Diego looked at her earnestly. "It wasn't just a compliment Victoria, it was the truth! You've worked hard to make this tavern what it is and in my opinion you deserve only the highest of praises. Besides, what other woman can you say has taken on such a monumental task as running a tavern alone and actually succeeding? Victoria, not only are you incredible, and I mean that in a positive way, but, you are definitely an inspiration to other women!" Diego replied resolutely.
They both smiled at one another and finished their lunch. Victoria took a few bites of her soup and bread and dabbed her mouth. She reflected upon what Diego had said and slightly shook her head and smiled. She was also pondering the idea of him being Zorro. Maybe it was just wishful thinking on her part. Maybe she just wanted him to be Zorro instead just Diego. It wasn't that she didn't like Diego, she just wished he could be more charismatic, more demonstrative like Zorro.
They had been best friends forever it seemed and several times she had even considered the notion of them even becoming more than just friends. But after he returned from Spain, his whole personality suddenly changed. He seemed somewhat aloof and overly studious. And the mere mention of sword fighting or even fighting in general was simply out of the question. It was as if he never wanted to get involved in matters concerning the pueblo where any political or social conflicts arose.
There was also something about him that kept them from being closer than she wanted them to be. It was such a change that she finally gave up trying to figure out what had come over him and just resigned herself to the fact that maybe it just wasn't meant to be. They were still the best of friends. No one could ask for a better friend and companion like Diego. He had always treated her with respect and stood up for her if someone made any derogatory remarks or treated her improperly. But for the most part they were still 'just close friends.'
It seemed that lately he had been changing. He was starting to look at her differently and even the way he was when he was around her was different. At times he still acted distant as if he were hiding something, but she could definitely tell a change had come over him. He seemed more protective, and more sensitive to things that were of importance to her. If she suddenly became distressed about something, he quickly made it his concern and tried to help. 'At least that's something.' She thought. He had also been more concerned about what happened around the pueblo, which she thought was new and different. He still however kept any physical challenges such as fighting, at a distance. "Diplomacy is the best policy." He would say.
When they had finished their lunch, Victoria sat back and momentarily gazed at Diego, and smiled. At times he could be truly exasperating and other times he was kind, gentle, understanding, sensitive, and caring. For the most part however, he was still quite a complex individual. Maybe one day she would figure him out, but not today.
As Diego looked at Victoria gazing at him, he often wondered what was running through her mind when she looked at him. What she thought, how she felt. 'Of course she could be wondering the same about me.' He thought. Diego cast a congenial smile at Victoria and sighed.
"Victoria…" he began.
Victoria slightly leaned in as if he were going to say something quite profound.
"I must say, that was the best lunch I've ever had. Thank you for having lunch with me. I always enjoy our talks. It seems we very seldom get to actually sit down and talk to each other. We're always both so busy doing other things." Concluded Diego decidedly.
'What other things would that be?' she thought to herself. "I know what you mean Diego. This tavern keeps me pretty busy, and I'm sure Alejandro keeps you even busier!" She replied earnestly.
Diego momentarily straightened in his chair and brought his hand to his forehead. "Which reminds me! Oh thank you Victoria! I don't know what I'd do without you! I need to go pick up some books that came in today! I knew there was something I needed to do!" Responded Diego somewhat animated.
Victoria shook her head and sighed. 'At least he thanked me for lunch. I guess that's something!' she thought.
As they both rose, Diego looked at Victoria and smiled. "Victoria, would you care to eat dinner with us tonight?" Diego inquired amiably.
Victoria eyes slightly widened and she flashed a big smile at Diego. "Yes, I'd love to Diego! Do you think Alejandro would mind?" she asked hesitantly.
Diego shook his head and smiled. "Of course not! You know he always enjoys having you at the hacienda. He wouldn't hear of you not coming!" Diego replied resolutely.
Victoria looked at Diego and smiled. "Well, I guess it's settled. What time should I come?" she inquired anxiously.
Diego looked at her decidedly. "Oh don't worry, Felipe and I have to run some errands and we'll just come by and pick you up!" Diego responded decisively.
Victoria looked at Diego and smiled. "Perfect! That will give me time to close the tavern for the night! That's very kind of you to invite me! Thank you Diego!" she replied warmly.
Diego looked at her pleasantly and smiled. "Think nothing of it! I enjoy having you at the hacienda just as much as father! You know you are always welcome and it's always such a pleasure having you!" Diego smiled warmly. He slightly chuckled. "Felipe and father are not much company, when it comes to conversation. All father ever talks about is politics and well poor Felipe…" Diego trailed and shook his head.
Victoria shook her head and chuckled. "Oh, I see! You're only inviting me just to have someone to talk to!" She teased looking at Diego smugly.
Diego slightly blushed and looked at her somewhat disconcertedly. "Victoria, really! I just thought you might enjoy having someone else do the cooking for a change! And the fact that father and I and Felipe enjoy your company is just another reason I invited you!" Diego replied earnestly.
Victoria smiled and looked at Diego amiably. "Oh Diego, I was only teasing you! I'm looking foreword to it!" She replied smiling. "I'm glad you enjoyed your lunch Diego!" she added amicably.
Diego looked at her and smiled. "Thank you, I really did!" he replied sincerely.
They said their good-byes and went about their separate ways. Diego collected his books he had ordered and returned to the hacienda and Victoria carried on with her work at the tavern.
When Diego arrived at the hacienda, he and Felipe hitched up the carriage and loaded it with some sacks of flour and corn and added a few blankets and articles of clothing that people had donated to the mission for needy people and took them to the Reyes' family's house. Diego had promised his father that he and Felipe would take some food and clothing to the family until their crops were ready to harvest. All the crops had been late coming in due to the dry weather and the Reyes' family had greatly suffered because of it. Some of their crops didn't come in at all and what did was just barely enough to feed the family.
Roberto graciously thanked Diego for his help and for donations to his family. Alejandro had even offered Roberto a job to help pay his family's expenses at which Roberto generously accepted. Roberto offered Alejandro money to repay him for his bail and tax debt, at which Alejandro accepted. The next thing Roberto knew, Alejandro had taken the money and bought Roberto's family food and clothing.
That's the way the de la Vegas were. They were always willing to help people in need without ever asking anything in return. Alejandro knew what it was like to have to work hard for everything you earned and also to be proud for having worked. As a result of their kindness and generosity people from all the territory held the de la Vegas in very high esteem. Their only fault was in being kind and that was one thing in Diego's opinion you could never fault the Alcalde on!
By the time Diego and Felipe had finished their delivery and returned home to change, it finally getting time to pick up Victoria. Diego hurriedly cleaned up and changed his clothes and practically shoved Felipe out the door. Felipe hopped and skipped out the door trying to put on his sandals as he headed for the carriage. He turned and signed to Diego asking what all the rush was about.
"Victoria is coming for dinner and I don't want to be late picking her up!" Diego replied brusquely.