Memories in the Dust




Chapter 12


They lay in the reclining chair, silently enfolded in each other’s arms with only the streaks and whorls of space above them.  Minta finally noticed that Dr. Klictis had slipped away.   “Tell me what you are feeling, Diego?” she asked.  “Honestly.”

He sighed and sat quietly for a few more minutes.  “I feel . . . pain.”

“What?” she blurted out.   Jerking up, Minta stared at him fearfully, as she felt the muscles of his thighs bunch to accommodate her movements.  She felt power and strength in them, even with the inactivity of the past weeks.  He looked utterly miserable. “What’s wrong, Diego?”

“I feel the pain of loving someone so much that I have to send them away,” he said softly. 

Fear constricted the knot in her chest even more.  “What are you saying, Diego?” 

“I remember.  In my dreams.  I did that once.  I sent her away.”

“You love someone else?”

“No, not now.  I…she meant more than life to me, I thought.  I was willing to give up everything, including my secret, to be with her, but I…I remember that someone…my father, I think…convinced me not to.”

“Secret? What secret?” Minta asked. 

“I . . . the disguise that I wore on your world.  It helped me remember.”  He paused, trying to sort all of the tiny vignettes of memory, the dreams and the reveries that flashed through his brain.  In despair, he found that nothing was really clear.  There were no names, yet, except for his and his servant’s.  He had no idea of the order of things.  Now, he almost wished they would all come at once or not come at all.  It was very confusing.   “I have dreams of riding in the night.  Fighting in a mask.  It is a secret from others.” 

“I remember you told me of dressing all in black, of a cloak that flew behind you like the wings of birds.  Do you know who you are fighting?” Minta asked.

“No, except I think they are people who would hurt others.  In a dream, I saw one man needlessly whipping another man.  And I took his whip away and used it on him,” Diego added, feeling his arm tightening around her shoulders and pulling her close to him again. 

“And this other, the one you loved, she wanted you to give up something that was a part of you?”

“A part of me?” he asked, looking deeply into her eyes. 

“What you just told me, Diego.   This dark fighter of your dreams, the one that battles those who hurt others.  If you dream of being this disguised person, I can only assume that he has become a part of you.”  She moved in the oversized chair so that she was lying by his side instead of on his lap, and was able now able to see his profile while they were talking, and to watch those deep, expressive eyes.  Right now they looked far away, as though he was seeing something else. 

Zorro.  Suddenly another memory focused, he was in black clothes, chasing after someone who had beaten a woman.  He heard the name on the man’s lips.  Furious, he jerked the man to the ground, bound him tightly and delivered him to men in blue and white and red costumes.  Masked and mysterious, quick to dispense justice, but merciful.  That was how they saw him.   Hesitantly, Diego related this newest waking dream to Minta.  He was not sure how she was taking all of this.  His own emotions roiled inside, like a storm tossed ship.  How could Minta make sense of all this when he couldn’t? 

Zorro.  There was now a name to go with Diego’s alter ego.  Minta liked the feel of it in her mind.  For some reason, it evoked a deep and mysterious power.  In her world where respect and civility were almost bred as well as taught, the need for such a person seemed practically beyond belief.  Having read and studied a great deal, Minta was well aware that not all societies were as stable and passive as her own.

Despite his reluctance to talk about it, Minta saw in Diego’s covert activity a selfless act of sacrifice to help his people.  And for one who came from a society where the will of the individual was swallowed up in the good of the entire race, Minta was more than impressed.  Knowing that self-reliance and individualism were something highly prized on his planet, she was awed by his decision.  She began to think that Jerintas had no real idea of what he had done by kidnapping Diego.  Seeing that Diego was remembering even more of his past, she said nothing.  The silence became long and then longer.  Minta was content to feel his warm body next to her as he pulled her close and pulled in more memories of his previous life.

“I am thinking that there are times when I want this Zorro to…to be gone, so that things will be at peace . . . normal.  But I suppose you are right, he is a part of my life, a very dangerous part of my life.”  As he turned his head to gaze thoughtfully at her, she almost wondered if he could read her mind. “You belong to a peaceful people, Minta.  I can tell that, even though the Rantiri captured me and took my memories.”  “But I…” he paused.  “I have killed.”

Minta said nothing.  He had killed other beings like himself.  The idea of taking another’s life repulsed her.  But on a world such as his, how could it be otherwise?  If there were people who were so cruel to each other that it needed a masked hero such as Zorro, would not killing be part of it.  But this was the world she wanted to share with Diego?  Her thoughts dashed about, here and there, leaves blown about in the winds of her fear and indecision. 

Diego saw the emotions in her eyes and felt fear of his own, fear that Minta would now draw away from him.  Yet, such a decision must be made now, before they became even more attached to each other.  “Minta...” 

Minta felt his body almost imperceptibly draw away from her; saw the sadness in his eyes.  No!  No matter what, I want to be with him.  She put her finger against his lips to stop him. “Diego, I thought as much. But knowing you, there must have been a reason.  I know you would not do anything wantonly, but what I don’t understand is why, if someone loved you so much, why that person would want you to give up something that was so important to you, that is so important to . . . your people.”

He sat quietly for a moment, and then he began chuckling. “She did not love me.  She only loved Zorro.”

Minta looked at him in bewilderment.  “But I do not understand.  Both are you . . . Diego and Zorro, the same person.”

“No, the mask.  It keeps my secret safe.”  He paused again.  There was something else, something about his two personas, but it was too tenuous and he couldn’t catch his thoughts enough to figure out what it was.  “She did not know that I am Zorro.”  

His look was intense, as though he were trying to remember and trying to find the right words at the same time.  After a long pause, Minta could stand it no longer.  “Diego, please don’t ask me to leave you.”  

He slid his arm under her shoulder and pulled her closer to him.  “The thought of you in a…cuartel, or dead, because of my secret.  I simply could not bear that, Minta,” he said softly, his voice almost a murmur. 

A deep sadness tore into her heart.  “But the thought of you bearing this burden alone is almost more than I can stand.  It is too much for one person.”

“Someone else knows…  My servant.  My father.”

“I do not know about servants or fathers, except for what you have told me about yours.  However, I am thinking that a father cannot help carry such a burden as well as a lover can.”  Diego still looked dubious.   Minta remembered a time long ago with Loris, when she thought she knew what real love was.  She remembered the words of the union with him, but instead of his face in her memory, she now saw Diego’s.  “ ‘I promise to care, to share, to put your life before mine.  My thoughts will be for your welfare, my loyalty to you, your burdens will be my burdens.’ ”

“What is that?  It sounded like something you learned.  The words are very nice,” Diego said.

Minta realized that she had spoken the words aloud.  “They are the union words that we say to each other when we form bonds.  I bonded with another once,” she said. 

Now it was Diego’s turn to look surprised.  “You were . . . in love before?” 

“Like you, I thought so, but when he transferred to another city, he decided that it was not a good union.  We said the dissolution words and that was it.  I felt there should be more than that.  I felt that a union should actually reflect the words.  And now I know that it can.”

“You just said the words to each other?” he asked, incredulous, not hearing her last sentence. 

“Yes.  How do you do it on your world?” 

“I . . . am not sure, but I do remember that there is someone to say words, someone who has . . . um . . . power to . . . bond two people.  I see in my mind, great. . .”  Diego paused, as though trying to find the right word.  “…seriousness when the words are said and then there is great joy, much happiness after the . . . union.”  Diego gazed up at the star streaks, deep in thought, trying desperately to remember.  He shook his head.  That was all he was going to get right now, just pictures.  “Did you really mean that…’your burdens will be my burdens’?” 

“Yes, Diego, I meant it with all my heart,” she said softly, her hand caressing his chest. She thought about a communiqué that she had received while she was looking for Diego.  “Jerintas is already discussing my return to Rantiri and it fills me with grief.  It fills me with black despair.  I don’t want to go back.  I don’t want to be alone again.  I don’t want to be without you.”  As she squeezed her eyes shut, trying desperately to keep from crying again, Diego did something that took her totally by surprise.  He leaned over, put one hand gently under her chin.  Then he tenderly placed his lips over hers, and did something with them, more than the simple touch his lips had made on her hand, seemingly so long ago.  It was like a caress without hands and an extension of the feelings of their hearts.  She felt a thrill run through her body, an excitement she had never felt before.   Letting his actions guide hers, she soon found her lips moving to accommodate his.

When he finally pulled away, Minta asked breathlessly, “What was that?”

“It is something that is done when two people love each other.  It is besar . . . kissing.”

“Oh,” Minta said.  “It is wonderful.”  Then she pulled his face back toward hers and they kissed again. 

Finally, he chuckled softly.  “You learn quickly.”

“I have a good teacher,” she quipped.  Then a sudden, startling thought occurred to her as she remembered the looks Diego received when they had gone out for the first picnic.  “Diego, is everyone on your world the same as you?” 

He looked puzzled.  “Are you…making compliments?”

“No, Diego.  I mean does everyone on your world have white skin and dark hair?”  She looked imploringly into his eyes.  “Is that another reason you are afraid?”

“I did not think of that.  No, in my dreams I have seen people with very dark skin, almost as dark as yours, although most of them also have dark hair.  There are people who have light hair.  It seems that sometimes those differences are important to some people.  I do not understand why.”  He pondered for a moment, his brows creased in thought.   Then he shook his head.  “People will get used to the differences on the outside.  As you told me once…it is what is under that skin that counts.  My . . . family and friends will see that.”

Minta gazed at the far wall and then realized the full implication of what he just said.  “Does that mean that you are willing to take me to your planet with you?”

“I am still afraid, but ‘my thoughts will be for your welfare’.  Yes, Minta, my home is your home if you want to go there.  It may be difficult for you as it was difficult for me on your world, I believe.  Maybe even more.”

“Oh, Diego, of course I want to go to your world, and with you beside me I can get used to anything.  I love you.  Hold me forever and ever.  Let’s say the union words now.  Here . . . under the stars!”  Minta stood up, tugging on his hand, bringing him to his feet.  “Do that kissing again!”

His arms gathered her in a tight embrace and he murmured into her ear.  “Saying the union words must be in front of someone who has the power to do it.  It does not seem right to just stand in a room and say words to each other, no matter how beautiful they are, without someone there to see and hear them, too.  It does not seem right to . . . rush something this important and special.”  He pulled back to gauge her reaction. 

“But we are the important ones, Diego, and if we know it’s right, why wait?” she protested. 

“That is so, but this is something too important to do alone, I feel.  Or just under the eyes of God.”  Diego blinked in surprise as he suddenly remembered another name.  Names seemed to be the hardest part of his memories to surface.

“Who is God?  Is that like the First Creator?  The Universal Being?” 

Diego looked pensive, trying desperately to remember.  “Yes, He created everything, including us.  God is . . . universal.”

“Diego, who could be more important than God to witness our union?”

He gazed at her and she could almost see his thoughts turning furiously inside his mind like wheels.  Then he began to laugh.  “Minta, this is getting difficult to explain.  I do not remember everything, but I do know that it is important for there to be someone who represents God to be over a ‘union,’ a casamiento.  Diego blinked in surprise as yet another word popped into his memory.  “It is important to take time for this.  And there must be a fiesta afterward,” he said, elated that words for his memories were beginning to come into his mind. 

“But we can also say the union words?” she asked.  “And can we have our ‘casamiento’ here in this part of the ship, under the stars?”

“Yes, your words are very beautiful.”  He gazed upward at the dancing kaleidoscope of stars.   “Those are stars?  They don’t look like stars on my world.”

“That is because we are traveling a special way so that we can get to your world faster.  It makes the stars look different.”

“Oh, but even though they are different, they are still very beautiful, like you.”  He nodded, and turning back to her, kissed her again, this time more briefly.  “Yes, here would be nice.” 

“Thank you, Diego,” she answered, pulling his face down to hers once again to seal their ‘engagement.’   “By the way,” she finally asked, “What is a fiesta?

“A fun time.” 

“Oh, like a party.  That would be wonderful.”

As he kissed her again, feeling the soft touch of her skin, letting the emotions of the moment take total possession of his actions, he saw in his mind, the older man of his visions, the man he now realized was his father.  Suddenly, Diego understood that this was someone he had lived with and had known for a long time, but now only barely remembered.   Once before, when he returned from a voyage, his father had been disappointed.   Would the same thing happen this time when he came home with a wife? 

Ay! he thought.  This was not easy, this decision they were making.  Why couldn’t all of his memories just come and lay themselves before him in their neat and orderly rows? He knew his past was there, hidden deeply, waiting for the right time to come back to him.  If he could just dig it up now, all at once!

Gazing down at Minta, he knew that Father would come to love her as well.  And how could Father argue against the fact that she was the reason for his return home?  But there was something else that nagged him, something that he could not quite figure out. 

 “What is wrong, Diego?” Minta asked, quietly. 

She had always seemed able to read his emotions, he thought wryly, from the moment he had awakened.  “I am not sure,” he answered.

 “Is it because the older man, your father, is not here?” she speculated.

That is it! Diego was chagrined that he had not thought of that himself.  “Yes, I think he would want to be with me during this time.”   Gently he kissed her.  “How did you think of that and I was not able to?” he asked. 

“I am not sure.  I know very little about fathers, but I do know that close friends do things together.  It only seemed natural that someone like a father would want to be with his son at his union.  Do you wish to wait?”

“You said that Jerintas expects you to return to Rantir after I go home, yes?”

“Yes,” she answered. 

“If we are united before we get to my planet, then he could not expect you to leave me.”

“Perhaps, perhaps not.  Diego, a union is as easily broken as it is made,” Minta pointed out.

“Not to me,” Diego declared.  “If we make a union, it is forever.  We have to take that chance.  My father will be disappointed, but I believe he will understand why we are doing this.” 

 “Thank you, Diego,” she said softly, then asked.  “Can we be united soon?” 

They stood arm in arm, silently watching the stars above them.  Suddenly, Diego felt the rumblings of his empty stomach.  He began to chuckle.  “Minta, I know you are eager, but surely we can delay our union until I have eaten dinner?   I have had no breakfast or lunch, and I am very hungry.” 

She laughed with him.  “Of course, my beloved.”  It felt so very good to say that word--’beloved.




Chapter Thirteen

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