33. Conclusion: The Great God Pain

Soundtrack and Video: Johnny Cash, “Hurt” Tereus wakes up, dry-mouthed, bile rising in his throat. He’s tied to the split-rail fence surrounding the stable yard. His arms and legs are spread wide, and he’s slightly bent at the waist, cheek pressed against a rough wooden beam. His bonds are cruelly tight. It’s exhausting to support his […]

31. Let’s Roughhouse, Baby

Tereus descends the stairs rapidly, realizes the last alcohol in his system has burned out. It’s bright in the kitchen — he lifts the bar and slides the deadbolt by feel while his eyes adjust. He hears a series of heavy steps, throws the door open, grabs his nephew by the armpits and guides him […]

30. Stay Cool, JP

The dregs of light and color drain from the clouds; the sky goes black. It’s a cloudy night, the dark of the moon. Just as Tereus is thinking of lighting a candle, he hears a whinny of terror from the stables. There’s a frantic equine scream, and then a chaos of sound: Paris smashing his […]

29. A Thoroughly Bad Man and a Reprobate

Tereus is lying in the hayloft smoking and drinking. It’s the end of a cold day in late October, a day or two after he and Valeria last exchanged private words. He’s not drunk — not by his standard. Several genteel phrases exist to describe his condition: Half-disguised, well to live, foxed. He’s not drunk, […]

28. One Last Thing to Break

Soundtrack and Video: Frank Turner, “Recovery (Live)” Six weeks later, Tereus presses a note into Valeria’s palm. It says, “Meet me in the hayloft tonight, if you can.” Of course she makes her way to the barn, climbs the ladder into the hayloft. It doesn’t much matter what she does. It feels like her conduct […]

27. Feeling His Humiliation

Lucius Shelawn sits in the library, as he often does. If someone were to ask what he’s doing, he would say that he is feeling his humiliation. No one asks, so there’s no opportunity to say this, but it is what he thinks as he sits there, hour after hour. “Library” is a grand name […]

26. Sympathy and Longing

Fall sets in. Winter is coming. There’s little work on the farm. Tereus and Valeria divide it between themselves silently and efficiently. Lavinia cooks on occasion and watches the children. Camilla continues to help her mother. Valeria tries to teach Claudius his letters, but he’s restless and can’t be made to practice with his chalk […]

25. Collateral Damage

When she returns in the morning, Lucius is awake, and she can hear him and Tereus talking quietly, though she can’t make out the words. Their voices are almost indistinguishable — clear, sweet. As young men they could imitate each other flawlessly. Tereus would mimic Lucius’s precise, measured diplomat’s tones, and Lucius could easily adopt […]

24. The Furies Settle in the Rafters

When she rises at dawn, Lucius is still not there. She bathes and dresses hastily, checks on Camilla and Claudius, who are in trance. She finds Lucius in the library, curled up on the couch like a kitten. She feels real affection for him, the way he’s hunched one shoulder, wrapped his arms arounds himself.  […]