Starlight Dreams

 

 

Chapter Seventeen

Love and Other Things that Cannot be Explained 

 

 

Diego sat quietly in his bed, resentfully pondering the clicking, sighing and whining machinery.  He knew that it was all there to aid him in his recovery, but he couldn’t help but feel as though he was a prisoner, caught in a trap from which there was no escape.  When he had awakened this time, he had felt an insatiable thirst, but his queries had resulted in headshakes and admonitions to wait a bit. 

How long have I been here? he thought, trying hard to remain grateful for the care he had received.  He knew that it had saved his life.  There was something in his memory that told him that.  Someone had said something about damage to various organs along with blood loss.  Right now, Diego felt fairly good, if not weak and tired, even though at the same time he also felt somewhat restless.  If he had to be bedridden, he wished to be in his own bed, surrounded by that which was familiar to him.  Familiar… Where is Minta? he asked himself.  He remembered something that caused him to wonder.  Something about her hands…   Then the memory returned and he replayed it in his mind.  His heart filled again to bursting at her sacrifice.   It was almost too much for him to take in. 

A whoosh announced the entrance of someone and he looked toward the door.  “Minta!” he cried, not even attempting to contain his joy.  She was his anchor in this sea of strange people and extraordinary devices, sterile surroundings and unfamiliar sensations.   Even though he had spent a number of weeks aboard a similar craft almost thirteen years ago and even though he had lived on another planet for a while, all of this was still overwhelmingly strange.  Diego longed for the comforts of his own land and home. 

“How are you feeling, Diego?” she asked brightly. 

“I am feeling fine, querida.  When can I leave this ship and go home?”

Minta laughed brightly.  “Oh, Diego, you still have a long way to go before you are fully recovered.  Do not let your lack of pain and your euphoric mood fool you.”

“Well, it certainly is a start.”  He reached out for her hand and took it in his, softly caressing the place where a fifth finger had once been.  He pulled her hand to his lips and kissed the tiny scars.  “Minta, mi amor, what you have done for me…such a sacrifice to come back…”  His voice trailed off.  Again, he was left speechless.

“Diego, do not speak to me of sacrifices.  You have sacrificed almost the whole of your adult life for others.  You almost sacrificed your life to save mine…”  Now Minta took his hand and held it against her cheek.  Diego felt the warm wetness of her tears.  He pulled his hand away slightly and wiped the tears from her face with his fingers.  

Gazing up at her, he felt a single tear slide down his own cheek.  He would allow nothing to tear her from him again. 

They had been speaking Rantiri, the language having come back to Diego quickly, but he suddenly switched to Spanish.   “¿Minta, me casará usted?” he asked, his eyes shining with the manifestation of his love, devotion and desire.  Even though almost thirteen years, and half a galaxy had separated them, he still wanted her to be his forever.

Minta gazed at him tenderly.  “Of course, I’ll marry you, Diego, mi amor.  That is why I returned.”  She bent toward him and they sealed their engagement with a kiss that seemed to bridge the eternity of their separation and begin an infinity of togetherness.

Finally, when she pulled back, she saw a single tear track on Diego’s cheek.   She realized that it was still hard for her beloved to release all the hurt and anguish of the past.  “Diego, earlier, when you first woke up…” Minta hesitated.  “Do you remember?

Diego nodded, looking back at her hands.  She saw him swallow a couple of times.  “Was that the first time you had cried?”

“A man does not cry,” he said softly, remembering that episode she was referring to as well and feeling a bit self-conscious about it.   “I have not cried since my mother died.   I was a boy.”

“But sometimes it is good to cry, Diego.  To release one’s hurt.”

“Perhaps,” he admitted grudgingly.   “And I must confess, I felt as though . . . I felt . . . lighter somehow.  There was release.”   Minta nodded her agreement.

Diego looked at her pensively.  “Minta, I had once thought that it was fated, meant for us to be together.  Then you were taken from me and I had to deal with the bitterness of your loss.  Now you are back and, again, I feel that it is meant for us to be together.  But I cannot help but wonder why we had to wait all this time.”

“I don’t know, Diego.  Maybe it was so we could learn.  Maybe we needed the pain so we could feel this joy even more exquisitely.  Maybe we needed to have our lives touched by others, and to touch other lives…maybe you needed Conchita and I needed Jerintas,” she said.

“Jerintas?” he asked, puzzled.

“Yes, I have learned a great deal about him and from him.”  She smiled softly as she carefully chose her words.  “I have never had a brother or a father, but I think that I have learned to love Jerintas like one of those, or maybe like a combination of the two.  He was always there when I felt I could not go on and when your loss became unbearable.  He pulled himself and our people out of the deep morass of his mistake and the prison of our people’s past.  Our race is viable and strong because of his work and efforts.”  

“Because he kidnapped me?” Diego asked, noticing that he felt no resentment when he said that, only a poignant sense of loss.  He saw a slight flickering of pain cross her face at his words and he went on quickly.  “I no longer feel anger about what happened in the past.  Nor do I feel anything against Jerintas. In fact, I owe the director a great deal, and not just because his actions brought us together,” Diego said, remembering the wondrous visions he had been given.  Minta smiled and caressed his cheek.  He took her hand in his and kissed her palm.

“Did you feel my presence at the birth of the twins?” he asked, wondering about that one moment when he could have sworn that she saw him. 

“What?” she asked, her look showing bewilderment at his sudden changing of the subject as well as at the question itself. 

“When you were delivering the babies and Jerintas was next to you holding your hand, do you remember?  Did you feel something different?”

“Other than the intense pain?”  Her look became thoughtful as she pondered the past.  Then she looked at him in shock, not only realizing what he had just said, but what she remembered.  “You were there!  I was not dreaming.  I remember I looked over at Jerintas during my labor and instead of seeing him, I saw you standing there holding my hand.  At the time, I thought I was just hallucinating during the intensity of the labor.  But… but you were there.   How?”

“As I was waking up . . . before, I started seeing visions of you and the twins, over twelve years of visions, each one a small vignette.  It was incredible, Minta, and as I came back to the present I saw Jerintas in that chair over there, asleep with some kind of a device on his lap.  I had realized during the ‘dreams’ that it was Jerintas giving me his memories.   Seeing him confirmed it.  I am very grateful to him for that gift.” 

“But they were memories.  How could you be transported to the past and actually see what was happening?” she asked. 

“I cannot say, Minta.  I am just grateful to God for letting me see it, by whatever means,” Diego replied, feeling gratitude cover him like a warm blanket on a cold night.

“Maybe that is something that cannot be explained any more than I can explain your daughter seeing you getting shot yesterday morning in a dream,” Minta murmured. 

“What?” he asked, alarmed that his child would see that horrendous scene.  “What do you mean?  Little Minta saw me?  A dream?”  His fatigue was momentarily forgotten. 

“Bernardo said she awoke yesterday morning screaming that she had seen you shot.  The way he described, she not only saw what was happening, she could feel the gun shot as well,” Minta explained.  

Diego shuddered, remembering his own agony.  “But why?  How?” he asked, sick inside that his little girl would experience that, even vicariously. 

Then he remembered his own dream.   He had always experienced premonitions; his days as Zorro were full of them.  That his life had been saved on many occasions because of a feeling of impending danger, he knew for a fact, but when had the visions begun?  It had been that morning.  He was sure of it. 

“Diego, what is wrong?  Are you all right?”

“Wh. . . .what?” he stammered, pulling himself away from his preoccupation and looking up at Minta.   

“I asked what was wrong.  You seemed lost in thought or worried about something,” Minta replied, concerned.  

“Little Minta wasn’t the only one to dream yesterday morning,” Diego said softly, explaining what had happened.  While he related his own dream, he watched his fiancé carefully.  “Now you seem preoccupied.”

“That morning, I, too, awoke, having dreamed of a little girl.  She reminded me of you,” Minta said.

“And before my dream, she said she had dreamed of you,” Diego added, frowning slightly.  He stifled a yawn, determined to work out the puzzle before he fell asleep.  He felt the tingling fingers of fear of the unknown working their way down his spine.  “What can it mean, querida?”

“It means that there is something there, linking us all, that we cannot explain, mi amor,” she answered.  “Perhaps it was God, perhaps it was something that happened to us when we first met, I do not know.”  Concern still lingered in his eyes.  “But I will ask Jerintas about it.  Maybe he will have heard something about these kinds of things.  Regardless, it did bring us back together,” she said, rubbing her hand down his cheek. 

Diego took it and gently kissed her fingertips.  , it did,” he murmured. 

“I just wish it hadn’t been such a violent reunion,” she added. 

Diego was unable to stifle the next yawn.  He felt so overwhelmingly tired again. 

Noticing, Minta leaned over and kissed him again.  “You need your rest, querido.  You sleep and I will return later with something for you to eat.”

“Do not wait too long, enamorada,” he murmured.  “With either the meal or the dessert.” 

She looked puzzled.  “Dessert?”

With a soft smile, Diego replied, “You.”

                                                     

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Little Minta sat in one small, dim, secure corner of the library shortly after supper, her finger following the words in a book about the Spanish hero, El Cid.  She could not actually read more than a few of the easier words, but she remembered the story.  Her father had read it to her.  Papá!  How is he? she wondered.  All she had been told was that he was all right.  She reached down and scratched under the chin of her new gray and white gatito, one that she had found to comfort her after her father had been hurt.  The little kitten, eyes still closed in half-sleep, stretched its neck out for more. 

Sitting hunched, partially hidden behind a small cloth covered table, she was not seen when the servants came in the room.  Josefina was here to clean, Minta noted.  Miguel was one of the stable hands and he was here because of Josefina.  Minta smirked derisively, not of the age to appreciate such things.  Even so, it was obvious to her that they liked each other.  Josefina kept looking toward the open doorway, while Miguel kept looking at Josefina, his hands finding hers when he could, or her hair, or her face.  Minta peeped around the little table, her eyes wide in shock when his hands found other parts of her body. 

“Miguel, not now.  If you must be here, at least look like you are busy…cleaning, that is,” the servant girl admonished when the young man’s hands strayed into prenuptially forbidden territories.  “We can meet this evening behind the stable,” she added. 

“Well, all right.  I suppose I need to go out and get another horse ready for someone to go out searching for Don Diego,” he sighed.  Idioso!  I cannot believe that even the patrón could be so stupid to go out to the camps without any of the vaqueros to accompany him.”

Minta bristled at the reference to her father.  She wanted so badly to jump up and tell Miguel that her father was not stupid, that he was the bravest man in California, but she held her tongue.  Even before she knew that Papá was Zorro, she felt he was strong and brave, the best Papá in the whole world.  She bent over the kitten and rubbed his back

“He has still not been found?” Josefina sighed.  “Whatever you say, he has always been a good master.  But what of the news that Zorro was injured almost two days ago?  Garcia actually talked with someone who saw him hurt.”  Josefina dusted in silence, while Miguel stood nearby watching her.  “Oh!”

“What?  Did you hurt yourself?” Miguel asked, concerned, coming closer to the servant girl. 

“No, it is just that Don Diego disappeared about the same time that Zorro was injured.  I was only wondering if El Zorro was hurt trying to rescue the patrón?”

“I do not know, but if he is not found soon, I hold little hope of Don Diego being found alive.  He is not able to take care of himself out in the wilderness for a long time, especially if he is hurt,” Miguel stated. 

“Miguel, I think you underestimate Don Diego,” Josefina replied.   Miguel just shrugged.  Minta sat back in the corner, hugging her gatito, horrified that the servants could even come that close to guessing Papá’s secret.  She had to tell Abuelo.

 

 

Chapter Eighteen
Chapter One
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