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Saturn's Surprise
By Colleen Messina
  

1     Cornelia had waited for this day for weeks. Today, December 17, marked the first day of Saturnalia. Yes, it was a special day for Saturn, the Roman god of seeds and farming! Cornelia slipped into a simple cotton tunic, a vestment normally worn by slaves. The sun wasn't up yet, and it was cold in her room. She pushed her leather sandals aside, and prepared to go barefoot on the cold, stone floors. Saturnalia, the festival for Saturn, meant a big change in Cornelia's routine.
 
2     Saturnalia also celebrated winter solstice, which meant that soon the adverse, shorter days of winter would be over! Cornelia loved the celebrations and wrestling matches. The routine of Rome would disintegrate, and work would be canceled! Masters would serve their slaves, and children would give orders to parents. All Roman citizens would revert to real life later. The celebration would culminate in an exchange of gifts in every Roman home. The custom of gift giving was a pinnacle of Roman sociability, and Cornelia had the perfect gift for her beloved servant, Livia. They would trade places for a day! It was her turn to reciprocate for Livia's years of service.
 
3     Cornelia loved Livia like a sister. Livia had been in their household since they were both seven years old, and it was pure serendipity that they enjoyed each other so much! They used to play, but now that they were both fourteen, they pondered Cornelia's upcoming marriage to a rich Roman senator. Livia was in charge of Cornelia's makeup and clothes. She made sure that nothing could detract from Cornelia's fine features and proud stance.
 
4     Cornelia rushed down the long hall to the slaves' quarters. She slipped past the open pool in the center of their house and smelled the soft scent of fresh rain that had fallen in the night. The central courtyard was open to the sky, so the peachy colored water mirrored the sunrise. The tired stars were going off duty, replaced by the blazing sun.
 
5     "Can I come in?" called Cornelia softly. Cornelia carried an expensive robe of purple Chinese silk on her arm. The royal color came from rare shells found in the Mediterranean Sea. She carried soft leather sandals and a surprise in her other hand.
 
6     "Yes," replied Livia with a giggle. "I have been waiting for you!"
 
7     Cornelia slipped in and helped Livia slip into the expensive robe. Cornelia placed the soft sandals on Livia's calloused feet. Then Livia sat down so Cornelia could dress her hair.
 
8     "Ouch," said Livia, as Cornelia poked a bone hairpin into her neck. Livia had the typical dark hair and intense eyes of her fellow Romans. However, her beauty was not common, and she looked even more striking with the graceful hairstyle.

Paragraphs 9 to 18:
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