The Preacher's Son - Juliette Duncan


Relaxing on the beach with the sun warming my back, I watched Hayden teach the kids, Elijah and Rosie, to surf. It was a glorious Saturday afternoon, and with the breeze drifting off the sea keeping the temperature comfortable, I could easily have stayed there all day.

We were so blessed, and despite a strange restlessness I’d been feeling over the past couple of months which I simply put down to the fact that we were getting older—a touch of mid-thirties angst, I had nothing to be unhappy about. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

Hayden and I had been married for nearly ten years and had been blessed with two beautiful children. Elijah had come first after a fraught couple of years of trying, followed swiftly by Rosie. Motherhood was hard work, but it was also far more rewarding than I’d ever expected it to be. Of course, the fact that Hayden was so hands-on with the children made things so much easier.

In that sense, we had a less than traditional marriage. Hayden worked part-time in construction, which meant I was able to pursue a full-time career as a successful defence attorney. Outside of my family and church, my career was my pride and my passion. Every so often a pang of guilt besieged me when I thought about what Hayden had given up for me, but he seemed happy enough and had never said otherwise.

I had no idea, that afternoon at the beach, that everything was about to change so drastically.

Our life had fallen into a comfortable rhythm of work, family time (more often than not spent at the beach) and church. We also volunteered one evening a week at the local homeless shelter. We’d started one Christmas when the children were babies, purely to help out because numbers were low, and had enjoyed it so much we were still there. If enjoyed was the right word. It was heartbreaking to see the rough hand life could deal people, but it was also uplifting to realise the difference a smile and a kind word could make.

Hayden loved being of service to others, so much so that every now and then he tentatively suggested we go on a mission holiday. Whenever he did, I simply nodded and smiled, but secretly hoped the idea would soon be forgotten. Although I dealt with tough cases every day in court, I knew what I was doing there. I was a competent lawyer. A mission trip would be something else entirely and I felt inadequate. Scared, even.

Yet I often had the niggling feeling that it was simply a matter of time before Hayden would press harder. Although he never mentioned it, I’d never forgotten that he’d walked out of Theological College to be with me, breaking his father’s heart in the process.

My grandmother, as my mother still sometimes reminded me, had warned me when I was a teenager to never kiss a preacher’s son. Only later, when I was older, did I find out the sad story that lay behind her warning. My grandmother’s preacher’s son had cheated on her and left her heartbroken. When I’d gone against her advice and had indeed kissed a preacher’s son—Hayden, and he then left me to go for ministry training, I regretted not listening to her. He may not have cheated on me in the literal sense, but it sure felt like I’d been usurped.

But he came back, and here we were, ten years later, with all the blessings we could ever ask or hope for.

It was because of Hayden that I’d found my own faith, and I uttered a silent prayer of gratitude as Elijah and Rosie stumbled up the beach towards me, their child-sized surfboards tucked under their arms. Hayden followed, looking exhausted but grinning widely. He was still such a handsome man, deeply tanned from working outside in the summer sun, and at times like this my breath still caught in my throat simply looking at him. Not for the first time did I think that we really had to start making more time for each other as a couple and not just as parents. It was an easy trap to fall into.

“You should have come back in, Pen. The water’s terrific,” he said, dumping his board on the sand beside me.

“So is the sun.” I laughed, tilting my face towards its warming rays. “I’ve enjoyed soaking it up.” Extending my hands to the kids, I smiled. “You guys looked like you were having heaps of fun.”