Little hearts have been appearing around her lately.

The squirt of precious lotion on her hands in the morning, heart-shaped by some happy accident of physics. The small cardioid stone over there. And look, someone’s gone ahead and painted a heart on the side of that wall. The seal on the letter she posted this morning. An application, the most formal kind, carried out on paper with wax seal. The wax was rebellious and beautiful and ever so red. Its heart beat independently of her. When it formed like that, she simply left it heart-shaped and posted it anyway. It made up for the airship embossed on the envelope: local emblem of both progress and problematica.

This week the cafe itself had coffee, for three days. A shipment came in from who knows where. Whispers of bribes and embargoes, little understood. Who cared about the reason? No one. The entire city, rather the entire town for it is still very small for a city, poured in and the lines snaked all the way to the port. Even her boss went to stand in line for three hours, and then she stepped in for him and took his place and no one protested because he was important. She felt terrible for this infraction, but she got her coffee: three cups of plant based latte, each decorated with a little heart of latte art.

It was madness: Hot and energy-filled and happy. Sunshine radiating from every face despite the gray cloud cover outside, now constant. Little measures of coffee were doled out by the hyperexcited cafe owner, who was finally in his element. Usually he served plant milks spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon, oddly available; perhaps because these spices are so easily preserved. But now, at last, victory.

Lee was there to enjoy it with her; she got the third cup, ostensibly for a nonexistent clerical worker colleague of hers. The cafe owner winked at her, knowing full well who it was for, but let it slide.

He lurked outside her office and accepted it gratefully. In full view of that particular window, alas, but it could not be helped. No matter. She was proud. Proud to show him off, actually. Yet she dislikes being in such proximity to management, so embossed. It is her break, after all. She pushes boss from mind and pulls Lee into it.

They smiled at each other over ceramic cups.

I love this little heart in the coffee, he said.

I love your hands too, he continued, taking them.

She sighed contentedly.

They drink their coffee in silence, each absorbed in their thoughts. It tastes more thrilling than they have ever remembered it. Suddenly, somehow, it is paler, like thin sunlight. It is less than that coffee they shared, black, when he first brought it back for her. But it is still warm and content. Like a little heart in the palm of her hand. Like the shape of the tiny paper card he has just pressed there.

She turns it over and reads what is written on it.

Her heart flutters.

Story © 2015 Clio Em.

Read all the other Airships stories here: clio-em.com/airships

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