She didn't have fangs, but I still thought she might be a vampire

Monday, 29 May 2017, 11:09:16 AM. Strangers in the night, they shared a taste for the dark and Gothic

She didn't have fangs, but I still thought she might be a vampire.

It was the week before Halloween, and I'd come to my favorite Orange County coffeehouse to see the annual performance of the League of Vampiric Bards.

A group of Goth-y performance artists consisting of three men and four women, the Bards recited spooky original verse about the romantic undead, ranging in tone from the silly to the poignant — a lighthearted way to get into the blood-sucking spirit of the season. Some of the performers wore the traditional Dracula drag of satin capes while others favored the more contemporary vampire chic of black leather jackets.

The stage was out on the café's patio, and the poems were often punctuated with the whine of train whistles from the nearby Fullerton station. Nevertheless, the venue had filled almost to capacity, and the only vacant seat left happened to be across from a pale, attractive, dark-haired woman dressed in black.

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Who was I to refuse such a gift from the dark gods? With uncharacteristic boldness, I asked her if the seat were taken, afraid she might already have a male companion (or minion) for the evening. She hesitantly admitted the spot was open. I noticed that she'd been writing in a small notebook and inquired if she were one of the Bards. No, she confided, but she did write poetry, had once rented out hearses for a living, and considered Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, a childhood role-model.

She might as well have bitten me on the neck right then, for I was enthralled.

As an aspiring writer of horror fiction, I'd always fantasized about meeting a female author of similar tastes and enjoying a partnership like literary greats  Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley or Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. Yet, though I'd been to many conventions and writers conferences and met many talented women, I'd never encountered anyone with whom I had the immediate chemistry that I had with Kelly, the woman at the café that night.

She was a happy Goth, for starters; she was charming and vivacious rather than melancholy and brooding. And her love of literature was not only Goth but also genuinely Gothic, for she'd read both “The Vampire Lestat” and “The Castle of Otranto.”

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I tried to impress her with my modest horror-genre credits at the time. I'd recently returned from the Clarion West Writers Workshop, where I'd commenced what would become my debut novel. We talked well past the end of the performance that night, and by the time the coffeehouse closed, I'd managed to foist my phone number on her.

"I have a really special feeling about this," I told her as we said goodbye. I didn't want to say love, because we'd only just met and I didn't want to scare her off.

"Me, too," she said, eyes sparkling, before walking toward her car.

But she didn't call.

When I hadn't heard from her after the first couple of weeks, I phoned a close female friend for sympathy. Even I couldn't believe that I was bawling my brains out about a woman I'd known approximately four hours.

 "If she didn't call, then she wasn't 'The One,' " my friend said, trying to console me.

Somehow, I couldn't accept that. I kept returning to the same coffeehouse, hoping for a chance meeting with Kelly. When the League of Vampiric Bards did its "Vampiric Valentine" performances in February, I went to every show, but she wasn't there. I considered attempting to contact her through the magazine where she worked, but that was simply too stalker-ish for me.

Over the following months, I believed I'd given up. I looked around for someone else to date, but no one came close to Kelly.

Then October rolled around. I was staying with my parents in northern California, and the timing was bad for me to make a sudden trip back to L.A. I told myself it was pure madness to drive all that way just to go to the Vampiric Bards' Halloween gigs, vainly hoping to see a woman who probably had no interest in me and wouldn't show up.

But I went anyway.

This time, the performance took place at a café cum jazz club, again in Fullerton. To make sure the stage was clear for the band that night, the Vampiric Bards had been relegated to an afternoon show, so hardly anyone came. In fact, other than me, there was only one audience member.

"Hi," I said to the beautiful woman, who wore a top of spider-web lace. My heart racing, I tried to sound nonchalant. "Your name's Kelly, isn't it...?"

It was. She revealed that she'd been finalizing a divorce when we'd first met, and that by the time it was over, she'd lost my phone number. She'd come to this Halloween show hoping to find me.

A Hollywood ending, truly. But is the movie a contrived, sappy rom-com or a passionate Gothic where star-crossed souls are brought together through supernatural serendipity?

Who cares? Dracula himself could hardly have planned it better. Kelly and I started dating immediately and married soon after.

 Ah, the children of the night!  What sweet music we make.

_________________

Woodworth is the author of the New York Times bestselling thrillers “Through Violet Eyes” and “With Red Hands.” His new novel is “Fraulein Frankenstein.”

L.A. Affairs chronicles the dating scene in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.

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