Authors: Marilyn McPherson
“We both love you so much. I know we’ve already spoken to you about this, but I think it needs to be said again. You are our daughter, even if Janet didn’t carry you in the womb. She is your mother in every way that counts. Genetics don’t matter at the end of the day. What matters is who raised you, and who loved you every day. That person is Janet. Yes, we are concerned by some of your recent choices in life, and we have said so. But that doesn’t change the fact that we love you. Nothing will change that.”
Nikki knew why he was saying this. He believed the results would show that Kane was her half-brother, and he thought she would spiral out of control. He wanted her to know that she had support - a base to fall back on. It was kind-hearted, but unnecessary. “Thanks, Dad. It’s nice to hear that.” Now, they really had to go. “So, I’ll meet you out the front of the hospital at about ten minutes to two. The nanny is here, which is good, so I don’t need to bring Alice.”
“I’ll see you soon then.”
Nikki hung up, kissed Alice, gave her nanny some instructions and raced out the door. As planned, she met Ken in front of the hospital, but with only a couple of minutes to spare. He greeted her with a big kiss and hug, as if they hadn’t seen each other for years.
“Let’s go inside, Dad,” Nikki said. “I don’t want to be late.”
Ken looked as if there was something more he wanted to say, but instead he nodded and squeezed her hand.
As they were walking into the waiting room, Ken put his arm around her shoulder in a comforting manner. It was nice that they would hear the results together, and Nikki was glad he was there. She knew her parents were disappointed in her - the way her marriage to Jack had occurred, and then abruptly ended, her choice in marrying an older man, and her pregnancy to that man’s son. The fact that Kane wasn’t there to support her probably spoke volumes to her father too, but Nikki was sure he would have been there if she’d given him more notice. After today, the mistakes of the past would be put behind them, the outcome providing a new chapter in all their lives.
Nikki and Ken navigated the hospital maze until they found the right waiting room. There was only one other person there - a young mother with her son. Nikki tried not to stare at the girl, but it reminded her of the day she had brought Alice in to be tested. She hoped this girl received the outcome she wanted too.
It wasn’t long before Nikki’s name was called, and she and Ken were led into an office occupied by a different doctor from the one they had met previously.
“Hello, I’m Dr Phillips,” he said. “I am the physician who supervised your genetic testing.”
Nikki shook hands and introduced herself and her father.
“Please take a seat, and we’ll get started,” he said.
“Thank you, Dr Phillips,” Ken said, helping Nikki into her seat before seating himself.
Dr Phillips shuffled some of his papers into a particular order. “Now this was an interesting case,” he said. “In the end, we had to perform multiple genetic comparisons before I was satisfied with the results.”
“What did you find, doctor?” Ken asked, a line of sweat beading down his forehead.
“Well, firstly let’s review the information provided in the questionnaires you both completed. Is Kane not with you today?”
“He couldn’t make it,” Nikki said.
The doctor nodded. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you first came in.” He opened a folder. “But the three of us are here now. Tell me if this is right when I read each fact.”
Nikki and Ken nodded, although Nikki wondered why this was necessary.
“Nikki, you stated that Kane Jarrad is the only man with whom you had sexual relations during the month you conceived.”
Nikki nodded. “That is true, doctor.”
Ken raised an eyebrow, and Nikki realised she hadn’t told her father about Jack’s impotence.
The doctor looked up briefly, perhaps registering the tension, but then returned his focus to the notes. “Nikki, you also stated that Ken is your biological father, and Ken, you stated that Nikki is your biological daughter.”
They both nodded, which he noted with a tick. “Now, the next part of the questionnaire was interesting to me. Ken - you’ve listed Nikki’s mother as Sarah Rush, but Nikki - you’ve listed your mother as unknown. I was surprised to see a difference like this listed on the forms. Can you tell me why you did that?”
Ken dropped his eyes to the floor, and Nikki knew he was displeased with her answer. She tried to explain. “Sarah is the woman listed on my birth certificate, but she is also listed on Kane’s birth certificate.”
The doctor picked up the questionnaire completed by Kane. “Yes, I see that Kane listed his parents as Sarah Rush and Jack Bradley, both deceased. And Kane has provided a copy of the test which confirmed his paternal connection to the Bradley family, performed while Mr Bradley was alive. Is that right?”
“I don’t believe that we have the same mother, that’s why I wrote unknown. I don’t have any evidence to back up my intuition, but I just can’t accept... that we could be related.”
“I see. And I am assuming that you and Kane had sexual relations before you realised the connection.”
Nikki nodded, and Ken rubbed his forehead. He still couldn’t believe what had happened.
“I think I understand the situation, as you see it. But you say the only reason you believe you are not related to Kane is... intuition.”
“That’s right,” Nikki admitted, wishing she had something factual to back her case.
“Well, I think I’m ready to begin explaining the results then,” Dr Phillips said.
Nikki was pleased. “Thank you, doctor. Please tell us what you’ve found.” She crossed her fingers under the table.
“Well, okay. Now this is a complicated family matter. So, we’ll go slowly. I’ll list one finding at a time, and you can ask questions as we go. How does that sound?”
He held the first piece of paper in the air. “I have confirmed that Alice is your child, Nikki.”
Nikki frowned. Of course Alice was her child. She knew that already.
“You can see your and Alice’s names here at the top, and you can see the percentage certainty in this box,” he said, pointing to a box which read ninety-nine per cent. “And the finding is in that box,” he said, pointing to another spot.
He put that first test result on the table in front of Nikki and Ken, and they both studied it, before a second piece of paper was held up. “The second test confirmed that Kane is the father of Alice.”
Ken sighed. He must have been hoping for a different result.
Nikki smiled at the high percentage certainty score, which was ninety-eight per cent.
“Do you have any questions about the first two results?”
“Could that second finding be wrong, doc?” Ken asked.
“All of our tests are run twice. There was no ambiguity found in this particular test.”
Ken sighed again.
“I don’t have any questions,” Nikki said, eager to hear the other results.
“Now, I must caution you that the third finding is provided with less certainty than the first two.”
“What is it, doctor?” Nikki asked.
He paused for a few moments as if worried about their reaction. “The third test result tells me that Ken is unlikely to be one of the two grandfathers of Alice.”
“I’m sorry,” Ken said, sitting up in the chair. “Of course, I am. There must be some mistake. That’s ludicrous.”
“It seemed like an unusual result to me too, given the way you both completed the written questionnaire. That is why I repeated the test more times than usual.”
“And what did you find?”
“The same result. You can see here...”
Nikki looked at the third piece of paper where Dr Phillips was indicating. There was a percentage certainty score of eighty per cent. The finding read negative. Ken was not Alice’s grandfather. What did that mean?
The doctor paused, and Nikki wondered what he was going to say next. He was still holding two pieces of paper which meant there were two further test results to be revealed. By the look on Ken’s face, he had no idea what was coming next either.
“In order to understand that result, I performed an unplanned comparison between the two of you, using the sample that you provided, Ken. Our fourth test result helped to explain the third. The result shows conclusively that you, Ken are not the father of Nikki.” Dr Phillips put a fourth piece of paper in front of them.
Nikki breathed in quickly. This was not the result she was expecting. The percentage certainty score was ninety-nine per cent.
Suddenly Ken clutched at his chest, and he fell to the floor.
Nikki swung around, alarmed. She quickly knelt beside him and cradled his head in her hands.
He was breathing fast.
“Dad, your heart. Just breathe. It will be okay. Remember what you told me. Genetics don’t matter. What matters is who raised you. I am your daughter in every way that counts.” Nikki wondered what the result meant. Her brain struggled to understand its meaning.
Ken leant over, and breathed deeply for a few minutes. He didn’t seem to be having a heart attack, and the colour slowly returned to his face.
“Dad,” Nikki said. “Maybe that’s enough for today. Let’s take you home. Mum won’t be happy to hear about this.”
“Bloody oath, I’m not going anywhere until we understand what’s going on.” He was quiet for a few moments, as he processed the information already delivered. He reached for Nikki’s hand. “If I’m not your father, that means there was another man in your mother’s life. She was unfaithful to me. I had no idea.” A look of hurt crossed Ken’s face, as he realised that Sarah had betrayed him, but then his look changed to one of horror. He whispered the word, “Jack.”
Nikki had guessed what was going through his head before he said the word out loud. He thought that Jack Bradley must have gotten Sarah pregnant again. That would mean that Nikki had married her own father.
“Stop it, Dad,” Nikki snapped. “Let’s just hear all of the results before we imagine the worst.” Of course, Jack had not been her biological father.
“I understand that hearing results such as these can be difficult,” Dr Phillips said. “Establishing genetic relationships where there are complicating factors would be difficult for any family. We have very good counsellors here who can help you through the process.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Nikki said, doubtful that any counsellor would understand the situation.
“Please go on, doctor,” Ken said, taking a breath. “I’m feeling calmer, and ready to hear the remaining result. I must say, I had no idea that Sarah cheated on me. She really played me for a fool. That one was quite a shock to the system.” He tried to laugh it off, but no one else smiled.
Dr Phillips looked serious about something. “Now, Ken, regarding the statement you just made about your previous partner - Sarah Rush having cheated on you...”
“Listen, doc, if you’re telling me that Nikki is not my flesh and blood, then there’s no other alternative. Sarah must have cheated.”
Dr Phillips shook his head. “Without Sarah alive and able to be tested, we cannot be certain, but...”
“I don’t understand what you are implying,” Ken said, cutting him off. His face was becoming red again. “Of course she must have cheated. There is no other alternative.”
Nikki wanted to hear the result, but was getting more and more worried about her father’s state. “Dad, maybe you should wait outside.”
Ken looked between Nikki and the doctor a few times. “Sorry, love. I did it again.” He took a couple of deep breaths. “I’ll try to keep my trap shut.”
Nikki looked to Dr Phillips. “What do you think is going on, doctor?”
“Well, if both Kane and Nikki were the children of Sarah, there would be certain shared traits between the siblings, or half-siblings in this case.”
This was the moment Nikki had been waiting for. “And...”
The doctor held out the final piece of paper he was holding. “Nikki, I compared your DNA to Kane’s, and my conclusion is that those expected markers are not there.”
Nikki knew what it meant. She and Kane were not related. She smiled to hear the result.
“I don’t understand. What does this mean?” Ken asked, still confused.
“Well, as I said, we can’t be one hundred per cent certain without Sarah’s DNA, but I believe that either Kane or Nikki, and we can’t be sure who, is not Sarah’s child, which means that at least one of the birth certificates is false. It appears to me, at first glance, that there might have been a mix-up at the hospital. Before certain baby tracking procedures were mandated in all Australian hospitals about fifteen years ago, mix-ups were more common. They were still rare though. Don’t get me wrong, this is a highly unusual case. Although we can’t be certain, I would guess that Nikki was the baby who was switched. This is based on the fact that you Ken are not Nikki’s father, and that Kane has also provided a confirmed link to the Bradley family. Therefore, there is no evidence that Sarah was unfaithful to you, Ken.”