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. In this final episode, Matthew and Jordan are reconciled for the task of laying Orla to rest once and for all. But which of the two protagonists will live to tell the tale?
AT first, Matthew couldn’t tell if she was real. He hoped she wasn’t. He was balled up at the end of the bench, cold and wet. He was trembling but from neither of those things.
“I... I’m scared.”
Jordan was much more calm than she had been earlier. More sober. She was nearly another person. She leaned forward and placed a hand on his shoulder. He flinched.
“It’s okay. I brought you an umbrella.”
She held it out to him. Matthew didn’t trust it. He looked at it as if it would electrocute him.
After a moment, he got to his feet and grabbed the umbrella.
“What are we doing?”
Jordan put her hand in his empty one and they walked back up the hill.
They walked in silence in the cold rain. The umbrella helped a little. Matthew felt confused and defeated. They came up to the spot where the fox had eaten the pigeon. Nearly all of the scene had been washed away by the rain; only a small patch of blood remained and Matthew knew it would be gone by morning.
They passed by the look-out point on the top of Hollyhill. Matthew looked over his shoulder and the city still looked like a bowl of fairy lights. Life was easier back then. His biggest worry was school and he still had a small grip on reality. Jordan didn’t look back.
Her house still loomed in the darkness ahead of them as it always did. As they got closer, Jordan passed the front door and went around to the back.
“Where are we going?”
They rounded the corner. In the backyard was a long, rolled-up blanket and next to that were two shovels stabbed firm into the ground. Matthew stopped and looked wild-eyed at his friend.
“No! We can’t!”
“We have no choice.”
“Matthew, you know we have to do this.”
She gripped her hand behind his neck and held his head the way a father would.
“I will help you. You know this has to be done.”
Matthew knew she was right. He couldn’t carry this on any longer. He couldn’t love a dead woman any more than he could tease his best friend’s heart. She kissed his forehead and they each grabbed a shovel.
The dirt was easy to pierce but heavy to toss. A mound grew between them and they dug the hole deep. His back ached; his hands and clothes turned filthy with mud. His shoes filled with the stuff and he couldn’t tell what was sweat and what was rain.
The two of them stood at the bottom of this grave. They upturned rocks and the ground dipped deeper with each scoop. It was up to their shoulders now and Matthew wondered what would become of them.
He stopped digging and she did too. They looked at each other and for a reason unbeknownst to him, he grinned at her. She was covered in mud, her face cracked into a grin in return. He imagined swinging the spade and connecting the edge with her neck. He imagined watching it wedge into her like a tooth in an apple. He imagined the light as it left her eyes and he imagined climbing out of this godforsaken hole alone. He imagined filling it with the two housemates inside and never coming back to this city ever again.
“Shall we finish this?” Jordan asked as she leaned against the dirt wall.
Matthew tossed the shovel out of the pit. “Let’s.”
She climbed out and he followed. They rolled Orla’s blanket-wrapped body into the wet grave. It landed with a thunk. They covered the body and patted it flat just as the rain let up.
They didn’t have a word to say so they walked to the back door in silence. Jordan took off her wet clothes and left them outside. Matthew followed suit. They walked inside together.
She grabbed a blanket from the couch and they walked up the stairs. She turned left into Orla’s old room, climbed onto the bed, laid out the blanket, and patted the spot next to her. Matthew, hesitant but exhausted, walked into the room and crawled into bed. They fell asleep within seconds.
When Matthew finally awoke, he was calm before he recognised the room. His muscles were weak. The morning sun poured in through the windows and the previous night’s events began to rush back. He blinked himself awake.
Jordan stood at the head of the bed next to him, dressed in a plain white shirt, ripped black jeans and full make-up.
“Good morning, Matthew baby.”
He tried to move but his chest and wrists were tied to the headboard with ribbons. He fought it but he was secured.
“You’re in there nice and tight. You’re not going anywhere.”
“What’s going on!”
Matthew struggled to no avail.
“Orla stole my heart, just like you did. She was my housemate, just like you, and she promised me love, just like you.”
“I didn’t promise you anything!”
She pulled a throw pillow out from behind her back and looked at it.
“When she decided to move out of here and in with her new ‘serious’ girlfriend, it shattered me. She was mine. Don’t you get it, Matthew? I couldn’t let her leave.”
Matthew froze. He looked at the pillow and before he could open his mouth to scream, she pushed it into his face. Matthew flailed.
“She tried to leave me because she loved someone else. I tried to keep you safe, Matthew. I locked the door but you decided to be a little sneak.”
Matthew tried to move his head side to side but the pillow was too large.
“When you moved in, all of those old feelings came rushing back. I thought you loved me... but now I see that you can’t, Matthew.”
Her voice was calm and even, “you can’t love anyone.”
Matthew’s body began to relax. He convulsed again, then he fell limp.
She pulled the pillow away and Matthew’s head bobbed down. He stared ahead, breathless.
“But I can love you... forever.”
Jordan leaned in and kissed his lips. She nestled the pillow at his side and tucked the blankets around him.
She grabbed the matches from the bedside table, struck one, and lit the jagged candle. She walked to the door and turned to look back at her love. Jordan closed the door tight behind her and locked the brass bolt shut.