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