Chapter Two

Walking on the streets of downtown Boston on her way to the hospital, Dr. Aurora Cunard cannot help but feel a bit jittery due to her meeting with her father last night. She knew it would happen in the long run but she did not anticipate what sort of thing her father requested of her. As she sat at the outside table of a coffee shop just a block away from her apartment at 429 Marlborough Street, she glanced at the passersby without really seeing them. Her mind was still hazy from the topic her beloved father raised during their dinner last night. She was appalled when her father directly told her he’s craving for a grandchild. She didn’t see it coming. Ever since her father suffered a mild stroke a couple of years ago, he has always been importunate of Aurora to get married. Her father has been persistent ever since and by the situation she found herself into last night, her father was taking it to the next level. Her beloved mother on the other hand felt very glad of her husband’s decision. Both of her parents no doubt were craving for a grand child.  

Aurora was a product of two people who were betrothed in order to save a fading enterprise. Her father, Paul Gregory Cunard was Dannish born who migrated to Great Britain. He was the great-great grand son of a shipping line mogul who owned the Britannia, Lusitania, Queen Elizabeth I, along the many luxury ships associated with the name of the Cunard Shipping Ltd. Aurora’s mother on the other hand, Countess Rosalie Von Metternich - Habsburg was Austrian. The betrothal was made easily for a merger. The shipping line of the Cunards was slowly weakening because of the new innovated ships being introduced and it had to be saved immediately. Aurora’s grand parents made sure it would be done. In the end, the marriage was arranged with the announcing of Rosalie Von Metternich – Habsburg’s bride price more than enough to finance the struggling reorganization Cunard Shipping needed. Aurora’s father though insulted and ashamed to have been betrothed to a woman wealthier than he was, conformed. Her parents, especially her father – as Aurora later learned – never intended to fall in love, but in the long run did. Paul Gregory Cunard fought his own way out of his wife’s wealth and in due course made name for himself by working hard for the good of the shipping company. He eventually found himself appreciating his wife’s soft and kind personality despite the fact that she was Austrian and couldn’t speak English fairly. The couple wanted to have at least three children but fate wasn’t too kind. Aurora’s mother Rosalie had a difficult time giving birth and it was just unfortunate that the difficult child birth paved way to the damage of Rosalie’s birth canal, hence, she was not anymore capable of sheltering a child in her womb.  This was their logical explanation of Aurora’s kind candor despite the fact that she was born with a title, from parents who came from Europe’s most influential families. Despite this however, upon migrating to America when she was fourteen, she lived a sheltered life and is barely seen by the Boston elite society, hence the rumors that she was not a very attractive girl. She is extremely low-key unlike her cousins who enjoyed numerous parties, and high-profile lifestyle who are frequently chased by the press which Aurora generally detests. But her life was full of good, happy memories and her childhood was healthy. She was short of friends when she went to school in Boston private school and her biggest challenge but it was eventually compensated during spring breaks when she is regularly sent by her parents to either Leipzig and Edinburgh to be with her grandparents. It meant to her more than anything. With that, she considers herself one of the luckiest people on earth to be more than privileged. She always took it as a compliment whenever she was reminded of how majestically she looked like her mother. Since her mother was of an Austrian progeny complete with features, which were known to be of regal decent, it was more likely that Aurora would have to be compared to a princess for one man to be able to appreciate her beauty.

After grabbing her usual cup of coffee from Martha – the owner of her most favorite coffee place just five minutes from her apartment building, Aurora set foot on to the sidewalk to take a cab towards the hospital. Sitting at the backseat of the cab, Aurora’s mind was shifting from one topic to another. For one, there was no way she’d be able to grant her parents’ request. Why not? Because for the second thing, she had not been involved with any man for a long time since she turned sixteen. Not that she did not want to be involved with a man. She was not the type who easily snares a man with a smile. There were men who tried to win her during her college days but her father has his ways to consistently stop them from pursuing. No man really got past her father’s intimidating tactics. In med school, she almost gave her virginity to a football quarterback on the backseat of his car, who is now an NFL quarterback for the San Francisco Giants. While they were kissing, a police car knocked on the windshield, flashlights on with her father in tow. There was also a Harvard med student who offered marriage when she was only twenty-one. She did not accept knowing that the man wishes to specialize in cosmetic surgery. Who would want to be married to a man who will eventually make her as his human guinea pig? She turned him down and decided to cut communication. There was another one from MIT, who is now an Executive Director at Apple. They struck a friendship in Boston but lost communication when she returned to Stanford the following academic season. When finally they bumped to each other in Martha’s coffee shop just several months ago, she found out he was getting married. Oh the regret she felt. Now at thirty and finishing her residency made dating all the more impossible. In all honesty, she was not looking for a short-term partner. Her father would disapprove of it, and the man knows how to get angry – English and Danish style combined. Her mother on the other hand has a different way of showing her disapproval if she knew her daughter was dating someone not of their family’s stature. A complete snob, her mother was - Aurora once concluded. But knowing the fact that she came from two distinguished European families, she had no choice but to comply to their standards. Whatever those standards are and how the hell she would find it in a man, she did not know. She practically tried dating all men her colleagues and friends threw at her the last eighteen years. Not one ever received an approval, which she deemed quite odd. And that’s why she remained a virgin all these years. How pathetic, she mused. Good thing her career’s her priority. If no man crosses her path and marries her in the next couple of years, she would adopt a baby or find a donor perhaps. Maybe God will be kind enough to send a hot patient when she starts her private practice. She found herself laughing quietly at the absurdity of it. She was specializing in cardiothoracic surgery. Majority of her patients are middle aged or to be completely blunt, old. But then, she’ll never know.

Arriving at the diner where his father preferred to meet him, Jared immediately spotted him at his favorite table around the corner hidden behind the pages of the Boston Herald. Jared walked towards him and decided to make his presence known. But even before he can open his mouth to utter something, the old man folded the broadsheet and looked at his son.

“Ah…good. You’re on time.” He gestured towards the vacant seat across him and said, “Sit down.”

Jared did so as the maitre’d asked for his order.

“An americano.” said Jared.

Then his father eyed him unenthusiastically. Jared stared back at him as he began to speak.

 “You wanted to talk.” It was not a question.

He and his father had not communicated for the last 10 years ever since the old man gave him full control of the company. The old man fulfilled his word when he told Jared he would not be of any interference once the company was transferred to his name. It was like that ever since. Whenever Jared closed a billion-dollar deal which made its way to the business headlines, his father expressed his congratulations in a note, nothing more nothing less. This was the first time in ten years that they were going to speak face to face. Surely, there was something the old man wished to tell him or ask him for that matter. And Jared had prepared for this meeting. He was certain; his father was going to request him to do something for him. Worse? Something Jared knew he’s dead set against. What? He did not know.

He watched his father eat his toast. The man was indeed old with grey almost white thinning hair. But his dominance was still evident in his now-wrinkled face. His father was once a very handsome man. Many who knew him told Jared was his replica. But Jared never felt flattered by such remarks. In the contrary, sometimes he wished he had some of his mother’s gentle features. His mother was by-far the most beautiful woman he had ever known. The woman who’ll take her mother’s place in his heart hasn’t been born yet, if she’ll ever be born.

“I presume you’re doing great. Penetrating the Middle East, am I right?” George asked.

“Yes. Dubai and Doha to be exact.” He was a bit surprised with what he heard himself say. Jared knew he could have shown his disapproval of his father by uttering something like “what do you care?” but instead heard himself responding almost politely. This irritated Jared more.

“Good” George remarked while nodding his head in approval. “Keep it up.” He added.

Jared did not say anything. He opted to keep silent despite the fact that it was the first time he heard his father offer him words of encouragement. He did not understand him. His father was an avid fan of the go-straight-to-the-point type of conversation. What’s with the qualifiers, and tag questions? Right. If his father finally learned to disregard his own mottos, maybe it was not just a small errand after all.

“You want to tell me something or perhaps want me to do something. What is it?” Jared asked calmly but with emphasis which made his old man look at him disapprovingly.

“I did not raise you to be disrespectful.”

“I wasn’t being disrespectful. I was asking a question. What do you want to talk about?”

There was a pause as the maitre’d served Jared his coffee. The moment the staff was out of earshot, George Rickford III began talking.

“I want you to settle down” he began. Jared wanted to clarify just what he had heard but knew it would be crime to interfere when his father was still speaking. And so he maintained his cool, and continued to listen despite the fact that his heart was starting to beat in a not so normal rate, and his jaws are starting to ache in disgust.

“You’re turning thirty-eight,” his father stated matter of factly. Jared was certain what he’ll hear next would irk him. He was not wrong on that account. “I want to see you settled with a wife, and of course children who can continue the business and secure the future of the company. I don’t want it squandered to distant living relatives from my side which you know how careless they are with their trust funds.” Jared eyed the cup of coffee his father was holding and he noticed he was gripping it quite tightly. He did not quite know how to make of that gesture. He stared at him instead.

“I have been following your escapades with your interesting choices of women for the last decade. Trust me son, I know,” his old man continued. This meeting was beginning to irritate him more than he would have expected. “And I must say, you’re behaving like some billionaire playboy transferring from one woman to another treating them like a piece of clothing which you can toss when you find it useless, not to mention the constant display of those in the tabloids and local papers. The media’s discussing more of your dalliances than Rickford Hotel’s accomplishments! It is increasingly detrimental to the image of the corporation and the board is beginning to ask me if it will ever change?”

“You requested a meeting for the first time in a decade to lecture me about my private nightly trysts?” Jared asked calmly. Too calm for that matter. “Do you honestly think I would marry just because you and the board think it is time for me to do so?”

“As far as I can tell, it isn’t that private as I frequently see it splashed across tabloids. Don’t mock me,” George retorted. He knew this would be his son’s reaction. It was plain to see that his son meant to be a bachelor as long as he lives. “I have had your mother,” Jared noticed the poignancy in his father’s voice which totally caught him off guard. “I had my moments with her locked in here.” He pointed to his heart. “I want to see you experience yours.”

If Jared was a bit disturbed with the way his father was talking, he did not show it. He has never heard his father talk like this before. He’s beginning to talk about heart! The man doesn’t have any!

“What happened that all of a sudden you decided to meddle with my private life?” Jared continued, his voice cold as steel. “You don’t give a damn about anything but the business. As far as I recall, I’ve been assembling billions for Rickford in the last decade while living a life of a playboy as you described”.  After he said these, there was a deafening silence between them.

When Jared thought his father was not going to say anything, he clarified his position.

“I don’t need you interfering in my personal life. You’ve done enough. I don’t want to sound ungrateful. But I will marry on my own terms, when I want to and it’s no decision of yours nor the board’s”, with those last words, he stood from his chair and left his father without so much of a glance.

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