With a long sigh of relief, Amanda placed her beautifully crafted latte on her favorite table in the corner of the coffee shop. She gazed at the heart sculpted in foam and felt a slow rise of her bottomed-out happiness quotient.

The heart was just so pretty. Jared, the short and slightly heavy barista had made it exactly right, the way he made every drink for every customer. That was why coming here each evening to scan the newspaper (on paper) had become her nightly survive-the-world respite.

It had been another much too long day working for Sonic Communications, responding to the faceless crazies who had nothing better to do than torment customer service types. She was a social media expert with a degree in communications from an Ivy League university. She could write prose and scripts to make tears flow or laughter ripple, but the best Amanda had been able to do job-wise was that useless position making nice to horrible people on behalf of an indifferent corporation.

“I’m so sorry your Internet isn’t working, Ms. Nutcase, but our records indicate you haven’t paid your bill in fourteen years. Do you think that could be the issue?”

And then the mean-spirited ones swore at her, damned her progeny, and generally behaved in a way that seemed to warrant the destruction of the human race, simply on principle.

Amanda sighed again, put down the paper’s science section (she couldn’t face the front page) and slowly stirred the latte, stretching out the heart until it sank into the foam. This was her ritual. She waited a moment for the sound…and there it was. Somewhere in the jagged acoustics of the huge shop, someone was singing, the voice a soul-deep baritone. Today, the song was from the crooner era, and Amanda sipped her drink in time to the slow beat.

There would be only one song – she knew that. And so she savored the smell, the taste, and the sound of a voice raised in beauty, not anger or meanness.

It made it worthwhile to be human after all. Drink finished, Amanda placed the paper neatly on the rack, and slipped outside into the gathering dark to begin the drive home.

Jared watched her go, wondered what song he should sing to her tomorrow, what would raise a smile to her lips.

And he tried again to plan how he would speak to her. How he could somehow say something more than, “The same today?”