AnnaMaria stood on the balcony and gazed at
the moon. Looking down at
her hands, she saw that they were still trembling.
She clutched the railing and gazed over the sleeping town.
a Dios, it had only been a nightmare!
But could it be a true vision of reality.
Could Diego really be dead?
Or when I do find him and if I marry him, could such a thing
happen? Could I stand
that? All I wanted to do
six years ago was ride off and be with my hero in black, living and
loving him, never thinking about that which could happen.
She laughed bitterly, remembering the letter that she had
received from Zorro not too many months after their parting.
You are right, El Zorro.
It would not have been safe to be married to you, but not for
the reason that you gave me. Starry
eyed, wanting you just for myself.
No, my hero, you would not have been a liability to my safety,
I would have been a liability to yours.
But what about now?
AnnaMaria wondered if she was strong enough to be the wife of
such a hero. She could
“Señorita, are you all right?”
Angelina asked sleepily from the other side of the room.
“Sí, I am all right.
I just had a nightmare,” AnnaMaria said soothingly, as much
for herself as for the girl next to her bed.
“Please light a candle.
I am not tired anymore.”
Soon she was dressed, her travel bag packed.
AnnaMaria walked down to the main floor of the tavern.
She sat at a table and pondered while the innkeeper began
preparing for the day. It
was only a half-day’s journey to Los Angeles.
She should have heard stories about Zorro, but there had been
none. Again her heart
constricted. Could it
really be true? she asked herself.
“Señorita, would you care for some
breakfast?” the innkeeper asked.
And bring some champurrado with it,” AnnaMaria said.
“You are up early,” he said as he wiped
“Sí,” she said simply.
He left, but when he returned with her chocolate she asked him,
“Señor, tell me of the de la Vegas.
Specifically Don Diego.”
“What is there to tell, señorita?
They are rich and I am not.
We serve some of their wine.
It is the best in the area.”
He said nothing more and finally left.
As she ate, AnnaMaria listened to those around her, impatient
to finish her journey to Los Angeles.
She continued to listen until the cochero announced that
he was ready to go. They
rode and still she listened, hearing the stories that her fellow
travelers were telling without adding any of her own.
When they arrived in the pueblo,
AnnaMaria arranged for the storage of her belongings in a room in the
inn and then hired a carriage to take her to Don Diego’s hacienda.
She forced her racing heart to calm itself.
“Angelina, stay here with the luggage.”
“But señorita,” the servant
“It will be all right,” AnnaMaria said.
“Just do as I say. Trust
me in this.”
The carriage ride seemed interminable although
she was fully aware that the distance was no more than that from her
own hacienda to Monterey. Soon
she was at the gate. It
was exactly like the one in her dream/nightmare and her breath caught
in her throat. A servant
opened the door at her knock and admitted her.
Diego was sitting at a small table on the patio.
He looked up in surprise.
It is good to see you,” she said, controlling her emotions.
He did not seem terribly happy to see her.
“Please, sit down,” he said, standing and
pulling out a chair. Diego
seemed to move stiffly. “What
brings you to Los Angeles?”
“You,” she said simply.
“I came to apologize.”
She paused. “You
never wrote to me, except….”
“You never gave me reason to hope.
And there were other reasons,” he said, interrupting her.
This is not going well, she
thought. He seemed
distant. But why
shouldn’t he? He is
right. I told him that I
would never consider him as anything but a brother.
That was the word he used and I agreed.
“Diego,” she began, laying her hand on his.
“There is so much I have thought about, so much I have
regretted. I have seen
your face often in my dreams recently.”
thought you only dreamed about Zorro,” he said, his voice holding a
AnnaMaria drew back.
“I am sorry.
That was rude of me,” he said apologetically.
AnnaMaria smiled softly.
“I deserved that. You
have no reason to apologize.” She
paused. “Diego, you are
right. I do dream about
Zorro.” He looked
sharply at her and she was shocked to see that his eyes seemed to hold
a kind of hopelessness. They
were devoid of the humor and optimism they had contained when he had
been in Monterey almost six years ago.
They were empty.
What happened to you, Diego? she
thought, some of the despair at her waking returning.
She said a quick prayer to the Virgin for guidance.
“In my dreams, I see you and Zorro.
And because of my dreams, I have come to realize that there are
so many similarities between you and Zorro.
You are so quick to stand up for the rights of others.
You had the courage to stand up even to the governor for the
rights of the peons . . . something that I would not have
remotely considered back then. Both
of you are quick to act and quick to forgive.”
He sighed and leaned back in his chair,
wincing as his shoulders touched the wrought iron.
Immediately, AnnaMaria was up out of her chair
and standing behind Diego. As
she touched his shoulder, he winced again.
She noticed Bernardo coming out of the house, a tray with a
variety of drinks on it in his hands.
His eyes gazed at her in wonder as recognition dawned.
Gently, she felt along the line of his
shoulder from his neck to the top of his arm.
She probed further down his chest with her fingers and was
shocked to feel scars, one very deep.
“What happened, Diego?” she asked.
Bernardo set the tray down and looked from one person to the
other. She began to
carefully massage the ravaged area that lay just below the collarbone
of his right shoulder. Diego
grunted with pain once, but then seemed to relax.
She continued her massage.
“You always did have soft, gentle
fingers,” he commented, sighing.
“What happened, Diego?” AnnaMaria asked
again, continuing her therapy.
“I had . . . an accident.
I fell off a horse,” he replied.
“When did this happen?”
“Just before Navidad,” he answered.
So the dream was partially real.
Holy Mother of God! He
has suffered with this for over four months.
She rubbed a bit harder, moving his arm to check
mobility. “Diego, have
you no doctors in this pueblo?"
“Yes, but when did you become a
physician?” he asked, his breath whistling through his teeth in
“Milana taught me many things before she
married. She has
continued to teach me much. I
had no idea six years ago that she was so talented,” AnnaMaria
explained. “But there
were many things I took for granted six years ago.”
“AnnaMaria, why are you here?” Diego asked
bluntly. “And do not
say it is to apologize. You
could have done that in a letter.”
“Like the one you sent me?”
Bernardo continued to stand in the shadows of
the large tree, his eyes still searching each conversationalist’s
face. “I never sent you
a . . . what? Wait a
minute. You just accused
me of never sending you a letter.”
He twisted around and gazed at her.
“You didn’t let me finish my sentence,
Diego. You never sent me
a letter except that one.”
“But I did not send you anything.
I felt it futile,” he said, the slight bitterness in his
voice again. “You
have not asked me if there is a Señora de la Vega.
For all you know you could be massaging a married man’s
shoulder.” He paused,
and rubbed his eyes with his left hand and then looked into her face.
“Perhaps you should leave, AnnaMaria.
The past is over. There
is no future.” This
time the bitterness was unmistakable.
“I knew that there would be no Señora
de la Vega,” she said softly, her voice almost a whisper.
“Because you could not let down those people who believe in
His stare became rigid, his eyes hard.
“So that is what this visit is all about.
It all comes down to Zorro.
That is all it ever was . . . Zorro!
Well, your visit is in vain, Zorro is dead.”
The voice was hard like ice.
AnnaMaria almost sobbed.
Santa Maria help me! There
is so much pain here and part of it is my doing.
“No, Diego, Zorro is not dead.
I saw Zorro in the plaza of Monterey not too long ago,
protecting a young lady from a drunken soldier.
I saw Zorro in Santa Barbara on the way here, helping an old
priest fix his broken cart. I
saw Zorro last year give a pouch of gold coins to a family whose house
had burnt down. There is
a part of Zorro in everyone who desires justice.”
Diego said nothing, just stared at her.
“Diego, what happened?” she asked for the
third time, taking up her massaging again.
“Please tell me.”
“AnnaMaria, I do not love you anymore.
Your visit is in vain,” he said softly, his voice devoid of
“I realized that you no longer love me and I
do not blame you,” she replied, feeling her heart break.
“I was so very blind. I
said that I dreamed of you and Zorro, both of you.
That is when I realized that Zorro is a more . . . flamboyant
manifestation of you. That
by loving Zorro, I was really loving you.
You are the heart of courage, you are the soul of justice for
the people, and you are the mind behind the hero.
Zorro is the extension of you.
Seeing Zorro is seeing you.”
Her breath caught in her throat in a soft sob.
“Diego, can you ever forgive me?
I was such a child. So
naïve, so cruel.” She
rubbed some more. “What
happened? I know you did
not fall from a horse, unless you fell on a bullet.
And why is Zorro dead?”
“A lancer’s aim got better,” Diego said
noncommittally. His voice
still lacked animation, she noticed.
“And you almost died.”
“Yes, and Zorro did die,” he added.
Are there no more injustices?” she asked.
“You are a fine one to ask that question,
AnnaMaria. You who was
all for the unmasking at the tolling of the angelus,” he said
“Touché, but I have since realized that
Zorro is bigger than what I want,” she said.
“There are injustices, but they will have to
be righted by someone else. I
cannot use a sword,” Diego replied.
“Diego, if you never don the black outfit
again, if you never pick up a sword again, you will still be able to
right injustices,” AnnaMaria said.
“You will still be Zorro.”
He laughed bitterly.
“I am nothing, AnnaMaria.
Nothing. I have a
ranch, but I have no family. I
have a cause, but am not fit enough to take it on.”
Tears fell down her cheeks and AnnaMaria was
glad that she was still massaging his shoulder and he could not see
her. “I rode with a man
from Santa Barbara who said that there was a time a few years ago when
he received money from El Zorro.
It was to replace his orange trees that had been destroyed by a
drought. He also said
that he firmly believed that Zorro had received the money from Diego
de la Vega, who had tried to give him money earlier in the day.”
Diego said nothing and she continued, “I
listened in a nearby tavern and heard several peons talk about
how Don Diego had paid their tax money, or paid Dr. Avila when their
children were sick. A vaquero
mentioned how the best employers he had ever had were the de la Vegas.
Sgt. Garcia still considers you his best friend.
Diego, Zorro is not dead,” she reached around and pointed at
his heart. “He still
Diego took her hand and held it.
“When did you become so perceptive?” he asked.
This time his voice was softer, more like it had been in the
past. Then, as though
realizing what he had said, stammered, “I . . . I did not mean it
“I know. And the
companion question—when did I begin to have empathy?
When did I begin to care?”
She paused. “It
happened when my dreams showed me just what Zorro was all about.
When I realized what you had been trying to say the last time
we saw each other. When I
looked about me and saw the whole world, not just my part of it.”
Again, he was silent.
AnnaMaria began to rub and manipulate his shoulder again,
feeling a slight increase in motion.
“You know, it is entirely possible that you may not be able
to use a sword again, but on the other hand, I think it’s possible
that you could.” She waited
for him to say something and when he didn’t she continued, “But it
will take time and it will take hard work on your part.”
“Do you really think so?” he finally asked, hope
in his voice.
you will let me, I can help you limber up your shoulder,” she said.
Diego took her hand and then pulled her around
to face him. “AnnaMaria,
please understand, you are a friend, but I do not love you now.
And if I am able to ride again, the same limitation will apply
that was in effect when I left you in Monterey.”
His tone was blunt, but his eyes held the light that she had
seen in them six years ago.
“Diego, I . . . have to be honest with you.
I love you, but I cannot force you to do anything you do not
want to do. I now respect
you too much for that. I
will help you because I do respect you, love you and love the kind of
man that has been selflessly giving of himself for the past seven
years.” She lowered her
eyes and gathered her thoughts. “It
“What?” he asked.
“By helping you, I lose you.
By not helping you, I have a chance of having a life with
you,” AnnaMaria said. “But
I will help you, Diego, if for no other reason, then to see you
“Look at me, AnnaMaria,” he said.
She looked into his eyes.
“I see someone so much more than the person I loved in
Monterey. I feel some of
the same stirrings, feelings, but again, if I am able to ride once
more, I cannot have a family.”
“I respect that, but I disagree with your
reasoning,” she said, her eyes blurred with unshed tears.
He looked puzzled. “Someone
who respects what you do, and is willing to share her husband with the
people he serves can be a part of that hero’s life,” AnnaMaria
“You did not feel that way before.”
His eyes never left hers.
It was as though he was trying to see into her soul.
“No, but I do now,” she responded quickly.
“Very well, then, Dr. Verdugo.
You do what you can and we shall see,” Diego said with a soft
chuckle. AnnaMaria saw
Bernardo grinning in the shadows, but did not think until later why
that would be so. She
only saw the hope that was mirrored in her own heart.
She began to massage more earnestly, feeling
the muscles that had atrophied, deciding how best to proceed.
With a great deal of patience, she thought, her heart
singing songs of happiness. And