The Artisan Heart
Dean Mayes

Hayden Luschcombe is a brilliant paediatrician living in Adelaide with his wife Bernadette, an ambitious event planner. His life consists of soul-wrenching days at the hospital and tedious evenings attending the lavish parties organized by Bernadette.

When an act of betrayal coincides with a traumatic confrontation, Hayden flees Adelaide, his life in ruins. His destination is Walhalla, nestled in Australia’s southern mountains, where he finds his childhood home falling apart. With nothing to return to, he stays, and begins to pick up the pieces of his life by fixing up the house his parents left behind.

A chance encounter with a precocious and deaf young girl introduces Hayden to Isabelle Sampi, a struggling artisan baker. While single-handedly raising her daughter, and trying to resurrect a bakery, Isabelle has no time for matters of the heart. Yet the presence of the handsome doctor challenges her resolve. Likewise, Hayden, protective of his own fractured heart, finds something in Isabelle that awakens dormant feelings of his own.

As their attraction grows, and the past threatens their chance at happiness, both Hayden and Isabelle will have to confront long-buried truths if they are ever to embrace a future.


By late afternoon, Hayden had set the brush aside, grabbed up another beer, and flopped down on the grass. He admired his handiwork. The leg blended almost perfectly with the rest of the chair.

From the interior of the house came the sounds of movement. A closing door. Keys dropped onto a bench. He was aware of her before he saw her.

Bernadette emerged from the house and stepped out onto the deck, studying him as she crossed the lawn. The afternoon breeze lingered about the hem of her flowing summer dress, lifting the material and revealing her perfect, tanned legs. She stopped a few feet away and regarded the chair, keeping her expression neutral.

Crossing his legs, Hayden glanced up at her. "What do you think?"

Bernadette shrugged indifferently. "You finished it?"

"Thought I better get my act together and stop putting it off. Your birthday was months ago, after all." His gaze drifted down to the bottle. "Sorry–about this morning," he offered. "And about last night."

Bernadette's expression softened. She closed the remaining distance between them and sat down beside him, stretching out her long legs and wiggling her toes. She reached across to pluck the beer bottle from his hand.

"We finished the debrief. James has almost got us into a great position with our tender."

Hayden watched as she sipped his beer.

Bernadette tilted her head sideways. She pointed the bottle at the chair.

"Those legs don't match."

Hayden frowned. "What do you mean, the legs don't match?"

"They don't. See?" Handing the bottle to Hayden, Bernadette stood and went over to the chair. She ran her finger down the original leg, caressing three symmetrical bulbs in the timber. She repeated the action with the newly repaired leg, which sported only two.

Hayden cantilevered forward and studied his work anew. His face dropped.

Bernadette was right. And while only a sharp eye would have noticed the error, now that he could see it, it stuck out like a sore thumb. His heart plunged.

Bernadette appraised her husband with something like pity. "You are a duffer," she chided, scratching her fingers through his hair affectionately.

All that effort, he lamented. For nothing.

Russell would never have made such an elementary mistake.

"Put it away," Bernadette suggested with a dismissive sigh. "Stop wasting your time on this stuff. I don't understand why you bother."

Hayden felt a nasty twinge of hurt between his temples.

"I don't feel like cooking tonight," Bernadette declared, sashaying back across the lawn towards the house. A coquettish grin crept across her lips. "Let's order in some Thai food. Open a bottle of wine, maybe...fool around? You up for it?"

Her boldness knocked Hayden off kilter and, all at once, he couldn't reconcile his conflicting emotions. Watching him conspiratorially, Bernadette teased him with the graceful movements of her body, while the still incomplete chair stood in front him, mocking him.

Hayden got to his feet, lifted the chair, and deposited it inside the garage, slamming the door shut behind him.

By Dean Mayes

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