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 runs till Saturday. 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 seventh episode, at last, Julia gets lucky with a match! You can catch up on previous episodes on the link below.
Episode 7: Theo-dorable
I stumbled into the hallway outside of the toilets — Siobhan was stronger than she looked — and made my way back to Table #4. To say I was a little excited would be a gross under-statement.
Siobhan reminded me a lot of Ciara so I instinctively trusted her judgment and hoped this next guy would live up to the hype she had just shown.
At the end of the hallway, I was disappointed to find my table empty. Whoever this ‘Theo’ was must have skipped it, thinking no-one was there. Or maybe I was in the bathroom longer than I thought and I missed him completely?
I was mentally kicking myself when a head full of sandy curls popped up from the floor on the other side of my table.
“Sorry, your table was wobbling, and it was bugging the hell out of me.”
He sat down in the chair behind him and held out his hand. “I’m Theo.”
His grasp was firm and warm as I shook his hand. I settled back into my seat from earlier, ignoring the twin looks of excitement I was receiving from Ciara and Siobhan on the opposite side of the pub. Damn, she got back to her seat fast.
“And you are…?” he said.
“Julia, sorry,” I said with a smile. He returned it, his green eyes crinkling. I took note of the freckles that dusted the tops of his cheeks and across his nose. Adorable. Siobhan’s eagerness made sense now.
“Julia, nice to meet you. What brings you to Cork?”
“I’m getting my Master’s in music at UCC.”
“Really? Congratulations. You must be very talented.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. I enjoy it though. Are you a student as well?”
“No, I’m a chef actually.”
“That’s awesome! You must love food,” I said, because I’m an idiot. “I mean, who doesn’t?”
“Yes, I very much love food.”
“Cool, me too. Do you work in town?”
“You know that new place on Washington Street?”
“Yeah, I’ve been meaning to go there but it is so hard to get a table! You’re the chef there?”
“You should definitely go; the food there is fantastic,” he said. “I don’t work there though. I’m at the little café next to it.”
I laughed. “That’s cool too. Cafés are the best.”
Theo started talking about the eclectic band of regulars who frequented his café but all I could think about was, ‘Why can’t talking to all guys be as nice as it is talking to Theo?’ He knew how to hold an actual conversation in real time without making me wait hours for a response like the guys on the dating apps. The bar was that low.
I was convinced normal, eligible guys like him were made in a lab somewhere and only one of them was allowed out every six months — strategically dropped around the world — so as not to overwhelm the female population. It was probably a scheme to keep from over-populating.
“Then there is Bertha and her cat that she brings in on a leash! They come in every Tuesday for a cuppa and a slice of apple tart. I didn’t even know they made leashes for cats.”
I laughed. “Doesn’t the rain bother him?”
“That’s the thing; he has himself a little raincoat! I’m positive she made it herself.”
“Okay, now that I have to see.”
Theo leaned back and placed both of his hands on the table.
“I have to admit, I was a little nervous to come to this thing,” he said, a flush creeping up from under the collar of his button-up.
Yup, definitely a scheme. My ovaries just exploded.
“To be honest, so was I,” I said. “I don’t know how people meet anyone these days. Once you are out of school, things get so busy. And then if you aren’t into pubs or clubs, you are kind of shit out of luck. Not to mention dating apps are a bust.”
“Right?” Theo said. “My parents met out in front of a shop when they were getting the messages. Things like that just don’t happen anymore.”
“Seriously! I would kill to run into someone at a bookstore and fall madly in love right then and there.”
“Exactly,” he laughed. “This whole speed dating thing hasn’t been that bad though.”
That’s debatable. Though I didn’t have much to complain about at the moment.
“Yeah, maybe things are looking up,” I said.
“So would you...”
Would I? Would I what?!
He grinned and shook his head. “Next time then. It was good talking with you, Julia.”
No, don’t go. Tell me what you were going to say!
“You too, Theo.”
Stupid Aphrodite. Stupid three minutes!
But, wait, he did say next time, didn’t he? Next time as in he was planning on seeing me again? Like he was going to put my name down for a match?
I wasn’t sure how long it was going to take to find that out! Ugh, how do people live like this? At least on Tinder you knew pretty much as soon as you swiped if you matched or not. This whole ‘putting yourself out into the real world’ stuff was a lot more agonizing than it needed to be.
I was so caught up in my Theo thoughts that I didn’t even notice when my next date sat down in front of me. Or that this date was very much not a stranger.
TOMORROW: “Danny really was gorgeous. His eyes were such a light blue that they were nearly translucent, and his hair was wavy and black.”