Madame Lobellia knew her Victorian dress was out of place in Ancient Rome, but she was well acquainted with the feeling of displacement. Darcy, however, was hardly so. Lobellia side-glanced her intern. She could see the girl’s confidence shrinking the further they walked down the Roman road. The girl constantly tugged at her green and tan plaid skirt and then, for no apparent reason, began walking in her heels as if she’d never worn them before. Inevitably, three Romans walked past them in the opposite direction, taking no measures to curb their stares. They said something in Latin and laughed. Darcy winced and Lobellia shook her head.
The poor girl hadn’t been away from her Home Year of 1941 for long, only four months.
Bringing Darcy on staff at the library had been an impulse. Lobellia rarely acted on impulse, but there was something about Darcy. Lobellia had first seen her working behind the counter of a small bookshop in Connecticut. After witnessing both her passion for books and general gumption, she couldn’t resist walking up and asking a few strategic questions, ones that ascertained her courage and secret-keeping skills. Darcy had only given one answer that raised doubt, but not enough to make Lobellia deny her the position—one that had been vacant for some time. Lobellia had needed someone who could handle the work, and Darcy had proven she could handle it—mostly. It was only when they time-jumped that the girl became dreadfully nervous. Dragons somehow she could handle, but other centuries, that’s what petrified her.
“For goodness sake,” Lobellia said, “stop walking as though you’ve only yesterday learned the skill. Your usual awkwardness will do.”
Darcy straightened up, clenching her notepad in front of her as if it were a bouquet she was marching down the isle.
Lobellia almost gave an eye-roll. Almost. She stopped herself just in time. Eye-rolling was an undignified habit of her intern and she was loath to pick it up. Darcy should be learning from her, not her from Darcy. She asked, “What do you know of Ancient Rome, particularly during the reign of Vespasian?”
Darcy sputtered something, then scrunched up her face.
“Breathe, girl. Start with the basics.”
Darcy obeyed, then said. “It’s illegal to bury someone inside the city of Rome, unless that person is an emperor or very distinguished. That’s the reason for all the…the you know…” she waved her hand at the large mausoleums that lined the road.
“Very good,” Lobellia nodded. “Though that isn’t particular to Vespasian’s reign and I know you can do better. Can you tell me anything else?”
Darcy rubbed the back of her neck.
“Take your time.” Lobellia said, calmly walking along. “This isn’t a test, it’s a conversation.”
The intern drew in a quick breath as if she had realized something. “What month are we in?”
Darcy looked proud of herself. “Vespasian’s son Titus will destroy Jerusalem and it’s temple in June. Vespasian needs the victory to solidify his claim as emperor.”
“Better,” Lobellia said, slowing down as they reached an ornate gate on the left hand side of the road. Beyond it was a lush, but perfectly manicured path that led up to a gleaming white villa. Lobellia faced the gate. “Now, what do you know of Amicitia?”
Darcy stopped beside her. “It means friendship.”
“Roughly. But the word has more of the flavor of usefulness, rather than love. Better said, it means ‘valuable contacts.’ The Roman world is brimming with them. One person, or amitica, does another person a favor, and, when the time is right, the favor is returned.”
Darcy jotted the definition down on her notepad. Finished, she touched the gate and peered through the bars. “Who lives here?”
“Someone who owes me a favor.” Lobellia swept through the gate and began walking up the tree-lined path.