The Hidden Depths of Haydon Rouse
Jill Tipping

Published 18th May 2013


The harbour was alive with people who were now sitting outside in the pleasant evening sunshine which had finally made an appearance. Stopping to ask someone directions to the launderette, she walked away from the harbour up what seemed like the high street, and found it at the top of yet another hill. Pushing the door open she looked around and it seemed that she was the only person in there.  

Ten minutes later, accompanied by the sound of the two machines going through wash cycles, she was reading a downloaded novel on the reading app on her phone, when the feeling that she was not alone once more crept over her, causing the back of her neck to bristle. She looked up and met a pair of dark brown eyes belonging to a man who had been sitting at the back of the launderette all the time she had been in there. She gasped and instinctively put her hand to her throat in shock. He was unkempt and sitting forward, his hands on the slats either side of him and his feet tucked underneath the bench. He was staring and Christie, feeling distinctly uneasy, immediately looked away and tried to focus on her novel. Concentration proved impossible, however: she could feel his eyes burning a hole in the top of her head. She braved another look and decided she had had enough. ‘Er … excuse me, but you’re making me uncomfortable, staring at me like that.‘

He shrugged and continued to stare. What an incredibly rude person, Christie thought, although her main concern was not his rudeness, but the fact that she was alone with him. Not really knowing what to do for the best, she put her phone into her pocket in an exaggerated fashion, sat back, crossed her legs, hooked her clasped hands over her knees and matched his brown eyed stare with her own blue eyed one. It was an instant challenge and an immediate stalemate, as neither of them was prepared to look away. It gave Christie ample time to take in his appearance. Deeply tanned, he was unshaven and his thick, dark, untidy hair was matted and dull. He was wearing jeans and a parker type jacket, which was totally inappropriate for June even though it had been raining earlier. His hands, still clasped on the bench, were filthy, with unclipped black finger nails. And he was ageless: underneath the dirt and hair he could have been twenty or fifty; there was no way of telling which.

As Christie looked into his eyes and tried to read his expression – was he simple … not quite the full ticket? – she began to realise that what she was seeing there was pain. Her brow crinkled with natural concern and she felt something happening to her as she was looking at him: it was as though he was the book she had been reading and his eyes were telling the story; they were communicating, but instead of words she was receiving his emotions.

Suddenly, he stood up, making Christie jump. He bent down, picked up a can of beer that had been standing at his feet, took a long swig out of it and then raised the can to her by way of a salute and walked towards the door. As he passed her she could smell the sea and salt and damp clothes that had not quite dried. After he left, she stood up and peered through the window, down towards the harbour, but there was no sign of him. The street was deserted apart from a middle-aged couple with their dog.

Christie was shocked and exhilarated at the same time. Something was happening to her in this odd little town. Those few minutes had been the strangest she had ever experienced and the image of the brown eyes would not leave her mind: in such a grubby, unkempt face they had seemed quite beautiful – sensual even. How ridiculous! she chided herself; now she was letting her imagination run away with her. The odd thing was, though, that she had not actually been frightened of him or remotely threatened by him; if anything, she felt drawn to him.

As she sat in the steamy little launderette with machines whirring around her, she felt again the sensation of warmth that had enveloped her in her bedroom. And once more, she felt she was not alone.