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 third episode, Matthew and Jordan enjoy a night out — and he gives in to temptation and breaks into the locked room.
A COUPLE of days had passed since Matthew had first arrived in Cork. The weather never got better but he was getting used to it.
He hadn’t made any friends yet but that was typical for Matthew and he was used to that too. The first few classes had been tough but manageable and today’s had just wrapped up. He was getting used to Ireland but more importantly, Cork made his stomach wriggle with an excited nervousness.
To Matthew, the city was a big box of books. The only story that mattered was behind the closed door at the top of the stairs at Jordan’s house. What was in there? It felt like something was calling him from the other side of the wall.
Locked doors had always bugged Matthew. He didn’t like the idea of not being allowed somewhere. It was almost a challenge, a game. A game he would always find a way to win.
It had rained for most of the morning but the clouds retreated with the sun. Matthew and Jordan met at the Hall of Fame and ate pizza and drank the way old young friends do. The glasses filled as fast as they emptied and the hours slipped out the crack in the window, and at some point during the night their legs touched under the table. They finished their drinks and stumbled onto Western Road.
“Seriously, though, you have to see these guys. They’re the best band in Cork and they’re playing at Phoenix next month and I really want you to go.”
Jordan hooked her arm around his and steadied herself. Matthew liked the weight of her on him. Mist had collected in the air, which drew golden haloes around the street lights. The dew collected on their jackets and in their eyebrows and formed tiny droplets. The rest of the walk went down like a smooth shot.
“This trip always seems faster with company,” she said as she wiped mist from her face.
“I’m sure alcohol speeds it up a bit too,” said Matthew with a grin.
They strolled past the pigeon. Its body was limp, simply bones and the feathered tips of its wings. Jordan didn’t notice. Matthew pretended he hadn’t.
They stopped at the top of Hollyhill and turned around. Cork was a bowl of fairy lights. Matthew pulled her closer to him as they soaked up the view. He felt lucky to share this moment with his friend.
Around the bend, Jordan’s apartment waited. He hadn’t noticed until he turned around, but it loomed like a giant cauldron. There was a shift inside him. He became uneasy and eager but swallowed it down. She put her hands on his lower back and he softly scraped it away. Jordan unlocked the door. They walked into the dark.
The two of them removed their damp jackets and shoes. She lit the flashlight on her phone and they followed it up the stairs, bumping into the walls and making more noise than they should at that hour.
Matthew tripped on the top step and braced himself against the wall near Orla’s room with a thump. He gasped in comical drunken horror. They muffled a laugh and Matthew whispered loudly,
“Oh no! Do you think I woke her?”
“No way. Nothing can wake that girl. See, watch.”
Jordan kicked the base of her housemate’s door.
“Hey Orla! The house is on fire! I’m going to go shift Matthew in the bathroom! Is that cool?”
She looked at him, drunkenly, and grabbed his hand.
“She’s fine. You’re sleeping in my bed tonight, but we’re not having sex. I’m a classy lady.”
“I umm...” Matthew began to say, when she grabbed his hand and walked him to her room. There were clothes everywhere. She shut the door and changed into her pyjamas. She hadn’t warned or waited for him to turn around. He averted his eyes but not before he saw her body in its entirety. When she crawled into bed, he removed his jeans but kept the rest of his clothes on.
“Get into bed, I’m cold.”
He climbed over her and under the blankets. She wrapped herself around him.
“Tell me I’m pretty.” Her eyes were closed now.
Matthew looked at her, confused and not sure what the next move was supposed to be.
“You’re pretty… pretty strange.” He tried to lighten the mood. She faked a grimace and lightly poked his chest.
“You like me, don’t you?” Her voice trailed away.
Jordan fell asleep without brushing her teeth.
Matthew remained awake, steeped in alcohol. He was wrapped in a woman but he thought only of the door down the hall. He needed to know.
Matthew waited for a long time. When he heard her breathe the heavy breaths of sleep, he crawled out, walked over to Orla’s door, and grabbed the handle. It was still locked.
He reached into his wallet and pulled out his student ID. The card was bendable but sturdy. He wedged it in between the door and the frame and shimmied it up until it connected with the latch.
Matthew worked the card up and down until the lock unclicked. The sound echoed off the hall like a pebble down a well.
He looked back to make sure Jordan was still asleep. Her heavy breathing let him know it was safe. Matthew walked inside.