Victoria's Journal

by Linda Bindner

February 12, 1822

Thursday

Dear Diary,

I caught him at it again; Diego de la Vega was in the tavern this morning, and even though he sat at a table and I was standing behind the bar, I knew he was staring at me. Watching me. Although he pretended not to be staring, of course. He stared through his eyelashes. Nobody else saw, and if you didn't know what to watch for, you'd miss it altogether. However, this isn't the first time I think he's stared at me, and this isn't the first time I've discovered him doing it. I didn't say anything, of course, and neither did he, even when I sat a cup of coffee in front of him and said it was on the house because he's such a good friend and just because it was Thursday. He declined, kindhearted soul that he is, but he still accepted the cup of coffee, even if he didn't order it, then he paid and left. But he watched me the entire time he was here. Does that mean he...? No, that's a silly thought. I was going to ask you if the watching means he has some kind of hidden affection for me, but that's ridiculous. Diego?

I must admit that he has very pretty blue eyes, though.

February 14, 1822

Sunday

Dear Diary,

He did it again, only we were in church this time. He watched me from the corners of his eyes almost the entire mass this morning. Even though I was sitting in front of him and had no trouble hearing the readings, I have no idea what went on. Of course, I have no idea what went on anyway, as the entire mass is in Latin, but I didn't notice anything for the feeling of his eyes on the back of my head. I have to remember to sit behind the de la Vegas next week. However, I won't dare ask Diego what any of the Latin means. I don't want to encourage any closeness. It's a problem; do I stay away from him, to discourage what I think is just a crush, or do I remain steadfast and true because he's always been my friend? I admit that I don't know what to do.

February 15, 1822

Monday

Dear Diary,

All right, this is getting ridiculous. Diego came into the tavern today over the lunch period and stayed for two hours. Even though he had a book with him - something about Haydn - and read, I deliberately kept my eye on him the whole time; he watched and pretended to read. I'm sure of it. I don't know for certain if he has a crush on me or not. He never says anything, so I'm not sure. If he does have a crush on me, what about Zorro? It's not like Diego doesn't know how I feel about him, even if Zorro is an outlaw with a price of 6000 pesos for his capture. I haven't exactly kept it a secret that I love him practically more than I love myself.

That reminds me to tell you; Zorro came again to see me last night. He can turn my insides to butter faster than I can say his name, even though it's not his real name. But who is he? Don't I have the right to know if anybody does? Maybe it's time to get out my list again; you know the one, those pieces of paper that I hid because I didn't want anyone to think I was being stupid for thinking that Zorro might be a caballero and I listed, then crossed out, all the possible candidates. Anyone who's as well educated as he is and smells as good as Zorro has to be a caballero. Maybe I should not cross out Diego's name this time, just for the heck of it, although the idea of him being Zorro is totally silly. If he is, that means I've kissed him many times, and would like to do more, and that idea is not possible, no matter how much he stares. A crush does not make him the man I love so much. Still, it makes me wonder...

February 20, 1822

Saturday

Dear Diary,

Sorry I haven't written in so long, but it's been terribly busy since I last wrote, both inside the tavern and out. Let me explain...

First, it really was very busy, but not too busy for me to notice that either Diego or Felipe were here every day... in fact, Felipe was here, having his lunch - burritos, I think? - when I was arrested again for showing my 'liberal tendencies' (as if having a leaning to one side or the other is a crime now) and harboring certain feelings of sympathy for a known outlaw. If only Felipe could speak, then he'd have been able to tell Diego about my predicament, who could then tell the Alcalde that arresting me was illegal. I hate spending time in the Alcalde's prison. It's cold, and the blankets they provide are scratchy and none too clean. I would never force my customers to put up with that kind of low quality.

Anyway, I'm not above being glad that my best friend knows a little about Spanish law, since I seem to be in need of his knowledge so often, but Zorro snuck into the jail last night and released me, so there was no need for Don Diego to intervene on my behalf. It was wonderful to see Zorro again so soon after his last visit, but I will complain to you that I wish he had come a bit earlier. It was almost dawn before he came, and that left me plenty of time to smell the fairly dirty blanket left for my benefit. It was hard to stand, but I know that Zorro is busy and that rescuing me from prison is certainly not his highest priority. That would account for why he didn't come sooner than he did and I had to smell all those dirty people who'd used the blanket before me for several hours until I couldn't stand the bad smell any longer and decided I'd just be cold. That's about the time Zorro snuck in. He wrapped me up in his cloak, but that didn't keep me nearly as warm as the kiss he gave me right before he left. That warmed me straight to my toes and made them curl inside my shoes. If he keeps this up, I don't know how long I will last without throwing myself at him. That wouldn't be very dignified or proper, but it would keep me from going crazy, and that means it must be worth something.

Oh, Diego stared while he was in the tavern, and I haven't had the chance to look at my list. I still don't really know what to do about either problem.

February 25, 1822

Thursday

Dear Diary,

It always seems to be Thursday when I write... sorry about that. I haven't had time to write before now. But wooooo, do I ever have something to tell you.

First of all, nothing much has changed in the Diego watching category. He comes in most every day, watches while he pretends to do something else, like read or have a conversation with Don Alejandro or Sergeant Mendoza, then he pays for anything he ordered while he was secretly staring, and leaves. I still don't know what to do about the staring or even if I should do anything. He never does more than stare, but I am engaged to somebody else, and his staring makes me feel very uncomfortable.

Uncomfortable and guilty enough to copy the list I'd made one more time and resist crossing his name out. I crossed out the names of anybody else who isn't the right height or is too old or not thin enough. It's rather surprising how well Diego is doing on such a list. He made the first three cuts, all I had time to do before I finally went to bed last night. At the same time, I can't quite believe that I'm considering him for Zorro at all. He's just so... not... everything that Zorro is. I mean, he detests violence of any kind, and he's awful at swordsmanship. He's too clumsy. It's laughable, but still, the staring has really piqued my interest... not to mention my guilt. It's still ludicrous.

February 28, 1822

Sunday

Dear Diary,

I can't believe it's beyond Saturday already again. Last Saturday I spent the night in jail and forgot all about my promise to myself not to sit in front of the de la Vegas in mass. I could feel Diego watching the entire time. That meant I couldn't ask him about the mass again, and had no idea about what was being said. Sometimes I think I should learn Latin.

March 7, 1822

Monday,

Dear Diary,

Sorry. An entire week has gone by. Can you believe it?

I should give you a name. I can't keep calling you 'Diary' all the time. How about Hortensia? I'm joking. I hate that name. How about Rosina, for all the roses that Zorro has left on my pillow over the years? That's not bad. I'll have to think about it.

Here's something else to think about. Diego is still in the running for Zorro, even though I know how silly it is to keep his name on the list. His name shouldn't even be on the list. But maybe the next category will strike him off, if I have time tomorrow to go through the list at all. I probably won't get to the list until night.

But the pueblo knows about my arrest, and is quietly protesting the way the Alcalde used me again. I wouldn't want to be in DeSoto's boots these days.

LATER:

Well, several things happened since this morning when I last wrote. Most importantly, Don Alejandro joked that he would ask me to sit with them in mass yesterday if not for the separation policy of men and women. I watched Diego carefully during that comment, and not a thing showed on his face. Oh, he's good. If I hadn't seen him staring at me for the past month, I would have felt like a fool for even putting his name on that list of mine. As it is, I've noticed, so I didn't have the insult of feeling foolish, as if I don't feel foolish enough already.

I got caught up in explaining about my arrest, and I forgot to mention to you the category that I thought would cut out Diego on my list of names for men who might be Zorro. The category is sword fighting, and everybody knows that Diego is horrible at sword fighting. Except today in mass, I had a rather remarkable thought. Since I have no idea what's going on during mass, I get bored and have plenty of time to think. Usually, I spend my time thinking about Zorro, but today I thought more about who could be Zorro. I admit to being guilty of not doing the weekly cleaning of the tavern until this evening, and I didn't do a very good job, because my mind was always on my list and my idea. Mama would not be very happy with me at all.

Anyway, the idea is this; what if Diego merely acts like he isn't good with swords? I know it's a screwy idea, but bear with me. I remembered my vow to sit behind the de la Vegas in mass yesterday morning and was watching him myself, since I was sitting in the very back of the sanctuary. My eyes were on his face, sideways, admittedly, when I suddenly had this idea, like a candle going off in my head. A few minutes later we all stood up for the end of mass, and I noticed how very tall Diego is. I compared his height to mine from when we walked over to the mission together, when Don Alejandro made that comment of his, and so I paid attention on the way back to my tavern. Diego is the right height. He's more than the right height. He's exactly the right height. I mean, I only came up to his chest, and I certainly only come up to Zorro's chest. I've noticed that in the past when he comes to visit me. Which made me think that my idea isn't so foolish after all.

Scary, but not foolish. I need to think about this some more.

March 8, 1822

Tuesday

Dear Rosina,

There, I remembered to use the name I had thought of for you. I kind of like it. I'd never considered it before, but it's fairly appropriate, since I found roses strewn all over my room when I finished cleaning the tavern Sunday night. Zorro had left them for me. He can be extremely romantic. I think I like it. I know I like it.

Anyway, I've been doing little else than thinking about the idea I had on Sunday concerning Diego: the one where he only pretends to be bad at using a sword. I think while I'm cooking, serving, slicing, filling orders, whatever I happen to be doing. I even kept Diego's name on the list of mine, though it was hard to do at best. Although, he should sail right through the next category, which is height. I already know he's tall enough. He's perfect to match Zorro's height. And that's very strange. It's strange that I'm even thinking that Diego could be Zorro. I mean, he's Diego after all.

March 10, 1822

Thursday

Dear Rosina,

Here it is, Thursday again. One would think I do this on purpose.

I didn't write earlier because I didn't want to feel bad again. You won't believe this. (Of course you won't believe this; you're a diary after all. It's not like you're a real person or anything. I know that.) But last night I started to believe. Or to think. I don't know what I started to do, but I started. I went through the next three categories of my Zorro criteria last night, since I wasn't tired after the tavern closed and Zorro didn't visit, which didn't surprise me as he was just here to deliver those roses. I want to see him every night, and I have to remember that any time he comes to the pueblo is dangerous. He's risking his life just to give me a few kisses. Of course, my toes always curl and my insides turn to sludge at each of those kisses, but still, it's quite risky.

All right, I'm getting sidetracked here; the thing that I started to believe is that Diego could be Zorro. I know that's a ridiculous idea, but if you discount the sword play, he fits perfectly. Add to that the fact that he's been watching me for a month, probably much longer, and it all fits together like an intricate puzzle. The three categories that I checked tonight were sword skills, height, and horsemanship. The first two categories were obvious, and just yesterday, I overheard Don Alejandro boasting to one of his friends about Diego's abilities to control a mount, any mount, despite the fact that Diego claims his old mare threw him. Alejandro says that Diego downplays those skills, being the humble man that he is, but those skills are definitely there. I admit I was eavesdropping, since I am interested in anything connected with Diego, but is it my fault that Alejandro had to have this conversation in my tavern?

March 11, 1822

Friday

Dear Rosina,

It's official. I've gone crazy. I am completely obsessed. Even I admit it. Nothing has captured my attention for as long as this list I have containing the names of men who might be Zorro. And I have to do something about the list, soon, since I've had no time today and I'm too tired except to write this short entry, which is extremely frustrating and maddening. But there are only two names left on the list: Don Jose Perdito and Diego's. I thought I would be going loco about now, but I'm not. I'm too numb. I just keep staring at those names.

March 13, 1822

Sunday

Dear Rosina,

It's Sunday again, and once more I remembered to sit behind the de la Vegas in mass. I'm afraid I couldn't keep my eyes off Diego, enough for Don Alejandro to comment on it and for Diego to catch me watching as he walked down the aisle at the end of mass. I just gave him a rather bland smile and hoped for the best. At least he smiled back, if a bit hesitantly at first, and I don't blame him. He probably thinks I've gone crazy with the wind.

However, he watched me again yesterday when he came into the tavern from The Guardian office. I don't know where else he could have been. His eyes saw everybody, true, but they lingered on me. It wasn't a noticeable lingering, unless you know it's coming. For just a split second, his blue eyes seemed to have sparks in them. They fairly jumped into flames at the sight of me. Then those shutters that I've always seen slammed into place again, and his gaze moved on. But his look would have made even the matchmaker happy, if she had seen it.

March 14, 1822

Monday

Dear Rosina,

I have to think. I need time. Ever since I went through the category of education received by each man, there's only one name left on the list. Diego's.

March 17, 1822

Thursday

Dear Rosina,

I've thought, and then thought some more. I've thought until I've given myself a headache.

Diego?

March 18, 1822

Friday

Dear Rosina,

I saw the strangest thing today. It was a Friday, and the tavern is always busy on a Friday. Then, sometime around noon, the de la Vegas rode into town, Diego on a white horse I've never seen before, The Alcalde on Dulcinea, who I have seen before, and Don Alejandro in the wagon, with the dead body of Emissary Risendo in back, his son and Diego's brother.

I'm sorry to not have mentioned the Emissary's name before now. I mean, he's been here over a week, so I've had plenty of time. I was just too angry most of the time to say anything, then I was caught up in my list, then in my more lucid moments, I kept forgetting to mention him because of my interest in Diego. But I won't forget this.

It seems that there was a woman, a midwife, who stole the first born son (that's the Emissary) at birth and raised him as her own, raised him to hate, as we've seen ample times in the pueblo as he fought with Zorro. I should say Diego. Because by now I have to accept the truth that keeps slapping me in the face; Diego is Zorro.

I know I couldn't write about this before, but Zorro was in town several times, in plain view, fighting like always, behaving like always, talking like always. He didn't come to see me, probably because he didn't want to single me out since we were already having so many problems with the Emissary as it was. I was even brought in for questioning on Wednesday, and I was a very staunch supporter of Zorro, like always, even though half of my brain was still focused on my discovery. Some people thought I would be arrested again, but I was just questioned, which is a good thing, since I only seemed to have half of my brain going at any one time. The other half was stopped, numb, from my discovery.

Zorro was in the pueblo on Tuesday. I watched carefully, though anybody who might have had their eyes on me, which was not likely (they were all watching Zorro fight the Emissary), would have caught an eyeful. I could only hide so much behind my anger. Diego's features were always right in front of my eyes, if I ever took the time to look, which I didn't. As he baited the Emissary, cleverly fought him using humor, irony, wit and swords, I was watching Zorro's face. And it was so obvious, so incredibly obvious, that I felt like an idiot for not figuring out his secret sooner, and wondered at the same time why nobody else had done the same thing I did. No startling revelation, no unmasking to help me along in my suspicions, nothing. I just knew.

He's good. I don't mean good at the charade, though he's so superb at that, I almost didn't even consider him in the first place. No, I mean good in the skill of fighting. He's so funny, his sense of humor so dry, and he uses whatever weapon he has, including himself, to bait his opponent. I've been so caught up in the romance side of him for so many years that I haven't been paying attention like I should have been. I haven't seen. There's much to see. There are so many sides of him, so many facets, that I don't know where to begin a description, so I won't even try.

There was one time, after the Emissary's death (Diego's brother. I have to remember that, though it's hard to think that the man I love so much could ever be related to that twisted fiend. Diego's nothing like the Emissary), that I thought Diego was going to tell everybody his secret, but then he changed his announcement to say he planned to adopt Felipe. I think that's a wonderful idea, but that's not what I wanted to hear, admittedly. I wanted to hear the sun, the roses, the calling of my heart. Which is silly, because the man can't read my mind. So I'll wait, myself. I'm patient.

March 22, 1822

Tuesday

Dear Rosina,

I know I haven't written for a long time. No, I haven't made any startling disclosures, so you haven't missed anything. However, there is a sense - I don't know - where something is happening to me and I'm special because of it. I haven't felt this alive for years, not since I first fell in love with an outlaw.

This is what's happened; nothing. I haven't said anything to Diego yet. I'm waiting to see what Diego will do, if he'll say anything. And he hasn't. He's just lets everything go on as before.

Oh, I know that Felipe's adoption is being outlined, but Diego's made no startling moves about me. No revelations. No plans. No unmasking. Nothing.

Except he did come by the tavern as Zorro that night to see me, to see if I was all right, he said. I said I was, even after the interrogation from the Emissary. Apparently, he'd heard of my questioning, but not of my release, and searched first the jail, then rescued a guard dressed like I had been dressed (where did they get the clothes, I wonder?), and because of all that, he asked if I was all right. I assured him I was. And then it happened. His eyes caught mine, or mine caught his. Something. And the next thing I knew, I was being kissed like I had never been kissed before. It was magical. It was incredible. It was toe curling as my toes have never curled in my previous lifetime. It was love. And now I know who I'm in love with.

It's hard to believe, even for me, but I can't deny it anymore. I'm in love with Diego.

March 23, 1822

Wednesday

Dear Rosina,

I stayed quiet for as long as I could, which wasn't very long at all, especially considering how many years Diego has remained silent. A day compared to four, going on five, years. How did he stand it?

This afternoon, after siesta and when I should have been thinking about supper but wasn't, I rode out to the de la Vega hacienda. Diego was there, but he was helping the vaqueros herd the cattle for market tomorrow, so it would be a few more minutes. That's all right, I said, I could wait.

I would have waited, too, waited on nails, but Don Alejandro, who was watching the house, as if the hacienda needs watching, found me, and he and I had a very intriguing conversation about my future. I was very interested in that at the time, naturally, and Don Alejandro bemoaned the fact that neither Diego nor I were married. Little did he know that nothing would please me more, especially if we were married to each other. But I didn't say anything. The secret of Zorro's identity was not mine to reveal, so I sat, quiet for me, until not three minutes after that discussion about futures, Diego came in, tired, sore from being on a jolting horse all afternoon, and smelling to high heaven. Don Alejandro asked if the cattle had been separated out, and Diego assured that they were, then Don Alejandro left, giving some inferior excuse about the garden needing tending. I think he knew something was afoot, but he said nothing. It's funny that he could happily leave us without a chaperon, then condemn us for the actions we were free to choose because we had no chaperon. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Sorry. Diego offered to change before our talk, as I stated I had something to say to him, but only a bath could wipe away that smell, and I didn't want to wait that long.

Diego was clearly confused at the urgency of my impending news, but still he wasn't anticipating the uncovering of his secret, not by the way the blood drained out of his face when I said something about it. I said that I didn't want to deny the obvious any longer, and though it appeared that he didn't mind the silence, I did. It wasn't fair to him, and it wasn't fair to me.

This was clearly the last thing he expected, but I must say, he handled it well. He didn't fall apart, not by a mile. He looked at me, looked shrewdly, calculated something, glanced to his right, then grabbed my hand without warning me. I was too surprised to resist.

He led me to... the fireplace? That made no sense, and I was about to say something to that effect when Diego touched something on the mantel, and the back of the fireplace swung open. I'm not joking. Diego pulled me into what was a secret cavern. I certainly didn't expect it, though I should have. It turned out to be Zorro's cave, the place I had been to before, the spot he proposed marriage and I accepted. I hadn't seen it in months, but I recognized it right away.

Nothing had changed. The coat rack and the arsenal were still there, the black clothes hung on the rack even as I looked, and Toronado munched on some hay. It was quite funny, actually, the big, black horse eating hay as I looked with wide-open eyes.

Diego said that now we could talk without having to worry about being overheard by servants. I knew the danger of eavesdropping, as I had recently overheard Don Alejandro explaining what a good horseman his son was. Diego is a better horseman than even Alejandro thinks.

For no one else besides Felipe and I know. Don Alejandro doesn't know. None of the other servants know. Not DeSoto, since Diego is still alive. That cavalier mention of death sent shivers of dread racing up my spine, and I said so, but discovery has been prevalent for such a long time that a sort of dry numbness has set in, a weary acceptance.

I tried to be angry that he hadn't said anything for so long. But I couldn't be. I could only feel glad that I knew, and he knew, and he knew I knew, and I knew that he knew. There was a we, and there had never been a 'we' before. I didn't know what to say in such a situation. I had never been in such a situation.

I said so. I brushed my fingertips across the pieces of his laboratory hidden deep inside this cave that even his father doesn't know about. But, to be honest, I wanted to brush those fingertips across something else. I said that, too, and the next thing I knew, I was being kissed like Diego was drowning. I didn't mind. It felt like I was the one drowning.

That was when we heard Don Alejandro calling to Diego that supper was ready and waiting. But apparently Diego had other things on his mind besides food, for he just curled his fingers into my hair and gently laid a hand on each cheek. Then he kissed me again, so tenderly, so lightly, so lovingly, it was amazing. It made me ache immediately.

That was when we both knew. We couldn't pretend like before. We couldn't not touch each other on a daily basis. Such denial of our instincts would be cruel. Neither of us are into punishment for the sake of the punishment.

Neither could we keep our hands to ourselves any longer. Now I understand what the Alcalde meant that time we drank identical potions from Dr. Wayne and he said something about being on fire for me. That's how I felt, like a fire had been lit inside me for Diego, like a fire had been lit inside him. He was gentle, so considerate and delicate, so plainly in love, that he was irresistible.

He kept whispering my name, telling me that he loved me, how beautiful he thinks I am. I didn't care what he said, as long as he kept kissing me, touching me, practically inhaling me. I know the church preaches restraint, and I don't think of myself as sinful, but there was no way I could wait at this point. We'd been through too much. I burned for him, longed for him, yearned, and I think he felt it every time he touched me.

And he touched me a lot. I touched him. The secret identity, once known, and once realized that it was known, set both of us free. It was as if we wanted to be inside each other, and we tried. His skin burned for me, was so hot, it was like we had lit a fire. How could I resist?

Diego led me to the back of the cave and outside. I didn't have much control of my mind at the time, or of anything else. All that restraint we had shown for years flew away. I wanted him inside me, it was as simple as that. I tried to remember everything that my mother had said about such a joining, but her words were a bit foggy, I admit. Besides, this was more beautiful than anything I had heard about, more consuming, more desirous. There was nothing for either of us to do but make love right there by the hillside beneath the tree covering the cave from sight, on the blanket that Diego had enough foresight to bring. It was hot, and wet, and painful, and exquisitely wonderful, and I wouldn't change anything that happened for a thousand pesos. For seven thousand. I love Diego. He loves me. If our decisions disappoint some people who live by rules that we had nothing to do with creating, then so be it.

That's what I think, and why should we feel bad for making ourselves feel so good? It's too strange for words.

March 24, 1822

Thursday

Dear Rosina,

Thursday again. I had to say something, because I think it's so funny.

This is the day after, the day for regrets, the day when clearer minds rule. Except I certainly feel no regrets, and the way Diego brightened up for just a second at the first sight of me makes me think that he doesn't have any regrets, either.

I said hello. He said hello. I asked if there was something I could bring him? He said, You, as softly as a sigh. If I had chosen that second to clear my throat or swallow, I'd have missed it.

Isn't being in love just grand?

March 25, 1822

Friday

Dear Rosina,

Diego and I snuck off and went on a picnic together. Well, actually, sneaking off together, at the same time, would have looked too suspicious. We snuck separately, and met there. We would have had a repeat of Wednesday, but Diego stopped himself, and I pouted until he wrapped me in his arms. It didn't take much pouting, which is a good thing. I'm not the pouting sort.

He felt good! Only two days have gone by since he held onto me and we made love. It feels like ten, like a lifetime. How did he do this?

But he had brought me out so that we could talk. Talk about us. I immediately didn't like the sound of that, but we can't talk in the tavern. Yesterday proved that when we tried to talk in the kitchen. We kept getting interrupted by somebody's request for food, and we were too terrified that he might get caught. It was too much. He left without even a kiss goodbye, a testament to how upset he was. I may not know much about the man I love, but I do know how to read his moods, and I can read quickly. I've had years to practice.

Anyway, back to the picnic. We ate. We talked. We made decisions. Decisions about us. We were 'practical.' For all of ten minutes. Then it was all about where's your hand, where's mine? We had eaten, we'd been honest and realistic, nobody was around, it was siesta, and he was simply too good to look at any longer. I had to feel him, to be part of him. I'm sure this isn't lust for the sake of lust. It has to be love. I want to spend the rest of my life wanting to feel him.

To spend the rest of my life wanting to feel Diego? Just last month, I would have died of embarrassment to want to have anything to do with Diego. Now I know that my previous perception of him was wrong, that it was just an act, that he was the one pretending. He's actually extremely... vigorous. I ought to know.

What did we decide? That we can't live without each other, despite the danger. That we want to see each other every day. That I can't light up like my candelabra when I see him stroll into my tavern. I have to control myself. But, still, at the same time, what we had isn't good enough anymore. We have no time for a romance without the romance. We want to get married.

That leads to this decision, or at least this option. I can sell my tavern. We can go to another part of the territory, or out of the territory altogether. There would be only the caballeros left to come to the defense of the poor, which neither of us liked, but what can we do? We've already given up over four years of our lives; we don't plan to give up any more. Diego has money set aside, for a time of 'just in case.' Anything I get from the sale of the tavern will definitely help. I don't like the idea of selling something that my parents worked so hard for, but I want to be with Diego, and the only way we can have the semblance of a normal life while there is still a need for Zorro is to let Zorro die. I can't believe what Diego is willing to give up for me. Everything. But he says there is no life without me, and he can't have me in Los Angeles, so he'll give up Los Angeles - it's as simple as that.

But it's never simple.

March 28, 1822

Monday

Dear Rosina,

I put out some feelers for the sale of the tavern, and things already look good. I might have a buyer in the form of Sergeant Mendoza, or at least, a general manager. We might want to go with that option. It won't be a sale, which means we won't have that money we can count on, but it would be nice to have something to come back to, and I won't have to sell something my parents worked for. Diego wants to work for a law firm, and we'll have my earnings from tending a tavern wherever we end up, because the thought of not working is so foreign that I can't conceive of it as a possibility. Diego has accepted that, at least for now. I hope he doesn't think I'll change my mind.

It's extremely sad to consider leaving this place - I mean, I've lived here my entire life, and so has Diego - but if it's the only way for us to be together, then that's the way it has to be.

March 30, 1822

Wednesday

Dear Rosina,

Sorry about not writing. I only have a few minutes now. In fact, I'm writing this in my kitchen just to get something down.

The news: yesterday Diego was pardoned!

March 31, 1822

Thursday

Dear Rosina,

I suppose you would like an explanation for what I wrote on Wednesday. So I'll give one; the Mexican army rolled, or rather, walked, into town! King Ferdinand, who I admit to not liking very much - he had horrible taste in people! - sold all of the colonies to Mexico. That means us. That means he no longer controls what happens here, so how can we break any Spanish laws? Since we can't break them, he might as well give out pardons. I thank God every minute that Diego's was among them.

Was everybody surprised! Nobody could talk for a full minute when Diego took off his mask in the central plaza yesterday where he intended to receive the pardon, and I think Don Alejandro was the most shocked. Not even the news of DeSoto's departure got to him like this did. He cried! I'm not sure if they were tears of astonishment or of relief for the son he actually had. I didn't want to ask.

One thing that was different right away was that Diego and I could be open around each other. It's extremely strange to kiss him hello in front of people. But all we get is an indulgent smile. Before, if he had kissed me, Diego would have been arrested at the very least, probably hung. Now, there's no need to fear any reprisal. Now I don't have to sell the tavern at all, and we can be together at the same time. It's almost an aphrodisiac. Not that we need one.

April 1, 1822

Friday

Dear Rosina,

I got roses today, because Diego knows how much I like them. He gave them to me in private, but I can keep them on the bar in plain sight, and I intend to. There's nothing that we have to hide anymore.

Oh, the wedding is in one month. How can I wait that long? How can I make a wedding dress in that amount of time?

May 7, 1822

Saturday

Dear Rosina,

It's done. I'm officially a de la Vega now, and I have the ring to prove it. It can't be undone. Even if I wanted to undo it, which I don't.

Oh, and I'm pregnant.

January 17, 1823

Monday

Dear Rosina,

Sorry about not writing. I had to force myself to take the time to write this, since I'm so busy. Mothers who know say I have more time now than I will after the baby is born, but I think they don't remember; I'm so busy, I can barely breath. Of course, I can barely breath as it is.

Diego is wonderful. Period. The best husband, who hovers a bit, but that's not so bad when you get right down to it. He's also...

January 18, 1823

Tuesday

Dear Rosina,

Sorry, my water broke right as I reached the end of the last entry. I'm exhausted. Having a baby hurt! But the baby is a boy, and he's healthy, and so am I. Thank God! Thank God that's over!


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