The Beginning or the End?
When the newlyweds arrived at Don Marcos’ hacienda,
they were greeted with more musket and pistol fire, more rice and more pinole.
Laughing Diego escorted his bride into the patio area, where a
long table had been set up along one wall.
It was filled with meats, fruits and vegetables of all kinds,
wine and fruit punches, breads and sweets.
Several other tables filled the remainder of the space.
They were lined with chairs and filled with plates, goblets and
utensils. The balcony was
hung with paper lanterns and streamers.
Several musicians stood near the sala window, tuning their
instruments. When they saw
the newlyweds, they gave a great shout and began playing.
Minta’s breath caught in her throat.
“Diego, such extravagance for a breakfast!” she cried.
She turned to Moneta and Don Marcos.
“You shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble.”
“Minta, we are your padrinos de bodas.
You are without family here in California.
Could we do any less then to provide the wedding breakfast?”
Moneta replied referring to the custom of the bride’s family providing
the wedding breakfast. She guided Diego and Minta to the places of honor and
motioned for them to sit down. Soon
all of the guests were sitting close together chatting and laughing
while servants filled plates and goblets.
The meal lasted until just past the noon hour and then the guests
began to leave. Finally
only Moneta and Diego and their closest family members remained.
They sat and talked for a little while longer.
Servants kept the wine glasses full, but Minta drank sparingly.
She did not want to become tipsy or sleepy too soon.
Already the sun was lulling her into a kind of satisfied
“Ay, Diego if I ate any more, I would burst
the seams of this fine dress,” Minta sighed as the conversation began
to wind down.
Diego looked at her appreciatively.
“Querida, you did not eat enough to keep the sparrows
“Well, if the way you were looking at me
during breakfast is any indication, you did not either, my love,”
Minta responded. Everyone
laughed at her joke.
“I think that it is time to go home and
prepare for the fiesta,” Alejandro said, shifting in his chair.
He had taken some pain medication Jerintas had given him earlier
in the day and it was beginning to wear off.
Marcos motioned to two servants.
Soon with their help, the old man was settled in the cushioned
seat of his carriage.
“My father is right, mi preciosa,”
Diego said, standing and taking her hand.
“Must we, my love?
It is so peaceful and quiet here now.”
“No, Minta, not until tonight will there be
that peace and quiet . . . and solitude.”
Diego laughed as he guided her toward their carriage. Bernardo sat waiting, his face creased once again in a bright
“What do we do now, mi amor?” she
asked, only vaguely remembering all that was supposed to happen on the
“We go home, we change and then we prepare for
the wedding fiesta,” Diego answered.
“More food, more music, and a great deal of dancing. You will change several times during the evening to show off your beautiful new wardrobe,” he explained as they sat in the back of the carriage. Diego lifted her chin gently and kissed her, the tender caress of his lips becoming more passionate and fierce. As the carriage began to roll away, he finally pulled back, leaving her breathless.
Minta sat quietly, wanting the effects of the
kiss to linger forever. Finally,
she blinked as though coming back through a fog to the present. “I
change clothes during the evening?” she asked, incredulous.
“Sí,” Diego replied.
“So that everyone can see that you are well provided for . . .
and so everyone can see your that there is no dress made that can offset
Minta lowered her eyes, blushing. “Querido, por favor, do not tease me.
You know that the seamstresses almost had nervous breakdowns
getting all those dresses ready. Was that the reason for such haste? To show off?”
“It is customary, dearest,” he answered.
Do you get to run up and down the stairs changing every few
minutes?” she asked teasingly.
I get to wait at the bottom of the stairs and admire you every
time you descend them.” Diego
laughed and kissed her again.
As the carriage moved along, Minta laid her head
on his chest and sighed contently.
She replayed in her mind their wedding, as though by doing so she
could continue to convince herself that it had really happened.
Ai, it is not a dream. It
is not the dream of the past twelve years.
Now if we could just go into our bedroom, enjoy our privacy and
the intimacy that I have yearned for since that time on the starship so
very long ago, she thought. But,
she remembered, there were customs to observe and they would not have a
moment together until late tonight.
When the carriage rolled to the front of the hacienda,
Diego got out and held his hand out for her.
Carefully, holding the full skirts close to her body, she climbed
down. A grinning servant
opened the door to the patio. Pulling
her close to him, Diego walked her into her new home.
“Now we are well and truly married, mi amor,” he
murmured in her ear. “We
have walked over the threshold of our home as man and wife.”
Juliana, one of the maidservants, beckoned to Minta and then
walked with her upstairs to change into another dress.
Accompanied by Bernardo, Diego did the same thing in the guest
Later, when she emerged from their bedroom,
wearing a light green gown, she saw that Diego had changed into a dark
blue suit. And as he had
promised, he was waiting at the foot of the stairs for her.
“Diego, please, enamorado, do not make me do this all
evening,” she sighed.
“Ah, the evening will be fast and glorious and
I will be the one helping you with your last change,” Diego reminded
And indeed, the evening did seem to go quickly.
In the sala, which had been cleared of almost all the
furniture, the wedding guests feasted once again, while on the patio
musicians played. When the
meal was finished, a formal wedding march began the festivities.
Diego led Minta into the middle of the patio for the cuadrilla
and then everyone else joined in. That
dance was followed by others, some fast and some slow.
At times, Minta and Diego sat near the wall, watching others
dance, while the bride caught her breath, but when Juliana beckoned,
Minta begrudgingly trudged up the stairs and changed once again.
“No more, Diego.
I have another dress upstairs hanging in the wardrobe, but I
refuse to change again,” she said after the third change, her tone one
“Very well, querida, no more,” Diego
said, laughing and pulling her to the middle of the patio for another
dance. Occasionally little
Minta would come up to them and kiss her father and gaze at Minta.
Finally, when one of the servants came for her to take her to
bed, she pouted.
“My little princess, I will tell you of
anything exciting that happens tonight after you have gone to bed.
“Sí, Papá,” she said, kissing him
soundly on the cheek. She
stood for a moment, once again gazing at her new mother and then she
climbed into Minta’s lap and kissed her on the cheek also.
“Good night, little one,” Minta murmured,
the beginning of tears in her eyes.
“Sleep well.” With
a smile, the little girl pattered up the stairs, waved and then entered
“I do not doubt that she will be peeking from
the balcony occasionally,” Diego said, chuckling.
He looked over at Minta and saw a tear tracing its way down her
cheek. “What is wrong, mi
amor?” he asked. Then
understanding came to his mind. “Is
that the first time that she has kissed you?”
“Yes, Diego, it is.”
“And in such a short time,” he said.
“I told you that she would come to love and care for you.
Did I not?”
“Sí, you did.”
Minta turned and kissed him soundly, before he invited her to
dance yet again. She
noticed Mari dancing with one of the younger guests, but did not see
Jandro. “Now I wonder where that son of ours went to?” she
murmured in Diego’s ear.
“Probably with a few of the other youths,
looking at the horses. Or
maybe planning a surprise.”
“A surprise?” she asked.
“Sí,” he said.
“Sometimes the young men like to play little tricks on the
“Oh, no, I hope not!” Minta exclaimed,
pulling back slightly.
“It is usually nothing,” Diego answered,
twirling her around to the strains of the fast paced music.
They danced until they were both tired.
They sat and watched others dancing.
The stars in the vaulted sky above them twinkled with a
brilliance that Diego had never seen before, even on his late night
sojourns as the dark angel of justice.
Often he and Minta caught themselves looking upward,
contemplating those things that were among the stars that the wedding
guests had no concept of, other than Jerintas. The night ground on
toward midnight, and then slightly beyond, time seeming to slow down to
a crawl. Diego found
himself getting restless, wishing they could retire and enjoy the peace
that their bedroom would afford them.
Once, they slipped out and walked outside the patio, lying on a
small blanket that Diego had surreptitiously brought with him.
He pointed out the constellations, watched for shooting stars,
and held Minta tightly as the cool air caused her to shiver.
Bernardo found them and ushered them back to
their own party. Several of
Diego’s friends winked at him, while the women smiled knowingly, but
Diego and Minta just joined in another dance and ignored the
Suddenly there was the screaming of a stallion
at the front gate and Diego looked up sharply.
The music stopped as the horse screamed again.
The guests stopped dancing and looked toward the gate, puzzled,
but Diego recognized that scream and ran to the patio entrance, pushing
past the other curious guests. Opening
the gate, he saw before him-- Zorro.
Or rather, Jandro, Diego thought wryly.
Tomorrow he and that boy would have to have a talk.
With a huge grin on his face, the young Zorro tossed him a small
parchment, rolled up and tied with a ribbon.
Then he spurred Tornado into a fast gallop and rode away.
Again, any talk of his being Zorro had been at least temporarily
squashed, Diego thought as he untied the ribbon.
He recognized Bernardo’s hand in this little joke, too.
“Zorro,” the guests behind him murmured.
“What does it say, Diego?” Minta asked at
his shoulder. Several
others were asking the same question.
“It says—‘La Entrega de Novios.”
Diego grinned, knowing of the poetic custom that ended the
wedding festivities and allowed the bride and groom to retire for their
first night together. He
continued, “In the dawning of your love, like the soft wings of a
dove, glowed the fires of your devotion, briefly quenched by others’
emotions. Separation was a
burning ache, made keen by memories asleep/awake, but reunion brings an
intense delight, and happiness makes all grief aright….
read. He thrust the sheet
into Bernardo’s gnarled hands and gathered Minta to him with his good
arm. “Let us retire, Señora
de la Vega,” he said huskily.
“Really, Diego?” she asked, hardly believing
Nearby guests cheered lustily.
And with that he escorted her up the stairs to their bedroom. He closed the door to the speculative chatter below and
gazed at his bride in the soft glow of the two candles on each side of
the bed. Minta sat on the
edge of the bed with a sigh. Diego
sat next to her.
“Are you happy?” he asked as he undid the
small buttons and eyelets on her dress.
It was awkward one handed, but he had gotten used to that after
having his hand immobilized for ten days in the sling.
Finally, though, he flexed the injured hand and feeling no pain,
pulled off the sling and tossed it to the floor.
He pulled the sleeves off her shoulders and ran his finger across
her dark shoulders and down one arm.
“Oh, yes, Diego. I
am so very happy. So
happy.” She took his
injured hand gently in hers and brought it to her lips.
Then she turned and began to unbutton his chaqueta,
pulling off and following that with his vest and then his ruffled shirt.
She remembered her first thoughts about that thickly thatched
chest of his and then remembered how much she had missed running her
hands through his hair when she had left before.
She felt the evidence of a few scars and then felt the newer scar
on his abdomen, the evidence of his recent brush with death.
“Minta, I am so glad.
I never imagined that I would ever see you again, that terrible
night when Jerintas had to take you away.
I never imagined such joy as I have now.”
“Diego, do you suppose that part of the reason
for all that happened in the past was so we could enjoy this happiness
so much more?” Voicing
the thought that she had been considering for the past several weeks.
Diego kissed Minta tenderly on the neck as he
considered her question. Then
he continued to work on the buttons of her dress, his hand feeling stiff
from its long confinement.
“I thought I was happy before, on the space
ship, but it is nothing compared to my exquisite joy now,” she added,
as she helped him and then began working on the buttons of his calzoneros.
“Padre Felipe said something when you left the first time,” Diego began. Minta paused and gazed at him in the dim light of the room. “He said that he felt something, heard a voice telling him that everything would be all right. I did not believe him then. Later I thought that Conchita may be what he was talking about and then little Minta, but that was not it. Not totally. It was the sum of all the joy and pain, the loss and the gains of my life. I agree with you, enamorada. I think our experiences prepared us for this happiness that we now have. I, too, thought I was happy before, but no, it was nothing.” He paused and pulled her dress from her hips, where it had caught, letting it fall to the floor. The white material of her knee length undergarment contrasted with the soft velvety darkness of her skin. “But enough talk! Querida, let us consummate what we began thirteen years ago,” he said with a laugh, as he pulled her to him and then fell across the bed.
And there was no more talk; there was only the deep joy of their love, and the soft beating of their hearts in unison.