The Future for Nasica Minor
May 22, 2015
Filed under The Susky Literary Magazine 2016
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The sun was shining brightly by the time Nasica Minor and her mother arrived at the village. Nasica had rarely gone to the markets, and despite her unpleasant mood, she couldn’t help but admire her surroundings. Her mother introduced the shops as Nasica nodded absentmindedly.
“Ah, here’s an excellent spot!” exclaimed, Nasica’s mother, steering her towards Decor Pomonae. “Of course, we usually don’t have an opportunity to visit it…”
Nasica could certainly see why. The items on display were the types of fine, expensive delicacies only worn on very special occasions. Fine white tunics, sparkling, pristine jewelry, ribbons of every color….
Nasica would normally enjoy the accessories, but the sight of them only served as gloomy omens for her future. Nasica’s mother laid a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “You can buy anything you want, dear. It’s your wedding day.”
She twirled a long, red ribbon around her finger, looking at it sadly. “Nasica used to have one just like this,” she said to her mother. “Nasica Maior, I mean. She wore it all the time.”
“Ah, yes,” Nasica’s mother replied. “It looked so lovely on her.”
Nasica Minor’s sister, who was six years her senior, had been betrothed to the son of a wealthy merchant since her birth. As soon as she turned twelve, which was the legal age for a girl to marry, she was given away at a fantastically lavish ceremony. At the time, Nasica Minor didn’t realize why her mother was acting so emotional and so distant, or why, after the ceremony, she clung to the elder Nasica as if her life depended on it. Now, the younger Nasica understood. The wedding was eight years ago, and she hadn’t seen her sister since.
“Do you think we’ll ever see her again? Nasica Maior?” Nasica Minor asked, suddenly.
Her mother didn’t meet her eye. “I don’t know, dear. I suppose it depends on whether her husband ever wants to make the journey out here. She doesn’t belong to us anymore.”
“Right,” replied Nasica, as her throat constricted. All the more for her to look forward to.
It was late afternoon by the time Nasica, her mother and Rufus arrived back home. Sweating and exhausted, all Nasica wanted to do was collapse on a soft surface, but she was quickly accosted by her father.
“Where were you two?” He demanded.
“Shopping for Nasica’s wedding supplies. We’ve been planning this for weeks.” Her mother answered coldly.
“Well, I’ve been waiting two hours for my lunch. Get to it!”
Nasica’s mother took a deep breath. “Nasica, dear… why don’t you go inside and make sure your tunic fits? I’ll be there in a minute.”
Taking the hint, Nasica trudged into the house. However, the stone walls that she entered where just not strong enough to block out the conversation that followed.
“Will you just try and show a little more respect for your daughter’s wedding ceremony?” Nasica’s mother asked, angrily. “It’s a major rite of passage!”
“Well, I think it’s a waste of time and money. I’ve already been through this wedding thing once, with Nasica Maior. Do I really have to go through it again?”
“Nasica Minor’s your daughter too….”
“I know!” Nasica’s father roared. “But I’ve told you, Albina, all I ever wanted from you was a little boy. And you had to give me not one but two daughters!”
“Don’t say things like that!” cried Nasica’s mother. “Our daughters are wonderful girls!”
“Of course,” her father continued, ignoring his wife’s last comment. “I would’ve only had one daughter, if Septimus had lived…”
“Don’t you DARE blame me for Septimus’ death!” Nasica’s mother was screaming now. “I tried everything to save him, everything! But I was seventeen years old, Titus, and I had only given birth to Nasica Maior a year earlier! Septimus’ birth nearly killed me! As for him, he was such a sickly, fragile thing, right from the start. He never stood a chance.”
For a few seconds, there was only silence. Then, Nasica’s mother continued.
“You call yourself a father, Titus. You’re a sorry excuse for one.”
With that, Nasica’s mother plodded into the house, where she found her daughter staring at the floor with a ferocious intensity. She left Nasica alone and sunk into a chair on the opposite side of the room.
Suddenly, Nasica spoke.
“Why do you want me to be married so bad, Mother?” Nasica pleaded. “Let’s be honest. You don’t love Father. You never did. Why do you want me to suffer the same fate?”
It was a few seconds before Nasica’s mother responded. “I was a rebel, Nasica. When I was your age, I … I was in love. So in love, but with a boy that my father would never permit his refined young daughter to marry. But I wouldn’t listen to him. I tried to run away with the boy, but I of course I didn’t make it far. My father brought me right back home, and promptly handed me to your father.”
Nasica’s mother paused for a few moments, as if she was thinking over her next words very carefully.
“After all these years, I’ve decided that your father was my punishment. He’s what the gods gave me for going so far to challenge what was acceptable. I don’t want my nightmare to be yours, Nasica.”
Nasica’s mother took a deep breath and continued.
“You have a lot going for you, dear. Crassus is a kind young man, and you are more talented with a needle than I ever was. Who knows, maybe someday life for housewives everywhere will improve. But for now, I just want you to accept your fate with
grace. Since I don’t know when I’ll see you again… do it for me, Nasica Minor.”
With tears in her eyes, Nasica looked at her mother. Then, ever so slowly, she nodded.