Vito and Mario lit cigarettes with Mario’s plastic lighter. Mario lit his own first and then handed the lighter to Vito. Vito clicked the lighter several times before the flame caught, even though it wasn’t windy. Vito stared into the blue fire at the base of the flame as he lit his own cigarette.

Vito and Mario were on a break. They were sitting on a large chunk of marble that had fallen long ago from some ancient Roman building and had probably been part of several buildings over the centuries. It was in a sheltered area around the corner from the central square where the Vito and Mario posed for photos in their Roman uniforms.

It was a good place for a smoke – close to the square but separated from the bulk of the tourist traffic. Vito considered that, aside from the lighter, the scene may have looked quite similar in 300 AD, assuming ancient Romans had smoked cigarettes. Had they? Vito wasn’t sure.

Mario and Vito weren’t friends. Quite the reverse. They’d worked together for several months, as guards at The Palace. Each had developed a distinct distaste for the other, right from the start. And it had gotten worse over time.

They’d both started working as palace guards on the same day. They’d begun their first shift in a small locker room off the square. There’d been two other young men in the room as well, more seasoned guards that would train Mario and Vito for their first few shifts.

As they’d removed their shirts to change into uniforms, Mario had made an indiscreet comment about Vito’s physique. About the small roll of flab around Vito’s waist, just above the band of his underwear. The other two guards had laughed.

Vito was very sensitive about his body. He’d been chubby as a child, and had been teased about it. He’d worked hard to slim down as he grew into adulthood. He ran and worked out regularly. But he could never seem to get rid of that last bit of flab around his waist – the last vestige of his childhood chubbiness. It wasn’t even visible when Vito was fully clothed. But Mario had pointed it out. In public.

Now Vito stared into the blue fire at the base of the flame of Mario’s lighter and thought how he would hate Mario forever.