The Bath

The bath was finally ready, the water heated with stones from the fire until it was just shy of painfully hot, and scented with the oils of flowers. The rising steam was fragrant as a garden in spring- Rufus would be pleased. For such a hard man he had an abiding love for nature and things of beauty. He surrounded himself with art and exquisitely crafted wooden and stone furnishings, as well as beautiful slaves. His banquets were famous for providing all sorts of fine food and wine as well as offering up satisfactions of all sorts of carnal appetites, of any nature. Of handsome young men and women he owned dozens.

I had become his slave almost by accident. I had been living a solitary life after washing ashore many years before. The urge for human contact had remained dormant in me until the day a ship laid anchor near the beach I called home. I had come out to greet the strange men who came ashore and there Rufus had first laid eyes upon me. We shared no language in common, but the attraction was powerful and I stayed with him that night. In the morning he made it clear he expected me to accompany him. There was no force involved, just his calm certainty that I would not deny him. He named me Felicia.

Rufus sauntered in just as the preparations were complete. Two young men relieved him of his robes and sandals and he walked with practiced ease down in to the steaming bath. He motioned to me and I stripped off my tunic then slid in to the water, suppressing a small gasp as the heat sank in to my skin. Rufus grinned at me as I took up a decanter of oil and waded to him.

“This is perfect, Felicia,” he sighed as I slid in to place behind him.

“Thank-you. We worked very hard, we know how much a good bath means to you.”

“Yes, still, I should take you with me when I travel to Rome- the great baths are magnificent!” He continued to talk as I began massaging his broad shoulders, working the warm oil in to his skin as I worked at the hard knots of his muscles. This was really a man’s job, but Rufus enjoyed my personal attentions.

“It is a place where more true commerce is conducted than anyone would care to admit,” he continued, “I have made some impressive contacts just by frequenting the baths… I had hoped to build something like them here, but there are so few true Romans about. Who would come?”

“Perhaps if you were to build something as magnificent as you dream of then more would come just to behold them?”

“You think like a man, Felicia,” he smiled, “but in the end it would come to nothing. Some would come, and they would marvel, but every praising word would be followed by ?But in Rome…’ and they would be right. My pride would not willingly endure that,” he sighed after that statement, then continued, “But of course, I will build baths. Magnificent baths. My pride, again.”

“You war with yourself even here, when you should be relaxing in my embrace.”

Rufus laughed and turned, his muscular arms drawing me close as he looked in to my eyes.

“I’ve warned you before, Felicia: this is a bath, not a brothel,” at which point I burst out laughing because his left hand had slid up between us to cover my breast. I rubbed up against him, the firm muscled mass of his body setting my skin to tingling. All he ever had to do was touch me…

But he was serious: this was a bath. He pushed me off, gently but with firm strength and I made a show of pouting before taking up the soft spiny brush he preferred and setting about the task of bathing my master. He appreciated the flirtatiousness. He also demanded that I respect his preferences- later there would be time to light the lamp and pay homage to Venus.

Rufus was very serious Roman. He had a wife and three children in Bruttium, but had accepted a post in the “hinterlands” on the request and advice of his patron. It had been on his journey to this place that he had encountered me on that beach and as I came to understand his language I had to wonder what kind of man it was who would profess such admiration for his wife while openly keeping time with me. It took time for me to understand the he admired his wife as mother to her three children, and respected her as one who was adept at maintaining the proper social ties and proprieties, but of love there was nothing, merely an agreement to share a household and have children. Among the upper classes this was not so terribly unusual.

As for his relationship with me- Rufus had fist been intrigued by the idea that I might be a manifestation of Diana, appearing as I had clad in skins and carrying a staff. My willingness to submit to him had quickly disabused him of that notion, but he still considered it small twist of luck and fate that we should meet, hence his chosen name for me.

For me, it was all delightfully, refreshingly new.

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