Sunday, November 16, 2008

Short Stories: Memories Eternal

MEMORIES ETERNAL

"The sword scraped its way from the scabbard," Mark typed, searching his brain for a cadenza from Vergil's Aeneid.
He refilled his wine glass from a box of the fluid beside the keyboard. The computer screen bathed the room in a dim bluish light. He saw there the reflection of someone who seemed older than his thirty years staring back at him.
For at least the tenth time that day, he opened his email, hoping to see a response from one of the dozens of query letters he had sent out a week earlier. Sipping deeply from his glass, he scanned an inbox empty of anything new.
An instant message box popped onto the screen.
"I'm here for just a second, Mark," he read. "We're still on for tomorrow, I hope?"
"Yes," he typed. "And I can't wait to see you again."
A single smiley face replied. He saw her icon change color and knew she had logged off.
"Do you have any idea what you do to me, Susan?" he whispered, topping off his glass again. "Now for your big moment, Galerius," he said evenly. "It's time to vanquish your foe."
"The Roman general squinted through the fog laced field and spotted his arch-nemesis Burebista," Mark wrote. "He raised his sword into the air and charged the Dacian foe."
He picked up a pen beside the keyboard and jotted a note. "Try writing sober again." He took another swallow off his glass and settled in to complete the scene.
"The Dacian chieftain suddenly produced and hurled an axe. Galerius was lifted off his feet as the weapon crashed through his breastplate. Lying on his back in the thick grass, he frantically tugged at the iron implement imbedded in his chest."
"It wasn't supposed to end this way," Galerius managed through lungs wheezing with blood.
"No, it wasn't!" Mark said aloud, clenching his fists in confusion and touching his knuckles to his lips. He half expected them to feel numb. Carefully repositioning his fingers on the keyboard, he continued.
"'My lord', a foot soldier said gently in Galerius' ear, 'We have turned them back, but Burebista got away'. The Roman general felt the life draining from his body. He drew in a final agonized breath. 'Tell my daughter…she must avenge me'."
Mark closed his eyes. He felt a gentle alcohol-induced spinning. "Perhaps the plot change is an inspiration," he thought.
"Sing, my Muse, the rest of the tale," he whispered as he felt his fingers typing independently of his own will.
"Aemelia saw a centurion coming up the path to the villa. Her anxiety grew with each of his steps. The soldier's face was wet with tears."
"'My lady, your father has fallen in battle', he said with a hoarse voice."
"She was silent, but a fierce scream tore through her heart."
"'He told me…'"
"'I know,' she interrupted him. 'I must avenge my father'. "
"The young girl stood before her family's lararium, their household shrine. Placing her hands carefully on the small altar, she blinked through tears at the figurines that represented her divine ancestors. Aemelia opened her mouth to speak, but broke down into convulsive sobs. The moment slowed and seared into her memory. All emotion poured away. She no more felt love, not ever for her father. Nor was it an anger. All that remained was a resolve."
"'I will avenge you, my father. I vow today that no peace will ever exist between our family and the family of Burebista. Te expectavi multos annos, Marce. Es ultor ex ossibus nostris'."
Mark gasped and drew his hands back as if from a fire. Suddenly feeling close to fainting, he lowered his head and took several deep breaths. As the spots began to clear from his vision, he reached for his wine glass with a trembling hand. He drained it in one swallow and looked up at the screen. Only then did he notice that the last two sentences he had typed were Latin.
"I have waited many years for you, Marcus," he translated aloud. "You are an avenger from our own bones."
He moved to refill the glass but paused. "I've clearly had enough for one night," he said.
He left the study and collapsed into bed.
********************
Mark felt his heart rate accelerate the moment he spotted Susan down the corridor of the Student Union. He had met this law school professor quite by accident a week earlier. Since then they had spoken on the phone and chatted online just briefly to fight through scheduling conflicts in the way of this first date. As she approached, Mark noticed she was wearing a sun dress in a lighter shade of the green he had said nicely suited her flame-red hair at their first meeting. Since a bold compliment had been well received before, he decided to take a chance again.
"You are positively stunning, Dr. Hansen," he said.
He saw her blush and smile deeply.
"Thank you, Dr. Petrescu," she said.
They entered the campus Rathskeller and scanned the environs for a place to sit.
"How about you grab us that booth in the corner while I get us something to drink?" he said. "What would you like?"
"Beer sounds good," she said.
Mark smiled to the young man behind the bar. "I'd like a pitcher of your dark beer, please," he said. He paid for the beer and approached their booth.
"Voici, Mademoiselle," Mark said, pouring her a glass. He wondered whether the moment occasioned a toast, but saw her take a drink as soon as he picked up his own glass.
"I'm sure you're a bundle of nerves knowing that the tenure board votes on you next week," she said.
He felt his blood pressure spike to hear it mentioned. "So you know about that," he said awkwardly.
"The whole faculty knows who's in the hot seat at any given time. I won't face it myself for two more years."
"I'm not optimistic about my chances," he said. "I've tried and failed to get any of my research published. No one has ever gotten tenure here without at least one academic article to their name."
"But I've heard that the Latin students love your class," she said. "Solid teaching should count for more than a publication."
"Even so, I would feel better about all this if I had just one. In a last ditch effort to report some kind of publication, I'm even writing an historical novel."
"Really? What's it about?" she asked excitedly.
"It's about a Roman general who beats a wicked enemy in Dacia, modern day Romania. Last night, however, the story somehow took over and went a different direction."
"I've heard that writers can experience that," she said.
"But this felt…" he stopped himself from explaining further an experience he did not himself completely understand. "Anyway, I've learned that I'm quite incapable of creative writing without significant chemical assistance. I don't think I'll make it as a novelist. But for now I'm giving it a try."
They spent a few silent moments, drinking their beers and surveying their surroundings. Mark was thinking of ways to spark the conversation when she spoke.
"So what first interested you in Latin?" Susan asked, emptying the pitcher into their glasses. "I studied it in college because I knew it would help me in the legal profession. How about you?"
"I went into Latin," he started cautiously, "because something…" Mark winced and wondered whether to tell her the strange experience that had set him on his life's course.
Sensing his hesitation, Susan reached across the table and she put her hand on his. "Mark, I like you," she said, leaning toward him and looking deeply into his eyes. "And I want to know you better."
Mark looked at her and felt all his anxiety fading away. "It was a mystical experience."
"Excellent!" she said. "Tell me more."
"I'll continue after I get us a bit more beer," he said, sliding from the booth.
With no one waiting, Mark went directly to the counter. "Another pitcher of beer, please," he said, pulling out his wallet.
"Right away," the young man said.
Instantly, Mark felt a strong tug of reminiscence.
"Excuse me," he said. "I know you from somewhere. Did you take a class from me?"
He looked at Mark carefully. "Sorry, sir, I'm pretty sure I never met you before today."
Mark paid for the beer and returned.
"I'm just positive I know the kid serving beer up there," he said, refilling her glass. "But he insists we've never met."
"Maybe from a previous life, if you believe in that." She sipped her new beer. "You owe me a mystical story, Mr. Latin Professor."
He smiled pensively. "When I was 15 years old, my mother died."
"I'm so sorry," she said. "What a terrible thing for a young person to go through."
"My dad was a mess after the funeral and started to drink some wine we had in the house. Even though I was underage, he asked me to join him. I guess he wanted the company. He eventually fell asleep, but I stayed up late, drinking more and going through some of my mom's stuff."
"Sorry to interrupt," she said. "But is your father still alive?"
"No, he died last year."
"Any siblings?"
"No, I'm an only child."
"Cousins? Aunts and Uncles?" she asked.
"Only my uncle Stefan, my dad's brother. In fact, he's the reason I came to teach at this college. Stefan's a professor at the Medical School here."
She took his hand again. "I'm glad to hear you're not totally alone in the world."
Mark sipped his beer and continued. "My dad's family came from Romania and I was raised Eastern Orthodox. But my mom was an Italian Catholic. I found an old prayer book among her things. It had Latin on one side and English on the facing page."
"I'm Lutheran myself," Susan said. "But I've seen books like you're describing."
"I began reading in it and suddenly I was understanding everything. It was as if something inside me already knew Latin."
"Perhaps you were experiencing a genetic memory."
"What's that?" Mark asked.
"I've read that talents and instincts can be inherited from an ancestor. Perhaps you were born with a predisposition for knowing Latin from your mother or even your Romanian father."
"I guess that's possible," he said. "Anyway, the next morning the Latin ability I had the previous night had been replaced with a terrible hangover."
She laughed. "Did this experience ever return?"
"Never again to the same extent," he responded. "But the incident drove me to take Latin in high school and make it the focus of my studies in college and grad school. And so here I am, Dr. Mark Petrescu, Assistant Professor of Latin."
"Thank you for sharing that with me, Mark," she said. "Listen, I really wish this time together didn't have to be so short. I give a lecture tomorrow on early Roman law. I'm sure you could do it off the top of your head, but I have to double check my facts on things like the authority of the Pater Familias."
Mark grinned. "You give me too much credit, Susan. I know that Pater Familias is a title for the head of a Roman household, but I'm fuzzy beyond that. In grammar and vocabulary I'm a whiz. History and culture have always been my weak points. A lot has fallen out of my brain since I crammed for the prelims."
They both got up from the table.
"Then I'll teach you all about Roman law on our second date," she said smiling.
"I will be very much looking forward to it."
She put her hand on his shoulder and gently kissed him. "Give me a call, Mark. And good luck with your writing."
********************
Mark sat down at his computer still euphoric from his time with Susan. He poured a glass of wine and drank it down in just three swallows.
"I have waited many years for you, Marcus," he read again. "You are an avenger from our own bones." The Latin phrase seemed familiar to him. An online search brought back confirmation of his suspicion.
"Ah ha!" he said aloud. "It's a phrase that Dido used in Book Four of the Aeneid."
He quickly drank another glass and then settled in to write.
"What do I do with you, Aemelia?" he asked himself. "Do I keep you in my story?"
He felt his fingers begin to twitch. "Sum Aemelia, mater tua," he typed. "Oportet tibi perficere iurationem meam."
Mark squinted at the screen. "I am Aemelia, your mother. You must fulfill my vow," he translated.
"This is crazy," he whispered. "Is my story turning into a chat session?" "Who are you?" he typed in response.
His fingers wanted to type again, but he pulled them away to drink another full glass of wine. He returned them to the keyboard.
"Non intellego linguam tuam, mi fili. Dic mihi latine," they typed.
He laughed as he translated. "I don't understand your language, my son. Speak to me in Latin."
"Quis es tu? Quomodo hoc facis?" he replied. "Who are you? How are you doing this?"
"I am your mother Aemelia. My dear child, you are the long awaited fulfillment of my vow."
"You're a fictional character from my novel. How are we having a conversation?"
"I am not fictional, my son. I have been guiding you for years. I was the one reading Latin that night after your mother's funeral. Now I have revealed our family's history to you through your writing."
"Either I've lost my sanity or you're some kind of ghost."
"No, my Marcus. I am dead but live as memories inside you."
"I still say I'm drunk or crazy or both," he typed. "What do you want with me?"
"You are near a child of Burebista. My memories have sensed it."
"You keep referring to yourself as 'memories'. And yet you speak to me as a person. What are you exactly?" he asked.
"I don't know, my son. I can think. I can sense things within you. But what matters most is what you must do."
"And what is that?"
"Our father's shade can not rest. You must avenge him by killing the descendant of Burebista."
Mark stood up from the computer and stumbled backwards toward the exit from his study. Waves of chill ran through his body as he left the room, carefully shutting the door behind him.
********************
"Here's the coffee you asked for," Stefan Petrescu said, setting the cup in front of his nephew. Mark sipped it and felt the caffeine dulling the intensity of his headache.
"Thanks for seeing me on such short notice," he said.
"Of course. Mark, I know you're sick of hearing this, but you look so much like your dad."
"It's OK," Mark chuckled, sipping from his cup. For a moment he was not sure if the coffee would stay down.
"What did you want to talk about?" Stefan asked.
"I'm writing an historical novel and thought I might include something I read about online. Have you heard about genetic memory?"
Stefan rolled his eyes in annoyance. "It's parapsychology, not science."
"What is it, exactly?" Mark asked.
"Memory is stored in the brain alone. But there have been some anecdotal claims hinting that it could also reside deeper in the genes. For example, someone gets a heart transplant and then suddenly craves food the donor supposedly loved."
"That's intriguing," Mark said.
"And random. People change their tastes all the time. It hardly means we should throw away all our confirmed scientific doctrine."
"Has anyone ever suggested that detailed memories of an ancestor could be passed down genetically?" Mark asked.
"The phenomena of child prodigies and idiot savants could be explained by genetic memories from an ancestor who had honed and then passed on such talents. But as a scientist I have to tell you there's no way it could actually work."
"But play Devil's Advocate for a moment," Mark said. "If memory can be stored genetically, when and how do you think it would happen?"
"There would have to be some evolutionary advantage to it," Stefan replied. "Perhaps some severe stress or perceived danger would be passed on to the next generation as an early warning about a threat."
"Isn't that exactly what instinct is?"
"Genetic memory would still have to be a rare phenomenon. Otherwise we would all be walking around filled with the memories of earlier generations, which we clearly aren't."
Mark finished his coffee and set the cup on the table. "How about a Roman woman, in the immediate trauma of learning her father had died, swearing an oath to her gods that she would try to avenge him?"
Stefan looked at him seriously. "You're using that in your story?"
Mark sensed a sudden turn in his uncle's attitude. "Yes. Why?"
"Your dad told you about what happened?"
"Yes," Mark lied. "But he didn't give me many details."
"A number of years ago, one of our cousins back in Romania marched into church and asked the village priest to perform on exorcism on him. He said that he was possessed by what he called 'the memories of an ancient Roman mother'. He said she wanted him to avenge her dead father by killing a man in some nearby town."
"Right, that's the story," Mark said, feeling both exhilarated and apprehensive. "I was thinking it might make for an interesting plot element. Imagine if those memories had been passed within a family."
"If that really were a genetic memory, it didn't provide any evolutionary advantage to our cousin."
"Why? What happened to him?" Mark asked.
"When the priest told him he wouldn't perform the exorcism, our cousin pulled out a pistol and shot himself in the head."
********************
"Aemelia," he typed, "I learned this morning that you are somehow alive as memories passed down in our family. Through me, your memories express themselves with a personality. You may even be experiencing some level of self-consciousness."
"I don't understand all that you say, my Marcus," she responded. "But I'm glad you know I'm real."
"How much do you know about me?" Mark asked. "Can you read my thoughts?"
"Not all of them. I catch only pieces of your mind and what you are feeling. And it seems we can only be in direct contact when you're drunk. Marcus, how much time has passed since I lived?" she asked.
"A little less than two thousand years," he replied. "There's so much I can learn from you, Aemelia. So much information about your time has been lost."
"It is not appropriate for you to address me by name. I am your mother."
"Yes, my mother," he responded. "It feels good to call you that. You know I've missed my own mother so much."
"Yes, my child. My heart ached for you when you lost her. I can't give her back to you, but you have me now."
As they communicated, Mark felt his immediate awareness of typing on the computer fade into the background. In his mind, the experience evolved into a face to face conversation with a stately Roman matron.
"Mother, when you first contacted me, you quoted from Vergil's Aeneid. How did you know that verse?"
"Our father gave me an excellent education. He spent a fortune keeping me supplied with the works of our historians and poets."
"Do you know how valuable you are?" he asked. "You can probably quote authors whose works have not survived. You could help me be a very successful scholar."
"Marcus, I always dreamed of having a child who shared my love of poetry and literature. My heart is soaring right now."
As they talked about their favorite authors, Mark felt the stirrings of an expansive love for his ancestor. He felt flowing tears and knew that they expressed a deep joy in both of their hearts.
"I'm so happy all this is happening," Mark said. "My mother, let's talk about your vow. How do you even know that a descendant of Burebista is near me?"
"I have sensed him near you for some time. Yesterday I think you even talked to him."
"Mother, a descendant of Burebista alive today shouldn't be killed to avenge our father. Such a person is innocent of what his ancestor did."
Mark felt a sudden anger inside himself. It was her emotion, not his.
"Marcus, you need to know that my memories include contact with two more of my children."
"Memories formed since you died?" he asked.
"I found a way to communicate with my daughter's son through his dreams. I convinced him to join the army. Our plan was for him to work his way up the ranks until he could fulfill the vow."
"And what finally became of him?" Mark asked.
"I don't know. He had gotten married before going to his post in Britannia. His wife stayed with her mother-in-law in Dacia. I can only assume, since my memories continued on, that he had a child."
"How do you know he didn't succeed? Perhaps your grandson killed a descendant of Burebista."
"I think I would know if that happened," she said.
"But, you wouldn't. My dear mother, you would only know about it if it happened before your memories were passed on."
"I don't understand," she said.
"What if your grandson had ten children? Each one could have inherited your memories. And each time those memories are awakened, you would tell your descendant to fulfill the vow, even if their father had already done it."
He was suddenly looking at hands that were under only his control. For the first time since they had begun conversing, she was silent. Mark sensed confusion as he felt her presence creep back into his mind.
"Mother, you were a cultured and educated woman," he continued. "You don't want to do any harm. Please let go of the vow. It's probably already been fulfilled."
"My father's shade is not at peace. I can't let it go," she said.
"You're asking me to kill based on the assumption that the vow was never fulfilled. Shouldn't we instead decide to let it go? Would your father have wanted all of this to happen on his behalf?"
"My son, I'm weeping. Do you think I like what all this has done to us?"
"Mother, it can end with me. I will not fulfill your vow."
"I didn't want it to come to this. You're different. You're so special, Marcus."
"Different from whom? What do you mean?"
"Hundreds of years after my grandson, I contacted a daughter. Her name was Helena."
"You came to her through her dreams as well?"
"No, I spoke with her as we do. Her job was to copy Latin manuscripts. I broke through in the text of her writing. We talked on pieces of vellum she stole from the scriptorium of her monastery."
"She was a nun, then. But she didn't have to be drunk to talk to you?"
"I guess not. She did once say that it had something to do with her lack of sleep. She was awake at strange hours for prayers and was always copying out these manuscripts."
"I'd like to learn a lot more about her," he said.
"Marcus, she was near a son of Burebista. I felt it. He was a prince where she lived."
"Where was that exactly?"
"The city of Brasov, in Transylvania."
"Did you learn a year?" he asked.
"She said it was 1740, in the year of her Lord."
"That part of Romania had been annexed by the Austrian Empire by then. Brasov was a German speaking city. This is all so fascinating."
"Helena would not do her part to fulfill the vow," Aemelia continued. "That was unacceptable."
"How could you expect a nun to find and kill a prince?" Mark asked.
"I knew that wasn't feasible. She was still standing in the way of the vow by not having a child to carry my memories into the next generation."
"Well you must have convinced her somehow," he said. "Otherwise I would not have inherited your memories through her."
"I didn't convince her. I took over her body."
Mark's fingers froze as he read and reread the words. He had not typed a response when she continued.
"You know your culture, Marcus. If you kill the descendant of Burebista, there's a good chance you can escape detection. But if I take you over, I'll be going out there in your body, not knowing your languages, not knowing where I'm going. It would be suicide, but I'll do it if you won't."
"You took over Helena?" he asked. "How did you do that?"
"I just learned how. Her superiors thought she had gone crazy when suddenly all she knew how to speak was Latin. They put her in their hospital at the Monastery, but I escaped. It took awhile, but I learned enough of her local German language to survive."
"What did you do for a living?"
"I was a prostitute," she answered. "I eventually had three sons and two daughters through Helena. One of them was your ancestor."
"Doesn't it bother you that you took Helena's life away from her?"
"I did what I had to do. My father must be avenged. I hope now you know how serious I am, Marcus."
Mark did not respond. He realized why his cousin had felt compelled to take his own life.
"You have one day to decide," she continued. "Come back to explain your plans to me only if you agree to fulfill the vow. If not, I'll take over your body tomorrow night."
********************
Mark finished telling Susan everything he had experienced since the last time they were in the same booth. They sat in a silence that seemed eternal to them both.
"You'll understand that I can't believe you," she finally offered.
"Yes," he said.
"You've as much as said you're planning to hurt someone."
"I'm not planning on hurting anyone. It's Aemelia who wants…"
"Mark, stop it," she snapped. "You've been under such pressure because of the tenure proceedings. That's what it is. You need to get help immediately. Please tell me you'll do that."
"Susan, I didn't expect you to believe this is really happening. But I know that what I am experiencing is not just stress. I need to convince a two thousand year old Roman woman to release me from her vow."
Susan stood up, tears filling her eyes. "I don't know what to do. I can't be here with you. You're sick and need to be stopped. I'm calling the police."
"I want you to do just that," he said. "But I need to try one last time to talk Aemelia out of this. If I fail, she will take me over and you will need to call the authorities and stop me."
She sat down slowly. "It at least impresses me that you're so reasoned about all this."
Mark looked out over the room and spotted the same young man who had served him earlier. "Of course!" he exclaimed. "I thought I knew him only after you and I had drunk a few beers. She said that I had spoken to a descendant of Burebista. That guy is the one that Aemelia wants me to kill."
"OK, you're scaring me again," she said.
He turned back to her. "Will you help me? Will you stop me if I fail?"
Tears ran down her face from swollen eyes. "Yes, Mark."
"I'm so sorry, Susan," he said, taking her hand. He was relieved that she did not recoil from the gesture.
"You shouldn't be sorry. You didn't ask for this to happen. You just need some rest and some help."
"No, I mean I'm sorry that you and I won't get the chance to see what we might have had together."
She smiled faintly. "For that I'm terribly sorry, too," she whispered.
********************
Mark opened the online chat program and saw Susan's name lit up.
"I'm here," he typed.
"Me too," she returned.
"It's safer this way. We can't know how she would react after taking me over if she found you here."
Susan did not respond.
"I'll send you a message shortly if somehow this goes well," he continued. "If you get nothing from me within fifteen minutes, it means I've lost control and you should call the police immediately."
"Mark, I'll be calling the Police in just a few minutes, no matter what. I wanted to be honest with you about that."
"I understand," he replied. "Thank you for trusting me enough to not call them already. It's given me a last chance to set things right."
"Do what you need to do," Susan said.
"OK. I'm beginning now."
Mark downed two glasses of wine. "Greetings, my mother," he typed.
Not receiving a response, he refilled his glass and took a deep sip from it. As he felt the alcohol hitting his brain, his fingers began to twitch. Setting them on the keyboard, he read her reply.
"My Marcus, you were near him again today."
"I know who he is. You will not succeed if you take me over. You need to let me take care of things."
"Then you agree?"
Mark paused to think over his precise response. "I propose that we first try to research whether another of your children has already fulfilled the vow," he said.
He felt his entire body seize with a paralysis. His consciousness slipped into mere memories within his own brain. Just as suddenly, it released him.
"I did that so you would have no doubt that I can control you, Marcus. I give you one more chance to avenge my father."
Panic gripped him. "I'll do it, my mother. I'll kill the son of Burebista," he typed, hoping to at least stall her until Susan had called the police.
"Then go do it right now," she said. "Go immediately or I'll take you over for good. Go!"
Mark sighed in the resignation that he had failed. He looked at Susan's icon in the instant messenger and formed an image of her face in his mind. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "Goodbye."
At that moment Mark heard a beep from the computer and saw a new message from Susan.
"In case all this is true, here's something to try: Pater Familias tenet vitae necisque potestatem," he read. "The Father of the Household holds the power of life and death."
He read and translated what he recognized as an early Roman legal text. Mark realized the implication of her words.
"Time's up, Marcus," Aemelia said.
He felt the paralysis setting into his body again. "Mother, one last thing," he typed.
The paralysis slightly relaxed.
"What is it?" she asked.
"As Pater Familias with authority over all members of our family, I declare your vow null and void."
"What?"
He sensed confusion in her and, for the first time, fear. The paralysis vanished. "I'm the oldest living male in my direct lineage," he continued. "Thus I exercise, under Roman law, the authority of the Pater Familias over you. The law gives me the power of life and death in our family. I have declared your vow cancelled. I'm not going to argue with you about it. It's already done."
Mark sensed an intense anger rising within him.
"I hate you," she said.
"My mother…"
"Do not call me mother," Aemelia said. "My sons understood duty. But you use a legal ruse to destroy me."
"I understand your anger, but I did what I had to do." Mark felt tears on his face. They were both his and hers.
"I could have made you a great success in your century. But now I'll vanish back inside you. I curse you in the name of every god there is."
"Mother, I love you and I bless you," Mark said.
There was no reply.
"Goodbye, Aemelia. Rest in peace now," he typed.
Mark pulled his hands away from the keyboard and sat alone in the silence of the room.
********************
Mark sipped wine and scanned through his old correspondence with Aemelia. Coming to the end of the document, he read the two additional sentences he had typed there in the year and a half since her final message. "I'm here anytime you would like to talk," he had typed.
"Aemelia, what's your favorite book of the Aeneid?"
He sighed deeply and typed another.
"I got married last week, my mother." He felt his lower lip trembling as his eyes filled with tears. "She's smart like you. So, I'm not alone anymore. I won't write to you again, but I just wanted you to know that I will always love you. Hail and farewell."
Reaching to close the document, he felt his fingers wanting to move. His heart raced as he placed them on the keyboard.
"Tell me more about our new Mater Familias," he read.

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