|Carolynn writes: "Yeah, I miss her too. It was
always such a fun time with the AM debates with her. I will always
remember when she intimidated me when I was first new to the other list
and didn't know better than to suggest jealousy. It was a breath of
fresh air when we finally were able to comfortably rib each other and
laugh about it. That's why I wanted to share a final story last year on her birthday or around it. Just to remember her and because I'd told
her I'd do an unflattering story of AM just for her. ... this was a
way to accomplish that.
"I think Kel would've gotten some satisfaction from it! AM a lush! But again, it has a nice ending. I guess all Kel was saying is that the stories can make a personality adjustment on AM to make her more likable than in the series.
"While I never met Kel in person I still consider her a wonderful friend to have had."
Couldn't have said it better myself-- sue
The first time around. Picture courtesy of Janis.
She sat alone in the darkest corner of the tavern, her glass of
wine clutched in her hand, the remaining wine in the flask was a prisoner
of her other hand. Her eyes
and face bore the effects of loneliness and heartache.
The effects of too much wine dimmed the sparkle in her eyes. The once so impeccably groomed hair was disheveled.
There was no trace of the clever, mannerly senorita
who once existed; who always smiled; who nearly always behaved impeccably.
AnnaMaria Verdugo was sober enough to want to keep to the less
populated area. What pittance
she had accorded her to be seated and undisturbed in the shadows of the
tavern. As much as she wanted to be around people, she desperately
craved to be left alone. She
didn’t want any caballero or vaquero trying to sweet talk
her, attempting to ply her with more wine so he could take his pleasures
with her. Even the men of
higher morals and consideration were unwelcome.
She merely wanted to be left alone in her misery.
Where once existed a beautiful senorita of standing and
breeding in Monterey was now replaced by a worn, pitiful resemblance.
The senorita Verdugo was now wine-soaked, her clothing
tattered, her expressions that of sadness.
To have known her in her youth, one would never recognize her now.
And the transition between the two different women AnnaMaria was,
was a mystery to the town. No one knew what demons turned a vibrantly beautiful young
girl into the mess of a woman who shared the tavern with most of the
townspeople. As frequent a
customer as she was, there had never been a string of rumors spread about
her. No one had any notion of
what had caused the change of AnnaMaria.
They could speculate and have their opinions, but out of respect
for the Verdugo name, they could not spread idle gossip about her.
But they noticed she rarely smiled, and often her face appeared
What was AnnaMaria’s story?
What had happened that could turn one of Monterey’s most
beautiful women into a memory of it?
These are the same questions that began to form in the mind of the caballero
that walked in unrecognized. No
one paid much attention to him. The
dancer, Carlita, was of much more interest.
She was hypnotic enough to capture and hold the focus of most of
the men in the inn. As long
as they still had eyesight, that is.
The newcomer looked around for a table.
It seems Carlita’s performances were good enough to bring in the
entire pueblo, being that there was no seat available.
The newcomer saw that the only place available was at the table of
AnnaMaria. He wound his way
to the dark corner where AnnaMaria rested her chin awkwardly on her palm
and watched, with empty eyes, the talented dancer.
Any minute and she’d be collapsing on her forearm and passing
out, noted the stranger.
“May I sit at your table, senora?” he asked politely.
AnnaMaria’s eyelids blinked slowly as she maneuvered her head sideways, in a near drunken stupor, and noticed there was someone at her table. “No, senor, por favor. I do not want any company,” she mumbled out. “You can sit somewhere else.”
The stranger looked around again and realized there was absolutely
no room whatsoever. It was
packed like cakes of fish. “Excuse
me, senora, but there is nowhere else to sit in here.
I beg of you, take pity on me.
It’s been a long journey for me and I do not wish to bother you,
only sit and relax,” he pleaded.
AnnaMaria began to slowly lift herself up from the table and began
her attempts to focus on this bothersome man.
She scanned the tavern slowly and found that it was quite full. Looking back at this stranger, she gave in.
“Very well, senor. Just
have your drink and let me be.”
“Of course, senora. I
promise not to disturb you,” he vowed, and signaled for the innkeeper to
bring him something to drink. Despite
the crowd, one of the barmaids came quickly with a bottle of wine and a
glass. The stranger gingerly
uncorked it and began pouring himself some.
Without his noticing, AnnaMaria watched him.
Her taste buds began to activate, and she was suddenly feeling very
thirsty again. She’d drained her own bottle, and she was feeling the pull
of the stranger’s wine strongly.
AnnaMaria raised her head and looked at him.
There was something oddly familiar about him, but now, at her age
and with her fondness for wine, she couldn’t think clearly enough to
solve the mystery. But she
had a feeling deep in her stomach that, somehow, this stranger was someone
she should know. And trust.
And, somehow, she knew also that he would never harm her.
She felt a need to know who he was.
But first she needed to quench her thirst.
She was nearly licking her lips with unspoken drives to drink more.
So as not to appear eager for wine, AnnaMaria decided she would
need to engage the stranger in conversation for him to share his wine.
Watching him raise his glass, she noticed the graceful hands.
Although they were the hands of a man older than even herself, she
recognized that they were the hands of an aristocrat, unused to manual
labor or working hard to stay alive. She imagined that as a much younger man, his hands would
probably have felt like silk on her cheek.
And an inexplicable jealousy struck her inwardly as she thought
that there had to be an esposa to this man.
A closer observation of his profile, his clothes, his demeanor told
her that there was no possibility that this once handsome man could not
have a wife.
“May I offer you some wine, senor?” she asked quietly,
yet controlled. “Please
forgive my earlier rudeness.” Turning
his head towards her, he flinched. His
eyes were becoming old, but he was stunned by the resemblance the senora
held to someone he once knew. And
“Gracias, senora, I would be honored!” he answered.
Watching her just about struggle to pick up her wine bottle, the
stranger decided to assist. “May
I do the honors?” he asked. AnnaMaria
grinned weakly and slid the bottle over to her table companion.
The stranger began to pour and saw that all that was coming out
were droplets. To save her
the embarrassment, he laughed. “This
must be excellent wine! I
only hope mine is as good!”
AnnaMaria giggled drunkenly. “The
wines here are very good, senor, I can assure you!”
And then they toasted each other.
Quenching her newfound thirst, AnnaMaria felt bolder.
“What is your name, senor?
You look familiar, and I feel I should know you.
Bu’ I jus’ cannot recall whoooooo’s face you look
like!” The stranger could
see that this once lovely lady had already finished one bottle, at least,
of wine. And if he wasn’t
careful and kept his wits, she would surely be drinking his as well. Perhaps engaging her in friendly conversation would help.
It might help jog his memory as well.
“Well,” he laughed heartily, “I was just thinking the very
same thing and was about to ask you your name!”
AnnaMaria laughed, although weakly.
To many men it would appear to be an invitational laugh.
Just as she was about to divulge her name to this stranger, the
innkeeper appeared at their table. “Senorita
Verdugo, may I bring you anything? Perhaps
for you, Senor?” The
stranger’s face froze in shock, whereas AnnaMaria’s merely continued
in her wine-soaked manner.
“Si, senor,” the stranger quickly responded, “If you
would be so kind, I very much need some strong coffee.
I have more of the night ahead of me and would like to be awake!”
As he spoke, he made eye contact with the innkeeper indicating the senorita
could use some as well. With
a nod of his head and a “Si, Senor!” the innkeeper bustled off
to bring back some coffee.
“AnnaMaria!" the stranger said. “Do you not know me? It is I; Diego de la Vega.”