>He was standing outside in the cold. She came and stood next to him, uttered an unnecessary greeting in a voice that would be the result of five ice cubes being shoved down your throat. He turned his head, gave a reluctant smile and proceeded to study the huge statue of Venus in front of him.

She took out a pack of smokes from her pocket, lit the only one. After two drags, she offered it to him. He shook his head. She kept her hand extended in front of him, a dogged, shy lover standing in front of her crush to give him a red, wet, blooming rose. Tendrils of blue vapor escaped from the base of the red burning mountain, fogging his view of Aphrodite.

He took it, put it on his chapped dry lips, took a puff, and blew away smoke, like an emperor would shrug off sycophantic ministers. He handed it to her, a rejection slip. She took it. Walked away and inhaled deeply. She breathed in the taste with a desperate longing. Between her lips, perched millimeters away from her small, chattering teeth, her tongue exploring surface underneath which were fibers bound together by glue, the chemical additives improving the taste and speeding up the rate at which nicotine hit her brain.

Her heart was beating rapidly, as if it was making an uphill climb and was scared that once it reaches the top of the hill, it will slip and fall and roll down to a crashing death. Her hands and feet felt cold, deprived of any sunshine, any hope of warmth. She walked back to his side, her steps uncertain, with her feet finding their way on their own.Her mind played games with her heart. Reminding her of the insult, pleading her to let it go unnoticed, persuading her to hold up, inciting her to drop her inhibitions and tell him, warning her of expected disappointment, provoking her to be reckless.

Exhausted, she stood there, her hands on her side, hanging limp from her shoulders, the train of ashes teetering at the edge, clouding the upended orange peak. His hand wandered next to hers, distractedly. Their fingers brushed very slightly, close. He took the cigarette from her, his thumb grazing the damp end. His reverie broken, he pulled and was pushed back into his fantasy. He let out his demons in a haze of dreams, handed it back to her and gave the most luminous smile she had seen under a starlit sky. She savored the moist smoke, imagined how he smelled when he woke up in the morning, how his breathing fell and rose, rumblings of a beast caged within.

He turned back to go inside, offering a courteous expression of gratitude. She let the last breath burn her lips and crushed the smoldering stub under her feet.