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 tomorrow. 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.
Episode 11: The Match Card Mix-Up
Ciara had been in cleaning mode all day and I was scared to leave my room. The last time I did was to get a cup of tea and she yelled at me that my socks were leaving marks on the floor. My socks.
I nearly spilt my tea in my hurry to get back to my room and I could only imagine what that would have earned me.
A knock on the front door told me that Seán and Siobhan were here and that it was safe to reemerge. I walked out and helped take some of the food from Seán’s arms.
“Please tell her how nice it looks in here,” I muttered.
“She cleans like my mom does before we host a holiday dinner for the entire family. She doesn’t want people to think that we actually live in this apartment.”
“Got ya,” he said to me before raising his voice.
“Ciara, this place is gorgeous. I don’t want to put the pizza down anywhere because everything is so pristine!”
“Oh no, put it anywhere! Sorry, I didn’t have much time to clean before you got here.”
Seán winked at me and placed the pizza boxes on the kitchen table. I put the stuff I was holding down next to them and snuck a twisted dough ball from one of the boxes. Siobhan floated in with four bottles of vodka, two under each arm, and started passing them out like she was Santa Claus.
“And how are ye lovely ladies?” she asked.
“I’m fine. Just been trying to keep myself busy so that I don’t think about getting our matches,” I said, nodding my thanks as I took a bottle from her.
“I’ve been stellar and yourselves?” Ciara said. She was already pouring herself a glass of vodka with a splash of Lucozade.
“Grand, can’t complain,” Siobhan replied.
Seán’s mouth was full of a slice of pepperoni but he gave a thumbs up.
We each grabbed some food — Ciara doled out the plate, napkins, and coasters — and settled into the living room. Seán and Siobhan shared the blue love-seat while Ciara and I stretched out on the grey rug next to the coffee table. I took a bite of another dough ball and sighed.
“I’m sure you’ll get a few matches, Jules,” Ciara said.
“I appreciate the sentiment but that’s actually not possible. I only put down one name.”
“And he’s already here!” Seán said.
His twin and I laughed but Ciara mumbled something into her cheese slice.
“What was that?” I asked her.
She swallowed. “I might have changed your card for you when I put it in the box.”
“Oh god, who did you add?”
“Ciara! I can’t believe you!”
I looked over at the twins for help, but Siobhan looked impressed and Seán kept stuffing more food into his mouth like he was uncomfortable. Ciara put her plate down on the coffee table before scooting closer to me.
“Jules, I don’t think you are being as open as you think you are. I was just trying to help push you in the right direction.”
“Shouldn’t it be my choice? You can’t just decide things for me.”
“It’s still your choice, Julia,” Siobhan said. “You can choose not to go on another date with them. Ciara’s just giving you more options.”
“But you guys saw who those options were!”
“What was wrong with Colin?” Ciara asked.
“He tells me that he is studying the spread of diseases and then goes and finger-paints the table with his saliva!”
“I’m sure it wasn’t that bad. I thought Danny was adorable, like,” Siobhan said.
“He is but he is also my instructor. Speaking of which, since when did you start going to Starbucks, Ciara?”
She blushed prettily but held my gaze.
“That’s not what we are talking about at the moment.”
“I want to hear about that,” Seán said.
I nodded. “Yeah, so do I!”
“What about Tom?” Siobhan said, trying to get back on track.
“Tom hardly spoke. I liked his mom though. We were actually emailing earlier today.”
“Giiiiiirl, ya confuse the shite out of me,” she said, shaking her head.
“Besides, he was just morto, like. How would ya have acted if yer mam was there on a date with ya?”
She had a point, but I wasn’t about to let her know I thought that.
“Seán, any help?” I said.
“I hate to break it to ya, beour, but I agree with them. Ya were talking about hating online dating but still wanting to find someone. I think ya should give it a try. Going on one real date isn’t accepting a marriage proposal. No-one even says ya have to stay for the whole time.”
“Exactly! And going on dates with people, even the ones you don’t immediately feel a connection with, teaches you more about what you do like. It’s all about learning from the experience,” Ciara said softly. “Which you can’t do if you never leave the house.”
“Didn’t ya enjoy the event at all?” Siobhan asked.
“It wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had,” I said, not wanting to fully give in. “But it wasn’t the least.”
“As Shiv always says to me when I’ve done something I didn’t want to, ‘But did ya die?’”
“I think part of me did when I was talking to Danny. I called him Daddy by accident.”
Seán choked on his bite of chip while Ciara’s jaw dropped. “You didn’t!”
“I’ll drink to that,” Siobhan said.
I finally cracked a smile and we all raised our glasses and took a swig.