One night she was awakened by her son tugging at the bed sheets, saying, “Someone’s at the door, Mommy!”
Her heart crawled into her throat and she lunged through the small cottage, groping at the door, imagining his smiling face,
lavender eyes, the beautiful laughter. Yet she opened it not to her husband, but three Roman soldiers standing in the rain,
helmets crooked on their heads. One of them stepped forward, knelt before her; she looked beyond them, saw three horses tied
to the fence-posts, manes and hides dripping with rainwater. Lightning traced the sky and thunder shook the cottage as the
man handed her something large; she accepted it, her son hiding behind her, looking at the strange men in interesting clothing.
She took it, a ball threading her throat, and when she turned, the boy saw she held a Roman shield, the calfskin over the
plywood torn in places with deep groove marks, the edges of the tears stained a crimson red. The three men before the door
retreated to their horses, mounted, and disappeared in a rolling suave of thunder.
The boy stood in the shadows, watching as his mother fell into a chair beside the kitchen, gripping the shield against her
chest. She breathed deeply, the shield moving up and down atop of her, and then she bowed her head, long hair falling around
her; her chest heaved harder and tears speckled the calfskin, mixing with the raindrops that had soaked it on its passage
to its true home. She ran her hands over the calfskin and let the shield slide to her feet, hitting the floor, and falling
over. The young boy stared at it, disbelieving, knowing what it meant. His mother looked at the shield and cried in a hoarse
whisper, “I told you to come home with this shield or upon it… And yet you are nowhere to be found.” She
imagined him lying amidst a pile of burnt bones covered with dirt, or as a bare skeleton lost amidst the towering trees of
the Gallic forests. The thought of never seeing him again sent her to the floor, where she lay the rest of the night, crying;
and the boy never made a sound.