They experienced an instant attraction that soon grew deeper.
‘I’d been in relationships before, but I just knew this was different,’ James told the Irish Mail. ‘After a week it felt like we’d known each other forever.’
Two years later, James and Maura welcomed their son Mark into the world. But the couple were about to discover a shocking secret.
James hadn’t seen his father Vincent since he was 10, and his relationship with his mother Carmel was so strained, Maura hadn’t even met her.
It was Christmas 2009 when James decided to try and mend fences with his mother. He visited Carmel and told her how he’d fallen in love with Maura, and they had a son. ‘She asked me who my girlfriend’s parents were – what their names were,’ James remembers. But then she got hysterical.‘She went upstairs, closed the door and wouldn’t come out,’ James explained.
A few days later, Carmel called James and broke the news that Maura’s father, Tom, was also his biological father.
Carmel and Tom had dated briefly in the 1980s. When they broke up, Carmel didn’t tell Tom she was pregnant and when James was born, she put Vincent’s name on the birth certificate. Tom found out that he had a son when James was four but they never met. By this time, he’d married and was a father to Maura.
A DNA test confirmed their worst fears – James and Maura were half brother and sister. ‘We were devastated,’ said James. ‘If someone had said to me that they were in a relationship like this, I would have said they were sickos.’
After the shock, the couple decided to stay together and share their story anonymously to warn others about putting the wrong father’s name on birth certificates.
Read more in this week's issue of that's life!