A Song of Joy

(A Sergeant Garcia Story)

 

 

Chapter 9

 

Garcia stood for a moment just inside the door.  Then Father Felipe motioned for him to close the door.  He continued to stand there for another minute, letting his eyes adjust after the glaring brightness of the morning sun.  All of the worshippers were turned in their seats and were staring at him.  They had the puzzled looks of people who were wondering what was going to happen next.  He was asking himself that same question.  “Señor Zorro?” he asked softly, and then realized that the outlaw was not among the people sitting on the seats.  He looked again to make sure.  Then he realized that Isadora was not among the worshippers either.   She should be at Mass, too.  She was staying here, after all.  Was the baby ill?  Is Isadora all right? he wondered, gazing at the devotees once more and seeing only the neophytes, rancheros and peons that he had seen before.   It was then that he noticed signs that the mass was essentially finished, even though the organ kept sending soothing tones of solace throughout the chapel.    

He felt his fingers twiddling along the brim of his hat and he looked at Father Felipe who was standing a few paces in front of him, at the entrance of the baptismal font.  He almost asked for Isadora, but remembered his purpose for being there.  “Padre….?”

Father Felipe smiled and pointed.  “In the vestry, Sergeant.”

“Sí, Padre,” Garcia said, nodding and looking toward the far end of the chapel.  He wondered if Zorro would have his sword ready, then he remembered that Zorro had never actually hurt him.  He had occasionally been angry enough to threaten him, but never had the outlaw harmed him.  Then he wondered what Zorro would think about Capitán Montez’s request for unconditional surrender.  Would the outlaw be angry?  If Zorro did not surrender, what would the comandante do to him?  Even though he had been flattered at first, he now wished that Zorro had not asked for him.  He would much rather be outside, taking care of the capitán’s horse instead of in here, about to meet Zorro face to face.   Slowly he forced his feet carry him toward the altar and then to the right where the door to the vestry stood closed.  Somehow, Garcia thought he knew what a sacrificial lamb must have felt like back in the days of Abraham. 

Still, Zorro’s behavior puzzled him.   The only other time Zorro offered to surrender to him, it had been a trick that a false Zorro had played on him.  Then there was the time that Don Nacho had asked for sanctuary.  But Zorro?  No, Zorro had never before asked for himself.   There was no need.  And he was sure it was Zorro, the real Zorro, and not an imposter. 

Garcia pushed the latch on the vestry door and heard the loud squeak as the door opened on rusty hinges.  He stepped into the smaller room and stopped in surprise.  Instead of Zorro waiting for him, Isadora was sitting near the front of the room, her face lit softly by a few glowing candles.  It seemed almost like a heavenly light that accentuated the softness of her skin and the deep wonder of her pool-like eyes.  She gazed at him, equally surprised. 

Garcia almost forgot his original mission in the wonder of seeing her there.  The baby slept peacefully in his basket, softly sucking on one finger.  Garcia looked back into Isadora’s face and saw that she was gazing intently at him. 

“I . . . I have been thinking about you and the little señor,” he finally stammered.  He thought of his conversation with Zorro the night before last, but fear seemed to be making his heart race and his tongue stick to the roof of his mouth. 

“And I have been thinking about you as well, Demetrio,” she replied softly. 

Her voice held some of the same sadness it had held before.  Was she sorry he had come?  He tried to say something, but again, his tongue just wouldn’t cooperate.  He stood silently, gazing at the ground, his fingers continuing to twiddle with the brim of his hat. 

Isadora finally broke the silence.  “The baby’s name is Demetrio Lopez, by the way.  He was baptized the night before last.”

“I know,” Garcia blurted out.  He almost felt dizzy.  What if she didn’t want him?  What if….?  Stop, baboso! he told himself.  But the thoughts came unbidden.  Do you love her, Sergeant? he heard Zorro’s voice in his mind.  Zorro!

“Zorro?” he asked aloud.

“Zorro changed his mind and left,” Isadora replied.  “How did you know what I had named the baby?”

“Zorro.”   Then he looked at Isadora again.  He imagined her by his side, saw her in his arms, and saw her rocking the baby in their own little house.  I will never know, he thought.  If I don’t ask, I will never know.   Dropping his hat, he walked the few paces separating him from the señorita.  He reached out and took her hands in his, and then dropped to one knee.  “Isadora Perdiz, will you marry me?” he asked in a small, but resolute voice.

Isadora’s jaw dropped and her eyes immediately filled with tears.  The tears overflowed, spilling down her cheeks.  She pulled one hand loose and lightly touched his cheek.   Her joy, her intense relief, her surprise and her own feeling of renewed self-worth closed her throat, so that she was unable to utter a word.  She could see nothing through the curtain of her tears.  She could hear nothing except her own sharp intake of breath as her mind replayed Demetrio’s question.   She could only feel the warmth of his pudgy hands holding her hand and her own heart hammering in her chest, a heart filled with gratitude for this kindly giant of a man.  Love, yes, that was there, too—real love, not that sham that Isadora had thought was love when Marcos had called on her and then forced himself on her.  No, this love was entwined with respect, caring and a desire to do all she could to make this simple, sweet man happy.  Her soul filled with overwhelming awe at the power of God, who had taken something so dismal as her life and set it in the path of this dear, caring individual.  And he did care for her!  Her heart sang.  Despite what she had done, despite her reputation, despite everything, he cared for her enough to ask her to marry him.  It was almost more than she could bear.

Garcia’s eyes were tear-filled as well, as he continued to hold Isadora’s hand and gaze into her eyes.  Even though she had not said anything as yet, he saw acceptance in her large, blue-gray eyes.

“Yes,” she finally whispered.  “Yes, yes, Demetrio, I will marry you.”

He said nothing.  He didn’t move.  Suddenly, he felt paralyzed.  He thought of all the times he had dreamed of having a señorita in his arms, of the things that he would say, the touches, the kisses and suddenly he found himself not really knowing what to do next.  He felt clumsy and awkward.  His face burned with embarrassment at his inadequacies.  This was the woman that he cared deeply for and he was afraid to touch her. 

Isadora rubbed his cheek again lightly with her fingertips and the raw razor burned skin tingled at her touch.  Garcia’s paralysis was suddenly broken.  He grinned broadly and pulled her into his arms.  Then almost shyly, his lips met hers and they kissed.  It was all too brief, but, laughing musically, Isadora pulled back.  “It will be proper this time, Demetrio.”

“Proper?” he asked, confused.

“Of course, my sweet sergeant.  We are engaged, but we are not married yet.  We must be chaperoned.”  She thought about what she had just said and began to giggle at the thought of two people their age having to be chaperoned. 

“Oh.  Yes.  I suppose you are right, Isadora,” he responded, slightly put out.  Then as he listened to the sound of her laughter, he, too, caught the irony and smiled.   They sat next to each other on the bench, holding hands for a few moments, simply taking in the reality of the recent past. 

Then Garcia remembered his assignment to accept Zorro’s surrender and it finally dawned on him.  Zorro never had any intention of surrendering.  This had all been a trick to get Isadora and him together.  And a fine trick it was!  Garcia thought that this had to be the finest joke that Zorro had ever pulled.  The sergeant’s heart filled with gratitude.   Somehow he would have to find a way to thank the outlaw.  He gazed at Isadora’s profile.  Yes, he had much gratitude for Zorro today.  Leaning back, he began laughing merrily until tears of joy rolled down his cheeks.  “That rascal of a Zorro,” he finally gasped, catching his breath to laugh again. 

“Come, let us tell Padre Felipe the good news,” he said as he swept his sleeve across his face to wipe away the tear streaks.  She nodded and he picked up the basket containing little Demetrio.  Standing, Garcia held out his other hand to his fiancé and walked back into the chapel where he saw Padre Felipe waiting, a broad smile on his face. 

All of the worshippers were still in their seats.  None had appeared to have left.   They all stared at him and Isadora, their countenances slightly puzzled, but eager.  Even Garcia knew that they had waited to hear word of Zorro.  He felt self-conscious, but not embarrassed.   How could one be embarrassed with a woman like Isadora on my arm? he thought, happily. 

Looking around, seeing all the people still watching expectantly, he could only smile and say, “Señorita Perdiz and I . . . er, we are, um, I mean….”  He turned to Father Felipe, who stood nearby, his face one of undertanding.

“What is it you wish, my son,” Father Felipe asked serenely.

His demeanor calmed the sergeant a tiny bit; at least enough to finally blurt out his request.  “Padre, will you marry us?”   

The onlookers turned to each other and began whispering.  For several moments, there was only the soft murmuring of voices; otherwise everyone sat quietly, astonishment evident in their faces.  It was then that Garcia saw Capitán Montez standing just inside the door, a shocked look on his face.  When Garcia made his request to the priest, the comandante frowned and stepped forward. 

Father Felipe broke the near silence.  “I will be happy to marry you and your fiancé, Sergeant Garcia.”

“Wait a minute,” Montez protested.  “Sergeant, you are going to act against my wishes?”

“Capitán, two of my best friends told me that if I loved Isadora, I should marry her and let God take care of the rest.  And that is what I am doing,” Garcia said, with an air of finality.  “I will turn in my resignation before the wedding.” 

“I can see that you are determined, Sergeant,” Montez said, in resignation.  Then he looked slightly puzzled.  “But what of Zorro?  Can I assume that he changed his mind?  And that he got away?”

“Sí, comandante,” Garcia replied.

Montez sighed and then turned back to the door.  Before he left, though, he looked over his shoulder at the love-struck sergeant.  “You have not resigned from the Army yet, Sergeant,” he said with a slight smile.  “Do not forget your duties.”  Then he slipped out the door. 

Garcia looked down at the sleeping baby in the basket and then back up again.  He gazed into Isadora’s tear-streaked face and declared, “And I wish to adopt the young señor, too.”   Tears began flowing down his fiancé’s cheeks once more.

The crowd murmured words of approval and happiness.  Garcia could only feel joy inside, a whole world full of joy.   He couldn’t wait for the wedding.   

 

 

Chapter Ten
Chapter One
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