The Promise

by

 

Gail Manfre

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FORTY-SIX

 

DIEGO AND SELENA

LOVE’S REFINING FIRE

 

 

Diego hesitated before pressing the mantel button to open the secret room’s door because Selena was again calling his name. The young caballero stifled a cry of anguish. He inhaled deeply and whispered to her, “Nothing ... can alter my love for you, Selena, nothing.” Diego listened to the roar of the wind-driven rain against the hacienda’s tiled roof, as he again scooped her into his arms, just holding her gently but firmly. After twenty minutes or so, he felt Selena’s shoulder muscles relax as she finally drifted into a deep sleep. Diego placed her back gently on their bed. He looked at his beloved spouse again, torn between his almost palpable urge to shake her from the mental hell, which she had condemned herself and his need to get away from the hacienda for just a little while. Then he pressed the hidden button on the fireplace, rapidly threw on his black clothing, and fled downstairs to the secret cave.

The Fox could not have selected a worse night to ride Tornado in order to compose his thoughts. A fine mist replaced the previous deluge, and the rain, combined with low temperatures, greatly added to Zorro’s sense of insurmountable despair. The tired hazel eyes, their natural sparkle dimmed from nearly a week’s lack of sleep, vainly searched the gloomy heavens for the moon. But Zorro’s usual Celestial Guide and Guardian was concealed by thick, dark and billowy clouds. Shivering beneath the black wool cloak that Bernardo had insisted he wear, Zorro had not felt this lonely since the death of his mother fifteen years earlier. The dampness chilled his soul and he was at his wit’s end when Tornado finally halted near one of the numerous caves more than five miles from the de la Vega hacienda.

Gracias, mi amigo,” Zorro said as he alighted from his steed’s back and rushed Tornado into “their” secret place, for now the gentle rain once more seemed to literally pour from the heavens, perhaps in response to the brilliant jagged lightening bolts that ripped through the sky. “Come, Tornado, I brought extra blankets for such weather.” The stallion whinnied his thanks as Zorro removed the wet riding gear, the small soaked riding blanket and used a large one to rub the animal down.

He quickly started a fire and removed his own waterlogged wool cape, squeezed out the excess moisture and draped all of the wet items over some rocks to dry. The Fox spread out a smaller blanket to sit on and retrieved a bottle of brandy from his saddlebag. Zorro poured some into a tumbler and sat silently before the fire, watching the flames dance their ancient, hypnotic rhythm as he began to relax.

He noticed a small leather bound book laying beside the bottle of brandy. I do not remember packing this... ah ... the New Testament of the Bible mother gave me just before she died. He paused to clear the lump that had strangely formed in his throat. Bernardo ... Bernardo must have believed I needed to read ... what is this?

He pulled back the purple silk bookmark where it had been placed and found a note addressed to him:

My master who is also my dearest friend, please reflect on the Gospel of St. Mark. Give particular thought to Chapter 5, verse 36. Nothing more was written on the paper except for Bernardo’s signature. Zorro then read aloud Verse 36:

“Do not ye be afraid, only have faith.”

The blessed words of the gospel became seared into his heart. He had lost faith in himself, both as Diego and Zorro. No, he said to himself, I could not have prevented Selena’s brutal suffering anymore than either I could eliminate poverty forever from the pueblo of Los Angeles.

“Jesu, dios mi! I do have faith!” Zorro exclaimed, “I do!”

The Fox now knew he had to return home and fight the memory of Selena’s violation that threatened her love for him and her very sanity. This was a battle he could win and would. The blankets were dry and by the time Zorro re-saddled Tornado and packed everything the rain had ceased.

“Tornado, my friend, may you run more swifter than ever before tonight! My beloved Selena needs me! Fly home, fly!”

The black stallion, invigorated by the both the fire’s warmth and his master’s impassioned speech, immediately leaped into a furious gallop. Tornado’s pace was so rapid, Zorro was certain the stallion’s hooves never touched the damp earth.

 

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

 

Amontildar crept into Diego’s and Selena’s bedroom to croon some more Creole lullabies to her beloved mistress. Ah, grace a le Bon Dieu! Elle dorme bien. As Señora de la Vega slept peacefully, her lifelong friend and marraine repeatedly caressed her mistress’s forehead with loving hands. She whispered into Selena’s ears:

"Mon chere, please believe me when I tell you dat your handsome Spanish nobleman truly love you, yes he does! When you goin’ to realize dis chere? Oh my Selena, you must let go of ze past. Whatever happened between you and dat commandante be nothing, nothing compared to ze feelings you have for each other! Don Diego, dat fine gentleman, he love you more than his own life, yes! You listen well now, when I tell you dis!”

Diego changed into the fresh nightshirt that Bernardo had laid out for him in the secret room and donned his blue brocaded robe. When he turned the lock to open the way into their bedroom, he choked back fresh tears as he listened to the Creole lady’s prayers.

“Mam’selle Amontildar, thank you for trying to help Selena.“ He bent down and raised up the servant to her feet. Diego placed a light kiss on her cheek and informed the maidservant that he would take care of Selena for the rest of the night.

Amontildar’s face turned crimson. “Mais, le Monsieur did not have to do dat. You do make dis Creole lady blush, oh yes you do.”

He grinned. “Off to bed with you, ma jeune femme [my young lady].

"Oh yes, indeed! Dat Don Diego, he be a fine gentleman, and he be a wonderful father, for sure! Oh, Mon Dieu, I pray me that Mistress Selena she listen to him because he do love her," Amontildar murmured to herself as picked up her long skirt and fairly danced down the stairs. Everything would be fine. Her prayers for Selena’s complete recovery would be answered. No one could withstand the combined power of Amontildar’s Baron Samedi, the Blessed Virgin ... and true love.

Diego knelt beside his resting wife and kissed her lips. “Dearest Selena, I love you with my entire being. Glorioso was an animal who forced himself upon you. You fought him, Selena, as befits a truly brave Spanish woman. You are my woman, Selena, and what the commandante did to you can never alter that fact,” he hesitated, wanting to say more but wondering how he could convince her to return fully to him.

“Forgive me, mi corazon, for not fully understanding how you felt after I rescued you from Glorioso. And most importantly, forgive yourself. We made wedding vows never to desert each other. Selena, I shall never leave you, even unto death and beyond. That is my eternal promise to you.” Diego cradled her head in his embrace until he fell asleep.

 

ZZZZZZZZZZZ

 

Two voices, one female, one male, penetrated the baleful gloom surrounding Selena as she floated back and forth between exhaustion and drug-fueled sleep. She clung to these sweet melodious sounds, especially clinging to the single baritone message of comforting love she felt emanating from it. Then she finally recognized the owner of the voice.

Mais, oui! C’etait El Zorro, the man in black who had overloaded her senses one night in her boudoir when she was thinking of Diego de la Vega, who was her first real love. Yet when I gazed into the Fox’s tender eyes, they were the wonderful hazel ones belonging to my dearest Diego.

El Zorro had wanted to make me his then. And now that I know the Fox and my husband are one and the same. ... Oh mon coeur, Diego, how I had missed you when I was held captive by Glorioso. My thoughts were only of you when he ravished me. ONLY YOU. Tell him how you feel, woman! Selena heard yet a third voice join the chorus in her head. Will you toss away your happiness because of something that occurred which was beyond your control?

“NO!” She heard herself say in her dream, now no longer a nightmare. Selena felt herself drawn towards the light that shone before her. The light was the source of the voices.

Awaken and seek out your beloved. He needs you. You need each other. The voices sang. Love is stronger than evil, child. Selena recognized a female voice as her mother’s. Child, wake up. Where is your faith? Where is your faith?

What of our baby, Selena? Do you not care what happens to the child? said Diego’s voice. I know you love me and our child. Return to me, por favor, return to me ...

Then the light grew brighter than the sun itself and began consuming the darkness that had threatened to engulf her soul. Faith and love, child. Faith and love ...  

“Oh, Diego, my love... I am coming back to you ... coming back,” Selena muttered. “Mother Allie, Mother Bethia ... I understand your message.” Her gray eyes found it difficult to focus in the dark, for the candle Amontildar had placed on her night stand had nearly burned out. Yet she was determined to get up. But where washe? “Diego ... mi corazon ... Selena whispered.

Usually either Amontildar or Diego were supposed to be with Selena, but Diego had gone in search of some fresh air and her maidservant had slipped out for some hot chocolate. Selena pulled and slid her way over to the last bedpost and she clung to it, then slowly made her way to the door. With all her strength, she pushed it ajar ...

 

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

 

Although Don Alejandro de la Vega celebrated the Christmas season the night before by attending Don Alfredo’s fiesta, Diego remained at their hacienda, in the fervent hope that Selena’s condition would miraculously vanish in this, the month of the Christ child’s birth. Diego thought of the coming birth of his own child next June and prayed all the harder that his wife would recover to enjoy their infant’s arrival. During Dr. Avila’s visit last week, the physician had reassured the harried young expectant father that Selena would be fine, and the baby would, as long as Selena remained calm and rested, was in excellent health also.

“And how is Selena, my son?” Alejandro’s eyes searched his son’s face with fatherly concern.

“Selena seemed more relaxed while she slept last night. “She actually smiled after I spoke to her, father,” Diego said, his face bright with renewed hope. “I believe ...” then he gasped, not in shock, but in wonder, as his hazel eyes were drawn upward.

“Diego, what is the matter?” Alejandro said as he followed Diego’s gaze, which was directed at the top of the patio’s stairwell.

“SELENA!” Diego shouted, “SELENA!” he bounded up the stairs, reaching her as she swayed against the top of the stairs.

“D-diego .. heard you calling ... mi corazon .... love you, only you ...” she fell into her beloved husband’s waiting arms.

Diego slowly and carefully carried her back to bed. He turned to Don Alejandro who had followed him into their bedroom. “Father, can you write a note for Bernardo to fetch Dr. Avila?”

“I will go myself, Diego, for Dr. Avila was traveling with me on his way back to the pueblo from Don Alfredo’s fiesta! Do not worry, Dr. Avila can not be more than two miles from our hacienda.”

 

ZZZZZZZZZZ

 

Dr. Avila listened closely to the tiny but strong heartbeat with his small conical earpiece placed against Selena’s abdomen. He lined face broke into a smile as he looked up at Diego ‘s worried countenance. Selena had insisted on her husband being present during the physician’s examination. When Dr. Avila protested, Diego quietly said “wild horses could never tear me away when Selena says she needs me, so I am staying!”

After a few more tries to reconfirm the baby’s life signs, the doctor pronounced both patients to be in very good health.

“Praise the Virgin!” Diego exclaimed. “Gracias, Dr. Avila, gracias.”

“Do not thank me, Don Diego, the thanks belong to God’s love for your family to be and you and Selena’s strong love for each other.” The doctor smiled as he turned to go downstairs.

“Before you leave, Dr. Avila, I want to ask you,” Diego whispered to the physician as Dr. Avila stepped outside their bedroom,“ this next question may seem somewhat ...” the young don hesitated.

But the doctor had anticipated just such a query. “Selena will let you know, Señor, she will let know when she is ready. Give her a couple of days and then you both use the imaginations the Creator gave to you.”

Diego smiled sheepishly. “Gracias, Dr. Avila. Vaya con Dios.”

“Buenos tardes, Don Diego,” Dr. Avila gaily replied as he walked downstairs to talk with Don Alejandro.

The expectant father immediately ran back into their bedroom. “Did you hear what Dr. Avila said,” he asked Selena gently, “you and our child are fine!”

The hazel color in Diego’s eyes is even more gorgeous tonight. Selena thought dreamily. I love him so...

 

END OF CHAPTER 46

 

 

 

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