Victoria raised up and eyed Diego mildly. "Yes Diego, what is it?" she replied as she looked at him and slightly smiled.
"Would you like me to stay here and help you out today? I'd be more than happy to, considering the large crowd you have in here." Replied Diego insightfully, as he smiled. 'Well, that's something a least!' he thought.
Victoria looked at Diego decidedly and smiled and shook her head. "It's very sweet of you to offer Diego, but I think I can manage quite well! Besides, you know yourself that this is normal compared to most days. Sometimes I have more than this! Don't you remember last Thanksgiving what a huge crowd I had? I'm glad I hired extra help, otherwise I would have never been able to wait on all those people!" she replied shaking her head.
Diego nodded and smiled. "Oh, I almost forgot about that! Yes, that was quite a crowd!" he remarked resolutely. He looked at her sincerely and gazed upon the soft features of her face and smiled. "I just thought that maybe you didn't feel like dealing with all these people by yourself today!" Diego replied respectfully.
Victoria looked at Diego resolutely and nodded. "I have to admit Diego, some days I do wish that I didn't have to do this. But then I start thinking, 'what if there was someone who was hungry and needed something to eat and I wasn't here to give them any food, then what would they do?' I don't think I could live with myself knowing that there was someone who was going hungry. I know that I cannot feed every poor person in all of California, but if I can at least help a few, then at least that is doing something!" she replied decidedly. She looked at Diego earnestly as if she was expecting him to comment on what she had said.
As she turned her eyes on him, Diego felt his heart slightly flutter as he felt his own eyes being drawn into hers as he looked at her intently. 'Not only is she beautiful, but she is truly a saint! There is not one selfish bone in this woman's body!' thought Diego. 'She completely puts DeSoto to shame, if that were only possible in real life! If it were possible for women to take the position of Alcalde, Victoria would be perfect! What an interesting concept! If Victoria were Alcalde, I wouldn't have to worry about being Zorro!' As Diego looked at her, he felt a slight grin creep across his face as he chuckled to himself. Victoria looked at him somewhat oddly.
"Diego, what's so funny? And by the way, did you hear what I said?" Victoria queried slightly puzzled.
Diego inwardly shook himself from his random musing and looked at Victoria earnestly.
"Victoria, I heard every single word! And furthermore, I think it's the most noble and sensible thing I have heard anyone say all day! In fact, I commend you on your astute powers of reasoning and sensibility! Victoria you are truly a Renaissance woman and let no one tell you otherwise!" responded Diego compassionately. Diego momentarily smiled at Victoria and then suddenly looked at her somewhat smugly. "By the way Victoria, would you mind bringing me a bowl of your delicious soup? All of sudden I'm rather starved!" Diego requested with a slight smirk on his face.
Victoria's mouth slightly dropped open and stared at Diego somewhat dumbfounded. She didn't know whether to thank him for saying such kind and generous things about her or get mad. Victoria released a small sigh and shook her head. 'Diego can be so impossible sometimes!' she thought. 'I wish I could figure him out! Maybe he just doesn't want me to!' she decided resolutely. 'Oh well, I may as well get the soup!' she decided.
"Very well Diego, you may have some my 'delicious' soup! Just go find a seat somewhere and I'll bring it to you. Oh and by the way, thank you for the compliment. I don't know when I have ever been given a compliment and an order for a plate of food in the same breath! I must say Diego, that you have a unique talent for combining diplomacy and food at the same time! It's truly amazing!" Victoria commented crisply.
Diego smiled and slightly shrugged his shoulders somewhat modestly. He put his hand to his chin and looked at her amiably. "Victoria…" he began. "do you think you could make that two bowls, please?" he replied earnestly.
Victoria looked at him somewhat surprised. "Diego, you must be really hungry!" she slightly chuckled.
Diego shook his head and looked at her warmly and slightly blushed. "I just thought maybe you would like to eat lunch with me." He replied amiably.
Victoria smiled and cast a soft gaze upon his face. "Why didn't you just say so? Come to think of it, I am a bit hungry! Sometimes I get so busy, that I have to remind myself to eat! You choose the table and I'll be with you in moment." She replied resolutely. She quickly turned and briskly walked back into the kitchen.
Diego glanced around and finally found a table fairly close the kitchen. He loved all those wonderful aromas that drifted through the curtains as Victoria worked diligently everyday concocting all those delicious recipes. Occasionally, Diego would "steal" a couple of her recipes and try them out at home and ask Felipe to be his "guinea pig." The results were fairly palatable, but Felipe would always make it a point of telling Diego that he liked the way Victoria made it better! Diego took Felipe's criticisms mildly and would go back and consult Victoria on what he did wrong.
Diego always loved "experimenting" in the kitchen and always tried cooking up something on his own. Once he made something that turned out so bad that Felipe quickly reminded him in his own diplomatic way, that he had better just stick to being Zorro! Upon taking a few bites himself, Diego quickly concurred and immediately threw it out!
Victoria soon returned with not only a tray of soup, but freshly baked bread, cheese, and some fruit and a bottle of her favorite wine and two wineglasses. She quickly set everything on the table and then sat down. Diego was always amazed at how she could go into her kitchen and produce such delicious and sometimes elegant meals seemingly out of thin air!
Diego looked at the meal that she had set before him and Victoria and shook his head in amazement and smiled.
"Victoria you are truly an artist and a magician when it comes to cooking! I don't see how you do it!" Commented Diego as he reached over broke off a piece of bread.
Victoria cast a reserved smile at Diego and slightly shrugged.
"Really Diego, there's nothing to it! It seems like as far back as I can remember, I have always loved to cook. I can remember when I was little, I would sit in the kitchen watch my mother prepare our meals and try to do everything she did. At first she would scold me and say that I was making a mess. Then after she found out that I was serious about learning how to cook, she finally took me aside and said, "All right Victoria, if you're going to be a good cook, this is the way you're going to have to do it!" Then she would put one of her aprons on me and start showing me everything I needed to know about cooking." She replied resolutely as she took a few bites of soup.
Victoria paused for a moment somewhat reflectively and smiled. "I have to admit, some of my first dishes were quite a disaster!" she chuckled mildly. Then she continued. "But I stuck to it and pretty soon, even my brothers started eating my cooking! At first they would say things like "Oh no, Victoria is not cooking tonight is she?" But then as I improved, they actually started asking mother if I could cook dinner! I was so good that even father couldn't tell the difference between my cooking and my mother's. Thank goodness I kept some of her recipes." Victoria concluded decisively. She picked up the bottle and filled their glasses and ate a few bites of cheese.
Diego nodded in agreement and looked at Victoria earnestly. "Well, it's quite obvious that everyone else enjoys your cooking too! Even Felipe thinks you're the best cook in all of California! As for myself, I've always known that you were the best!" he replied admirably.
Victoria smiled amiably at Diego. "Thank you Diego, I appreciate that! And tell Felipe thank you as well! Come to think of it, you were the one that encouraged me to start my own business to begin with. You know Diego you've always been very supportive of me from the very beginning. In many ways I feel that it was your support that gave me the confidence to do this." Victoria replied sincerely.
Diego placed his hand on hers and shook his head and looked at her earnestly.
"Victoria, you've always had the confidence as well as the talent. However, I was glad to offer the support. You've really come a long way in the years that I've known you, and I must say that I can't think of anyone that I admire and respect more than you." Replied Diego as he looked into her soft brown eyes and smiled.
Victoria smiled modestly as she looked at Diego and slightly blushed. She gazed momentarily into his deep blue eyes and looked at him thoughtfully. There was something different about him that wasn't just 'Diego,' she surmised, as her eyes scanned the handsome features of his face. There was something in his eyes that was so much like Zorro that she wondered if there might be a possibility that Diego could really be him. Even the way he looked at her as if he were looking into her very soul. Even his compliments reminded her of something Zorro would say.
Victoria slightly blinked and glanced down and noticed he was still holding her hand and looked up at Diego and slightly smiled. Diego somewhat nervously released her hand and slightly blushed and smiled. He had been so immersed in the way she was looking at him, that he had forgotten about holding her hand.
"Thank you for the compliment Diego. You don't know how much that means to me, to hear you say that!" Replied Victoria respectfully.