Chapter Eleven

“How do you want our betrothal to go forward?”

“I thought you’ve decided that you and I will marry?”

“Yes. That is already decided for both our families,” he acknowledged. “My question is how do you want it to unfold? Do you want it announced in the papers suddenly? Your call. Let me know what’s comfortable for you.”

Aurora nodded in agreement and gave him a grateful smile. “I prefer that you and I cut all strings that are currently attached to our personal lives before going forward. I’d like to go into this arrangement with clear expectations and terms if there’s any. I am not the only person in this arrangement whose life is going to change. You must also tell me how you want this to be treated”.

“I understand. Perhaps it is necessary that you and I spend a bit more time together to figure out how we both want to proceed and decide on those expectations and terms along the way. Would that work for you?”

“Can you be more specific about spending a bit more time together? What do you mean by that exactly?”

If Jared was surprised of this clarification, he did not show it. At the back of his mind, if he did not know better, his betrothed is not that well-versed in the language of dating.

“I mean to date you, Aurora. So specifically, you can expect that I would be taking you out for lunch or dinner, or if there’s a social event for me to attend I shall be bringing you along. Is that all right with you? And did I clarify your confusion?”

“Perhaps,” she remarked her voice low in almost a whisper then gathered her hand bag and gently tapped her mouth with a clean table napkin and pasted a smile on her face and looked at him directly and uttered, “Shall we go?” her tone of voice devoid of any depressing inflection whatsoever.

He could hardy hear her when she said it but he heard it just fine. She even managed to look regally poised and sound casually modest when she said the words - such a contradicting show of disposition to Jared’s assessment. And then he witnessed her behavior switch from a vulnerable one to someone so detached almost indifferent persona as if she didn’t just reveal something very personal about her inner thoughts. Perhaps, she did not mean to, Jared thoughtfully mused. He felt the need to apologize and was about to when she arose from her seat and excused herself to proceed to the lavatory, and he felt his tongue slide at the back of his throat, and simply nodded instead.

Their trip on their way to her apartment was silent not because neither wanted to talk but because both were busy attending to text messages and missed calls. Jared stayed on the line for the entire drive giving Renata instructions for tomorrow’s board meeting, while Aurora answered text messages from her supervisor regarding her duty schedule on the next three days. Apparently, her usual 11am schedule of hospital rounds will be shifted to a very early 7am the following day until the coming week to give way to her absence on Friday and Saturday which she asked approval for when she was waiting for Jared in the diner.

When at last they arrived in her building in Marlborough Street, Jared hang up, parked the car near the curb in front of her building and reached out across her to open the door for her. “I’ll call you tomorrow to discuss the details for Friday,” he casually stated.

Aurora nodded her affirmative and exited the vehicle and said her thanks. She closed the vehicle door and was about to walk up to her apartment building entrance when she heard him call out, with car window opened. She turned half way to glance at him wondering what he would say now that she felt awfully tired.

“Aren’t you going to invite me for a cup of coffee?” he asked half-serious and half-jokingly, he wasn’t entirely sure. He saw her smile and said,

“Not tonight. I have an early start tomorrow. Good night!” she said and waved gently at him. He looked quite indescribable, Aurora noticed. And then she saw him nod and said in a voice quite cold, “night.”

He awoke earlier than his usual routine of 8am and murmured an expletive when he checked his watch revealing that it was only six thirty. He decided to proceed to the hospital to check on the old man before setting off to work. On his way to the hospital, passing by the corner of Marlborough Street his thoughts led to Aurora. She was an interesting woman, he mused his gaze focused on the view outside his left window. She was mysterious and approachable at the same time which was entirely a rare mix. He knew she was of wealthy ancestry and her revelation about her way of earning her money was of unusual proportions. He himself came from one of Boston’s elite families and knew that majority of them especially women have large trust funds which they can put their hands into by the age of 18. Difficult to believe but he was more of leaning to her side of truth observing how unspoiled she is – and totally opposite from the type of women he is frequently photographed dating. They were classy and quite lovely women but also fiery, flamboyant sometimes, and attention seeking – traits he mostly admire in bed. Aurora was subtle and elegantly simple. Conservative in nature, he also noticed and immediately wondered if they would suit each others taste on that subject. She avoided his advances the first and she declined his gesture of coffee on second. She could talk about her family and self with ease and no hauteur but when it comes to other – rather more personal topics pertaining to her she was incredibly vague, defensive almost in Jared’s estimation. She was a walking contradictory. And that fact, to his surprise piqued his interest the most.

He was half thankful to find out last night when he decided to pay him a random visit that his father was no longer contained in the ICU. Upon seeing him, his father started ordering people to get him out of the facility insisting that he felt fine and was ready to go home. Jared knew and through explanation of other attending physicians that it was not possible for his wound was still very fragile. His vital signs began to weaken after arguing making Jared curse himself not knowing how to discipline the old man. He instructed them to transfer him in a private suite and called his father’s manor in Chestnut Hill instructing Rosario – the senior housekeeper of the Rickfords to ready herself to be fetched by Sasha in an hour to proceed to the hospital to watch his father through the night. Looking at him now, the old man was peacefully asleep. On the chair just a meter away from his side was Rosario, his family’s senior housekeeper for nearly twenty-five years. She was a woman of nearly 60 years but with a physique of a forty-year-old, with gray hair, and gray eyes which exudes motherly warmth. She awoke even before Jared entered the room.

“Mister Jared,” Rosario stood from her lying position and greeted him frantically. “I’m sorry I overslept.”

“It’s fine, continue your rest” he acknowledged as he closed the door behind him and sat himself in the vacant chair beside the old man. “It’s only seven in the morning. Did he have a fit?”

The older woman shook her head and smiled warmly. She began fixing the sofa bed and the blankets before facing her employer’s son. “Before you left, the nurses injected some medicine in his IV and he was fast asleep almost immediately. You had breakfast sir? I can go out to buy you some coffee and donuts perhaps?”

“Yeah,” Jared replied and reached for his wallet to give Rosario some cash. “Coffee and donuts would be nice. You might want to buy the old man some apples. You can take the car. Sasha’s out front.”

“No need for the cash,” Rosario replied giving Jared a reproving look. “You forget I handle the kitchen budget.

“Oh, yes” he nodded totally forgetting that his family follows a corporate system when running the manor in Chestnut Hill. Each department has specific budget done by his mother and when she died, Rosario continued the process. It has worked well since. “I totally forgot.”

Rosario gave him a sad smile before walking towards the door. “How can you not forget, you haven’t been home for nearly a decade”, he muttered before the leaving the room and closing the door behind her.

A moment later, Jared found himself leaning closer to the bed where his father lay and looked at the surrounding medical equipment around him, the clicking medical patient monitor machine, several dextrose, the  and began speaking in a very quiet yet rough voice.

“I hope you can hear me coz this is the only time that I have the courage to say it to your face,” he began his voice low and angry. “I never understood your ways. You were so tough after mother died. I gave you what you’ve demanded from me. I gave you excellence not because you demanded it, but because I wanted to exceed your expectations. But damn you, you’re never satisfied. I’ve sacrificed my dream for the company coz you asked for it. And now this. After ten years… you ask for my life in exchange for something you don’t need.  The company is at its best. We both know this marriage is not necessary. I haven’t met her before and you want us to get married! It’s madness.” Jared heaved a sigh before brushing his hair with his fingers in frustration. “Dammit, father.”

After a few minute’s silence, Jared noticed his father move his fingers and he heard him utter some words. Then Jared heard it – the faint but clear voice of his old man saying: “I’m sorry, son.”

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