Christmas surprise (That’s life)

The envelope was finally here. Joanna left it on the table while she made a cup of tea, savoring the moment. With her mum and dad out shopping, she was looking forward to exploring the contents at leisure.

The envelope contained the final piece of her gift to her parents for Christmas. With Joanna’s wedding only weeks away, this Christmas was especially significant; their last together as the original family unit.

Working out what to give them had required much thought and planning, as she’d wanted it to reflect their family ties, acknowledging those special bonds.

For months now, with painstaking effort, Joanna had been secretly researching her parents family trees, on a voyage of discovery that spanned hundreds of years. Sometimes Joanna had been so excited by things she found that she’d been bursting to tell, and she was hanging out for Christmas morning when all would be revealed. This envelope, waiting patiently for her, would tie it all together; the last piece of the puzzle.

All her research was neatly laid out in two folders, one for each parent, with photos, stories from the past, names and dates they didn’t know. Copies of old documents, newspaper articles and church records added detail that would enthrall them.

Over the years Joanna’s parents had remarked occasionally how nice it would be to know about their bloodlines and where their ancestors came from. Her Dad reckoned there had to be Irish somewhere. Her Mum dreamed of royalty. There would be much joy in sharing their ancestry; Joanna knew this Christmas would be memorable.

Getting their DNA without them knowing had been so tricky that Joanna had sent her own as well, just in case one of theirs didn’t prove enough for the test. The family ties would be there, laid out in black and white. She had her Dad’s roman nose, and her Mum’s thick black Irish-looking hair, but which side had her olive skin come from? Her Dad joked that she was a throw-back to some exotic place involving camels, goat-skin and scents in huts on the desert. Well, now they would all know the truth.

Cup of tea in hand, she opened the envelope. Italian? Irish? What mix would the results show? Joanna eagerly pulled the papers from the envelope. Scanning the covering letter, Joanna’s eyes opened wide, and her body began to shake. Her cup of tea crashed to the floor, breaking into a thousand pieces. No! It could not be.

Disbelievingly, Joanna read the letter again and again; it’s words ripping tears through her heart. A single sentence seared her brain; ‘None of the three samples tested share any common ancestral data, so are not related to each other in any way.’

There must be some mistake. Feverishly she checked the names on the reports, compared the graphs, looked for clues, but it was no good; the truth was there, in the DNA. She was not related to her parents.

How? Why? Who was she? Secrets. The two people she held dearest in her whole world were strangers. Where had she come from? When? Were her awesome grandparents, cousins, aunts all a lie? Was her whole life based on lies? Why didn’t she know? Questions screamed around in her brain. ‘Who am I?’ she wept.

Dimly she heard her parents return from the store. Her Mum called out from the hallway ‘Joanna love, we’re home. You’ll never guess; we’ve got you the most wonderful surprise. You’ll never forget this Christmas.’

‘Joanna?’

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