Welcome to The Echo’s annual feature, Summer Soap, a daily fictional serial told over 12 episodes. The latest Soap, called Bleach, was written by Beau Williams, from the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. You can catch up with previous episodes at echolive.ie. In this seventh episode, Matthew’s obsession with the key to Orla’s room deepens, but Jordan makes plans for a ‘date day’
FROM the floor, this hallway became a tunnel closing in on itself. Still collapsed, Matthew reached up and gripped the lock. It was stiff and slightly colder than the hall.
He dropped his hand in defeat. Jordan knew he knew. What mistake had he made? How had she caught him? What would she do now that everything was out in the open?
He shook the thoughts from his head. None of that mattered. He needed to find that key, needed to see Orla.
Matthew put his hand on the bannister and hoisted himself to his feet. He stumbled over to Jordan’s room, pushed open the door and flicked the light on. The heavy red curtains hung over the windows like vulture wings. A pair of fishnet leggings spilled over the curtain rod. There were piles of clothes on the bed, on the floor, and behind the door. The dresser tops were covered in knick-knacks and books of poetry.
Matthew checked the dresser. He opened the drawers and rummaged through. The key wasn’t there. He checked under the bed, under the pillows, he picked up her boots and shook them upside down. A small bag of weed and a pipe fell out. He stuffed it back into the toe of the shoe and put them back with the others. If the key was in there, it would take him ages to find it.
And he knew Jordan. She was too smart to leave the key anywhere but on her person. She had clearly set him up for this. She knew he would come home and see the blockade and then... what? This unspoken game they were both now involved in.
Matthew surveyed the room one last time. He would have to wait for her to get home, then get the key after she fell asleep.
Matthew went downstairs, grabbed a glass with a quivery hand, and filled it with water. He downed it in three chugs and refilled again. Up the stairs he went and into his room. He shut his door, locked it, and waited.
A soft knock rapped at the door and shook Matthew from his sleep. He must have dozed off. What time was it? Had he slept through the night?
“Matthew, you awake?” Jordan’s voice was gentle and airy.
Knock, knock, knock.
He checked his phone. It was 10.30 in the morning. The night had come and gone.
Knock, knock, knock.
“Matthew, baby, wakey wake! I made breakfast! Don’t make me eat it alone!”
Matthew jumped from bed. “Great! Cool. Good morning! Be right down.”
When he got downstairs, Jordan was sitting on the couch with two plates of food in front of her on the table. Eggs, sausage, roasted tomato halves, and what looked like two big Bloody Marys. She wore a black and white polka dot dress with tiny pink ankle socks. She was in full make-up. One leg was crossed over the other.
Her keys sat on the armrest of the couch next to her phone. There was a new hot pink key painted to look like a guitar. That must be Orla’s. If he could only find a way to remove that key from the rest without her noticing; make a copy later and replace it before she knows.
“Good morning, handsome.” She pierced her fork into a sausage and the juice foamed up through the stab wounds.
“I made Bloody Marys because I’m treating you to a date day and then tonight you’re going to take me out on the town.”
She brought the sausage to her plump red lips and bit the meat in half.
The room was too bright with the morning sun. He squinted as his eyes adjusted then he sat down beside her. The hot pink guitar glistened.
“Wow. Okay. Uhm, great. I feel under-dressed. Do those have alcohol in them?”
Matthew stirred the drink with the celery stalk, unsure what was going on.
“Aldi’s finest! Drink it. Start your day off right. And you’re fine. Eat first, then change.”
Matthew looked into the glass, then to the keys, and back at Jordan. He didn’t say anything.
“I cooked the eggs with cheddar cheese. It’s the only way to have them.”
He sensed a slight tremble in her voice. “Drink your drink.”
He stopped. He drank. It was spicy and cold. It was strong and damned good.
“That is one helluva drink.”
“Perks of being friends with a bartender,” she chuckled a bit, then quickly sipped from her straw.
Maybe if he waited for her to go into the kitchen, or maybe she would be using the toilet soon. How could he get that key off the chain without her noticing? Would it be hard to get a key that looked exactly like that?
He was unaware that he had zoned out. He had been staring off into nothing for too long and Jordan noticed.
“Goddammit, Matthew!” she slammed her glass onto the table. “Focus on me! I deserve some attention for once!”
The room froze still. Her eyes began to water but she slowly forced a smile. Something was wrong.
She cleared her throat. “Right now, you’re going to tell me how good I look, then thank me for this amazing meal I made us, then we’re going to eat it, and then we’re going to walk around town and you’re going to be nice to me.”
The drink in his hand began to sweat. The blood drained from his face and he shifted his eyes to the floor. She stared into him and fought to hold it all together.
Matthew’s stomach began to fill with fear and questions. He had seen this type of sudden snap before and it always terrified him.
It was clear they weren’t going to talk about the lock. He grabbed his fork and scooped up some eggs.
“You... you look marvelous.” Then he stuffed the eggs into his mouth.