Chapter XVIII: Sabine Abduction

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"If you wed in bleak November, only joys will come, remember."

Cornelia stepped out of her room squinting in the light of a November day. A gentle chill nipped at her arms, and she hugged herself to fend off the cold both inside and out. Cornelia watched hopelessly as the sun rose illuminating her lavishly disguised prison cell. All the gold and purple furnishings in the world could not camouflage the reality of her entrapment.

She had become accustomed to the concept that women were equal. She longed the realities of that future; which was now her past. What cruel fates had shown her the wonders of independence, only to steal it away?

Echo expertly wove narcissus flowers into Cornelia's ceremonial braids. Another excessive show of wealth by her husband to be. Narcissus blooms are a spring flower, how he got them in November meant no expense was spared even on that silly detail. It was not even her favorite flower. She played with the petals of one of the yellow blooms. Echo shifted in front of Cornelia and began coating her lips with a dye.

Cornelia could see a depth of despair in Echo's eyes that reflected her own. "I wish we could trade places," Cornelia said crestfallen to the helpless girl in front of her.

"Trade places," Echo nodded in agreement.

"I brought this on myself," Cornelia whispered in a somber voice to Echo.

She nodded again, "Brought this on myself."

Echo handed her an orange and red veil. "This is wrong," Cornelia said gently taking the delicate fabric.

"This is wrong." Echo nodded emphatically.

"My mother would be helping me to make these." She said as she gently smoothed the folds of her white silk dress. The color of purity. Almost as if in the darkness of her own mind Demetra shifted. It was an impossible thought she was too far gone. Somewhere in the depths of her comatose world maybe, just maybe, she heard her daughter.  Demetra groaned in the corner of the room. Her gaunt figure trembled in the throes of withdrawal. "I have no probuba, and nothing to pass on as all of the toys of my youth are gone."

Echo shook her head, "gone." Cornelia was confused by her disagreement. Gastonus had already strongly insinuated that he was responsible for the thievery. She wanted to contest him in the courts. She wanted to scream from the rooftops that he was a thief and a tyrant. She wanted to point her finger at the real evil in the room; but, he set them up to fail so perfectly.  He set himself up as a 'hero' when he 'took them in.' Who would listen to an addict and her loud-mouthed daughter? She broke from her reverie. "I have no choice."

"No choice." Echo said as a solitary tear meandered down her cheek.

A knock sounded at the door. Echo obediently answered. Flavia stepped through. Her eyes fell upon her sister with sadness and understanding. Their mother cried out a strange garble of words that sounded similar to Flavia's name.

"I am sorry, sister. Gastonus told me that he did everything he could for her." She rested a gentle hand on Cornelia's shoulder, "Titus and I were so relieved he was willing to take on her care. Business has been bad in Pompeii." She tried to explain, tried to appease Cornelia; but, it did not work.

"You abandoned her." Cornelia lashed out throwing a small vase at her sister; which, never even came close to its target.   Cornelia looked at the shattered remains in horror.  "I have lost everything," she whispered, internally cursing her own weakness.

"Cornelia I understand you feel," Flavia said reaching for her.

"No you do not, sister." Cornelia scoffed weakly swiping away her sister's touch. "You had perfect everything, including marriages."

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