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 here on echolive.ie. In this tenth episode, a joyful reunion for Matthew and the corpse he is besotted with... but are they about to be interrupted?
OUTSIDE the pub, rain-lashed with a vicious howl. The two hailed a cab and tumbled into the back seat. He was drunk, but she was smaller and, therefore, twice as pissed.
Jordan gave the man directions and they sped off into the night. She rubbed Matthew’s chest with her open palm and slurred into his shoulder, “You’re going to sleep immy bed tonight.”
Matthew reached his arm around her and danced the tips of his fingers over her shoulder, down her arm. He didn’t reply. He had no intention of sleeping with her. He had a different plan. He stared out into the darkness.
The taxi arrived at her apartment and the windows had sufficiently steamed. Jordan sat up and leaned over Matthew. She traced a three-cornered-heart into the condensation. She stared longingly at her work then dragged her hand through it.
“Comm’on, let’s go.”
Matthew gave the driver a handful of coins. “Keep the change. Thanks for the lift!”
They stumbled out of the car and up to the house. Jordan held the keys in one hand and sifted through them individually with her other hand. The pink guitar key stood out amongst the rest and Matthew made his move.
“Here, let me help.” He reached for the keys and she slapped his hand away.
“I can do it.”
She looked back at her keys and huffed as if she had lost count of something.
“You are a strong, independent woman and I know you can open the door on your own, but I’d like to unlock it as a gesture of chivalry.”
Nice one. Matthew knew how to play his cards.
She looked at him as if he had turned into a prince.
“Well, by all means, Mr Confidence.”
She bowed low and dangled the keys, which were pinched between the fingers of her outstretched hand.
He swiped them and pretended to search for the front door key.
“It’s the round gold one,” she explained as she leaned on his shoulder.
Matthew turned so she couldn’t see him work the keys. He shoved his thumbnail into the keyring and twisted the pink guitar key. It fell into his left hand, which he quickly tucked into his pocket. He then held the correct key up to the lock, “Found it.” He opened the door.
They didn’t turn on any lights. They drunkenly fell over each other and laughed in hushed voices. They stripped off their wet jackets and dropped them in piles at the base of the stairs.
Jordan grabbed her purse, walked past Matthew, and ascended the stairs. Matthew untied his shoes.
A door opened and closed upstairs. The squeak of bed springs bounced once and Matthew imagined she jumped into the bed. He walked up the stairs and stopped at the top. Orla’s door called to him the way it always did. He placed a hand on it and looked at the lock. He could smell the bleach Jordan used to clean the room and the girl. It made his body tingle and he knew he would get to see her before the night was through.
“Get in here and cuddle me.” Jordan spoke loudly into what Matthew could only assume was a pillow.
“Just a second!” He walked to his bedside table and hid Orla’s key under the lamp. He walked to Jordan’s room where she had tucked herself under the blanket.
“Hold me.” She was in the foetal position with both eyes closed.
Matthew turned off the bedroom light and stripped down to his boxers. He set her keys on the dresser.
He crawled into bed where she, too, was only in her underwear. He wrapped his body around hers and held her. She was warmer than he thought she would be. She fitted snugly into him.
“I put your keys on the dresser, okay hun?”
“Don’t break my heart. I’ll shatter.”
He tightened his hold around her. He kept quiet.
Within minutes she fell asleep and the room was filled with the sound of heavy breathing. Matthew stared at the wall and waited until he was sure she was out cold.
An hour passed, then another. He slowly wiggled his arm free. She stayed asleep. He lifted himself from the bed as quietly as he could and tiptoed out into the hall.
The nightlight made the shadows turn to branches up the walls. He got the key, walked to Orla’s door, and looked back. Jordan was still breathily snoring. He put the key in the lock and turned it. It clicked open.
Matthew’s heart began to race as he pushed the door forward. He stepped into the room and a rush of fumes overtook him.
His eyes began to sting and his head throbbed from the bucket of cleaner on the floor. Her bedside candle was unlit and stuck up like a broken bone. There, glowing in the thick strip of moonlight, just as he had left her, was Orla, the love of his life.
He held back tears and gently climbed into her bed. He curled up next to her body, which was still upright, still tied to the headboard by the pink satin ribbon. Her jaw, still cocked to the side and eyes stared into nothingness. Her skin was more fragile and had begun to discolour, more so than before. She was pristine.
He was careful to touch her as if she were a piece of art in a museum. He reached an arm around her waist and rested his head on her lap. She was cold and it chilled his cheekbones.
When the tears finally came, they came in choppy waves.
“I thought I had lost you,” he said into her nightgown. “I thought you were gone forever.”
The tears brought on tiredness which slipped in like a drug. Matthew drifted off to sleep.
In Orla’s open doorway, a dark figure stood in the gap, primed to scream.