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 eighth episode, Matthew and Jordan make plans for a day out — but all along, he is waiting for the chance to take that key.
IT was as if the room had been filled with bees. It hummed with a heaviness. Jordan stood up and paced. Her back was stiff but her body trembled. She chewed on her bottom lip and mumbled sounds under her breath.
He swallowed his eggs and set the fork back down on the plate. He stood and walked over to her, careful to give her the room she might need.
“Jordan, I’m sorry if I haven’t been giving you enough attention. You look amazing.”
His breath quivered a bit in his throat but he kept cool. She stared into space and mumbled on. “And this breakfast is so good. I wasn’t even expecting it. And those Bloody M...”
“You think I look amazing?” She paused and looked up at him, eyes red, her bottom lip still caught between her teeth.
Matthew stumbled, “Of course! Look at that dress and your make-up is on point. You…” he put his hands in his pockets and crunched his body in a nervous way, “...any guy or girl would be lucky to have you.”
Jordan sniffled up a snot that had begun to pool in her nostril. She looked up and blinked away whatever tears had come. She forced her face back into a smile.
“I am a fine bit of woman, aren’t I?” They both chuckled.
“You are a bit of something, for sure!” He gestured to the couch. “Hun, how about we just sit down and enjoy this meal you made, okay? You were right about these cheesy eggs. We gotta eat them while they’re still warm!”
“It’s the only way to eat ’em!”
She sat down on the couch. They hugged the way old-young friends do. She seemed to calm in his arms. Inside, he was torn in two.
The next few moments were scratchy and delicate. The room shivered on a fishing wire. The keys called to him, but he tried his best not to look.
He drank his Bloody Mary and ate his breakfast and Jordan did the same. It wasn’t long before they finished their second ones. They didn’t talk about Orla or the new brass lock. They tried to bring normality back to their friendship. They talked about how school and work was going; they swapped stories about drinking and sex, about Tom Waits’s new album and if he was ever going to die.
They finished another drink and the day began to drain away like dirty water. It had been nice to talk the way they used to. She seemed older; her in-charge-attitude had been taking him by surprise. It made him anxious but he wanted to see where it would go.
His thoughts became diluted and he got distracted. The alcohol settled in him and his mind began to wander. Even after the meal, Jordan’s lips were candy red and somehow still shone like glass.
Matthew stared for a bit and began to imagine her lips actually were made of glass; blown, cooled then dipped in paint. He listened to see if they clink together when she spoke. If she kissed a mirror, would it crack?
Jordan noticed how he looked at them and they crawled into a grin on her face. This shook him out of his daydream and he looked hurriedly around the room.
She crossed her leg over his and placed his hand on her knee. “Nervous?” She asked. “Don’t be.” Jordan had always played the teasing game with him but this was different. Her eyes were desperate, searching him for answers that he was always confident enough to give, but had since become a lump of dirt in his chest. She scared him but he had to play along.
Her legs stretched like branches and he followed them up to the rest of her. He shook that thought away, too. He had to keep a level head; had to remember Orla. The day had drifted past quickly. It was drizzling out again, it was 3pm, and he was still in his pyjamas.
“Come on. Get dressed. Let’s walk in the rain.”
Jordan uncrossed her legs, stacked the plates, and walked them into the kitchen. Matthew rubbed his hands down his face as if to scrape the blurriness away. Then he saw the keys again. His heart jumped. He looked back at Jordan who had her back to him in the kitchen.
“Was there anywhere specific that you wanted to go?” His question should be distraction enough, get her talking so he can snatch the keys. He leaned over and grabbed at them.
“I was thinking we could stroll through Fitzgerald Park...” She turned on the tap. Matthew reached for the keys, the thin metal was cold between his fingers but his motor skills were unbalanced from the vodka. They slipped from his hands and fell behind the pillow.
“... on our way to my work for some drinks and food? I know we just ate but…”
Matthew dug his arm behind the pillow and the keys fell into the crack in the couch. He slid back into his spot. Jordan turned the tap off and walked back to him.
“... these Bloody Marys are making me yearn for some pizza.”
Matthew had to think of something quick. He jumped up and placed one hand on her hip as the other cupped the back of her neck. He pulled her close and they kissed. It was a surprise to both of them.
He kissed her good and she kissed him back. Her lips were warm and soft, dissimilar to glass. His body tingled and he wondered if she had noticed his attempt at the keys.
He thought of Orla, if she would be too delicate to hold this way. If she wasn’t dead, would she melt into his arms as well?
He pulled back and her lips were still puckered. Her eyes were closed. She opened them.
Her body wilted slightly and her cheeks blushed like a woman alive.
“Pizza it is.”