Starlight Dreams

 

 

Chapter Twelve

The Past and the Present 

 

Minta gaped at him, opening and closing her mouth several times before answering.  “You…you know?”

“Yes, my child.  I knew it the night you were baptized.  Diego and I have had many discussions about the mysterious fox over the years.”

“He came as Zorro.”

“It is as I thought.  Were there witnesses to this shooting?” the priest asked, thinking that there would be the problem of an alibi.

“I do not think there were any left alive to say anything about it.  Diego and I killed two of them, Jandro shot the one who shot Diego and I heard the screams of at least two when the cattle stampeded.  My son also said he tied up the guards that he ambushed before the shooting.  They couldn’t have seen anything; they were lying among the rocks.”  Then a thought occurred to her.  “I hope that they were able to get away.  I would hate for them to die of exposure.”

“I will send one of the neophytes into the pueblo to let Sergeant Lugo know about them first thing in the morning.  Perhaps they have had a chance to think on their sins and make a full confession.”  He leaned back against the hard wooden pew and pondered.  “We will still need to find some kind of excuse for Diego de la Vega being incapacitated that will not link him to Zorro, just in case.  “I would say that God was with you for Diego to have shown up at exactly that moment.  Did he know you were back before he saved you?”

She shook her head.  “No, but Padre, if I had not been there, Diego would not have acted so rashly.  He would not have been shot…”

“Only God knows that, my child,” Father Felipe said, again gazing into her eyes.  And then he thought about what she had just said.  Jandro?  Who is this Jandro? And son? Had Minta, like Diego, married again?

 

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….Diego walked into a small, very austere, room.  The walls were bare except for one small picture.  There was a narrow bed in the middle of the room, just as plain as the rest of the room, with no blanket, only a thin sheet.  Minta lay on the bed, partially naked, serene and poised, but emotionless.  He walked toward her, feeling the longing to touch her grow within himself.  She looked as she had before her beating, but there was no happiness.  Her eyes were dull with an inner pain, reflecting something that had hurt her deeply.  When he was close enough, Diego tried to reach out and take her hand, but was unable to.  It seemed that his body was not under his control.  It was as though he was only a spectator, able to watch, but not to control the events.

Diego quit struggling to touch her and simply watched, grateful to be having this ‘vision’ of his beloved.  He longed to know the reason for her unhappiness and wished that there was something he could do to comfort her.  In his hand, he was holding a small box.  Recognizing it as an instrument similar to the one Dr. Klictis had used to examine him, Diego wondered just where this place was. 

He placed the little instrument against Minta’s stomach and realized with shock that his hand was almost as dark as her skin.  Not only was he just a spectator, but he was watching all of this through someone else’s eyes.  With a mental sigh, Diego relaxed and let the events flow before him.  He also saw a thin white bandage wrapped around one arm and guessed that these events were happening after Jerintas had taken Minta away from California.  She was probably on Rantir.  Now he knew the reason for her sorrow.  It seemed to match what he had felt as well.  Almost enough sorrow to overwhelm….

“It is as I said before, Minta.  You are pregnant.  You are going to have a baby,” the voice said. 

“I am a unit.  It cannot be.”

“It can and is.  After all these years of experimentation, it was your body that was ready.  And you were no longer on Rantir,” the voice that was not his explained. 

“What does leaving Rantir have to do with anything?” Minta asked, her face still registering disbelief. 

“We discovered recently that the Late Comer was the cause of much of our infertility, sending out radiation that prevented our fulfillment of the Ancestors directive.  That is why we are staying on KurlisRintl, with Wis’ clan unit.” 

“Then why didn’t those units that were sent out to other worlds get pregnant?” she asked testily, but her eyes showing more curiosity now. 

“Because those units were not made with procreation in mind.  They were not biologically capable.   It was only those units that stayed and lived on Rantir that were created with reproduction in mind.  Consider the supreme irony of such a thing,” Diego’s vision guardian said, bitterly.  Somehow he felt that he should know who this person was, but he was unable to figure it out. 

“How long?”

“Have you been pregnant?  About two months I would say.”  He looked at the little instrument, reading what was printed on the tiny screen.  Diego couldn’t read the writing, having never learned to read Rantiri, but apparently the one allowing him to share this memory did.  “No, you are closer to ten weeks along.  You will have this baby in the middle of the third season.  Minta, it was very lucky that we found you when we did and that your injuries were no more serious than they were.  I was frightened for you at first, but you have healed nicely in the past four weeks.  Otherwise the baby might have been lost.” 

Although Diego could feel no emotions emanating from his host, it was still apparent from the tone of the voice that he was happy at Minta’s news.  As for himself, Diego was elated to be able to see this vision of the past.  He only wished that he could have been there with her as well.  “Congratulations, First Mother.”  The voice trembled a bit and his host’s hand took Minta’s and held it.  “You and the Designated One have done what no one else in hundreds of years have been able to accomplish.”

The one through whose eyes he was seeing motioned for Minta to dress, helping her to sit up.  As she did, the thin gown fell lightly over her almost flat abdomen.  A sudden look of despair crossed her face, as though she finally believed what she had been told.  Bending forward, she buried her face in her hands and began to moan.  “Oh, Diego!  Diego doesn’t even know.  He doesn’t know!”

“Minta, a part of him is part of you now.  It is like he is with you,” the voice said, and Diego recognized it.  This was Jerintas whose eyes he was looking through. 

“How dare you tell me that Diego is with me!  Diego is not with me, all because of your arguments!”

“Minta, you would have died if you had stayed on his planet.  Diego realized that.  We both know that.”

“Yes,” she agreed dully.

Suddenly Diego found himself swirled away from the scene as though he was walking through a fog and then found himself in a room that was more brightly lit, its walls painted in colorful patterns that intrigued him.  There were decorations on the walls, little wrought iron candleholders, dried flowers and various things that he didn’t recognize.  The bed was still a small one, but it had a colorful sheet.  Minta was laying on it, but this time, her countenance was much happier.  She seemed contented.  As she lay there, a soft smile on her lips, Diego noticed that her stomach was well rounded and taut.  She appeared to be quite far along.  He smiled mentally, ignoring his hurt at having missed being with her in his joy at being able to see it now.  

“How do you feel?” Jerintas asked.

“Fat!  Huge!  Like a Lrinian air plant, a large one, floating bloated over the ocean.  Except I am not floating, I am waddling, ponderous.”  She paused after her ranting, looking down at her swollen abdomen.  But her smile belied her complaints.  She looked back up at Jerintas.  “But otherwise, fine.  How big is this child going to be, Jerintas?  By your own reckoning as well as the doctors here on KurlisRintl, I am almost two-thirds the way into the pregnancy, not far enough, according to everyone’s expertise, to be this large.  I hate to think how fat I’ll be when I have this baby,” Minta said in mock exasperation.  She smiled and Diego smiled with her. 

When Jerintas reached out and put an instrument to her stomach there was no emotion from the man whose eyes he was looking through, but Diego felt his own emotions rushing through his mind.  Elation was at the forefront, but then a question came to his mind.  There were twins…why are they talking about ‘a’ baby, as though there was only one, he thought.   He felt joy at the touch of her soft, warm skin.  Jerintas moved the instrument across her swollen belly, pressing it against her in various spots.  Diego reveled in each contact.  Minta watched him; watched Jerintas, Diego corrected himself again.   He could not help but imagine her looking at him.  Her smile faded as the little instrument found more places on her stomach, up, down, sides, on top. 

“What is wrong, Jerintas?” she asked. 

“I was stupid not to look for this!” Jerintas said, more to himself than to anyone else.  While still not receiving any emotion from Jerintas, Diego knew it was there. 

“What? Look for what?” Minta asked, her voice rising in fear.  “What is wrong?”

“Nothing, really.  You are having more than one child,” Jerintas said.  “This is so new to me and so un-new to Wis’ people that I wasn’t looking for it and if they suspected, they didn’t think it noteworthy to point it out to me.”

“What did you say?”  Minta’s face showed a range of emotions; mostly joy, but also bewilderment, bemusement and disbelief.  Diego laughed like a fool inside, and wished yet again that he could reach out, touch her, gather her in his arms, and kiss her.  Kiss her everywhere, including that beautiful swollen belly that held the union of their love and devotion. 

“You will be having twins, my dear First Mother,” Jerintas said with a laugh. 

At first Minta’s face showed total confusion and bewilderment.  Then disbelief, then she remembered what he called her.  “Quit calling me First Mother,” Minta said in exasperation. 

“I am sorry, Minta.  I can’t help it.  When you and Diego consummated your union, you did it in a big way.  I will have more tests run to determine just what their state of development is and what gender they are.  This instrument is giving me mixed readings.

“Twins,” Minta breathed softly, rubbing her stomach.  Her face now showed awe.  “Diego would be so happy,” she added, her voice just a murmur. 

I am happy, querida, Diego thought, his joy almost great enough to cause pain.   Then the scene filled with the foggy breath that told Diego that he was going forward in time again.

He saw her next in a room with bright lights, bright white walls and several people, most of them like Wis, but some of other races, in white tunics and trousers.  This time Jerintas only stood by the side of the seat/bed, holding Minta’s hands.  It looked like a bed, but it also had some of the qualities of birthing chairs he had heard were used in Europe.  Her face was sweaty, and filled with pain, her hair was pulled back, but stray wisps stuck to her forehead and cheeks.  Diego immediately realized that she was having the babies. Her stomach was swollen to huge proportions, and he could see the muscles contracting and rolling across her abdomen, bunching and knotting.  Minta gritted her teeth, letting only moans escape until the pains became too bad and then she let out a loud cry.  He remembered Conchita and his gut wrenched with fear, but he also remembered that the twins were now twelve years old, so this birthing had gone all right.

Diego wondered what he was doing here.  The birth of babies was usually the realm of midwives and the mothers themselves, with the woman’s female relations often in attendance.  For a man to be there, usually a doctor, meant that there were complications.  He felt a bit uncomfortable being included in this most intimate moment.  But then he looked down and felt the pressure of her hand, warm, but strong around his . . . Jerintas’ rather, and looked into her face.  Jerintas murmured words of encouragement and instruction, coaching her on when to breathe and when to push.  Occasionally Minta screamed when a particularly bad labor pain hit her and Diego struggled to send his loving thoughts to her.  He knew that it was a useless endeavor, and this was the past, but still he tried.  He ached for her suffering and wished there was something he could do to ease it.

“Oh, Diego!” she cried out.  “I wish you . . . were here!”  She shouted and then pushed, the various attendants massaging her stomach, or checking her out, or waiting for the babies to be born.  Then she looked directly at him and her eyes widened, and somehow Diego knew that she was seeing him, not Jerintas.  “Diego,” she said softly and smiled, before another labor pain came on her.  

Several minutes later, the first baby pushed its head out of her womb, paused a moment as though gathering strength, and then with Minta’s next effort, slipped on out, so quickly that it surprised Diego, who was watching in awe.  The baby, this one was Maria Isabella, was covered in blood and some whitish substance, and handled with care by one of the attendants.  She was quickly carried to a tiny baby bed where she was wiped clean and checked over.  Alejandro came almost on the heels of his sister.  Other attendants took care of him.  After expelling the afterbirth, Minta finally relaxed, panting, smiling at her accomplishments, her joy transcending the exhaustion that was evident on her face. 

Diego gulped mentally, understanding why midwives took care of the birthing of babies.  Such a dangerous, bloody experience, with so much suffering, he thought, incredulous.  He thought he had fully understood the extent of Conchita’s sacrifice to bear little Minta, but now he understood even better what she had gone through, and his heart felt heavy that she had not lived to feel the joy that Minta was feeling.  That he was feeling.  His joy at the birth of his little Minta had been immediately tempered by sorrow that he had lost yet another wife.  Diego mentally shook himself and returned to the present, which was also the past.

Soon Minta was cradling a baby in each arm, smiling as she looked from one to the other.  She looked up, and the exultation that was on her face was echoed in his mind.  Diego wanted to shout, to cry out that he was a father, wanted to take both babies in his arms and kiss them, kiss their little hands, their round, pudgy faces, their tiny toes.  He wanted to take Minta in his arms and kiss her as well.  Instead he grinned mentally as the fog took him away from that scene and on to the next one. 

Diego was taken briefly through each year of the twins’ life.  He saw their progression from crawling to walking, from garbled baby talk to articulate sentences.  From the time they could understand words, Minta taught them Spanish.  They learned physical arts from Wis and academics from Minta, Jerintas and others.  Diego saw that Wis not only taught them his people’s style of fencing, but also the classic fencing the Californio had learned in Spain and taught to Wis during the long flight to Earth so long ago. 

Diego watched their birthday celebrations, their fun times where they visited different places around Wis’ planet, their successes and their setbacks.  Jerintas became an uncle to them, but Minta made sure they knew exactly who their father was.  Diego watched as they returned to the planet of their mother’s creation and saw them regaled as heroes, along with their mother.  He saw their confusion and he understood it.  When they ached because of his absence, he ached along with them. 

At each miniscule stop in this journey through time, Diego was amazed at how they grew, how beautiful they were, how much like their mother they were.  But what was even more amazing to him was the fact that he saw himself in them as well.  Smiling, Diego watched and enjoyed. 

Finally he was led to a scene that seemed not too distant in the past, when the siblings were standing next to each other, determined looks on their faces, a united front.  “We have decided what we want for our next birthday,” Maria Isabella announced.

“What?” Jerintas asked.

“We want to go to Earth and see our father.”

After all this time and all the scenes, this was the only time when Diego clearly felt Jerintas’ emotions.  Disbelief, fear, astonishment and then a kind of resignation, a feeling of intense loss.  What the twins wanted, the twins usually got if Minta felt it was within reason.  And Minta herself had been asking about the feasibility of returning to Earth.

The fog came and carried him away once more, but instead of another scene with the twins, Diego slowly woke to a coldness and discomfort that he had not felt in any of the stops on his journey through time.  He opened his eyes to another austere room and then brought his hand to his face.  It was his hand.  He was here and now, wherever ‘here’ was.  Diego felt stiff, sore and very, very tired.  He felt something being lifted from his head and he saw someone next to him, a small helmet-like device in his hands.  The man smiled softly at him and turned, walking to the other side of the room.   Following the man with his eyes, Diego saw Jerintas reclining on a chair, resting, eyes closed, with the same kind of a device resting on his lap. 

Gracias, Jerintas,” Diego murmured with a smile, closing his eyes and letting himself drift off to the reality of his dreams.

 

 

Chapter Thirteen
Chapter One
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