The Night of Conflagration

conflagration

‘Cause when a heart breaks, no it don’t break
No it don’t break, no, it don’t break even, no

Breakeven by Andrew Frampton, Stephen Kipner, Mark Sheehan, Daniel O’Donoghue

The Script

 

It’s a quiet evening until a mother lets her child vandalize the fiction section. Dozens of books fall from shelves while the mother whispers into her cell, oblivious or disinterested in her child’s rampage. Her call complete, she grabs the girl’s hand and escapes without a backward glance.

Lucy and I look at each other. Every day brings a new experience.

I survey the damage and then slog through re-shelving. Fortunately the books are undamaged.

“Hey.” My heart skips, but then I observe the tats and smell designer patchouli cologne.

“Dominic’s evil twin,” I say.

“Ha. Nice. You know we aren’t twins. I’m older by five years.”

“You’re browsing for books?” He doesn’t impress me as a reader.

“Not really.”

I smirk.

“Hey, it’s not because I don’t read. I love to read.”

I raise an eyebrow.

“Seriously, dude.”

“You just called me dude?”

“It slips out sometimes. I thought with you and old Dominic done you might want to date a real man.”

“You know one?”

“Ha. You’re a barrel of monkeys.”

“Dude!” I mock.

He rolls his eyes. “Come on a date with me. What do you have to lose?”

“My dignity?”

“You know I’m in law enforcement too.”

“Mall security?”

“You’re breaking my heart.”

“You sound like a Mafia thug except for the surfer-dude-bit.”

He nods. “Sorry. Let me start over.”

I watch, baffled as he straightens up, combs his fingers through his curly chestnut hair, and breathes deeply. “I work for the FBI.”

Now it’s my turn to roll my eyes. “Oh, please. Do I look naïve?” I slide another volume onto the shelf while shaking my head.

“Seriously. I am a special agent.” Sighing exaggeratedly he removes a leather ID holder and shows me.

“Anyone can get fake ID.”

His eyes narrow. “Look closely. The badge is authentic. My ID is authentic.”

“Says you.”

“Says the federal government. Why would I lie?”

“Good question. Why would you?”

“I’m not. You’re really frustrating.”

I grin. I can’t help it. He smiles back, cocky.

“So?” he asks.

“So what?”

“Come to dinner with me. You’ll be happy you ditched the little ray of sunshine.”

I fold my arms. “He broke up with me.”

“You’re kidding.”

I stare too hard at the cover of “Atonement;” my vision clouds.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize.”

Shrugging, I miserably fail at smiling.

“So, come to dinner and you can talk to me about it. Do you have plans for tonight?”

Just a bubble bath, wine, and a book as far from romance as I can get. But that’s what I’ve done every night for the past three weeks. A sad part of me considers that Damien might talk about his brother, stories I’ve never heard. How pathetic is that?

“No plans.”

We meet at a pub I’ve never been to. It’s Tuesday but the pub is crowded. A live band plays folk music. The patrons are an eclectic mix: hipsters, military, cops, men in business suits.

Damien leads me to a corner booth. “I thought you’d ditch me.”

I smile. The thought had occurred to me.

A waitress arrives and asks us what we want, or rather she asks Damien what we want. He orders a bacon-blue-cheeseburger and an 8-Point IPA, while I order a grilled cheese and a Pumpkin Hunter. He laughs.

“Pumpkin beer?”

I shrug. “I like it.”

Looking at him is like looking at Dominic with less impaired glasses. He’s all angles and roughness. While we wait for our drinks, he places a cigarette between his lips but doesn’t light it. My inner librarian is about to point out that it’s illegal. He stares like he’s expecting me to do just that.

I sip my beer and glance around. That’s when I see Dominic, Tansy, and their colleagues, laughing, drinking, and eating. My eyes dart to Damien. He’s watching me.

“Is this a setup?”

“No.”

Panic fills me. “I don’t want them to see me.”

“Why? Because of me?”

“No. Because of me.”

“Chill. He’s so wrapped up in the dominatrix that he isn’t very observant.”

“I didn’t need to hear that.”

“Maybe you did.”

“Why did you do this?” Because I knew he had. It’s too much of a coincidence.

He shrugs. He reaches across the table and takes my hand. I snatch it back and look over at Dominic who frowns at me then notices Damien. The frown goes to fury.

“This is so not my style,” I say, grabbing my beer and taking a huge gulp.

“Relax, Red. We’re about to see what Dominic’s made of.”

“I don’t want this.”

“The beer?”

“No. A confrontation . . .”

Dominic looms over the table. Tansy trails after him, looking smug.

“Didn’t take you long to move on,” Dominic says.

I glance pointedly at Tansy. “Even shorter for you.”

“Leave Tansy out of it.”

“Love to.”

Unexpectedly he grabs my wrist and pulls me through a side door which leads to an alleyway. He releases me and stomps to the middle of the alley before turning back around. His dark brown eyes blaze.

“What the fuck showing up here with him?”

“I didn’t know you’d be here.”

“You’re dating him?”

“He asked me to dinner. You’re dating Tansy?”

“None of your business. But, yes.”

I nod. “Then leave me alone.”

“Gladly,” he says. He takes a step, blanching.

I grab his arm. “Are you okay?”

After a moment, he nods, his eyes closed. When he opens them, he stares at my lips. I think he’ll kiss me, but he scowls then leaves. I watch him pass through the pub door. The slam echoes in the dark empty alley.

 

end 9/15/2016

S. Darlington

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