Starlight Dreams

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirty

Resolutions, This Time for Good

 

 

Mari and little Minta climbed into the carriage and squeezed on either side of the weary couple.  Minta continued to cry softly, her tears running down her cheeks and dripping on her dusty and torn blouse.  A vaquero climbed into the driver’s seat and took the reins.  Soon they were riding back toward the haven of the hacienda.  Pablo continued to murmur into Maria Louisa’s ear and to caress her cheek. 

“It is over, querida,” Diego said softly, reaching around with his uninjured hand and wiping a tear away.  He felt so tired, so very tired, but it was all over, finally, and they were safe.  He sighed and then bit his lip as small stabbings of pain shot through his abdomen.  Ai, Jerintas will have my hide for sure, he thought wryly. And the wedding only ten days away.  Gratefully, he saw that Minta had not noticed his discomfort. 

“Are you sure, Diego?” 

“Yes, Minta.  Everyone knows of your determination, or they soon will when word of your bravery is told around the pueblo.  Everyone already knows of our devotion to each other…”   He leaned down and kissed her on the top of her head.  She looked into his eyes and he kissed her tenderly on the forehead and then more passionately on the lips.  As they broke away, she gazed at Maria Louisa’s battered face and then shuddered. 

“She cannot hurt you any more, enamorada,” he murmured. 

“No, Diego, that is not it.”  Minta paused and then sighed heavily.  “I cannot believe that I did all that.  I did not mean to hurt her that badly.”  She began to cry softly.

“Minta, you were protecting me and the girls, as well as yourself,” he consoled her.  “You did what you had to do . . . just as you did two weeks ago,” he added, his voice almost a whisper.

“Diego, will it really be all right?” she asked again.

“Yes, it will be, my dear.  Most assuredly, it will be,” he murmured in her ear.  Her crying ceased and she laid her head back against his chest.   Feeling the quiet murmur of her breathing, he, too, began to succumb to his exhaustion.  Soon he felt nothing but the warmth of his fiancé’s body and then nothing at all.

 

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Jerintas gazed down at the Designated One, who was lying sedately on his bed in the ground floor guest room.  “You are determined to kill yourself, Diego.”

“I was determined to save Minta and the children,” Diego retorted.  “What happened thirteen years ago wasn’t going to happen again.”

“I know, Designated One, I know, and I do understand,” Jerintas said softly.  He reached into a bag and pulled out a small diagnostic tool.  “How do you feel, or rather I should ask, where does it hurt?”

Diego raised one eyebrow.  “In light of how I felt a bit over two weeks ago, I am doing rather well.”  He saw Jerintas frowning at him and he smiled.  “But that is not the answer you want, is it?”  Jerintas shook his head.   “My wrist hurts and my stomach is sore, but other than that, I feel all right.  Just very, very tired.”

“Yes, I can imagine.  You have been recovering very well, but not enough to ride ten miles on horseback and fight armed kidnapers,” Jerintas answered.  He ran the small instrument over Diego’s body.  Both men were silent during the examination.  After awhile, Jerintas sighed and put away the tool.

“Will I live long enough to marry Minta?” Diego asked flippantly, hiding an inner anxiety.  He remembered what Jerintas had told him about reinjuring himself causing a delay in the wedding.  He hoped that the Rantiri had only been joking.

Jerintas gazed at Diego for a moment, then sighed again.  “There are a couple of cracked bones in your wrist.  We will immobilize them.  You also strained the tissues and muscles that had been healing so nicely.  One of your ribs is slightly cracked, but not to the extent as before. There appears to be a very tiny bit of internal bleeding, but I don’t think it is anything requiring surgery.  I am raising the dosage of your medication and I want you to stay in bed tomorrow and all of the next day.  And you will ride to mass in a carriage, not on horseback.” 

Diego stared at him in chagrin.  “But there is so….”

“You were very lucky, Diego.  Very lucky, and of course, in good physical condition, but if you want to marry Minta, you must do as I say.” 

Diego nodded, a slight smile on his face, a face that looked drawn and worn.  “Thank you, Jerintas…”   He paused and gazed into the Rantiri man’s amethyst eyes… “for everything.”  He yawned and blinked.  “Have you decided if you will stay for the wedding?  I would hope so, you have stayed this long.”

“Yes, I have, Diego.  I will be staying for the wedding,” Jerintas said softly.  “As afraid as I am for Minta and the children, as terrified as I was when I heard about this kidnapping, I know Minta and the twins are determined to stay.  I have also decided that my presence will not make any difference in anyone’s acceptance or non-acceptance of Minta.”  Jerintas turned away and dug into the medical satchel he had brought with him.  Yes, I will be at the wedding, if only to see the happiness in Minta’s eyes.  To see what I can never give her, he thought. 

He turned back to Diego.  “You asked me to make you a promise all those years ago.  Do you remember what that was?”

“Yes, I remember,” Diego said softly, remembering vividly that horrible nightmarish time. 

“I am asking you to make the same promise to me.  Make her happy, as happy as you possibly can,” Jerintas said, his voice tight with emotion.

Diego gazed at the Rantir, wondering why he would ask for something like that.  Doesn’t he know by now that I would do anything for Minta’s happiness?  Then he thought of his suspicions of the past days, his intuitions about Jerintas’ feelings for Minta.    And he saw something in the depths of the amethyst eyes that did not totally surprise him.  He pondered for the briefest of moments.  “You love Minta.”

Jerintas studied the younger man for a moment.  “I love what I cannot have.  What I could never have.  But I would do anything for her.  That is why I brought her back.” 

Despite what happened thirteen years ago, Diego felt an overwhelming gratitude toward Jerintas.  That he would do this astonished him and spoke volumes of the inner courage of this man.  Diego could only imagine how easily the director could have blocked Minta’s and the twins’ request, despite their combined determination.   “Thank you, Jerintas,” he murmured, almost overcome with gratitude.

“Just promise me, Diego.  Promise me that you will love her, cherish her and protect her.  Let me hear the words. Even though I know how you feel, I need to hear the words.” 

“I promise, Jerintas.  By the Holy Virgin and by all of your ancestors, I will love her forever and protect her with my very life . . . and the children, too,” Diego said fervently.

Jerintas nodded.  “Now all you have to do is stay alive long enough to do that.”

Diego smiled.  “I have managed for fifteen years and I have even more of a reason now, Jerintas.  I will do my best.”

“Thank you, Diego.  I know you will,” the director said.

“Will you try to visit?” Diego asked.  “I realize the difficulty, but….”

“No, you really do not realize the difficulty, but I will if I get the opportunity.  Thank you.”

“It worries me that the children will be totally cut off from their mother’s people, especially after growing up among the stars,” Diego said. 

“I know, and I will do my best, but you have to realize that I also have to be careful.  I would not want to jeopardize anyone’s safety and if a shuttle was seen, and if someone who didn’t understand it discovered the technology, you and your family could be in even more danger than you have been.  Your whole world could be imperiled.”  Jerintas handed Diego several small tablets.  “Take these and rest.  You will need all your strength for the wedding.  Minta and the children will be well protected.” 

“Thank you, Director.”  Diego took the tablets and washed them down with a small glass of wine.  Both men sat quietly for a few minutes, each lost in his own thoughts. “I believe that Maria Louisa was the heart behind this demon killing movement and her hold is broken,” Diego reassured the Rantiri.  “Minta should be safe now.”

“I will still take the steps necessary to make sure that she is.  I will stay close to her until the wedding,” Jerintas said.

“Thank you, Jerintas,” Diego repeated.  He felt his eyelids closing of their own volition.

 

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In the office of the Registro Civil, Diego stood before the magistrado, with Don Marcos and Doña Moneta on one side of him and Minta and the children on the other side.  Two days after the final bans had been read at the mission church, it was decided that the couple needed to apply for the civil marriage certificate.  While Diego did not think that there would be any problem with this order of things, he still nervously worried that there might be the remotest of possibilities.    

“It is usual for the request for the civil marriage certificate to be made before the bans and not after, Diego,” the magistrado, Jeraldo Manuel del Viajo pointed out evenly.  “But I suppose that under the circumstances, I can understand your timing,” he added, looking meaningfully at the arm still immobilized in its sling.  “I dare say that this will be the most unusual certificate I have ever issued.”  He leaned back in his chair and scratched his chin.  “And do you seriously think that I would deny you two a marriage certificate after the bans and after your miraculous rescue of your fiancé?” he asked Diego, seeing the anxious look in the groom’s eyes. 

Gracias, Señor Magistrado,” Diego said, relieved.  Then he cleared his throat and added, “I also want to provide for my children.”

“Ah, you wish to legitimize your older children?  Make them hijos naturales?

Diego frowned slightly, thinking back to the simple ceremony that had united he and Minta together.  Alejandro and Maria Isabella were certainly not illegitimate, but there would be no way he could explain the circumstances of that marriage to anyone other than those who already knew.  So instead of trying to explain anything, Diego simply drew himself up and proudly stated, “I am declaring Alejandro Jerintas de la Vega y Morliff Brockner and Maria Isabella de la Vega y Morliff Brockner my children and legal heirs.”

Señor del Viajo chuckled as he wrote the certificate of adoption/declaration.  Seeing the caballero’s discomfiture, he said, “I am sorry, Diego.  I cannot help but see a bit of humor in this situation.  It is obvious that these handsome children are yours, declaration or not.” 

Diego frowned a bit deeper and was ready with a quick retort until he head Minta laughing softly.  Her musical laughter eased the tension he had been feeling. 

“Oh, Diego, despite everything that has happened in the past years, to me that is the most wonderful fact of all.  These children, all of them, are yours.  And we are together,” she said, her eyes locked onto his.  “And the magistrado is right.  There is no way of denying that these children are yours.  They not only have your looks, but your incredible spirit,” she added, her voice low but fervent.”

Diego smiled and squeezed her hand.  Finally, he said, “, they are mine.  And if I had known I had two such wonderful children, I would have made my declaration a long time ago.”  Both Jandro and Mari looked to the ground, clearly discomfited by all the praise.

The magistrado finished filling out the one paper and then went on to fill out the marriage certificate.  “I presume that you have already taken care of the presentación with Padre Felipe?” he asked, not looking up from the paper he was writing on.  

“But of course, señor,” Diego said quickly.  “Our interviews with the good padre were done while I was recuperating at the mission.

“Bueno!  Then you are all ready for your wedding mass next Sunday.  May I offer a toast to your upcoming wedding, Diego and Minta?” del Viajo asked.  Before anyone could answer, he got up and began pouring wine for each of his guests.  When everyone had one of the small crystal wineglasses, he raised his own and said, “To the happy couple.  May your lives together be tightly woven with the love you feel, the devotion that is imbedded in your hearts and the determination that has brought you both back together after all these years.” 

With emotion-misted eyes, Diego put the small glass to his lips and drained it of wine in one gulp.  Gracias, magistrado,” he murmured.  He felt Minta draw closer to him and he reveled in her warm presence. 

 

 

 

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