DNA & Facebook
Sean Kinney held the letter in his hands, sitting at the kitchen table in his apartment above Dick’s Diner in River Canyon, CT. His fiancée, Lindsey Molloy, with the long legs and dandelion hair, walked out of the bathroom. One towel was wrapped around her slender frame and another worked through her long, wet strands of marigold, daisies, and Goats-beard.
“What’s that?” she asked, nudging her chin toward the envelope between his hands.
From behind his black-framed glasses, he looked at her and smiled. He always did when he saw her—he couldn’t help it, and not even the cause of his current anxiety could stop that from happening.
“Oh … I got the results of that DNA genetic test,” he replied, holding the envelope up with one hand. “I’m feckin’ terrified to open it.”
After spending all of August in Balbriggan, Ireland, a curiosity had wrapped around him. He had spent the flight home wondering about other family members in his birth country, ones he might’ve been unaware of. So, after returning to his comfortably mundane life of selling mattresses, he sent a swab of saliva off to somewhere that he hoped would come up with answers.
And now, those answers were in his hand.
“Want me to open it?” Lindsey offered, and he handed it over. She giggled. “Well, that was easy.”
“You could convince me to set myself on fire, if ya’d just drop that towel,” he quipped, no longer thinking about that envelope, but the twitching from inside his pajama pants.
Coming to stand beside him, Lindsey lowered herself onto his lap and pressed her lips to his forehead. “Later,” she promised, as she tore into the envelope. “But first, I need to know if you’re a descendant of Irish royalty or something.”
“Doubt it,” he grumbled, resting his head to her bare shoulder. Inhaling her scent of flowers and happiness and everything that made him fall in love with her again and again.
With a quick rip, the envelope was discarded to the table and in her hands, she held the results of his snooping. For just a few seconds, as she scanned the header with her rapidly moving eyes, he wondered if he really cared that much at all. It wasn’t as though it’d really affected him all those years—not knowing. He had lived his life just fine not knowing who his great-aunts and uncles had been, or if he had any third cousins in Limerick. It was perfectly conceivable, that he could live the rest of his little life in the dark. And he was about to tell Lindsey to just throw it away, that it didn’t matter, and he had let his inquisitive mind get away from him, when he noticed her furrowed brows.
“What?” he asked, now concerned, because what the feck could possibly be making her look like that?
“Um … I’m just confused by this.” She held the paper out to him, pointing to one result on the list. “This guy in Dublin shares twenty-five percent of your DNA.”
“Twenty-five percent …” Sean’s eyes fluttered over the tiled floor of the kitchen, scanning his memory of what he had read on the website. What was it? One-hundred percent with an identical twin, fifty-percent with a parent and full sibling, and … twenty-five percent with an aunt, uncle, niece or nephew and half-sibling? “He must be an uncle, right?”
“Sean,” Lindsey pressed, her tone urgent and her eyes wide, “process of elimination here, okay? You know all of your parents’ siblings and you know all of your brothers’ kids, unless Ryan or Patrick just happened to fly to Ireland without you knowing, and knocked some unsuspecting girl up. In which case, the kid would have to be, what? Pretty young, right? So, that can’t be, because this guy is thirty-nine.”
Sean wasn’t an idiot, and he knew the reality of what she was saying. Still, though, where reality led him, wasn’t something he was yet willing to accept, and he shook his head. “So, what you’re sayin’, is that one of my parents had another kid without us knowin’.”
“Honey, I’m saying this guy is seven years older than you and Ryan and four years older than Patrick. It’s totally conceivable that one of your parents had a kid before they even met each other. Maybe your dad got someone pregnant, and—”
Adamantly, he shook his head. “No. That’s not possible.”
And yet no amount of denial could change the fact that DNA doesn’t lie, and the truth was written clear as day on those sheets of paper.
Someone had some explaining to do.
The laptop was on the kitchen table. It might as well have been a bomb, with the way the entire Kinney family was staring at the Facebook profile Sean had pulled up.
Malachy Shevlin, now forty. Single. Living alone in Dublin with a dog named Padraig.
“How do you even pronounce that?” Snow, Ryan’s wife, asked, squinting at the selfie of the attractive red-haired Irishman and his stereotypical Irish Wolfhound.
Clearing his throat and rubbing a shaking hand underneath his nose, the Kinney patriarch, Collin, said, “Ehm, it’s pronounced ‘paw-drig.’”
Snow glanced at Kinsey, Patrick’s wife, and shrugged. “Weird name for a dog.”
Sean shook his head. “It’s a really popular name in Ireland. It’s, ehm, the Irish version of Patrick,” and his eyes glanced over at his older brother, who tipped his head back to look at the dining room ceiling.
“Feckin’ hell,” he grumbled, as Ryan barked with an echoed laugh, slapping his tattooed hand on the table.
“Paddy, ya share a name with our long-lost brother’s dog. That’s just feckin’ adorable. The two of ya already have somethin’ in common.”
“Enough, Ryan,” their mother Helen said, finding her voice through the cloud of shock she had hidden herself in, since her son had brought over that damn letter.
The news had naturally come as a surprise to them all, when Sean had decided to make the announcement at the dinner table that Sunday evening. It was a miracle he’d been able to keep his mouth shut all throughout Saturday and into Sunday morning, but he wanted to wait until they were all together. Because what better way to kill the happy mood, than to mention how one of his parents had a child out of wedlock?
Kinsey reached for the laptop and scrolled through the Facebook page until she found a post about his mother, Roisin Shevlin. It was an obituary and funeral arrangement details, from six months ago.
“His mom died,” Kinsey announced sadly.
Collin Kinney’s brow crumpled as he frowned solemnly. “That’s too bad. She was, ehm … she was a nice girl.” He wasn’t about to elaborate on his former relationship with the woman. Not when his wife was so upset. Not when the situation at hand was so unexpected.
Snow worried her bottom lip as she hung over Kinsey’s shoulder, staring at the computer screen. “God, the guy has nobody, according to his Facebook.”
The room fell silent, and a few heads bowed. A couple of audible swallows resounded louder than anybody cared for and finally, Sean nudged Kinsey’s shoulder with his knuckles. “Kins, you should message him.”
Bewildered, she turned to her brother-in-law and childhood friend. “You’re kidding, right? Me? I’m nobody to this guy!”
Patrick shrugged. “Well, babe, technically, I guess you’re his sister-in-law. Or, ehm, half-sister-in-law?”
“Oh, God, you know what I mean,” she scoffed, shaking her head. “Collin, why don’t you message him? You’re his, uh …”
Nobody could say it yet. Nobody could point their finger at the elephant in the room and call it what it very plainly was.
Collin released a ragged breath and rubbed a hand over his chin, speckled in red and grey stubble. “I-I, ehm … I wouldn’t even know what to say. I don’t know him. I don’t know if he’d even want to hear from me, or i-if he’d …”
Lindsey glanced at Helen and saw her hands worrying around her now-cold cup of tea. She’d been so quiet throughout the conversation, only chiming in every so often to scold one of her sons.
“Helen, are you okay?” her future daughter-in-law asked, and the room turned to face the older woman.
Pulling her lips between her teeth, she shook her head gently. She looked at her husband, the man she had spent the past thirty-eight years of her life with. They had traveled from Ireland to America together, where they had made a warm home and raised three good men. She’d been certain that she knew him better than she knew herself. But in that moment, watching his hesitation and flaky demeanor, she felt as though she didn’t know him at all.
“Collin Kinney.” The airy lilt her voice usually held was missing, making way for something harsher and demanding. Shamefully, Collin lowered his gaze to his trembling hands. “I’m not angry at ya that this happened, and I know the type of man ya are. You’re the most wonderful man I’ve ever known, aside from our sons—”
“Ah, thanks, Mam,” Ryan interrupted, and Patrick punched him in the arm.
“I believe ya when you say ya didn’t know this boy existed. But now ya do know, and I am tellin’ ya right now, Collin … if you don’t contact him, then you are nothin’ like the man I thought ya were, and I will never forgive ya for that. Do ya understand me?” And with that final word, she pushed herself up from the table, abandoning the forgotten cup of tea. Her footsteps were then heard on the stairs going up to the bedroom she shared with her husband, and finally the slamming of the door echoed through the house.
With that, Collin Kinney cleared his throat in the quiet dining room, and pointed a shaking finger at the laptop. “So, ehm … how do I do this … thing?”
“What thing?” Kinsey asked.