The Past Returns
“Jandro, are you crazy?
We had the opportunity to meet him.”
Maria Isabella, nicknamed Mari, stood with her hands on her hips,
glaring at her twin in something akin to disgust mixed with disbelief.
After all this time, the memories were about to become a reality
and her brother got nervous and backed out.
“It wasn’t the right time…and keep your
voice down,” Alejandro said, glancing around at those passing by on
the busy side street. Their horses stood placidly, chewing on their
have changed since Mother was here,” she countered.
“Maybe they are more tolerant of strangers,
but we still can’t take a chance,” he said, his voice low.
To anyone passing by, they could have been speaking Russian,
Italian or Chinese; it wouldn’t have mattered.
There was only one person in this entire pueblo who might
be able to understand what they were saying and he was in the plaza.
“And I want to talk privately, not with others around.”
Mari looked thoughtful.
She turned and stroked the soft velvet nose of her palomino
gelding. “Yes, I suppose
you are right about that. We
have waited twelve years, another day or two will definitely not
“Let’s go and tell Mother what we have found
out,” Jandro said, mounting his bay gelding.
His feelings as he had seen Diego de la Vega approach were mixed.
While he ached to meet this man who had almost been the stuff of
legends for the past twelve years, he also felt fear.
Would the Designated One want to meet him?
There was a little girl he was taking care of now, and it was
clear even without Señor Reyes’ account that he dearly loved
the child. Would there be
room in his heart for two other children?
Two children he didn’t even know he had?
Jandro had been amazed at how closely his father
had resembled the memory-accessed pictures his mother had put up in
their room. He only looked
a little bit older; the mustache was the same, the eyes the same, the
smile was almost the same, only a little sadder, not so bright.
The features, the stride, the voice, all almost like his
mother’s memories. He had
worn out the disks watching his father, over and over again.
Perhaps he is a bit more filled out, Jandro thought, but
essentially he’s the same man who had shown up on Rantir thirteen
He turned and watched Mari mount. Her face was contemplative.
As they rode out of the pueblo in a direction roughly
northeast, the minutes stretched into a long silence.
After they had ridden beyond the small homes and huts at the
outskirts of the little town, Jandro pulled back on his reins and let
Mari ride up beside him. Her
face still appeared thoughtful. Then
she turned to him, smiling brightly.
Uh, oh, he thought.
She has a plan. Aloud
he said, “What’s on your mind, Mari?” Jandro asked, knowing his
“We don’t tell Mother what we found out, we
arrange for them to meet,” she suggested, her voice raised in
“Mari, you’re the one who is crazy!”
Jandro exclaimed. “How
would we do that? How do we
know he wants to? What if
they don’t like each other anymore?”
Sighing, Mari began explaining as she would to a
much younger sibling. “Jandro,
he still loves Mother, he named our half-sister after her. Señor Reyes said he loved her very deeply before and
that he still did. And we
know Mother still loves Father. She
has never formed another union and told me she still considers herself
united, since she didn’t say the words of dissolution.
“All right, then.
How do you plan to bring them together?” Jandro asked bluntly.
“Hmm, I haven’t thought of that,” she
said, with a slight frown. “But
I’ll think of something.”
Diego knew he was dreaming, but there seemed
nothing he could do to stop it, nor at the moment, did he want to…
Her skin was warm against his body, its
smoothness satiny against the coarse hair of his chest.
He caressed her arm, brought his fingers under her chin and
tilted it up until her lips met his.
The kiss began gently, but soon turned fierce, two people hungry
for one other and not able to get enough. When they finally pulled away
from each other, they were panting slightly.
Diego pulled Minta’s white-gold hair back from her face
brushing his fingertips lightly across her cheek.
He saw her shiver slightly.
“Are you cold, querida?” he
“No, mi amante, it is your
touch that thrills me so.”
“Then I will touch you some more,” Diego
said, a large grin on his face. His
hands worked their way down her torso, massaging, gently touching,
feeling her excitement, and letting it add to his own.
“Little Maria Isabella will be soft like
you,” he murmured, his hand resting lightly on her stomach. “And Alejandro will be lithe, but tough, his fingers hard
from using the rope and riding the hills with the vaqueros.”
“Children?” she asked, puzzled.
Diego looked at her eagerly and then realized
where her bewilderment came from. He
drew back suddenly, the passion of the moment gone in the flaring of
“I am a unit, Diego. Units have never
conceived and borne children,” Minta murmured, her face showing
remorse for causing him pain.
“Did you not say that I was kidnapped for
that purpose?” Diego asked.
Remotely in his mind, he wondered at this scene,
it didn’t seem right, as though there was something wrong.
“But I can only guess that such a thing
takes time,” Minta explained.
“Yes, mi amor, nine
months,” he replied, chuckling, trying to salvage the awkward moment.
I am not teasing. I
may not be able to have children,” she said, sadness deepening her
Then he saw her in the coffin, still and
lifeless, her stomach swollen with a child she could never have. The red-flamed candles flickered their cruel indictment to
his ineffectualness. He
cried out in his anguish, but only a mocking echoing laugh answered
No children…no children…no children…..
Diego woke up, sweat dripping down his neck, his
breath coming in short gasps. He
had thought the dreams were finally finished, that he had finally let
Minta go. In the past five
or so years only fleeting thoughts that disappeared quickly when he
awoke had haunted his sleep, fleeting variations of moments with Minta.
This one, though, was vivid, as powerful and
devastating as the ones he had for the first year after Minta had left,
as forceful as the ones that had almost driven him mad. This was more or
less a parallel of the conversation they had had during their journey on
board the ship. What was
most similar, though, was the bitter disappointment he felt, and
Minta’s sadness and her look of guilt that accompanied his
disappointment. Then there
was his guilt at making her sad.
Those children in the plaza; they could
have been his if they were a bit younger.
They appeared to be about fourteen or fifteen.
How could such a coincidence occur?
How could two children have the very names he had planned on
christening his children?
Diego groaned, rubbing his hand over his face,
feeling the wet slickness of tears on his face.
When would he be able to totally let her go? Since Minta had left, the only times he had ever cried was in
his sleep. Sleep was his
release, but it was also his personal Hell.
It was exquisite, those dreams, exquisite in the sweetness of the
memories, however changed they might be, but he always woke up feeling
the intense pain of his loss. For
the first years of little Minta’s life, he had also dreamed of
Conchita, sweet dreams of her gentle caring mixed with the horror of her
death, but those had, even then, been interspersed with dreams of the
first Minta. Now, when his
dreams of Conchita had faded to only soft memories of her healing love,
he still had dreams of Minta, vivid, sometimes, like this one, harshly
Most of the time these dreams happened after a
long, hard day, or when he had been out riding as Zorro and was tired.
Tonight was no exception. He had visited the camps of the vaqueros
during the day to check on the culling of steers for slaughter.
During the evening Zorro had ridden, trying to find those who had
attacked Pepito’s camp, injured several vaqueros, two severely,
and stolen all of their cattle. From
what he had been told, this had also happened the night before at one of
Don Julian Delgado’s camps. He
had been unable to find the whereabouts of the rustlers and had returned
Knowing that there would be no more sleep
tonight, Diego slid out of bed. He
pulled off the damp nightshirt and tossed it on a nearby chair.
In the wardrobe, Bernardo had hung a clean white shirt and a pair
of riding calzoneros for the new day.
Putting them on, Diego thought about the effort that his mozo,
whose joints were slowly stiffening due to arthritis, still went to in
order to serve him. He
stepped out of his room where he stood on the balcony, gazing over the
patio and beyond that, the hills of the de la Vega lands.
Quietly, Diego padded down the stairs, feeling solace in the cold
of the stone beneath his feet. He
strode through the sala, and on into the library where he lit two
candles. They illuminated the room enough to allow him to see the
books on the bookcase, although he figured he could find the various
titles blindfolded. Reaching
up to a particular shelf, he pulled down The Life and strange and
surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.
He had always had a copy since his university days, but until the
end of Spanish rule, it had been in a more discreet place.
Now he got it out often, transcribing parts into simple Spanish
for little Minta to read out loud to him and his father.
He felt too tired to do any translating tonight,
but he did want to re-read some parts.
Diego simply let the book open to whatever page it would and his
eyes fell on a particular passage, “In a word, as my life was a life
of sorrow one way, so it was a life of mercy another…”
Laying the book on his lap and sighing, he stared at the embers
in the fireplace, seeing the face of his dear Minta, the kind features
of his second wife, Conchita, and the smiling, mischievous countenance
of his little one. He
blinked and still saw little Minta.
“Papá, may I sit in your lap?”
“Of course, my darling,” Diego said, placing
the book on a little table next to the chair and taking his daughter in
his arms. “But you should
be in bed. It is entirely
too late for someone your age to be up,” he admonished.
“But Papá, it is too late for you to be up,
too,” she replied, her voice too bright to give credence to the stern
“Ah, sometimes I cannot sleep, little one,”
“Were you calling for her again?” she asked.
“Again?” Diego asked, a bit puzzled.
I have heard you often. At
first I thought it was for me and I would come to your door and listen,
but then I knew it was for her…”
Diego had thought his dreams were muted and
fleeting until tonight, but apparently they were not.
“I am sorry to have awakened you, pequeña,” he
murmured, kissing her lightly on the forehead.
And indeed he was sorry.
“Papa, did you love Mama?”
“Chiquita, what a question. Of course I did.”
“But you never have called out Mama’s name
like you do the other lady,” Minta said, laying her head on Diego’s
Diego felt his heart constrict for his child.
He had dearly loved Minta’s mother as he had the first Minta,
and he had felt deep sorrow when she had died, as well as genuine loss.
“I loved her differently, Minta.
Your mother was sweet and gentle like you.
She helped me to . . . to get well.
She was very pretty, just as you are.
But she and I did not choose each other for marriage.
It took me a while to learn to love her.”
Grandfather Alejandro and Grandfather Joaquin picked Mama for
you.” She paused and then
looked up into his eyes. Her
dark brown eyes were full of questions, but then, he thought, they
usually were. “But you and the other lady did choose each other?”
“In a way, little one, we did, and yet, we did
“I just wish you had named me a regular name,
like Maria or Innocencia or Marguerita.
Miguel laughs at my name,” Minta said with a sigh.
She snuggled deeper on his lap, reaching her arms as far around
his chest as she could.
Diego reciprocated, wrapping his arms around
her. He knew that the
children on the hacienda sometimes teased her about her name,
especially Benito’s son, Miguel. “Minta, if you knew the story of
the first Minta, you would not think so.
I named you after her because you are both special.
And do not forget, I also named you after your mother.
I . . . just could not call you by her name then.
It was . . .” How
in the world can I explain this? “ . . . It was too soon after
your mother died, chiquita.
The story of the first Minta is a long and strange story, but
then you have never wanted to hear about her,” Diego said gently, but
a bit reproachfully.
Minta sat quietly in his lap and he began to
think she had fallen asleep, but then he heard her sigh again.
“Papá, tonight I dreamed of her, too.”
Diego jerked his head up in surprise.
“You did? How did
you know it was her?”
“She was dark, as dark, almost, as Zorro’s
horse and her hair was like the sunshine.
She was looking for you and calling your name, Papá, like she
“But, Minta, you have always refused to let me
talk to you about her. How
could you know?”
“Grandfather Alejandro told me a little bit
about her, even when I did not want to listen,” she said.
“In the dream she said she loved you, Papá. And she wanted to see you again.” Minta looked deeply into his eyes. “Could you tell me about her now?”
“Yes,” Diego said, his voice husky with choked off emotion. “I can tell you about her.” The soft murmuring of his voice continued until shortly before the sun rose, when they fell asleep in each other’s arms, their dreams filled with the peace of happy memories and loving hearts.