Welcome to The Echo’s annual feature — Summer Soap. Now in its fifth year, Summer Soap is a daily fictional serial run over 12 parts, which began last week and ends today. Called Cork’s Quick Coupler, this story, set in the world of speed dating, was written by Jessica Militante, from the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. You can catch up with previous epsiodes at echolive.ie. In the final episode, how will Julia’s love life end up?
Episode 12: Everyone Gets A Chance (Except Paul)
The day after Seán and Siobhan’s Surefire Fix, I could barely move. I hadn’t drunk that much in a long time and I think my body was now officially allergic to alcohol.
Ciara and I agreed to go out with the twins next Friday, but I didn’t want to see another spirit in my life unless it was an actual ghost.
I wasn’t a functioning human being again until the next day. I woke up to another email from Mary and this one included her scone recipe. With nothing better to do — except for that paper I hadn’t started for Danny’s class — I went to the store and bought the necessary ingredients.
I found baking to be quite soothing and a rather productive form of procrastination. And if nothing else, at least I’d have something to stress-eat later.
While I was measuring out the flour, I tried not to think about how I still hadn’t gotten an email with my matches.
Ever since learning about Ciara’s most recent instance of meddling, I was even more anxious about seeing who I matched with. For some inexplicable reason, I wanted them all to like me — even if I hadn’t particularly liked all of them.
Part of me worried that not getting an email yet meant no-one put me down as a match, but then it started becoming hard to breathe so I quickly read the next direction from Mary’s recipe.
By the time I put the scones in the oven, I had decided that what my friends were saying the other night was right. Tiptoeing into the world of a true social life wasn’t as traumatising as I thought.
It wouldn’t be such a bad thing to give whoever I ended up matching with a chance. Except Robert, because I didn’t think that was legal. And Paul, because I did have some standards.
Ciara came in through the front door, her arms laden with shopping bags, right as the timer went off.
“Perfect timing!” I said, placing a scone on a plate for each of us.
She set her bags down on the floor next to the kitchen table and took a seat, pulling a plate towards her. “Are these Mary’s recipe?”
She bit into hers and groaned: “Good woman Mary.”
I took a bite of mine and sighed happily.
“I guess we won’t be needing these then,” Ciara said before shuffling around in her shopping and pulling out a pastry bag with a familiar logo.
“You went to Theo’s café?!”
“I wasn’t planning on it, I swear, but, erra, someone suggested meeting there and it just sort of happened.”
“You can say Danny, y’know. I saw that one coming.”
“Let me know if this is uncomfortable for you, Jules, and I’ll stop it immediately. He’s gorgeous, but you’re my best friend. You always come first.”
“Nah, I actually think you guys would be cute together.”
“You are so good. Which reminds me, it wasn’t right of me to add anyone to your match card without telling you. I’m truly sorry. I just want you to be happy.”
“Thanks, Ciara. That’s all I want for you too.” I smiled at her and she reached out to squeeze my hand.
“Besides, I think I’m starting to realise that putting myself out there means more than just signing up for every dating app.”
“So does that mean that…?”
“Yes, I’m willing to give them a chance and go on a real date. I could use the dating practice anyways.”
Ciara’s smile was uncontainable, and I thought she might launch herself over the table to hug me.
“That’s fantastic! I’m so proud of you, Jules.”
“Oh, shut up and eat your scone.”
She took another bite and stuck out her crumb-covered tongue at me.
“You’re growing up, like,” she said in a singsong tone.
“Yeah, you should try it sometime,” I replied as I stood up to start cleaning up my baking mess. Ciara picked pieces off of her scone and popped them into her mouth.
that it matters, but who did you match with anyway?”
“How should I know? Emails aren’t out yet.”
“Yeah they are, I got mine just before I got home.”
My heart thumped in my throat as my eyes instantly sought my phone. I took a deep breath and picked it up, pressing my finger over the home button to unlock the screen. Ciara stood up quickly and came around to my side of the table.
“Jey-sus, if you don’t go any faster, I’m going to murder you and I won’t even make it look like an accident!” she said.
I finally managed to get my email open and pressed on the new message. I read it over once, twice, three times to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.
“Looks like I’ll be going on three dates,” I announced, turning my phone screen so that she could read it. “And one of them will be with Theo.”
“YES!” Ciara threw her arms around me and started jumping us around in an excited circle, not even minding that we were trampling over half of her shopping.
She pulled back and started talking a mile a minute about what she thought I should wear, digging into different bags and pulling out random articles of clothing. I let out a relieved laugh and sat back in my seat. Meeting new people didn’t turn out to be the nightmare I thought it would.
I might even owe Ciara that thank-you.