Chapter Four

Barely two days after his father’s operation, Jared received a phone call from the hospital that his father just gained consciousness and was asking for him immediately. Jared although in the middle of a board meeting rushed to the hospital to fulfill his father’s request to see him. Jared still hadn’t figured out if he really cared for his old man. For the past three days, he’d been trying to find it out. But then maybe he really did care because if he did not, he wouldn’t be rushing to the hospital in the middle of a very important board meeting.

Arriving at the Intensive Care Unit where his father was confined, he was surprised to see at least four people seated beside his old man’s hospital bed. Three middle aged men wearing tailored suits who looked like lawyers, and a middle-aged woman in mid-sixties who, despite the old age still looked regally beautiful. As he was about to enter the room, the doctor whom Jared arranged to replace the pretty brunette surgeon approached him. The doctor was a middle-aged man and he was the chief of the cardiac surgery department. Dr. Adolf Finnegan approached Jared and said;

“The patient gained consciousness several hours ago. He insisted the presence of these people before notifying you. I don’t know what his reasons are but I tell you, young man it is not healthy for him to have this number of visitors when he’s still under observation. I don’t understand but he threatened one of my residents that if we do not notify those people in there to come, he’ll close this hospital down. Now, Mr. Rickford… Wall Street probably knows who you are but I refuse to allow any patients to go on bullying my staff do you understand me? If your old man continues to spread his animosity here in this prestigious hospital then I have to advise you to transfer him god knows where but here.”

Jared winced upon hearing this. He knew his father would become handful when in a hospital, the man hated the hospital.

“I apologize for my father’s behavior doctor. I’ll try my best to tell him to slow down a bit. Thank you for dealing with him.” Jared said courteously.

Dr. Finnegan shook his head in dismay as he looked at Jared straight in the eye.

“Dismissing Dr. Cunard was not a wise move Mr. Rickford. She maybe young and inexperienced compared to me but she’s got a bright future as a surgeon. This hospital trusts her skills when in comes to the operating table, and it was very wrong of you to underestimate her intelligence. You’ll eventually find out how capable she is compared to anyone in this hospital.”

As Jared heard this, he decided not to respond. The older doctor did not know what really happened. It was Aurora’s attitude toward him that made Jared dismiss her. But of course, he’s not going to admit that. He proceeded to the ICU when he was given permission by Dr. Finnegan to finally visit his father.

Entering the hospital room his father was occupying, Jared’s eyes confirmed that two of the men in suits were indeed his lawyers. As he glanced on the left side he was surprised to recognize the faces of the couple as the well-renowned shipping mogul Englishman Paul Gregory Cunard and his wife of thirty-two years, Rosalie Von Metternich - Habsburg. He wondered if they were in any relation with the woman surgeon who has a blabbering mouth. But then, probably not… the Cunards were practically an old European family and refined was what they were most appreciated for. Jared knew about them of course. The whole America knows. The couples’ only child is an enigma to the American high society. The only thing Jared knows is that there is only one fruit - a daughter - of the thirty-two year union for Rosalie suffered an illness which deprived her of having more children. He knew about this because a former classmate of his mentioned that he was dating Cunard’s daughter and that he recalled that her name was Margaret or something like it. He did not know what she looked like though. Good thing for him, having children was never in his plans. He shifted his glance to his father lying in the hospital bed tubes inserted in almost every hole in his face. He looked like a man on a brink of death. And he wasn’t sure if he felt relieved or nothing at all.

 “I’m glad you’ve gained consciousness,” he said courteously. Jared felt disgusted looking at his father in such a state. Once a very strong, domineering man now in the hospital bed looking frail like never before, and there was no one to blame but himself. His father winced at the sight of him.

“Don’t be too cocky, boy. I know damn well you’re not glad I’ve gained consciousness. If I’m right, you’re hoping that I’m dead,” his father said haughtily.

Jared shrugged as a reply. “I didn’t say that and you’re recovering well as I thought. What’s Lansing and Fairway doing here?” nodding towards his two lawyers who are seated in the couch near the old man’s bedside.

“They are here to witness our agreement,” George paused to catch his breath.

“What agreement?” Jared asked immediately. He didn’t mind if he was interrupting his father. He wanted to know what his old man was talking about. His father eyed him disapprovingly, but decided to continue.

“A few days ago, I requested a meeting with you at the diner where I suffered this nuisance,” gesturing to his bed confinement. “I hope you still remember what I’ve asked of you that time.” Jared gave his father a curt nod indicating he did.

“I am well determined to insist that request, Jared. For there is no more time to back out. You have been betrothed to Cunard’s daughter since you were 8 years old. If you wish to procure proof, our lawyers are here to provide you what you need. Your mother and I decided upon that back when she was still alive”, he said as he gestured to his lawyers to give Jared the documents.

Jared stared transfixed at the papers handed to him by the two lawyers. One was the original copy bearing the signature of the Cunard couple and of his mother and father arranging the betrothal. Below were the signatures of the lawyers who witnessed the signing of the contract. Jared was stunned to see that two of these lawyers were the fathers of the lawyers currently working for him. He never felt so angry before. He handed the papers back to the attending lawyers almost harshly, and then he faced the Cunards.

“Does your daughter know about this?” His jaws locked, and his eyes were beginning to betray his calm face. He was aware of his lack of courtesy, not even chancing to utter a simple good afternoon.

He wanted to kill somebody. Then, he heard Paul Gregory Cunard answer his question.

“Rosalie and I already told her about marrying soon but she’s got no idea about being betrothed. She will not at all be pleased about this arrangement. As your father just told you, it was already arranged even before my daughter was born.”

It was like he’d been lured to a trap that he cannot get himself out of. This never occurred to him before. He was not a marrying man and here he was confronting the knowledge that in his whole thirty-nine years, he’d been betrothed to someone he never even met and does not know it.

“Are there conditions in this arrangement? What? A year, two years..? What do you require at the end of it?” He inquired exerting too much self control. Again, there was silence.

One of the lawyers particularly Atty. Fairway provided the information Jared was dreading to hear.

“There are no stipulations as to its longevity. However, the moment you and Ms. Cunard wed, half of his stocks at Cunard Shipping Ltd. in under the current Chairman and owner, Mr. Paul Gregory Cunard will be transferred to your name. If within three years of marriage Miss Cunard bears your child, the remaining half of Mr. Cunard’s shares will be added to your name. Simply put, if in three years Ms Cunard gives birth to your child, you will be the major shareholder and owner of Cunard Shipping Limited.”

This time, Jared didn’t even think of hiding his shock. He stared at the lawyers, then to his father, and then to the Cunards.

“This is madness! You’re transferring your corporate shares to me?” he asked astonishingly, unable to believe what he just heard. Paul Cunard looked at him, his face devoid of expression which gave Jared the recollection of how serious the situation was.

“A 115 billion dollars’ worth, to accurately put it,” Atty Fairway corrected.

“Your father has been updating me of your successes and failures. I must admit, if you were born the same year as I was, I’m afraid you’d be my greatest rival. I know what your abilities are, Jared. I trust that once I give you control of my company, it would give me great relief to know that it is in good hands”.

“Jesus”, was the only word Jared had said. As he whispered this, he shook his head in utter disbelief. Paul Cunard issuing that ultimatum only made Jared angrier. For the first time in his life, he didn’t know what to do, like a trapped animal in a cage not even his size. He brushed his dark tresses with his hands and sat himself in the vacant chaise near his father’s bedside. The expression in his face was unfathomable. “Why now?” he logically reasoned, his voice cold as ice. “What would’ve happened if I say, married five years before, on my own will before this arrangement was even revealed?”

One of the lawyers, Atty Lansing answered that question for him. “If you read the full document, it stated there of the conditions. Miss Cunard must not reach the age of thirty-two before the arrangement is executed. As for you, your parents stated that if in due course you have not married after the age of thirty-five, with both parties still available and not engaged to someone else, it will stand firm and must be executed in all accounts stated herein. Simply put, you had your last chance of finding a wife of your choice four years ago, while Miss Cunard had hers until she turned thirty-two a month before to date. Neither of you were informed of these stipulations as regarded in this document by both your parents to give you a fair chance to a natural flow of things and normalcy. However, during those times neither of you also found someone of your own choosing which led to this day of inevitability”.

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