Starlight Dreams

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-Three

More Sweet Reunions

 

 

Little Minta stood under a lantern in the patio and tried to make out the words in Papá’s letter.  She could only figure out a few.  She found the word ‘love’ several times and it comforted her, but she wished that she could read the entire letter.  Finally she folded the paper and stuck it in the waistband of her skirt. 

“I’m sure Abuelo will read it to you as soon as they finish talking,” Jandro assured her. 

“But I want to know what Papá says now,” Minta answered, turning and walking toward the stable.

“I wish one of us could read it to you,” Mari said as they walked through the stable and out to the small corral that contained the nervous colt.

“I know.”  Little Minta sighed and in the waning light of the evening, leaned against the makeshift corral and stared at the bay colt as it circled in its small confines.  She continued to stare, happy and confused at the same time.  She was happy for Papá, but she could not help but wonder again what would happen when he married the dark lady from far away.   Jandro and Mari were so very nice, but Papá would want to do a lot with them when he was better.  Tears filled the corners of her eyes and threatened to spill onto her cheeks.

“Minta, why are you sad?”  Mari asked from behind her.  “Is it because Father is marrying our mother?”

“I . . . I suppose so,” Minta sniffed.  “But . . . but I know I should be happy.”  She looked up at them.  “Shouldn’t I?”

“I suppose it is natural to feel both ways,” Mari said softly.  Mari ached for the little girl.  There was no anger as there had been before, but Minta was still confused, and overwhelmed.  Her world had consisted of her father, her grandfather and the servants before she and her mother and brother came.  Mari pondered a moment and thought that this was a special little girl.  After the first morning, little Minta had not shown any resentment, and she had treated them, if not like a sister and brother, then at least like good friends.

“Mother will take care of you and love you, too, just like she does us,” Jandro added. 

The few times that she had been around Jandro and Mari’s mother, Minta knew that he was right, but somehow it didn’t make her feel much better. 

“Father will not forget you, either,” Mari added. 

“But . . . there was just him and me before.”  She sniffed again.  “I know it is bad to feel this way, but . . . but I want Papá to read to me, I want him to go on picnics with me, to tickle me, to sing to me, to do everything that he did before.”

“I know that.  And it’s not bad to have those feelings.  Sometimes I wonder about how much time Mother will have for us now.  She has always talked about Father, but now she will actually have him,” Mari said softly.  They all stood watching the colt racing around the little corral.   “But remember, you will also have a new mother, and a new brother and sister,” Mari added, gazing meaningfully at the little girl.  “We will all be able to read, and go on picnics, sing and play and be together.”  She paused and her voice became even lower and softer.  “You cannot imagine how much we wondered what it would be like to actually have a father.”

Minta had often wondered what life would be like to have a mother.   And Mari and Jandro had wondered almost the same thing.  They are from so far away and yet they think almost the same way that I do, she thought.  She remembered all the times she had wished for a playmate, someone her age who could pretend with her, who could draw pictures and play games with her and tell secrets to.  “Yes, you promised that you would play with me”

“Of course we will, at least as much as we can.  We’ve had fun already, and you have taught us so much.  Why would that change when Mother and Father get married?” Mari asked.  They all stood at the corral fence continuing to watch the restless colt.  Finally it stopped trotting in its circle and slowly walked over to them.  Jandro rubbed its nose when it nuzzled his sleeve. 

“We will all have to learn to live with things that change,” Jandro said quietly, his voice thoughtful.   Mari and Minta looked at him.  “I mean that this will be a change for all of us.”  The girls said nothing, so he continued.   “You cannot imagine how many times I have barked my shin or stubbed my toe in the dark before I have found a candle.  And the chamber pots….”  He paused.  Mari giggled.  Minta just looked a bit embarrassed.   “Minta, we have something called electricity that gives us light,” Jandro explained.  “Father knows about it, but you do not.  All we have to do is to push a button and we have light in our rooms.  And there are bathrooms where everything is sent away with the push of another button.  No smell.”

“And water comes through a faucet instead of servants carrying buckets of heated water to a tub for a bath,” Mari added. 

Minta’s eyes grew larger and larger as the twins kept adding things that they were used to.  “Why do you want to stay here, then?” she finally asked, marveling at these magical things. 

“Because we want to be with our father and mother,” Jandro said quickly, before Mari could say a thing.  She nodded her agreement.  “Because we are a family and families should be together if it’s possible,” he added. 

“Then we should be,” Minta declared after another long silence.  “I will help you get used to candles and chamber pots,” she added.  Her eyes held a determined glint.

Mari grinned and Jandro chuckled.  “It is a deal, Minta.  You help us get used to your casa grande and the pueblo and we will teach you brisal chase.”

Brisal chase?” Minta asked, a puzzled look on her face. 

“It’s a game we learned when we were much younger,” Mari explained. 

“Good!” Minta said brightly, reaching over and rubbing her hand along one of the colt’s legs.  It shivered at her touch, and so did she, thinking of all the things she could do with a brother and sister.

 

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Little Minta held the tightly woven basket close to her as she sat in the back of the carriage with Mari and Grandfather.  She ignored its soft mews as she watched the landscape go by.  Mari patted her arm and smiled at her.  She smiled back and shivered in excitement.  She was finally getting to see Papá! 

While she had been kept updated on his progress, it was not the same as being there and feeling his strong arms.  She pulled out Papá’s letter that he had written the day before yesterday, the day that he had arrived at the mission.  Opening it up, she reread it, touching each word as she read.  Abuelo had helped her with the words until she knew them by heart.  As the carriage neared the mission, she grew more and more excited.  It had been six days since that horrible vision where she had seen her papá lying on the ground, shot, and she wanted to see him for herself.  

It was also Sunday, when the first of the bans was going to be read during mass.  In three weeks, Papá and Tia Minta were going to be married.   The seamstresses had already taken Tia’s measurements, and Abuelo had already started arranging the fiestas to honor Papá and Tia.  As the carriage hit a particularly hard bump, little Minta squirmed to right herself.  The kitten mewed even louder. 

On the other side of Mari, her grandfather turned his head and gazed at her.  He sighed.  Nieta, I told you to leave that kitten at home,” he scolded.  The ride seemed as though it would never end.  Pain shot from his leg down his hip and then up his back.  He tried to shift on the pillows that had been carefully placed to make the ride more comfortable, but that just caused more pain.  But this trip was worth it.  To see Diego again, after all that had happened, to see him alive.  He understood exactly how little Minta felt, her barely contained excitement.  “It would not do for her to run away before your father got to see her,” he said in a softer voice.  “But it will be all right, if you keep a close hold on the basket.” 

“I know I should not have brought her, Abuelo, but I could not help it.  I want Papá to see her.  She won’t cause any trouble, I promise.  She will stay very still during Mass,” Minta said solemnly.

“Yes, she will, because Bernardo will take care of the basket while we are in Mass,” Grandfather said, his voice telling her it was useless to argue. 

She sighed.  “May I take Ojalá in with me after the mass when I visit with Papá?”

Sí, my little granddaughter, if Padre Felipe does not mind,” Alejandro said with a smile, amused at her choice of names for the kitten.  ‘May it be so’ was what the word meant.  The old man figured it was appropriate, though. 

When they arrived at the front of the mission chapel, Tia Minta was standing in the doorway waiting.  Several neophytes came out and half lifted, half carried grandfather from the carriage.  An altar boy grabbed the pillows and followed behind the group.  Bernardo beckoned to little Minta and she reluctantly handed him the basket.  Covering her head with a scarf, she followed the rest into the church.  With a happy smile, she saw her father sitting in a pew near the front of the chapel.  The bench was almost full with family, the padrino and madrina de botas and a few close friends, but she saw that Papá had left a little room for her to sit next to him.  He gazed at her, his eyes shining with joy at seeing her. 

“My pajarita, I have missed you,” he whispered. 

“I missed you, too, Papá,” she replied softly, snuggling close to him. 

Father Felipe began the mass, so nothing else was said.  When the bans were read, there were several soft whispers of surprise at the announcement, but soon all was quiet and the mass continued.  Most of the time Minta enjoyed mass, but this time she wished the time would fly by so she could visit with her papá.  She squirmed slightly and Papá smiled at her in understanding.  “Soon,” he whispered softly.  She smiled back.

As soon as the mass was over, Minta hugged him tightly, and said, “I brought something to show you.”  She drew back when he gasped slightly.  “Did I hurt you, Papá?” she asked in concern.

“I am still a bit sore,” he said.  “And you have grown even in the short time I have been away.  So strong for such a young señorita!  He slowly stood up, turned to his fiancé, took her hand and kissed it softly, his lips lingering, his eyes gazing into hers. 

With a sigh, little Minta simply said, “I am going to get my surprise,” before walking out of the chapel.  As soon as she passed the doorway, she scampered the rest of the way to the carriage.  Mari and Jandro followed more sedately.  When she took the kitten from Bernardo, she heard it crying pitifully, scratching at the tied down lid, wanting to be out of its dark prison.  Sudden remorse made Minta pause and reach in through the cracked lid, stroking the kitten until it calmed down.  Then she closed the top again and started back into the chapel.  Her brother and sister stood by the door, smiling their pleasure. 

“Are you going in to see Papá, too?” she asked. 

“Not right now,” Mari replied.  “This is your turn.  We have seen him recently.  We will visit when you are through.”

Little Minta smiled her appreciation and stepped back into the cool interior of the chapel. 

 

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Oblivious to his daughter’s departure, Diego continued to gaze at Minta.  “I see that you have purchased new clothing with the first doñas gift.”

“Diego, how fast do you think the seamstresses in the pueblo and on the hacienda can work?” she asked.  “This is what I brought with me.  I came a little bit prepared.  I was hoping I remembered the clothing correctly.” 

Diego looked her up and down before answering.  “You remembered very well,” he murmured.   

“I tried to keep it simple, in case the fashions had changed, but your father insisted on sending some of your mother’s jewelry for me to wear with it, along with her hair combs,” Minta continued.  “So I look a great deal more elegant than I had thought to be.”

“Yes, I asked him if he would mind doing that,” Diego said, kissing her hand again.  “And you could never look too elegant.”

“You did?” she asked.

, I certainly did.  Jerintas said that you had brought some clothing, but he was not sure about a dress for Mass.  And you were so busy with Moneta yesterday that I did not even have a chance to ask. The jewelry is part of your first doñas gift, cara mia, and the money is the other part,” Diego murmured.  Then he saw her look of incredulous wonder.  “My dear, I may be considered an invalid, but I am not helpless,” he added with a soft chuckle. 

Minta drew back slightly when he carefully bent to kiss her hand again.  “Diego, your daughter wanted to show you something.  But I think it would be more appropriate if you and she visited in your room,” she reminded him.  “And I do not think it is appropriate to cause a stir in church,” she added with a smile.

“Oh, she did?” he asked, chagrined that he had ignored the child he had so much wanted to see these past six days.  He turned as fast as his injury allowed and saw that she was gone.  “Where is she?” 

“Getting her surprise, querido,” Minta replied.  “Let Francisco help you to your room and you and Minta can visit there.”

He nodded and noticed the neophyte standing at the end of the pew.   He then saw his father being helped from the chapel, Father Felipe at his side.  “Ai, I have ignored everyone,” Diego said, nodding to several well wishers as they finished filing out of the chapel. 

Minta simply laughed.  “You look tired.  Go and rest and I will send your little one in to you.  She has been so worried about you.”

Diego nodded and sedately followed the neophyte into the rooms at the back of the mission.  He sank gratefully into the chair in the corner of his small room and allowed the Indian to remove his boots, while he undid his chaqueta.  As the young man was leaving, little Minta peeked into the doorway.  Her face lit up in a great smile.

Princesa, come in,” he said with a smile.  “I am sorry that I ignored you.  Minta tells me you brought something for me to see,” he added as she skipped into the room.  She stood near his chair, the little basket clutched tightly in her hands.  “I promise, it is just you and me.  Climb into my lap and you can show me what you have in the basket.” 

With no further invitation needed, the little girl did just that, careful not to lean against him.   There was a loud meow from the interior of the basket and Diego gazed at it in surprise.   Then he began to chuckle softly.   “So I leave for a few days and you bring in one of Raya’s kittens, eh?”

“Oh, Papá, I was so worried about you.  I had to have something to talk to.”

“I know you were, my darling.  But everything is all right now,” Diego said, drawing her carefully to his uninjured side and holding her close.  She sighed deeply and listened to the comforting sound of his heartbeat.  A little gray head poked itself out of the unlatched basket and then exploded the rest of the way out with an indignant meow.  After taking a moment to lick one paw, it began rubbing up against her mistress

“Ai, jealous are you, gatito? Diego asked in amusement.  The kitten climbed up Minta’s chest and onto his shoulder, swishing a tail in his face.  “Bold, isn’t she?” 

Minta giggled.  “Her name is Ojalá, Papá.  Tia Minta suggested it.  And she is very smart.” 

“Who?  Ojalá or Tia Minta?” Diego teased. 

“Papá!  Ojalá is,” Minta declared and then stopped.  Tia Minta is, too.  I mean….   I did not mean….  Oh, Papá, you know what I mean.” 

“Of course, I know what you mean, little one.  I was only teasing.  And Ojalá is smart.  She raised her status from a stable cat to a kitten of the house in one day,” Diego answered.  The kitten had settled down in Minta’s lap.

“Papá, Tia Minta said I did not have to call her Mamá.  It was all right to call her Tia.  You don’t mind, do you?”

Diego had assumed that his daughter and his beloved had come to some kind of understanding.  “Yes, sweetheart, that is perfectly all right with me.   I just want you to be happy.”

“I am, Papá.  I want you to be happy, too.  Just do not forget to let me sit with you like this sometimes,” Minta said, sighing.  The kitten purred in contentment and she wished she could do something like that to show her happiness. 

“Never, princess,” he murmured, stifling a yawn, mentally cursing his weakness for the thousandth time.  “Now tell me what you have been doing besides smuggling kittens into the casa,” he coaxed, just wanting to hear the sweet sound of her voice.   As she began telling of her adventures of the past few days, he found himself lulled into a light sleep, comforted by the warmth of his daughter’s body next to his.

When Minta came in a short while later, she found all three sound asleep in the chair.

 

 

Chapter Twenty-four
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