Starlight Dreams

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-Two

The Future is Sweet

 

 

Diego returned to partial awareness smelling tortillas and beef and hearing the resonant tolling of nearby bells.  Beneath him he felt the shifting of leather strips under a rough blanket.  All of these various sensations reassured him and told him where he was . . . the mission.  He felt the blanket on top of him being pulled away from his body and gentle fingers probing his abdomen.  He grunted as the examination awakened pain centers that had been forgotten for the last several days.  Opening his eyes, he saw the concerned face of Father Felipe.

“There are better ways to wake a person, Padre,” Diego murmured.

The priest chuckled.  “I am amazed, my son, at how those people saved you.  God put them there for you,” he said solemnly.  “Otherwise you would be dead.”

“I know, Padre,” Diego replied.  “Minta says I almost was.”  He grasped the edges of the bed and started to pull himself into an upright position, but a sharp pain made him change his mind.  Father Felipe put one arm behind his shoulders and eased him up.  Allowing the priest to do most of the work, Diego was able to sit upright.  Father Felipe pushed several pillows behind his back, further easing the strain on the muscles ravaged by his recent injury.   Gracias, Padre,” he murmured, letting the pain ease into a bearable ache.

Father Felipe handed him a glass of wine and a little round tablet.  “Minta told me that the care you were given allowed for a more rapid recovery, but leaving their infirmary early has slowed that progress.  She said you would be sore and tired for a while.”

“I know, Padre, but I felt I had to come back.  I did not belong up there in the spaceship.  I belong here.”  Resolutely, Diego pushed his discomfort from his mind.

“Yes, I can only imagine what such a thing would be like and I can understand your desires.  Jerintas left this medicine to help you feel better.  He said it would not be as effective as what you had been given on their ship, but assured me that it will help you.”

Not even pausing to wonder how something so small could help him, he swallowed the tablet and then looked around.  He noticed that the room was lit only by candles and lanterns, causing shadows to dance in the corners of the ceiling.  “Where is Minta?” he asked, disappointed.  “Is she here?”    He wondered just how long he had slept. 

“No, my son.  She and Jerintas rode to your hacienda to continue the plans for the wedding with your father, as well as to check on the children.  They should be back soon.   They have been gone most of the afternoon.  They left not too long after you had been settled in your room.” 

“What time is it, Padre?” Diego asked. 

“Dinner time, Diego.  A meal will be brought in shortly.”

Diego sighed, realizing that he had slept all day.  “I am glad that the plans for our wedding can continue even without me.”

“Ah, yes, my son.  Minta is as eager to marry as you are,” Father Felipe said with a chuckle.  

“If I had my way, we would be married tomorrow,” Diego commented.  His words seemed flippant, but when the priest looked at him, the countenance was serious.

“But there are conventions to be followed, my son,” Father Felipe reminded the younger man.  “Even if you have previously been married and Minta is . . . um . . . not a virgin, there are still conventions that need to be followed.”

“True, but some do not have to be adhered to, Padre.  Please, as soon as I am able to get around.  Perhaps in a week.” 

The priest sighed.  “Diego, you are forgetting several things in your eagerness.”  The caballero gazed at him, but said nothing.  “First, Minta comes to you without anything, at least as far as I can tell.  Would you propose that she marry you in the simple garb that she brought with her or do you plan on her having proper doñas gifts?”

Chagrined, Diego looked down at his hands.  He remembered all of the meetings, correspondences and presents between the two families when he married Conchita.  He remembered seeing Conchita for the first time at the doorway of the church where they exchanged vows and where he had given his new wife the arras, the purse of gold coins.  That had been only the last of many gifts that had changed hands. 

Don Joaquin had looked almost as relieved as he had been happy.  Having recently lost his wife as well as his son-in-law, Conchita’s first husband, Diego knew that the old don had not felt himself in great position to support a widowed daughter. 

Thinking to a past even further back, Diego remembered a simple ceremony on board a strange and mysterious ship in space.   There were no presents; both of them had boarded the space ship with nothing but the clothes on their backs.  There had been no parents, only words of solemn promise.  Diego recalled the sweet innocence of the moment and longed for it again.  But he knew that it couldn’t be.  He was not the amnesiac wanderer that he had been then.  And since that time he had seen much, felt much and experienced things that had changed him.  So much had changed; so much except his love for Minta.  That had stayed intact, residing in a safe corner of his soul, until it had blossomed once again with her return.

Their upcoming marriage may not be innocent, but it would be sweet.  Minta deserved the best he could offer.  He would find out from Jerintas who the Padrino de botas would be and then decide with that person the best marriage gifts.  Minta would have presents befitting her station in life on Rantir as the First Mother.  He only wished he felt better so that he could be a more active participant in the preparations.

“And how can you consummate a marriage while an invalid?” the priest added, breaking Diego’s reverie. 

The injured man jerked his head up in surprise.  Father Felipe’s face stayed serene and composed.  Then Diego began to laugh, holding his stomach to ease the discomfort such action caused him.  “I see your point, Padre,” he finally said, still smiling.  “Very well, three weeks should be enough time to prepare.  The time it takes the bans to be read.  And I should be healed by then.”

“I suspect that three weeks will be barely enough time to be ready, but I suppose that it will have to do, unless your father objects.  And you will be healed by then only if you do as you are told.”

A novitiate knocked softly and at Father Felipe’s invitation, entered, a small tray of steaming food in his hands.  “Ah, here is your dinner.  You eat and then rest.  I will go out to your hacienda and see how the negotiations are progressing.  As soon as we return, I will send Minta in to see you.”

“Wait, Padre.  Before you go, I must send a letter to M . . . my daughter.”

Father Felipe smiled and walked over to a small table, picking it up and carrying it over to the injured man.  Diego pulled open the single drawer and removed paper and a pen, and then pulled out a small inkbottle.   Ignoring all else around him, Diego composed a simple letter to his daughter.  It was quickly done and he folded it, then handed it to the priest.  “I will make sure she gets it as soon as I arrive at the hacienda, Diego.  Now you eat something before it all gets cold.”

Gracias, Padre,” Diego said, “For everything.” 

“Por nada, my son,” Father Felipe said, quietly as he left Diego surveying the tray that he had set on top of the writing table.

 

                                                  ==================

 

Jerintas sat in the library of the de la Vega casa grande, this time much more at ease.  The meal that they had just finished sat comfortably in his stomach, the wine in his hand was delicately light on his palate, and the fire crackled merrily.  The children were sitting in the corner with little Minta’s kitten, their chatter soft, but comforting.  Then he felt the tendrils of sadness, knowing that in the not too distant future, Minta would only be a thing of memory.

During the last visit only generalities had been discussed, no definite plans, but now that Diego had been ‘found’ and had ‘publicly’ announced his intentions, the negotiations would begin in earnest.  “Don Alejandro, your son has made it known that he desires to marry Minta,” he said with a smile and then added, “As we all knew he would.” 

“And I give my approval to this marriage,” Alejandro said formally.  “As you also knew I would,” he added, his eyes gleaming with happiness.

Minta began laughing, a musical sound that seemed an extension of a joy that could not kept inside anymore.  Jandro and Mari glanced at each other and grinned.  Little Minta gazed at each person, her face showing a variety of emotions.

“So now we can work out the details of the wedding,” Alejandro said.  The door opened and a servant showed Father Felipe into the room, pulling up a chair for him near the rest of the adults.  “Ah, Padre, you are in time for the pre-nuptial negotiations.”   Alejandro turned to the children.  “My dear grandchildren, this a matter for adults.  We will let you know the details when we are through.”

Little Minta’s lip began to quiver and stick out in a pout, and she opened her mouth to protest, but Jandro laid his hand on her shoulder.  There was disappointment in his eyes, too, but he masked them with a bright smile.

“Let us go and see that colt you told us about,” he suggested.  “He is in a corral near the stable, is he not?”

Peering up at him, her eyes still showing their disappointment, the little girl finally nodded.  “All right,” she acquiesced, getting up and walking out the library door.

“My child,” Father Felipe stopped her.  “I have a letter from your father.”  Minta’s eyes shone with joy and she dashed over to the priest, who handed her the note. 

Gracias, Padre,” she said before turning and running out the door.

After the children had left and a servant had given each person a glass of wine, the discussion began in earnest.  “Please, if it is permitted, let the wedding be as soon as possible,” Minta said before anyone else could say anything.  “Maybe in a week or two?”

Father Felipe chuckled softly.  “Your fiancé said pretty much the same thing, and while we are not strictly bound by convention in this marriage….”   He paused, seeing a bit of confusion on the woman’s face.  “I have not had time to discuss all of our customs of marriage to you.   You learned some things while you were here last time, but there are gaps in your knowledge that are very obvious.”  Minta looked chagrined.  Jerintas just sat quietly, waiting.  “If you and Diego were both young and not previously wed, there would be many things that would have to be done before the actual wedding was consummated.  You would not even be in on these discussions.”  Again the priest paused. 

“My dear, among us, marriages are contracts and as such are negotiated,” Alejandro added.  “But rest assured, in your case, we are dispensing with as many as we can.”

Minta heaved a sigh of relief and even Jerintas looked relieved. 

“My dear, the bans must be said in church for three consecutive Sundays,” Father Felipe continued.  “Then if no one objects, the marriage vows are said the following Sunday.”

“Yes, I remember Diego saying something about announcements, bans, being said and that it would take three Sundays.  I had just hoped that we wouldn’t have to do all that,” Minta said. 

“The bans are something that is necessary.  It would be unseemly if they were not read.  The months, almost year-long negotiations, we will dispense with,” Father Felipe said with a smile.  

“Year long?” Jerintas asked, a shocked look on his face.

“It took about three months to finalize Diego’s previous marriage,” Alejandro interjected.  “It took less than normal because the young lady had already been married.  She was widowed, in fact.  And because I was trying to get Diego’s mind off his misery and did not want a protracted engagement.”  Alejandro accepted a refilled glass from the servant.  “You may go now, Juan,” he said to the young man.  When the servant had left, Alejandro turned back to Minta. “The time for the bans to be read will give Diego the opportunity to fully heal from his . . . ordeal.”

“I understand, and of course, you are right, Don Alejandro,” Minta said with a sigh.  “It will just seem so long.”

“After thirteen years, my dear?”  Father Felipe asked with a slight chuckle. 

Touché, Minta,” Jerintas said softly. 

“We need to select the Padrinos de boda,” Alejandro said.  “I have been thinking about that since your previous visit and I feel inclined to ask Don Marcos and Doña Moneta del Bosque to serve in that function.” 

“I believe I remember Diego mentioning that the madrina and the patrino would help us get ready for the wedding,” Minta said.

“Yes, the madrina will not only give you advice, she will also help you in the preparation of a wedding gown.  You must have the very best, as befitting a woman of stature among your people,” Alejandro commented. 

“Woman of stature?” Minta asked.

“Yes, of course, Minta,” Jerintas said.  “You are, after all, the First Mother of our race.”

“Surely you are not going to mention that, are you?” Minta asked, shocked. 

“No, of course not,” Father Felipe said quickly, wincing slightly at the term.  “But you are the equivalent of royalty here in California.  You should be treated accordingly.”  Minta blushed. 

Señora del Bosque is a wonderful choice for a madrina.  She and Diego are close friends,” Alejandro explained.  “And her father Don Cornelio Esperon and I have been close since our fathers moved to this land.  Don Marcos del Bosque is very respected here in Los Angeles and will be happy to assist Diego in this happy occasion.”

“I vaguely remember that name . . . Moneta.  I may have met her,” Minta replied. 

“You very well may have, perhaps at the fiesta we had when Diego first brought you here,” Alejandro said.  “She was single and living with her widowed father at the time of that visit.” 

“I doubt that Diego will need any assistance in this matter, but I will need all the help that I can get,” Minta said, smiling.  “Thank you, Don Alejandro.”  

“Good, then you will contact Don Marcos and his wife and I will pronounce the first bans this Sunday,” Father Felipe said to Alejandro. 

Minta suddenly realized that actual plans were being made for her wedding to Diego.  Finally after all these years she was going to marry Diego.  The tears began to flow, causing the three men in front of her to waver and blur. 

“Are you all right, my child?” Father Felipe asked. 

“Yes, I am all right.  Very much all right, thank you.  Thank you,” Minta murmured. 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-three
Chapter One
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