domus on the Aventine and bought a more modest home on the Quirinal. The business that was left to her, long left to waste, took years to recuperate. A daunting task for most, but there was always something of the racehorse in her composition. Give her room, and she'd run and run. It was a logistical and managerial challenge she could lay her hands on, and she did so gladly. Their interests spanned the empire and beyond; cotton and linen from Egypt, silks for the far east, wool from Britannia. As she began to settle into her new role, her initial fears passed and she became more confident in her decisions.
One of the first major purchases she made, after her own home, was the booksellers where she'd once been employed as a client of her former master. To Cosmas, her former workmate and fellow scribe, she gave the running of the business, while Aulus she welcomed into her home as a tutor for her son. At 3 years old, Quintus hardly needed a tutor, but the septuagenarian scribe could hardly be called a nursemaid, of which there was none. Quintus was raised just as she had been; with an abacus instead of a rattle, and more quarterly reports than Greek fables to lull him to sleep, though there were some of those as well. She kept him by her side and tutored him herself; an odd upbringing for a boy, raised by a young woman and a very old man, but they managed well enough between them. Cosmas would come to marry, and his children became playmates for her son. Though they shared no blood to bind them, they were familia none the less.
Land. The Roman economy hinged upon land. While other newly monied families might have had seaside villas on sunny coasts, Eupheme invested in productive farmlands; orchards and olive groves and wheat. Instead of spending their holidays near the sea, they went at harvest and planting season to visit their properties. Eupheme wanted very much for her son to know what they owned and how they made their income, determined he should not grow into one of those idle young men content to squander what the previous generation had made for them. That aside, he enjoyed the time spent in the countryside, where he spent days climbing, dragging nets full of ripe olives, swimming, and fishing. He made friends easily, and during those cool months and short days it was hard to pin him down to continue their lessons. She did not mind it so much. It was important that he had a relationship with these other children, who someday he might well employ or be master of himself. So far as anyone knew, he was the son of freedmen, with no great name to rest upon.
In the winter of 71, Aulus fell ill. The elderly scribe remained in her home until the end, and Eupheme cared for him in his last days as dutifully as any daughter. Though her life had been filled with tragedy and loss, it was the first time Quintus had been touched by grief, and it affected him deeply. Lacking anyone else to own the name, the boy had looked upon him as a grandfather. A proper funeral was held, and his ashes laid to rest in a mausoleum that had been built over where her father had been laid to rest according to Numidian custom, buried in the earth.