I was sitting at the kitchen table rummaging through a pile of papers when something made me stop and gasp. Among the bills was an envelope with my name on it.
It was my mother's handwriting.
She'd just died of stomach cancer. My father had passed away two years earlier and as their only child, it was up to me to sort out their belongings.
Now Mum had left me a final message.
Dear Michelle, I didn't know how to tell you this... it began.
I read on and my mouth fell open.
...you have a brother.
She explained that before she and Dad had me, she'd fallen pregnant with his baby.
But because she was just 15, her parents forced her to have the baby adopted.
A year later, she and Dad ran away together and married.
Now Mum was asking me to find her son and make things right.
She'd written another letter - to him- and as I read it, tears ran down my cheeks.
She told him about the sadness she'd lived with all her life and her agony over giving him up. She'd tried to find him, but each attempt had failed. Alongside the letter was the paperwork linked to his adoption.
I'll find him, Mum, I promised.
I went online and began trying to trace anyone who might know anything.
Eventually I found the former adoption co-ordinator. When she gave me the last address for the couple who'd adopted my brother, my heart leapt.
The family's name was Howard and soon I was spending all my time trying to find people with the same surname. I searched electoral rolls, school records, adoption websites and forums.
During my search, I came across something I'd never heard of before - Genetic Sexual Attraction or GSA.
There were forums dedicated to the subject of men and women who'd fallen in love with their biological sibling after being raised separately.
It sounded so strange and terrible.
In time, a man contacted me to say he knew my brother's adopted family and could put me in touch. He told me my brother was called Joe. When he gave me the address I set off immediately. I wanted to meet him in person.
I was riddled with nerves as I knocked on the door.
"Coming," someone shouted.
And then it swung open to reveal the most handsome man I'd even laid eyes on.
I felt so overwhelmed that for a moment I couldn't speak.
"Are you Joe Howard?" I managed.
"I'm Michelle Malone. I'm your sister," I said.
Stunned, he invited me in and I showed him the adoption paperwork I'd brought with me.
We shared the same skin tone and our faces were the same shape. I couldn't stop staring.
Over a glass of wine, Joe told me he'd been looking for his biological family for three decades.
His adoptive parents had refused to give him any information and after they'd died, he was unable to find further details.
I explained how Mum had asked me to find him.
Then I gave him the letter. We both wept as he read it.
"I want you to stay," he said afterwards. "I want to get to know you."
Over the next few days we were inseparable, delighting in finding countless similarities between us.
We both loved Thai food and had the same taste in books and films. We both had dyslexia, too.
Sometimes when I looked at Joe I found myself wondering if he was a good kisser.
He seemed to be thinking the same.
"You're just like my first girlfriend. I call her 'the one that got away,'" he confessed.
When he hugged me, I felt myself sinking into his embrace.
After I went home, we talked constantly. Then one day I opened the door to find Joe, his arms filled with balloons and flowers.
Having him at home was great. When we cooked dinner together we kept accidentally bumping into each other in my small kitchen.
He felt so good and smelt so nice.
You have to stop, Michelle, I told myself. You can't feel this way.
But I couldn't help it.
I went back to the online forums and found two women who were in GSA relationships. They urged me to talk to Joe about my feelings.
That night I stayed awake trying to work out what to do.
Next morning I took Joe a cup of coffee in bed.
I sat down beside him, leant over and kissed him.
He pulled me on the bed and one thing led to another.
It was amazing. With Joe I felt so connected sexually, emotionally and physically.
Afterwards we lay in silence before I said: "I'm falling in love with you."
Joe squeezed me and said: "I've had the same feelings for you since you turned up at my door."
I told Joe all I knew about GSA.
"I could've met you anywhere and not have known you were my sister. I'm 50 and you're 45, I think we should do what makes us happy."
I felt so relieved. I'd found the person I was meant to share my life with. Our shared DNA was just a terrible twist of fate. But in a way, it was like Mum had meant us to be together.
Over the next few days, I introduced Joe to my friends as someone I'd met on holiday. We knew people wouldn't understand.
Then I fell pregnant.
Joe and I were shocked but thrilled. Sadly I suffered a miscarriage.
We were heartbroken but it made us realise how much we really wanted a baby of our own.
We know there is a high chance the bub will have a disability because we're siblings, but we're determined to try again.
We're also planning to hold a commitment ceremony next year to celebrate our love.
If we're lucky enough to have a baby, it will be a blessing. Otherwise we will be content with just each other.
We know people will judge us and call us disgusting but unless you properly understand GSA you can't know what it is like.
As far as we're concerned we're just two normal people who happened to fall in love. It might not be always what you expect but it doesn't make it less true.
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