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 (right), from the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. You can catch up with previous episodes at echolive.ie. In this fifth episode, we are left wondering if Jordan found out about Matthew’s night-time wanderings. If so, how will she react?
MATTHEW stepped out of Orla’s room and pulled the door shut, quietly, but firmly.
The rush of the rain was heavy now as it hammered the side of the flat. He tiptoed the four strides from her room to his, stepped quickly into the doorway, and guided his own door closed.
There were no windows in his room. That kept the place a velvet dark, but he knew his way through it with his eyes closed. He got into bed and pulled the blanket over his head.
Matthew stared up into the darkness, his heart was pounding and his body trembled. His rapid breaths filled the small pocket he had made.
He questioned if he was breathing too loud. Had he made too much noise in the hall? Had Jordan felt him leave her bed? And how long had he been in that room? It felt like hours. But he could have spent some hours more.
Tomorrow he would visit Orla again. He would get home after class and sit with her for a while while Jordan was at work.
His own breath filled the bed pocket in which he wrapped himself and it warmed him; it began to slow him down. A couple of good long minutes passed. Matthew closed his eyes and let the new wet heat heavy his eyelids.
The alcohol from earlier and the excitement from now had caught up to him and he allowed himself to drift. The rain slowed and stopped and the silence hollowed the apartment like a cave. Sleep took Matthew and took him fast.
The smell of smoke from Orla’s douted candle had wafted through the hall and into the other rooms. Moments later, a door opened and Matthew didn’t hear it. Someone walked the corridor with purpose then stopped at the end of it.
Keys jingled then muted. Metal slid against metal and a latch clicked. The steps commenced back the way they came, then stopped and stood outside his door. A silence spread between the cracks and filled his room with weight.
Matthew, lost in nothingness, turned over in his sleep.
Since the room was windowless, Matthew’s sense of time was skewed. There was no clock and no morning sun.
He woke up naturally and reached for his phone. He had forgotten to set an alarm. He was late for his lecture.
Matthew jumped from the bed and threw on new clothes. He ran into Jordan’s room to wake her but she was already gone. Her clothes were everywhere but her bed was made and the bright sun hit him nearly off balance.
There was no time to brush his teeth, but he gargled mouthwash and spit it, grabbed his bag and ran out of the house and off to college.
All class, Matthew checked his phone. A few notifications but nothing from Jordan. He had sent her a ‘Good Morning!’ text to see where they stood. She had read it but hadn’t responded.
They had fallen asleep in the same bed and had awoken in separate ones. How was he going to explain that to her without giving anything away?
Easy. He slept more comfortably alone. That’s how he’d put it.
And there’s no way she had heard him. He had been so careful, hadn’t he?
Matthew rapidly tapped his desk with his pen while he checked his phone.
“Matthew, are you dead?” he heard the lecturer say. Matthew paused and looked up.
“I said, are you done? You’re distracting your fellow classmates.”
Apparently, he had been making more noise than he was aware. All the students in the class were staring at him as if he had been mumbling to himself.
“Yes, sir. Sorry.”
Matthew tried to tuck his phone into his pocket but missed and it fell onto the tile floor. Everyone giggled and they sounded the way the kids had in primary school. And how they had, again, in secondary school.
Matthew didn’t mind. He collected his phone and himself and he steadied his pen.
After class, Matthew had a series of texts from Jordan.
- Morning! How you feeling, whiskey man? ;)
- Sorry I had to jet so quick without waking you. Had some errands to run.
- I work tonight, but come in for a drink. Hair of the dog. My treat.
That could actually be a good idea. Jordan had to be in work-mode anyway so if things got weird, he could just leave. That’d be fine. Matthew wrote his response.
- Sounds good! I’ll head over the pub after class.
- Well, after class and after a really greasy kebab.
- Still gotta soak up last night’s whiskey before I fill my belly with any more lol.
Matthew played cool. His plans had been altered but this, he decided, would be even better. He could cover his bases with Jordan and still get plenty of time back at the house. She hadn’t suspected anything, right? Matthew was sure of it.
His thumbs shook as he typed it out. Students were still emptying from their lecture halls and the food court and continued to spill out onto the campus. They parted and flowed around Matthew while he worked away at his phone as if they were the blood and he were a clot stuck in it.
A few moments later, she replied with a heart emoji and a kissy face emoji and the emoji of two frothy beer mugs cheersing. Slainté.