Club Lost and Found
Damian heard sirens. With his hair still damp he tossed the towel on the counter and hurried from the bathroom to the balcony. The shrieking sound always made him edgy, yet he couldn’t look away. From the tenth floor of his Bunker Hill Towers Apartment, he gazed down on Pershing Square. Two police cars with flashing lights blocked a Dodge Charger. It took him back to that evening, his seventh birthday, the night a big-rig collided with his parent’s car killing his mother and father. Damian survived in the backseat with a broken collarbone. Aunt Lila adopted him. She shaped and styled Damian into a man who belonged to an age of fedora hats and grey flannel suits.
The lights of Los Angeles glimmered as the sun vanished and the moon took its place. Living in the nucleus of downtown L.A. hadn’t improved his feelings of isolation, but he enjoyed the irony.
It was Friday night. He ran his hand through his dark hair. Would she be there? Would she accept his invitation to dance, or was she a tease not caring who she hurt?
When Damian walked into Club Lost and Found and saw her, his parent’s death and every painful thing that happened in his thirty-one years disappeared. Without saying a word, without knowing the color of her eyes, she’d made him dream.
After weeks, three Friday nights, he knew it was time to man-up, introduce himself. Ask her to dance. He couldn’t take another night staring at her across the crowded floor. She was always in a group but never with anyone. Sometimes she danced or sipped a drink, but each time she went back by the railing, a solitary figure, like him.
On the second Friday night, across the packed nightclub, he made eye contact with her. She didn’t glance away. Someone spoke to her. She walked with the man to the dance floor but looked over her shoulder at Damian.
By the third Friday, her flirtations became bold, coaxing him to do more than just stare at her. But as Damian tossed back a shot of tequila and made his way over, she had left the club with her group.
Their chemistry mystified him. He woke up every morning aroused by a euphoric ache. He tried to analyze it, but his feelings went beyond logic.
Damian began a work-out program in the Towers’ basement. He joined his co-workers in weekend basketball games. He made a good income as a computer systems analyst, but wasn’t inspired to spend it, until now. So he finished decorating his apartment with a sectional sofa and matching recliners. He bought a dining room set from Pier 1 Imports. He went to antique stores and art galleries purchasing original paintings and conceptual pieces for his walls. When he drove to Home Depot and bought several house plants he knew he’d make his move.
Damian crossed through his now decorated living room, passing the 75” flat-screen TV. He went into his bedroom toward the dresser with photos of his parents and aunt, past the potted rubber tree and opened the door to his walk-in closet.
It was a year since he’d been with a woman, two years since his divorce. After four years of marriage, Jenny realized she didn’t love him. She wanted a man who was dangerous not one excited by scientific discoveries who took his aunt to lunch once a week. To be rid of her, he let her have the house and two cats.
Damian counted the days, hours until Friday night when he’d see her again. She was beautiful to him. He liked full-figured women. He never understood how guys got off on skinny bathing suit models, all bones and angles with teeth so bleached it looked like they wore a mouthguard. Damian liked the dominance of flesh, soft and generous. So that when a woman rolled on top of him, her breasts spread against his chest. When he entered her, he found a world where he belonged.
He grabbed his favorite shirt, the one that complimented his light-blue eyes. He dressed for the night. Women told him he had a face that stood out in a crowd. He’d often sat for hours as Aunt Lila’s friends sketched or painted him. He wondered what they saw.
Taking the elevator to the parking garage, he slipped behind the wheel of his Prius and drove south on Temple to the trendy club scene in Silver Lake.
He cruised past the Cha Cha Lounge and the Satellite with live music blaring out its doors. When he drove toward Reservoir Street, the thought of her not showing up made him despair. Stepping on the gas Damian floored the Prius until he found a place to park. He hurried down the sidewalk to Club Lost and Found.
The doorman took his money. Damian went inside. He looked in the far corner of the discotheque, behind the tables and chairs to the railing against the wall but didn’t see her. At the bar, he ordered a shot of tequila. He downed the drink and ordered another. “Where are you?” he whispered tossing back the second shot.
He pressed through the throng of bodies. They rubbed and knocked against each other. The smell of perfume and cologne crashed all around him. He bumped into people they shoved him back. He searched the dance floor. Where are you? He felt his heart shaking.
Grinding his teeth, he circled the club then glimpsed her coming out of the Ladies Room. Blonde, wavy hair spilled around her face. A rose-colored scarf covered her neck. Its tails streamed over a bare shoulder. She wooed him by doing nothing.
He swallowed hard and stared at the woman who had stolen his life.
She walked to her place by the rail and picked up her wine glass.
Damian took a deep breath. He made the longest walk of his life while the twirling disco ball cast rainbows across faces.
She saw him.
Treasure by Bruno Mars boomed over the club. People rushed past. It left an opening where she stood alone.
Damian moved close. “I’m Damian.”
She held her wine glass with both hands. “I’m Felice.”
She had an accent. Up close she was even more beautiful with dark eyes. They were a match made in sadness, and he loved her instantly.
“Would you like to dance?”
Felice set her wine glass down. She led the way. Perfume sailed off her scarf, intoxicating him further as the tequila kicked in.
She faced Damian on the dance floor and swayed to the throbbing bass. He rocked to the beat. Bodies pressed against them forcing Damian and Felice closer together. The nearness of her, the sensuous way the scarf teased by hiding her naked shoulders, the earrings dangling against her neck—she was so alluring—Damian thought he’d go mad.
The song ended. The DJ played Work Bitch. Britney Spears admonished the listener. Damian and Felice stayed on the floor and danced to the electronic rhythm. He watched her head tilt side to side. She seemed lost in the music, never looking his way, yet he felt her heat aimed right at him.
The DJ cross-faded to a rap song. Felice stopped dancing.
“I don’t like hip-hop.”
“Can I buy you a drink?”
“I still have my wine.” Felice walked off the dance floor. Damian followed. She went to the railing where she picked up her glass.
“Let’s go out on the patio, so we can talk,” Damian said.
They left by a side door that led to a walkway and opened onto a courtyard where people sat at tables texting and checking their phones. Several men and women smoked e-cigarettes over by the hedges.
Damian found a tall table so Felice could set her glass down.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
It surprised him because of the gold flecks on her brows and the tiny fair hairs that grew near her temples. “You don’t see many blonde Mexicans.”
“You’ve not been to Mexico City.”
“No. You’re right. I’ve only been to Tijuana and Baja.”
She tied the scarf tighter around her neck. “My great grandparents came from Europe. But I’m Mexican.”
“How long have you been in L.A.?”
“Four years. My parents,” her voice faltered. “Sent me here.” She shivered and hugged her arms. “I should have gotten my coat.”
Damian took off his jacket and hung it around her shoulders.
“Thank you.” She looked up at him. “What kind of work do you do?”
“I’m a computer systems analyst.”
“And you don’t live in Silicon Valley?”
“You don’t have to live in Santa Clara to work on software.” He smiled at her. “And you? Do you work?”
She gave him a quick glance. “Yes, I have a green card—”
“I didn’t mean—”
“I’m one of the lucky.”
“Really, I didn’t—”
“I’m a makeup artist at TriStar.”
“Oh, that’s cool. So, you make up movie stars?”
“Sometimes.” She looked at the exit.
“Is something wrong?”
Felice finished her wine. “Are you single?” she asked.
“It’s just sometimes—”
“Yeah, I guess. I’d like to take you to dinner,” Damian said watching her face for any clues to her feelings.
“You need to know—”
“Why my parents sent me here.”
“Why?” Damian asked.
“This country has the best surgeons.”
He didn’t care what was wrong with her. Nothing could be so horrible that he wouldn’t commit to her. “Are you okay?”
“Is it anything serious? I don’t mean to pry.”
Felice pushed her wine glass to the center of the table. She grasped his coat tighter around her shoulders.
He waited. He knew from the few minutes he spent with her this was a woman who lived on her time.
“I’m in transition.”
“What do you mean?”
He saw her breasts rise and fall. She looked into his eyes. “I’m on hormone-replacement therapy. I had my first reconstructive surgery two months ago.”
“You’re married?” His heart felt ten pounds heavier. “And trying to get pregnant?”
“No. Not that.”
“What then?” The instant after he asked he knew. “You’re—” his voice broke. The realization took his breath. He felt sick, betrayed. “Why didn’t you tell me—”
“I just did—”
“No sooner, before—”
“You were too shy. Took so long. We never talked.”
Damian stepped away from the table. His dinner rushed to his throat. He fought back the refuse, his mind a web of confusion. “I thought you were, I thought you were—”
“I am. I always have been.”
“No.” Damian shook his head. “The one.”
“I’m the same person I was two minutes ago,” Felice pleaded. “Nothing has changed.”
“It’s changed for me.” He looked at the scarf that hid her throat and her long tapered fingers that held the lapels of his jacket.
“I know who I am,” she said.
Damian raised his hand toward his head.
“I wasn’t going to hit you.”
Felice put his coat on the table. “My last name is Delacroix, like the artist. With an x.”
Damian watched her walk away as if she were a mirage that had taunted him into believing love had a place in his life. He picked up his coat. He didn’t feel his legs carry him as he went to the gate or his hands as they pushed it open.
Circling the side of the club, he hurried to his car, tossed his jacket over the passenger seat, and slumped behind the wheel. He tore through the streets of L.A. He couldn’t blame her. He didn’t fault himself, but who to rage against?
He parked in his space at the Bunker Hill Towers and rode the elevator to his apartment.
When he opened his door, he felt like he slammed into a wall of loneliness. The plants, the furniture, the artwork all bought with her in mind.
He threw his coat over the back of the couch then took his iPad off the coffee table. He sat down and went to Facebook. “Felice Delacroix,” he whispered. He signed in her name. Damian’s body tensed while he watched her page load. When her picture came up, he snapped the cover shut. What am I doing to myself, he asked, how could it work?
He fell against the sofa. There wasn’t a molecule of masculinity about her. No, he thought. A woman broke his heart.
Damian reached for his coat and held it with both hands. The fragrance of her perfume lodged in the fabric like a keepsake. He brought it up to his face and breathed in the memory of her.
DC Diamondopolous is an award-winning short story and flash fiction writer published worldwide. DC’s short stories have appeared in online literary magazines: Antioch University’s Lunch Ticket, Ball State University, The University of Toronto, Fiction on the Web, Eskimo Pie, Five on the Fifth, The Scarlet Leaf Review, Five 2 One and many more. DC’s stories are also in print anthologies: Crab Fat Lit, Blue Crow, Scarborough Fair and Being Real (cc&d). DC won first place for Billy Luck, at Defenestrationism, second place for, Taps, at the University of Toronto, and honorable mentions for The Bell Tower and Taps, from the Soul-Making Keats literary contest for 2014. The international literary site, The Missing Slate, honored DC as author of the month in August 2016, for the short story, Boots.