Forge of Shadows
slowly for Ania Cristina. By the end of the second week, her ribs had
healed enough for Dr. Mendoza to allow her to move about her room. By the
middle of the third week, the room felt like a prison. She had too little
to do and far too much time to think. She began to study Miguel's plans
and graphs for the vineyard and winery. It was then that she knew what she
had to do. There was no reason to allow her father's dream to die with
him. There would be a vineyard in that valley! She would see to that. She
was not sure yet how she would pay the grant tax that must come from
something produced by the land. Most varieties of grapes took nearly three
years to bear a significant amount of fruit. Her father had been very
mysterious about how he would pay, but there had to be a way. Perhaps she
could go right into cattle production. "Ah, I will not worry about
that now," Ania told herself sternly. "First, I will get Papá's
vineyard started, then decide what else is to be done." Whatever it
would take, that is what she would do. The first thing she had to do, she
realized, was to get her strength back and that would take work. Rosita
was adamant that she not be up so much, that she must rest, that she be
careful.... "Ay, caramba!" Ania thought in exasperation.
"The woman will suffocate me with kindness!" Ania found
that it was easier in the long run to do as she pleased either late at
night after Rosita had retired or early in the morning before she came in
to check on Ania. As Ania's strength began to return, she began to venture
out of her room when she was sure no one was about.
Diego was surprised to hear voices arguing in the courtyard. Unobserved,
he walked to the doorway to see what the disturbance was about.
you must come back to your room now. Dr. Mendoza said you should not move
around so much yet. Dr. Mendoza says..." Rosita insisted, almost in a
he says, he says," Ania repeated sarcastically. "He may be the
doctor, but I am trained as a curandera and I say that I am able to be
about. I would be as helpless as an old woman if I do as little as he
says. My niñera, Luisa, always said that an injured person heals more
quickly if they are allowed to move around as soon as they feel able to do
so. And that is what I am going to do."
I am charged with looking after you. Don Alejandro would be most
displeased with me if you were allowed to reinjure yourself." Rosita
threw up her hands in agitation.
I am not apt to be reinjured or any such thing. How could I be by
just sitting here to read or doing a bit of gentle walking?" Ania
insisted. "Besides," she continued in a calm, determined voice,
“if anyone wants me back in my room now, well...they would just have to
carry me back. I will not go of my own free will. Es la verdad!"
could be arranged," Diego said quietly from the doorway, startling
toward the voice, wincing as she did so, her ribs still tender enough to
complain strongly of any sudden turn of her upper body. Rosita sprang at
once to Ania's side and urged her to sit in a nearby chair. For that
moment, Ania had very little choice. Just the chore of drawing breath was
struggle enough. Standing was a bit more than she could manage until the
pain subsided. Her father’s journal slid unnoticed to lay beside her
Ania saw a look
of concern fill the face of the familiar looking young man. "Señorita,
are you all right?" he asked as he walked quickly to her side.
"Perhaps it would be best to lie down."
Ania said, unable at first to get another word out. Inwardly, she railed
at herself for giving in to the pain. "I am fine," she insisted,
forcing herself to respond with more than one word. Although social conventions had prevented his meeting and visiting with
her while she was confined to her bedchamber, she realized that this must
be Don Alejandro’s son, Diego. She did not wish to cause further
worry to either de la Vega. Determinedly, she straightened up as if
nothing had happened. “I was merely startled. I assure you that I am not
the least bit tired and the discomfort was only momentary.”
could see that she was still not breathing deeply and she was quite pale.
He was also sure that if the dainty hands were not clinched so tightly
against her body in order to still them, they would be trembling with
reaction to that “discomfort”. Surely it would be safer for her to lie
down. "I will get someone to help you to your room, señorita,"
he said as he turned to do just that.
please!" Ania begged, suddenly throwing aside all pretenses. She
reached up and clutched his arm with her good hand. "Do not make me
go back, señor! If I have to spend one more day locked in that room, I
will go loca!"
As Diego looked
down into her pleading eyes, somehow he was reminded of himself in the
days following his mother's death, and how strange and empty this hacienda
had felt. To have been confined to one room with nothing to distract her
mind from the loss of two who were just as dear to her must have been
worse than any other pain that she was having to endure. He looked at her
with compassion for a minute, then said quietly, "All right, if you
wish it so strongly, señorita. Perhaps it will be all right for you to
sit here for a short while."
patron, your father holds me responsible for her," Rosita began.
"It is all
right, Rosita. I will take responsibility for her if she promises to be
good," he said, turning to Ania with a teasing smile.
Ania breathed a
sigh of relief. "Sí, Señor de la Vega, I promise." She
suddenly realized how ungrateful her comments must have sounded. She
hurried to add, "I mean it is a very nice room, a beautiful
room. I am really very grateful to you and your father. You have been very
Diego gave a
soft chuckle and smiled at her. "Do not worry. I know what you
mean. I am just glad you are feeling well enough to be up and about. At
last I have finally gotten to meet you and, please, call me Diego."
Ania bowed her
head slightly, "And I am Ania." She gave him a grateful smile.
Diego sat down
near her and they began to talk of this and that. As they talked, he
noticed how Ania cradled her left arm with her right. He finally said,
"If you were trained as a healer, did you not know to put that arm in
Diego, I would have but when I decided to go out today, I did not have a
scarf with which to make a sling, and I was not going to wait and ask
Rosita. She has been very kind to me, but she would have barred the door
before she would have let me out," she stated.
guess. You have learned that by experience. This was not your first time
out of your room, was it? Merely the first time you have gotten
caught," Diego ventured.
Ania cut her
eyes up at him with such a look of mischief that he had to laugh. He could
not help but notice the mischievous sparkle that lit up her eyes like
emeralds in the early morning light. He signed for Bernardo, who had just
appeared, to bring a scarf to them. Ania watched closely. “My mozo,
Bernardo, is deaf and mute,” Diego explained to her unspoken question.
“If there is anything you need and Rosita is not nearby, I am sure he
will do his best to help you.”
“That is good
to know, Don Diego, but I might have trouble making myself understood to
him, even if I knew how to sign to him,” she said thoughtfully.
then Bernardo is very intuitive in figuring out what is needed of him.
Just remember, feel free to ask for help from him or any of the other
servants anytime you feel the need,” he stressed. He was pleased
to see the señorita smile at the mute as he returned.
“How do I
tell him ‘Thank you’, Don Diego?” she inquired when Bernardo held
out a black silk scarf.
and nod,” Diego instructed her.
As she took the
scarf from him, Ania noted the intelligence in the brown eyes of the
servant and the lines of good humor on his face. The expression in his
eyes also seemed to show a true concern for her needs and desires, and not
just the expected servitude. Although she could not have said why, she
immediately felt that there was good in this man. She smiled warmly and
nodded her thanks. Bernardo beamed back with such warmth that Ania
laughed. For a second, it felt strange to her. It seemed like it had been
ages since she had reason to smile, much less laugh. It did her spirit
good in spite of the mild twinges the laughter caused in her ribs. “Ah,
Don Diego, I have the feeling that, regardless of his handicap, you must
have a good man here.”
Diego smiled at
her reaction. He was amused to see that she was so perceptive, almost
impulsive, in her sizing up of other people. “Yes, I was very fortunate
to meet him while I was in Europe. He does make himself useful from time
to time,” he said dryly.
down at the scarf and missed the hard glance the mozo tossed his patrón’s
way. Diego repressed a smile at Bernardo’s expression. Useful was a
definite understatement and he knew that better than anyone. Quickly he
got up and helped her tie the scarf and adjust it to support her injured
arm. As he did so, Ania’s expression changed and she looked at him
anything the matter, Señorita Ania?" he finally asked.
"No, I am
sorry if I seem to be staring, Don Diego, but I have the strangest feeling
that we have met before. I am not quite sure when or where.” Ania
looked down for a second and then glanced back up at his face uncertainly.
the cantina, señorita," he suggested, hiding his unease. "I was
at a table as you stood on the balcony. I believe our eyes met just before
you went back to your room."
down again, thinking. "Yes, I think I remember that now. Perhaps that
is what I am remembering. Yet I feel like I have seen you somewhere else,
but I guess I could not have, could I?" she finally said.
"No, I do
not think so, señorita," Diego responded calmly. "You were not
conscious when you were brought here, and we have not met to speak before
shrugged and smiled at him. "I am sure you are right. At any rate, I
am glad we have finally met."
I," Diego said, returning her smile. It was then that he noticed the
journal laying beside her feet. "What is this?" he inquired as
he picked it up and handed it to Ania.
father's journal," she answered as she gently rubbed her right hand
over the book's cover, almost as if caressing a person’s arm. "This
has drawings and plans for Papá's vineyard in it." Her green eyes
glistened for a second with emotion, which she immediately brought back
the vineyard. Your brother mentioned that. I am sorry that your father was
unable to realize his dream. That valley would have made a fine
vineyard." Diego looked at her with sympathy.
A look of
determination came into the young woman's countenance as she lifted her
chin. "Oh, but there will be a vineyard there, Don Diego. I intend to
use these plans to see Papá's dream take shape. I will do it if I have to
plant every vine myself."
Diego looked at
her in surprise. "It is a very big task setting up either a vineyard
or a rancho. Do you know just how much will have to be done?"
I also know what Papá would want done, Don Diego. I will hire people to
help me. I can direct the work to see that it goes as it should. Surely,
there are some people in this pueblo who could use the work," Ania
be much responsibility for one so young, Ania," he said gently.
"I am not
so young, Don Diego. At one and twenty, I am old enough to be able to
carry this responsibility and give orders as to what must be done,"
Ania said firmly.
my father and I can be of assistance to you," Diego offered.
you, Don Diego, but I would not want to impose further on you and your
father," Ania replied. “You have already done so much. It was very
kind of you both to take in a stranger and open your home to her as you
being an imposition, it would be an honor, Ania Cristina," he said
gallantly. “I regret only the circumstances of your stay, not the
opportunity to meet and get to know you. Assisting you further will be no
burden at all.”
“Then I shall
keep your offer in mind,” she said. For so long now, she had felt like
something within herself had died along with Papá and Juan. Now she felt
her spirit begin to come alive again. She had plans to carry out for those
she loved, and she had the first of what she hoped would be many new
friends here. Life had to go on, and by the saints, she would make it what
she wanted it to be! She would do whatever it took. Nothing would stop
her. Of that she was determined. Once again, Ania smiled her gratitude to
the young caballero.