Usually I write more light-hearted or adventurous stories, but sometimes life has a way of dealing one the very hard blows and knocks.  This story came about as part of a general 'life stinks' attitude that I had been dealing with for most of this year.   It also combined with a discussion about Anna Maria Verdugo, the one seņorita that Diego seems to have become smitten with during the tenure of the show. 

The reader must understand two things before reading this pretty short, two part story.   (A. I do not like the character of Anna Maria as it was presented by the writers of Zorro.  There are various reasons that I can explain in a private email if you want to contact me.    (B. You must be ready to read both parts in one sitting, otherwise I will not be responsible for your aggravated state of mind. 

This story takes place about six years after Zorro left Monterey and his lady love.   And it is entirely from Anna Maria's point of view. 

Anna Maria Verdugo, Diego de la Vega and Bernardo all belong to Walt Disney and Zorro Productions.  I promise to put them back when I am done with them.    I lovingly dedicate this story to Mary Sheeran, for whom there is always hope.  Thanks. 




Part One


AnnaMaria woke up, her heart pounding, her breath coming in quick gasps.  The dream!  The same dream!  The one that had haunted her off and on for more than six years now.  Would it never leave her alone?  Couldn't she just forget? 

No, how could she forget the only man she had ever truly loved?  How could she forget that voice, those eyes and most especially his lips?  Zorro had told her that she would see him again.  In a way, he was right.  She did see him; she saw him in her dreams.  Constantly at first, but now less often.  Somehow, though, the dreams seemed more intense, more detailed and vivid, even if less frequent. 

.....She was on that magnificent white horse, in front of her hero, leaning back against the chest of the man that she wanted to live with forever.  But he had not come at the time of the angelus.  He had come later.  What did he tell her during that ride?  After she had asked him if his choice was to remain an outlaw....

"For the present I must," he had said.  "I cannot let down those people who believe in me," he added, the conviction strong in his eyes.  However, there had been pain there, too, she realized much later.  He had wanted to come to her. 

She remembered vividly his next words, the ones that almost begged her.  "Can you understand that?" he had asked. 

What else could she say than what she had said, "Perhaps in time.  When I have had a chance to think."  She had felt such pain at the time.  He was giving her up.  They loved each other.  What else mattered?  What else could be more powerful than that?  But he had left her. 

"Will I ever see your face?" she remembered asking, such longing to almost break her heart.  AnnaMaria had hoped, even then, that he would reveal himself to her, that perhaps....   But no, all he would say is, "You have only to look about you." 

What in the world did that mean?  That it was someone in the pueblo?  But though she searched and listened and tried to discern who it could be, always she was frustrated.   And his last words?   "Adios, AnnaMaria.  We will meet again."

But they never did meet again.  Not during the year that her father was in Spain, not during the mourning period when she learned of his death at sea on the return voyage.   And certainly not for the past few years when she felt that she would go out of her mind wondering who the wonderful, gallant, strong outlaw was. 

But he had promised to see her again.  He had promised!  Maybe he is not so very gallant, she thought bitterly.  He sent her one letter.  It had been a friendly letter, but in it, he had hinted that she might be better off looking for someone in Monterey who could make her happy.   No one else could make her happy!  How could he have been so close to her and not realized that? 

The people had believed in him.  She watched the peons around her as she walked to church or in the plaza to shop.  She saw how they worked at their looms for the few pesos that they earned each day.  Or painted their pots, or sold tamales and chilies.  She saw their half starved children and her heart wrenched.  Is this what he meant?  These people believed in him, at least they had in the beginning.  Now they seemed to have forgotten the magnificent man in black.  But she never could.  Never!

But where was he?  He seemed to have disappeared just as quickly as he had appeared.  And he had never reappeared, at least not here, in Monterey.  She had heard reports of his activities in Los Angeles. 

Sergeant Garcia had said something about Los Angeles.  Yes, he was from Los Angeles.  Zorro was from Los Angeles, too.  Why did he come to Monterey?  To steal her heart and leave her bitter and lonely?   He must have come to guard the couriers along their way.  To protect the investments of the citizens of Los Angeles.  

But that did not seem like something that Zorro would go out of his way to do......  protect money?  No!  Protect people!  Then why had he come to Monterey?  There was no earthly reason.  

"You have only to look about you."   She saw her gallant caballero in the eyes of the man who helped an old woman pick up her fallen fruits, in the lilting call of encouragement that one worker gave another, in the quick steps of a young man rushing to aide a child fallen by the side of the roadway.  But they were not Zorro, they were only the spirit of the people who believed in him. 

"You have only to look about you."  He was gone shortly after he had said those words, but what about during the time he was there.  Who was about her?   Ricardo?  No, only part of the time.  Cerrano?  Of course not, silly!  He was part of the conspiracy.   Diego?  Yes, he was there the entire time that Zorro was, having arrived the same day Zorro was first seen and leaving the day after she had last seen her magnificent Fox. 

Oh, no!  It couldn't be.  Not Diego.  Sweet, kind, brotherly Diego?   AnnaMaria laughed, even as she slipped out of bed and pulled the coverlet around her shoulders.  The moonlight entered the room from the same window that Zorro had entered that one night so long ago.  That was the night she had tried to stab him.  How foolish she had been.  Her one true protector and she tried to drive him away. 

Zorro had told her to listen to Diego, but she had been so confused and distraught and had not done what she had been told.   Yes, she thought, I should have listened to both of them.

Both of them?  She remembered Diego's eyes.  She remembered the passion of his eyes when he had bent to kiss her hand.   The sparkling humor of Zorro's eyes was darkened that day when he left her.  But there was something the same about both. 

"Adios, AnnaMaria," he had said, just before riding off.  He had said that before, hadn't he?  She frowned, trying to remember.  No, he hadn't, Diego had.  He had said that, or something similar when she and her father had ridden away to catch the boat to Spain.    That was when she had handed him the letter to give to Zorro.  The outlaw had told her that he had received it, told her how much it meant to him. 

No, you silly goose," she thought for the thousandth time.  It couldn't be Diego. 

But he was not there for the angelus, he only showed up later that day, his saddlebags packed, sadness in his eyes.   Sadness!  That sadness!  She had seen it earlier in the day, but she had only paid attention to her own sadness, trying to laugh it away through Ricardo's inane joking.  Why had Diego been sad!  He had lost her, she had told him so.  Diego, the voice of reason, the gentle brother.   Why had Zorro been sad?  He had lost her. 

AnnaMaria gasped and grabbed in her jewelry box for the one and only letter she had received from Zorro.  She looked at it again.  It had come from Los Angeles.   She flew down the dimly lit stairs, the letter from her beloved clutched tightly in her fist.  She looked in the library, on the shelf where the old ledgers were kept.  The receipts for the money donated for the goods from Spain.  She lit a candle and gazed carefully at the entries.   There, 17,000 pesos.  From Los Angeles.  She remembered Diego entering the amount and the date, along with his signature as the representative of the people of Los Angeles.  Flattening the letter from Zorro, she compared the script.  So little to compare, but what was there was the same.   It was the same!  

Diego is Zorro!   How could I not have seen that?  How could I?  AnnaMaria looked at the Diego of her past with new eyes.  She now saw the similarities, the same flowing, cat-like walk, the smooth, deep tones of the voice, the intensity in the eyes.   Same height, same build, same mustache, same gentle hands.   Oh, Dios, mio!  Diego fought in his own way for the rights of others, Zorro did as well.  He fought for her, he fought for the peons and vaqueros, he fought for her father and for the soldiers.  They both did.  How could they not, being the same person. 

The moon guided her back up the stairs.  Her heart guided her to prepare for the trip to Los Angeles.  She had packed her trunk by the time the sun had risen.  Her maids looked at her in concern, but she told them nothing.  She only took Angelina, the quiet one.  She didn't want the others, they chattered too much.  She wanted to be able to think on the long journey. 

And think she did, trying to figure out ways to apologize to Diego for her obtuseness.  If he was still riding as the Fox, she could help him, even if only by being there for him when he returned.  She could help him protect his secret, she could bear him children who would have the same passion, compassion and fire of El Zorro, for that was what Diego publicly repressed in order to remain anonymous.  The fire that she loved so much.  She now realized that it resided in an unseen corner of Diego de la Vega.  

She pictured the reunion, the renewed romance.  A wedding.  Children.  She pictured massaging his aching shoulders after a long night.  She pictured the kisses, his murmured words in her ear.   Throughout the trip, she saw his face, with and without the mask. 

In Los Angeles, she paid a peon to take her things to the tavern to be stored in her room until she returned, escorted by Diego.  She hired a carriage to take her and Angelina to the Hacienda de la Vega.  It seemed interminable, that trip.  Then they were there.  It was a grand hacienda, but quiet.  There did not seem to be anyone around, but a servant finally came to the patio door and let her in. 

"Don Diego, please.  I am here to see Don Diego," she said, breathlessly. 

"Oh, seņorita, do you not know?  Don Diego died last year.  He was shot," the servant said, sadness in his voice.

No! her heart cried out.  NO!  But maybe she was wrong.  Maybe Diego was not Zorro.  "Zorro?" 

"Seņorita, Don Diego was Zorro.  Don Alejandro was spared because of his age and the fact that many believed him unknowing of the young master's actions, but his mind has not been the same since."  The servant paused.  "But the mozo died shortly after his master."  He paused yet again.  "Now we have no one to believe in."

AnnaMaria began to cry, great tears of despair and misery.  I am too late!  And she realized that she, too, had no one to believe in anymore.




Part Two
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