Jandro led off with his right leg and lunged
forward, his sword gleaming brightly in the flickering light of the
lanterns that hung on the walls of the secret cave.
“Now back,” Diego instructed. “Now forward.” Back
and forth the boy went, his leg occasionally kicking forward, his throat
sometimes uttering short cries of joy at the pleasure he felt.
Diego was amazed.
It was like seeing a younger version of himself, as though he had
gone back into time and was watching himself practicing the fencing
arts. But had I been
that good when I was that age? Or
even that good at the University? Jandro
has a talent that could even supercede mine, he thought, his pride
swelling in his chest. And
then the wonder of even having this child caused him to ponder even
more. How in the world can a child whom I have never been around
in his twelve years of existence have so many of my mannerisms? he
Picking up a sword, Diego tried to balance it
left handed. Even after a
week, and even after the medicines that he had been given to strengthen
the bones, his right wrist was still immobilized and sore.
He was not used to left-handed fencing, but he finally found a
semblance of comfort. “Let
us see how well you parry, my son.”
Leading off with his left foot was difficult as well, and it put
his moves off a bit, but Diego riposted and lunged, finding balance a
bit easier after several tries. Jandro
easily parried all of his thrusts.
“You fence well, Jandro,” Diego said.
“Where did you learn?”
“From Crilen Wis.
He taught your style of fencing and his style of fighting as
taught you?” Diego asked. Jandro nodded.
Jandro nodded again.
“He had learned fencing from you before we were born.”
“He learned it well.
We only worked together for a week,” Diego explained,
“We lived on his world for a while,” Jandro
began. “Until the Late
Comer was destroyed and Mother and Tio Jerintas decided that it
was safe and that it was time to go to Rantir.
I enjoyed learning from Wis.”
Jandro paused. “In
fact he came to Rantir with us and stayed until Mari and I were almost
Diego nodded, remembering the short, squatty
alien with whom he had made friends so very long ago.
“I enjoyed learning from Wis as well.
I am glad he was your teacher.”
He took up the swords and set them aside. Tornado nickered from
his stall and Diego walked over to him.
The stallion nuzzled his shoulder and he rubbed the velvety nose.
Jandro joined his father and watched quietly at his elbow.
“I am proud of what you did,” Diego said
softly after several minutes of silence.
“You mean Zorro?” Jandro asked, feeling the
warmth of his father’s praise.
“Yes, it was a dangerous thing to do, but you
did it anyway.”
“It is no less than what you have done,
Father,” Jandro replied. There
was another pause. The
young man joined in rubbing the horse’s muzzle.
Tornado snorted his pleasure.
“I wonder if I am being unfair,” Diego asked
suddenly, his voice almost a whisper.
He thought of his time on Rantir so very long ago.
He remembered how willing Minta was to come to his home, to live
with him in what she would probably see as primitive conditions. But
she is an adult, he thought. Then
he wondered about two children, young adults really, who had lived their
entire lives among the races of the stars, with things that he could
only see as unexplainable wonders.
How would they feel about his world after a month, two months or
six months? Would
Jandro and Mari resent coming here and living with me? he asked
“What do you mean, Father?”
“I mean that you and your sister have only
known the stars and the people and wonders that exist there.
You have that thing your mother calls electricity that allows you
to have bright lights at night, and you have commuters that run without
anything pulling them.” Diego
paused. “I wonder what
will happen, how you will feel after you have been here for a few
“Father, I miss some of those things
Diego’s heart skipped a beat and his windpipe
felt as though it was closing. The
thought of his children going away filled him with despair, but he would
not stop them if they so chose. “Jerintas
has not left yet, my son. You
have a great destiny among the stars if you choose to go with him, you
and your sister. I will not
love you any less.”
“I know, Father, but you misunderstood me.
I do not know about the destiny part, but I feel that whatever it
is, it’s here, not among the stars.
From the time that I remember Mother holding me in her lap and
telling me about you, when I was only a few years old, I knew that
someday I would be with you. I
knew that I would be by your side.
I never told anyone that, except Wis.
Not until last year. And
then I told Mari. She said
that she had felt the same thing, almost for the same amount of time. In fact she even had dreams about meeting you.”
“I imagine the dreams and the reality were a
bit different,” Diego answered remembering the first time he met his
children, only a scant three plus weeks ago.
“A bit, but the point is, we were meant to be
a family, to be together. I
know it will be hard. I
know I have a lot to get used to, but I will get used to it.
I only hope that you will continue to be proud of me.” I only hope that I can be half of what you are and
accomplish half of what you have done here, Jandro thought.
“Oh, Jandro, you do not have to be Zorro or do
any great things for me to be proud of you,” Diego said, as though
reading the boy’s mind. “You
are my son. That is enough. I will always love you.
I will always be proud of you.”
Jandro could say no more. He turned and hugged his father, his heart full of gratitude at a dream fulfilled.
Diego stood on the front steps of the mission
church, Father Felipe behind him, his friends nearby.
The day was gloriously beautiful, the weather seeming to
cooperate completely. The
sun was just manifesting itself on the eastern hills when he had
arrived. Now it reflected
on the white plaster of the edifice in a glowing splendor.
His father sat in a carriage parked as close to the steps as was
physically possible. Bernardo
was sitting next to him. Diego’s
wedding clothes felt stiff, but his excitement quickly shoved that minor
thought into the nethermost corner of his consciousness.
The ivory colored outfit was decorated with gold embroidery along
the sleeves of the chaqueta and down the outsides of the calzoneros. The gold was also interspersed with silver and blue thread
work, the designs intricate as well as elegant.
Each button was gold plated.
His right arm was still in its sling, but Diego
was able to flex his hand now without any pain.
All of his other injuries seemed to have healed completely.
Diego pulled himself out of his reverie by the sound of another
carriage approaching the church. Jerintas and Marcos stepped out of the carriage first and
then helped Minta and Doña Moneta.
The groom couldn’t help himself, his grin stretched from ear to
ear as he watched his wife-to-be approach on the arm of the padrino
de boda. She was
radiant, her dark skin soft against the sky blue material of her wedding
gown. Minta looked up at
him and smiled.
Suddenly Diego remembered the first time he had
seen Minta. At a time when
he didn’t even know who he was, he knew that this woman was
extraordinary-- a caring and compassionate individual.
He remembered the events leading up to their union on the space
ship, and the sweet nights and romantic days before their arrival in
California. He remembered
the pain of her ordeals, the agony he felt at her departure.
It had been as though life had been snuffed out for him and there
was no reason to continue. Then
there was Conchita, who continued Minta’s lessons of unconditional
love and devotion, and allowed him to heal enough to open his heart to
his little girl. All of the years flowed by, like the clouds propelled across
the sky at a faster than normal speed.
And then she had returned . . . and she was here, radiant,
finally and forever.
Minta looked up at him and smiled. He grinned back, feeling happy enough to burst.
The amethyst necklace he had given her the day before sparkled in
the early morning sunlight, matching the color of her eyes.
Moneta walked on one side of Minta and Marcos walked on the
other. Jerintas followed
just behind. Diego felt a
shiver of excitement run down his spine.
He felt giddy, he felt young, he felt renewed.
He felt as though he could walk on the puffy white clouds above
them. Suddenly Diego felt
laughter bubbling inside. Here he was, thirty-seven years old, feeling nervous like an
uninitiated college boy.
Then Minta was on the steps with him, facing
him; her eyes suddenly shy. Ai,
she is nervous, too! Diego thought.
Father Felipe stood in the doorway, his vestments new white in
the bright morning sun. His
face was aglow with happiness. Diego
noticed Mari, Jandro and little Minta standing on the next to last step,
their grins wide enough to split their faces.
“My children, are you ready?” the priest
asked the couple.
“Yes, Padre,” Diego said, his eyes
never leaving Minta’s face. She
“The arras?” Father Felipe prompted.
Don Marcos handed Diego the leather pouch. It
was heavy and jingled softly as he took it.
“This is a token of my promise to keep and protect you forever,
to love you and cherish you. May
our love remain as bright as these new coins.”
Although awkward to do one-handed, Diego upended the pouch and
poured the coins through Minta’s open fingers.
The gold coins clattered noisily into a silver tray held by a
young neophyte altar boy. When
the pouch was empty, the boy turned to Father Felipe, who blessed the
money. The young man then
carried the tray and coins into the church.
“I accept your gift and return your promise
with one of my own,” Minta said solemnly, her eyes moist with tears of
joy. “I promise my
everlasting devotion. I
will be by your side forever, my heart is your heart . . . as it has
been for thirteen years.”
Moneta held out her hand and in it lay a newly
formed silver necklace. Minta
carefully took it and for a few seconds watched as the sun sparkled on
its thick polished links, highlighting the tiny inlaid blue and green
stones. Diego bent slightly and she hooked the necklace around his
neck. “This is a token of
my fidelity to you, now and for eternity.
I love you, Diego de la Vega.”
Their mouths came close to each other, but Diego refrained from
the kiss, waiting for the end of the vows.
Father Felipe motioned to the de la Vega
children and they held up a long gold chain.
With a chuckle, Diego ducked down to allow their children to lay
the chain, the lazo, or double looped rosary around their
shoulders. Father Felipe helped them.
It’s links lay snuggly around them, securely binding them
“Diego de la Vega y de la Cruz, do you take
Minta Morliff Brockner as your wife, to cherish, to care for, to love as
long as you both shall live?” Father Felipe asked.
“Yes,” Diego said simply, still gazing
deeply into Minta’s amethyst eyes.
“And do you, Minta Morliff Brockner, promise
your fidelity, your devotion and your obedience to Diego de la Vega as
long as you both shall live?” the priest asked.
“Then it is my sacred privilege to declare
this man and this woman united in Holy Matrimony,” the priest
affirmed, a smile creasing his old face.
“The rings,” he said, looking toward the children.
Little Minta held up two burnished gold rings
that she had pulled from a soft leather pouch.
“Let these rings remind the bearers of their promises before
God and everyone here,” Father Felipe said, making a motion over the
rings, blessing them. He
took one wedding band and placed Diego’s ring on his finger and then
motioned toward the other one.
Diego took the ring from little Minta’s
outstretched hand and took his wife’s hand.
“Minta, I had these rings made almost thirteen years ago.
With this ring, I promise I will always be by your side.
I will always love you,” he murmured.
With shining eyes, Minta watched him place the gold band on her finger. “Diego, never doubt my love for you,” she whispered.
Father Felipe removed the lazo.
“Now, my children, let us celebrate this union with Mass,”
Father Felipe said, motioning everyone into the church.
Diego didn’t remember a great deal of the
mass. He tried to pay
attention, but his eyes and thoughts kept drifting toward Minta.
It had finally happened. We
are well and truly married! He
repeated his part of the wedding communion without really thinking about
the words. Finally it was
over, and while the other worshipers exited the church, Minta and Diego
approached the statue of the Virgin Mary.
Minta laid a bouquet of flowers at her feet, bowing and
genuflecting, wishing for all the blessings that could possibly come
their way. Diego and Minta
then lit Easter candles that, while not their baptism candles as was
customary, were nevertheless made special for the occasion of their
wedding. They turned and
saw only Father Felipe and two of the younger priests.
Outside there was the loud noise of anticipation.
“Padre, must we go out there?
It is so peaceful in here. I
could sit in here with Minta forever.”
“I understand, my son, considering all the
tumult that you two have gone through, but there are conventions to
follow and there are many outside who genuinely want to wish you
well,” Father Felipe said with a laugh of his own.
“The moments of peace and reflection will be many in the years
to come. Enjoy the
celebration now, Diego.”
Before they walked down the aisle, Diego pulled
Minta close to him and kissed her soundly.
Then they walked out into the brightness of the California
autumn. As they emerged
from the church, the shouts of their friends and relatives echoed in
their ears. Diego stopped on the steps and drew Minta to him once again,
this time crushing her to his chest.
Then his lips covered hers, fierce, hungry, his love a tidal wave
engulfing him. He felt the
warmth of her body, the beat of her heart.
The sound of muskets and pistols firing brought
them back to their surroundings. “Oh,
Diego,” Minta sighed when they drew apart. Even more boisterous
“Shall we go home, Señora de la
“Yes, Señor de la Vega,” she
answered. “Let us go
Suddenly they were showered with rice and pinole
(sweetened cornmeal). Guns
were fired again, terrifying any birds left in nearby trees. The bells began ringing, adding to the deafening cacophony.
The well wishers formed two long lines, which Diego and Minta had
to go through to get to their carriage.
Friends pounded Diego on the back until he felt bruised all over.
Rice and pinole continued to fly through the air and
muskets continued firing as fast as their owners could reload them.
Finally the couple reached their carriage, and laughing, climbed in and collapsed against the back. Bernardo turned to the newlyweds, a huge grin on his face. Then he turned back around and took the reins in his hands. Soon the carriage was rolling down the road, accompanied by many of the well wishers on horseback.