Rehoboam was back in Toronto and staying with Rehka, a cousin on his mother’s side because she lived close to the nursing home. When he showed up at the nursing home the following day to visit his ailing grandmother, Tamar was already there. She was sitting beside the bed, holding her hand. Her heart skipped a beat and began to race when she saw him.
His eyes were restless on her upturned face and his expression was tense. “Hello, Tamar,” he said quietly.
“Hello, Re,” she replied huskily.
He leaned down and kissed her at the right corner of her mouth, making her tremble. When he drew back, a muscle was pulsating in his cheek. He removed his jacket and put it over the other chair which was in the room before going over to their grandmother and kissing her on the forehead. “How is she doing?” he asked. Dear Granny, the woman who used to be so robust looked so frail that it broke his heart.
Tamar swallowed the lump in her throat. “Not well. They don’t think she’s going to last the week.”
“The Parkinson’s has really done a number on her.”
“Yes, it has.”
“Where’s everyone else?”
“Dad and Mom came this morning and stayed for a while. Uncle Vivian and Aunt Olive are coming later.”
“Mom and Dad are flying in tomorrow.”
“Yes. I’m going to the airport to pick them up. I have taken a couple of days off work.”
“How have you been?”
“Busy with work and visiting Granny. What about you?”
“I broke up with Fernanda.”
Tamar’s eyes widened in shock. “You did?” she exclaimed.
“I had to. It wouldn’t have been right to string her along. She deserves to be with a guy who will love her in return.”
“So, you don’t love her?”
“No. I cared about her but I wasn’t in love with her. I thought that in time I would but that isn’t likely to happen now.”
“Does she know about…?”
He shook his head. “I told her that it was a family friend.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t pick you up from the airport.”
“That’s okay. You had your hands full. I called Rekha the day before and she came for me. I’m staying with her since her apartment is nearby.”
“Mom and I ran into her a couple of years ago when we were at the Mall. I think the guy she was with was Italian or Portuguese.”
“He was Italian. They were dating for a while and then they broke up. Now, she’s dating a Jamaican guy. I met him this morning. He’s very nice. I really hope things work out between them.”
“Have you told anyone else that you broke up with Fernanda?”
“No, you’re the only person I’ve told.”
“Everyone is going to be very shocked and disappointed. They came very close to having a television personality in the family.”
“Fernanda wasn’t the right woman for me. You know who is.”
She swallowed hard. “Re, let’s talk about this later.”
“All right.” He turned his attention to their grandmother. He held her other hand and spoke to her. Here eyes were open but he wasn’t sure that she conscious of them being there. They stayed with her until the rest of the family showed up. The pastor came by too and prayed with them before Rehoboam and Tamar left.
They went to the park and spent some time there talking about their grandmother and how here death would leave an emptiness in their lives. When Tamar broke down, he hugged her tightly and when she was composed again, they went to her apartment. They had dinner and then went into the living-room. They were sitting on the sofa. In the background, soft music was playing. Tamar turned to look at him and found him already staring at her. Heart thudding, she asked, “What are we going to do now?”
“Talk about our future,” he replied softly, reaching out and brushing his knuckles gently against her cheek.
“What kind of future can we have together?” she asked. “Our family won’t accept our relationship.”
“I know but we can’t continue to pretend that we don’t have feelings for each other. We can’t deny love.”
“I want to marry you, Tamar. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“But isn’t it illegal for first cousins to marry?”
“Not in the UK or here in Canada or in some states in America.”
“But what about children? I’ve heard that children of first cousins can have birth defects.”
“And just recently, I read on line that contrary to widely held beliefs and longstanding taboos in America, first cousins can have children together without a great risk of birth defects or genetic disease, scientists are reporting today. They say there is no biological reason to discourage cousins from marrying. And if you are really worried about our children having birth defects, then we don’t have to have any. We can always adopt.”
“You would rather adopt children with me than to have your own with someone else?”
“Yes. And if you would rather not adopt either, I’m fine with that too. I’m willing to do whatever makes you happy, Tamar.”
“I love you, Re and nothing would make me happier than to have your children.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. We’ll see whatever specialist we need to see to find out the risk and what we can do to reduce them.”
“Oh, Tamar…” he muttered thickly before he cupped her face between his hands and kissed her.
Two days later, their grandmother passed away. A couple of days after the funeral, at a family gathering, they came clean about their relationship and announced their plans to get married. Everyone was stunned, appalled and objected vehemently but it was no use. The couple had made up their minds. Tamar was going to quit her job, move to London and in with Rehoboam at the end of the year.
Rehoboam learned from her Facebook page that Fernanda had also quit her job and moved back to Rio de Janeiro where she worked as a reporter for GloboNews. He hoped that her decision to leave London wasn’t because of him. He wished her all the best and that she would find the same kind of happiness that he had found with Tamar.
The following year, they got married and only his cousin, Rekha, old and new friends and colleagues attended the wedding. When the time came and they decided that they wanted to start a family, they told their doctor that they were cousins and he referred them to a clinical genetics service for further advice. A medical geneticist worked with them to find out if they are at risk of having a family history of an autosomal recessive condition. If it turned out that they didn’t have the condition, their chances of having a healthy baby was greater than 90% which was very reassuring.
After finding out that they didn’t have the autosomal recessive condition, Tamar and Rehoboam went ahead with their plan to have a family. A year later as Tamar’s due date approached, they were confident that their baby boy would be delivered safely and in good health, following tests to rule out any disability.
Sources: The New York Times; The Conversation; New York Post