Merger By Matrimony

By: Cathy Williams



‘What did you come here for?’ she asked bluntly, at which her father tore his attention away from the scenery of grass and dirt and beyond the compound the dense forest that housed the people who seemed as familiar to them as the Westerners who lived and worked alongside them in the compound.

‘I’ve brought something for you.’ He rifled through his briefcase and extracted a thick wedge of cream, heavy-duty paper, covered with small type, which he handed to her. ‘Have you ever heard of Abraham Felt?’

‘Felt…Abraham? Yes, vaguely… Dad…?’ she said slowly, scanning the papers without really seeing anything.

‘Abraham Felt was my brother, your uncle,’ her father interjected tightly. He took a few deep breaths. ‘Well, perhaps I’d better let the professional do the explaining.’

‘What explaining?’

‘Abraham Felt died six months ago. He left a will. You are the main beneficiary.’

‘Oh. Is that all? Couldn’t you have put it in writing? Post might take a while to get here, but it arrives eventually.’

‘No, Miss Felt, you don’t understand.’ He gave a small laugh which he extinguished by clearing his throat. ‘His estate is worth millions.’

The silence that followed this statement was broken only by the sound of birds and parrots cawing, the muffled voices of people criss-crossing the compound, and the distant rush of the river which provided the only form of transport into the heart of the forest.

‘You’re joking.’ She smiled hesitantly at her father, who returned her smile with off-putting gravity. ‘Aren’t you?’

‘I’m a lawyer, Miss Felt. My line of business doesn’t include jokes.’

‘But what am I supposed to do with all that money?’ Her laugh was a bit on the hysterical side. ‘Look around you, Mr Wilson. Do you see anything to spend money on here? We all get a government grant, and some of the locals make things for the tourist trade, but as for spending millions…no shops, no fast cars, no restaurants, no hotels…no need.’

‘It’s not quite as easy as that.’ He rested his elbows on his knees and contemplated her thoughtfully. He’d removed a handkerchief from his pocket and proceeded to give his face a thorough wipe with it. She could see the beginnings of sunburn. In this heat, sunblock was only partially successful. She’d always used it but, even so, at the age of twenty-six, she was as brown as a nut—a smooth, even brown that the average sun-seeker would have killed for.

‘Aside from a multitude of small interests, his country estate and a collection of art work, there’s his major holding. Felt Pharmaceuticals. It has offshoots in some six European countries and employs thousands of people. I have the precise figures here if you want. And it’s in trouble. Big trouble. Now there’s a takeover in the offing, and who’s to say how many jobs will be lost globally? As the main beneficiary, nothing can be done without you.’

‘I don’t know a thing about business,’ she said stubbornly, willing her father to chip in with some much needed support.

‘Your father says that you were a child prodigy.’

Destiny shifted uncomfortably in her chair and sat on her hands. ‘Dad! How could you?’

‘You were, my darling, and you know it. Even that boarding school didn’t know what to do with you…and perhaps the time has come for you to spread your wings a bit. It’s all well and good working out here and…’

‘No!’

‘Listen to me, Destiny!’ Her father’s voice cracked like a whip and startled her. She stared at him open-mouthed. ‘At least go to England and see what this is all about. You’ll have to go there anyway to claim this inheritance…’

‘But I don’t want any inheritance! I don’t want to go anywhere!’

The heat in the room began to feel suffocating and she stood up, agitated, lifting her face to the fan so that it whirled her hair back and soothed her hot skin. Her baggy dress seemed to cling to her even though she knew it wasn’t. Under it, she could feel perspiration trickle from beneath the heavy folds of her breasts down to the waistband of her sensible cotton underwear.

‘If you hate it, you can always come back here,’ her father was telling her in a gentler voice, ‘but don’t turn your back on an experience just because you’re afraid. We’ve always taught you to see the unknown as a challenge and not as a threat.’

‘And besides,’ Derek chipped in slyly, ‘think of the benefits to your father’s research, should you have your hand on the steering wheel of an important pharmaceutical company. Your father has told me that he’s working on a cure for certain tropical diseases using special tree saps and plant derivatives. Funding would cease to be a problem. You could help these indigenous tribes far more than you ever could by staying put.’ He crossed his legs and began to fan himself with his hat, exposing a balding head that was at odds with his reasonably unlined face. ‘Come to England, Miss Felt, for your father if nothing else…’

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