Genre: Historical Fiction – Ancient Rome
The Burn of Disobedience
The rope dug in to her wrists, the soft flesh burned by friction.
“My disappointment runs deep.”
Philomena glared at the ground, her last act of defiance.
“Mina, my dear,” her mistress said, a chastising lilt to her voice, “you only needed to apologize to the magistrate.”
Philomena yanked harder, the rope sinking into her skin like razors. “My disobedience, as you so wish to call it, was nothing more than exercising my slight will against his. Slave or no, I refuse to be anyone’s puppet, and especially so to a man I cannot respect.”
The lithe woman spun and paced several steps, her gold bracelets clinking against each other. She returned to Philomena and grasped her jaw, forcing their eyes to meet.
Philomena, tall as her mistress but younger and far more beautiful, could not mask the fire in her eyes.
“You may not have cared to obey, child, but my husband is your master.” She released Philomena and waved her hand dismissively. “Slaves have no will of their own, and your refusal to sing for his guests has left me with no choice. I hope you are pleased with yourself when you find not every master is as kind as the ones you’ve been blessed with here.”
What could she say to make this right? Balbina had been a kind enough mistress to her. Philomena had grown from child to young woman here among this household, but she’d never been able to stomach the magistrate’s heavy hand and demanding, immoral ways.
This had proved her last moment of dissent.
“May your days be long and sprinkled with contentment. I pray you are protected, Mina, but I can say no more.”
They stared at each other for a span of seconds which felt much longer to Philomena who couldn’t stomach the idea of apologizing. But if she did . . . .
“Take her.” Balbina’s voice rang soft but firm.
Philomena watched her turn and walk away without a backward glance.
“Mistress, please,” she whispered, heretofore unrealized desperation, seeping out like blood through fine silk.
Balbina’s step faltered but she did not turn; she said not a word and disappeared through the front door.
The driver of the cart chirped to his nag, and the wooden wheels groaned as the beast pulled forward. The ropes, precisely wound around her wrists, tugged and sliced. Her feet, unprepared for the motion, tripped along behind until she could right herself to the jerky flow.
Whatever future lay before her floated in a fog of mystery, but the die had been cast and there was no going back.
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