Diego stood, alone in the stable, doing his best to keep from being sick to his stomach while leaning his hands on the wall partition of the stall that had housed the horse Victoria had taken. However, even leaning over and taking deep breaths did little to calm his heaving stomach. It was only the sound of crackling straw from behind him that made him finally lean back and stand straight, though the effort nearly made him fall over, instead. The twist and turns of the adventures of Zorro had never affected him so completely as simply standing up straight affected him now; he felt strangely tingly, weak, and cold at the same time sickening waves of heat kept radiating from his heart in his chest. Vaguely, he wondered if extreme heat was the first sign of a breaking heart, but he didn't particularly care enough to ask anybody about it. Rather, he turned his head to regard his father's expression of mangled regret.
I gather that Victoria got her memory back, Alejandro
Diego heard his father's nonchalant tone, but wasn't fooled
by Alejandro's seeming disinterest in the affair. He did his
best to answer, anyway, to stem the curiosity that was bound to
Yes, this morning... Last night, I asked her
to marry me, she agreed, but, then, this morning... she just woke
up and remembered... everything, he ended on a soft, sad
voice that threatened to break unless he took better control of
it. But Diego wasn't sure he cared enough to want to take
better control of himself. He wasn't sure about anything
And that ended the engagement, Alejandro correctly
I guess it was too much of an emotional moment for
her, he whispered and sighed, the heavy sound washing through
the stalls of the animals to seep into the walls of the stable.
Without another word, he held aloft a white shirt belonging to
him, knowing that it wouldn't fit his much taller son, but also
knowing that it was better than wearing nothing. Equally as
silent, Diego took the shirt and pushed his arms into the
It was then that Alejandro happened to glance down at the
floor, and he first noted his son's bare feet. He may have been
able to remain silent about Diego's shirtless state of undress,
but he was surprised enough by the sight of bare feet in the
stable to say something about them.
began in stunned surprise.
Where are your boots? Why on
Earth are you barefoot?
Father, Diego began, as if explaining something very
patiently to a small child.
Victoria barely gave me enough
time to throw on my trousers... boots were hardly my first
Thus the conversation had been carried back to the subject
of Victoria... again, Alejandro sighed.
Well, Diego, what do
you plan to do now?
Plan? Do? Diego barked something that sounded like
a laugh that lacked humor.
I have no idea. I was hoping you
could offer some advice.
Me? Now, that request did surprise Alejandro,
according to his stunned tone of voice.
It's unfortunate, but
I can't tell you anything to help you through something like
It was hard to stem the tide of tears that wanted to slide
impetuously down his cheeks, but in deference to his father's
views of strength and control, Diego did his best to hide the
sudden depression that coated his very soul. Interrupting
Alejandro, Diego stuttered,
But... but... I've never...
never gone through... something like this before...
Alejandro gave a start.
Do you think that because your
mother died, I somehow know..? He exhaled a shivery breath,
Diego, I hope this isn't as bad as that
feeling of total despondency that I felt then, but...
How do you expect me to feel? Diego bit out, galled
at his father's words, then tried to calm his feelings of anger
and despair so that he wouldn't take them out on his father, who
certainly didn't deserve his rebukes. In a much softer voice,
Diego went on,
Victoria's gone... In fact, she couldn't leave
here fast enough... she didn't even take the time to get dressed!
And you think that I shouldn't feel just a little bit
despondent..? His tone was bitter, now.
Diego, that's not what I meant, and you know it!
Alejandro said in some anger of his own. He turned around once,
a quick jerk of a movement, then put his right hand carefully
down on his son's quivering back.
Why don't you tell me what
happened? he suggested.
Perhaps, then I can help.
So he had heard nothing? Diego wondered in an abject,
obscure, hazy kind of way. How much did his father really know?
he asked himself. But he still had a difficult time caring
overly much about the answer.
What is... He had to clear
his throat and start again.
What is there to say? Diego
I proposed marriage to Victoria last
night, and she seemed thrilled to accept... Damn, his voice
Then... then, this morning... He inhaled
the comforting smells of horses, hay, and manure in order to
This morning, the minute she woke up, she... she
appeared to have her memory back. Then she... she came to my
room and said... she just couldn't go through with it, he
She couldn't marry me.
Alejandro sighed again, and this time the sound of regret in
his breath was more evident.
It's just as I feared, he
As you feared? Diego exploded in a sad burst of
You mean that you expected this to happen? he half
asked, half accused.
No, no, of course not, Alejandro said immediately,
No, that's not what I meant at all, he
assured, but then added,
I can't say that I'm
surprised, exactly, but...
Diego lifted his head, curious in spite of himself.
What? he cried.
Alejandro attempted to explain,
Let's face it, Diego,
Victoria has been so enamored with Zorro for so long that it's no
wonder she thinks she can't marry another man at all, let alone
marry someone right now!
I'm not in competition with Zorro for
Victoria's hand! he firmly said, though, if her were
completely honest with himself, he would have to admit that he
was, indeed, his own opposition.
Of course you aren't, Alejandro soothed immediately.
But, you have to admit that there are certain extenuating
circumstances connected to Victoria that can't be ignored, no
matter how much we would like to pretend they don't exist! he
insisted in a persuasive way. Then, he sighed once more.
Diego, I know that you claim to be in love with
There's no 'claim' about it! Diego emphatically said.
I am, and there's nothing I can do to hide my emotions any
All right, all right, Alejandro said with a calming
wave of his hands.
All right, that's an established fact,
Now, we both know that this new law of the King's
will force Victoria, for whatever dubious reason the King has, to
marry in less that two weeks...
Yes, I know that, Diego insisted.
But I don't
want to be second choice just because Victoria is being forced to
marry someone be the middle of August or face going to
jail because she can't afford to pay the fine!
That's not what I was going to say! Alejandro
Then what is it, Father? Diego asked in
Because I'm not going to stand
out here in a shirt that's too small for me and listen to...
But, Diego stopped when he realized he was expressing his anger
and heaping it onto his father again.
apologized, though he didn't sound very sorry at all.
Alejandro went on, ignoring his son's apology.
not second choice at all, he insisted.
What I'm saying is
that this is an opportunity for Victoria to calm down enough to
think things through, to view her life in a way that she never
I won't be her consolation prize! Diego said in a
sense of firmness that was hard to refute.
Alejandro argued with him, anyway.
Who said anything
about being a consolation prize? he asked.
talking about is allowing her the opportunity to re-evaluate a
Then she's going to have to re-evaluate an awful lot of
things for her to... Diego suddenly gave a start and stepped
back once from the partition of the stall.
No, he said,
chopping the air in half with his hand,
I can't do what you're
suggesting. I can't...
Finally, Alejandro lost his hold on his infamous de la Vega
Then you can say goodbye to ever seeing Victoria
again, because after she's thrown in the Los Angeles jail, she'll
be transferred to the jail in San Diego and be out of your reach
if you don't swallow that de la Vega pride of yours for once in
your life and help out the woman you swear to be in love
That's not the point! Diego contended, losing his own
hold on his temper as well.
Then what is the point? Alejandro asked.
Do you want Victoria to go to jail over this? Hm? Is that
what you want? Because...
No! Diego groaned.
That isn't what I want at all!
You have to know that!
Then act on what you're feeling! Alejandro advised.
Give her some time to come to terms with this entire
situation, and then go to her and hash it all out one day!
That's all I'm suggesting here! He raised his hand again as
if he wanted to place it in a soothing motion on Diego's back
once more, but he chose not to at the last moment and said
After all, it's not every day that a woman regains
years worth of memories when she wakes up at the crack of dawn to
discover that she owns a tavern, knows how to cook food, serve
food, run a business establishment, and claims to be in love with
Doesn't claim to be in love with a bandit,
Is in love with a bandit.
Oh, you think you know so much,
he said, not unkindly.
I've seen her watch you while we've
been in the tavern lately, and her looks have not been all
of brotherly affection, either!
Diego scoffed again.
Oh, Father, now you're imagining
I am not! Alejandro automatically refuted.
you decide for yourself, he said next.
Give her a few
days, and mark my words, she'll be apologizing the minute she
comes to terms with herself, and be begging you to take her
I doubt that, Diego felt he had to refute, but he
also couldn't quite distinguish the spark of hope that his
father's words ignited deep inside his soul, either.
be doing something besides apologizing... That's about the only
thing that I can be sure of! he predicted anyway.
You think you know so much! Alejandro jeered again,
then, sounding irritated at his son's claim that his prophecy was
Hmph! Diego snorted himself, a sound that he usually
disdained as common, but was now illustrating how bothered he was
at Victoria's apparent desertion.
I know Victoria better than
Alejandro used his son's words to further his own cause.
Well, I know that she'll be back, and before you can
start to get worried about it, he insisted with an equally
Wait and see... that's all you have to
Diego sighed one last time, hoping his father was correct,
but being the naturally suspicious person that he was, he had to
doubt his father's very words. Still, he said,
I hope you're
right, Father. I certainly hope you're right.
Go on to Chapter 9
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