Scenes from a Roman Taverna: Hair

‘There are ways of learning that too,’ commented Exuperatus,’ and quite a lot of boys could do with lessons come to think of it considering the mess they make. But let’s restrict ourselves to one thing at a time, shall we?’
The small man pointed to the cellar.
‘Girl, get down there now. I’ll be with you in moment. You,’ he pointed at Calgacus,’ go buy a boy’s tunic… come to think of it, make that two tunics and a pair of sandals. Simple, hard wearing stuff, cheap as possible.’
Calgacus nodded and then he frowned.
‘Someone might think it odd if I am buying children’s clothes, since they all know I am unmarried.’
Exuperatus cast his eyes to the ceiling as if to berate the Gods.
‘Oh for goodness sake,’ he said, grabbing Calgacus by the shoulders and pushing him towards the door,’ make something up, I always find imaginary nieces and nephews make great excuses. Now go.’
‘And what should I do?’ Senodo asked.
‘Oh – let’s see. How about minding the bar, serving drinks etc? We are still a business, even if it is starting to feel like an orphanage.’
Exuperatus picked up a large knife and turned to go down into the cellar. He called back over his shoulder as he descended.
‘I saw that look, Calgacus. I’m not going to slit her pretty little throat. It is not my style.’
‘He would probably poison her,’ added Senodo helpfully.
Down in the cellar, Exuperatus lit several candles to give himself light to work with.
‘Sit on the stool girl. I need to cut your hair.’
Vita sat on the stool, shaking slightly as the strong thin fingers took hold of a length of blonde tress. She felt the cold edge of the knife against the side of her head.
Then with a swift jerk of the blade a handful of hair fell to the ground. Vita began to cry.
‘You like your hair don’t you?’ Exuperatus said in a quiet voice. The girl nodded, sobbing, as the man continued to cut it away in large handfuls.
‘It is very pretty hair. I’m sorry we have to do this, but it will grow back, prettier than ever, when things have quieted down and we can end the act. You just have to be patient.’
Vita stopped crying. She had not expected sympathy.
‘Do you hate me?’ She asked.
‘Not at all,’ said Exuperatus,’ but you are just a complication in my life I could do without.’
He paused in his cutting and stood back.
‘I’m making a good job of this, you know. It has been a while too.’
‘You have cut hair before?’
‘I’ve done a lot of things, girl, most of which I didn’t want to do.’
Exuperatus put down the knife and knelt down so he was at her level.
‘Let me show you something Vita.’
Exuperatus pulled up his sleeve to reveal a large scar. Vita could make out a letter and a number.
‘My master had this quaint idea of marking his property,’ Exuperatus paused, ’do you now understand a little better my attitude towards you, little Stolen Goods?’
Vita nodded.
‘Excellent. Then we’ll get on famously,’ he got up, ‘you’ll have to be “Boy” or “Vitus” by the way. Get used to answering to those.’
‘Did you poison the man who branded you?’ Vita asked cautiously.
Exuperatus stood up so his face was hidden in the shadows. He turned and climbed out of the cellar.
‘I’ll send Senodo down with some water for you to wash and your new clothes. We’ll burn the rest.’
‘I understand.’
A little later, a boy emerged from the cellar.
Almost immediately he was called over to a table to serve. Laughing, one of the men shouted over  as the boy returned to the bar with the order.
‘That’s a pretty boy you have there, Exuperatus! There’s some I know who that would pay a lot for his services, if you take my meaning.’
Exuperatus looked straight into Vita’s intense blue eyes.
‘He is not for sale,’ said Exuperatus calmly,’ for any price. Would you like some sausages instead?’