Summer Soap (Episode 3): Julia’s first ‘date’ is three minutes of hell!

In the third episode of our Summer Soap series, will Julia find love?
Summer Soap (Episode 3): Julia’s first ‘date’ is three minutes of hell!

A PERFECT FIT? Cute and self-deprecating, just my type. “Hi Colin,” I said. “Pardon my bluntness but I wasn’t expecting anyone here to be so normal.”

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 on Monday and runs for a fortnight. 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 third episode, will Julia find love?

Table #4 was situated conveniently near the toilets and inconveniently an entire planet away from Ciara.

As soon as Aphrodite finished, Ciara sprinted off and took a table that didn’t have any other empty ones beside it. I’m sure it was probably just her idea of “setting me free” but, really, I think she just didn’t want to deal with me asking if it was time to go yet. Not that I would have. Probably.

I wrote my name on a sticky tag and cringed. I should have been a doctor with how illegible my penmanship looked. A thought caused anxiety to squeeze at my stomach: what if someone can’t read my name and then spells it wrong on the match card and I don’t get any matches? Shit, what if I just don’t get any matches? I wanted to redo it, but I couldn’t bring myself to cross the pub and get another one.

I took a tiny sip of wine to calm my nerves. Aphrodite had provided each of us with one free glass and it was my plan to make it last the whole evening. I refused to spend any of my own money at this event. Speaking of which, how long was this going to take? Three minutes could last forever, anyone who has ever waited for their food in front of the microwave could tell you that.

I looked over at Ciara, hoping my pitiful expression would change her mind at the last minute, but she was already talking to a handsome stranger seated across from her. I tried to get a better look, but something moved in front of my view.

“Y’alrigh?” asked my own handsome stranger. “You look like someone just ran over your puppy.”

He had sandy brown curls, bright green eyes, and a name tag with Colin written on it. His smile was relaxed, confident even, with a thin silver line that ran across the middle of his teeth. I recognized it as a retainer, having also had one when I was 12.

“Yeah,” I deadpanned, “just a few minutes ago.”

“Jey-sus, I’m so sorry!”

“No, I’m just kidding!” 

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

“I’m Julia. Terribly unfunny and now thoroughly embarrassed.”

Colin let out a small laugh as he shook my proffered hand and sat down in the chair across from me.

“Hi Julia, I’m Colin. Also embarrassed and apparently not as attuned to sarcasm as I thought.”

Cute and self-deprecating, just my type.

“Hi Colin,” I said, sitting up a little straighter. “Pardon my bluntness but I wasn’t expecting anyone here to be so normal.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, I’m certainly not normal.” 

He dropped his voice and leaned in closer. 

“Sometimes, I sleep in my contacts, even though I’m not supposed to.”

“A bad boy, eh?” I laughed.

He leaned back. “What can I say? I like to see my dreams.”

Okay, so he was charming too.

“Are you also a student at UCC?” I asked.

He nodded his head and, to my horror, used his right hand to pop out his retainer. Long strands of saliva stretched between his teeth and the retainer and he shook his hand to detach them. As he used his left hand to take a sip of his wine, I reached out and placed mine over the top of my glass, pulling it closer to me and out of the danger zone.

I surreptitiously wiped the hand I had used to shake his with on the bottom of my dress. His movement looked too natural; who knows how often he’d done that before sitting down at my table?

He slipped the retainer back on and smiled.

“Yes, I’m studying to become an epidemiologist.”

“Really?” I said, staring at the saliva-coated fingertips he was tapping on the table.

“How interesting.”

“It’s grand, like. You wouldn’t believe some of the ways disease can be spread.”

“No kidding,” I muttered.

He must have noticed my change in demeanour because he started acting more nervously. While we continued talking, he started using his tongue to click his retainer in and out of place. He didn’t seem to notice what he was doing but it was all I could focus on. He’d click his retainer back into place and then he’d suck back his saliva with a sickening squelch. It became the soundtrack to our conversation: click, click, squelch.

“And you?” he asked. “What do you study?”

Click, click, squelch.

I couldn’t stop staring at his mouth but that seemed to be giving him the wrong impression. It must have taken me a second too long to realise he had asked a question because when I refocused my attention, he was smirking at me. 

“Oh! I’m getting my master’s degree in music.”

He clapped his hands together.

“You must have a favourite song then!”

Click, click, squelch.

“Heh, not really. It’s too hard to choose,” I said, distractedly.

He persisted. “Ah, go on, there must be one that comes to mind?”

Click, click, squelch.

“I’m actually having a hard time thinking of any at the moment.”

Click, click, squelch.

“Just choose any one then.”

Click, click, squelch.

“Uhh…”

“Really, now, I’ve got to know!”

Click, click, squel-

“STOP!”

His mouth snapped shut.

“In the name of love,” I added quickly. “‘By The Supremes. That’s my favourite.”

Colin frowned.

“Time to switch!” called Aphrodite.

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