My arms are shaking in the moonlight. Thin wrists slowly and carefully lift the rusty latch from a rough wooden door. The latch lifts and the door creaks open. The creaking is so loud I turn from the door and peer over my shoulder to look at a figure asleep on a table. It holds a mug in one hand, a thick and cheap ale sloshing over the sides and leaving rings on the already-stained table top. My heart climbs more slowly into my throat once I realize that the sprawled form hasn’t stirred with the noise. A breath I had unknowingly held was released with a quiet huff; I turn back and immediately the latch slips from my fingers and falls with an ear shattering clang.
I freeze as the shadow finally stirs, leaping from the table clumsily, the ale spilling to the floor. It sinks into the dirt floor, bubbling gently. I stand in horror, watching as the shadow, my mother, snatches the hefty mug from the floor and advances to me. I fall back, the door crashing open, and trip over the door frame, landing heavily on my back and knocking the air from my lungs. I would have yelped if I could breathe. A blow to my head sends me winding. I touch my forehead gingerly as a loud and defined ringing screams in my ear. Warm, sticky blood comes away on my fingers. Mother breathes heavily, standing over me like a shadowy predator while I stare at my fingers. Stare into shock and silence. The world slows around me, my vision focusing on my hand. This is definitely a new occurrence. Yes; we had always had a horrible relationship, blood had never been drawn. She had never stepped across the line of drawing...blood. Her breath is labored and angry, but I also get the sense that she is shocked at what has happened as well. She grunts, as if shaking it off, and reaches for me. My arm is grabbed and I’m dragged forcefully from the house. I call for help several times into the night, but my voice sounds weak even in my ears. A head peeks out from an open door, watching our small parade silently. Nobody respects weakness. The door creaks shut and we walk on in silence. I stumble across the dirt path, kicking the sand into my sandal. The blood from my eyebrow slowly drips into my eye, stinging it, and making everything appear blurry. It matches the emotions whirling through my stomach. “Where are we going?” I try to stop, but my mother still has a death grip on my arm. She doesn’t answer. “Mother!” No answer. “Alecta!” She finally acknowledges my existence. “The stables,” Is her slurred, but somehow curt reply. Her shaggy and unkempt hair hangs in her face, hiding it from me. The stables? What did that have to do with my sneaking out? The gears in my head spun slowly. Surely she wasn’t going to sell me as a slave to the stable master. I had heard of that happening before. But even mother, no, Alecta wouldn’t do that to her own daughter. Possibly a servant, but not a slave! Slaves are those who owed a debt, the children of debtors, even prisoners of war.
But I am none of those things. This doesn’t make any sense. But as we neared the stables, my heart dropped. She was going to. Oh, Hades no... Alecta marches up to a weather-beaten door and starts pounding on it. A moment later a bleary-looking man opens it, dressed in a sleeping tunic. “What,” he asks, rubbing his eyes. “Are you doing at this late hour dragging a child behind you.” Ignoring the niceties, she says, “You have been needing another slave, correct?” His eyes brighten a bit. “Yes?” She shoves me towards him. “Here then. She’s a strapping 12 years old. Healthy as can be.” He eyes me for a moment critically before lifting my arm and checking for muscle. I scowl and pull my arm away. His rough hands grab my chin and forehead, stretching the new cut on my eyebrow. I wince, but don’t cry out. He opens my mouth and peers around, looking at my teeth. Finally, looking unsatisfied, he releases me and backs away. “She’s too skinny. Won’t last a week.” He stops and peers at us. “But... how much are you asking for her?” Alecta thinks for a moment. “100 Denarii.” The stable master coughs. “Absolutely not. 30.” “45” She argues. “40 and done.” He wins the bargaining for my future.